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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 22:

Oct. 31st, 2012, Wednesday: It was a cold morning, but we finally got out of our warm nest and made coffee which thawed my freezing fingers. 

Soon the sun came out and shone on the deciduous hills across the lake, as the moon made it’s slow descent behind. 

After granola for breakfast, Brad went to shower and I pulled out my watercolor journal and paints for the first time this trip. It was good to relax and not be in a hurry for a change.

We did leave around 10:30, 

stopped in Sallisaw for gas, then continued west on I-40. 

Our next stop was in Okemah, the home of Woody Guthrie. 

We spent a bit of time there writing and mailing postcards, then grocery shopping. Inside the Homeland grocery store we heard news about Hurricane Sandy’s destruction for the first time. We kept going west on I-40, stopped for lunch at a rest area, then just beyond Oklahoma City, we parked outside a McDonald’s to use their free wifi. We never did eat any fast food on our road trip, but we did indulge in some parking lot, fast food wifi! We both had work to attend to, as we caught up on emails while seated in our truck. It was another unseasonably warm, sunny day with temps climbing into the 70’s. 

The sun blasted our faces entering Texas around 6:00 pm. 

How I spent a lot of our road trip... so many drive-by photos! 

For the first and only time this road trip, we decided to get a room at a motel, and as we came to the outskirts of Amarillo we saw numerous billboards advertising inexpensive motels, one after another. We passed several on a service road that paralleled I-40, and Brad finally pulled into a place called Luxury Inn and Suites. It looked local, and we thought it’d be nice to support a non-chain hotel. The friendly receptionist set us up, and after a nice chat with her we went to our room. Circling around back we parked and went in the side near the pool courtyard. Brad opened the door to our room and we were immediately disappointed to see how tired the interior looked, and my first thought was bed bugs?! There was a stained upholstered chair, and everything seemed shabby and dull. I put my stuff down gingerly, then checked the bed, pulled off the covers and peered between the mattress and headboard. I didn’t see anything crawling, but even the sheets looked grubby. Ugh… We looked in the bathroom next and saw a stained shower, dirt in the corners, totally grimy. We both agreed we had to go, although we felt a bit reluctant since the receptionist was so nice, but we just wanted to get out of there it was so uncomfortable! I’d much rather sleep in our truck! Luckily the woman voided our transaction without any trouble. When she asked why, I said it just wasn’t what we expected. She didn’t seem that dismayed we were leaving... We were so glad to be out of there! We then drove further along the service road, checked out a couple more possibilities and ended up at the Day’s Inn. This receptionist was wearing her hair up in curlers, with a bathrobe - it was Halloween and she was a “tired housewife”. The place was spotless, and just what we wanted! We were so comfortable we decided an easy dinner of pb and jam sandwiches was fine - no need to escape in search of a Texas steakhouse!  While Brad was out bringing in our food he discovered a washer and dryer for us to use down the hall - bonus! As we were checking email, Brad turned on the tv and we saw for the first time, news covering Hurricane Sandy. We were shocked and saddened to see the destruction, along with the flooded streets of Manhattan where we’d been parked just days before! We felt lucky to be out of the area, and safe in our comfortable room in Amarillo.

Friday, October 04, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 21:

Oct. 30th, 2012, Tuesday: Awake at 5:21, before our alarm, we tried to fall back asleep, but it wasn’t happening so we got up, put on our shoes, slipped out the back of the truck and spotted a line of taxis waiting on the far side of the parking lot. Quickly we moved the cooler and our two bags to the back, then zip, we were in and ready to go. 

With the help of a police officer downtown we found an Exxon on the way to the freeway and stopped for gas and mediocre coffee. Nibbling honey roasted peanuts we continued to I-40 - next stop: Memphis. 

Once there, it felt a bit like we were repeating last night, but since it was daylight the neon lights were dull and the music scene was nonexistent. We walked through a seedy mall area, with a dirty, abandoned feel, then past busses and church school students in lines, to blocked off Beale St., Memphis’s blues music hub - all quiet this morning. 

Brad popped into a souvenir shop where a friendly fella tried to sell him a compilation music cd, but Brad just wanted postcards. We walked around, he took photos, and luckily we were pretty quick. 

After checking the menu, we went inside Automatic Slim’s for lunch - an upscale looking spot off the main drag. On the menu was a make-your-own-salad list - we chose: heart of romaine, spinach, tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, goat cheese, parmesan crisps and real bacon bits with a creamy avocado dressing along with a bowl of gumbo to share. Both were delish. After lunch, Brad drove to Sun Studio for a quick tour. 

Then it was back to the freeway entrance and over the Mississippi River into Arkansas! 

Time for some backroad exploring as we exited onto hwy. 64. 

At Bald Knob we hopped onto I-67. It was lined with thick groves of trees - a pretty backlit corridor, but we couldn’t see anything beyond. At Beebe we turned back onto hwy. 64 and continued west to Conway. This area had lots of ranches, and was greener than the east side of the state.  At Conway we again got on I-40 and zoomed through the rest of Arkansas. Most of the day was sunny, but the further west we drove clouds started piling up, creating cool patterns and textures in the sky. We pulled off into a vineyard driveway for a snack break and to take some cloud photos. 

While there we studied the map and decided to get a camp spot just over the Oklahoma border. 

We turned off at Sallisaw exit and drove through town towards Brushy Lake Park

It was an amazingly warm evening - probably over 60ยบ and the light turned the trees and lake gold with the glow of the setting sun. 

This campground was lovely, and we picked a site right by the lake. Soon after, a couple came up carrying cocktails, happy to chat with us---pretty much the only other visitors at this park. They’d also just arrived - traveling from Arizona. After a bit of a visit they walked on and I tried to capture some quick photos of the sunset over the lake. 

Soon a couple with a little boy drove up in golf cart. They were the camp hosts, there to welcome us and offer drive-up service! Cute little Conner was probably two-ish, sporting a pumpkin shirt as he wandered around with his grandma, while grandpa filled out the form and took our check - only $15 with electric hook-up too. We plugged in our chargers, set up camp and I worked on uploading pics. While eating a salad and pb & j we heard the rush of wings as a big bird flew over us in the twilight - an owl? A hoot off in the distance confirmed it. Bed came early after our lack of sleep in Nashville - it was blessedly quiet here, and we slept real well, only the sound of coyotes nudging us out of our dreams. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 20:

Oct. 29th, 2012, Monday: Awakening before dark we took off, back to I- 26 through Asheville then onto I-40 towards Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It was still icy cold outside, and while we were at a rest area close to the National park it snowed! It was a good day for fuzz boots and wool sweaters. We drove 23/74/441 through the town of Cherokee, stopping at a little park shelter out of the cold drizzle to make coffee with cocoa along the riverfront. 

Continuing to the Park entrance we discovered it was closed because of snow! Six inches had fallen and another five were predicted that night. So disappointing! While there we wandered the grounds and saw the cool historic farm buildings while chickens roamed around.

Then back through Cherokee, where we took the road through Maggie Valley and Dalewood - up to the top of the pass and into the snow! 

So pretty to see the deciduous hills dusted with snow! 

Onward to 276, then I-40 into Tennessee, where we took exit 440 to a gorgeous parkway lined with brilliant colored trees! We stopped several times, relishing the beauty. 

Once we dropped back down onto the main road to the Great Smokies from the Tennessee side the colorful leaves diminished and became fleeting from then on. Reaching Gatlinburg, we were blown away with how commercial it was. What a crazy over-the-top tourist trap! Heading to hwy. 321/441 north aiming for I-40 we hit Pigeon Forge and the turn off to Dollywood. We thought Gatlnburg was bad, but Pigeon Forge was way worse! Plastic town to the max! Giant tourist attractions everywhere! It was a relief when we turned onto 411/441 in Sevierville where the rest of of our trek to I-40 was much less bizarre! We wiggled our way thru Knoxville, following detours then hopped onto I-40 to Nashville. Brad really wanted to see Nashville, so we exited to the downtown.

Of course, like NYC it was straight up 5:00 - rush hour! Luckily most of the traffic was leaving town, but we still got caught in a bit of a rush hour tangle. We pulled into a parking lot, thinking we’d just quit driving around trying to find a street metered spot, then figured out the parking fee opting to  pay $8 for 12 hrs = 5:50 pm to 6:00 am. I joked with Brad we could sleep there and set our alarm for 5:30 - little did I know we actually would do just that! We were a couple blocks away from the heart of downtown, and since it was cold, and very windy I pulled on my warm coat, and we hiked downhill past the convention center.

Brad popped into a souvenir shop to look at tee shirt designs, then started talking to the shop guy about vintage clothes shops in town. He was very helpful, and gave Brad directions to several. I asked where the best barbecue was and he said just up the block at Jack’s. We left and immediately turned back towards where we’d just walked from to find a shop he’d mentioned. He’d suggested taking a taxi, but we knew we could walk it after wandering all over NYC. It was a bit of a hike, across a long bridge over a railroad area but finally we found the shop called Two Old Hippies. While Brad looked for cool western shirts, I received permission to shoot any photos I wanted of the place. 

With our purchases in a bag, we headed back downtown, ready for a good meal. Hello Jack’s BBQ! 

After dinner we wandered in and out of several bars, each with a band playing live music and no cover charge. 

We finally settled at Bootleggers Inn where a fun bluegrass band played. 

When they finished for the night, we bought a cd then walked slowly back to our truck. 

Not having a chance to explore the city in the daylight, we decided the parking lot was the best sleeping choice, so we quickly put our cooler and bags in front then climbed into bed, fully clothed and tried to sleep. Not too long after we settled garbage trucks arrived - I think they emptied 50 dumpsters nearby! Then wind gusts shook the truck making me think we might blow away as a soda can rattled and rolled across the parking lot… Was Hurricane Sandy causing a ruckus in Nashville too? 

Monday, September 09, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 19:

Oct. 28th, 2012, Sunday:  Brad and I crawled out of the truck at the rest area the next morning and as we walked back from the restroom we noticed people sleeping in cars on either side of us. Wonder if they slept any better than we did? 

We took off after sips of apple juice, pulling out a banana and mandarin to eat on way. We exited at Roanoke Virginia and drove the strip, not seeing any good coffee shops. Looking for gas also, we drove into Salem, a suburb of Roanoke. Gas was only 3.16/gal, the least expensive we’d seen so far! While Brad was pumping gas I noticed a nearby Starbucks. Soon we were sitting in our truck, sipping our beverages and logging onto their wifi to check up on a few things - one of which was to see if I could find a replacement for my work shift at the gallery the coming week. 


Back on I-81, we spotted towering Kudzu covered trees that looked like giant monsters!  

We stopped at the Tennessee border info center for a little break then kept going, watching 100’s of power bucket trucks and semi’s hauling what looked like huge generators, heading north towards where Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit.   

We veered south onto I-26 across the Tennessee Appalachians then dropped into Asheville North Carolina around 2:00. 

Brad was excited to see so many cool signs in town as we drove around looking for a spot to park. For the first time on our trip we encountered poor weather. It was raining and icy cold out. My thin rain jacket did not keep me warm while we tromped around town pausing while Brad stopped often to shoot pics of signs. I kept thinking we’d warm up, but it was just way too cold and windy compared to the tee shirt weather we’d enjoyed. 

Finally we went inside an old Woolworth store which had been converted into artist booth spaces. It was great to be out of the rain.  

When we left there the rain had diminished so we continued our trek around the downtown area, me a bit less cold and grumpy, content to read menus outside restaurants while Brad collected sign photos. 

Eventually we worked our way back to where we’d parked and I happily traded my thin rain jacket for my down coat. We had dinner at Scully’s pub and hung out there for a couple of hours, once we discovered they had wifi. We sat at a table beyond the bar where excited patrons were watching football. 

A hot bowl of jerk chicken chili diminished our inner frost, while sipping a martini (me) and beer (Brad) chased away any lingering ice! Our waitress was darling, very friendly and real, and her favorite reply was “okey-dokey” as she brought our sandwiches and sweet potato fries. After leaving Scully’s we drove across town, looking for gas and trying to figure where to sleep that night. The rain had stopped and we could see the moon through light cloud cover. We took off south towards a campground we spotted on our map on North Mills River road where we pulled into a campsite in the dark. Since it was still so icy cold I ended up going to sleep wearing my down jacket beneath our two quilts.