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Archive for November, 2008

Saturday: drive 219 miles. Sunday: drive 184 miles. Monday: drive 114 miles.

We’re home!

So what was learned on this trip?

Driving 9,224 miles in the Lazy Daze is a whole lot. (Not including 2,967 miles in the Rav4.)

Being on the road for 110 days is a whole lot.

Spending $3,900 on gas is a whole lot.

The East Coast via RV was a disappointment to some extent:

 Both coming to and going from the east had many 200-mile days. That may not sound like that much, but that usually takes 6 to 7 hours at 55 mph, including lunch, stops for gas and photography, and slowing down for road work, town speed limits and slow cars.

 Most areas are so developed and crowded that we couldn’t easily pull over in the RV to photograph or even eat lunch when we wanted to. A majority of lakes (Great or other) had few public areas where we could stop and look at the water. There are a lot of state parks, but we didn’t want to pay an entrance fee to spend an hour there.

 Our time was tightly budgeted so we could be in New England by late September when the fall color was going. There were many sights we didn’t have time to see and “down” days we couldn’t take.

However, it was worth doing once. We enjoyed ourselves and saw many places we’d like to go back to explore further. Just not necessarily with the RV.

Many thanks to our good friends, Rick and Mary, for keeping an eye on our house and sorting through our copious mail to find our voting ballots and other relevant mail and forwarding it to us. (They apparently dumped all the voting junk mail, of which there must have been a ton.) 

It’s good to be home!

 

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We’re both pretty upset by programming changes on Sirius/XM, our satellite radio station. Management got rid of 3 of our 5 favorite shows on Sirius Disorder. In fact, they got rid of the Disorder channel. Their response is that fans of Disorder will enjoy listening to The Loft, but after trying to listen to it, I call it Zoloft. The music is all low key, from mostly predictable artists, and the DJ’s don’t talk about the music or musicians. They did this on Tuesday, November 11, without a word to the fans or to the DJ’s who were being dumped. That sucks. Disorder did a lot to expand our musical horizons. Now we’re forced to jump around to various stations to obtain a truly eclectic range of music.

Holbrook to Kingman, Arizona: a pretty boring drive, although we did see snow on the high point (5,500 feet I think) past Flagstaff on I-40. Kingman to Joshua Tree National Park: fun. We finally got off I-40 and onto Route 66, in the middle of nowhere. We passed the defunct Roadrunner Restaurant in East Amboy, found another shoe tree (besides the one on Highway 50), saw lots of trains going by, and drove miles and miles past people’s names written in stones by the side of the road. It was much more interesting than the Interstate. And because the roads are so empty in the desert, we can pull over easily with the RV. 

On Route 55 in Amboy, CA

On Route 55 in Amboy, CA

The lamp with a close friend

The lamp with a close friend

Shoe Tree, Amboy, CA

Shoe Tree, Amboy, CA

We got into Joshua Tree Friday afternoon, and, as luck would have it, camped next door to an irritating couple who were enjoying some afternoon delight in their tent. Then we got to hear their followup argument and discussion because they were so loud. After dinner, they began to play techno music with a droning beat. As we were going to bed, they drove off somewhere and we got to sleep peacefully. The next day, at 10:30 (when they woke up), the techno music began again. Luckily, they packed up and moved out today.

We did get a nice, probably final, hike in. We hiked out to Samuelson Rocks. He’s the guy who carved all kinds of sayings on various boulders strewn about his rock pile. We started early, around 7:15, so the light was nicer and it wasn’t hot. We sat out the rest of the day. Three more days of driving to get home. 

Milk and cream

Milk and cream

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It was a cold, blustery day in Albuquerque. We performed another marathon 280 miles yesterday. North Texas country is pretty boring, so as I drove I began to count the number of semi’s that were passing us. Each time I divided the number of semi’s divided by the number of miles driven, it was precisely one truck for each 1.33 miles. At 15 miles, it was 10 trucks. At 45 miles, it was 30 trucks. At 75 miles, it was 60 trucks. Exactly! Very strange. The only other diversion while driving is noticing the transition from heavily wooded, grassy states (Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas) to sparsely wooded states (Oklahoma) to prairie (Oklahoma, Texas) to desert (Texas, New Mexico). It feels good to be in the west again. We did find a little, decrepit church next to the place we stopped for lunch. It so fits my idea of what the desert is all about. 

Newkirk Church

Newkirk Church

We made a great discovery in Albuquerque. After lounging around (no driving!) for half a day, we decided to go out to the Petroglyph National Monument. I thought we had been there before; I thought we had been to most easily accessible petroglyph sites in the Southwest. Wrong! This site is located on the northwest side of Albuquerque and is next to new housing divisions. There are hundreds of petroglyphs with a trail running right next to them. These days, that kind of access is unusual. So after that find, we went to Old Town Albuquerque for a rather ordinary Mexican meal. I guess we’ll hit La Corneta, our neighborhood joint, when we get home.

Bird petroglyph

Bird petroglyph

More driving took us to Holbrook, Arizona. But before we camped, we took a jaunt through Petrified Forest National Park. There were puffy little clouds all over the sky, dappling the light over the fantastic landscape. Our only problem was not having as much time as we wanted to visit. Short days in late autumn is a problem for photography.

Petrified Forest National Park view from Tawa Point

Petrified Forest National Park view from Tawa Point

Petrified wood and plastic rose

Petrified wood and plastic rose

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We’re into serious traveling mode now. We’ll basically cross the rest of the country on Interstate 40. We drove through most of Arkansas in one day. Our campground was a nice one, with a bevy of hungry ducks. Once they knew I had bread, they milled around, stepping on my feet, pecking at my fingers and investigating my jeans. One flew onto my lap, but couldn’t find a comfortable web-foothold. I really liked the one with the tuft on top of its head. I don’t know if it had a bad feather day or was supposed to look like that. 

Duck with a bad feather day

Duck with a bad feather day

300 miles took us through most of Oklahoma and then into Texas. It was there I saw the most luxurious rest stop we have yet to see. The lone star state does it right! The large ladies’ room stalls were made from granite. The walls and floor were decorative tile.  

Texas rest stop

Texas rest stop

We weren’t that curious about Amarillo, but did want to see the Cadillac Ranch. Created in the 70’s, it’s a row of ten Cadillacs buried halfway in the ground on the edge of a field next to Interstate 40. People are free to make of it what they will, and they continue to do just that. The automobiles and the ground around them are covered with graffiti. People leave their paint accoutrements all over the place. There is a fence with a gate and a sign I love: “GRAFFITI painting of anything on this side of fence IS ILLEGAL” Of course, the trash bin outside the fence by the sign is absolutely covered with graffiti. Quite a few people were stopping on this Saturday afternoon. One threesome was there to take a family portrait, and asked their 4-year old to pick out the Cadillac to be in their picture. There were a lot of photographers and one one group of people setting off with paint cans and brushes. It is always fun to see art like this, where people can get into the act. 

Cadillac Ranch lineup

Cadillac Ranch lineup

Paint paraphernalia

Paint paraphernalia

Graffiti

Graffiti

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Nashville didn’t work out. The Grand Ol’ Opry is only open Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. We arrived on Sunday, so no go. After turning back the clock on Saturday, we turned it back again on Sunday: Nashville is on Central time.

We had difficulty extricating ourselves from Nashville. We hit two supermarkets before realizing that wine is sold in liquor stores. Then we drove through the heart of Nashville in order to head south onto the Natchez Trace Parkway. It was difficult, but we finally got on the parkway, which is amazing. It is the perfect road for a Sunday drive: winding, but not too much, almost no traffic on a Monday, almost no cross traffic, and absolutely gorgeous trees. Other than a few farms, there’s nothing but trees. Actually, after 30 or 40 miles, it gets a little boring. We did see Meriwether Louis’ grave where he apparently committed suicide. Oddly, it was covered with ladybugs. In fact, we seem to be having a ladybug invasion in the area.

Our Memphis campground was across the street from Graceland. So we settled in, then toured the house and grounds. The house is surprisingly small. I thought Elvis always had an entourage, but I guess they didn’t live with him. His dad, who acted as a business manager for Elvis (I guess before Colonel Parker), had a pretty small office in an outbuilding. The rooms are obviously decorated from the seventies, aren’t really tasteless, just ostentatious. Each room has a completely different style. There is a long hall that contains nothing but gold and platinum records. He had five gold singles in 1958 alone. Elvis built a building in which to hang out and play racketball; that now contains some of his costumes and more awards. It is truly amazing. He is buried on the grounds; they moved his remains there because they couldn’t protect them in the cemetery in which he was first interred. We had barbeque up the street at Marlowe’s, a place that is totally devoted to Elvis memorabilia (including, Roger and Linda, a replica of your life-size Elvis standup cutout). What’s really nice is that Marlowe’s sent a pink limousine to take us to the restaurant. We arrived in style! The barbeque there is dry (a rub is used, but no sauce) and very good, but what was great was the fried rolls. I love grease!

Graceland living room

Graceland living room

Graceland Jungle Room

Graceland Jungle Room

Waiting for the King at the Graceland gates

Waiting for the King at the Graceland gates

The next day we went to downtown Memphis to see Beale Street. We parked in a lot, and were immediately approached by a panhandler who “helped” us to park, then hit us up for spare change. It felt just like San Francisco. Beale Street looked suitably run down, as it should. We wandered up and down and then went to the Rock-n-Soul Museum, a great place to learn the history of rock and roll and soul in Memphis. After that, we wanted to walk out to Mud Island, in the middle of the Mississippi, but both the Monorail and the walkway was closed, although the information said that it should be open. Rather than try to drive over, we gave up on the idea, and walked through a depressed downtown with a lot of people who looked homeless. That was it for Memphis. We didn’t make it to the Sun Studios, that are on the eastern side of town.

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We drove to Charlottesville, Virginia to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. We took a tour of the 21-room house, that sounds large until you realize that 26 people (not including slaves) lived in it much of the time. Some of the furniture and details of the house are original, which is unusual. His library was very large; after he died, it formed the basis of the Library of Congress. After the house tour and the “nickel picture” of Monticello, we wandered around the grounds. They still maintain an enormous vegetable garden, as Jefferson did. I loved the tiny little brick rooms built in several places on the property. One of them looks out over a spectacular view of the hills. The graveyard contains “TJ’s” (as we affectionately call him) obelisk gravestone.  It honors him for the Declaration of Independence, the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom and as the founder of the University of Virginia. The guy was a doer. 

Monticello - the little house

Monticello - the little house

Thursday and Friday were driving days. We drove another hundred miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and it was spectacular, perhaps better than the northern portion in Shenandoah National Park. The views from the ridge are mind-blowing, and with all the wind we’ve been having, we can see 50-60 miles both east and west. I started to think about the range of colors we are seeing, and realized there are colors that have no name. What color is a maple leaf that has a green bottom with a red top with orange spots? There are definitely oranges that don’t occur anywhere else I’ve seen. I began to note down colors and found that many of them are based on food items or wine (honey yellow, pumpkin orange, cherry red, burgundy, eggplant purple, celery green) or minerals and stones (amber, copper, brick red, rust red, garnet, bronze, amethyst) or other natural things (grass green, forest green, chestnut, teak). All those colors are still inadequate to describe what we are seeing.

View from Blue Ridge Parkway

View from Blue Ridge Parkway

Icy plants

Icy plants

We stopped often to photograph and at one point we stopped at a small pond that had some type of vegetation in it and we could see a lot of fish, not moving, lined up like school kids along the edge of it. What they were doing, I have no idea. Maybe meditating. Finally, we left the ridge and got on Interstate 81 so we could cover more quickly the many miles to Cumberland Gap National Park. Virginia is a beautiful state.

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is also beautiful. We’re in a lovely campground with electricity (unusual in a national park campground). The weather is warm and balmy during the day and cool at night. Perfect! We went for a couple of short hikes today. The trees are not at their peak, but the color is nice. Tomorrow, it’s on to Nashville and the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

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