Monday, May 28, 2007

The Last Word....

Thank you all for reading. The above is a Lensbaby capture from the fortune cookie at the Japanese Steakhouse in Amarillo. (Why does a Japanese Steakhouse have fortune cookies? Why doesn't Neil carry a macro lens?)

The lessons of a roadtrip like this are great. For once, you forget whether "you" are a red state, or a blue state, or a proponent of big government or small; you get to ignore all the little stuff that divides us in this country and concentrate on the wondrous beauty that unites us (not to mention the miles of Interstates.) You get an amazing appreciation for how rich we on the coasts are (in so many ways) because of the folks in the interior.

When we get to look at the big picture, it becomes very easy to solve our problems. I'm a little sorry I didn't do this roadtrip when I was 18 or 20. I certainly recommend that every other 18 year old out of high school takes this trip before college. Or, even better, I hope they get to spend 10 months with Americorps and learn about how to fix the stuff that's really important. (See? Nothing has changed except my perspective. How cool is that? Neil is shaking his head. He used to do sit-ins at nuclear plants because they had no emergency evacuation plans. He knows stuff I don't.)

But, better late than never. Or certainly better now than before the rest of Route 66 disappears into history. So you, too, get hip to this timely tip and make that California trip.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The End of the Road

This is it. This is what we drove over 2,500 miles for. (I have the exact number, Avis lot to Avis lot, but I wrote it on one of the 66 maps, and stuck that inside the atlas, which Sherry stuffed into our checked baggage.)

This is the brass plaque at the foot of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue in Palisade Park dedicated to Will Rogers. Dedicated in 1952, I might add, just as US Route 66 was about to be tossed into the trashbin of American cartography.

Down and across Illinois we drove, across the Mississippi to Missouri, nicking Kansas the way your razor does when the blade gets too dull. Through Oklahoma to slice across the chunky top part of Texas. (Why do they call that a panhandle, anyway?) Straight across the deserts of New Mexico (USA) and Arizona (MST), across the Colorado River into California (where there actually was a Time Zone sign, not that it mattered, as Arizona doesn't observe Daylight time, so nothing changed) and down into Santa Monica, the land of tall, spindly trees that cast no shade, and this is what we found:

I guess all that's left for me to say, after 2598 miles and 103 gallons of gas is: I never met a road I didn't like.

Tee Pees are Tip-Top

This is the second (or first, depending upon the direction you travel in) WigWam motel on 66, and Sherry is happy to report they are spotless. The proprietors were gracious enough to allow us access to one, as well as the grounds. Of course, I’m sure they get a lot of yahoos like us (or a fair number, at least) stopping in to see what these are like, so perhaps the teepee we saw is kept pristine for PR purposes only. Whatever, Sherry said she’d stay there, given the chance. Of course, Rialto, California is less than 20 miles from downtown LA, so it never could have been on our schedule, given the location. But we had to stop and look anyway.

They are very nice; double bed, TV, bathroom with shower, A/C (or ‘refrigerated air’, in road motel parlance) Gideon Bible and all. Plus a pool. (Not in the room, of course.)

Other than these, 66 through California has little to offer in the way of sights; the haze in the air takes care of that. Even the desert was more pleasant to look at, I'm afraid. (Apologies to our California friends. We love you, we just can’t stand the southern part of your state. If it’s any consolation, we’re not that fond of the southern portion of our state, either, which is why we’re eventually headed to Vermont.)

There are bits and pieces of the original road to be seen on either side of the byway from Barstow to Santa Monica, a few decent neon signs and some abandoned motels and gas stations, but the early morning blue sky quickly turns into the late-morning gray haze which lasts the whole day, following us all the way to the Santa Monica Pier.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Metapost: ANYONE May Comment

I've just changed the settings, and registering is no longer necessary to leave a comment. Sorry about that, we didn't realize we could do that.

So comment away!

The Amboy Crater

Designated a National Natural Monument in 1975, and administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the Amboy Crater is the 250 foot high near-perfect cinder cone of a volcano whose most recent activity was a mere 500 years ago. Visible for miles, as it's the only thing rising from the floor of the Mojave Desert on this stretch of 66 between Needles and Ludlow, California, we figured we may as well drive the dirt road for a closer look. What the hell, it's not our car.

There's a parking lot, some (wisely) shaded picnic tables, two latrines, and the lookout point from which I made this shot. Oh, yeah, and 24 square miles of lava fields.

According to the marker near the heads, it's about a three hour hike out to the cone, up the summit and back. Unfortunately, Sherry was wearing her Crocs (see the entry below: Such a Fine Sight to See) and we'd left the 128-ounce economy-sized tube of sunblock back in New York, so we decided to take a pass on the hike. I did sign the guest book, however. We were the only visitors there today, though someone else was there the day before, when it was a balmy 102 degrees.

Raising Arizona

Elevation 3550 feet, this is the scene looking east from Shaffer's Fishbowl Springs, about a mile before Sitgreave's Pass. This winding two-lane is Oatman Highway, which twists and turns its way through the Arizona gold country west of Kingman. If Sherry had known the type and condition of this part of the road, she'd never have let me have the wheel today.

With perhaps a grand total of 300 feet of actual guardrail along approximately 15 miles of steep, winding switchbacks, this is probably the most treacherous part of the entire trip. So naturally it falls to the guy with the lousy depth perception to keep his boat of a Chrysler Pacifica from tumbling down the cliffs.

Hmmm..."It falls to..." Bad choice of words.

You Can't Choose Your Family....

The name of this lovely creature on the left is Postosuchus Kirkpatricki. Early explorers of the southwest came out here and discovered....the Irish, apparently.

Note to Jackie: Arizona is not a swamp. If you would consider re-retiring to Arizona, I would visit you.

Such a Fine Sight to See.

Standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona. Because she insisted. (Note: Her sense of fashion is on vacation, too. It's in Buffalo this week.)

You Lookin at ME? (Part I)

There's nobody else here...

You Lookin' at ME? (Part II) you must be lookin' at me.

It's a Big Desert. I Wouldn't Want to Paint It

Forget what she says below about a 'drop of several hundred feet'. More like a foot-and-a-half to the other side of the wall. And I kept myself behind the signs that read 'Closed beyond this sign'. And I didn't take anything out of the park, save for my trash, and a couple of burrs that got caught on my pant leg.

But she is getting better with the camera. I may even teach her how to select a focus point in-camera, but the Rebel requires one to hold a button whilst moving the command dial, and she's got these tiny little fingers.

This shot of the Painted Desert includes our friend from above. This is also a candidate for printing when we get home.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What Part of "Closed Beyond the Rail" Do You Have Trouble With?

Neil said this was well-composed. I zoomed, focused on him, then reframed with him on the left so I could get the scenery. Click. I'm surprised I got the photo at all because my knees were shaking what with him standing on the rail overlooking a several hundred foot drop into the painted desert.

Not funny. Not funny at all. All he says is "So don't look." The peanut gallery is not amused with the things he does to take a photo and how oblivious he is to the universe around him while he IS taking a photo. However, he was wearing sunblock, so I forgive him.

Otherwise, we had a lovely day on Route 66, Petrified Forest National Park (which includes the Painted Desert) and dinner in Flagstaff.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere....

...and digital cameras, too. Which is why this shot won't be in Friday's Albuquerque Journal. Partly because it occurred to me too late to call the city desk, but mostly because everyone and his brother has a digital camera.

We were on 4th Street in Bernalillo, coming back from Santa Fe this afternoon, when traffic started backing up. Took us about ten minutes to get to the intersection causing the problem, which you can clearly see above. The police had blocked the cross traffic, and after we got through I pulled over and went back to the scene. Some roadwork was being done, and apparently a backhoe hit a high-pressure water main, causing this beautiful geyser.

I got a couple of shots, and as I was leaving, suggested to one of the cops that, rather than keeping the traffic back, they should just let them through, and charge them two bucks a head for a car wash. (It reminded me of my days driving around the Bronx, and how nice it was to find an open hydrant where I could get a one-sided car wash for free.)

Alas, I called the paper too late: as the city editor explained, they had some shots from the cops, the construction crew, and one of their own photographers got there as well. "But, hey, if you ever see anything else good, give us a call."

Damned digital cameras. Everybody thinks they're news photographers.

(Coda: The next day's paper not only had no pictures, there wasn't even a mention of the event.)

Veni, Vidi, Emi

Guess who went shopping in Santa Fe today? The town is much smaller than we anticipated. Albuquerque is a far larger city. But it's plenty impressive as the oldest capital city in the union (founded 1610.)

Since I couldn't resist, I picked up a Real Estate Book for the area...only to discover that we would all live in very large pueblo mansions out here. Sigh.

We wandered the town square, which, like Albuquerque is the center of the Old Town, home to a zillion art museums and native jewelry, furniture, artwork stores & galleries.

There isn't much of old 66 on this alternate loop. We saw a few yards of Original Crispy, which is the name we've given to the oldest pink pavement, sometimes visible to the side of whatever blacktop we're on. But the motels on Cerillos Rd, 66 in Santa Fe, are neither closed nor deteriorating. They're perfectly maintained working "Motor hotels" with "100% Refrigerated Air" and "TVs in Every Room".

Coming back into Albuquerque we dined at the Route 66 Diner, one of those magnificient deco buildings remodeled into a 50's diner (black and white tile undercounter, turquoise faux leather booth seats and stools, shiny pressed tin backsplash) paying homage to Route 66. They make old fashioned thick shakes and serve half a dozen types of pie.

Too perfect.

Coda: Marriott IS a Good Idea.

Not what one needs to see at the end of a long day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We've Been From Tucson to Tucumcari...

Okay, so we've really been from Tulsa to Tucumcari, so never mind. It makes for a cleaner headline. But how could I resist shooting the Blue Swallow Motel, Route 66, Tucumcari, with its color-coordinated Chevy BelAir parked in front? (Now if I can just get the chorus of 'Willing' out of my head.)

New Mexico, USA

Yes, it seems that we Americans are so stupid that the New Mexico DMV actually has to put 'USA' on their license plates, lest the other 49 think the Land of Enchantment is a colony of our neighbor to the south.

It makes me wonder if the New Mexico governor and current presidential candidate will feel the need to change his name to Bill Ricardoson, just so everyone will quit wondering why the guy with the WASPy surname is always referred to as the 'Hispanic' candidate.

(Will) Arroyo Rogers

Since New Mexico is the last of the states we're passing through that we've never set foot in before, I figured a few pictures (and another Will Rogers pun) are in order.

This shot and the one above help illustrate the transition from flat, flat Texas to the gulches and mesas of New Mexico as the landscape falls and rises at about the same geographic point just west of the state and time zone lines.

Eldorado Fins, Baby, Whitewalls and Skirts...

...real cowhide leather optional. Although it's been a long, long time since any of these things rode just like a little bit of heaven here on earth.

This place is neat. Even the cattle were a nice touch, though after enough people arrived they decided they'd had enough, and retreated to a safe distance. And at 9:45 or so, we were early enough that the light was still good, although being at the far end of the Central time zone helped as well. Which reminds me, I'm going to need to reset the time once more on the cameras to stay current. There aren't many signs on the backroads designating state lines (Texas was the exception) and I think a more important item would be a time zone change sign. It wasn't till we got here in Albuquerque that I realized we were in Mountain time. And that was only because I came out to get the phone I left in the car and saw the time on the dash clock was an hour behind the phone. No matter, since I can't keep track whether or not the east coast is ahead or behind us anymore. Five days in a car with your spouse will do that to you, though Sherry swears I'm befuddled purely as a defense mechanism.

Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque....

Greetings from New Mexico! We left Amarillo bright and early this morning and started the day at The Cadillac Ranch, dodging cow patties, heifers, and empty spray paint cans. Have we mentioned how lucky we've been timing-wise? Every restaurant we enter is empty when we come in and packed as we leave; our light's been good; the Caddys were unmolested by others (save for the cattle,) enabling us to take our photos and be on our merry way. It's all good.

The road to Albuquerque didn't contain much that wasn't I-40 frontage EXCEPT a stretch that went off through a ghost town into unpaved territory. Neil and I both acknowledged that we'd probably never been so far off the beaten path in our lives before and it was weird, wonderful and a little bit scary. Of course, what seemed like forever in a sedan would be far more tolerable in a pickup. It was probably about 20 miles in reality. Very cool.

Albuquerque itself is a rockin' city. We had dinner this evening in Old Town, a square around which a 300 year old adobe church and equally ancient houses (now restaurants) are arranged. Very lovely. Very tourista. Route 66 here is less about the old motels and more about maintaining (and improving) some fabulous deco architecture. It goes all through Albuquerque as Central Avenue and it has as much neon as they can load onto one street.

Tomorrow is a 'north loop' alternate 66 day for us. We're driving 60 miles north to Santa Fe to be artsy. Then we head on out of town to Flagstaff, AZ on Friday morning.

I could park here for a good long while.

The Road goes ever on and on....

Down from the place where it began;
Now farther on the road has gone and I must follow if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.--JRRTolkien

I thought you might want another picture of the "road" proper. This is "sidewalk 66"...a stretch back in eastern Oklahoma characterized by the original sidewalk framing. Only 8 feet wide and uncomfortable to pass. It's one of a series of original detours travelers are encouraged to take in the official map set. Neil has neglected to mention that the map set was created by a well-intentioned insane person. Impossible to read; impossible to follow. But what choice is there? He's done the research figuring out where the original road went. And he is faithful to it in the extreme. What he is not faithful to is the English language.

Today we jog left and Y right from Amarillo to Albuquerque...about 320 miles as goes the interstate. Oh, never mind. Belay my last. It's a straight run.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Welcome to Texas. Want Some Sushi?

Well, we crossed into Texas at (wait a minute, lemme check the EXIF data, ah yes) 2:30 PM Central time today. As you can see, the road surface noticeably changes from well-worn to simply worn at this point. And slightly pinker, perhaps. Other than that, the only difference between Texas and the preceding three states is that Texas is, if it is at all possible, flatter than Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and the proverbial twelve-year-old girl combined. (But not the twelve-year-old girls in Texas, if you know what I mean.) Texas makes Missouri seem like Vermont. And Texas makes twelve-year-old girls seem like Anna Nicole Smith. (Wait a minute, Texas made Anna Nicole. Never mind, bad analogy.)

But we're making good time, and we're spending very little of it on the interstate. In fact, we probably spent more time driving back and forth on I-40 in Amarillo late this afternoon looking for tonight's Marriott, thanks in part to a four-inch square map from the hotel's website, and slightly cockeyed city planning.

Historic 66 isn't as well marked here as it is in other states, but it runs pretty much alongside I-40 most of the way across the panhandle. What's really bizarre is that for most of those stretches it's a 55 MPH road, and, in parts, goes to 65! Imagine doing 65 on your favorite stretch of worn down two lane blacktop, no shoulder, just a small gully on either side. I think Sherry was eyeballing those two way-back seats for this part of the ride. (Yup. My day to drive!)

So with that, as well as being the only vehicle on the damn thing for long runs (I swear, there was one point where no cars were coming in the opposite direction for an hour or more) we were in the interesting position of pacing the tractor-trailers for miles at a time.

So we're at the Amarillo Marriott Courtyard tonight, and had dinner at the Kabuki Japanese Steakhouse across the parking lot. A Bennihana-type place, though we skipped the grillside performance for a regular table. And again, we independently decided on the same thing, the steak and chicken combo. (Only after she politely turned down the offer to try the sushi, that is. Sushi in Texas? Who'da thunk?) (Note from Sherry: I got veggies!!!)

Oh, one other thing: This satellite radio has got to have its own built-in GPS or something, since we left OK City tuned to the Broadway channel with Bonnie's dad singing about that beautiful morning and the fancy horse cart with the fringe and all, but after we hit the land of flat, not a peep from R&H.

Not. A. Peep.

So Maybe Marriott WAS a Good Idea...Part I

The beds are a lot more comfortable than in some of the other roadside dives...

So Maybe Marriott WAS a Good Idea...Part II

...but this place had none of those artificial flowers, nope, these are real. (And no worries about my hair clogging the drains.

Photography Lesson #3, Food, The Worst Second Act

It serves me right for going to sleep. No NPR. This car is an NPR-free zone. USA Today will give Neil all the news he needs. Actually, I'm a big fan of driving in silence and appreciating the beautiful landscape. Because lemme tell ya, Oklahoma is gorgeous. But radio silence would never occur to the dear boy, and filling the time with pleasant conversation is even less likely.

It is as windy as advertised, with long, lush green plains broken up by bouffant trees and super-rich chocolate dirt, ranch entrances and the odd angus giving us the eye. It takes me longer to get out of the car and reach for the camera--especially as I was driving today, so I had to put the car in 'park' first--but I had fun shooting Neil again. In this photo he's standing in the remains of a very early, non-electric Route 66 gas station, and later counterfeiter's home. DB, in case you are wondering--and I know you are--he didn't think I was cradling the lens correctly. (Double click on this and the OKC Memorial photo for greater detail.)

As for food...I thought I was going to chronicle that. But Neil and I have become used to eating very clean and very simple at home. There is nothing in the midwest that is clean or simple. Everything I've chosen has been fairly awful. And a vegetable would be nice to see sometime. Last night we went out and determined that we would apply our approach to alcohol to the food (Alcoholic beverage = 1 ingredient + optional ice). We settled on a French dip (as beef is certainly plentiful) au jus, no cheese. These folks put cheese on EVERYTHING. Glad I brought the Met-Rx.

Which leads me to the worst second act in history....I know that I am not alone when I wish the curtain would come down after the townsfolk sing Oklahoma! and everyone could go home. Despite the amusement of hearing Oklahoma! as we entered the state, as well as Oh, what a Beautiful Morning somewhere between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, I sometimes wish that Judd would kill Curly so we could leave the theatre on a high note. But then I think of John Raitt (or Gordon McCrae, if you please) and I sigh. For some things, I'm just a Girl Who Can't Say No.

Except to you-know-who.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Oklahoma City Memorial

Most of the photographs I've seen of the Oklahoma City Memorial show the chairs, or the gates with the time 9:01 and 9:03 engraved upon them. It's a large, and very moving site. But across the street from the 9:03 gate is St. Andrew's Catholic Church, behind which is a large white statue with its back turned to the memorial site. I was curious, and we crossed the street for a better look.

I'm not a religous person, but I have respect for people's faith. I make fun of religous practices a lot, but being a former parochial school boy, I feel a bit entitled. And I liked this statue; when I saw it I realized that with his back to the scene was the strongest way it could be portrayed. And I hope my picture relays that power.

But I'm also a student of trivia, and if there's one thing I know about the Bible, it's what the shortest passage is: 'Jesus wept.' (John 11:35). So it annoys me a bit that this statue is titled "And Jesus Wept". I think just the two words would have more impact, but what do I know.

Maybe Jesus is really crying about the fact that he needs two security cameras watching over him 24/7?

(Will Rogers) and Hammerstein

Missouri is flat, and Kansas is quick and painless. If I were a politician, I'd say the road was gerrymandered into Kansas, and I seem to recall that that just may be true. I'll have to look it up when I get home. There were a few interesting distractions along the way, the above being one of them.

I know I mentioned the car, but did I mention there's a satellite radio? Yer sir, we're seriously Sirius on this trip, and Sherry very seriously told me that if she had to listen to the NPR channels the whole way, well, this is a family blog, so I won't get into it. Suffice to say I caught part of Weekend Edition Saturday, and we heard Car Talk and Wait, Wait... on Sunday. Then she discovered that there's a Broadway channel, and a Sinatra channel. Now she likes the idea of satellite radio....and those two seats in the last row are looking pretty good to me...

I mention this because irony follows us, and coincidence as well. So it was of little surprise that with merely a single mile remaining in Kansas we hear..."Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains..."

It was an excellent time to stop for gas.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This is brilliant....something else I can do to annoy him!

I finally had my photography lesson this morning. It wasn't pretty, but I've got the four part setup: zoom, focus, re-frame, click. And that's been my happy mantra all day. Zoom, focus, re-frame click. Zoom, focus, reframe, click. What I hadn't counted on is how much fun it is to aim the camera at Fats! Oh, I missed many times; and I had the wrong camera and I was holding it wrong and I faced the wrong way and all that stuff I did wrong, wrong, wrong.

But I've been doing stuff wrong for as long as we've been married. So I'm perfectly content to do this wrong too. This is exciting because now we can prove that he exists. And he's wearing sun block.

If The River Was Whisky...

...would this be the town's water tower? I dunno, but with a name like this, I'd live there in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, save for this, an abandoned restaurant, a run-down (but still open) motel's neon sign, and a tumbledown shack, there really isn't much of interest for an abandonment freak like myself to revel in along 66 in Missouri. Even seeing the stretches of overgrown pavement along the shoulder is getting boring. What this trip has done, and will do, is let me add some new states to the list of places I've been to. I've never been to Missouri or New Mexico, or Kansas even. And I've only been to Texas and Illinois if you want to count changing planes at O'Hare and DFW.

So by the time this trip is over I will have been to 22 of the nifty fifty, if the count that Sherry and I did over dinner is correct. (She's been to a few more than I; Idaho, for example. She was skiing.)

Of course, we were hard-pressed to come up with the names of all fifty states during that pre-entree session; even with a piece of paper we could only name about 46. Just this moment I remembered Montana.

Okay, 47.

Anyone want to give it a shot?

Of course I'll have pancakes with that...

We had way too much breakfast on Watson (Rte 66) in St. Louis this morning. And after that breakfast, Neil and I didn't even think of eating until 7pm. in Joplin. Let's just say, you can get pancakes with anything in St. Louis. And there's no such thing as a "small plate".

It was lovely to see Barry, as it happens all too infrequently these days. But it was all good. And we got to see his newly remodeled kitchen and little pooch, Goose. On the way to breakfast, we had a lovely tour of Forest Park (location of the 1904 World's Fair and a really pretty park.) And after breakfast, we continued on Watson toward the "frontage" road that is the part of Rte 66 that hasn't been torn up or become part of I44 directly.

Now for the sad news....while Missouri has been kind enough to put Historic Route 66 markers along the path, there's really nothing left of Route 66 in the entire state. As a matter of fact, Joplin looks like a newly minted penny with its brand new malls, new hotel rooms and new restaurants. There were a few yards of original road to be seen in the western part of the state. But even the legacy cabins and motels mentioned in the late 1990's guidebook are no longer there. History has marched on. The stuff we call progress looks really really scary.

...and I'll be your Tootsie Wootsie

The Chain of Rocks bridge, the Route 66 way into St. Louis, is closed to all but pedestrians. And, forgive the fading light, but it was 7 pm and we were traveling across the Mighty Miss. on I55 into downtown St. Lou; The stadium was quiet...the Cardinals must be playing on the road.

Neil took this from the car as we rode by.

I feel compelled to supply proof of our passing. How this supplies it is anyone's guess. But it's quite large and, coming in from the northeast as we did, it's the first thing that becomes visible from 15 miles out.

They must really like their McDonalds out here.

Oh Captain, My Captain...

Passing through the Land of Lincoln requires paying respects, of course. The Lincoln Tomb is very lovely...not too overdone, and surrounded by one of the loveliest cemeteries I've seen in awhile. And for me, it HAS been awhile, since, unlike my husband, I don't make it a habit of wandering boneyards in search of amusement. Anyway, Lincoln is entombed in a gallery with Mary Todd and young Tad and Willy in the wall across. Robert, who lived to adulthood (and a ripe old age) is buried elsewhere. There's a bronze bust of Lincoln in front with his nose rubbed shiny from visitors....for luck? How lucky was Lincoln? Really, people, think hard on this one.

The Tomb closes at 5...and we pulled into Springfield promptly at 4:35. Unfortunately, the loo gets locked at 4 pm. Go figure.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Giant Fiberglass Spaceman

If anything makes me nostalgic for the early days of the space program, it would have to be giant fiberglass representations of astronauts in the middle of Illinois. Especially when they're wearing short-sleeved spacesuits. (Hey, it gets hot in Illinois!)
That's my bride there, knee-high to a spaceman. I should mention here that she's now missed two lessons from the Monkey Island School of Photography; We were supposed to go over the camera on the plane, but I fell asleep. Tonight was our second chance, but right now she's across the room, sawing logs.
But more on this picture. The 'Gemini Giant' stands in the parking lot of the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, as charming a place as there is for corn dogs and burgers. Apparently built to honor the Gemini space program, he holds what looks to be a replica of 'Little Boy', the bomb that wiped out Nagasaki in World War Two. I have no idea what relation that has to the space program, nor can I figure out a connection between the space program, Wilmington, Illinois, greasy corn dogs and the fact that, if he's the Gemini Giant, why is there only one of him?

We Found It!

Pushing up daisies beside itself, that is the actual pavement of Route 66 you see up there. The original Route 66, not to be confused with "old" Route 66 (to the right, which is really the newer road) nor to be confused with Interstate 55 (to the left, with the tractor-trailer rumbling by). This is the original road. The first almost coast-to-coast highway. The first federally-funded ribbon of concrete across the country.

Now, If I could just get a decent cappucino somewhere...

Illinois is flat. Really, really, flat. Grain elevators pierce the horizon, and that's about it. We covered 300 miles from O'Hare this afternoon. Finally got ourselves a car (First they offered a Caravan, then a PT Cruiser, finally got a Chrysler Pacifica. Seven passenger version, so we can pick up plenty of hitchhikers along the way.)

We also did about two-thirds of the driving on 66. (Hey, 2/3rds, 66, ironic, no?) After leaving Chicago we got onto IL53 which is what 66 is currently known as, went through Joliet and Elwood, then stopped for a bite to eat at the Launching Pad in Wilmington.
(At this point I hope you're reading this from the bottom up, because I can't add pictures in the middle of my text. So the next entry is a continuation of this one...)

Friday, May 18, 2007

That Toddlin' Town...

Whoo hoo! Vacation's all I ever wanted! This was one of those long weeks---where I was so busy I couldn't even read all the stuff on my Outlook Calendar. I'm fairly certain I have a spouse around here somewhere...but I haven't seen him lately. Ah well...there'll be plenty of enforced togetherness on the open road.

We are packed and arranged and organized and loaded with maps, confirmations, vitamins and Met-Rx. The kitties are looking fairly nervous because they've seen this movie and it usually bodes ill for them for a week. Not that they suffer. Sharon is among the greatest of cat sitters. But 'Dad' is special. 'Dad' is hands on all the time--brushing, stroking, sharing a lap, sharing a bed, sharing a pillow, sharing a well-salted egg. 'Dad', in short, rocks. Me, I'm looking for that fur-free bedding I mentioned a few posts ago.

I've supplied the Chicago skyline because I figure that's all any of us will see of it. As you know, we're headed away from the city first thing and into Illinois toward St. Louis. If we want to spend a weekend in Chicago--that's easily done another time. I'd like to stop and photograph some of the "Giants" on the old route on the way to Abe Lincoln's house. But mostly I'm looking forward to getting on the road--any road--and heading out of Dodge.

We arrive at 11:30, grab the car and drive towards St. Louis. We plan on having breakfast with Barry Sunday morning before we head out again to Tulsa. That's when I expect (based on my reading) there's more of Route 66 to be found. We'll let you know what kind of car Avis supplies and all that good stuff.

I'm spending the week in a peasant skirt and a teeshirt...a tourista fashion statement, that's me. The joys of not knowing anyone (Well, we know Barry, but he's certainly seen me look much worse than just slovenly...and he won't say anything nasty behind our backs. Bless his little cotton socks, he'll say it right to my face.) Neil will remain in uniform. This way we can pack in one bag plus our carry-ons. When he was single, Neil used to travel with all his rattiest clothes and just discard them along the way after he'd worn them. A model of efficiency that boy.

Town car picks us up at 7:15 am. Then we toddle off to Chicago....And why is it toddling, anyway? For that matter, why does one shuffle to Buffalo? These and other questions...are pointless. Have a great week everyone! Be sure to post! Mwah!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rebel, Rebel....How could they know?

Originally, I had thought to blog about remembering to bring sun block for Neil...mostly because I nag really really well and it's about what you'd expect from me. But no, my dearies, not today. Today I blog because I am proud to announce that I have achieved Jimmy Olsen status after these many years. (Of course it may mean I get to carry the camera bag. I think he married me because there truly aren't many women who are strong enough to carry his camera bag...)

I'm pleased to report that I will be carrying the Canon EOS Rebel to document the photographer as he documents. Yessiree. Time to turn the tables on the tall guy and show him what it really feels like to be photographed before you've put on your airbrushing. He has one week to teach me everything I need to know about the little buttons and switches (Sherry: Computers A, Telephony B-, Photography C) Then I go to town. Which is probably doubly exciting because, while Neil is off capturing the "real America", I owe it to you guys to chronicle all the BBQ we eat, all the smiling faces we meet (that's before they figure out that we're from New York) and all the stuff that I want to write home about, but won't be interesting enough for Fats to chronicle. (Having to conserve his 60GB worth of portable storage, of course.)

I also think it's high time that someone start really cataloguing him doing his thing anyway, because it's fairly cool. Oh, perhaps not the time we stood for 45 minutes in a field off the side of a road waiting for all the cows to be facing in our direction (and they did, and we have the proof); but it may be important in that 'how can we show the world that he is suffering for his craft' way. There's that famous shot of Margaret Bourke-White hanging off a gargoyle on the side of the Chrysler Building. Maybe I could capture one of those. I certainly can't remember any of her photos as well as I remember that one of her. And I'm sure I could get a really good close up of Neil just before I give him that little push....

Fats, honey, don't forget to put on sunblock every day. I'm ready for my first lesson.

(Photograph of MBW by Oscar Graubner)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Illinois is Overrated

Well, I went out and got a copy of Rand McNally's The Road Atlas 2007 (Large Scale). Right away I know a few things we won't be doing. We're not being purists about this, and so we will not be starting our journey from Lake Shore Drive and Jackson, but rather from the parking lot of the O'Hare Avis counter. Traffic around the airport is sure to be a zoo, and I'm certain that after a flight from New York the last way I'd want to start a vacation would be to drive into the heart of Chicago, only to turn around (if that's even remotely possible at that location) and drive back out. Even a driving vacation.

So we'll probably take 294 down to 55. There's a dark gray line running parallel to 55 all the way to Normal, which picks up again outside Bloomington, then seems to end just outside Springfield. At one point there was a state route designation for it: 53.

So I'm going to have to hit the EZ66 guide just to find the damned road anywhere. Now, I realize it no longer carries any official US route designation, but don't you think the nation's cartographers would point it out? It's pretty a well known road after all. It's got a song. It had a TV show. They point out where Stanley Marsh planted his Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo, and that place only got a song (and maybe a video, but that's a one-off, not like a series). But no, Randy Mac can't tell me that US 66 is SR 53 through most of Illinois, and then seems to change its number both randomly and haphazardly all the way to St. Louis. Too many numbers, guess.

So we'll most likely take 55 straight down to Springfield, then check out the Abe Lincoln boneyard. And isn't it interesting the way Illinois usurped Lincoln? Have you ever wondered, like me, what physical claim (well, okay, other than possession of his actual dead body in a crypt) Illinois has on the railsplitter from Kentucky? How did Illinois become the 'Land of Lincoln'? Land of Lincoln's grave I can understand. And that's one thing, perhaps the only thing, in Illinois I'm looking forward to.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Alright, Here are the New Pictures!

Stop the email, the phone calls, and the whispering in my ear while I sleep. I figured since were were traveling, it would be fun to use our passport pictures. Okay, time for plan B. So, here are the new pictures of us. The approved pictures.

These were taken by myself (in the case of Sherry) and Mr. Unknown (in the case of me). Devon's Bar Mitzvah was the setting for this, as noted in the caption, happy time.

So, how'd I do? Jackie? Sharon? Sherry?


Friday, May 4, 2007

Marriott Loves Me, So I Can Ignore the Green Carpet

I've just returned from Burlington, Ottawa, Atlanta, (insert city here), where Marriott made me feel welcome. They love me, so I've promised to ignore their decor. They give me extra foam pillows, a fridge in my room, access to the concierge lounge and, in Burlington, a stash of hard boiled eggs and water. (I've got a buddy on the room service staff.) My points give me free nights so I can impress my Dad (Mom: Oh my, did you see what they get for this room per night? It's posted on the back of the door!) And if they can, they upgrade me to a suite when I arrive. Why they think I need the extra space is anybody's guess. I lived in a 500 square foot studio in Manhattan. Regular hotel rooms are usually larger. Do you know that they offer me up to 10 keys for my room when I check in? I asked for 7 in Ottawa just to see if I could get a reaction at the front desk. Not a raised eyebrow.

Anyway, we arrive in Chicago on Saturday the 19th, and we are booked into the St. Louis Marriott, the Tulsa Marriott, (do you think they have a concierge lounge in Tulsa?), the Oklahoma City Marriott, the Amarillo Marriott, the Albuquerque Marriott and the Flagstaff Marriott. It's a pretty fair bet that there's no concierge lounge in Flagstaff. No afternoon wine and cheese, I guess.

I've tried to explain to Neil that we don't have to keep all the reservations. We don't have to keep any of them, actually. But I like having them there. I like knowing there's consistency at the end of my day when I open the door and face the ugly green carpet and the bizarre smelling orange/ginger bath products that say "Welcome back, Ms. Finkelmurphy, er Finkel Murray, uh, Mrs. Finkel, Ms. Murphy."

In a poor imitation of the Westin, Marriott has gone with the white on white bed linens. I'm sort of uncomfortable with those. I keep looking for cat hair and it isn't there. But I enjoy piling up 14 or so pillows plus a giant neckroll to sleep with. Neil won't sleep well there. He doesn't sleep well unless he has his four little buddies curled up to him. Maybe I'll go outside and find a lizard in the desert for him to curl up with if he's lonely.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mr. The-glass-is-half-empty, It Can't be Done

Oh for goodness' sake. Last night I drove 230 miles, on time, on target, through the greater New York Metropolitan area and I arrived at my destination in 3:45. If we have 8 hours of daylight after we land at O'Hare, I'm certain one can cover the distance between Chicago and St. Louis. 300 miles. Last week I drove 500 miles in 8 hours. It's May. I have ordered up excellent weather. It will be good, damn it!

What's more, you can try to kid these people, but you've been getting upgrades on Marriott points and frequent flyer miles for years--a perk not found at roadside dives. But far be it from me to spoil your fun. Drop me off at the Marriott and stay where you choose. I sure hope they take credit cards.

At some point, I'll post our itinerary so you can check the Marriott website to see which of their properties have spontaneously combusted.

Finally, that is not my photo. I don't look like that. It's not my nose, hair and certainly not my burgeoning jowels (when did THOSE happen?). I am tall and blonde. Go ahead. I dare ya. (For that matter, Mr. Willie-Nelson-wanna-be doesn't look like that either. )

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

T Minus 24 - Countdown

I’ve added the other interstate shields under the Route 66 one for an important reason. While we intend to follow Route 66 for this trip, more often than not we’ll be following it from the interstate. See, we’ve only got eight days, and most of what I’ve read about driving this road is that two weeks is "rushing it". Or so they say. At any rate, it’s not an interstate, which means it won’t be as smooth, and we can’t go as fast as we could on a modern road.

I mention this only because our first day’s drive has to be from Chicago to St. Louis. I’m not sure what time we land at O’Hare, but traveling two-thirds the length of Illinois, then all the way to the Mississippi looks like it could be eight hours on a good road. Making diversionary trips (the whole point of this exercise) will only add to the time.

Not that I mind, mind you. It’s just that due to the circumstances regarding our lodging we need to avoid straying too far from the beaten path.

Or the nearest Marriot. I’m married to a Jewish girl, you know. If you thought for a moment that we’d be tumbling into whichever motel up ahead has a buzzing ‘vacancy’ sign, then you don’t know who we are. Or at least who she is.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Obligatory Cat Picture

Since she mentioned Betsy, and since it seems all blogs require at least one cat photo, I will oblige. This is Betsy. And she only looks longingly at me when I'm not aiming a camera at her.

This is also a medium sized picture, though you can click on it for the full-size version, which in this case is a healthy 800 pixels across. Google runs this operation, right? Only they could give away the hosting for stuff like this, God bless 'em.....

Obligatory Cow Picture

Test post with a small photo added. Actually this is a medium sized photo. It's a cow from last year's Vermont State Fair. As do all animals, this cow was looking longingly at Neil. Sort of the way Betsy looks at Neil. Scratch that. No animal looks at Neil the way Betsy looks at Neil. Not even me.

Greetings from Neil and Sherry!

4/21/07 Just setting up the template to accommodate us in our