24 October 2012

10/24/2012 - In the Game

People have been asking us, "What did you do during those long hours of driving?" I don't think we ever had a boring moment. There may have been times when I was thinking, "Should I say something" or "Do I need to say something?" But, heck no. Just continued in peace. We listened to music, watched the world go by, rubbernecked, yapped, and made up some air-quotes games un-air-quotes.

One I mentioned during my blog was The-Two-Hard-Choices-Question game. Like:

1 - Would you rather have the money we have now and go anywhere we please that we can afford, or get a million dollars a year but have to spend 11 months of it on a homestead somewhere between Wasco and Moro, Oregon (and I mean, on the homestead, in the sticks)? Someone would delivery services and supplies. Not much to do but read and garden. That was a long discussion which we never could get the answer to.
2 - Another question was would you rather live in Half Moon Bay, California (which we had already and loved) or Bozeman, Montana, which seemed pretty cool and modern for a cowboy town? We both picked Bozeman, but we visited there on a lovely weather day and those long, cold winters might get old if you really lived there.

3 - Or would you rather have a million dollars a year or have two PERFECT children? I guess if we really wanted kids we would have had them already, so give me the money. And what is PERFECT anyway?

Another challenge was that we took a lot of photos in our moving car and with a not to exotic camera. We took hundreds and often they turned out blurry as we whizzed by the item of interest. Mike or I would see something great, holler out, and then you had to get the camera out and focused before it was too late. Usually it was too late. But if we would have stopped at every "photo opportunity" we would still be in North Dakota. In the end I was actually surprised at how many great photos we got.

Another game was the Welcome to Our State Sign Photo game, trying to get a photo of each welcome sign as we entered the state. That was tricky as the GPS does not show state lines, so you had to be alert as to when you were nearing that point. But we had a back-up plan B. If we missed the sign, we would go into the Welcome Center near each border and take a photo of their sign there, which was usually pretty nice. Plan C was to take a license plate from that state. We also got one of the two Continental Divide signs--the one going west. Did not even see the one going east even though we were primed and at the ready.
There was a lot of difference in state border signs. Some were just the regular green/white traffic type signs you see everywhere, some were a little bigger and more colorful, some were very big and impressive, and there were the over the road huge "gate" type signs. It seems like all states would want to bring attention to the fact that you just entered them, but I guess not!

Another game was to Spy Animals--like deer, elk. Things that signs said to be wary of. Didn't see much except deer in Armstrong's yard, chipmunks, birds. Did see a bald eagle though. I think it was Montana. And, of course, we saw cows, sheep, horses, goats.

We also looked for road "art" and weird signs.


Then there was the Elevation game. I talked about this already. Trying to find the highest or lowest point in the state, by turning the GPS altimeter on at the right time. I just don't know why we found this so fascinating, but we really did.

Another game was Spot the Fixer Upper. There is a fine line between fixer upper and hovel. The hovel has no redeeming value. It is just falling apart and not worth thinking about. But the fixer upper is something else. It too is falling apart, but it is in an ideal location or has an interesting shape or interesting building materials or seems "historical" or nice landscaping. It's a wreck, but there is something still appealing about it. It is hard to get a shot of this because you usually passed it before you realize, "Oh, that would have been a great F.U."
 
We also looked for wind turbines (because we love 'em) and solar farms. We'd love to see our country be less dependent and our world less damaging by using eco-energy. Tried to get a picture of a wind turbine blade in route. These can be upwards of 90 feet and always come in a three-some sooner or later following each other. So cool to see them transported on the road. Again, usually passed before you can catch the shot. Got one decent partial though.

17 October 2012

Wed, 10/17/2012 - It's a Wrap

OK, reviewed probably 500 (no exaggeration) past e-mails, returned phone calls, attended Kalamazoo Ladies' Library Assn (www.kalamazooladieslibrary.org) meetings, caught up on family business and three birthday commitments (one more to go), attended jury duty call (I didn't get picked), a theatre date (Legally Blonde at the Civic), and enjoyed just plain down time since our return. So we're finally ready to back-track and finish up all the daily travel blogs and add photos.

Here's how the trip went. I'll put an asterisk by the days I've completed in case you want to look at any days you missed or the days we were at your house. If you see any errors on my part or want to add something cool we left out, you can e-mail us or leave a comment.

* 9/25 - Home to Eau Claire WI
* 9/26 - to Jamestown ND
* 9/27 - to Billings MT
* 9/28 - to Ritzville WA
* 9/29 - to Crater Lake and Ashland OR
* 9/30 - to Shady Cove OR
* 10/1 - to Chico CA
* 10/2 - to Lincoln CA
* 10/3 - to San Francisco CA
* 10/4 - to Half Moon Bay CA
* 10/5 - to Mojave CA
* 10/6 - to Yuma AZ
* 10/7 - still in Yuma AZ
* 10/8 - to Prescott Valley AZ and Winslow AZ
* 10/9 - to Amarillo TX
* 10/10 - to Fayetteville AR
* 10/11 - to Hurricane Dec MO and Granite City IL
* 10/12 - to Home
* 10/13 - Mike's BD


This trip entailed 6,354.7 total travel miles. Whoa, cowgirl! Mike says average MPG was 49.6! High MPG on one tank was 58.6 and 528 miles. This tank was filled just before Crater Lake and refilled in Lincoln CA. Our tank holds under 11 gallons. So big gas savings, BUT today we took the car in for the 5,000 mile check (which we just did on 9/23) and found besides the regular maintenance, we needed to replace a leaking water pump. So $686 later probably not an overall savings. Still this is the first "default" maintenance we have had on Sparky, our 2008 Prius. And thankful it did not default somewhere like the Mojave Desert.

We enjoyed almost every minute of this trip. A few times there was bad traffic or too much driving "assistance" on my part for Mike's liking, but we loved visits with friends and family and the in between extended just-the-two-of-us-alone time with no pressure to do something or be somewhere or be interrupted by this or that, or TV.

And finally, a BIG THANKS to everyone that graciously opened their home to be our home for a day or two, or home-cooked or treated us to a meal at a restaurant, or plied us with alcohol and such, or gave us gifts (wine, recipes, artichoke antipasto spread, ice for the cooler, travel food, etc). But most especially, thanks for a great review of old memories and bundle of new ones. We love ya!


REMINDER:
For next trip, need to get some apps: 1) trivial pursuit, 2) best gas locations, and 3) automatic altimeter with highs and lows for the day. Also Sirius radio.

13 October 2012

Sat, 10/13/2012 - Birthday Codger

HOME


STATS:
Today drove 7 miles shopping for groceries, to pick up our super duper camera (Nikon P500) that had been at the repair shop during our whole trip, and back home. Whoa, easy day. Temp was 41 degrees when we went out.

THE HAPS:
Today is Mike's 67th birthday. It rained hard and gusted all day. Once we got groceries, we holed up for the rest of the day near the fireplace and caught up on recorded TV shows. Didn't really feel like going out  for BD dinner as we had been "out" for the last 19 days.

For dinner, I had a grilled cheese and he had hot dogs and potato salad (one of his fave meals). No cake, but a big bag of multi (mostly popcorn) flavored Jelly Bellys for dessert. After dinner, with the fireplace glowing, we share the bottle of wine given to us by Tom and Lisa. It was a special day so a special wine was in order.

Here's what we know about it. It is a 2008 Syrah. Grapes are from the Santa Clara Valley in CA. It is 14.8% alcohol. You betcha!!! Made by Rex Geitner and Tom Mattasch, Live Oaks Vineyard, Gilroy CA. Thanks, Tom. It was wonderful!

12 October 2012

Fri, 10/12/2012 - Beam Us Home, Scotty

Granite City IL to Kalamazoo MI (Home)


THE STATS:
About 400 miles ta home. Gas north of Indianapolis was $3.43. Stop and go north of Indy. Delayed about 40 minutes. So frustrating when we want to GET HOME.

THE HAPS:
No shower. No shampoo. Just get us out of Granite City and back to Kalamazoo.

Trip was uneventful, except for a really crappy lunch at TGIFs Westfield IN. The day was crisp and sunshiny. A "happy" day to travel. More brick houses. Flat. Passed by a llama farm (funny animals) and pig farm (sooo smelly). Still have not seen a "dead skunk in the middle of the road," so can't get that photo op.

Glee at seeing the Pure Michigan sign upon entry into Michigan.




Elation at seeing the Kalamazoo City limits sign.



The Prius is smiling even though it has about ten pounds of bugs hanging on its hood and bumper. It's ready for detailing but I would not want to be the one doing it.



Safe. Tired. Shower and bed.


THE BEST:
There ain't no place like home.


11 October 2012

Thu, 10/11/2012 - Mo' on Hurricane Deck MO

Fayetteville AR to Hurricane Deck MO to Granite City IL


Yesterday we were trying to figure a route for today and Mike said "Do you want to go through Hurricane Deck?" I had been talking about this town for years. I said, "Wouldja wanna?" He said, "Anything with a 'deck' in it sounded good to him." We looked at the Missouri map and it didn't seem too far out of the way. It was the place of my childhood from about age 4 to 7. My mom, her then husband Arnie, and I lived there. My sister L was born in the nearby town called Versailles. Pronounce the last "s" here in Missouri.

CORRECTION: After writing all this, I later found out my sister was actually born in Camdenton (a little bigger town south of HD), not in Versailles (the smaller town we visited on this trip to the north of HD). And she was not born in a hospital, but rather, in mom's doctor's office (things were a little different in the 50s). Either way we wouldn't have been able to find her exact birth place. So I haven't changed the story below because that is how I remembered it as a 5-year told.

STATS:
Left Fayetteville at 8:40am. Temp was 50 degrees. Elevation was 1,306. That was the highest of the day. Filled up once at $3.61. Got to the hotel in Granite City IL about 7p.

THE HAPS:
We woke up today with wet pavement, but it only rained about 5 minutes as we packed the car.  As a matter of fact we have only had about 15 minutes of rain total on the whole trip. It was cloudy all day, but no more rain. Just saying this will probably jinx us for the tomorrow, our last leg. Anyway, good weather to drive for Mike's eyes.


Entering MO was a very cool Welcome Center. All the picnic table areas were fixed us like a little village--a bank, a store, a gas station, a grocery store, and more facades. It was a kiddy version of Route 66.

The drive to HD was unconsequential. Very hilly, lots of green with some mostly yellow color change with a little red mixed in. Saw much of the ledge rock I remember from Missouri as a kid. It fascinated me then and also did now. You can really see the layers of time in these steep walls on either side of the road. Back in the day, highway engineers decided rather than to pave up and down the hills and dales they would dynamite down into the hills to make a more level surface. Also, less open road for snow drifting. Seems safer.

Along the way we saw many huge mega size churches. Some farms had underground tornado shelters with just flat-to-the-ground roofs sticking out. Very green pastures with all color of happy dairy cows. They do not work very hard for their dinner compared to out west. We continued to criss-crossed Route 66 many times. Saw a Century-Link billboard ad along the road (inside joke for our fellow condo owners). As we got near the Lake of the Ozarks area, where the town of  HD is located, my stomach and brain got all riled up. It brought back mostly happy memories, but some not so.

As we traversed the Hurricane Deck bridge over the first bits of the huge Lake of the Ozarks area, I started looking for the ice cream parlor turned bar that my parents had built with their own hands. I knew it was at the top of a hill and there was a market across the street--named Sanders Market. Downstairs from the market was a "bottle club" where you paid to get in and had to bring your own bottle of alcohol. This was 60 years ago, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I did not spot it. As we drove beyond town limits I was disappointed but figured it was torn down over the years. Boo hoo!

Next came the little town of Sunrise Beach. This was also a familiar name. As we topped another hill, I screamed for Mike to turn off the road. It was at an intersection at the top of a hill with a little shopping center across the street, now called Under the Sun Market. The club was now a home decor store. Currently my folks building was a gym (closed for business at the moment), so we peeked in the windows and saw the counter of the old bar and the door to a small hall leading to the bar (and our) kitchen to the left and the two bedrooms we slept in to the right. I could not believe my eyes. The building had several layers of outside surface added over the years, bar area divided into smaller rooms, and an addition on the the right side, but THIS WAS THE PLACE.

I looked down the hill where one day when I was being bratty, I filled my baby buggy with all my favorite things and headed down the highway shoulder to run away. I was going to move in with Grady Tate, my first "boyfriend." I was maybe five and he was at least 10 years older than me. The feeling probably was not mutual. His house was many miles away. My dad raised a construction ladder to the roof so he could watch my every move, til I came to my senses and returned home.
Great feelings of elation that we had found it, but we had to move on. Around a couple of more bends and we spotted Hurricane Deck Elementary School at Lake Road 33. Ah, the name of the school had stuck in my mind over all these years, instead of the name of the town of Sunrise Beach. Again we parked the car, took some photos, and then I decided to go in.

No locks on the doors or special security here. I went to the office and advised I had attended first and second grade here and wondered if I could look around  and take more photos. The secretary talked with me for a while and I started quietly crying. I saw the old infirmary with the same beds I had laid on when I became sick at school. She showed me some old pictures and asked if my principal was Mr. deArnett (sp?). I said that sounded familiar. She gave me a hall pass (funny feeling) and said I could look around.

When I went to this school there were only 2 classrooms (grades 1-4 in one and grades 5-8 in the other). My old classroom was now a computer lab. It was the room my father called me out of to let me know I had a new baby sister born that morning. Currently there are only grades 1-4 and an addition of 4 classrooms had been added onto the front of the building, one for each grade.

What was most remarkable was that the gymateria or cafenasium (cafeteria at lunch and gymnasium the rest of the day) was exactly the same. The same lunch line counter, raised stage, even the same white with blue trim tile on the floor. This area was most familiar to me. This is where I ate lunch every day on moveable/foldable tables. This is where we tried to master the physical tests like rope-climbing that were the trend of the day. This was the stage where I won third place for a hula girl costume at a Halloween party. Outside the same swing set was placed on a rise that at one time looked down on a valley turned parking lot now. I also remember an old septic tank where underneath a family of scorpions lived. We used to carefully watch them in fascination. I don't think the teachers knew about this.
And across the street was a Forest Ranger Station. When I lived here it was a huge derrick style tower with a room on top that you could look out over 360 degrees of forested land. Tower not there now. All updated to modern equipment. Even though the ranger and his wife were friends of our family I was not allowed to go up the many steps (maybe 3-4 stories high).

At one point my parents were attending my grandfather's funeral (he had committed suicide in the chicken coop with a shotgun). I was too young to go, so they left me with the Ranger's family. I guess he felt sorry for me and took me to the top (against my parent's permission) and I got to see the huge forest around us. Very cool for a 5 year old. When my parents came to pick me up, he told them. I was OK, so they figured no big deal at that point. I was glad I was not in trouble, but it would have been worth it, if I was. That was the one and only time I was allowed.

Lake Road 33 (I think) was also the road to my grandparent's resort. Mom says it was called McCoy's. It was a bare bones place and we lived there for a while in one of the buildings. I remember them calling it a resort, but there were also cows, pigs, chickens, and not many guests.  I remember making cream and sweet butter in a churn with my grandmother. There was a dock on the water and I used to swim off of it until one day I saw a black snake swimming nearby with its serpent head sticking out of the water. I never went in again. Anyway we wandered down this mix of paved and dirt roads, but could not recognize any semblance of that place. Not too disappointed though. Did not expect to see this last landmark.

We had to move on. Next stop was Versailles MO. This is the small town where my sister L was born. I recognized the county courthouse but that was about it. After walking around the town square we spotted a restaurant named Blazing Saddles. We decided to eat there in memory of Alex Karras, who died yesterday and played Mongo in the movie of the same name.


As this is a meaty-beefy area I had a salad and baked potato for lunch. Mike had an um-good burger. While I was in the rest room an impeccable dressed man came up to Mike to ask if he was a local or knew about an old mansion that was for sale down the road. Mike could not help, but chatted a bit longer When I returned, Mike asked me to guess what the man's profession was. Fist guess, preacher then doctor then lawyer than I gave up. It was a funeral home directed. We had joked about the old white hearse parked outside. It was his. Just a little spooky.

Anyway, we asked in the restaurant and at the Chamber of Commerce where the hospital was, hoping to get a shot of my sister's birth place. They both advised no hospital in this town. Sorry, sis. We tried.

With no more places to scope out that I could remember, we departed St. Louis way. Traffic had been good all day, but once we got to STL we found construction near the bridge over the Mississippi River. It was rush hour and down to one lane. The one open lane was blocked by a stalled vehicle just as it went from two to one lanes, so cars and big rigs were dancing between lanes trying to figure out how to get though the mess.

Something that might have taken 10 minutes max, now took almost an hour to traverse. I was  emotionally drained and Mike road stressed, so we turned off at the first exit after the bridge in Granite City IL. We had Dr. Pepper and pistachios for dinner, not wanting to explore any farther to find a restaurant. And this is where I'll stop for today also.

BEST OF:
Per Mikie, best burger of the entire trip at Blazing Saddles.

Best memories brought to life experience in Hurricane Deck and Sunrise Beach.


DANCE CARD:
A date with home. 












10 October 2012

Wed, 10/10/2012 - Anxious

Amarillo TX to Fayetteville AR


THE STATS:
OMG, woke up at 9am. Left at 10:15am. Finally set our car clock later by 2 hours to be on the proper time...Central. So off to a really late start. Continued on I-40-East from Amarillo TX across Oklahoma. Picked up I-540-North around the OK-AR (AK is Alaska, guys) border and drove a bit further to Fayetteville AR (entering a new state for both of us). Fifty degrees at trip start. Got up to 70. Elevation at start 3,533. Downhill from there til Arkansas where we climbed again to 1,666!?! Wouldn't have guessed. Lowest gas prices ($3.49) of the trip so far in Amarillo. 497 miles today. Moving time 7:24. Criss-crossed Rt 66 soooo many times.

THE HAPS:
Bad dreams last night about our neice C. She had an unhappy childhood. Later into drugs and other missteps. We think she has thought about "ending things." We worry. Can't fix it. Thinking about this all day. Mike bought me a malt--comfort food. I felt comforted.

Amarillo looks much less "dark" in the day. Nice modern downtown. Friendly feel. Still a little sparse with people.

Not a really exciting day. No people to meet or particular sights to see. Besides really nice welcome centers, rest of the stops in TX are OK-clean but basic. Some just called parking or picnicking areas with nowhere to "pottie." Many churches with HUGE crosses. In photo, notice cross size next to buildings and trees on lower left. Hard to find an NPR radio station. SW in general has many, many Christian radio stations. Sometimes that's all you can get. Stuckey candy stores are abundant. Haven't seen them in Michigan for a long time. We used to stop for their pecan logs. Finally found a few turbines in West TX.


Looking for gas. Passed two closed gas stations. Now at the blinky-light-better-get-gas-quick point on the gas-o-meter. Found an open station in lucky Shamrock TX. Gas price of $3.83. Mike had been here before on St Pat's Day in 1983, driving my white Pontiac in our move from MI to CA. It was little more than dirt crossroads, a post office, and gas station then. Funky bad. It has paved crossroads now and apparently much improved at one point but going downhill again. Many empty storefronts and houses, abandon vehicles. Still funky bad. One iconic art deco gas station at the cross roads worth seeing though. It may be a museum, but closed.

Eastern OK still desert-y. Western starting to look more like home. Green trees and grass (didn't realize how much I missed it), multi-colored wild flowers (instead of mostly yellow). Oklahoma City nicely decorates its freeway entrances with "mosaic" rock designs and different types of art or media on each overpass. Weatherford OK has a lot of wind farms. Yay! And lots of RED dirt. Starting to see cows in the pasture again, mostly black. Saw one field of a few long horns. Saw one llama amongst some dairy cattle. Mike says for coyote protection. Much native Indian reservation land along the freeway. Just to name a few--Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Seminole, Muscogee, and Thlopthlocco (try to say that one) tribes. Lots of casinos, too.

Ate dunch at the Delta Cafe in Shawnee OK. Mike loved the chicken fried steak (can't find that at home very often). They had an old fashioned ice cream parlor and that's where I got my malt.

Entered Arkansas near Fort Smith. Filled up again. Price $3.69. Landscape became much more hilly. Crossed the Arkansas River, first "big water" since the Pacific. Many beautiful high and long bridges that cross deep valleys (instead of water). Safer. Sweeping views. Seeing the beginnings of fall color change. A few maroon red trees, but still mostly green.

Sleeping in Fayetteville, home of the U of Arkansas Razorback tonight. AR apparently has not hopped on the non-smoking-period bandwagon. We got the last non-smoking room at our hotel. Arrived about 7:30pm. Lugged our stuff in and I headed right for the hot tub. It was too hot for me! Can you believe it! I'd say 105 or 106 degrees. So I hopped in the pool and did 16 short laps. Felt goooooood. Real good to stretch those shoulder and hip muscles.

Ga' night.

DANCE CARD:
No people to visit tomorrow, but one place to visit--Hurricane Deck, MO. I'll tell you "the rest of the story" tomorrow.

BEST OF / WORST OF:
Most dangerous spot of the trip at Texas rest stop.






09 October 2012

Tue, 10/09/2012 - The Plan is No Plan

Winslow AZ through New Mexico to Amarillo TX


THE STATS:
Drove 563 miles (a high on this trip) and through two time zones today. Visited three states--AZ, New Mexico, and just into TX. Altitude high was 7,254 near the Transcontinental Divide (we missed the actual Divide road sign). On I-40 all day.

THE HAPS: 
Left at 10:27am, after visiting downtown Winslow and paying tribute to the Eagles song "standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona" monument. While there, we were approached by an obviously drunk Indian couple asking for money to eat. Another guy gave him a five and they started off. The Mr. stumbled over his own feet and landed flat on the ground. We all helped him up and they staggered off to the closest liquor store, I imagine. We bought the obligatory Route 66 / Winslow T-shirts and headed out of town.


Along the way lots of Indian casinos and Indian souvenir "malls" with teepees. Also lots of dinosaur related stuff, as some great specimens of dinos have been found in New Mexico. Note photo has teepees and T-Rex in it. Covering all the angles. From southern CA on we have seen many campers and big travel homes headed south, including RV America brand (which we rented just to move the cats from CA to Michigan). Meet two your fellows with race cars. Their specialty is "drifting." I had not heard about this sport, but Mike says its big in Japan and a form of precise obstacle and "corner" racing. Wished them luck.


As we came upon the high desert in New Mexico, we plugged in our Il Volo CD (three young Italian tenors). The combo of the music, little traffic to distract us, the idea of heading home, the beauty of the red rock cliffs, pink and golden wild flowers all put me into a sentimental mood and a few tears were quietly shed. It all felt so good. In spite of all the craziness in our country, it is good to see and be in America.

Saw no solar or turbines in NM. Apparently hitch-hikers and bicyclers can walk/wheel on interstates here though. Many lava rock boulders and fields here. Cactus and scrub disappearing, but saw a few century plants. Nice roads with extra passing lanes on the uphill. Crossed the Pecos River, first "large" water since the Colorado. From the freeway, saw the ghost-like or maybe a real ghost town of Cuervo. Almost circled back. Will have to google this. Talked about what are travel life would have been like with kids. Well, let's not go there!

We had been staying at hotels along the freeway (when we didn't get a fabulous freebie at someone's home), so decided to stay in downtown Amarillo for the evening. We love walking the pavement and were ready for concrete. So booked at the Courtyard Marriott. For the price, it was much nicer than we expected (although all the kings were sold out). Everything top notch, except parking in their garage was awkward and iffy.

Once we got settled, we went for a walk. It was pretty dark and lifeless, so a little intimidating and didn't stray far. We ended up in another triple-D Mexican joint. It was wonderful. See more info in Best Of below.

Seeing lots of windmills/turbines of different types--old and new. Often near rest stops. Good promotion for eco-ing by the states.




BEST OF:
Although Minnesota had top consistent best rest stops and North Dakota came in second, the welcome center rest stop in New Mexico gets tops for single rest stop. They had a greeter at the door directing you to the bathrooms, beautiful building with red clay cement floors, microwave for visitor use, public coffee maker, glorious views of hills and dales, custodian spray-cleaning after every stall use, pet-pooper area, lots of shade, and woodwind native Indian music playing in the background. Very nice. NM rest stops after that were a bit of a let down though. Very clean, but basic and non-mentionable.

Had our last road trip Mexican dinner today. We just can't get enough. Anyway the last was the best. I had the best spinach enchiladas EVER. Mike had the best chili rellenos EVER. No kidding!! At Acapulco Mexican Cafe, a little dive near our hotel in Amarillo.


Best (and most expensive, but not crazy expensive) hotel room of the trip. Bed linens were fabulous. Bathroom huge and great shampoo-y stuff. A comfy night's sleep. All worth it. 

08 October 2012

Mon, 10/08/2012 - Rounding the Corner Toward Home

Yuma AZ to Prescott Valley to Winslow AZ


STATS:
Left Yuma at 8:40am and arrived Winslow AZ about 7:15pm. Drove 412 miles today. Low altitude we saw was 168 feet in Dome Valley near Yuma and 6,988 just south of Flagstaff. Winslow is at 4,800. 88 degrees near Yuma. 66 in Winslow.

THE HAPS:
First off we went left instead of right on I-8, so after 12 miles of looking for US-95 we decided we were lost and actually looked at a map. To recover, we took a really cool rolly-wavy road through Dome Valley to get back to US-95. Looked like fruit trees, rice, and some unknown crops growing. Cows were lined up under long roofs with big fans every few feet breezing them cool.

Went through the U.S. Army Proving Grounds. Very cool for Mike as he was in Army Aviation. Lots of "Do Not Enter - Hazardous Area" signs. We did not stray. Crossed a Border Control check-point. Saw many elaborately decorated roadside crosses in AZ, where people died along the highway. Good reminders to drive sane and sober.  Lots of highway round-abouts in this state. We still have not mastered them.



Only wildlife were yellow-orange butterflies and chipmunks, although there were many signs to watch out for mules, deer, elk, and cattle. Big cacti country--saguaro, ocotillo, yucca, prickly pear, mesquite, pink barrel, and others. The saguaro are the coolest--big with many weird "arms." Saw a field full of dust devils. Spotted a huge solar "farm" from a high hill pass looking down over the valley. Biggest we've seen so far.


Stopped in Wickenberg AZ (per Unc's recommendation) for a walk to stretch our legs. This is a cute town that is set up so you can easily learn about it in a fun way. There is a walking tour with statues of people from the old days. You can push a button nearby and they "tell" a little bit about the area history. Wished we had more time to saunter around. On the way out of town, saw a sign saying "Some one else for President." Thought that was clever, not liking either candidate. Caught sight of a great steel silver colored '55 Chevy. Mike lusted.




Mike's favorite driving trip so far was AZ Route 89 from Wickenburg almost to Prescott Valley. It was narrow, winding, and old, but no traffic. Perfect for a motorcycles. Only hiccup was near the top of a high pass at Yarnell. There were several miles of dirt road. They were replacing the ashphalt. Bumpmpmpyy. Dusty. Slow. Back downhill stopped at the Skull Valley General Store (recommended by Ben). It was kitchy and cool. Kind of like a small version of the San Gregorio General Store just south of HMB. We bought T-shirts.

Two highlights today. Homemade chocolate chip cookies from Aunt Joan to snack on along the way. MMMM good. And a visit with my best-ever boss Ben and his delightful wife, Judy. We met at their home and got caught up on what's been happening in our lives, toured their lovely home, played with their sweet dog Ginger (looks like a mini-wolf), had a look-see at their very cool school bus yellow Honda Goldwing Tryke. Ben offered me a ride, but I didn't bite. We loved their eclectic home decor of NYC photos/posters and artsy SW copper plate collection.

They asked where we should have lunch and we advised we were still hankering for good Mexican. They took us to a convenient spot called Puerta Vallerta Cafe, which was down the road toward our exit from town. I had a peachy margarita, so Mike did the driving after. Everyone enjoyed their meal and conversation. We are gonna miss this southwest Mexican food. CAN NOT get it in Kalamazoo.


Ben and Judy both have traveled a lot and also have fantastic sense of humor. They kept us laughing throughout the whole meal. Don't remember exactly what Italian-y thing we were talking about, but Judy waved her napkin in the air and said, "Hello, I'm Italian!" Cracked everyone up. Finally had to say our good-byes and headed on down the road for our overnight in Flagstaff.

We were going to stay in Flagstaff, but Mike is a little iffy respiratory-wise at higher elevations (see STATS above). So we soldiered on after sunset to Winslow. Found a so-so Best Western near the highway. Convenient at least.

BEST OF:
Solar energy promotion goes to AZ. Sierra Nevada earlier in the trip gets very close second place.

07 October 2012

Sun, 10/07/2012 - Hallelujah, No Driving Today

Yuma AZ (all day)


STATS:
Hope not to have any. First day staying two nights in one location, so none to report.

THE HAPS:
Playing catch-up once again. We have numerous pages of notes, but trying to decifer (especially after a few days) is tough.


Spending the day at Uncle Kit and Aunt Joan's. They are really just about four years older than us, but it bugs my uncle when I call him Uncle. So I call him Uncle or Unc all the time anyway. Gosh, I'm a meanie.

Started off with a good old country breakfast cooked by Auntie--perfectly fried eggs (she steams them in a little water with the lid on the fry pan and I'm going to try this, too), ham, bacon, sausage, sour dough bread, hash browns, and a wonderful fresh fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, red raspberries, and sweet dipping yogurt.

Next, guys watching the NASCAR races and gals doing computer work. Finally some time to concentrate on updating the Blog. Still having a hard time getting photos to upload. Although I tried off and on all day, I could only load six pix. Keep getting the response "server problem." Dang! But I'll keep trying, even if I have to go back a few days to do it when I get home.


In the afternoon we took a tour of the neighborhood on the golf cart. Great yard decor, some funny, some artistic, lots of blooming desert plants and greenery. Stopped by some friends for happy hour. And, believe me, they WERE happy before we arrived!! And there were two more rounds while we were there. Telling stories about all the neighbors here at Rancho Coyote Estates--widows, match-ups, parties, drinking, even sex toys, stories, stories .... I think there could be a new winner reality TV show here about "retirees in the modular home park."

Dinner was at a GREAT place in downtown Yuma call Da Boyz. We would recommend it to anyone that likes Italian. Loved the decor of red velvet and dark wood. Several private rooms including the Elvis room. Lots of photos of 50's and 60's personalities--movie stars, politicos, gangsters. Food was also wonderful. I had caprese salad and pizza. Mike had baked pasta. Uncle had a turkey sub. Auntie had lasagna and shared a huge wedge salad with blue cheese and real bacon bits (the photo below is HALF of one wedge salad). Big portions, so lots of leftovers. All the servers had black T-shirts with pink breast cancer ribbons. Loved everything about this place.

Went back to the homestead and talked a bit more til time to leave. We will depart from the hotel in the morning, so saying good-bys now. Then made a quick get away as Deb was getting "sentimental."

A wonderful day to relaaaax.............  Love you, Aunt and Unc.  xxoo

DANCE CARD:
Off in the morning to Prescott Valley, our last opportunity to visit folks we know along the route--this time the Bilellos. Then home. Yahoo! We are yearning for home at this point, even though no kitties waiting for us. Originally planned to be gone for 30 days, but Deb's call to jury duty interrupted that. So in a way we are glad it turned out to be only 17 days total.

BEST OF:
Best waiter of the trip is Kramer (named after Kramer vs. Kramer) at Da Boyz in downtown Yuma. He has a twin sister named Taylor and she is one minute older. She never lets him forget it and blows out her birthday candles one minute before he does. Anyway, he's smiley, efficient, gets the order right the first time, friendly, on time, loves his job, even loves his boss. A wonderful combination.