Friday, September 13, 2013

Not quite the last post

This is it, the last installment, unless Kathrine decides to do a recap of the entire misadventures.

I will have driven 8193 miles by the time I get home if I don't take too many wrong turns. Not much to many of the seasoned travelers I've met along the way, but quite a bit for me and the dog. I've missed a few things along the way that people said I should stop and see and things I've noticed that I wish I had been able to stop and explore but we can save those for future explorations. You need to save something to come back to.

I've said I'm indifferent toward Walmart, but thanks to Sam Walton and his money Little Rock has one of the finest cancer research facilities in the world and his daughter has amassed a wonderful art collection and built a magnificent building in which to house the collection out in the middle of nowhere in Bentonville, Arkansas. Along with everything else my Walmart stock helped finance Sam and Becca's education, so I guess they are not all bad and they allow you to sleep in their parking lots for free.

When Jennifer was sick we came out to Little Rock to seek a second opinion on her treatment. We had planned a stop at the Clinton Library but ran out of time and I have done it again. Maybe this brings up an opportunity to go on a road trip to visit all the Presidential libraries.

After tonight I'm putting my head down and heading for home, no more stops since I have to return this thing on Saturday by 11:00 am. I'm hoping to see Atlanta before sunrise on Saturday. My next trip is going to be up the east coast to Maine in a smaller RV towing a car with just me, the dog and maybe my cat if she starts acting like a cat instead of the spawn of Satan. I'm not going to give myself any deadlines and not much of an agenda so I can do and stay as long as I wish. Anyone who wishes to join me is welcome to hop on along the way but you can only stay three days unless you happen to be a very friendly single female then we might change the rules just a bit.

As Jennifer would have said "Happy trails".

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What day is this?

I drove to Santa Fe in another day of pouring rain.

 I must be headed East with a huge storm front because it has not stopped raining since I left the North Rim of the Canyon on... whatever day that was. With all of the wonderful art galleries and what I could see through the rain must be a beautiful city.  I never got out of the 30' thing I am trying to maneuver around through rather narrow streets.  I can't see anything, which is not safe for the citizens of Santa Fe so I did what any thoughtful person would do.  I decided to go up the mountain to scare the people of Los Alamos and take in the museum about the Manhattan Project.

Actually two very different and interesting museums. I can understand why the government choose this place; it is very much like a castle on a high plateau easily guarded by a few soldiers along a long narrow mountain road. The current residents seem so laid back and they nearly radiate (pun intended) intelligence. No crime, free public transportation nothing to do but hike.

One photo in the museum shows a woman wearing a pair of earrings made from the sand that was fused together at the first test site to form a new mineral, Trinitite named after the site at Trinity. It is radioactive!

After leaving Los Alamos I decided I needed to drive as far as I could toward home. I wound up about 9:00 pm in a Walmart parking lot with a couple of other poor lost souls with nowhere else to stay. Around 2:00 am I woke up to the sounds of someone playing the bass on his car stereo so loud that it shook the RV.

I gave up and left in the pouring rain at around 3:30 but not before securing some needed supplies, i.e. another coffee carafe since I just broke the one I purchased as a replacement for the one that was broken earlier, a flash light to replace my defective one and a magnifying glass since Scott took his. I can't read the map but it really doesn't matter since I never seem to know quite where I am or where I'm heading.

Along Route 66 the Cadillacs were still standing tall in the field but like most things Route 66, at least what is left of it, has become nothing like we remember or imagine as a sixties TV show.

The state of Texas did something very cool along I-40 around McLean. They built a road side rest area that looks like an art deco dinner including frosted glass doors and port hole windows. Inside they had really decorative tile work and numerous advertising signs from the Route 66 era. We have to give credit to Texas, they get it right occasionally, after all they gave us a fairly decent President (I'll leave it to you to choose which one).  A friend from my Tampa wine tasting group said after she moved to Texas "These Texans sure are proud of their state". I always think that is a kind way to explain their state of mind.

Tonight, as I was traveling through Oklahoma City, I thought of the many times Scott told me to stay between the lines as we were speeding along the highway.

I got pulled over by a city cop who proceeded to ask me for my license and the rental agreement on the RV. Of course I could not produce the rental contract because Scott had it back in Georgia. This led to a long conversation about what I was doing, where I was headed and where had I been. He seemed very curious about why I had no passengers and why had the other merry travelers left me.

He asked if I knew why he had stopped me? Of course I had no idea since I had not been drinking and was to my knowledge not speeding. He proceeded to tell me that since he had been following I had failed to maintain my lane and had in fact run off the road on the right and stayed there until I moved over into the left lane and remained there until moving back over into the shoulder. I explained about the dog's driving and my trying to get some M&M peanuts. When he tried to leave Mitzi proceeded to bark and protest as she does whenever anyone leaves (separation anxiety).  The patrolman scratched Mitzi's head and said he had a pug that looked just like Mitzi. My reply was, "well you know how bad pugs drive".

He let me go without a ticket.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Driving by Braille

We all have misconceptions about numerous things; people, politics, religion and states. When I worked in Denver years ago people would ask if it ever got cold in Georgia. Well I always assumed Arizona was flat, hot, dry and populated by retirees, Native Americans (politically correct speech), illegal aliens (not politically correct) and John McCain. Well I was correct about the population but the landscape, at least what I have seen in my travels, is absolutely beautiful and it has rained almost constantly for the last two days. The desert is not a place to walk your dog but it is beautiful from a distance and the mountains, while not being the Alps, are stunning primarily because you have such good views.

Having spent the night in the Casino parking lot I drove a couple of miles and spotted an RV site that advertised itself as an adult camp site. I'm not sure what they meant by adult but I noticed a bar next door that advertised strippers. Had I known that I might have driven a little further and saved some money; but maybe not.

Scott would have enjoyed the drive over to the Petrified Forest National Park. Driving though the back roads and passing through a town call Snow Flake (I just love the name) I went through a thunderstorm like none I've ever seen. It was raining so hard you could not see the lines in the road but if you ran off to the right you could feel the rumble strips and if you crossed the center line you could feel the bumps. It is called driving by feel and not for the faint of heart.

I have now passed into New Mexico and keep hearing Get your Kicks on Route 66. I tried driving it for awhile but it terminates along the way and much of it can be seen from the interstate. I'll try a little more today if it stops raining.
Added by Kathrine:
I asked Scott when David is planning on being home.  He replied that we've agreed to meet him Friday afternoon to unload the motorhome.  The motorhome has to be turned in by noon Saturday, squeaky clean.  Considering David doesn't like driving interstates, and it is now Tuesday afternoon, we may need to start taking bets on either actual arrival date, or miles driven on the final day.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lessons learned

The latest, direct from David...

 I'm sitting here in Sedona waiting for the rain to let up so I can get started on the next leg of this journey. I know why people tow cars behind these RV's. I would like to drive around in the rain and look at the city but that does not happen in this thing.

I learned a few things last night. Like I should consider locking the door. There is a couple staying next to me who have rented an RV just like this one with identical decals and lettering. Sometime during the night or early morning someone opened the door and when Mitzi barked and I jumped up a woman screamed "oh my God excuse me" and left. I did not get to see her so I'm not sure if she would have been an invited guest had we met earlier.

With my dinner of roasted chicken, potatoes and wilted salad I discovered that potatoes have a shelf life approaching that of nuclear material. These potatoes were left over from June when my sister and our friend Lane Johnson looked after the beach house and the animals while I went paddling. The potatoes were pretty tasty but I can't say the same for the wilted salad.

I also discovered the best way to accommodate both the slightly overweight pug and myself in bed. The dog has been constantly pushing me out of bed (the fold out sofa that is not quite as wide as a regular bed and about 5" shorter) during this entire trip so I found a solution. If I sleep on my side with my back to the outer wall it gives her the required three fourths of the sleeping area. Now she seems happy and she does not steal all the cover.

I finally gave up on the rain and fog and headed toward Scottsdale and Taliesin West. I wanted to go the scenic route through the mountains (4 hrs 15 min) but because of the rain I though there would be significantly more risk to life and limb and changed to the interstate (only 2 hrs 30 minutes); I hate driving the interstates. The visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home pales in comparison to his original Taliesin.

So I left Scottsdale headed toward Santa Fe not knowing where or when I would stop. Do you think the parking lot of a casino is a good place to stay overnight for an addictive personally who likes to gamble?

Well, I thought, "why not?"  So here I am in Payson, Arizona, about to go shoot craps as soon as I finish this and Mitzi has finished her business.

Later and much richer I hope.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Funnier from a distance

Every so often yesterday, Scott and I commented to each other that we haven't heard from David yet.  So late last night I sent him an email with the simple question, "Are you alive?" This was Grand Canyon day, just for the record, so it wasn't such silly question.  Then I said that I hoped he had found a campsite and wasn't still driving.   Even later came the reply...

Well yes I probably was when you sent this since I did not stop until about 45 minutes ago. A short while after dark which leads to complicated backing.
For the blog: I left the North Rim this morning and decided to go see what the gully looked like from the other side. Not too much difference except it was raining, lightning and we had a brief hail storm which left the shoulders of the road looking as if it had snowed. The Canyon, even in the poor weather was spectacular especially during the lightning storm. I took numerous really bad photos which, being the computer illiterate that I am, I can not send to you. I have decided as my next New Year's resolution to take photography lessons. That fits right in with my resolutions to quit drinking, work out and lose thirty pounds.
The day was fairly uneventful, until I got to Santa Fe where Mitzi made a few driving errors. A turn too fast combined with hitting a curb resulted in almost everything stored in the overhead bins being deposited on the floor including the vodka, the tonic, my computer and I pad and Mitzi. Nothing broken except my mouse without which I can barely type this note. Maybe it is a sign that I should fix myself a vodka & tonic.
After replacing my mouse and buying roasted chicken, (I don't think they know out here how good fried chicken really is especially if it is reduced for quick sale), I headed for Sedona. This town sits in the middle of a red rock canyon. Everything is red; the houses, the roofs, the sidewalks, the curbs even the Jesus Saves sign is red. I'll reserve judgment on the rest of the city for tomorrows tour.

I just read this note to Scott as he was sitting stationary on our very own back deck.  He was roaring with laughter.  This simply proves that many things are much funnier from a distance.  Safe travels David, try to keep the wheels in between those lines they paint on the road.

And I will post photos taken by all once everyone is settled at home.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Life goes on...but wait, it gets better!

I could hardly figure out how to break it to you all.

Sometime before the show in Sausalito was set up it was decided that due to my tight schedule, (I have another show, this time in Kansas City, in less than 3 weeks), that it would be best if Scott and I flew home before the Epic Journey had officially ended. 

There were no hard feelings, and this will give David a little time to explore on his own.  Especially important, as he is actually considering buying a small motorhome and going on another trip.  He dropped Scott and I off on the Strip in Las Vegas.  Scott had re taped the Kleenex box and other important things down throughout the motorhome, and left David the left over roll of tape so he could continue the tradition.

But I did worry about how I was going to either finish up, or carry on with this blog.  Then David's emails started to arrive.  Slightly edited for clarity...

From my perspective.
I awoke this morning in the middle of the desert not even knowing in which state I've parked this thing. The dog is definitely not a desert dog because she refuses to go do her business in anything but grass. Finally after two days she found a small patch of leaves and relieved herself.
Becca called to tell me she had attempted to back the Chickie-mobile (this was David and Jennifer's Honda, Becca flew back to Atlanta for yet another job interview) out of the drive.  But instead of being in reverse had it in drive and promptly drove into the side of the garage.
I looked at my email this morning and saw a message from American Express that someone has stolen my credit card number and is charging things on line to my account. After trying to explain to a customer service rep, who had an accent that I could not understand, they canceled my credit card leaving me with one other card and some cash to finish the trip. She continued to ask me where I want the new replacement card sent and could not understand that I had no idea where I am or where I would be in the coming days.

Finally she transferred me to another agent who after a brief conversation asked me if there was anything else they could do for me. My response was hire people in America instead of India; he said she was in Malaysia. That really made my day. After 30 years I may not use AMX again.
So now I'm off to a grand start to see the Grand Canyon.

Then this one arrived at about 2am Eastern Standard time, or 11pm wherever David was...

It sure is quiet in here, no f bombs, no complaints about my driving from Mitzi and no cussing at the GPS.
I drove from Lake Mead over to Zion Canyon then on to the Grand Canyon. The drive through Zion Canyon was spectacular. A drive that Scott would have appreciated since it was at least as windy and narrow as the road we took into Yellowstone where Scott declared his fear of heights and could not abide my driving.
I had to pay an extra "tunnel fee" so they could close the tunnel and stop traffic to allow me to drive down the center line of the road while inside the tunnel. Scott must have called them in advance to warn them of my driving. This tunnel had limited head room and was even more narrow than the bridge over the Columbia River where we folded the rear view mirrors in to avoid hitting oncoming traffic.
After Zion I drove directly to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I expected to see something like Zion on my way to the rim but except where fires had decimated the forest it was just lush greenery with cows, deer and bison grazing in the meadows. I got there just as the sun was setting; it was beautiful. I only wish I had been able to book a camp site at the rim but none were available. I did manage to get the last spot in a site at the turn off 35 miles from the rim.
The only problem with this was driving back down at night and finding the camp site. The deer I had seen on the way up grazing in the meadow had on the way down in the dark moved to the very edge of the pavement which presented yet another hazard to both driver and deer. I'm sure the deer were terrified to see me and the dog careening down the mountain. I'm sure they could see me because I had failed to turn off the lights inside the RV and did not want to stop, move the dog out of my lap and get up and turn the lights off.
I finally found the camp site after stopping twice at the same bar to ask some poor girl directions and if she was sure of the location. Maybe I should have just stayed for drinks.
Oh well off to more adventures tomorrow if I can quit drinking long enough to figure out where I'm going.

I think we may have more than one humorous writer in the family.  More soon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Good god almighty

A phrase often used in this rolling rattling tin can...Good god almighty. Actually that is one of the nicest things said.  If you can imagine it, it's been said, probably by me, and with visible eye rolling.  Yes, this would make a really bad movie. I have become a woman who says mean things to pugs who bark and bark and bark and bark when David steps outside of the motorhome. As long as she can see him, she barks.  Like the entire time he is pumping gas, do you know how long that takes?

Yup, two nights, that's about as long as it takes to go a wee bit psycho.

So, what happened today?  We left the creepy RV place in the middle of nowhere, unshowered.  You see, I checked out the shower facilities, and although I have showered in some questionable places, this one was just over the line.  The boys agreed, so we made a pact that as long as none of us showered, it would be even, and we'd be ok.

So off we go, Vegas bound.  The landscape on the drive from the Middle Of Nowhere, California to Vegas is amazingly varied.  From mega farms, to a slaughterhouse that smelled far, far worse than sticking your head into a full cat litterbox, for MILES!  Then the landscape dries to desert, greens up enough to grow what I think are Joshua trees, and then gets quite green and shrubby again at the highest part of the climb into Vegas.

So we pull into Vegas around 5:30, traffic is a bit heavy, it's raining a bit, and we have no place to park yet. We had talked about it. David didn't want to park at Circus Circus, because it was expensive. It was, I am paying less for a hotel tomorrow night than they want for a chunk of concrete with hook ups. But that was about as far as we got.

So we pull into town, Scott is driving, David is navigating, and I am in the position I take when I want absolutely nothing to do with what is going on in the cab. I'm on the very back bunk. Looking out the windows as we drive through the strip. I think they are trying to spot some sort of RV park, as the landscape changes from the faux luxury of the casinos, to strip mall wedding chapels and pawn shops.  About this time I post the current predicament on Facebook, just for comic relief.

I stop looking out the windows, and eventually we seem to find ourselves somewhere we have to back out of. I have no idea if the road was closed, or what the story is, but we seemed to be under a highway overpass, trying to get turned around, backing up a few times.  I saw a do not enter sign at one point. I've decided just not to ask what actually happened there.

So about that time, a Facebook friend says something about Sam's Town. Cheap RV parking with hook-ups.  Halle-freaking-lulia.  I find their website, get the address and get to the front seat as they finally start to pull over to, as David said, "figure this shit out."

I only had to raise my voice long enough to get their attention. The address was put into the GPS, and we arrived about 10 minutes later.  Drinks were poured within minutes of arrival, seconds, actually.

But that wasn't the best part.

The best part of the whole day?  It was another Facebook moment.  We are driving through the Mojave Desert, and I check Facebook.  Looking at my wall, I see Sam Garr has changed his relationship status to "Married".  Sam Garr, for those of you who may not know is David Garr's son.  The David who is driving the motorhome I am currently riding in at about 70 mph.

So I start sending messages to Sam as fast as I can.  Sam is in Qatar, by the way.  He was deployed there just a few days ago.  "Married Sam? Like married-married, or like kinda pretend wanna be married?" Real married, like new name on her Social security card married.  So after a few minutes of chatting with Sam, I call Scott back to the back bunk. (I hang out there a lot, it helps.)

And tell him what I just learned. And David pulls over at a rest stop.

Scott and David leave the motorhome, and I start setting up Skype on my iPad. I've been meaning to do it, but managed to get it all set up before the boys got back.  Scott told David, who took it very well, for finding out a couple of weeks after the fact.  And just like that, Sam was on Skype with David, and congratulations were delivered from all of us.  To a military base in Qatar, from a nasty rest stop in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

Isn't life grand?  And I have a new Facebook friend, and niece-in-law...or however that works out. Welcome Paula, nice to have you along for the ride!