The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Road Trip’

A Long Day to Vegas

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on May 15, 2010

IMG_9596As we woke up in Denver, the weather had cleared up significantly from the snow the night before, but we somehow couldn’t imagine the weather being nicer as we moved up the mountain. Fortunately, though, no snow had stuck to the roads, and it appeared I-70 was still open through the Rockies.  We decided to at least get in the car and go see what it all looked like. 

It was snowy.  The Wife and I, when we were coming across the country, considered taking I-70.  We did not, however, want to get stuck in snow as we came across the Rockies in mid-April.  In mid-May, however, Dad and I figured we were good, and since we were coming from the D.C.-area, it probably made the most sense (although, yes, I-80 is also a good alternative).  We were clearly wrong.  As we climbed the mountains up toward Vail, the roads were really crappy with both snow and salt.  The mountains themselves, however, were beautiful.

IMG_9127 This whole concept of “blogging” was new to Dad.  He’s got the concept of READING the blog, but it took a little time for him to get that pictures and notes need to be taken during the trip for entries to be written.  On the first day, he looked at me quizzically when I asked him to take pictures of the trip.  After seeing me write an entry or two, and photodocument some other things, he got more into it.  By day two, he was taking pictures.  By day three he was taking a lot of pictures.  Today, he took over 570 pictures of our trip.  570.  We’ve got pictures of everything.  When we were in Australia, we were averaging about 300 pictures per day.  It’s hard just to cull through the pictures when there’s that many.  With nearly 600, it’s taken forever.  Needless to say, we have plenty of pictures of our trip through the Rockies.

IMG_9129 Eventually, once we passed Vail, the snow stopped.  The window was filthy, and I admitted to my dad that I had never added windshield washer fluid to the car.  It wasn’t that I was out of fluid, but I figured, as much as we had used it through the mountains, I was probably running low.  The car has 37,000 miles on it, and I don’t use the windshield wipers all that often; I find them tedious.  Still, with the filthy car, and the 4 cups of coffee between us, we decided to stop for a quick break, and resupply, to include wiper fluid.  The car was filthy.  Notice the dirt around the seams of the panels.

IMG_9418We continued on, through the western part of Colorado, and it nice and beautiful.  The mountains were picturesque, and the valleys were beautiful.  It was the canyons that we drove through, though, that were the most stunning.  One canyon is so narrow that I-70 is built almost westbound-over-eastbound.  It’s the interstate, the river, and the rail line. 

IMG_9327  Some canyons were nice and dry, but there were still snow-covered trees on the tops of the ridges.

IMG_9339Several of the ranges had exposed rocks of different colors.  This was a common theme with the mountains, actually.  Colors ranged from red to blue to sometimes almost a purple color. 

IMG_9372 We stopped again at a rest stop on the far end of Colorado, in Rifle.  We finally got a picture of us together.

IMG_9396 Then we headed into Utah.  We were destined for Richfield, UT for the night, but we were making such good time, and the time zone changes had been promoting getting up early.  I think we got out of Denver around 7:30 am, and we were due into Richfield around 3 pm.  We realized that if were to just drive straight through, we could be in Vegas around 7 pm local time.  That was 13 hours in the car, but we decided that getting in a day early would be nice for us and the Wife.  I was missing her by this point, and was anxious to get home.

As we got into Utah, we were running a little low on gas, and while I was thinking I’d go another 20 miles before gas, Dad mentioned that he was hungry and we noticed a sign that said 106 miles to the next service.  I don’t know exactly what that meant, but I read it to mean 106 miles to the next gas station.  The gas light indicated we would NOT make it 106 miles before taking on more fuel.  We stopped to get gas, a nice meal, and to figure out of we could cancel our hotel with no penalty.  I was able to cancel the hotel with no problems, via my iPhone, and we made the decision to go the whole way.

IMG_9473It was a hike; 13 hours in all, but as we rolled into Vegas at sunset, it was all worthwhile.  It didn’t even seem like it was all that long, although the 3 fill-ups definitely indicated it was a long day. 

The trip from the Rockies traversed some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.  Probably more beautiful that most of the Australian landscape I saw… probably, although it was pretty stellar in itself.  I would absolutely recommend this drive to anyone considering a road trip.  To make stops at the overlooks, and to see a couple of the plethora of national and state parks along the way, I would encourage two nights (Rifle and Richfield? or maybe St. George?) to really get solid coverage of all of it, but to be fair, we rolled through in 13 hours and felt it was spectacular.

Either way, another road trip done. I think that puts me at driving something like 7,000 or 7,500 miles of road trips 10 weeks.  It’s been a great run, but I’m glad the road trips are mostly over for the time being.

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A Mile High Post

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on May 12, 2010

IMG_9071Across the lackluster plains of Kansas today, we mired through the miserable repetition.  It took forever, but we made it.  Kansas took forever to get through.  From Topeka to Denver, the drive is over 500 miles, without a single city with a building over four stories to break up the drive.  The drive to the Colorado boarder alone is 350 miles.

Actually, while the drive is long and monotonous, but it does have its upsides, and the misery of the trip is greatly overrated.  To start with, the landscape is not nearly as featureless as others might have you believe.  While it’s true that it is mile after mile… after mile of farmland, it’s not all uniform.  There are grain elevators and all sorts of crops, of which corn was actually not that prevalent.  I still love corn, in fact.  There were also plenty of animals, from cattle to antelope along the entire trip.  The terrain goes from flat plains through mild hills to high plains.  Deciduous trees appear and disappear and new evergreens reappear.  While the drive was long and tedious, at no time did I feel “defeated” by I-70. 

IMG_9000On the topic of I-70 in Kansas, here are a couple notes to keep in mind.  First, a good portion of it was a toll road.  That just frustrates me when a sizeable section of a “freeway” is a toll road, with no other viable alternative, as far as we could tell.  What are my federal tax dollars going toward, again?  Second, the entire state is almost completely uphill.  The elevation of Kansas City is 750 feet, while the elevation of Goodland, KS is almost 3,700 feet.  As you drive along, you begin to feel compassion for salmon swimming upstream.  There’s nothing you can do about it and you don’t have a choice, unless you want to stay in Kansas. 

The day started with heavy fog, which got heavier throughout the morning.  At some points, the fog was so thick that we needed to reduce speed to feel comfortable.  The REALLY thick fog only lasted a little while, but it was significant.  Eventually, the weather cleared up and we just kept heading along. 

IMG_8896Aside from the terrain, though, Kansas had several wonderfully eccentric sights to see, but we had no time to see them!  The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.  Fort Riley and Marshall Field, home of the First Infantry Division.   The world’s largest prairie dog.   We even passed the Harry S. Truman’s Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.  Too much to see and not nearly enough time to see it. 

As the miles rolled by, and we tried to stay on schedule, we stopped for gas and finished our book on CD.  The book was great.  Finally, we reached Denver; a truly welcome site.  As we reached Denver, the weather was getting crummy again.  We took some pictures of downtown, just before the snow started to fall.

IMG_9087 The weather has been up and down tonight, going from low visibility and heavy snow to no snow and much better visibility.  Hopefully, the weather holds up long enough to allow us to get out tomorrow.  Unfortunately, however, we’ll be heading right into the mountains as we cruise on.  We’ll see where it all goes. 

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Road Trip Howdy from KC

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on May 11, 2010

IMG_8837

As the Wife alluded to, I’m headed out with my father, cross-country to get my car from coast to coast.  I’m excited about it on several levels really.  First, it’s another opportunity to see things I’ve never seen before.  I can’t say that I’m excited about driving another 2,300 miles, only 2 weeks after my last cross-country trip, and only 6 weeks after driving the same distance in Australia, but I do love to drive, and the car’s got to get out West SOMEHOW.  Second, it’s an opportunity to spend dozens of hours penned up with a man that’s exactly like me.  What could go wrong?

So we’re off.  Last night, we stayed in Homer, OH; my dad’s hometown.  We rolled in late, after 10 pm, since we got a late start on the day from Northern Virginia.  It’s an easy drive for us, as we’ve made the trip dozens of times since I was little.  My parents moved to Northern Virginia in 1981, and effectively all of my extended family lived in Ohio up until the mid-90s, when several of them began to branch out across the country, from South Carolina, to Massachusetts, to Colorado.  I’ve made the drive so many times, both as a passenger and a driver, that I could nearly do it in my sleep. 

I would have liked to have gotten pictures of the “Welcome to…” signs, but alas, in my rush to get packed and off to the airport on Saturday night for my red-eye into IAD, I forgot my point-and-shoot camera.  The DSLR really has challenges taking great pictures of those signs at highway speeds.  Additionally, as we wended through the hills of Virginia, into West Virginia, into Maryland, back to West Virginia, into Pennsylvania, and once again through West Virginia, it might appear that we were somehow bending space and time with our inability to escape West Virginia.  Maybe, for my own credibility, it’s best that I don’t take pictures of all the “Welcome to…” signs.

Even though I’ve made the trip so many times, it’s actually been a long time since I’ve done the trip with any of my family.  Through college and beyond, it always seemed like I was making the trip by myself, or maybe with a friend, so doing it with Dad was effectively a new experience for me.  He’s made the trips more times than he can count (despite his B.S. in Math), particularly since he retired about a year ago.  His father is going on 93, genes that I have hopefully inherited, and Dad makes it a point to go see G-pa about monthly. 

Because of the frequency with which Pops goes to see G-pa, he knows the route VERY well.  SO well, in fact, the he can narrate almost the entire trip.  How do I know?  I have first-hand knowledge of every “There’s a stop sign coming up,” “You’ll want to be in the left lane here,” and ”Don’t go too fast around this corner,” despite entirely adequate signage throughout the duration of the trip.  It pains me to think that we are so alike, because I know inevitably I will be just like him.  In the mean time, I comfort myself with the self-denial of “I’ll NEVER be like THAT.”  As I sit in the passenger seat and hear myself say, “Hey, get over.  There’s a pack of cars merging.” I nearly choke on the sour irony as I try to reel the words back into my throat.  My poor wife.

I also comfort myself with the thought that the NEXT day, we would be leaving area so familiar to us both, and would rely on our wits to get around.  How could he possibly direct me, if he didn’t know the landscape like the back of his hand?  Little did I realize that as we left Ohio, and moved into Indiana, the knowledge of the terrain was immaterial to the narration.  As if I were Helen Keller deciding to take a road trip, my father “assists” me with road signs and directions, since clearly I either can’t read them myself, or I’m simply not paying attention, and clearly the GPS is just providing an “opinion” of how to reach our destination.

In all honesty, though, the trip is going well, and I think we’re having a great time.  We have great conversations, and when we begin to wander off too far into our own thoughts, we have books on CD to help pass the time.  The days have been long; 400 miles yesterday with a late start, and another 700 miles today.  We stop for gas and usually couple these stops with a nice take-out meal from the convenience store.  Nothing says healthy living like two cups of coffee, donuts and a chocolate chip cookie, but to be honest, I think it’s probably better for me than the salad that doesn’t look so good, and doesn’t have an expiration date.  Later, we’ll make reverse-coffee stops, as necessary, but we try to stay as close to the highway as possible.  Tonight, hopefully we’ll be able to have a nice salad at a local restaurant.

We passed through Indianapolis and around St. Louis.  We were hoping to make a quick detour at the Arch, but the construction re-routed us around the city, so we really weren’t anywhere close to the downtown area.  That was unfortunate.  I did get a couple pictures of Indianapolis, though, including this one of the Colts’ Oil Drum.

IMG_8861Today was our longest day, with almost 11 hours on the road.  Our next couple days should all be shorter, and we’re hoping to be able to capitalize on the time in Golden to see a brewery (potentially Coors if we have time), and to go see Buffalo Bill’s grave.  It’s a long haul from Kansas City, though, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out.  I hear Kansas is a miserable state to traverse on I-70.  I’m a corn person, just ask the Wife.  I Love corn, and have high standards for my corn when I eat it.  I have a feeling, after roughly 500 miles of nothing but corn fields, I MAY have a different opinion.

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Adventures in Winslow, AZ

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on May 2, 2010

After lunch at Padilla’s, we were almost ready to finally hit the road.  We were headed almost 400 miles to Flagstaff, AZ, and we were excited to have our longest day behind us.  The drive across Texas had been long and boring, aside from our excursions in Amarillo.  Today would be equally long and boring, but we were going to see Arizona’s Painted Desert, directly adjacent to the Petrified Forest, and then onto Flagstaff.  We were both excited to see what the day had in store for us.

As we finished up our meal at Padilla’s, we jumped in the car to hit the road.  For those of you that are fans of our Facebook page, you probably know how this story ends, but for everyone else, it was nothing short of a VERY interesting day. 

Before we left town, we needed gas.  The gas station was right next to a point of interest on my “This Exit” iPhone application.  I pumped gas, while the Wife went and took a picture of this absurdly oversized arrow in the ground.

IMG_2938Finally, we were off to the Painted Desert.  On our road trip, we had been slowly taking care of administrative things associated with the move.  Things like closing utilities on the house in Charlotte, setting up new utilities in Vegas, and getting things like TV and internet services figured out.  Once we got into Western New Mexico, though, the phone service was so spotty, that we couldn’t talk long enough before the call being dropped to have a full conversation with the services.  We stopped in a small town to take care of electricity and gas, so we could have lights and hot water in Vegas.  While we were there, I went into a gas station to get some water, and I ended up getting some beef jerky.

Once the gas and electric were scheduled (gas not until Monday, so we’ll have to work out something for showers, I suppose), we drove across town to see another “This Exit” novelty – a huge guy on top of a muffler shop.

IMG_2942Well, I managed to miss the exit for the Painted Desert.  Wonderful.  I saw plenty of exits for the Petrified Forest, but not one for the Painted Desert.  I’m not sure if I just wasn’t paying attention, or if there were no signs, or what.  By the time we passed it, though, we decided that we would come back sometime and see both, and just make another whole trip out of it.  It’s only about 5 hours from Vegas, and not much over an hour from Sedona;  we’ll make it back.

As we continued on, the winds were getting pretty rough.  The little Corolla, fully-loaded-down with all our stuff, was pushed throughout our lane, and sometimes into the adjacent lane (or shoulder, as it were).  We could see up ahead that the wind was blowing the sand about.

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The Wife saw a sign that said that I-40 was closed ahead, but I didn’t see it (perhaps an indicator as to why we missed the Painted Desert?).  We continued on, and sure enough, the interstate, for no apparent reason, was closed at Winslow, AZ.  Why? No answer.

We got off the interest, and queried our GPS to find a viable detour.  I’ll allow my Wife to find appropriate words to describe me feelings for our GPS, but suffice it to say, I don’t always find it easy to work with.  We did not find any such detour, so we decided to find a restaurant or bar to have a drink at before heading on.

We found a little hole in the wall bar.  We couldn’t get a picture of the outside because as soon as we got out of the car, the wind and dust was blowing hard enough that it was uncomfortable to stand in, so we just headed inside.  If there was a stereotypical bar that all west bars were modeled on, this was it.  Dark.  Small.  A couple pool tables.  A wooden bar.  It was almost surreal.

IMG_2976 We went ahead and ordered a drink.  There were several locals, including a friendly old drunk in his 70s that invited us to come sit with him at the bar.  At first, we were skeptical, but we looked at each other and figured we had each other, so we took a seat with him. 

We each ordered a 90 Shilling (Odell Brewing Company). 

 IMG_2973 The drunk, and I mean that in the most friendly way, was an interesting guy.  To be fair, it was 3:30 in the afternoon, he had clearly been drinking for some time, and continued to drink heavily while we were there.  We asked him why the interstate was closed, and he told us that there was a duststorm for the next 20 miles, and it wasn’t safe to drive.  In the past, there have been multi-car pileups on the stretch of desolate highway because of the visibility problems during duststorms, and today was the worst he’d seen.  He did, however, suggest that in 4ish hours, the winds would probably die down, and we could probably head on.  That was more of a detour than we were hoping for, to be honest, but we figured we’d embrace this opportunity to see a local culture that we would probably never, otherwise, be exposed to.  We love adventure, and it looks like we’d found yet another one.

We talked to John, the drunk, about what things were all about.  Turn out John, the drunk, had one time been John, the trucker, and John, the bartender.  He was also John, the father (several daughters; we never did get a final number on daughters, or if he had any sons, but he alluded to “lots”).  He was also John, the pollack [sic].  He must have mentioned at least once every 3 minutes that he was of Polish descent, but never did he say it in any kind of way that would help him be elected to public office. 

There were two bartenders.  I estimate that they were overstaffed by exactly one person.  Both, however, were friendly and efficient.  The Wife and I, however, did notice that each charged us different prices for the beers, depending on who served them.

We also met a mother/daughter couple that were headed to Vegas for the night to meet up with the daughter’s new husband.  Recently married, she (the daughter) was moving to Carlsbad, CA to be with her marine husband.  They were NOT happy about the holdup, but were doing their very best to enjoy the bar while they could. 

Another interesting fellow came in, a former marine, having served overseas during his four-year stint in the Corps, had returned home to see his mother and sister prior to starting a new job in the civilian world.

Or Jerry, the Flemish transplant, having spent most of his life in lush Washington State, moved to arid Winslow, AZ after years of his wife’s nagging.  Now that they had moved, she was less satisfied with it than she had hoped, and he actually had become quite enamored with the people of Winslow.  When I asked what he liked so much, he responded simply, “Everyone’s just so nice.”

There was even a quiet Native American fellow in the corner, watching and listening, and enjoying his beer, but not really bothering anyone.

Indeed, I felt like the bar could be the setting for a new run of the show “Cheers,” but set in the West.  All the characters were already there, and they WERE characters.  I wondered how WE might fit into the group of barflies.  I can only imagine that we looked like the city-slickers, with all the positive and negative connotations that came with it.  Everyone was wonderfully nice to us, though, so we enjoyed our time while we could.

As the storm raged on, we eventually had a hard time seeing anything outside.  The windows WERE dirty, but that’s mostly dirt and dust out there.

IMG_2235So we sat some more and enjoyed our newfound friends.  We really couldn’t leave, because the dirt was miserable to walk in.  It would tear at your skin, and get in your eyes (even with glasses on).  John, however, managed to order a couple cabs and come and go while we were holed up in the solace of the bar. 

Eventually the power went out.  Then it came back on.  It didn’t seem to phase anyone much.  It happened again, but this time, the power didn’t come back on.  Eventually, as it neared 6:30, the locals were beginning to confide in the visitors that it didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon (although, there had been a recent lull in the winds), and that we should probably all prepare to hunker down for the night.

The city slickers, though, took this as our cue to go find some food and find some information that was more appealing.  We headed out to the car in a short lull, and headed off to find some food.  Unfortunately, no one in town had any power.  Dinner was out of the question.  We contemplated getting a hotel, but thought we’d hold out until later, lest the winds died down after 9.  Our hotel reservation was confirmed in Flagstaff until 10, so we figured we could make the 40 minute drive at 9, and still be there in time. 

We pulled out the beef jerky.  The reason I bought it was because it was REALLY big.  I just couldn’t get over how big it was, so I bought it.  In hindsight, we were glad I bought it, because we were able to enjoy a little something to eat despite the power situation.

IMG_2979The power eventually came back on, and we made our way to a Sonic.  We ordered our food, and the power immediately went back out.  When it came back on 20 minutes later, the employees immediately began frantically serving meals, albeit remarkably slowly.  After an hour, when people that had come AFTER the power had come back on were getting served, we realized they must have lost our order somewhere along the way.  We ordered again.  In other circumstances, we would have left.  But let’s face it.  Where were we going to go?  What were we going to do?  Outside was nothing but flying grit.  The poor Sonic guy was sprinting from the door to the cars to deliver food.  At least here, we had light to read our books.  We would have surfed the web on our iPhones, but we only had EDGE coverage, and the internet access itself, was intermittent.  We enjoyed our books, and waited over 90 minutes for our food from the time we first arrived. 

IMG_2980After we ate, it was close to 9:30.  The road was still closed.  We called the hotel (Little America in Flagstaff) and let them know we would not be coming.  They were appreciative, and sympathetic, and indicated they would not charge us for the late cancellation.  We were appreciative for little blessings at this point.

It was time to find a hotel.  There were a surprisingly large number of hotels in the town that was so small.  We popped into a couple; no vacancy.  It seems waiting 8 hours to look for a room was a poor idea, and all the other stranded travelers had beaten us to the punch.  We started at the ChoiceHotels, where the Wife and I are both elite members.  No deal.  We eventually got to little motels far off the interstate.  Still no luck.  One thing, though, every innkeeper we talked to was so friendly and sympathetic, as if they would have offered us their truck to sleep in, if they had an extended cab.  We couldn’t believe how genuinely distraught others were over our, admittedly self-inflicted, condition. 

Finally, it was becoming more of a challenge to GET from the car to the hotel, than it was worth to find out they had no vacancy.  While there were still several more hotels in Winslow, we decided to sleep in our car.  With hundreds of trucks lining every inch of the roads, we managed to tuck in behind a truck in a parking lot, pulled out our blankets (the Wife thought we might have to sleep on the floor at the new house, so she had the foresight to pack blankets.  I Love my wife.), and tried to get some rest.

It was miserable sleep.  The car was small to begin with, and with all our close personal belongings, we couldn’t recline our seats much.  The wind continued to rock the car all night, howling like something out of a horror movie.  I managed to set the car alarm off a couple times, although I’m still not sure how.     Hopefully, tomorrow would be better.

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