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.

And…… we’re off!

I finally departed the comfort of my mother’s house in Carmel on Thursday morning. Preparation for part deux of the road trip was A LOT easier that the first time.  First off, I did a deep clean of the interior.  I will admit the fridge smelled gross but it was my fault for not doing a proper cleaning BEFORE I put the MoHo into storage last December (I won’t mention the rancid water bottle). I basically left the kitchen intact so the only thing I had to do was pack up the electric tea kettle and my ever-present juice maker.  My duvet and pillows also were left packed – just got a fresh set of sheets and towels.  Juno’s kibble and other assorted goodies were returned to their previous spot, along with his new Chewy Vuitton toy (only the best for Snug!!)  Clothing was a snap – since I will be traveling over the summer, I needed very few pieces of warm clothing.  Flip flops, t-shirts, shorts, sandals, done.

But before leaving town, I had to take a couple of David and Goliath pix of the MoHo next to my Fiat.  The second pic is a bit deceptive – trust me, the MoHo is really big compared to my cute little Italian speedracer.  Did I mention I got chastised by the Mayor of Carmel for zipping around town too fast in the Fiat?  When I asked how he knew it was me, he said “You’re the only one with blue hair.”  Oops. Checkmate.

First stop on the itinerary – my sister’s house in Northridge.  Spending time with my niece Bridgette and my nephews Aaron and Trevor is always a blast, even when we just bum around the house.  A few highlights – watching Bridgette run a 3,000 meter race at her track meet.  Did I mention she led all the girls and came in first???? So awesome.

There was also the baking of cupcakes, watching Vision Quest (Aaron has started wrestling so important that he see this epic 80’s movie) and marveling at Trevor’s Lego of The Death Star. He built it last year and it took him a week.  He was 8.  Yeah.  It’s really impressive.

Before leaving on Saturday morning, the kids and I had a little selfie session.  We tried to be serious but things devolved quickly.  The best – or perhaps the worst – of the bunch:

From Northridge, I headed south to Newport Beach and my friend Erika’s house.  Erika and her family just got a Border Terrier puppy named Nacho and he is friggin adorable. Unfortunately, Juno is not a fan of Nacho and has spent most of the last 36 hours trying to avoid him.

We’ve been fairly low-pro this weekend – massages, good wine and food and sun.  It was nice lying on the deck and working on my tan this afternoon.  But I am completely drained and thinking I’ll be asleep by 9pm.  Sooooo tired.

Here’s a quick overview on what’s to come in the next week. After a quick load of laundry, I will depart for Las Vegas tomorrow morning where I’ll spend a couple of days visiting with my dad.  From there, I’ll drop down into Arizona.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve spent a lot of time there so I probably won’t spend more than three days this time around.  Then onto New Mexico which is a new state for me so super anxious to get there!

Thanks all for your patience while I took the winter off.  Should be back to regular blog posts (every 2-3 days) now that I’m back on the road.

Still holding at 31 states for another few days…

Does it count if I didn’t drive?

It’s hard to believe I’ve been off the road for over three months now.  As I mentioned in my last post, I settled rather quickly into life in Carmel-by-the-Sea.  I found gainful employment in town doing sales at a consignment boutique that specializes in high-end designer clothing, handbags and shoes.  For those that know me well, you will understand that I’ve been having a difficult time saving any money.  On the upside, I’ve gotten some amazing clothing in the past couple of months.

The part of the job I love the most is that I’ve gotten to tap into my inner stylist – I get to dress the mannequins however I want and I even got to style a fashion show a few weeks ago.  Here are a few images and yeah, I’m basically up to my eyeballs in Chanel.  It’s a tough life…

As far as my partner in crime goes, Juno has also settled into life here and enjoys running on the beach – albeit avoiding the water at all costs.  Pretty much everyone around town knows who he is and I even get to take him to work with me on Sunday mornings.  One day, we dressed him up in a Chanel belt and charm purse – is this not the cutest thing ever?  The other picture was just taken of him on the sofa – he got groomed yesterday so he’s looking particularly delicious.

Anyway, last weekend was my annual trip to Phoenix, AZ for spring training (can’t remember if this is the 4th or 5th year that I’ve done this).  It’s the usual crew – John, Holden, Elena, and Stu with a guest appearance by Aunt Holly.  The timing was also good as my friend Kyle was also in town.

The weekend kicked off with Kyle and I meeting up in Peoria to watch the Mariners take on the Reds.  Let me say for the record that Peoria, AZ seems about as far as Peoria, IL.  Really friggin far away.  Like almost $75 round-trip in Uber fares for the day.  Ugh.  But the stadium was really nice, the weather was perfect and the home team prevailed.

Sunday was the A’s playing the Cubs. Despite the fact that the A’s were the home team, the crowd was about 2/3 Cubbies fans…  Apparently it’s just as hard to get a ticket to watch the Cubs in Phoenix as it is in Chicago.  I will admit I left the game in the 5th inning because the A’s were down 7-1 and I wanted to lie in the sun.  Wouldn’t you know it – the A’s game back to win 10-8!

I should point out that the A’s game was the start of my “blue tongue” syndrome.  First I had blue lemonade, followed by cotton candy ice cream that was also blue.  But then we went to dinner and for dessert we had birthday cake covered in Dodger Blue icing in honor of John’s birthday.  At that point, I basically looked like some weird creature from Star Trek with my blue hair and blue tongue.  Even my teeth were blue!

The weekend went by quickly and I flew out Monday morning and was back in Carmel in time for pilates at 4pm.  Boom.

So the question remains, does Arizona count as part of my state count if I didn’t drive there?  And does it count if Juno wasn’t there?  I’ve been to AZ a lot (easily 10 times) but I’m going to make an executive decision and say that no, it doesn’t count.  Not until I drive there in the MoHo and Juno is with me.  So there.

Of course, the question that keeps coming up is when am I going to hit the road again? The answer is soon.  I’m planning to get the MoHo out of storage the beginning of April.  I need to take it out for at least one overnight to make sure all the systems are working and I do need to take it for servicing for a few minor repairs.  Assuming everything is in good working order, I plan to head out the end of April.  The south beckons and I’m getting antsy.  I imagine it will take me about four months to do the remaining states but I’m not putting a time table on it.  I totally winged it the first time and it worked out well so why change now?

Any and all suggestions for the southern states are welcome.  Marfa, TX is on my list.  And I’ll try and hit a few more baseball games too.  Super excited for the Carolinas, and Savannah, GA.  Hopefully the humidity won’t kill me.

State count:  Still 31

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned (So Far)

I’ve been back in NorCal just under a week and it’s amazing how quickly I’ve gotten back into the swing of things here.  I had a fantastic weekend catching up with friends but the highlight of the weekend was definitely the Raiders comeback win on Sunday.  We had a big tailgate to kick off the day and kept it going in the MoHo after the game was over:

I drove down to Carmel-by-the-Sea on Monday and have spent the last few days unpacking the MoHo and taking it to an RV storage facility, organizing my things in the guest room, and I even had time to get a car because driving the MoHo just isn’t practical around these parts…  the Fiat Abarth is basically the antithesis of the Roadtrek, as you can see from the picture.  Cute, small, zippy – it corners way better too.

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But most importantly over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about the last five months on the road, the things I’ve learned and seen.  Starting with the latter, people constantly ask me about my favorite sites.  My top three are as follows:

  1. Niagara Falls (from the Canadian side)
  2. The Badlands in South Dakota
  3. Fall foliage /color change in New England

Special mention goes to Wall Drug (also in South Dakota) for the best advertising campaign

I’ve been collecting stickers of some of the places I’ve been for the MoHo fridge and here’s what it looks like so far…  My favorite stickers are from Stowe, VT and Shepherdstown, WV.  Special mention of the Mackinac Island bicycle sticker since I inadvertently threw out the one I bought (I was so pissed) – fortunately my friend April was heading there shortly after I saw her and she got me a replacement sticker. The fridge is getting full but still plenty of room for stickers from the remaining 17 states:

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What I’ve learned is that the people of this country are incredibly nice and extremely helpful.  At no point did I ever feel like I was in danger and all the sucky people I met were confined to Ketchum, ID so I got that out of way quickly.  While I was grateful to all my friends and family for putting me up along the way and showing me their respective towns, what made this trip truly special was all the new friends I made.  From the gang in Lemmon to Julie in Milwaukee to Anni in Champaign to Robby in Jefferson, I feel truly blessed that I live here in the US of A and I am hopeful that I have the same experience when I hit the southern states next spring.

Another thing I’ve learned is how little you actually need to live on.  A couple of pairs of jeans, a few sweaters and t-shirts, one pot, one knife and three spoons.  Okay – I had a little more than that in the MoHo but coming back to all my “stuff” – it’s a bit overwhelming.  Needless to say, I’m planning on giving away a lot of clothes…  On the flip side, I really am appreciating all the space and the ability to spin around with my arms out and not hit anything.  Also being able to take a long hot shower (or bath) anytime I want is priceless.

I meant to mention this earlier but I did read John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley along the way and I enjoyed it immensely, laughing out loud several times at some of the similarities in our trips.  One main difference between our journeys is that Steinbeck carried a fully-stocked bar with him – I carried a juice maker.  For those of you who haven’t read it, I highly recommend it (even if you haven’t traveled by MoHo).

I’ve learned that I really need to teach Juno how to drive.  It’s hard being the only one behind the wheel and while he’s done a great job with security, he needs to pull his weight a bit more.  Good news is I’ve started his lessons and he’s taken to driving like a duck to water:

Finally, I’ve learned that despite quitting my old life of expensive mortgages and high-stress jobs, I am still the same person.  I thought that this trip would give me a chance to slow down and relax.  Nope.  Not even close.  I’ve applied the same Type-A, overachiever behaviors to this trip just as I have to everything else in my life.  That’s why you rarely read about me taking a day off.  Lots to see and do and I felt it was my obligation to see and do as much as possible. But I think this is a good thing – I am who I am.  I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Alrightythen… the Raiders are playing the Chiefs so time for me to sign off and watch the game.  Happy holidays and I’ll see you all in the spring!

 

 

 

 

Right back where I started from

Yep, around 12:15pm yesterday afternoon, I arrived back in Oakland.  Driving nearly 3,000 in eight days seems kind of insane when looking back on it, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment (along with total exhaustion).

Here’s a recap of my final two days on the road…

I woke up on Thursday and after checking the weather for the millionth time and seeing that snow was forecasted for SLC, I opted to take I-70 to Hwy 50 across Nevada.  The first thing I noticed when I got on the freeway was a “No services for the next 103 mile” sign.  Right.  So I got off the freeway and filled up the tank. This was a sign of things to come…

For those of you not familiar with Hwy 50, it was dubbed “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine in July 1986.  They weren’t kidding.  Hwy 50 is a one-lane highway (which I love) where there is literally nothing between towns.  And the average distance between towns like Ely, Eureka, Austin, etc is between 50-70 miles.  I would drive for ages before I’d see anyone pass me.  Most of the traffic was heading east – I counted less than 10 cars heading in my direction over the course of 9+ hours.  For real.  But here’s the good news – while there aren’t any roadside attractions, there is scenery.  The red rocks in western Utah that made me want to pull over and go hiking every ten minutes.  The majesty of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains.  Lots of deer sightings.  I even spotted a couple of little rainbows late in the afternoon which made me sublimely happy – my reward for a long day’s drive. I did hit a little snow heading over one pass in the morning but it was only for about 10-15 minutes and I stayed in the tracks of a pick-up truck in front of me.  I was just in awe of all the beauty surrounding me.  I was also thankful for being inside my warm MoHo since it was in the teens and 20’s the entire day.  So cold…

I had planned on staying in Middlegate, NV that night but since I had good weather, coupled with gaining an hour crossing from mountain to pacific time zone, I decided to press on and I stopped in Fallon, NV instead. A mere 60 miles from Reno and a few miles beyond to the border.

Friday morning I awoke at 4:45am and shortly thereafter, some idiot decided to start up his truck and leave it idling in the parking lot for a good 30 minutes.  Yeah, I was awake and not going to be able to fall back asleep.  Juno was up too so we did a short stroll in 23 degree darkness.  By 7:45am, we were on the road on a perfect bluebird day with not a single cloud in the sky. With only 4 1/2 hours of driving, I will admit that I was anxious to get going.  By 9am, I was back in California and as I meandered down the mountain, I watched the temperature rise.  By the time I got back to Oakland, it was 65 degrees.  Can I get a couple of Hallelujahs?!?!

I’m spending the weekend here in Oakland and will be heading down to Carmel-by-the-Sea on Monday.  Last night I met up with some friends at Kingfish and Juno got the chance to try out my friend John’s sidecar…  Maybe we’ll switch it up for part two of the roadtrip and go by motorcycle instead???

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As far as my iPod playlist for the last two days, I didn’t have one.  I realized that I only listened to music when there was nothing of interest to look at. Driving across Utah and Nevada had so much scenery that I didn’t need music to keep me entertained.

I’m going to do a final post in a couple of days – a recap if you will.  And then it’ll be radio silence until I set out again in the spring.  31 states down, 17 to go…

Final cross-country route:  NY, NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, CO, UT, NV, CA

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain High

I got my a** handed to me yesterday when I left North Platte, NE.  I was so busy checking the weather in Wyoming that I neglected to see what the rest of Nebraska had in store for me.  One word… wind. And I’m not talking about a light breeze.  No, I’m talking about 30-40mph wind with gusts that topped 50mph+.  It was beyond scary and at 9 1/2 feet tall, I thought the MoHo would get blown off the road.  After two hours and 120 miles, I pulled off the road in Sidney and proceeded to cry in the Walmart parking lot.  Then I saw on weather.com that there was a high wind advisory in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming and that it was going to last all day. Driving for the day was done and after a few phone calls, I was able to check into the Best Western in Sidney where I hunkered down for the rest of the day. Note: Nicest people ever at the Best Western. I gave them a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor

Since I had lots of time to look at maps and weather.com yesterday, I determined that my best course of action wasn’t necessarily to continue to Wyoming as planned but to head south on I-76 and go across Colorado on I-70 instead. When I woke up this morning, I checked the weather for both routes and since the Wyoming route still had 20-30mph winds forecasted where the Colorado route had almost no wind, I decided for the latter.  Wyoming will just have to wait.

The drive today through the Rockies was beautiful, albeit a bit harrowing when coming off the first big mountain pass.  I think I was at an elevation of around 10,000 feet when my stomach started to hurt. This could have been for one of three reasons:

  1. The beginning of altitude sickness, which I am prone to getting
  2. Nervous knots for having to drive down a 7% grade for 7 miles in 10 degree weather with potentially icy roads
  3. The sausages I ate for breakfast

The mountains are covered in snow and I saw several resorts were open, including Vail. My priority was to keep both hands on the wheel so pictures just weren’t feasible.  Sorry.  But I did get the Welcome to Colorado sign because I am a pro:

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I spent approximately 7 hours in Colorado before crossing the border to Utah. An hour later and I was checking into a Holiday Inn Express in Green River.  Fun fact:  when I graduated high school, I did a 3-week Outward Bound trip in Utah.  The first week was spent river rafting the Green River.  And here I am again after all these years.  Crazy.

So yes, I was on the road for 8 1/2 hours today and I am done done done. I’d say the coolest thing about the drive was seeing the Rockies from both sides.  Truly impressive.  The saddest part was seeing the turn-off for Arches National Park and having to ignore it (for now). Now the big debate for tomorrow is whether I take Hwy 50 across UT and NV or do I head north to I-15 and then reconnect with I-80.  Will check the weather tomorrow and will decide then.  Of course, if any of you reading this tonight have an opinion, please weigh in!  One more mountain range and I’m back in NorCal…

iPod playlist for the day: Metallica all morning (since yesterday was a bust), followed by Journey, Joey Ramone and Lou Reed this afternoon.

Cross country route thus far:  NY, NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, CO, UT

State count: 29, 30