Sunday, May 28, 2006

Route 66: back in familiar territory

There's nothing like going away on an adventure, but then there's nothing quite like returning home, either.

Pulled back into Michigan about 2:00 this afternoon, much earlier than I had expected. I drove like hell through Nebraska and Iowa yesterday and last night, pulling off at a rest stop near Iowa City about midnight. Got up at about 7:00 and hit the road for the final stretch.

Got to grandma's just in time, too - she had made taco salad for lunch. She didn't think I'd make it back until late tonight or tomorrow (Monday) morning. Pssh. Showed her.

It feels good to be home. And it's interesting that it's 90 degrees here, because it's what I've felt since at least Wednesday.

Lots of unpacking to do, and organizing, and all that good stuff. Got my Arizona pictures developed (though the idiots didn't make the CD I asked for) - and am sharing a few extras here.

[This is at the "Cadillac Ranch" outside Amarillo, TX, where there are 10 Cadillacs buried in a field, and you can go up to them and spray paint them. I wanted to do something dramatic, so I stuck with white and black paint and painted my sort-of motto during this whole trip. Turned out nice, and the Brit bloke Rich helped me out a lot.]

I've never driven through winds like I did in Nebraska. I've never seen such beautiful mountains as I did through Colorado. And I've never seen a more breathtaking state than Utah. And those weren't even on the official "Route 66" trip - they were just extras I passed through along the way home.

Quite an experience. It hasn't sunk in yet, really - where I've gone, what I've seen, what I've been through.

When I landed in Jackson about 3:30 it really felt like I hadn't left at all, for some strange reason. Maybe because I was back in familiar territory. Who knows? But thinking to myself "I just drove home from California" seems unreal.

Did it happen?

You betcha it did.

It's good to be home.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Route 66: Fear & Parking in Las Vegas

I earned my way into California these past few days.

Tuesday night (I think - what day is it?) I would my way through the treacherous Black Mountains, on the Arizona/California border. There are no words to describe the harrowing experience, but "oh crap" will probably do. Extreme sports enthusiast jump out of planes - they should drive the two-land, narrow, cliff-diving roads through those mountains. It'll make any doomjunkie sweat.
Stayed in Needles that night, and tried to connect but the room wasn't having it. I searched all over town for a viable internet connection, but none could be found. Must have been the heat.

Yesterday I spent braving LA to the coast. Let me say that LA is the worst city on earth. Imagine a giant Detroit, with towns dissolving into each other, and a stop light at every road - EVERY ROAD! Then they put you on the snakepit that is the highway system, and I was lucky to get out alive. Luckily I get high on 85+ mph highway driving.

Made it through Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and to the Destination - Santa Monica.

The Pacific was perfect. Perfect weather, perfect breeze, and I even got soaked a time or two dipping my feet in. I made it. I trekked down the Santa Monica pier - the ultimate reward for taking a non-defunct highway across this great nation.

Last night I slept in Baker, CA, in a trucker pull-off. It's hot - it's in the Mojave Desert - so I didn't freeze last night. But camping in the car was nice. I slept like a baby.
Now I sit in an internet cafe on the strip of Las Vegas. I'm taking I-15 to I-70/80, and I thought, "Hell, why not?" So I stopped in, got burned for $8 for thirty minutes, and am now going to tackle Vegas for an hour or so. Shucks, maybe i'll win all the money I spent on this trip back. Maybe not.

I'm ready to get home. The main crux of the trip is over - the Route has been Conquered - now it's 32 hours of straight interstate. But I'll be okay - I plan to do over 12 hours of driving every day. And suprisingly, I'm not tired of driving. I guess that's why this trip made so much sense; the highway and I get along just fine.

Tried to upload pictures, but you can..'t access the drives on this damn junk PC. Tonight i hope to find a decent hotel to stay in (though I said that about last night - and didn..'t find one), so I can share pictures. I didn..'t realize it..'d be this hard to SHARE. ..n

Off to spend $20 at some casino, and take more pictures. Thanks for all your well-wishes. Should be home Sunday, as planned.
over and out,

Chances that an unprotected PC will become infected with a virus within an hour of being on the Internet:9 in 10

- Harper..'s Index, May 2006

Tried to upload pictures, but you can't access the drives on this damn junk PC. Tonight i hope to find a decent hotel to stay in (though I said that about last night - and didn't find one), so I can share pictures. I didn't realize it'd be this hard to SHARE.

Off to spend $20 at some casino, and take more pictures. Thanks for all your well-wishes. Should be home Sunday, as planned.
Updates are few and far between because some libraries actually block MySpace, those nazi bastards.

Over and out from The Strip.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Route 66: Oklahoma is OK!

Tonight I'm spoiling myself.

I just paid $60 for a night at Days Inn, about $30 more than I've paid
the last two nights. But you know what? A pool and a high-speed
internet connection is more than worth is. Besides, I can walk around
here in my undies and not have to explain myself to the authorities.

Today was spent winding through Missouri and Oklahoma. Yesterday I
met St. Louis, after a bit of a back-track spell, and the mighty
Mississippi, gateway arch and all.

Illinois paled in comparison to the beauty of Missori. The Ozarks,
the lush green forests, even the fresh smell of the state was more to
my liking. But they are not as proud of their Route 66 heritage as
Illinois and now Oklahoma are. Instead of the "Show Me State," it
should be the "Just Get Through Me State." Or the "Dave Gets Lost State," because it happened here more than anywhere else.

This morning was a bit of a scare. My gas tank was on E, and I headed
toward what I thought was a town with a gas station. Instead, it was
a group of trailers, double-wide, and an intersection. So my gas
light came on and I was getting frantic. The scenery was gorgeous, though. Swooping curves and steep hills through the mountains - and everything was steaming because of the heavy storm last night. I hit the interstate and
luckily found a station ($2.50 a gallon!) and a spot for some crappy breakfast.

Last night I stayed at the Vermelle's Motel, a route original, and met
the 40-year owner, Ed. There were only me and three other people
staying there, and I was lucky to catch it. Ed's billboard came right
before the exit, and I barely made the turn in time. And despite its
shabby appearence, the motel was clean and cozy. It even had the bug
zappers and crickets. If it wasn't for the bad thunderstorm last
night I would've slept perfect.

I cheated and took I-40 for much of Missouri, but the route ran right alongside the highway so I didn't feel so bad. Hell, I just wanted to get to another state, as pretty as Missouri was. I got a bit lost around Springfield, but used my maps and found my way back to the route, and headed into Kansas. Kansas lasted all of about 15 minutes, and then it was Oklahoma.

If Missouri was a jewel, and Illinois was a slab, Oklahoma is more
like a really pretty stone (just go with me on this one). Sure, it's
flat and farm-rich and really warm, but it's also pretty in its own
way. It has some of the hills and scenery, and some longer stretches
where it's just you and the road. I zoomed past Tulsa and ate in
Bristow, where I met two farmers - Bill and Bob - who were very nice
to talk to and my only real source of conversation so far. They were
cotton farmers, and knew all the ins and outs of the route. What's funny is they seemed just as pleased to talk to me as I did with them.

I left Bill and Bob around 8:30, and it started getting dark. I wound
my way around to I-44 and decided to hop on to find somewhere to stay
for the night. Oklahoma City is also off I-44, so I may just take it
all the way into town.

Which leads me to Days Inn. A pretty Okie (with a ring on her finger)
met me at the counter. My first question?

"How late's your pool open?"

"11:00 tonight," she said.

"Then I need a room."

She even lent me an ethernet cable to make this e-mail possible. So
here I sit, fresh out of the pool, and getting ready for bed.

Ready for some pictures?

Into Chicago, probably my favorite spot on earth. Traffic was a nightmare getting in.

At Millennium Park - near the amphitheater. I have many more pics to share.

The birth of the Mother Road. Here's where it all starts, right downtown.

That first night was mainly spent trying to find a place to stay. When I did, I ate here (thanks for the call Dayna!).

Yes, ladies, this guy's single. There are several of these giants stationed around Illinois (one was a spaceman, but I didn't grab a picture). Look at that weiner!

Through most of Illinois you can see where the old route ran. There are some parts you can still drive your car on, but I didn't take any chances.

Just me and the road.

When I finally did get into St. Louis, my first major goal, I headed straight for the arch and the Mississippi. The arch was huge, but I thought it crossed the Missippi into Illinois. My bad.

Race you to the top.

Take a good long look, because it's the last of civilization I'll see for the rest of the state.

I didn't even try to take any pictures of the highway and the way it swoops through the mountains - I'll save those memories for myself - but there were some very cool rock formations just about everywhere you looked. I think I can say Missouri is the most beautiful state I've ever seen.

The motel I stayed at on night two. Ed's Vermelle Motel. It's even in my guidebook. A cozy little spot, and Ed was really fun to talk to - even if I pulled him out of bed at 10 p.m. to get my room.

This was through the last leg of Missouri, near this giant drive-in movie theater for RVs.

This was all I got through Kansas. The route only passes through Galena, and then on to Oklahoma.

The weather wouldn't make up it's mind, but it was hot - and it provided for some gorgeous sky. That's Oklahoma, flat and pretty.

I'm a sucker for a pretty sky. Here it is, the end of day three. Hard to imagine. And I thought about how each morning I'm waking up in a different state.

Tomorrow is the rest of OK and then on to Texas.

Who needs a drink?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Route 66: Greetings from Farmersville, IL

It's day two down Route 66, and everything is going great.

I'm in Farmersville, this tiny little farming village about midway through the state. It's not actually ON the route, but I pulled off for lunch (bologne and crackers) and for a quiet place to sit. Boy, I found it.

Last night I made it to Chicago by about 4:00, walked around town for about an hour, taking pictures, and then had a Chicago-style pizza for dinner. The route has been very easy to follow, at least here in Illinois. There are these helpful brown "Historic Route 66" signs that have helped point the way. I stayed in a little berg called Dwight, at the Classic Inn (can't beat $30/night), got up and ate at the Family Route 66 Diner, and hit the road.

Illinois is pretty boring - I'll be honest. It's flat, and there are fields and farms everywhere. I have managed to stop at the interesting points, like in Funks Groove for some maple "sirup" (where Debbie informed me that more Germans take this trip than Ameicans) and in Atlanta where there's this giant Paul Bunyon holding a hot dog.

I took I-55 south for a bit, just to speed things along. Next stop is Springfield, then St. Louis (which I hope to reach before dinner) and then through Missouri. It's a little bit slower going than I had planned, but jumping on the interstate was a smart idea. I made up some time going my more comfortable 80 mph.

I've figured that by taking this trip I won't really get to know America. There's far too much involved. I can only hope to see it, and with that I'm doing pretty well. It's a balls-out dash to the coast, and I'll stop and visit what I can. But I can't take my time, I'm learning that.

Now I'm going to ask the nice, quiet librarian if this Michigander can use her bathroom, then I hit the road again.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Route 66: Hit the road, Jack

"A traveler is to be reverenced as such. His profession is the best symbol of our life. Going from - toward; it is the history of every one of us." - Henry David Thoreau

- - - - -

I'm looking at a map of Los Angeles and I realize that, in about a week, I'll be there - the main vortex of the West, the spinal column of pop culture, the main nerve.

I'll be passing through Pasadena, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills. Say these names out loud and you might as well be saying "Camelot" or "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." The midwestern mind hasn't evolved enough to process the places I'll be visiting beyond TV Land.

But I'll be there.

I focused most of my research on the beginning - Illinois and Missouri - and the end of the trip, because I think it's important to do a fine job at either end. The middle will take care of itself. Hell, it's Oklahoma - what more do you need to do?

I'll be picking up my Chevy Aveo tomorrow at 10 a.m., dropping my own car off at grandma's, grabbing a bagel and (hopefully) coffee with Suzanne, and then I'm off. Chicago, down Michigan Ave. and Adams, onto Ogden, and into America.

My iPod is loaded, my digital is charged, my maps are being printed as I type. I can't do much more. I've prepared for far too long. I need to hit the road.

A lot is riding on this trip. I've felt the need to escape since at least March (maybe it was looking forward to the Route, or maybe it was the last throes of the winter blahs), and I've been in a pretty rotten mood for the last two weeks. I haven't wanted to talk to people, haven't wanted to hang out. I haven't slept well, which is odd for me. I'm cranky, I'm tense. I'm hoping that, with just me and my thoughts, mile after mile, all that will melt away. Like rubber on the highway, I want to leave a lot of what I've been feeling in California, and come back the Dave I've wanted to feel like for oh-so long.

And I've got too much that's been occupying my brain here. I need to leave it behind, too, maybe for a little while. Hopefully forever.

Every one I know and care about is worried about me leaving. They wish I had found someone to go with me. But so do I. The thought of 10 days of non-stop driving - even for a professional driver like me - is daunting. And no navigator means I'll have to rely on my wits to navigate the road. My wits can't be trusted.

In some ways, I'm glad I'm going by myself. I've always done just fine alone. Maybe a little lonliness is just what I need.

So tonight I want to sleep well, and wake up tomorrow feeling like I do right now: there's something I have to do.

And I'm leaving tomorrow to do it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where the streets have no name

The reality is starting to sink in.

By this time next week, I'll be in the Oklahoma/Texas area - zooming along in my Chevy Aveo, jamming to something-or-other.

I've still got quite a bit to do. I have to pack, and get my to-bring list ready, and do some supplies shopping - not to mention get my info in gear, state-by-state directions assembled, and have some preacher read me my Last Rights (just in case). A book of stamps for postcards might be handy, too.

Unfortunately no one (a) applied or (b) qualified to be my Second Mate, which is a bummer. When people looked surprised that I'm going alone, I tell them that I did open it up to others (maybe a little late, but still).

And hey, what's the worst that could happen, right?

I'm taking my G3 iBook to keep up to date with e-mail and probably even this here blog. I'll be posting pictures and updates as much as I can. And I'll try to keep up with e-mail, but I'm not going to waste time with it.

Oh, and I've got a special "Route 66 Special Edition" e-mail address, that I'm sending all my info to - and to kind of act as a storage bin. Let me know if you want it.

Finally, I've come up with a song list of sorts. We'll call it the "Get Your Kicks Mix." Here's a sample:
- "(Get Your Kicks) On Route 66" by Chuck Berry
- "On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson
- "I've been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash
- "Running Down a Dream" by Tom Petty
- "End of the Line" by the Traveling Wilburys
- "Long Time" by Boston
- "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2
- "Escape is at Hand for the Travelin' Man" by the Tragically Hip
- "Long Road" by Sam Roberts
- "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan
- "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones
- "Destination Unknown" cover by Smashing Pumpkins

...and a few more I can't remember.

Can you recommend any more good road trip tunes?

- - - - - -

In other news...the gorgeous new Intel were released today.

Part of me wishes I had waited to get my iBook. These new MacBooks (as opposed to the "Power" versions - the MacBook Pro) are screaming little machines - Intel Core Duo, more Ghz, more memory, more features. Plus they come in the slick new Black edition (though I still adore the classic clamshell colored look).

And at about $1,000, they'll beat the pants off any Dell or HP laptop. Plus they're pretty.

Maybe I'm glad I didn't wait. The new MacBooks have a 13" "wide-screen," while my G4 came with a 15" screen - a necessity for all the graphic design stuff I do. Plus I don't like to feel cramped.

But boy - if you were waiting for a reason to buy a new Apple laptop, this is it. Not everyone needs a PowerBook-style laptop. But everyone could use this little beauty.

I still adore my iBook, though. I'm thinking about a RAM upgrade because of all my Adobe software, and the harddrive is getting a little cramped, but it does just what I need it to do.

The only thing still waiting for an Intel update is the Power Mac. How they can ever beat the speed and power of the monolithic G5 (a bargain at $2,000-4,000, and still the fastest desktop PC on Earth) I can't even guess.


It's a good feeling, to be rooting for this team.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Amazing James Randi

Have you ever heard of the Amazing James Randi?

I love the guy.

I listen to a talk radio station out of Los Angeles, KABC, in the morning, and Doug McIntyre had Randi on this morning to talk about Randi's "Million Dollar Challenge."

Go here to learn more:

Randi is offering a million dollars to "anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event."

Can you read minds? Predict the future? Bend spoons with your hands? Randi's got a check waiting for you.

I've always known Randi to be kind of a cranky old guy, and for good reason. He exposes Uri Gellar's tricks, and faith-healers, and Jonathan Edward's "readings," and all those flim-flams (as he calls them) with an air of cynicism and healthy skepticism.

He had me laughing out loud this morning on the radio show. A lady calls up and says that "Of course the spiritual world is real, I just know it is." She was very hyper, very excited. Randi matches her tone and says "Well then PROVE IT!" It was classic.

Every once in a while my boss will head to a "channeler" who will "talk" to her long-dead grandparents and predict her future. Lately I've been keeping a list of the predictions to see if they come even close to true. So far, no deal. The medium predicted that by this month she would be pregnant with a boy. Now granted, he has all month. But I'm guessing he'll miss the mark completely.

I've never had the brain for spiritual matters - matters like God and angels and crystal healings and all that. I'm not saying it's not true, or even possible - just that no one has shown me any reason to believe in any of it. My brain just doesn't work that way.

Must be I'm missing that "God Spot" scientists found in the brain.

Anyway, Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" really opened my eyes to the outrageous claims of people who are swindling Good Patriotic Americans (like you and me) out of hard-earned money just so they can feel good about their lot. It makes me angry, especially when their are people who really have faith in what they believe in, and know it with their heart, that there's something else out there. Meanwhile, Madame What's-her-name reads your fortune in coffee grinds. The whole thing rubs me raw.

So good for Randi for being out there, fighting for the little guy, and exposing these creeps.

As a kind of side note (the show reminded me of it):
During Adrian's orientation, I used to give "haunted tours" of the campus, showing the incoming first-years Downs Hall - with all it's legends and lore.

The trick was I would lead them all into the main theater, in total darkness, while I took a select few students down around the back of the stage, through the basement, and up through the back of the building. Then we would sneak back upstairs - behind the students in the theater - and burst through the doors screaming and scaring the docile freshmen.

It was a riot, let me tell you.

Anyway, I used to have to go to Downs early to unlock the building and get the theater all set up for the evening's entertainment. And let me say it scared the hell out of me.

Being in that old building - Adrian's only remaining building from its original campus in the mid-1800s - gave me the creeps. Shadows, sounds, windows - it was all I could do to get out of the buildling as fast as I could.

There was no logical reason for me to be scared. Nothing was going to "get me," and I wasn't really experiencing any phenomenon. It was just my brain playing tricks on me.

But what tricks my brain played. And I realized then the power of "ghost stories" and legends, how the set-up to any good haunting is just as important as the actual event.

If I could be so freightened of a creaky old building, I can't imagine the things people who actually believe in this stuff could come up with.

The mind, man. It's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

On flying versus driving - and looking for a Second Mate

Tickets from LAX to Detroit Metro, one-way, are about $150 average.

Driving? Well, that would be 2,500 miles / 30-miles-a-gallon = 83 gallons of gas X $3/gallon = about $250.

Plus a few days off my car rental.

Maybe it makes more sense to fly back from Los Angeles than to drive.

Anyone up for picking up a world-weary traveler May 27?

* * * * *

On another Route 66 note, I should be hearing back from my lil' bro Andrew whether he's taking the trip with me or not. A recent graduate, he thought he might have some time between his job search to join me on my quest.

But I have a feeling he won't make it.

Anyone else up for a trip from Friday, May 19 to Memorial Day Weekend involving 5,000 miles, 12 or so states, an economy-sized car, at least a $1,000 budget, a bit of navigation and driving, and the best time of your life?

If so, please fill out the attached "Route 66 Application":


I enjoy these types of music:

Bold yes or no if you:

Know north from south - YES NO
Get along with Dave on most days - YES NO
Enjoy traveling - YES NO
Have thought about traveling across country - YES NO
Tip wait staff at least 15% - YES NO
Have all your immunizations - YES NO
Are wanted in states other than Michigan - YES NO
Have at least $1,000 to spend - YES NO

What are your feelings on the U.S. highway system?:

Would you say you're a speeder or a granny? Why or why not?

Name one experience you've had with road rage, and how you responded:

Is there life on other planets?:

Sign here*:


I, the above signer of Dave's stupid application, do agree to pony up at least half of the gas and car rental bill - and agree that some days will go without showers or hotel rooms, all in the name of exploration and "finding one's self." I also agree to not annoy Dave in the car with stupid license plate games and travel songs, and cede all authority to music choice and playlists to Dave - pending Dave's veto. I'm not in any rush to get back to Michigan, and if we don't get back until Memorial Day, I can dig it. By signing I also remove Dave from any responsibility from my health, well-being, or sanity. I also agree to have fun. God Bless 'Merica.