Friday, June 25, 2010

End of the road

Oh! We finally made it home! It was a great trip, and we made a lot of memories. And we're all tired. Samuel is ready to go back on the road today. Sidney is glad to be back home. She misses her friends. Fortunately, they both have a new home to come back to. Very exciting.

We've unpacked, we ate a vegetable dinner from the garden on actual plates (SO GOOD!), and we're enjoying sitting still for a few moments. I'll try to spend the next few days editing all of hundreds of photos that were taken, and I'll try to publish them in some shape or form for sharing.

Day-14 Itinerary

Friday, June 25

Estimated 5 hours (327 miles)

Crossville, TN (elevation 1,895) Roanoke, VA (elevation 935)

Roanoke, VA weather:


Isolated Thunderstorms

30% chance of precipitation

Little Rock to Crossville

Today, we broke our trip to into several short segments punctuated by periods of gorging on country cookin'.

Our first stop was Neelys Bar-B-Cue in Memphis. The Neely family apparently has a show on the Food Network. Everyone was excited to eat there. Mom ordered the dry pork ribs, Drew ordered the pulled pork, Dick ordered beef ribs, Sidney ordered the barbecue spaghetti, and Samuel and I both ordered the sliced beef brisket. With the exception of the pork ribs, all of the the meats were drowned in cloyingly sweet, smokey, tomatoey sauce. The flavor of my baked beans and Sidney's "spaghetti" were indistinguishable from the barbecued meats. Mom's pork ribs were the best in my opinion because they were not coated in thick sauce. You could really taste the porky, smokey meat which completely fell off the bone. Samuel said his brisket sandwich was the best barbecue he'd ever had.

After lunch we found our way to Graceland, home of Elvis. We didn't have time for a tour the house, but we pulled Monty up to the front gate, placed our hands on the stone wall surrounding the property, shouted, "praise Elvis, Lord" and drove off.

A few hours later we arrived in Nashville. We stopped by our old house on River Ridge Court. Mom hadn't seen it in 20+ years. The house still looked basically the same except for the trees which had grown to create a lot of shade where once there was none. Oh, and the the house is for sale. We didn't take down the number. I wonder how much it is listed for.

A short drive from the old house, just past Harper Valley Elementary School (where the infamous PTA meets), is one of Nashville's older institutions—The Loveless Motel and Cafe, locally famous for their house-cured hams, jams, biscuits, and fried chicken. It's the kind of place that has lots of autographed glossies of famous actors, songwriters, and performers hanging on the walls in the front lobby. Once located on the farthest outskirts of town, it is now crowded by McMansions and strip malls. Highway 100 is now a few lanes wider and the motel has been converted into a bike shop and a "sweet shop" and a jam- and jelly-making kitchen with a retail shop, but the restaurant is still just about the same as I remember and the food was really good! I had fried okra, greens, squash casserole, and cucumbers and onions.

After dinner we drove into the city on Highway 100. We went past my old high school, saw some flood damage to the walls around Belle Meade, went through the West End past Vanderbilt University and into downtown. Lower Broadway has really boomed since I was there last. The adult theaters have been replaced with bright neon signs attracting tourist into bars and restaurants, high rise glass buildings, a new convention center and hotel, bling, bling, bling. All of this made Sidney ecstatic, and she can't wait to go back.

From Nashville it was a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Crossville which is just a little more than halfway to Knoxville. This will make tomorrow's drive, the last leg our our trip, relatively short. We have to turn in Monty before 5:00.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day-13 Itinerary

Thursday, June 24

Estimated 7.5 hours (461 miles)

Little Rock, AK (elevation 482) Crossville, TN (elevation 1895)

Crossville, TN weather:


Isolated Thunderstorms

30% chance of precipitation

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Amarillo to Little Rock

All I can say is that I miss the West already. I think we all do. The further we drive east the hotter and more humid it becomes. I'm just not cracked up for this!

It was a long day of driving today, but not our longest so far. Fortunately, the last two legs of our trip will be progressively shorter—but unfortunately hotter and more humid.

I had the first shift of driving today. Somewhere in Texas between Amarillo and Ft. Smith, while all of my passengers were taking their morning naps, I saw the "world's largest" crucifix not farther than 100 yards from the eastbound land of I-40. It must have been close to 200 feet tall. Very ominous and kind of creepy. It looked to be part of a partially built octagonal Christian church of some micro-denomination of which I can neither recall nor have ever heard of. Seems they spent all their money on the giant cross and ran out of money for the actual church. Makes you wonder.

Further east we saw a very large wind farm—each turbine about the size of the giant cross. There must have been at least 100 of the them and they stretched on for 10 miles or so. It was nice to see these among all of the oil wells that we saw. They look a lot nicer too.

I'd have to say that besides the giant cross and the the wind farm and learning that Oklahoma has mountains (!), today's highlight was our brief stop at the National Memorial at Oklahoma City. It was very moving to be there (and hot). I really loved the design of the memorial.

Tonight, Sidney and Samuel went swimming in the luke-warm water of our campground's pool. The rest of us drank whatever alcohol we had left, grilled hamburgers, and I made another mess of cowboy beans. The air is filled with the sound of cars on the nearby freeway and the roar of chirping insects in the surrounding trees.

Tomorrow we reach for Crossville, Tennessee. Our current plan is to stop in Memphis for a quick look around and lunch at Neely's Bar-B-Cue. In Nashville, we'd like to go by our old house in River Ridge that we haven't seen since 1987. Hopefully, it is still there after the recent flooding. We'd also like to show the kids around Music Row, the Ryman Auditorium, Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and maybe the Loveless Cafe. We'll see how much we can accomplish given the time we have left.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day-12 Itinerary

Wednesday, June 23

Estimated 9.5 hours (596 miles)

Amarillo, TX (elevation 3,736) Little rock, AK (elevation 482)

Little Rock, AK weather:

97/77 (high/low)


0% chance of precipitation

Sante Fe and Amarillo

Today, Drew drove from Albuquerque to Amarillo. We were interested in seeing Santa Fe, so we made the relatively short drive north. We were hoping to go to the Farmers Market because we just read in Saveur that it was rated one the 30 Best Farmers Markets in the World. Unfortunately, we missed the morning market by 30 minutes and we didn't have time to wait for the afternoon market that started at 3:00. Sad face.

At least the drive through the center of town gave us a general feel for what it looks like. All of the buildings are built of adobe in the Pueblo style except for a few of the oldest and earliest structures. None of the low one- and two-story structures were much taller than the surrounding trees. Rustic wooden ceiling beams that protruded from tan, chocolate, salmon, ochre, cream, and white stucco were occasionally hung with bunches of dried red chili peppers. Low walls extended outward from the exterior structural walls to surround gardens of juniper, yucca, blooming cacti, agave, sage brush, and feathery bunch grasses. We got close to the Governors Palace, saw the cathedral and Downtown Plaza, and drove along shady Alameda. It was difficult to maneuver our big rig through the narrow, curvy streets, and we found nowhere to park it, so we had to say goodbye to one of the cutest cities we've seen on our trip so far. I think we all would like to visit again someday.

Not much more to photograph or write about until we arrived in Amarillo where we were treated with a specular lightning storm at around sunset.

Itinerary Update

We're considering delaying our return home by one day so that we can slow our pace a bit. If we're able to keep the RV an extra day our itinerary will look something like this:

Tuesday - Amarillo, Texas
Wednesday - Little Rock, Arkansas
Thursday - Nashville, Tennessee
Friday - Roanoke, Virginia

Day-11 Itinerary

Tuesday, June 22

Estimated 10 hours (611 miles)

Bernalillo (Albuquerque), NM (elevation 5,312) to Choctaw (Oklahoma City), OK (elevation 1,230)

(via Santa Fe, NM)

Oklahoma City, OK weather:

0/0 (high/low)


0% chance of precipitation

Oklahoma City East KOA Kampground

6200 South Choctaw Road

Choctaw, OK 73020


Monday, June 21, 2010

Grand Canyon to Albuquerque

We're moving so fast that it's hard to keep up with these posts.

On our way to Grand Canyon from Zion we stopped to fuel up, and learned that our back right tires were nearly threadbare. We tried to reach the rental company to get authorization to have them replaced, but we couldn't get through to anyone who could make a decision on it. Not having much time and anxious to get a move on, we took photos of the tires and emailed them to El Monte, hoping that by the next day we could get them fixed.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon just in time to catch the last of the day's sunlight. We stopped at the historic watch tower and took in our first views of the canyon and then we were off to find our campground as bellies were grumbling and nerves were becoming frayed. Our campsite didn't have wifi access and I was so exhausted that by the time we got there that I had neither the time nor the ability to post an update.

Drew and Mom slung together a quick dinner for us which hit the spot for everyone. After showers we laughed and reflected on our trip while looking over our photos of the day.

In the morning we only had three hours to experience the Grand Canyon because we had to make it all the way to Albuquerque. Drew, Samuel and I hiked a couple of miles around the canyon rim and met up with Mom, Sidney, and Dick at the visitor's center. It was truly awesome As beautiful as the canyon is, I was just as taken with the variety of vegetation—at times actually upstaged the canyon.

There was a forest fire near Flagstaff that we could see in the distance.

We had some dealings with the rental company and we had the tires replaced today in Williams, Arizona. It didn't cost us any money, but it cost us some time that we didn't have.

We had a long day of driving ahead of us, and we were short on time because of the tire issue, but we made a surprise 30-minute visit to Meteor Crater. Way cool! Click, click, click, back on Monty, haul ass across Arizona. I thought we would never get out of that state.

Finally arrived in Albuquerque at 9:00 p.m. Too late to make dinner in the RV. Ate a late dinner at "our neighborhood" Applebees. Need I say more?

Tomorrow, we will try to make it as far as Oklahoma City.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Capital Reef to Zion National Park via Bryce Canyon

Just a quick update before we travel to Grand Canyon today; yesterday's drive on Highway 12 was beyond anything I had imagined. What a trip! I don't have time to say much more right now, but I'll try to post once again this evening once we reach our next campground.
Oh, and we picked up Drew at a McDonalds in St. George, Utah. Our timing was perfect.

In the mean time here is this:

Day-9 Itinerary

Monday, June 21

Estimated 7 hours (417 miles)

Grand Canyon Village, AZ (elevation 6,800) to Bernalillo (Albuquerque), NM (elevation 5,312)

Bernalillo, NM weather:

0/0 (high/low)


0% chance of precipitation

Alburquerque North/Bernalillo KOA Kampground

555 South HIll Road

Bernalillo, NM 87004-9120


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day-8 Itinerary

Saturday, June 19

Estimated 5.75 hours (280 miles)

Torrey (Capital Reef), UT (elevation 8,000) to Springdale (Zion), UT (elevation 4,000)

(via Bryce Canyon and St. George, UT*)

*Meet Drew in St. George, UT at 6:15 PM

Springdale, UT weather:

94/63 (high/low)


0% chance of precipitation

Zion Canyon Campground

479 Zion Park Road

Springdale, UT 84767


Friday, June 18, 2010

Goblin Valley and Capital Reef National Park

Well, as Mom says, it was another "OMG day!"

The landscape changes so dramatically around every turn and over every crest. Sometimes the road stretches out before us for 10 miles with barely a variation in direction, and then suddenly it descends into a vast crack in the ground, twisting and turning between towering red and gray cliffs as it parallels a river. Like scenes in a play, the stage curtains are drawn open at the start of each act revealing a completely new set and cast of characters. We find ourselves anticipating each change, asking aloud to no one, "I wonder what they are going to show us next?"

Our drive today took us into some of the most remote and sparsely populated regions that we will encounter on our trip. At under 200 miles it was also our shortest daily distance traveled which afforded a more leisurely pace. Heading south from I-70 on Highway 24, we drove across the flatness of the San Rafael Desert. The La Sal Mountains that make up the snowcapped backdrop of Moab were visible in the distance to our left while the San Rafael Swell appeared on our right. Not much punctuated this vast pastel-colored plain until towering red mesas announced the turn-off to our first sight-seeing stop, Goblin Valley State Park.

Past Goblin Valley, Highway 24 bent westward. By now the landscape was looking its strangest yet. Mountain sized blobs of gray cement-like rock plopped here and there. Rocks of every color stacked on either side of the road like a giant layer cake with so much vanilla frosting that it oozed out from between the layers. Red and salmon-colored slick rock randomly strewn with smooth black rocks that appeared to be made of asphalt. "What the huh?"

Entering Capital Reef National Park, the road climbed and then descended into a slot carved out by the Fremont River along the base of the Waterpocket Fold—a huge ripple in the earth's crust that stretches for more than 100 miles. Left and then right we turned through tight s-curves while the walls of the slot encroached closer and closer to the sides of the road. This was more fun than any amusement park ride.

We arrived at our campground in Torrey, Utah with plenty of time to relax before dinner. In fact, we ate a late lunch of random leftovers that had accumulated in the refrigerator. Our site has a great sweeping view of a red mesa. We have a little patch of soft green lawn, a picnic table, and a fire pit. Yes, we can finally have a campfire!

We're all sitting outside and enjoying the warm sun and cool, dry breeze as the sun begins to set behind the mesa. The fire is about ready to cook our burgers and Samuel is playing his guitar for us.

And, we're really excited to to see Drew tomorrow when we pick him up in St. George, Utah.

I'll publish more photos tomorrow.

Day-7 Itinerary

Day 6

Friday, June 18

Estimated 2.75 hours (156 miles)

Moab, UT (elevation 4,026) to Torrey (Capital Reef), UT (elevation 8,000)

Torrey, UT weather:

76/51 (high/low)

Mostly sunny

0% chance of precipitation

Thousand Lakes RV Park

996 W State Road 24

Torrey, UT 84775