Earthquakes and Fog

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to wrap up this blog.  I meant to do my final post last week but then a combination of laziness and busyness got in the way.

Quick recap on the drive from Jackson Hole, WY back to Oakland, CA…  The first day’s drive to Elko, NV was fine.  The route took me primarily through Idaho.  I hit insane wind (big surprise) heading south on Hwy 93 once I crossed into Nevada.  Other than that, no issues.  Elko to Oakland was supposed to take 7 1/2 hours.  It ended up taking me almost 9 hours.  And it was painful.  I hit crazy wind, rain, snow, hail and horrific traffic going through Sacramento and again between Davis and Dixon.  But at 4:30pm, I got to my friend Jason’s place and all was right with the world. Juno dive bombed the bed and I took care of feeding a random feral cat that sits on the roof of the bungalow every night waiting to be fed.

I spent a couple of days in Oakland catching up with friends, hitting some of my favorite haunts, grocery shopping at Berkeley Bowl (best grocery store EVER!!), getting Juno groomed  and going running in my old ‘hood.  But the best part was sitting in Jason’s hot tub every night.  I cranked it up to 102 degrees and after all the driving, it was pure heaven.

I’ve been back in Carmel-by-the-Sea since last Thursday and got right to work unpacking the MoHo and settling back in at my mom’s place.  My friends Chris and Mary (whose house I stayed at last year when I kicked off the first trip) were down from Healdsburg so I got to spend some time with them on Father’s Day.   This is crazy but I’ve known them for nearly 27 years… Juno is also happy to be back – getting strolls on the beach and playing with his toys.

 

I started back at Foxy Couture earlier this week and it’s awesome being back at the shop, styling the mannequins, reconnecting with clients and checking out all the fab new Chanel bags that have come in since I’ve been away. Plus it’s fun getting dressed up again!

For those of you who are wondering whether there will be a third road trip in the MoHo, the answer is no.  I’m actually selling the MoHo to my friend Dave (he and I crossed paths last year in South Dakota and he loved the Roadtrek) – I will be delivering it to him next month. BUT!  This doesn’t mean I won’t hit the remaining states at some point… Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina  ( I don’t necessarily have to do Florida and Louisiana since I’ve been to both states many times over the years).  Most likely, I will fly into one place, rent a car (or an RV), drive around and then fly out of another place.  Maybe this will happen next year – maybe the year after.  And then there’s still Alaska…  But I will absolutely see all 50 states before I turn 50.  That’s the new and improved goal.

So it’s time for final thoughts and observations.  The first observation is that people are comfortable with what they know.  When driving through the south and being confronted with scary tornado and flash flood warnings, I’d remark to people I met that I much prefer earthquakes as my choice of natural disaster.  Of course they would respond how awful earthquakes are and how they’d take tornadoes and/or flooding any day.  See what I mean?  It’s all about comfort level!  After a lifetime in California and 20+ years in the Bay Area, I am used to earthquakes and fog.  65-68 degrees is my happy place.  The kind of weather where you should bring a sweater, just in case. And sunglasses too, just in case.  I love traveling to hot places and cold places – I just don’t want to live in any place that has extreme weather.  And humidity?  Hard pass.

I said this when I wrapped up the first leg of my American journey but I want to reiterate that America is full of wonderful people.  With all the amazing places I visited, nothing compared to the people I met along the way.  Every day I met someone new and it was a joy to spend time talking to people about the places they live and getting recommendations on things I should do. I want to take this opportunity to thank all my old friends that put me up along the way and to thank all the new friends I met for their hospitality and kindness.

Now here’s the big revelation…  Before I started on this journey, I felt that because I lived in big cities, traveled extensively both domestically and internationally, had made good money, had a nice house, etc etc, that I was better than others.  Even during the first leg of the trip, I’d roll through these small towns, see people’s homes – sometimes in the middle of nowhere – and think why anyone would want to live like that. That they couldn’t possibly be happy being in a place so far from anything.  But as time went on, I came to realize that these folks have rich, fulfilling lives too – theirs are just different from the life that I’ve led.  There are the families who would haul their 5th wheel to a lake or the mountains and that’s how they’d spend a holiday weekend or even the whole summer. There was the couple I met last summer in Iowa that spent their honeymoon weekend at a state park, joined by their friends and family.  So many people that have never been outside of the country have no interest in doing so. Are they unhappy? Absolutely not. Anyway, it took some time but I finally realized that despite our differences, we are all equals – because we are fortunate to call America our home.

We are all more alike than we realize.  We like to get ice cream when it’s hot, we appreciate the arts, we enjoy spending time with friends and family, we visit our national parks and monuments, we love BBQing on a warm summer’s night.  But most important, we are free to take advantage of all our country has to offer – whether’ it’s a 5 mile drive from home or a 2,500 mile drive (I always enjoyed looking at the license plates when I’d be at a national park or monument to see how far away people had come). While our country has politically become more and more divided over the years, I feel like this road trip gave me a chance to see what our country is truly made of – and newsflash, it’s made of really good people.

There’s a part of me that wants to get into politics now that I’m back – I want to figure out a way to bring our country back together.  So who knows? Maybe you’ll see my name on a ballot at some point (“my name is Bee and I approved this message”). Until then, I’m going to continue to work at Foxy Couture, find a more permanent residence in the area and get eyelash extensions again (priorities).  I’m going to sign off with one final pic of the MoHo fridge.  These stickers are just a smattering of the places I visited.  I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to see these places at some point.  Our country is truly magnificent and I feel both blessed and lucky to have had this incredible journey.  USA! USA! USA!

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Final state count – 40

 

Got bear spray?

I arrived in Jackson Hole yesterday afternoon after spending the last few days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. And I am happy to report that, with the exception of the 2,763 mosquito bites that I sustained, being in the parks was awesome.

If there was any kind of theme, it would be the title for this post.  Because anytime I spoke to anyone – ranger, fellow hiker, etc – the question would always be the same… “Got bear spray?” And every time, I would answer “Of course!”  Because the only thing that would have ruined my time in the parks would have been getting attacked by a bear. Personally, I think it was my horrible singing of Duran Duran’s Reflex at the top of my lungs while I was hiking that kept the bears at bay.

For this post, I thought I would switch things up. Instead of day by day recap, I’m dividing my pix into three categories with minimal description – animal (including selfies with or without Juno), vegetable (all scenery) and mineral (geysers and thermals). Minimal description because the pictures speak for themselves!

Starting with vegetable, here are my favorite pix from Yellowstone – Eleanor Lake, Lewis Falls, Absaroka Mountains, Mystic Falls, Lewis Lake.

And my favorite pix from Grand Teton NP – various shots of the Tetons… Fave is the reflection shot with the kayakers on the right:

Next up – animal pix.  First, there was this little guy.  I came across him while climbing Observation Point next to Old Faithful. Not sure what he is…

Then there was the lone bison chilling by a stream. Note the bird perched on his back.

A few pix of Juno and me by Yellowstone Lake and the Continental Divide.  Plus a couple of me solo – in front of Mystic Falls and while hiking the Taggett Lake trail…

And now, the money shots.  Yesterday morning I got stuck in two bear jams.  For those that don’t know, a bear jam is a traffic jam that occurs when there’s a bear near the road and everyone slows down to look at it.  The first bear jam didn’t amount to much.  I parked, ran back to the site of the bears but they were far away so no good pix.  The second bear jam?  Bingo!  Mamma grizzly and her two cubs. Watched the cubs climb a tree, watched mom forage for food – but the best was watching one of the cubs snuggle with mom and also watching the cubs play with each other. Not the best shots since I could only zoom so much but you get the idea…

Finally, mineral pix. I spent all day Thursday on the west side of Yellowstone checking out the “thermals” as they are called.  There are boardwalks to keep people above the ground (and safe).  Some of the smaller pools look like colorful hot tubs with their constant bubbling and I really wanted to jump in.  But then I learned the temperature is around 199°F so best that I stayed on the boardwalk.

I ended up watching Old Faithful erupt twice and videotaped both – once from Observation Point and once from ground level.  You be the judge but I think the view from up top was way better:

So that just about does it.  It’s cold and rainy here this morning so a good day to be in the MoHo…  The plan is to reach Elko, NV tonight and Oakland, CA on Sunday evening.  I’m excited to get back to NorCal – Juno needs to get groomed and I am in desperate need of a mani/pedi after all the hiking. In other words, we both have mangy paws.  I’ll be doing a final recap once I’m back home so be sure to tune in again early next week.  Leaving you with a final pic of Juno and me here in Jackson Hole at one of the famous antler arches on the Town Square.

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Have a great weekend!

Close Encounters

Howdy from Cody!  The last few days have been so much fun – lots to get caught up on so will just jump in.

I crossed the border on Sunday morning and two things greeted me upon arrival:  a nice turn-out for picture taking and a bronze sculpture of a bison on a hill.  Welcome to Wyoming!

Cheyenne is only about 10 minutes from the Colorado border so rolled into town and discovered that almost everything was closed.  Even the state capital was under renovation – the only part I could see was the dome and a bit of the roof – the rest of the building was encased in scaffolding and sheeting with big fences surrounding it. Bummer.  So Juno and I strolled around the downtown, found some of the painted boots, and discovered one of the coolest/biggest pieces of street art I’ve seen.  Absolutely incredible so I’m doing a separate pic so you can appreciate it properly.  For you train lovers out there, I also found another Big Boy steam engine.  You might recall I saw Big Boy when I was in Omaha, NE.  I assumed (wrongly) that this was the only Big Boy – turns out there were 25 of them.  Hot snot.

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I had planned on parking in town overnight but then I heard that Curt Gowdy state park was only 30 minutes out of town so headed out there.  The teenager park rangers weren’t exactly the most helpful in terms of figuring out the parking situation on the first-come, first served camping sites but I managed to get an excellent spot on my own little bluff overlooking the lake.  I did the Stone Mountain circuit, a 3.75 mile loop the next morning trying to get my mountain lungs back in shape.  Initially I thought Juno would be up for it but within 10 minutes, his tongue was hanging out and he was dragging behind me.  So I put him back in the MoHo and off I went.  No pix from the hike but here’s where the MoHo was situated.  Also a pic of the park map the rangers gave me – is it just me or did she draw a penis on it?

From Cheyenne, it was off to Casper with a little detour to see the Ayres Natural Bridge.  I’ve never seen a natural bridge before – I guess there aren’t that many.  It’s a really pretty area and a lot of people get married under the bridge.  There’s also a mini trail so you can stand on top of the bridge but the best view is from below.  The Oscar the Grouch trash can lids were also a nice touch.

Casper turned out to be complete surprise. Not because of the town per se, but because of Shawn, Shane, Kyle and Cathy.  Without going into all the detail on how I met them, the short story is Shawn owns a gallery – he creates these awesome one-of-a-kind antler chandeliers from elk and deer sheds (I learned they are called sheds because the deer and elk actually shed their antlers every year). He’s also a photographer (he gave me a beautiful photo), interior designer (he’s decorating a mini house) and a bunch of other stuff.  Shane is Shawn’s brother.  The only way to describe Shane is cowboy nerd (or nerd cowboy?)  I mean this in the best way possible.  He is an avid toy collector and I was lucky enough to see his toy room.  The pix do not do it justice.  I gave Shane my Star Wars cutting board and he gave me some cool stickers and a Chewbacca keychain.  Kyle and Cathy both work with Shawn and Kyle and Cathy and had some of the more memorable lines I’ve heard this trip.  Upon telling Kyle I drink tea and not coffee, his response was “Tea is for sick people.” And I overheard Cathy telling her son to “hit a ditch if a car is coming” while walking down the road to the neighbor’s house.  This crew made my time in Casper so much fun and I promise to get back there soon – Cathy invited me to stay at her house out in the country with the pigs and polish chickens and Shane said I could sleep in the toy room. Notes: the pic in the lower left corner is in Shawn’s workshop – those are bullet casings around the Wyoming sign.  The pic in the lower right corner was seen in a shop in town.  Good stuff.

I sadly said goodbye to Casper yesterday for Cody with a stop in Thermopolis. Thermopolis is known for its dinosaur museum and the world’s largest mineral baths.  I hit up both!  The dino museum was super cool with tons of fossils that were uncovered near by and the baths were super hot – 104 degrees!

A quick side note on driving through Wyoming.  I mentioned the buffalo sculpture earlier…  that was the first of several sculptures I saw along the highway. There was also a cowboy on a horse, a bucking bronco, a jackalope and a triceratops.  But even better was the sign for Wall Drug!  Yep – one of their 5-cent coffee ads appeared right along Hwy 25.  If I hadn’t been going 80 mph, I woulda gotten a pic.  But trust me, seeing the Wall Drug sign made my day.

Okay, so I got to Cody yesterday afternoon.   Just enough time for a stroll around town and dinner before the nightly rodeo.  Yessiree, I saw my first rodeo last night.  And it was fantastic! I sat just above the chutes so I got a great vantage point for the bucking broncos and the bull riding.

Here are three videos – bronco riding, calf roping and bull riding.

So here’s the situation on Devil’s Tower…  I want to see it.  Really badly.  I had all these plans to go there, make a bunch of mashed potatoes, then do my best Richard Dreyfus impersonation and take a bunch of pictures. But it’s located in the NE corner of the state, and I’m in the NW corner.  I would have lost an entire day going there.  But here’s the kicker – when I drove from Montana to South Dakota last summer, I was about 30 minutes from it. And had no idea.  Yeah, I’m kicking myself now.  So that was my close encounter.  Sigh.

Okay, time to wrap it up.  Big day, big day.  Grocery shopping, Buffalo Bill center and then I’m off to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for the next few days.  Woo hoo!  I will leave you with this video taken by Shane. For those of you wondering what people do in Wyoming on a Saturday night, here’s your answer:

 

State count:  40 !!!!

I Iike Ike! Mushrooms too!

I wrapped up my time in Missouri with a visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, home of the Chefs (not a typo).  Another wonderful museum with an impressive collection of Asian art, a beautiful sculpture garden (the Claes Oldenburg shuttlecocks on the lawn were awesome) and all for the low low price of $0!  Yes, like Crystal Springs and Saint Louis Art Museum, N-A Museum was also free!

As you know, there are two Kansas City’s – one in MO and one in KS. So getting into Kansas took about three minutes once I got on the highway.  Here’s the official sign welcoming me to the state, albeit slightly blurry.  I’m also including a pic of the last exit in Kansas as you drive to Colorado, aptly named Kanorado.  Hilarious.

Let’s talk about Kansas.  Everyone that I’d spoken to said pretty much the same thing…

“Drive through as fast as you can since there’s nothing to see.”

“You thought Nebraska was boring?  Wait til you drive through Kansas.”

And so on.  So the plan was just to stay on I-70 all the way across.  But me being me, I still consulted my Off the Beaten Path book, in case there was anything of interest near/along/close to the highway.  Sure enough, there was Mushroom Rock State Park. Sweet.  Love cool geological formations.  A few back roads and one dusty road later, I was there!  This is the smallest state park I’ve ever seen – plus there were only two mushroom rocks.  But it was still really cool to see and Juno enjoyed being a part of the action.

I made a reservation to stay at Kanopolis State Park which was about 15 minutes from the mushrooms.  Right on a lake, the place was packed with families up for a weekend of fishing, boating, etc.  While walking Juno that night, I met Jolene and Chris.  I told them this was my first time in Kansas and asked them what else I could do that was in the vicinity. Chris told me about Coronado Heights – a castle on a hill (hills in Kansas??) that was about 30 minutes away.  And Jolene reminded me that Russell Stover is based in Kansas and that I should hit the company store. Done and done!

Re Coronado Heights – according to Wikipedia, this is alleged to be near the place where Francisco Vásquez de Coronado gave up his search for the seven cities of gold and turned around to return to Mexico.  So yes, there are castles in Kansas.  Note the pic in the lower left hand corner – that was the view… flat flat flat.

Since I had already backtracked a ways, I figured I might as well continue my tour of Presidential Libraries and check out the Eisenhower Museum/childhood home/burial site in Abilene, Kansas (because when am I ever going to be in Abilene again???) There are plans for a major renovation next year that will include more interactive exhibits of WWII.   Really enjoyed the visit though I unfortunately had to miss the D-Day concert they were having last night – I did get an I like Ike sticker for the MoHo fridge.  Also, it’s interesting to note that back-to-back presidents Truman and Eisenhower were basically neighbors!

Time to mosey on to Limon, Colorado which was a five hour drive.  First off, the drive wasn’t boring at all – I listened to Serial podcasts and some Elton John.  There were all the ads for KU Athletics – Chalk Rock and other assorted phrases that rhyme with Jayhawk. There was the one weird piece of farming equipment that I passed – it looked like an    AT-AT except green and on wheels.  No clue what the hell that thing was. My favorite thing was seeing the Lion’s Den (an adult store) right off the highway, with a religious sign right next to it saying something to the effect that God sees everything. Right…  But despite the fact that Kansas is supposedly flat, I must have been climbing because as soon as I got to Colorado, I passed a sign saying that I was at an elevation of 5,200 feet. Can’t recall if I did a Colorado state sign last year but here’s another one, just in case.  The blurriness is actually dead bugs on the windshield.  Sorry about that.

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A quick note on Colorado.  For those of you who followed my first adventure, you might remember that I blazed through without stopping.  Well, I’m doing the same thing again this time too.  The reason why is I’ve spent a lot of time in Colorado over the years including camp when I was a teenager and doing business in Denver/Boulder for at least 10 years.  The first time I got altitude sickness was in Colorado.  Also climbed a 14,000+ peak here when I was younger.  Bottom line – I’ve checked the box that is Colorado. So off I go to Wyoming!  Finally finally finally…

I will leave you with this pic of the MoHo (and Juno) by the lake at Kanopolis state park at sundown.  See?  The moral of the story is there are good things in every state – even Kansas!!

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State count:  39

From MOsaics to MOnuments

Before I get into my latest update, I thought I would share a fun fact that I learned today at the Truman Presidential Library.  Out in front, I noticed a replica of the Liberty Bell. You know the one – in Philadelphia – Pass and Stow – there was a movie with Nicholas Cage about it…  Anyway, it occurred to me that I’d seen the same replica on the grounds of the capital in Jefferson City.  Same thing in Oklahoma City.  So I asked one of the docents about the bell (these guys are always a wealth of information).  And here’s what I learned – there are 49 bells + the one original.  48 for all the state capitals and one additional one for the Truman Library. Intriguing!  So these bells were made (forged?) before Alaska and Hawaii became states!  And as far as the Truman library bell? Well – that was the only Presidential Library in existence at that time so it’s the only Presidential Library to have a bell.  And that concludes today’s history lesson!

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Right.  So as I mentioned in the last post, I had gotten a huge to-do list from my friend Charlotte for St. Louis.  Saint Louis Art Museum was first on the list and it was fantastic – and free!  There’s a great Chagall painting of Adam and Eve that I’d never seen before. Wondering it they would do a trade… they get my soul and I get the painting.

From SLAM, I headed to the St Louis Cathedral to see the mosaics.  OMG. Never seen anything like this.  Ever.  I’m including a few pix here but let me dazzle you with a few facts as well:  41.5 million (not a typo) glass tesserae pieces covering 83,000 square feet. And it took almost 100 years to complete.  It is worth a trip to St Louis just to see this place.

After all the walking around, I headed over to The Hill, which is the Italian neighborhood.  Even the fire hydrants are painted red, white and green – kind of adorable.  Had the “Little Bit of Italy” sandwich at Amighetti’s – salami, two kinds of cheese, olives, and onions on toasted bread with garlic oil.  Oof – so stuffed. I needed to walk off the sandwich so I crossed the road to the Botanical Gardens.  Loved the gardens but it wasn’t Juno-friendly.  I got hot walking around in the sun so it was time for my daily dose of ice cream.  Off to Ted Drewes for a “concrete.”  I didn’t know what this was – it is vanilla soft serve with a bunch of stuff mixed in. It was delicious but I felt bad – my concrete had chocolate fudge mixed in so I couldn’t share with Juno.  He was mad so I gave him some sliced chicken and I told him that I loved him.  That seemed to cheer him up.

While all this was going on, I was in touch with Charlotte’s mother and brother who live in Elsah, IL which is about 45 minutes away, right on the Mississippi.  I was invited to dinner and so off I went!  Being in Elsah felt like being in a small New England town with its quaint houses and bed ‘n breakfasts along the main road.  Spending time with Sun & Colin, Christian and Candy was delightful – as was the home-cooked dinner.  I ended up parking the MoHo right in front of Sun’s house in this tiny parking lot which is literally across the street from the river. Awesome view when I woke up the next morning!!

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Before departing Elsah the next morning, I took a quick driving tour around Principia College. The campus is gorgeous and I encourage anyone that is a Christian Scientist to check it out.

The rest of yesterday included a visit to Fulton to see the Winston Churchill Museum and church.  Long story short – after WWII, Truman had invited Churchill to speak at Westminster College in Fulton.  As a tribute, the college had the wreckage of a 12th century church that had been bombed out by the Germans sent over to Fulton where they rebuilt it in his honor. The church is still in use by the college and the museum is in the basement.  I learned a lot – mainly that Churchill was a total badass.

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Then it was off to Jefferson City to check out the capital. Very impressive as it sits atop a hill overlooking the Missouri River.

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I’m in Kansas City now.  After visiting the Truman Library, I cruised over to the WWI Monument and Museum.  I did NOT go to the Museum but I did take in a photography exhibit surrounding the monument about the Doughboys from 1918-1919. And I also enjoyed the view – KC’s downtown is quite striking.

Alright – time to wrap it up.  NBA Finals start in 5 minutes and I booked a room at a hotel so I can watch the game live on a normal sized TV.  Had some Chinese food delivered earlier so all is well.

Off to Kansas tomorrow!

 

Same Name, Different Turtle

I’ve driven over 25,000 in the last year and after awhile, all the names of streets and highway numbers blend together.  I can’t tell you how many Main Streets, First Avenues, MLK Jr Blvds and Broadways I have driven on.  I think I’ve driven on every major highway too, both east-west and north-south.  But here’s the thing – you start to get confused.  While driving through Missouri yesterday, I saw a sign for Springfield and I had to think for a minute – Springfield, MO or Springfield, IL?  It’s possible it could have been either since Illinois is next to Missouri.  I have passed the exit for Beverly Hills, TX and have visited both Annapolis, MO and Annapolis, MD.  Driving the US is like going to the movies, if you get my drift… (there’s nothing original anymore!)

On the other hand, all the things I’ve seen on the sides of the road keep me entertained. All the things for sale – cars, motorcycles, tractors, RV’s, trailers, appliances, etc.  Then there’s the roadkill – lots of armadillos in these parts.  But what has surprised me the most is the number of turtles I’ve seen trying to cross the road.  Yep, turtles.  At first I would think they were tire rubber but then as I got closer, I realized they were turtles. Some big, some small.  Clearly we need to change the chicken joke to a turtle joke. (For the record, the only bird I’ve seen crossing the road is a roadrunner)

And now… back to the action!

Let’s get back to Memphis. After a crazy storm on Saturday night that knocked the power out in big chunks of the city, I still made my way downtown to see the duck march at the Peabody.  I had heard that if you want a good vantage point that you should arrive a bit early.  I got there (with Juno) around 10:45am for the 11am “show.”  The lobby was a madhouse. There were several hundred people waiting around – both on the main level and surrounding the mezzanine. The duckmaster makes sure everyone is seated (not on the arm of a chair or kneeling on the ground, but in an actual seat) or standing outside the velvet ropes that encircle the main part of the lobby (seriously.) I managed to get a seat near a pillar and my plan was to jump up at the appropriate time, stand by the pillar and videotape the duck march.  At 11am, the music starts, and the elevator doors open. I had my phone at the ready and then…

… it was over.  In under a minute.  The video was pointless.  Want to guess how many ducks there are in this grand march?  100?  50?  25?

Try 5.  Five. Ducks. That was it.  And then they just float around in the fountain til 5pm til the duckmaster does the whole thing all over again in reverse.  Once the ducks are in the fountain, you can go up and take pix. So here they are, all five ducks.  In a fountain.  Juno took a look and he wasn’t particularly impressed either.

Fortunately, there was some outstanding street art in the downtown area that more than made up for the dumb ducks.

I had planned on going to the Civil Rights Museum but when I arrived, the place was crazy busy.  The museum is actually in the Lorraine Motel, which is where MLK, Jr was assassinated.  Room 306 has been left intact out of respect but the rest of the motel was retrofitted for the museum.  The humidity was also particularly bad and I didn’t want to leave Juno for too long.  So I took in the outdoor exhibits and then said goodbye to Memphis.

The drive from Memphis, TN to Annapolis, MO took just over three hours and so I stopped in Poplar Bluff, MO to let Juno stretch his legs.  We stopped alongside a fairly busy highway by a big church (with lots of lawn) when all of a sudden, this dog appeared. Very friendly but no collar.  He seemed healthy and didn’t look abandoned but I was concerned about leaving him alone alongside a busy road so I called the local police.  While we waited, I gave him the rest of Juno’s breakfast which he scarfed down immediately.  Then he plopped down in the shade of the MoHo.  Seriously the sweetest dog. I plan to follow up today to see how he is doing.  I may need to go back and rescue him if he ends up in the pound and no one comes to get him.  I already thought of the perfect name for him – Mo!  Get it?!!??  here’s a pic of him, along with the MO state sign:

After spending a very pleasant night at Big Creek RV Park in Annapolis, Juno and I made our way to Elephant Rocks State Park.  I figured we’d have the place to ourselves, given how out of the way this place is.  I forgot it was Memorial Day.  yeah – the place was packed!  But Juno and I still enjoyed the park and did the Braille Trail – a one-mile loop around the park.

We arrived in St. Louis yesterday afternoon and immediately headed for downtown and the Arch.  The Arch is quite striking and much bigger than I thought it would be – 630 feet tall!  Tickets to go to the top were sold out but I was okay with that since views really aren’t my thing.  Totally forgot to check the Cardinals schedule and they did play yesterday.  Sadly, I cannot include Busch Stadium on my list of places I’ve visited but I can say the ballpark is beautiful.

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I wrapped up my day yesterday at City Museum, which was a 15-minute walk from the RV park where I stayed last night.  Perfect since I could plug in, get the A/C going for Juno and know that he’d be comfortable while I was gone. The City Museum is this incredible indoor/outdoor space that’s basically the biggest jungle gym you’ve ever seen.  So many things to climb up, crawl through and slide down.  I thought that maybe I was too old to enjoy this kind of place but nope, I had a blast!  Waited in line to do the 10-story slide with all the other kids – because why take stairs when you can slide through the mouth of a whale!!!

City Museum did have actual art exhibits too but my favorite was seeing both a big Big Boy and a little Big Boy.

Okay – time to get showered, dressed and on with my day!  My friend Charlotte gave me a huge to-do list so must get to it. Museums, parks, sandwiches, frozen custard…  and a partridge in a pear tree.  Later!

State count: 38

 

Memphis Blues

When I last left off, I was happily tucked away in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. After a ghost-free night, I did get to the Palace Bathhouse and it was glorious!  A long soak in a mineral bath followed by 20 minutes in a steam cabinet.   I had never been in a steam cabinet before – only a steam room.  It’s a steam box for your body and your head pokes out the top.  It gets to 111ºF and you just sweat.  The woman that ran the spa would pop by every so option and give me water to drink.  Apparently, I am one of only a few people who have been able to last the full 20 minutes – most people can only handle it for 7-8 minutes before they give up.  Spa rookies…  I’m a seasoned pro.

Anyway, while I was sorry to leave ES, I had a reservation at Withrow Springs State Parks which is in the heart of the Ozarks so it was time to mosey.  As with most state parks, the setting was idyllic.  Trees galore, some nice hiking trails (I did a trail run the following morning) and NO cell phone or internet service.  It was also sunny, 75º and basically perfect.  Juno and I took lots of walks (where we tried to avoid the ticks), spent time talking to other folks in the park and just enjoyed the day.  I think we were asleep before 9:30pm that night.  Let me just say that NW Arkansas is friggin glorious.

Onward to Little Rock!  Our route took us through the heart of the Ozarks so the first half of the drive was beautiful.  Once we hit I-40, it was typical highway scenery.  Whatever. Spent yesterday downtown – first stop was the Clinton Presidential Library, which was excellent.  Here’s a fun fact about the presidential seal… The eagle used to face the talon that held the 13 arrows but after WWII, President Truman changed it so the eagle now faces the talon that holds the olive branch (with 13 leaves).  Good stuff!  There was an opportunity to sit in the Oval Office and have your picture taken sitting behind the desk but I declined.  I’m going to wait for my nephew to be elected POTUS and then I can visit him and sit in his chair in the real Oval Office.

After a walk downtown, I drove over to the capital building and it looks like pretty much every other capital I’ve visited.  I stayed at an RV park right on the river last night and got a little bonus evening entertainment as the bridges are lit up and change color throughout the night.

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This morning, Juno and I said goodbye to Little Rock and Arkansas and said hello to Memphis, Tennessee!  The good news is it was a short two-hour drive.  The bad news is that it’s in the mid-80’s with 80% humidity today.  So I think that makes it what… 160ºF ? Not sure how the math works but it is hot.

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First stop was Beale Street and I’ll be honest – I wasn’t all that excited about it.  Maybe it’s because I was there at 11:30am so no music going on, none of the neon was on and no one was drinking.  Kinda boring.  But I got a couple of pix of the painted guitars and one of Juno ‘n me by a statue of Elvis.

Lunchtime consisted of a delicious fried oyster po’ boy and fries and then it was off to Graceland!!  Unlike Beale St, I LOVED going to Graceland.  I got the tour that included the mansion, as well as cars, clothing and gold albums.  The house itself is a nice size – not crazy big.  Kinda looked like something you’d see in the flats of Beverly Hills… But it is on nearly 14 acres of land so there’s that.

Here are some of the coolest rooms inside the mansion – living room, dining room, kitchen, media room, and jungle room.  The billiards room was my fave – check out the fabric that lined the walls and ceiling (apparently it took 3 days to install) Note: the upstairs is off-limits.  I didn’t take a pic of the racquetball court that Elvis had built in the backyard but it was pretty swanky.

Elvis is buried in the meditation garden on his property – alongside his mother, father and grandmother.

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After touring Graceland, I checked out Elvis’s cars, clothing and albums.  A smattering for you to peruse here, including a red jumpsuit that you can buy in one of the many Elvis shops for $2,700.

Before I leave Memphis tomorrow, I’ll be waddling back downtown to see the infamous duck march at the Peabody, will be checking out the Civil Rights Museum and also hope to take a little stroll with Juno along the banks of the Mississippi.  From there, we’ll be heading to Missouri.

You might be thinking that I’m going the wrong direction but I’m not.  I’ve decided not to go all the way down or all the way across – Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky will all have to wait (I’ve actually been to LA and FL numerous times).  Chalk it up to the heat, too much driving, and/or too many bad hair days (because of the heat).  But the trip is not over!  I’ll be spending several days in Missouri and then after going through Kansas and Colorado, I’ll veer up into Wyoming which I have yet to visit.  Yellowstone beckons. I heard it’s still freezing there. I can’t wait!

State count:  37

Walmartland

Initially, I had planned on spending more time in Tulsa – checking out some local museums and the Golden Driller statue – but when I woke up yesterday morning, I decided to press on to Arkansas.  I had been told really good things about Bentonville and since it was only a 2-hour drive, I figured why wait!  My route took me mostly on back roads (yay) so when I got to the border, I was able to pull the MoHo to the side of the road and do a proper sign pic.  And even better – I got an Oklahoma pic too!

I seriously think they should rename Bentonville Walmartland. And I don’t mean this in a derogatory way at all.  Bentonville is awesome. One of the cleanest towns I’ve been in – I can’t imagine how many landscapers are employed between the town itself and all of the Walton land where the Crystal Bridges museum is built. Beautiful trails, cute town square, fun boutiques and of course everyone is so nice (did I mention the main road through town is Walton Blvd).  Seriously, it’s kinda like Microsoft and Redmond, except without all the Teslas.  I went to the original Walton’s, checked out the Walmart Museum which was excellent, got a shake at the soda fountain next door and put Juno in a replica of Sam’s Ford truck that was out in front.  I also drove by the home office, the logistics complex, the transportation complex and the culinary and innovation complex.  They have Walmart Neighborhood markets, which is where I went grocery shopping this morning.  I had never seen these before – they are different from the Supercenters (which Bentonville also has) as they are just grocery stores.  Oh – and I filled up the MoHo with diesel at the Walmart gas station.  $2.17/gallon – $.08 cheaper than the gas station across the street.  Walmartland…

There is a lot of art to enjoy in Bentonville. Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges museum is nothing short of world class and I enjoyed my visit immensely.  The only bummer is that I will miss the Chihuly exhibit which is starting next month in both the gallery and in the forest that surrounds the museum.  There were two pieces already installed – pic below shows one of them.  In addition to Crystal Bridges, the 21C Hotel in town has a very nice collection and even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, you can wander through the galleries.  They are also known for their green penguins which move around the hotel grounds throughout the day.  Perfect photo op for Snug.  I’m also including a cool piece of interactive art – the pic on the left is what you see with the naked eye – the one on the right is when you take a pic with the flash on.

After enjoying a patty melt in the company of Terry – a man who plunked himself down at my table and proceeded to tell me how great Bentonville is and how much he likes living there – I parked the MoHo in one of the many Public Parking lots around town. Since there were no restrictions, I ended up sleeping there last night.  No cops knocking on my window – slept like a baby.

Got in a nice long run this morning before saying bye bye to Bentonville and heading for Eureka Springs.  I read about ES in my Off the Beaten Path book and some guys I met yesterday confirmed that I would like this place.  They were right!  Great street art, for one:

I’m staying at the 1905 Basin Park Hotel tonight which is this historic (obviously) and possibly haunted hotel in the middle of town.  There is a ghost story tour tonight at 8pm here in the hotel but I’m not going.  I’d get scared and probably wouldn’t sleep.  The view from my room is pretty great – just sorry that I’ll miss the Jesus celebration…

But by far the BEST thing I’ve seen in town is this:

Humpty Dumpty…  right here in NW Arkansas.  Who knew?!?!?

Okay, time for dinner.  I’m hungry and the rain has stopped.

State count: 36

 

 

Oklahoma? OK!

As you can probably determine from the title of this post, I finally made it to Oklahoma. It was a good thing I stayed in Dallas the extra day because, according to some folks I talked to, it was a mess here. It was overcast and kinda dreary when I left Dallas but the weather cleared as I headed north and by the time I reached Oklahoma City, it was a perfect day.  Low 70’s, light breeze and not a cloud (or tornado) in the sky. The only thing is I didn’t get the “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign on the highway.  You are driving for so long in Texas and then, all of a sudden, you’re in Oklahoma.  I thought about turning around and going back to get the pic but I felt I spent enough time driving thru TX.  So these pix of the state flag and map – taken at the rest stop just after the border – will have to suffice.

I have to admit that I didn’t have high expectations for Oklahoma.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find so many things to do when I got to OKC.  My first stop was the Oklahoma City Memorial.  It is quite moving, with a reflecting pool down the middle and two bronze “gates” on either side – one reads 9:01 and the other 9:03.  The explosion happened at 9:02.  Each person who died in the explosion is represented by an empty chair on the lawn. You can still see the destruction on the top of the building (now the museum) next to the pool.  And the survivor tree is also a sight to behold – the name says it all.

But what’s really special about this memorial is when you visit at night.  The gates and the chairs are all lit up and the entire place glows.  I made a special trip back last night to get these pictures – and I’m so glad I did.  Very few people were there and it’s quite peaceful.

I also visited the Myriad Botanical Gardens, made two trips to the Paseo Arts District (there was this huge Tour de Beer festival going on so hundreds and hundreds of people on bikes at pubs throughout the area) and of course checked out the capital.  I forgot to include the pic of the Texas capital building in my previous post so I’m including it here (not a great pic as I took it while driving):

Regarding my visit to Paseo, I ended up finding a painting I really liked in a gallery on Sat.  I went back yesterday to meet and speak to the artist about the piece and she ended up inviting me to park in her driveway last night and have breakfast with her this morning in her yard. She also told me to check out Louie’s on Lake Hefner as they have a big patio and it’s a great place to watch the sunset.  So I did that as well and ended up sharing a table with a terrific local couple. Virginia is a real gem and I cannot thank her enough for her hospitality.  Actually, pretty much everyone I’ve met in Oklahoma has been nice as pie.  Here’s a great pic of Virginia from this morning (I look rather unkempt) and a pic of the painting I am getting:

The other thing I did in OKC was visit the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This was the perfect complement to my visit to the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth and I have stickers from both on the MoHo fridge.  The Cowgirl Museum had lots of info on Annie Oakley but also a great deal about the stunts that women could do.  The pic in the middle shows a depiction of a woman jumping into the water on her horse. What you don’t know is that this is a stunt she did from a platform 35-50 ft up, into a pool of water 10 ft deep.  Totally amazing.  The saddle seats in the auditorium were a nice touch too.  The Cowboy Museum had a bigger emphasis on western art though there was a good section on the different events at a rodeo which I particularly enjoyed.  Am I the only one that noticed that the mural of the cowgirls shows them simply riding while the all the cowboys depicted have guns (fyi – the solo statue is Buffalo Bill).

Juno and I spent some time at the vet this morning.  He got into something last week when we were in Austin and he’s been licking his paws incessantly since then.  A shot of steroids and some antibiotics and we left OKC late this morning for Tulsa.  Juno is still licking his hind paw so now I put a sock on him.  If he keeps shaking it off, I’ll have to get a cone which would really suck since the MoHo isn’t very wide.  Right now he’s taking a nap next to me.

Tulsa has some cool street art in the downtown area:

But my favorite thing in Tulsa (so far) was visiting the Center of the Universe:

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I know, it just looks like a pic of my shoes. But when you stand in this spot on a pedestrian bridge in downtown Tulsa, your voice echoes.  There were some other girls there who clued me in.  And yeah, your voice really does echo. But here’s the crazy part – only YOU can hear the echo.  No one else can hear the echo. Like I said, crazy!!!

I’m really tired today as yesterday was insanely busy and I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. I’m at an RV park right next to the Tulsa airport so the airplanes flying overhead aren’t making for the most restful afternoon but I’ll manage.  Most likely heading to Arkansas tomorrow.  Until then, that’s all for now.

State count: 35

p.s. Plains States vs plain states.  Apparently I should have capitalized this in my last post. But these states are kinda plain so maybe my spelling works too?

Hunkered Down in Dallas

I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in downtown Dallas.  I had booked a room at the Magnolia Hotel last night because is was close to the original Neiman Marcus (opened 110 years ago!), pet-friendly and I figured I would splash out for a day/night, do a little shopping, enjoy a long hot bath, etc etc before heading up to Oklahoma this afternoon.  What I didn’t plan on was the severe weather that is currently blanketing the plain states and the midwest.  A couple of tornadoes have already been seen in OK the last couple of days and more are predicted for today/tonight, along with hail and severe thunderstorms.  And there’s also a flash flood warning for a good chunk of OK. So clearly I’m not heading to Oklahoma today.  A friend of mine suggested I head east instead into Louisiana which I thought was an excellent idea.  Unfortunately they are also in store for heavy rainfall this weekend.  Soooooo…. I’m staying put here in Dallas for another day/night. I’ll reassess things tomorrow morning and go from there.  Whether I go north or east is TBD.  The good news is there is plenty to do here in the DFW area so I will make the most of the day.  I already walked down to the JFK Memorial Plaza this morning with Juno – very striking and austere.  I opted not to take a picture.  But here is a pic of the MoHo parked out in front of the hotel:

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The last couple of days have been pretty mellow.  Juno and I drove out to Brenham, TX to visit Blue Bell Creamery.  No tours were offered that day but that was okay with me since the ice cream parlor was open.  Got a generous scoop of milk n’ cookies ice cream for $1. Very delicious – the only sad thing is they don’t offer milkshakes.   I even met a woman wearing a GS Warriors t-shirt (technically a Steph Curry tee). And yes – I shared my ice cream with Juno.

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After I polished off my ice cream (AKA lunch), we went over to the Antique Rose Emporium. This is really just a large nursery but they have all sorts of wonderful displays, including a faux cemetery and the most innovative use of pots I’ve seen

Driving back to Austin late in the afternoon, I was starving so decided to pop into Texas Chili Parlor for Frito Pie.  I’ve been to TCP a couple of times before and once again, it did not disappoint.  I got the XX chili, loaded mine up with all the raw onions and jalapenos they gave me (the only one I was kissing that night was Juno) and ate the whole thing.

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Alright, I know this is a short post but like I said, it’s been a mellow couple of days.  Time to get dressed and get down to the front desk to re-book my room.  Then it’s off to the Cowgirl Museum in Ft Worth!

Have a great weekend – who knows where I’ll be next time I check in!