Freitag, 24. Juni 2011

Back in SFCA

Our arrival in San Francisco just about coincided with the re-opening of the California St. Cable Car line. This means that one of my favorite schadenfreude occupations is gone. As this cable car is my route home from my super market, I rode the temporary shuttle often. Nearly every time I rode it, a gaggle of excited tourists would be waiting at a shuttle stop and stare askance at the ugly grey electric bus that approached the cable-car sign and opened it's doors. They would hesitate and then the driver (who often seemed less than pleased to be driving the bus instead of the cable car - - except when it was raining) would ask "You waiting for the cable car?" The tourists would nod excitedly, clutching their maps and travel guides. "You're gonna be waiting a long time! Haw! Haw! You'll be waitin' 'till June! Haw! Haw!" I would chuckle as well. Poor folks. What are they doing in that neighborhood if not for the thrill of riding that fabled San Francisco treat *ding ding*?

Now that I'm back, it's Pride month, it's summer time and apparently, the active cable car has not put an end to encountering the pain of visitors. The number of people chugging up Nob Hill has increased at least 3 fold and so now, whenever I head east from my apartment or arrive from the west, I encouter winded tourists. They reach the corner, almost, but not quite done with the blasted hill (the last street is the real killer). Often there are sharp words. One family member pants and then expreses their hatred of this idea in whatever their native language is. Poor sods.
I've just been touristing all over, so I don't feel bad smiling at these peoples frustration. It's a smile and chuckle of kinship. "Been there, brother." I think. I don't merely mean the trip we were just on where I pronounced things in a way that was comical to locals, or where I had to learn the value systems for certain types of etiquette. I mean that I have literally been there, on that corner of Pine and Powell, looked uphill, cussed under my breath, turned to my partner and said "naja, warum haben wir die Strasse gewählt?!?!?!"
Now we feel more or less at home here. Just in time to make preparations to leave. But before we do, we will wring this town of all the fun it offers. We'll enjoy it's parks, jump out of it's planes, see it's free movies in the parks, see it's fireworks, bathe at it's beaches, celebrate it's uniqueness.
Until then, I will unembarassedly continue my habit of cheering people as they climb the hill "Almost there! You've almost made it! Not much further now!!"

Freitag, 17. Juni 2011

The journey is the destina--blah blah blah

Wednesday June 1st we started our trip. We disagreed about how to get to the car rental agency, we got stuck on one-way streets and I zoomed past the first Rt 66 land-marks before Ivo could photograph them. It was noon and Chicagoans seemed serious about getting to lunch.
Today, June 16th, we ended our trip. we disagreed about how to get to the Santa Monica Pier, I zoomed along the harbor before Ivo could enjoy any sense of ceremony and we crawled along LA noon-day traffic, not basking in the glow of the trip but herrumphing about how it ended. The glow came later when traffic thinned and we approached LAX and before-hand as we had crawled through traffic from San Bernadino to LA all morning long.
Beginning and ending aside, our first road-trip has been a bit of a success, I think. Over the next few weeks we'll organize notes, do some more research and get to remember the good bits. Some parts will benefit the cyclists who might read a guide book: the big blue whale in Catoosa, the cute little unexpected sandwich shop in that town in North West Oklahoma, the crazy old guys who talk for an age about old stuff. Some parts will benefit our future selves and our future child: the emotional roller-coaster of our first screening call, the amount of compromise and communication required in getting across the country, the readiness for adventure together.
So now I'm back in San Francisco and practising some of the things I learned from the trip: the importance of relxation, the importance of hydration, the importance of not taking non-fried non-carnivorous food for granted and the importance of not taking Ivo's presence for granted.

Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2011

From Needles to San Bernadino

After a jump in the Colorado river and a stew in the bath water that was the motel's pool, we enjoyed all that Needles had to offer and skiddaddled. (For fun, try googling food or lodging in a town whos name is also drug paraphernalia.) As we left, we were concious of the fact that today would be our longest stretch through some of the roughest and least-traveled land. We were also conscious that I needed to get home to San Francisco sooner than I'd planned. To be sure, my body has held-up admirably, being as it is without lower-intestine or gallbladder. The diet and climate alone should be taxing and the fact that we hiked in Grand Canyon was a thrill, but it's decided that that's enough so I'm headed to my doc for some checking up and home to my cozy bed. That'll do, I think. That'll do.
Man it's hot here. How hot is it, you ask? It's SO hot, that at the gas station, they'd taped a dish towel to the door-handle to prevent burns. It's so hot, white lizards dart across the road to spare their poor toes. It is hot. But, of course, it's the Mohave desert!
We stocked up on water but stopped at every available rest stop we encountered. We can pretend that the stops were for the future cycling readers, but....well, we stayed very hydrated. Many of the towns were mere graveyards, memorials of the places they once were. Some were worse off than others. One was simply a stone wall and foundation.
When we came across the Bagdad Cafe, which we should have left to photography subject status, we instead, like so many French and Japanese tourists (we're told) went in. The place stank of rancid grease. This was similar to the nasty cafe we'd encountered in St. Clair, MO. It reeked and was the only place for miles. Ivo ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and potato salad (he still seems well enough) and I had a pop and tried to organize my plane ticket home. I was spared grilled cheese yet again, thanks to veggie snacks in the back-seat. (I could be a girl scout, I'm so durned prepared.)
I hadn't slept much last night (a side-effect of my body's need of a tune-up) and was a bit punchy. Ivo had done the first leg of our journey and once I was positioned behind the wheel, there was sillyness. There was singing with the radio, conversing excitedly to the few cars we finally encountered once we hit and passed Barstow. There was reminiscing about the towns, people and times we'd seen, met and had along the road. It was a good day.
Around the time we started seeing LA smog roll over the San Bernadino mountains, things had soured. We were tired and hungry and the approach to Rialto was so uniquely unlike any of the others we'd experienced. Where we'd limped along small streets in towns with nary a stop sign in the past, we were now zooming and edging and curving past train tracks, strips of businesses and cars, cars, cars. Strange that we were so put-off by cars on the last day of our Rt66 roadtrip. More than anything, the sense that it would soon be over got to us. It wasn't ending with a bang or a wimper, but with pollution and honking horns and an unexpectedly early separation.
But wait, it's not over, we're not at the finish line yet! Our bathing suits hanging in the bathroom are wet with pool water, not the salty water of Santa Monica! (Note, they won't be tomorrow either, I will only commit to toes in the water, thank you.) We still have tonight and the last short stretch to go.
I'll probably write tomorrow's entry from San Francisco, so for now, in a cement wig-wam in Rialto CA, the adventure goes on.
Tomorrow: Los Angeles.

Mittwoch, 15. Juni 2011

Blues to Colorado River - I mean Seligman to Needles

After the Grand Canyon, we headed off to Seligman, AZ. It's a crazy little town that is a protected historical landmark, thanks to the 10 year battle fought by a guy named Angel. We've heard this story in bits and pieces and now Ivo's heard it from the horse's Angel's mouth. 
We stayed in the Canyon Lodge last night, which is owned by a German who's been living in the States since he visited in the late 80's. He speaks a funny "Gerglish" where he sentences are made of mixes of almost-english-accented-German and German-accented-English. His motel had themed rooms and we stayed in the Las Vegas room and had dinner at Lilo's restaurant, which is owned by another German ex-pat. There, we ran into two Germans on a big American holiday, which they will end visiting both of their daughters who nanny in the Pacific Northwest.
Ivo began his day comforting me and then had an old-school shave from the Godfather of route 66 himself, Angel. I had a mixture of Grand Canyon hangover and sadness at the adoption non-placement last week. The gorgeous views and incredible hikes at the Grand Canyon were hard to leave and they'd been such a wonderful opportunity for us to heal. Leaving it behind was hard, but this whole trip has meant leaving one thing or person or another behind, so we carried on westward. 
We stopped at the Grand Canyon Caverns, so called because the air within them comes from 40 miles away in the Grand Canyon. Ivo and I bought tickets for the tour, despite my fear of tunnels. I kept thinking, Ivo, the fellow who is.....weary of heights was a trooper at the Canyon and has agreed to go sky-diving with me next month, so I can walk around caverns 210 feet below ground for an hour and a half. 
The caverns have a weird story, they also house a "hotel" room, meaning that one can sleep in this weird little set up there: a bed, sofa, and small water closet, for $700 bucks a night. There is also a room that houses food and water from the Kennedy administraion and a brand new shipment of survival supplies from, thanks to the Cavern's main investors. There are also the mumified remains of a bob-cat who fell down there and some pretty rocks and crystals. 
We continued on the road and saw incredible views. Ivo drove us up a desert mountain and I drove us down. We stopped in Oatman, a town where donkeys roam free. They're descended from donkeys who were the towns only residents for quite a while and who were protected once people came back to the town. It was odd--and poopy. 
Our day ended over the border in Needles CA. It's meant to be the hottest town in the US (temperature-wise, that is. This town is fairly sleepy otherwise). We jumped in the Colorado River to cool off and were still marveling at the heat coming off the pavement after dinner. 
Tomorrow we'll add 250 miles to the odometer and be just outside LA. I'm ready to go home to San Francisco, but tonight at dinner Ivo and I did a bit of reminiscing about some of the towns we've seen and the people we've met. This has been one hell of an experience.

Dienstag, 14. Juni 2011

Rt 66 Grand Canyon edition

Day 1

I don’t have internet and am writing these entries on Word. I’m fearful of making my posts too big and have broken them up. It’s Sunday, June 12, 2011 and I am sitting in a cabin on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and I have to say, this path is pretty damned fantastic too.
Once again we had an early start, considering time, temp and sun position. We hit the Flagstaff version of Whole Foods and then hit the road. The road was uninteresting in comparison to the road leading to Flagstaff. Last night we were so shocked and welcomed by the slowly thickening wooded areas as we climbed out of the desert and up to a new altitude. Perhaps I’m wrong and it was just the crappy drivers that detracted from what may have been a perfectly lovely stretch. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the canyon to come that made the road uninteresting.
It occurred to me while eating an early lunch that this experience reminded me of Disney World. I still vividly remember the first time I stood in front of the Epcot globe. Most likely I was imitating a Disney world ad I’d seen, but I was beside myself. When we drove into the park and Ivo gasped at a quick glimpse of the canyon through the trees, I shut my eyes tight. I didn’t want to see it in dribs and drabs. I wanted the whole damned canyon! Well, that’s not true, I didn’t want to see it from a chopper or a plane or high up, but I did want a big, full in the face all at once viewing. Ivo, ever considerate, offered to lead me to the canyon with my eyes closed. Damn that fella is cute! I thanked him, shut my eyes and held his arm.
“You can look now” – BAM! I guffawed! I laughed a big barking laugh, like someone had knocked the wind out of me. It looked unreal; truly fake! It was as if Ivo had pulled down a picture of the canyon before my face. But when I looked left and right and saw the dimensions, the shapes and the depths, I was truly blown away.
We hiked 5 miles of the south rim today, to blow our minds in big doses and get used to the altitude. Tonight we’ll have an early dinner and watch the sunset before heading to bed. We’re taking a sunrise hike tomorrow in the morning, before heading out onto that mother road yet again.

Day 2
This morning the sky was already glowing, when we emerged from our cabin before 5am. With coffee and and yogurt and banana and Gatorade and granola bars respectively, we sat on a stone wall to watch the sun rise and chase new shadows around the rocky formations. Once we couldn’t stand the chat next to us, between two Australian women about wedding dresses, we went down the path to find better view. Last night, we’d waxed pretentious about the early morning hikers we might encounter on the Bright Angel Train at sunrise. Before we’d even finished our breakfast, large groups of loud people had passed us by with massive rucksacks.
We got ourselves ready and headed down the steep trail that snakes down from this part of the south rim. We encountered a few lone quiet hikers, one of whom was backed against a wall and said, apologetically “there’s a deer down there”. The tone was a result of her shame that she had scared the deer off the trail. By the time she hiked on and we caught our own glimpse, the deer seemed quite please with herself, poised as she was to enjoy a good nibble from a big green bush.
Many people who know me will be unsurprised that I was moved to tears twice, while hiking down. (That’s right, I’m a crier. Sometimes I can postpone a joy cry, like when I was asked to be god-mother of my niece Anouk, but more often I choke up and warn people around me “they’re happy tears.) These were those unique tears that I sometimes get in the mountains. They’re similar to my happy tears in the way that my heart just feels so full it needs a release. The whole way down, each curve each view each sound and sight made me so grateful and so happy.
Ivo and I are big-mouths. We’ll talk for days if allowed. We can’t stop chatting - until we do. When hiking, it’s not the breath-taking views that shut us up. We’ll talk with dry mouths and lungs that have been evacuated from astonishment. But in all of our languages, in our mental dictionaries, in our abundance of words, we are initially struck dumb and then struck stupid. We gasp, pause and then one of us will inevitably say “Fuck” or “Shit” or “Woof”.
Aside from being rated R for strong language, our hike was incredible, from start to finish (there again! “Incredible.” Words feel so useless in describing some of the beauty we’ve encountered on this trip.)
We met a honeymooning couple from Holland yesterday. Afterwards we joked about our honeymoon in Croatia, our lessons in kayaking, our quitting smoking and Ivo’s body rejecting my birthday dinner. Our trip is not a honeymoon or a babymoon, but it is an incredible checking-in for our relationship, and I’m grateful for that too.
I don’t know where we’re headed today. I’m not too bothered about it. I’m glad that our crazy-early hike has given us a chance to explore the other part of the south rim before we depart. There is desert to come, a jump in the Colorado in Needles and at the end, “home”. This trip is flippin’ nuts.

Gallup NM to Flagstaff AZ

We left Gallup bright and early and headed out on the road, and what a road! No highway for us, no sir! We were on a long curvy rural route. We rolled through gorgeous deserts, turned through hills with vegetation where Donkeys grazed free at the side of the road. We were giddy at the sight of the prairie dogs as they bounded away from our car, the likes of which they don’t often see. We gasped at incredible views, we talked over each other, describing things. Then it was rough road. Then it was dirt road. Then it was a closed road: private property. We turned around and headed back the way we’d come. New views were presented to us and despite our disappointment, we were able to remain grateful for the gorgeous little ride we’d had. (This serves as a metaphor for the previous mentioned adoption-placement that wasn’t.)

We were only a little touchy because our big destination for the day was the painted dessert. The clock kept ticking, the sun kept rising and our ability to enjoy the dessert without the mid-day sun beating down on us was quickly disappearing. We found the correct road. It was a far less attractive stretch and the speed limit was slower. Ivo asked if I wanted to just get on the highway and forget the “mother road” (no seriously, that’s the name of Rt 66!!!!) in order to find a rest stop sooner. He’s so sweet, but this stretch is SO desolate that we really did need to record any and every water stop for potential cyclists. We kept cheerful and our c’est la vie attitude and headed into Arizona. Heading into Arizona also means heading into a new time-zone!! We were so thrilled! We wouldn’t wander the dessert in the scorching heat after all! Halleluia!
The desert was incredible. We decided to drive the 28 miles, stopping at certain panoramas and do a small hike around the blue mesa. It was like “being on the moon” (to quote a ranger at the end of the park). The massive boulders and conglomerations (those tumor-looking bulgy rocks) were incredible. We were in the portion that is blue and purple, having driven through the pink and red portion. The sights, soundlessness and smell can never properly be described here. Likewise, our photos fail to do it justice.
We took another little jaunt to see the oldest, largest petrified tree there. It’s amazing how different the petrified trees and logs look here, compared to the ones in California. (As I write that sentence I feel that my cup runneth over again and again. I am so grateful.) They are far more colorful here in Arizona, but it feels as if everything is potentially more colorful here. The beige expanses can reveal these gashes in the earth that are so vibrant and scarlet that I can’t believe my eyes. I’m in the desert and I’ve never worn my sun-glasses less (sure, I wear my sunglasses too often). I shade my eyes with my big silly hat and try to limit anything that may detract from the natural palette all around me.
From the painted desert, we headed to Winslow AZ (yes, like the Eagles song). We were on a wait-list for a hotel there and were getting nervous. Booking a room for a Saturday night in summer was becoming difficult. When we arrived in Winslow we saw why. There were a few run-down motels, but otherwise, the only businesses that seemed to be doing business was the hotel with it’s wait-list, it’s restaurant and a Laundromat. I went to do laundry and Ivo went around town searching for any other opportunity. There were none, so we booked a room in Flagstaff and decided to push on another 60 miles or so. We were so relieved to have a room booked that the trip to Flagstaff was a joy. We had a beautiful day behind us and our evening was looking good.
We even had time, energy and interest to go look at a massive meteor crater. Um…it was big….and round…but c’mon! I’d just seen a PAINTED DESERT! Seriously it was impressive and incredible to consider. I’m glad that we had a chance to see it.
In Flagstaff, there was tequila. That is all.

Samstag, 11. Juni 2011

Albuqurque is NOT my favorite....


But then, it never had a chance. Not only does it include those blasted highways, which interrupt our slow crawl along RT 66. These highways contain lay-racers: cars swerving back and forth across the fast-paced 4-6 lane highways. The other detracting quality is not the city’s fault. We were not allowed to leave Albuqurque until we’d heard from our adoption agency, leaving the diverse city the role of improbable prison.
Back in Tucumcari, we’d had a “screening call” from our agency, for a “last-minute placement”. This means that a baby, born that day, was meant to be placed for a last-minute adoption before being discharged from the hospital. We confirmed that our profile could be shared with the birth-parents, and the next two days of our trip involved a regular reference to the fact that we may become parents on the 10th of June and all that that entailed. The uniqueness of sudden role-change and the details and neccessities in assuming this role was always on our mind. In Las Vegas NM we received an email about the baby’s health and in Albuqurque, we waited to discover which incredible adventure we would be pursuing.
We did enjoy Albuqurque. It was such a change from Santa Fe and it’s insane number of small art galleries. It was also different from the small, sweet, lush town of Las Vegas and is the opposite of Tucumcari in size. New Mexico has been incredibly diverse, but we’ve been glad for the American Indian (Native American?) representation here. We’ve gone from the part of the country where plaques and museums talk about kicking the nation’s out of the east, to a part of the country dappled with reservations, cultural centers and ancient sites.
Yesterday we visited Bocca Negra and took the short stroll up the messa to see the gorgeous Petroglyphs in the volcanic rock. These were so different from the Petroglyphs in Norway, far younger and telling a different story. It was beautiful. We next headed to the visitor center and fell in love with the “fetishes” or small carvings that some Pueblo artists make today. We were then enticed to visit the Pueblo Cultural Center in town and as we excitedly found seats in the center’s courtyard, Ivo’s phone rang. The birth-couple are still conflicted and unable to make a decision. They have been discharged with their baby and will take the weekend to be counseled and decide how to move forward. Ivo hang up the phone and we returned to the courtyard and our adventure across America. A Pueblo family performed the dance of the deer and we stood for a moment, feeling the mysterious nature of life.
As we moved on, we left the city and returned to the quieter stretches that make up RT 66. The desert out here is incredibly gorgeous. Every blink interrupts a gorgeous view. We passed the continental divide and watched as the smoky sunset made the horizon glow.
We’ve continued on to Gallup, where we were ushered-in by drunk drivers on the road. We passed the casinos and motels in various states of disrepair, past the airport and on to a motel outside of town. Today we will head to the Painted Desert and Winslow AZ, where we will make good on the celebration of our two-person family. We sleep through the night and will go out late and do other various, non-kid-friendly activities and cherish this incredible travel opportunity that we have.

Freitag, 10. Juni 2011

So much beauty

There is so much beauty in New Mexico.
We continue to enjoy the diary entries of cyclist Dres and had an ETRAORDINARY time in Tucumcari. We stayed at a mom n' pop motel where all of the guests sit in front of their rooms at night, talking until late. It was on a strip with lots of old time-y businesses that are still running, which has become a rarity on our trip (causing me to say "just like the pixar film CARS!" far too often).
We traveled early in the morning and rewarded with cooler temperatures. The first leg of our journey contained alot of smoke blowing in the wind. We then climbed to higher altitudes and visited the beautiful town of Las Vegas, NM. The town is apparently a favorite of the Cohen Brothers. It was featured in "No Country For Old Men" and "True Grit". The temperature and vegetation were amazing up there. The businesses were thriving and I bought a big hat at a Dry Goods store. There was a park and a cute post office where we posted some postcards.
We then descended, Santa Fe-wards. On our way, we visited old Peco ruins. We had a beautiful walk and enjoyed the non-burning aspect of our surroundings. (Yesterday was cruelly hot and dry.)
We arrived at Santa Fe in the early afternoon, ran some errands and went swimming. Plans for tomorrow are still tentative. Arizona is still unclear.

Donnerstag, 9. Juni 2011

Amarillo to Tucumcari

Wow. If I learn anything else, my head may explode.
I never realized how much this road trip would teach me about myself and my partner and this land I'm from. I was naive I suppose.
There is a fire raging in the desert. The big scary desert that scares me is on fire and it made me a bit kooky this morning. Suddenly this morning, I wanted, I needed to control everything. Nothing could be left to chance. Everything had to be planned. And even then I was certain that it would all go wrong.
As is my habit, I looked ahead on the map the night before and started googling vegetarian restaurants and researching accomodations and trying to figure out where we would stay. I had ideas and was ready to barrell through the landscape and make up miles to save up for the Grand Canyon. I won't bore you with the details, but a number of conversations took place between Ivo and I, debating the route. Ivo chose Tucumcari. We are in Tucumcari. We are both happy.
We started our morning with a cultural shock. After our evening in Amarillo, ecountering people who would be equally at home in the AS220, we met our inn-keeper. Ivo described her later as "a fairly typical soccer mom". I founf myself being overly agree-able with her. It was strange. We'd been alone in the B&B the whole night and suddenly there was this chatty woman in the kitchen, making us breakfast as we sat at the kitchen's island and telling us everything that we would ever ever ever need to know about her or that house.
Hers is the B&B that Oprah rented while she was in Amarillo for 2 months, during her defamation lawsuit with the Texas Beef Growers. The B&B belonged to someone else at the time, but she was able to tell us that ours was the room where Oprah's bodygaurd had stayed and that the room next to ours was the great lady herself's.
After swooning and learning and nodding our heads, we shoved off for the Toot and Totem (lovingly referred to as the "Fart and Fetchum" by locals). We got the cars fluids checked and filled and then mozied off on a massive detour to America's 2nd largest canyon. It was gorgeous and it is a real shame that we didn't have the time or provisions to enjoy it more. We rolled back toward Rt66 just in time to see the Cadillac Ranch. I'd been conflicted in wanting to vandalize the famously vandalized cars and then feeling wrong spraying paint on something that is not mine, in a gorgeous desert. Luckily, there were two young men sitting in a pickup's shade who were there to repaint the cars a base color. They were being paid to prepare the canvas, so to speak. In truth, they'd just finished when three vans filled with day-camp children pulled up with 50 kids and as many spray cans and ruined their work. They assured us that they were going to cover it soon anyhow and to go ahead and paint. In fact, if we wanted, we could take a can of their paint and cover the youngster's artwork. We did so and it was kind of fun.
We skeedadled and were excited to move along to the 2 towns that each claim to be the official mid-point of the Rt 66. In truth, we celebrated the half-way point exactly between the two towns. As we continued to the 2nd of these towns, ready for the Midway diner, we saw a young cyclist chugging along the shoulder in the midday heat. We stopped and offered him water and asked how he was faring. "Google maps lied and I'm trying to get to a diner" We promised him that it was just in 4 miles and offered him some trail mix. He declined but seemed pleased for the info and glad for the chat. We've read again and again how Dres (the guide's cyclist) felt the lonliness of the road and so instantly said "You'll make it in no time. We're headed there now! Join us for lunch. We'll buy you something and you can tell us about your travels!"
He did. He made great time and arrived hungry, thirsty and chatty. He's left Ohio a few weeks ago with a class-mate. The class-mate became woozy in Springfield MO and met with a terrible accident that landed him in hospital. The class-mate called for an update at the end of our meal and said that he'd been declared fit to travel and was flying home to Korea to spend the summer with his parents.
Ethan, our cycling lunch-companion is a 20 year old student in Worcester, OH. He decided to ride from OH to LA, loosely following RT 66, when he heard that some childhood friends from China rode from Hong Kong to Paris last year. (He commented on the power of a good passport.)
He was lonely and having a hard day today. He can't believe that he's still riding in vegetation and how expansive and "boring" the landscape is. "There is nothing in Texas! It's boring!"  I can only imagine  his frustration: He's 20, he was meant to be cycling with a friend, he's not romanced by the landscape, this is just a challenge and it^s challenging as hell. His Kindle goes untouched, he writes nothing and takes no pictures. He rises early cycles until midday. Takes shelter wherever he finds lunch and hits the road again after 4pm. He sleeps where he can and sleeps instantly after cycling. He was equally young and naive and prepared and earnest. It was really nice to meet him and to hear his story while Ivo reads Dres' story allowed and we live our own story. We exchanged contact information and I fear my motherly-tone when I warn him that they are now evacuating Luna and that the smoke is coming on the wind up into our path in New Mexico (if he hasn't noticed the dryness, scratchiness and mesquiteness of the wind already)
We're in a fairly classic-kitchy motel. Having cut our day short at 100 miles (not counting canyon detour). We'll head to the PowWow Restaurant down the road for dinner and have been told by the motels owner that the guests typically sit in folding chairs in front of their rooms, of an evening, swapping stories and drinking beer. It all sounds wonderful and I'm gratedul for Ivo's planning - and mine - and ours.
Tomorrow's destination is Santa Fe. It's North-west of here, which should mean that we're further away from the Arizona winds. We'll leave early and try and avoid the hottest parts of the day.

Mittwoch, 8. Juni 2011

oklahoma to Texas (as much as I have time to write today)

Instead of an evening in blogging, we went to dinner and a movie tonight. It was the right decision.
For now, I'll simply record first impressions of Oklahoma to Texas.
The transition from ruby red dirt with green crops and trees to stretching acres of dry land with yellows and browns has been impressive.
In Texas I became dehydrated for the first time. We found a charming sandwich shop in western OK.
Ivo did the lions share of driving.
The website led us to a vegetarian cafe for dinner, which happened to be the HQ of alternative culture in Amarillo TX. Bikes were parked in the cafe, but needed to be moved for a yoga class, which took place a mere 3 feet from the bar, where they'd made our yummy veggie chilli-covered dinners. We forgot about the black bean hummus, but have been told to not make that mistake in our travels in future. Ivo got some great info about cycling in Texas and we got a tip to go see the canyon south-west of the city. "2nd largest in the States". It's meant to be beautiful.
We've been warned about snakes, warned about storms and are planning a trip to a full service gas station to have our fluids checked. I'm a bit nervous.
Ivo and I continue to believe that cycling through texas must be far too challenging for most. It's tricky enough in a car!
Today we'll drink more water, keep our eyes open and head for New Mexico and a new time zone. (Sleepy Jessy was wrong in the last blog, turns out)

Dienstag, 7. Juni 2011

Let's see, where did we leave off

Last night there was a lovely hotel room and vegetarian food to be had, so there was no blogging.
We saw and missed more things than I can remember. Missed: Giant Praying hands. Saw: Giant Blue Whale in Catoosa. Missed: services in a southern baptist church. Saw: Sunday morning in a laundromat between WalMart and McDonalds in Kansas. Missed: too many other things Saw: our first confederate flag.
More of Kansas and the start of Oklahoma will hopefully come to me, but for now, I'm still reeling from this full-ass Monday.
The day began with fresh fruit, yummy yogurt and spelt muffin. (God bless Tulsa!)
OH! Sunday lunch was in a super sweet family restaurant where there were weird signs in the ladies powder room (ie if at first you don't succed, try it the way your wife told you to do it) and a kind waitress.
I then realized that I was frightened of traveling through Oklahoma city, which was strange, but easy to avoid on Rt 66. We traveled along, seeing lovely things and then had our phone date with our adoption case worker which was very strange. She told us that noone has requested our profile yet and I don't know how I feel about that.
Then we met the author of our Turn-by-Turn Rt66 EZ Guide in Chandler, OK.
We also saw some insane destruction from the tornadoes in El Reno, OK. Where a metal barn roof had torn away and been wrapped around a tree. Things were strewn everywhere and it was very sad.
The big things that struck me today were the following:
-Oklahoma is gorgeous. The red earth that borders the green plants; the vast stretches of gorgeous land and the beautiful animals that graze it are breathtaking.
Reading the words of the cyclist who wrote his account for the cycling guide book makes me sad. As -I'm falling in love with a part of the country I've never known, he's presenting a stereotype based on his experience, which seems, at times, colored by his mood or level of exhaustion.
-5 days in a car with one's partner requires a walk or moment alone now and again.
-I'm incapable of anticipating what tomorrow will bring on this trip, which creates an incredible freedom to which I am unaccustomed.
I'm a bit exhausted and believe that I have exhausted all that there is to see in Weatherford, so I'll go to bed. Tomorrow there will be a new time-zone, a new states and who knows what else?

Sonntag, 5. Juni 2011

Forgotten bits of MO and some more of MO

In Missouri, we were late. We were staying at a BnB and I was nervous about arriving late. I'd gotten it into my head that because they were comp-ing the room, I had to be a super guest. Luckily, nerdiness got the best of us and after Cuba we were Marshfield-bound.
Once we got to Marshfield, however, the town hall was nowhere to be found, which meant that the Hubble replica on it's lawn (in honor of it's Marshfield-born inventor) remained hidden as well.
"We'll just ask someone where it is," Ivo said, confidently, despite the fact that we have only very rarely seen any pedestrians at all since leaving Chicago. (I blame the unseasonable scorching heat.)
As luck would have it, a teenaged girl was emptying her mail box at 9pm on  a Friday night, and we were able to ask the way.
"Do you know where China Gardens is?" She asked. As Ivo said "No" I said "well....." Of course we don't know where it is, but she'd said that it was up the road and how hard can it be to find  a chinese restaurant in Marshfield, Missouri?
She hesitated "We haven't lived here that long, so it's hard to say..." She said and then went on to say "Just take a left down there and it's right by the storm sirens."
"Thanks!" we said and pulled away, realizing only once we were back on the road that we have no idea what a storm siren looks like. Truthfully, any other ethnic food restaurant would have been a better landmark for us.
Thanks to a large gun on the corner by the town hall, we found the Hubble, got back in the car and zoomed on to the BnB, where our room key with detailed instructions awaited us in the mailbox.
The jacuzzi in our room helped our road recovery and the place was really sweet. Unfortunately, our interview with the Missouri Rt 66 historian was cancelled, due to his being out of town. (We'd arranged it through the BnB owner.) Fortunately, we met an unlikely historian on the road.
We'd been determined to stop and get out more today, setting a shorter goal than we'd done the past few days, with the intention of making Baxter Springs KS for the night. Our first proper "should we take a photo? - do you want to get out?" moment was an old kitchy gas station that's no longer in operation, but where owner Gary sells a few Rt66 guide books. We stayed for more than an hour and a half and though Gary tended to repeat himself, he was an amazing wealth of knowledge. A kind-hearted, self-described "hill-billy" he gave us free cokes, took our photos and told us how the road was meant to be enjoyed. I felt so guilty every time I thought "So, guess we'd better be pushing off" because he inevitably was about to start a tangent about how city people rush around.
We recorded him a bit. He has a lovely accent that must reflect his childhood in the Ozark hills ("married at 16 years old. 'Bin married 50 years. Everyone was impressed that she's not even a family member.") He didn't just make fun of himself, however. He spoke of going off to California and "following his" (non-disclosed) "dream". "I just kept hard at work, never looking up at the sky and then one day, I looked up and said 'hey! there's a blue sky up there' and there was a cloud up in that sky and I thought 'I used to make dogs outta them' ya know or men, or shapes or whatever."
Back on the road we had no luck at all finding a decent lunch place and settled for something unsatisfying in Carthidge. (Luckily, a trip to an organic market had provided us with road snacks.)
After entering Kansas and an inpromptu meeting with a parade (Ivo expected the worst when he saw a bunch of cop cars, with lights blazing, blocking an intersection, but we'd just left Joplin, so...) we drove down a major strip until we curved left onto a quieter stretch. There, we found a simple white bridge. Over the main road there was a simple stone barrier, but if one forks a foot to the right and rides the actual RT66 (much of our trip involves riding slowly on a road just north or south of a road everyone else is using) they ride over a large solid white bridge that has a big satisfying arch and takes one over a sluggish muddy river. Having missed the Rt 66 fork and passed over the boring bridge, we parked at the road-side and walked across the white bridge. There, we heard the burp of a bull frog and stood still, looking onto the water. There we saw a swimming turtle and in the tall grasses, some sort of mole or beaver or something snacked on the foliage. It was idyllic.
Now we'e in Baxter Springs, which means that every time Ivo leaves the Inn, he returns with stories of other banks that were robbed and other bandits that were famous in the area. We walked around the town this afternoon and read the yellow plaques that, more often than not, describe that the building that once stood there burned down and was replaced by this brick structure.
We're staying in the Cafe on the Route Inn. It was formerly a bank, once robbed by Jessee James. We're in Cherokee county, folks and we're staying in a former bank. the hotel is as stark as last night's BnB was busy. White walls and bed sheets are where the Walnut St Inn would have put fancy cushions and lace doileys.
Tomorrow - Tulsa and this vegetarian's salvation. Halle-frickin'-luah.

Samstag, 4. Juni 2011

Forgotten bits of IL and some more of MO

I feat that not blogging after day 1 on the road left bits of Illinois forgotten. So, quickly: There was a giant holding a rocket, yummy milkshakes and escarole soup, rivers, flat green gorgeous landscapes, big neon signs, giddy laughter in Normal, singing of Ben Folds in Effingten and new understanding of John Hughes in Sherman.

The other day, Landon said "I see a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches in your future." Oh, my cocky ignorance of Wednesday.
Yesterday's lunch was grilled cheese in a last minute - discovered GREASY spoon that stank of rancid grease and cigar smoke. It was in one of our guide books and there was nothing else around. So, if you're headed to St. Clair, pack a sack lunch.
Yesterday was another gorgeous day and it had an amazing start. We had breakfast in a cafe that is part of a green house. Enjoying berries in the company of greenery will be saved in my brain, to be called forth in the desert. Moments that are more challenging (ie hungry, cranky and without option in St Clair) can now be soothed with memories of the City Museum in St. Louis, MO.
I'm a bit of a wimp or a worrier, so the first sight of the museum, fenced by cement fangs and boasting a maze of chicken-wire tunnels outside the building that lead to school-buses positioned on roof-edges and an old gutted airplane, suspended, who knows how.
Inside the museum are chaotic, wet things, smooth things, rough things sounds. Children run, crawl and stare in awe. We walk through a room of sea creature sculptures and turtle tanks and up to stalagtited and stalagmited cave-like rooms. We climb stairs to a sudden smooth, still, empty room and walk past a soda bottle wall through two massive vault doors.
A man struggled on a wooden wheel, so I jumped in to help. Unfortunately, two other men jumped in at the same time and the wheel's momentum knocked me down. It had to happen. This place screams danger. (The paper wrist bands warn you of your own responsibility for your personal safety.) We wandered through an indoor carnival of sorts, slid down a long slide to find another cave and then ascended 10 stories of spiral steps next to "shoe chutes" left from the old factory, accompanied by an unusual organ. At the top, we slid down a twisted slide and I don't know when the dizzying, joyful laughter that followed left me in love with the City Museum.

On the road yesterday, lessons were learned about driving and navigating and less silos were seen as on previous days. There were many beautiful bridges and a crazy beautiful stretch of road called "Devil's elbow."
One of my favorite parts of the road was when Ivo nervously said "is that the car?". He turned down the radio and lowered his window to listen. "No." I said "those are the Cicadas!" We'd just been discussing the Cicadas and I thought that he knew that the increasing and decreasing rain-stick sound was those very insects. A number of them wound up on our windshield yesterday and their music was our soundtrack the whole way across Missouri.

Freitag, 3. Juni 2011

Springfield - St Louis - Springfield

I'd imagined our road trip involving alot of knitting while Ivo drove, but have been mistaken so far. This trip is work after all. We need to keep informed about the route and experience of our cycling predecessor and I can't read in the car, so the trip thus far has involved a lot of Ivo reading aloud from Dres' manuscript and me driving (quite slowly - mostly 35 mph) along the gorgeous flat lands of Illinois.
On our first day we stopped in Joliet and visited their museum. (This turned out to be quite helpful, as we realized afterwards that Dres had made the same choice.) The museum appears to be well funded and we enjoyed their wax-works, short film and displays about all of the many accomplishments of Joliet residents.
Although I'm not proud, the Joliet patriotism reminded me of the characters in "Waiting For Guffman" and I discovered that the film song "Stools!" was in my head as I slowly made my way to the exit.  I then had to stifle laughter as I spied a massive display honoring Dairy Queen "Someday I'd like to invent a low-fat - a non-fat Blizzard...." Parker Posie in Waiting for Guffman popped back in my mind and I asked the enthusiastic woman at the desk "What's with all the DQ stuff?"
"The first-ever Dairy Queen is from Joliet!"
Of course it is.
When we were getting into the car, I asked Ivo "You know how you thought that it was strange, that Lizzie-" ( a girl I nannied in Philadelphia) "-thought that George Washington invented colors and the alphabet?" Ivo laughed. "I bet kids in Joliet think that the alphabet and colors were invented in Joliet."

There is an incredible pride in all of the towns we've visited so far and I feel a bit guilty that I'm hearing the towns' names for the first time. I'm personally feeling a certain sense of patriotic pride as we drive through amazing landscapes and encounter incredibly kind people. (When we took a wrong turn and were set on the right course by a jogger, we hadn't turned off our hazard lights before a 13 year old boy on a bike stopped to ask if we needed any help.)

The road from Bloomington to Springfield Il was driven when it was too dark to read, so Ivo took the wheel and we popped Assassination Vacation into the CD player. The timing was ideal. We woke in Springfield with a Vowell inspired hunger for all things Lincoln. We set to the rainy Sprinfield streets and found the Lincoln Totem Pole replica that our research had never mentioned but that our audiobook had described.
We then went to the Lincoln museum and presidential Library. It is another well-funded museum and we watched their movie "Lincoln's Eyes" and quoted the line "sockdolagizing man-trap" along with the Ford's Theater actor. Remembering Vowell's inquiry of what sort of "manipulative" the old word "sockdolagizing" describes.
The rain let up and we made tracks for Lincoln's tomb, where we rubbed his nose for luck, chatted at length with a volunteer at the tomb, and shivered in the cold marble that houses Lincoln's final resting place.
The next piece of 66 was speckled with beautiful silos, many wind-farms and less road-kill than the first. We had lunch at an old "famous" cafe (with crazy sweet pies) and then left the "mother road" in Mt Olive to find the grave of Mother Jones. (It was incredible and I'll post pics later)
We arrived in St Louis in the afternoon, driving over the Mississippi, narrowly avoiding an accident on the highway (finally allowed to go more than 35 mph and we nearly hit some drivers making silly mistakes) and gaping at the awesome sight of a massive Croquet Wickett.
We met our friend Landon and he took us for a drive (in case we'd not spent enough time in a car). We drove through two of the many large parks the city boasts. We then drove through the dilapidated North portion of the city. We drove past the train station/shopping mall that was featured in Escape From New York, past the court house where the Dredd-Scott decision was made and on to the park that surrounds the Jefferson Gateway Arch.
We mustered our courage and rode the tram to the arch's observation deck. Incredible! After taking the quicker trip down the arch, the doors opened to reveal what I thought was part of the Lewis and Clark exhibit, but turned out to be vacationing Menonite families. We took a gander at the actual Lewis and Clark exhibition and then drove back to the south side for dinner with Landon's girlfriend Alison.
Today we're headed to a unique museum and then on to Springfield, MO. NPR is currently reporting a smoggy day in St Louis and a flooding Missouri river in Lincoln County. We'll use care as we travel, listening for storms and watching out for the communities that Alison (a local gal) finds unique to central Missouri.

Mittwoch, 1. Juni 2011

free car? no, free whisky!

This morning began with calls and emails to PR reps to get free stuff and ended with free whisky care of the hotel. In between there was breakfast in a cafe, lunch in an Indian restaurant and dinner at a mexican place.
I'll admit, I was sceptical about visiting the Tribune building today, but my dad had made a vague but convincing case for the "stones from all over" that are meant to adorn that building, so we went.
If we ever doubted that our friend Leksi was a fantastic tour guide, we shall doubt no more. We went to a used bookstore first thing. I got a book written by a man who drove a taxi after months and months spent in an ashram about dharma on the road. (Road trip reading!) Ivo got a travel book by a cyclist. Well done Leksi.
That afternoon, we approached the Chicago River and our tour guide pointed across, saying "There's that Wilco cover art from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." Ivo and my gasps at the two towers were probably even more enthusiastic than Leksi had anticipated. A jaunt up the road revealed the Tribune building and we showed native Chicagoan Leksi, the very bricks my father had described. They were pretty darned cool and we looked at them all and read their plaques allowed to one another.
We raced a storm to the Chicago Art Institute and even had time to see the bean at Millenium park! Just after entering the museum, the skies opened up and we officially began our tour of Rout 66.
We three saw American Gothic, the Nighthawks and a number of other modern American pieces. It was truly amazing and the mood of the pieces and what they stirred in us has created an incredible start to our trip across America (the whisky and tamales/burritos didn't hurt either).
Tomorrow we will officially begin our tour at Grant park on the coast of Lake Michigan. (Hopefully in a car that was specially chosen by the rental company's PR people, but beggars can't be choosers.)