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!

Texas is f&!#in’ enormous

It was a hot Saturday morning when I finally departed New Mexico for Marfa, Texas.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  When I left Carlsbad Caverns for Las Cruces on Friday afternoon, my route took me primarily through Texas before veering back into New Mexico for the final 30 minutes. I’d also like to point out that the road I was on had no gas stations for something like 130 miles.  The MoHo had enough gas but I’m just sayin’ – there should have been a sign or something when you leave the caverns.  But I decided not to mention my little side trip in the last post since I wasn’t purposely going to Texas, merely passing through.  But Saturday morning had me leaving NM for real and so now I can post the picture and add it to the state count.

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The drive to the Prada Marfa pop-up store was just over 3 hours.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  For all of you that think this is a real Prada store, let me tell you that it’s not. It’s an art installation on Hwy 90 about 35 miles outside of Marfa.  The store does contain shoes and handbags but you can’t go in.  But of course you can take lots of pictures…  I would say there were around 8-10 people while I was there.  And everyone was very good about taking pix of one another.

After meandering around the shop for 10-15 minutes, we headed off to Marfa in earnest.  I passed this thing along the way – no clue what it is but the entrance looked very secure and I think the sign said something about radar?  If anyone knows what this thing is – please advise!  (Maybe it belongs in Roswell??!!?!?)

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Marfa!  Finally finally finally…  I opted to splash out and stay at the Hotel Saint George for the night.  Very groovy hotel right on the main drag.  Ended up having drinks with some lovely people from Houston and College Station in the lobby bar and then polished off a hamburger for dinner afterward – one thing I can say about Texans, they know how to cook a burger.  I’d like to give props to Marpho restaurant for having the most creative name ever.  And I did get a t-shirt with a pic of the Marfa water tower.  And for those that don’t know, the Hotel Paisano is where the cast of Giant stayed when it was filmed back in the day. I actually met a couple out at the Prada store who were staying in the James Dean room.  Very cool.

As far as the art scene, there were fewer traditional galleries than I thought.  Lots of hipster-type shops with $500 boots, $300 cotton dresses, and $80 salad tongs.  But I did meander out to the Chinati Foundation and saw the free outdoor exhibit of Donald Judd’s concrete sculptures.  The guided tours looked interesting but at either 2 1/2 or 4 1/2 hours, they were just too long.  Snug can’t stay in the MoHo that long when it’s so hot (and I’d already checked out of the hotel).

Overall, Marfa did not disappoint and I’m sooooo glad I made a point to visit.  I spoke with an artist I met just as I was leaving and she told me how crazy things have gotten over the past couple of years.  The place has really become a hot spot – the cross section of people that I saw in town ranged from art lovers to hipster girls in cotton eyelet dresses with cowboy boots to international tourists to people just coming over from Alpine (the next town over) for dinner.  I will definitely plan on returning to Marfa in the future…

Okay, so I had already driven over 3 1/2 hours from Las Cruces to Marfa.  I then had a 6 hour drive from Marfa to San Antonio.  And if you look at a map, San Antonio is in middle of the state.  So yes, over 9 hours of driving and I’m in the middle of Texas – that is how enormously large this place is.  The drive had me on I-10 which was mostly boring and uninspired, as well as hot and windy (big surprise there). When driving on I-10, you see two things on the road – semis and pick-up trucks.  Very few passenger cars.  Texas loves trucks.  There’s also a lot of roadkill but I think that’s because the speed limit is 80mph so kinda hard to slow down if something tries to cross the highway.

San Antonio was never super high on my to-do list but I’m glad that I made a point to go there.  I checked out the Alamo, the River Walk and the Pearl district yesterday morning. The afternoon got crazy hot – 90+ degrees with 50% humidity – and Juno was not happy to be out so we cruised back to the RV park for a nap.

One note about the Alamo…  it’s this incredible site full of history – sadly, it’s surrounded by places like Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  Sigh.

This morning I had a quick drive from San Antonio to Austin.  I had been to Austin a couple of times before for Austin City Limits and am excited to be back.  I met up with an old friend for lunch downtown and then I zipped over to South Congress St for a little retail and cupcake therapy.  Got me some awesome new boots at Allens Boots and an incredibly delicious afternoon snack at Hey Cupcake.  And even though it’s not on the menu, you can ask that they make your cupcake a whippersnapper (this is something I remembered from a previous visit).  What is a whippersnapper, you ask?  Well – they take the whipped cream canister nozzle and insert it into the cupcake.  Then they fill it with whipped cream til it comes oozing out the top. Need I say more?

I’m hanging out now at the McKinney Falls State Park which is just south of Austin. Tomorrow  I’ll be checking out Brenham and potentially Washington – about 1 1/2 hours from here.  Will be back at the park again tomorrow night and then will be moseying up to Dallas on Thursday.  Time to take Juno for a stroll.  And speaking of Juno, I will leave you with my fave pic from the Prada Marfa store – he is the best.

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State count: 34

Aliens? No. Bats? Sorta.

Yeah, so neither Juno nor I got abducted in Roswell. There was a strange green glow coming through the blinds of the MoHo but it turned out to be a street light.  Oh well.  To be perfectly honest, there isn’t a whole heckuva lot going on in Rosell.  There are maybe 6-8 businesses that are dedicated to aliens but that’s pretty much it.  There were some amusing murals featuring annual Roswell events (that also depict aliens) so that was kinda neat.

I proceeded to the UFO Museum (bonus that it was pet friendly) where I wandered around and looked at the timeline, articles that appeared all over the country about the crash and enjoyed all the alien exhibits.  I found the section on crop circles particularly fascinating.  There was mention of a new crop circle that appeared within 15 minutes in the middle of the day near Stonehenge – it happened right under people’s feet but no one realized what was happening til it was over.  Please note that the street lamps also look like aliens!! And special props to Coca-Cola for the custom soda machine in the gift shop.

We departed Roswell with a fresh sticker for the MoHo fridge and then battled nearly three hours of wind en route down to Carlsbad Caverns.  But was it worth it?  Oh yes.  I will admit, I almost cried when I discovered that I had gotten to the caves too late but as it turned out, only the natural entrance was closed.  I was still able to take the elevator down and explore The Big Room.  And even better news, I was able to book two tours for the following day – The King’s Chamber and The Left Hand Tunnel.  Yippee!

So.  The Big Room.  It’s big – a 1.25 mile loop of some of the most incredible formations I’ve ever seen.  Broken record but none of the pix of the Carlsbad Caverns do this place justice and I highly recommend that you visit this place if you can.  It’s in the middle of nowhere but soooooo worth the trip.  Here is the first group of pix, including a shot of the elevator showing that I was 750 feet below ground:

The next group of pix was taken yesterday during The King’s Chamber tour (where we actually descended even further).  Formations include the Witch’s Broom, the Queen’s Chamber, the Bashful Elephant, and the Veiled Statue.

This last group of pix was also taken yesterday during The Left Hand Tunnel tour.  This was an historic tour where we only have lanterns to light our way and the path isn’t paved. It was pretty cool to basically wander around in the dark – our guide Chris was excellent and I learned a lot.

As for the bats?  Well, I heard that if you show up to the amphitheatre around 7-7:30pm, they might come out.  So I did.  And I waited.  And there was a ranger who entertained us for a while and answered questions.  A few bats appeared here and there but certainly not the onslaught that we were all hoping for (during the height of the season in August, something like 300,000 bats will come out at night). You are not allowed to take pictures and are instructed to turn off your phone so no bat pix to share.  I left around 8:20pm and drove back down the hill.  I met another couple yesterday morning and they said they had stayed til 9:30pm and still no bats.   Here’s a pic of the Natural Entrance and the only bat pic I could take:

Wrapped up our visit and headed off to Las Cruces which is where I am now.  I’m going to wander around the Old Mesilla Village for a bit with Juno before departing New Mexico for Texas.  It’s been a great week here – Albuquerque, Bandelier, Los Alamos, Taos, Santa Fe, Roswell, Carlsbad and Las Cruces.  The only thing I didn’t get to see where Gila Cliff Dwellings so they will have to wait for another time.

Will leave off with a pic of Juno taken at Carlsbad Caverns yesterday – I love how his ears blow in the breeze.  Next post will be coming to you deep in the heart of Texas!

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This Might Be My Last Post

Before I catch you up on the last few days activities, I’d like to take a few moments to talk about the wind…

  1. I hate the wind.
  2. The wind turns an otherwise pleasant drive into a harrowing experience where I fear that my MoHo might a) blow into oncoming traffic or b) tip over
  3. No matter what my direction of travel is, I always manage to get a ridiculous cross wind.
  4. I hate the wind but I refuse to let it ruin my trip.

Okay, I feel better now that I have vented to all of you.  Seriously though, I thought I would have pleasant spring/summer weather this time around but that hasn’t happened yet.  Crazy hot temps in AZ, cold temps, rain and hail in NM, and non-stop wind.  It kinda sucks – and I’m just getting started.  Sigh.

Alright, last I left off I was in Los Alamos. The previous post took an insanely long time to write – and not just because I had a lot to report.  No, it was due to a man named Dan who sat down next to me at Starbucks to say hi to Juno but then proceeded to go on and on about anything and everything.  I got a full travel and professional history, information on his crazy wife (his words) and detailed medical information on various broken bones, his exceptional lung capacity and a few other odds and ends.  When he invited me to lunch, I begged off explaining that I had a couple of things I wanted to do in town and then would be moving on to Taos.  Good grief.

Los Alamos itself has lots of history – most of which is associated with the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb.  I visited both the Fuller Lodge/Ranch School and the Bradbury Science Museum and learned a lot.  There was the framed letter in the former from the government telling the Fuller Lodge that they would be taking over the school for a secret WWII lab project.  There are statues of Oppenheimer and Graves out in front.  The BSM had correspondence between Einstein and the White House about the development of a bomb.  The film The Town That Never Was was fascinating – I learned that all incoming mail went to a PO Box in Santa Fe (NOT Los Alamos), that all outgoing mail was censored, there were no police, the average age of those living there was 25 and that most had very little idea of what they were actually doing.  At Fuller Lodge, they had an area where you could make a paper crane that would be sent to Japan.  I’ve been to Hiroshima and happy to know that the next time I go back, the paper crane I made will be there.

Note: when I got back to the MoHo, Dan was lurking in the parking lot, talking the ear off some other poor shnook.  I waved goodbye and beat a hasty retreat.

From Los Alamos, I meandered up to Taos.  The lightning in the distance was spectacular and my route took me right alongside the Rio Grande.  Juno and I took a walk around the main plaza, we went to the River Gorge bridge and also visited the Taos Pueblo.  I got two great pieces of artwork – a painting from a local artist named Anita Rodriguez (very dia de los muertos) and a small piece of pottery from a well-known artist from Santa Clara Pueblo named Corn Maquino.  I did find an incredible Sioux doctors bag from the 1880’s but the price was a bit steep!

The pictures from the bridge and pueblo aren’t all that good because the weather was wet and gray and generally unpleasant.  The tres colores enchiladas at Orlando’s saved the day though – frigging delicious.

Increasing rain shortened my time in Taos since everything I wanted to do was outside, I didn’t have an umbrella and Juno hates the rain.  So we left yesterday afternoon and headed for Santa Fe.  I was a little concerned because the light for “low pressure tire” came up on the dash and I discovered that all of my tires were low.  When I got out to examine my tires, I noticed a lot of dings, dents and a couple of gashes.  So guess what I did when I got to Santa Fe?  Yep – got me some new tires!  I even overfilled them just a smidge due to a recommendation I got before I left.  Here’s the crazy thing – while I was in the waiting area at Discount Tires, I ended up chatting with a guy named Lans who used to live in Lake Merritt!  For those of you out of NorCal, Lake Merritt is the neighborhood next to Rockridge (where I used to live).  Small small world…  Here’s a pic of the MoHo all jacked up!

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Santa Fe is awesome, BTW.  I spent all morning and some of the afternoon wandering around.  I did go by the capital but the building is sort of covered by a tree so I didn’t bother taking a pic.  I did however, take a pic of the hot chocolate and truffles I got from Kakawa Chocolate House which is conveniently located just across the street!  I had the coconut hibiscus drinking chocolate which was epic.  I only bought three truffles but the owner threw in a fourth as an incentive for me to write a 5-star review on Trip Advisor (which I was more than happy to do).  I am also going to need to go running tomorrow…

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I battled three hours of wind this afternoon en route to Roswell. The good news is that the new tires make a big difference.  It’s still a pain but I feel the MoHo is a bit more stable.  Even though I was whining earlier, driving in NM isn’t bad at all!  There are helpful signs warning you where a guardrail has been damaged, complete with big orange pylons (in other words, someone already crashed into the guardrail so if you get into an accident in the same place, you’re screwed). Underpasses are decorated with paintings of bison and horses and I was on a freeway that had tile decorations of various animals.  And you can’t beat seeing signs like this while driving down the road:

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No idea what is coming soon but I look forward to going back to Taos and finding out!

Anyway, I need to start making dinner.  This might be my last meal given that I’m in Roswell.  An abduction could be imminent. And while I thought that it would be better if Juno and I were abducted together, I decided that it’s better that I get abducted solo, just in case aliens want to do weird experiments.  Assuming I survive the night, I’ll do a full recap of my time here in my next post.

Live long and prosper!

 

 

On Top of the World!

I’m coming to you live from Starbucks in Los Alamos, NM.  I had some time to kill this morning so figured this would be good time to do an update on the last few days’ activities.

I wrapped up my (brief) time in Arizona a couple of days ago.  I had a short hike around Watson Lake sans Juno. Gorgeous morning and the perfect way to start my day.  You will be happy to know that I took a long hot shower at the RV park after my hike so the greasy hair is clean again.

After departing Prescott, I moseyed on over to Jerome, AZ.  I had been told about Jerome by a woman I met in Prescott and I am so glad that I went!  The drive was a bit harrowing/steep/winding and then all of a sudden, you’re in this charming town stuck on the side of a mountain.  Juno and I enjoyed the town for a couple of hours – lots of boutiques, art galleries, etc – but my favorite thing was the old truck parked out on the main drag.  The license plate interior was impressive!

I spent the night in Heber, AZ but can’t tell you anything about the place since it was only a place to stop and not a place to visit. For those of you who play mah jongg, you will be happy to know that the Heber RV Resort has a weekly game on Thursday at 1pm.  So there you go.

Right!  It was a four-hour drive from Heber to Albuquerque so I opted to stop in Gallup since it was the mid-way point.  I had read good things about the Gallup Flea Market so figured that would be a first good stop.  Unfortunately, it was hot, dusty and I ended up carrying Juno a good part of the way.  The Indian fry bread was the high point.  But hey, I’m finally in New Mexico – yay!!!

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Things got a bit rough between Gallup and Albuquerque… the wind was crazy and I had to take things a bit slow at times.  Speed limit was 75 and I was doing 50-55 at most. Remember that I am in essence driving a 9 1/2 foot tall sail.  But I finally made it and all was well.

My time in Albuquerque was dedicated to all things Breaking Bad.  First stop was the Historic District which is a great place to walk around but also the home of The Candy Lady.  The Candy Lady provided the “blue sky” crystal meth prop that was used in the show.  You have two options – a dollar (dime) bag or a ten dollar bag (which comes with three dime bags for dividing/redistribution).  I opted for the latter and also got the PERFECT keychain for my MoHo!  They really do it up and you can go in the back, put on an apron (Pinkman’s face and the words Let’s Cook Bitches!), Heisenberg hat, glasses and pose with a tray of blue sky rock candy.  So awesome!!

Kevin at The Candy Lady told me there was live bluegrass music that night in the town square so Juno and I sat on a towel and enjoyed the show.  From there, we rolled down to the Sawmill District where I spent the night.  I knocked on the door of my neighbors to ask if they’d be okay with me parking alongside their property for the evening.  Kip and Kathy were wonderful and even invited me to church yesterday morning.  The one scary thing was when someone knocked on the side of the MoHo in the middle of the night – scaring the living daylights out of Juno and me.  It was a policeman – he was checking to make sure I wasn’t some kind of real Walter White.  I assured him I was a law-abiding citizen, that the neighbors were okay with my being there and that I would be departing in the morning.  Took me awhile to fall back asleep after that but better safe than sorry.

I meandered up to Walter and Skyler’s house after we packed up and it was an interesting experience.  I spoke to several of the neighbors and to put it bluntly, they are NOT happy about all the traffic that has ensued since the show became such a sensation. My favorite quote was the woman who lived next door – “This isn’t a national monument – this is someone’s home.” Well said.  She even has traffic cones in front of her house to prohibit people from parking. (Note: she was very nice to me and even gave Juno a biscuit.) I asked another neighbor whether people show up with pizzas and he said yes and it INFURIATES the owner of the house (I can only imagine).  Anyway, I did take a pic of the house but decided not to include it here.

My Breaking Bad tour ended and it was time to head to Tent Rocks, which was another recommendation by Kevin.  Tent Rocks isn’t even on the official NM state map.  But I put it in Google Maps it came up so off I drove, up a mountain and down a couple of dirt roads.  There were some intermittent signs of happy faces so I figured I was on the right track.  All of a sudden, Google Maps told me I had arrived.  Huh?  Nothing visible from where I was.  But there was a little parking area so I figured I was close.  I got out of the car, walked across the road to the guardrail and looked down.  Boom!  Tent Rocks!  I was literally standing on the edge of a cliff so these pix are the best I could do…

Definitely worth the drive.  As we drove back down the hill, I came to a screeching halt as there was a snake in the road.  I brake for snakes – here he is crossing the road and safe and sound on the other side!

Last stop of the day was Bandelier National Monument which was fantastic.  Petroglyphs and cliff dwellings – evidence of humans dating back 11,000 years!!  Even better were there were lots of opportunities to climb ladders!  As always, the pictures do not do it justice.

And when I say climb ladders, I mean climbing serious ladders! The next group of pix is from the Alcove House, which comes with its own warning sign.  The pic on the top right is taken from the bottom – you will see people on the ladders that I was about to climb.  The bottom two pix were taken in the alcove at the top.  And then I climbed back down, which was way more harrowing than climbing up.

Spent the night at the Juniper campground next to Bandelier before departing this morning for Los Alamos, which is just 15-20 minutes away and sits at an elevation of 7,320 feet (hence the top of the world)!  You have to show photo ID when you drive through the area that has the National Laboratory.  And I’ve seen a lot of people carrying sidearms.  I feel very safe here. Time to sign off and hit the Bradbury Science Museum.  Then I’m off to Taos this afternoon.  Leaving you with a pic of Juno enjoying the view outside the back of the MoHo at our campground last night… such a happy Snug.  And I’m a happy Bee.

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State count – 33!!!!!

32 is Magical

It’s been one week since I hit the road and already my personal hygiene is starting to suffer.  Not a lot, but I didn’t take a shower today and am wearing the same jeans I wore yesterday.  And yesterday I wore the same bra that I wore the day before.  But before you think I’m a smelly, greasy cretin, I would like to mention that I haven’t neglected my teeth – brushing 2x/day and flossing every morning. And the MoHo has gotten washed twice since last Friday so taking care of business on that front too.  So there.

Okay.  Las Vegas.  Going there and NOT staying at some posh hotel was a first for me but I was up to the challenge.  My dad lives in Vegas and he was kind enough to chauffeur Juno and me around town in his Prius while I was in town (the MoHo was at an RV park).  First up was Seven Magic Mountains which I had seen from Hwy 15 on my way into town.  I showed a picture of it to my dad and his response was “Why do we have to go there?  I’ve just seen it on your phone!”  Yeah dad… we’re going.  We both enjoyed it and I got some good pix too – my dad is standing by the rainbow column (shows just how tall they are).  If you’d like to know more about this installation, check out this link: http://sevenmagicmountains.com/

After an excellent early dinner at Lazy Dog Restaurant in Summerlin where they also have a lovely menu for dogs (Juno had the hamburger and brown rice), we collapsed for the night. It was the first time sleeping in the MoHo since last November!  But the bed is still super comfy and both Juno and I slept like rocks.

Tuesday took us to Hoover Dam (nee Boulder Dam) which I was glad to see, but was not quite as exciting as the Grand Coulee Dam IMO. I think it’s because the spillway wasn’t letting any water through so it was just a damn dam.  You will notice in the pix how low the water level has gotten…  You will also notice another cross-state picture where both my dad and I sat/stood on the border of Nevada and Arizona.  I would cross the bridge the following day when I drove to Arizona.

After a quick stop at Roberto’s Taco Shop for lunch (note: had NO idea that Roberto’s had taco shops outside of San Diego so I was STOKED to get me some rolled tacos with guac!!), we meandered over to Fremont Street Experience.  We did this mainly because it’s outdoors but covered so it’s not too hot and therefore okay for Snug.  With all the various street performers, scantily clad women and bucket drummers, wanna guess who was the most popular attraction there?  If you guessed Juno, you get a gold star!  Yep – my little unicorn was by far the hit of the afternoon.  I love him so much.

I said goodbye to my dad Wednesday morning and made tracks for Arizona for the 3rd time in two months (spring training, Hoover Dam and finally in the MoHo with Juno).  Yes, I can finally add Arizona to the official state count.

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I’ll be honest, I’ve had some doubts about getting back on the road – whether I would enjoy it as much, whether the driving would get to me, would Juno and I be able to hack the heat of the south in the summer, etc etc.  But once I got off the main interstate and onto Hwy 66, the doubts disappeared. I love being on the backroads – it’s really the best way to travel.  Nothing makes me happier than a long stretch of empty road… and the kitschy Burma Shave ads that intermittently appear along the side of the highway just add to the enjoyment.

Quick note – in case you are wondering whether I’ll be hitting the Grand Canyon, the answer is no.  I’ve already been there – took a river rafting trip a few years ago.  Totally amazing but since I’ve already checked that box, no need to go again.

Anyway, I meandered up Hwy 66 to Peach Springs.  Peach Springs was the inspiration for Radiator Springs in the Cars movies – it’s pretty dam cute.

Peach Springs is home to the Grand Canyon Caverns and as you know from part one of my roadtrip, I’m always up for a cave tour.  This one was pretty good – the most amazing thing is that they set up a hotel “room” in the cave.  For $850, you and up to five friends can sleep 21 stories underground.  Two notes on the pics:  the skeletons of the humans are fake – the skeleton of the bobcat is real!

After a pleasant evening at the adjoining campground, Juno and I set off for Arcosanti this morning.  My friend Sarah (Scares!) told me about this place – an urban community started by Paolo Soleri, who was also known for making incredible wind bells.  The tour wasn’t all that great as the guide spent only 45 seconds talking about how the bells are made (which is really the reason I was there!)  so I snuck out early with Juno, went back to the gift shop and bought a bell.  The best part of the tour was a sign I saw – my favorite part of the day’s activities? Watching out for scorpions and snakes.  Hilarious.

I had planned to head to Scottsdale and tour Taliesin West but when I discovered it was going to be 102 degrees there today, I took a pass and ended up going to Prescott instead. Had never been there before and was pleasantly surprised to find a charming town full of good restaurants, bars, art galleries and so on.  Had a fab lunch at The Barley Hound (highly recommend the duck burger) and then took a stroll around town.  I made sure to hit Whiskey Row and the famed Palace Saloon for a mid-afternoon cocktail.  The history of this place is incredible.  I sooooo wanted to see Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday walk through the doors and say “I’m your huckleberry.”  Sigh.

The day is nearly done and I’m holed up at an RV park right next to Watson Lake so a hike tomorrow morning is a must!  I’m then going to meander up to Jerome and then will stay somewhere in the Tonto National Forest tomorrow night before heading to New Mexico.  Before I sign off, two final pictures – the first is of a restaurant that I passed but didn’t partake, the second is what happens to gummy vitamins when left in the MoHo all day in 90+ degree temps.

Next post will be coming to you from Walter White’s hometown.  Woot!!

State count: 32!!!!

p.s. Hopefully all you Lakers fans and/or basketball fans out there got the double entendre of the title.