Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cross Country - A road trip, Day five.

It's 2:00pm and I'm waking up with what can only be described as a hangover without the fun night. I'm groggy, and as I'm looking around a crappy-ass hotel room. I stagger to the shower. At least the water is hot.

That brick in the industrial strength paper is not soap. It looks like soap, but it's not. I have some soap in my bag from a previous hotel. Yeah, I steal hotel soap. Who doesn't?

The towel is made of sandpaper. I step onto the other towel - my clean feet don't want to touch the dirty floor. I ask myself why I care. My feet respond and say "did you see the floor?" They have a point.

I'm out the door, I get some coffee and I say goodbye to the worlds worst/dirtiest/unsanitary hotel. At least I have a story that needs no embellishing.

I haven't seen this part of Virginia since I was 13. We lived outside of D.C. when I was much younger, and we drove through here when we moved to Hawaii. Being young and impatient, I didn't have any appreciation for the hills, the old fences, the slow rivers, the historic brick houses. It's a beautiful part of the state that claims it's for lovers. At least, that's what the bumper stickers tell me.

My camera is next to me, but there is too much traffic to try using it. So, today's part is both uneventful and lacking in pictures.

I reach Mt. Jackson, VA around 4:30 and reach the Capital beltway around 7:30 - just outside of rush hour. Anyone who lives out there knows that this was excellent timing.

I pull into the apartment around 8:30. And collapse.


5 Days
3000 miles (plus or minus)
9 states
Average price of gas was $3.39/gallon
The mileage was am embarrassing 13.96, but if you have an old landcruiser, you would recognize that this is actually pretty good -they average around 11.

I've done long road trips in a Honda Accord, on a BMW 1150 GS, on another motorcycle (Honda Shadow) in the Landcruiser, in a Penske truck, in a Chrysler Van, a Ford Station Wagon, and of course, in a red VW Bus. This is my first time on the southern route across country. I've been across 80 twice, coast to coast, but was too young to leave a mark on my life.

Each road trip contains lessons, meditations, moments of inspiration and epiphany. I spent most of this trip looking for the beauty and rhythm of the land and location. The long spaces in between my fuel stops were opportunities reflect everything, and one thing I couldn't help but notice still sticks. The mythology that we have created in films, books, shows, poetry, song. It's a mythology that hasn't far off from fact, but it's fading. The small towns are dry. The paint is fading, and the roads need repair. You can taste the effects of time and neglect.

It's a long and beautiful road, but it is much shorter than we think.

“But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road 

The Road

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cross Country - A road trip, Day four.

 July 24. It's my fourth day on the road and I'm up early. It's my intention to make it half way across Tennessee, so I'm out the door at 4:45. Pictures were lacking this day, apologies.

This sign confuses me. Is the lack of tolerance referring to the speed laws, the strict enforcement, or is this a protest sign that is saying that there is no tolerance for speed laws being strictly enforced? Or am I just reading into this too much?
MD Road Trip Day 4

Oklahoma City is the last place I'll hear about on the Route 66 song.  It's time for a change of tune, and this time, I'm Walking in Memphis.
MD Road Trip Day 4

I'm walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale.

MD Road Trip Day 4

And as long as I'm at it, I'm listening to "Oh Mississippi" by Lissie.
MD Road Trip Day 4

Memphis Barbecue is legendary. For a reason. Yum.
MD Road Trip Day 4
And I'm back on the road at (time).

This is the last phot I take at 6:00pm, I think I was just outside of Nashville.
MD Road Trip Day 4

Right around now is when I start making a series of questionable decisions. It's getting late, and I keep thinking "I'll pull over at the next town." And the next one. And the next one. And those towns start getting farther and farther away from each other.
Knoxville promises live music and excellent beer, and in my somewhat tired state, I ignore that siren song too.
And that's when the thunderstorm hits and I can no longer see the signs for towns. It's a serious thunderstorm with heavy drops and wipers on full steam and pitch black everything. I'm driving at about 30 mph going up the hills and missing an awful lot of beauty. Thought the constant thunder and lightning has it's own appeal.
It's around midnight (I think... it might be later)  and I'm seriously looking for a place to sleep when I reach a bridge outside of Kingsport, near the Virginia border. There's a bridge over a river, and I'm driving like an out-of-state-person in a heavy vehicle with wide tires in a rain storm. Slow and Conservative. The truck that decides to pass me at hydroplane speed does so with the requisite aggressive wheel jerk to demonstrate his displeasure that he had to go through the effort of turning his wheel.

The car breaks loose, and does a full 360 in front of me while heading for the right side rail. My foot is off the gas pedal and moving the to break pedal. He somehow recovers and does a 360 in the opposite direction heading for the left side rail. His unsecured contents in the bed of the truck have launched themselves into the road and are bouncing around me. I'm still slowing down, foot not on the brake yet - I'm hoping I don't have to risk breaking traction. Again, he misses the guard rail and is not fishtail recovering toward the side of the road. I'm pulling to the far right in case he decides to do something even more stupid. I pass at about 10 miles an hour and he finally stops as my eyes are now wide open.

Well, I'm awake now. The adrenaline kicks in about five minutes later and I shake it off as best I can, but now I don't think I'm getting any sleep. So I keep driving until it wears off.

And it does eventually, but what I see is some color and brightness on the horizon. I've driven through the night without realizing it.

Damn. Now my body is really tired and demands sleep. Roanoke is 10 miles away, so I pull over once I reach town and look for any vacancy. It's orientation weekend at the University, there are no hotels available except the worst pile of a hotel. Ever. I walk in and ask for a room for half a day, they say they have a room in back. I take it.

I ignore the filth, the dirty rug, the sink that looks like the one I had in my college dorm, the sheets that smell like they were cleaned with Febreeze. I'm exhausted and I chalk this night up to my own hubris. Good night.

1,115 miles. It's a personal record for the day (at least, in an enclosed car.) I left at 5:00 am and arrived at the hotel around 7:00. 25 hours of driving with one time zone crossing. That's about one-third of the country in one day.

I'll take it, and I'll wake up in about six hours.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cross Country - A road trip, Day three

It's my third day on the road, I'm in Texas. Tinted windows on the room keep me from waking too early, but it is still already hot out there.

Today's drive is going to be short, I'm supposed to meet a friend in Oklahoma City. I'm expected to go 260 miles today, so I have some time to enjoy the road.

On the outside edge of Amarillo is the America Quarter Horse Museum. I stopped by to take pictures but didn't spend time inside.

MD Road Trip Day 3

MD Road Trip Day 3

Last night I drove by "world famous" Cadillac ranch. I didn't see it, it was dark. But on the east side of Amarillo is the red-headed step child of the Cadillacs - Bug Ranch. It's in the non-existent town of Conway, Tx. I say non-existent because aside from Bug ranch, and a dead service station, there is nothing there. It's not even listed on google maps.

MD Road Trip Day 3

This service station could have been abandoned in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. For all I can tell, it was.

MD Road Trip Day 3

MD Road Trip Day 3

Curiosity gets the better of me and I walk inside. What wasn't of interest to anyone was left on the shelves of the abandoned store. Stickers, out of date pepto bismol tablets, paper.

MD Road Trip Day 3

I "liberate" a couple of those window stickers that say Moab, Bryce Canyon, Pikes Peak, and Devils Tower, and other places I've been. I may be a thief, but I'm not going to lie about where I've been.

One last look at the service station and the ranch and I'm back on the road.

MD Road Trip Day 3

MD Road Trip Day 3

The film has changed from "Cars" to "Walking Dead". Water towers were tilted.

MD Road Trip Day 3f

Ominous symbols were seen on the side of the road.
MD Road Trip Day 3

I decide to pull on to Route 66 proper and change the scene a little. Fortunately, Tow Mater (or his distant cousin) was there to swap the reel.

MD Road Trip Day 3

McLean has a little bit of history apparently.
MD Road Trip Day 3

I couldn't pass up a stop at the Devil's Rope Museum.

MD Road Trip Day 3

There were Burma Shave signs, and various Route 66 memorabilia inside. But most importantly, every variation of barbed wire that has ever been made was there for your inspection.

MD Road Trip Day 3

That case is one of at least 20.
 I now know more about barbed wire that I have ever thought possible. It's time to get back on the road.

I almost miss the sign.

MD Road Trip Day 3

Weatherford OK. Childhood home of General Thomas Stafford.  Wikipedia link for your perusal. Also the home of his museum. Imagine for a moment that you were at the Air and Space museum in D.C. and one of the docents asked if you wanted to see the "stuff in the attic". And you say "Hell yeah!" That's what this museum has - all the stuff the Air and Space museum thought wasn't ready for prime time, but is still interesting enough to display somewhere.

Like this thing:
MD Road Trip Day 3

Ever see Apollo 13? That is the connector that Kevin bacon had to line up to dock the two space modules together. It's much smaller than you would think - especially since the lives of everyone on board are dependent on this small device. I spend a moment drawing a parallel between this tiny thing and all the tiny parts on my bus and how important they are to keep running. The difference of course, is that I am not driving in a sub-zero vacuum that would instantly cause my blood to burst from my skin during rapid depressurization. My largest concern would be the battery life on my cell phone. Crisis is all about scale.

There is a ready-to-go Saturn 5 rocket. There's a Soviet Mig. The cockpit holds one.

Mig Cockpit

I've had enough stops for the day. I head to Oklahoma City and find a Best Western with a big parking lot. Everyone is in the pool, I can't blame them. I visit with my friend over dinner and head back to the hotel. Sleep feels good, I plan on leaving early the next morning.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cross Country - A road trip, Day two

July 22. I'm up early enough. I get some coffee at the local drive through coffee place, and aim back toward Hwy 40. I make a note to myself to come back to Flagstaff. It's a pretty town with a distinct pine smell.

Before I go I take a few pictures of the vintage motorcycles, and meet a few fellow riders. (Note: I ride a motorcycle. It's also German and has horizontally opposed cylinders. Yeah, I guess that makes it a "thing" for me)

MD Road Trip Day 2

MD Road Trip Day 2

Highway 40 runs parallel to the Mother Road - Route 66. It is the freeway that Lightning McQueen referred to when he said that they move the road a few feet to save a few minutes. Years ago, the road was filled with odd tourist traps, strange claims of "worlds largest" or "route 66's longest (insert noun here)".

You can still see most of them from the road. Some of them are worth stopping for, most are not. I've loaded up the ipod for this trip, and have four versions of "get your kicks" on it. I've driving through the towns in reverse order. Barstow was yesterday. I just left Flagstaff. The sign for Winona was slightly smaller than the actual town.

Some of the tourist traps are completely artificial. For instance, twin arrows trading post. You know you have arrived there once you see the...

MD Road Trip Day 2

One tourist stop is not artificial, it is very natural. The Barringer Meteor crater is about a mile wide, and is named after the geologist who spent a quarter century establishing the scientific study of meteors, now known as meteoritics.

This rock weighs about the same as a VW bug.

MD Road Trip Day 2

The tour guide actually uses that reference.

That rock, created this hole.

MD Road Trip Day 2

I'm not the only creature that admires it.

MD Road Trip Day 2

The history of the crater includes some practice for Apollo missions.
MD Road Trip Day 2

I'm back on the road at 7:40, and heading east. More tourist locations all along the road.

There's the worlds longest map of route 66.

MD Road Trip Day 2

There's the petrified forest.

MD Road Trip Day 2

I stop at the one I couldn't pass up, Knife City.

MD Road Trip Day 2

Cars like this one are parked all around it.
MD Road Trip Day 2

The car I'm driving fits in perfectly.

MD Road Trip Day 2

The inside is about what you would expect. There are lots of knives. More accurately, they have all the knives.  They wouldn't let me take pictures. They did also sell rocks that were once trees.

MD Road Trip Day 2

I ogle, decide I have enough sharp items, buy a sugar drink and get back on the road. It's 9:00 am and it's starting to get a little warm.

Gallup New Mexico. I've passed over the New Mexico border and did not see the sign. If it weren't for the song, I may not have ever know.

I try to find that gentle meditation of the road again, but today seems a little different, so I resort to singing really loudly. I make up words to the lyrics I don't know, and find myself laughing at my own jokes. Then I find myself asking if I'm losing my mind since I am now talking to myself. Then I remind myself that I am driving alone on a long straight hot road in the middle of summer, and that I would probably be insane if I weren't talking to myself. Comforted by my own rationalization, I continue looking for tourist traps. Like the Cave dwelling.

MD Road Trip Day 2

And the teepee trading company.

MD Road Trip Day 2

Both places are near the Navajo Wingate village, on the far edge of Navajo Nation. Read about it here on Wikipedia. It's one of several nations within nations of which our nation seems to have no notion.

This guy passed me again.
MD Road Trip Day 2

I've reached Albuquerque. I had to look up the spelling of that town. It has pretty on/off ramps.

MD Road Trip Day 2

Not much is there to keep me entertained beyond that. I use Siri to book me a hotel in Amarillo. It books one in the middle of town, not along the road. Nice hotel, but a little farther out of the way than I wanted.

I have an excellent tex-mex meal, and go to sleep. I'm humming words to my new version of Route 66.

If you, ever plan, to motor east.
Take my car, it will go far, it's a beast.
Forty does not.
Got. A lot.

Don't expect poetry from me at this point, I just drove 608 Miles today.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cross Country - A road trip, Day one

It's about time I got back to updating my blog. Apparently, four months flew by since my last update.

I promised a road trip story, so here it is:


In late July, I drove my wifes car, a 1990 Toyota Landcruiser, across Hwy 40 to Maryland. I had to tow a trailer, it was a slow trip. I'd like to tell you that I was abducted by aliens, or witnessed strange events that should be found on the pages of fantastic-minded magazines, but sadly, it didn't happen.  So forgive me if I make a few things up. I really wanted to see aliens.


I left on July 21. I don't name cars, but this one is Clyde - named after the blue ghost from Pac Man. Clyde had a lot of work done - Air conditioning, oil, tune up, brakes, steering knuckles, tow bar installed. I had a trailer loaded and ready the night before. Bags were packed, and I was on the Road at 4:00 am.
MD Road Trip Day 1

I find a certain comfort in the early morning drive. There is no commuter traffic, the truck drivers are on the road and seem happy to be making time. The sun makes those long shadows and the road warms up slowly.

My wife is a veterinarian, I totally misread this sign when I drove by it.

MD Road Trip Day 1

Highway 5 through California is long, and boring, and not much can be said about the drive other than you find a certain comeraderie with road companions that you recognize each time they pass you or you pass them. At 11:15, I reached Tehachapi pass on the way to Barstow.

Tehachapi sits at about 4000ft and is filled with wind power plants. The change of the high pressure system in the valley and the low pressure up in the Mojave dessert creates a great deal of wind, and somebody had the good sense to start using it years ago.

Once you pass through the last rolling hill that is part of the high sierra, you pass the airport graveyard. This is where jets sit to be dismantled, recycled, and used in films.

MD Road Trip Day 1

It's more high plains, it's hot, and Barstow is in front of me. I take the side road to put me through Main st. on officially on Route 66.

MD Road Trip Day 1

The movie "Cars" would have you believe that route 66 is adorned with small quaint towns filled with happy eccentrics and small towns just waiting to be discovered. As I found on this trip, that is both a lovely notion, and partially true, but predominantly a fantasy. Barstow has numerous old hotels. All of the Vacancy neon lights are on. I am confident that the "no" button hasn't been pressed in years. The only stores I saw open through mid town were alcohol/paycheck advance stores. The Uhaul place was busy.

I stop for lunch at the local yelp reviewed tourist stop and get back on the road.

This guy passes me for the first time.
MD Road Trip Day 1

So does this guy.
MD Road Trip Day 1

I think my wifes car has seen more offroad time.

There is not much to do or see out there, you have to find your meditation on the road and sky and count down miles with minutes. Road signs become welcome markers.
MD Road Trip Day 1

It's now 3:20 and I've reached the Colorado River.

MD Road Trip Day 1

And the Arizona border.

MD Road Trip Day 1

MD Road Trip Day 1
One day I'll come down here for the other tourist destination, but today, I'm settling for Flagstaff.

I start to go higher into the Arizon plains and the sky starts to change colors. Lightning is occasionally making the mountains light up, and some rain and wind make my driving a little more challenging.

There's this house on the side of the road in Yucca, AZ. Thats the house. The Ball. No Seriously, that's it.
MD Road Trip Day 1

More pretty clouds.

MD Road Trip Day 1

I roll into Flagstaff around 7:30. The hotels are booked up, and just before I try to head down to Sedona, I try one last time at the Sheraton. They tell me that they just installed an ice cooler with a loud compressor on the fourth floor, and as such, the room next to it can't be released. I ask for the key to find out for myself. Sure enough, it's a loud low bass hum, but about 2 minutes, it's white noise. I come back to the front desk and ask how much for the rooms. Since they were at capacity, they said they are normally $200 a night. But this room is available for $60. Sold.

Just before I have something to eat, I step outside and look at the Velocette Riders of North America who have come here for their annual ride.

MD Road Trip Day 1

These beauties are all around the hotel, I'll take a closer look tomorrow. Today I completed 15 hours of driving and 765 miles. I need some sleep.

Introducing, The Squirrel

I have another VW. I know it's a sickness. I'm cutting and pasting the post that I put on the samba: The Back story: My grandpare...