There were quite a few moments during our vacation that definitely deserve the title of Blooper. Here they are in no particular order:
1) The Baja Explorer (as we lovingly called her) is 20 years old and as such has her quirks. I mentioned the various repairs that had to be done en route, but the quirk that still makes us laugh was the 3 or 4 times when we’d get cut off by some crazy driver with a death wish (at least 2 of these were someone pulling out in front of us, into our lane even though there were 2, then taking their slow time to get up to the speed limit of 45 to 55). BF is a multi-tasker, so he attempted to blow the horn while avoiding the accident. In all but one case, the horn wouldn’t blow.
What makes it funny is that on mid-90’s Explorer steering wheels, there’s like 2 buttons to blow the horn–one on the left side of the airbag, one on the right. After the first time it didn’t blow, he pushed it a few different ways to figure out where he needed to hit the horn to make it would work. The first time, it was the right side that worked. Later, he went to blow the horn during another incident and the right side didn’t work, but the left side did. Still later it was the middle/top that was the sweet spot. So, while I was holding on for dear life and not saying Hail Marys because it was still less scary than the moron in the Red Pickup Truck, I was also laughing at him quietly curse out the horn that would not blow.
2) Woody the Red Cooler. For our trip, I borrowed my parents old red cooler. We’ve had it as long as I can remember and it’s the perfect size for long distance travel–big enough on the inside for a decent amount of drinks (at one point we had a 24 pack of canned sodas and 8 or so bottles of water) and enough ice to last at least 24 hours…hehehe (but that’s the next one). We were going to buy sandwich materials as we went to save on expenses, but it ended up being just a package of lunch meat and a squeeze bottle of mayo to go with out drinks since none of our other snacks needed refrigeration. Woody was christened such (after Woody the Woodpecker) because within 3 hours of our trip BF was going bonkers as Woody moved against the seat and seat belt–the rattle wasn’t necessarily like a woodpeckers, but the name worked well enough.
When we stopped for dinner that evening, BF tucked one of my sweatshirts under Woody to shut him up. Luckily it worked! The sweatshirt also later revealed that Woody wasn’t as good at holding his water as we’d thought. It seems that his plug leaked a bit. Happily, my sweatshirt and later a towel (the result of one of our packing/unpacking times more than anything else) kept the seat dry.
3) There is something in Colorado’s water…I think. I’m looking at the journal I kept during the trip and am now only half sure that the hotel where we last got ice was in Colorado…we did stop at a hotel in Kentucky 2 days later. BF’s asleep right now, so I can’t ask him, though…yeah. It was definitely Colorado where we got that ice–the machine wasn’t far from the pool and we overslept in Kentucky. Anyway, now that that’s cleared up–that ice lasted from Sunday, May 31st, to Friday, June 5th. Granted, BF filled Woody up to the brim, but still–kind of ridiculous. And why Woody is still a keeper!
4) Border Patrol. When BF and I started planning this trip, he lamented the fact that he didn’t know where his Passport is and that I didn’t have one, even though we weren’t crossing any international borders. He told me the horror story of crossing Arizona and getting stopped 8 times to have his papers checked (in a big truck). I laughed at him and figured this was a shortly after 9-11 thing that’s long gone. Well…we went through 3 checkpoints. One around El Paso, Texas, one in southern New Mexico, and one as we entered California (though the CA one was for agriculture only). We passed 2 that were on the East/Southbound lanes and a few that had been closed at some point. I took pictures!
I would have taken better pictures but BF was really afraid I’d get arrested, especially in TX where apparently a Virginia Driver’s License isn’t a legal form of identification. In the right parts of TX my last name is extremely common because back in the 1880’s 6 brothers came to the US and founded 7 German settlements. ‘Course, that’s northern TX. Anyway, I put my camera down during the important bits to humor him even though this is a free country and I have every right to take whatever picture’s I wanted of the Border Patrol Station/agents. Now, taking a picture of the poor New Mexico driver who’d gotten stopped in front of us at the New Mexico Station, that’s an invasion of privacy, in my opinion, which is why I didn’t take that picture after the lengthy interview process: “US Citizens?” “Yes Sir.” “Have a nice day.” That’s essentially how all our Border Patrol dealings went. We told Older Brother about this and he was like “Yeah–they stop me every time I went down to pick up [his son] from college”.
5) Getting photobombed. I didn’t even realize just how often I got photobombed during this trip. Not by anyone cool but by bushes. And trees. And telephone poles. And trucks…it started getting ridiculous! Most of the pictures I took were from the passenger seat, out the window as we rolled along, which was find. I actually got some really cool/gorgeous pictures:
And I also got a ton of really awful ones:
My favorite is the bush blocking the sand dune because it best illustrates what I was going through. Miles of sand dunes in southern California…where the heck did the bush come from?!?!
6) The fact that I fell asleep in every state except Tennessee regardless of whether we stopped for the night in that state! We were only in Illinois (I think) for like 30 miles! Zzzzzz
7) That time when I hugged a tree. While in the Southwest, I really started to miss proper trees. I made the comment to BF that I was going to hug the next proper tree I saw and he made me keep my promise, haha.
8) Eating pizza at older brother’s house and learning that older brother and BF have the exact same pattern on their plates and bowls. I think BF said that they were on sale and older brother thought that they’d gotten the set from a friend of his wife. Neither knew that they had the same dishes.
At first I didn’t think much about the truck stop. He’d already taken me to a Petro where we ate at an Iron Skillet and later a TA where we ate at a Country Pride and then even later a Flying J (aka Fishhook) with a Huddle House (I may have misappropriated the stop to the restaurant; oh well). Truck Drivers: so proud to show off the various restaurants attached to their favorite truck stops instead of looking for a similar meal at a family joint in town. Sigh. In case your wondering, Iron Skillet and Country Pride are essentially the same restaurant and are owned by the same company and a Huddle House is a Waffle House, especially when you see one standing alone.
Anyway. Love’s is usually attached to a major fast food restaurant: Subway, Arby’s, McDonalds. I don’t think we saw any with a sit-down restaurant, but I can’t be 100% positive. But BF doesn’t stop at Love’s for the food. He stops in for the Squeegees!
Once we got to Texas, the bug population skyrocketed. Or maybe they just became enormous, I’m not sure. After Alabama, the mosquito population was almost non-existent, but in Kansas, the moths are the size of dinner plates. I need to get into his phone (camera) again to see if he took any pictures of the grill covered in bug-guts. It was funny because he’d wash the windows every time we got gas and within 50 miles the bug splats were very noticeable and by the time we reached 150, I was having trouble getting clear pictures. Some mornings I woke up and was certain that we’d been bombarded the night before because I didn’t remember the window being that filthy. And yes, there were a few gas station bathroom stops where he didn’t get gas, but needed to wash the window. Alas, some of these places didn’t even have the short squeegee.
Colorado wins for being the most surprising state: After the Loveland Pass I think I fell asleep and missed Denver because when I woke up it was FLAT! Like, Kansas flat. I wasn’t expecting that.
As for Kansas, I fell asleep 3 times besides the rest area where we spent the night near Fort Dodge. I picked Historic Fort Dodge off the map to stop at since we were due for a museum. Alas, it’s not really a museum. It’s been a home for Retired Soldiers since 1890. We decided not to stop and just got the heck out of Dodge, haha.
We did have a problem in Kansas, though. He ran out of cigarettes as we stopped at a grocery store and I was not happy when he bought a pack the very next time we stopped. We both knew that he was going to run out at some point on our trip and given how emphatic he was that he wouldn’t buy any outside of Virginia and how he made grand claims that he’d quit before we got home, I’d been hopeful that he’d at least make it a day and after a tense stretch of road he’d decide he’d gone long enough. Instead, it was 3 hours, a relatively empty road and a long line at at the bathroom at a gas station. I gave him the silent treatment for awhile because I was sad as well as mad and because talking about his cigarettes is taboo that makes him want to smoke. He will push himself way past where he should to drive a truck across the country (before the heart attack) or to stay up all night in order to dismantle a car because he needs the parts and it’s going to the junkyard at 9 am the next morning, but he can’t push himself to want a cigarette for 12 hours? You can see my frustration. Once I started talking to him again and we did discuss the taboo subject, he told me that he’d planned to start his prescription for Chantix that morning and had forgotten. He did take the pill the next morning and we’ll see how he does. With him spending the afternoon in the tow truck, I suspect his pack is empty or nearly empty now. At least I was home today to wake him up long enough to take his morning pill and will be able to do the same tomorrow and Sunday. Chantix put him to sleep last time he tried it, so much so that he started skipping pills simply because he wasn’t awake to take them. I hope he can figure out how to push himself to really quit this time because regardless of what he may say about how it helped him, he never stopped buying packs last time he took Chantix.
I didn’t take many pictures of Kansas between being asleep, mad, and it simply looking the same from point A to point B and Missouri looked too much like home to take pictures, so here’s Whitehaven, where we spent our first night in Kentucky. I wish we could have toured the house, but apparently tours are only from 1-4 pm when available.
While in Kentucky, we decided to go to Mammoth Cave National Park. We got there shortly before 1 pm and since we knew we only had time for one tour, we decided on the Historic Tour. I didn’t take any pictures inside of the cave because I’ve learned that the camera I borrowed (a Canon Powershot SX130 IS) takes horrible pictures when there’s not enough light and I don’t use a flash. The Historic Tour covered the parts of the cave that visitors have known about the longest. I was fascinated by the “typeface” used by visitors a hundred years ago as they wrote on the ceiling with the soot from a candle. Gorgeous!
We got a hotel room in Kentucky that evening, sleeping until almost checkout.
I actually didn’t sleep while driving through Tennessee! I closed my eyes for a few minutes, but never lost consciousness. We decided to mosey our way down to Asheville, NC where The Kid will move to with his girlfriend next month. It is an adorable town, though a bit too busy for my liking this time of year. I’d love to visit the Biltmore Estate…but at $60/person (holycrapola!) I don’t know if that will ever happen. Phew! Good grief! wow.
Where was I? Oh yeah–the Kid’s new digs. Boyfriend had been excited to take the Explorer off road the whole trip to the Southwest, but he didn’t get the chance. He did when we got to the neighborhood which is essentially straight up a mountain on the equivalent of a dirt road. It was a wee bit scary in an Explorer and the Kid’s primary mode of transportation is a 2000(?) Mustang. I don’t even want to think about snow.
See–I was so concerned by the road, I didn’t take any pictures of it!
After we got down off the mountain we wiggled our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was 7pm and there was fog rolling in. Did we stop? Never! Because Wednesday is Adventure Day! No, it was not our intention to make Wednesday adventure day, it just happened that way. We saw a black bear (probably 2 years old) on the road and I was able to snap a picture of it. A couple miles later we saw another of similar size though I didn’t get a picture of it. We stopped at a few of the pull offs and took pictures all the while watching the clouds roll in. It didn’t get really bad until after sundown when my wonderful boyfriend decided to drive a good 2 miles off the parkway to where there was a visitor’s center with bathroom. I told him afterwards that next time his gut says not to stop, he needs to tell me to find a tree! Though it probably wouldn’t have helped too much.
The fog was literally as thick as pea soup to where we couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of the Explorer (if that much), plus it was dark. Boyfriend wanted to stay on the Parkway until we got to Virginia, but eventually he decided to try HWY 221. Turns out it was much much worse, with sharp switchbacks, badly faded paint for the double yellow lines, and though there were reflectors on the lines, at times the lines and the reflectors both disappeared. I was actually asleep for much of this part and when he decided that the Parkway was a better choice and got back on. Somehow him slamming on brakes to avoid multiple groups of deer didn’t wake me up one bit. I only woke up when he stopped at a picnic area in NC for a bathroom and cigarette break and then as he maneuvered through more switchbacks to get off the Parkway to get gas at a Love’s in Virginia. He likes Love’s because they have the long handled squeegees (this became a running joke, which I shall share pictures of in later posts). Before our trip I told most people that I was certain that we’d spend at least one night at a truck stop, but this wasn’t to be. After getting gas he debated sleeping at the NC or VA rest area, finally deciding on the VA one, which meant taking a later exit to turn around on Interstate 77 after he’d already aimed for the NC one. Of course, this is what graces the front of the VA welcome center, so we didn’t get too far away from Love’s, haha.
Back in Virginia, finally we decided that while we could wiggle our way around the state to get back home on Saturday as originally planned, we were more than ready to get home (this was Thursday the 4th because Truck Driver). We took I-77 up to Hillsville and then 58 East to home.
Of course, we were in a 20 year old Explorer. Most of Boyfriend’s friends thought him crazy for taking that old a vehicle (though a lot of parts went into her before we left). She did beautifully on our excursion with just the user error window (not me!) and then the thermostat, but things did get a little serious as we entered Virginia. The speedometer seemed to completely give up on life; at best it swinging 40 to 20 mph below what we were actually going. At worst it fell dead to the pin and this is when it affected the transmission. We stopped for a new speed sensor which he changed in Advance’s parking lot, but that didn’t help. He was going to try to figure out what went wrong today, but then he ended up with 3 tows.
We stopped at a friend of his house in Southern VA which was nice, though I was too tired and socialed out to be much more than a lump in a chair. It was wonderful to finally get home last night and sleep in our own bed.
I had very little clue where we were when we stopped at the rest area where we spent the night. It was like 2 am and I fell asleep at like 10pm. Considering how excited he was to show me the Pacific Coast Highway, you’d think I would have seen more of it. Anyway, we woke up to this:
Apparently the Pacific Ocean wasn’t too far away from this rest area because after going through that tunnel, taking the next exit to turn around and driving a little ways (like 20 minutes total driving), we saw this:
After paying $3.99/gallon for gas on Ventura Blvd (because we’d been scared by the $4.20 previously), I decided that I’d seen enough of California. We started our trip back east by wiggling over to I-15 though some pretty scenery.
We stopped in Bakersfield for an oil change (he’d gotten one a couple days before we left VA) and the new thermometer.
I have to admit that I’m currently extremely prejudiced against red pickups. This is because of the shear terror I went through as we left California via I-15 towards Las Vegas. The speed limit on this stretch of road is 70 for cars and 55 for big trucks. This speed differential probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if the cars were going 70, but no–we were getting passed while going 95! And traffic wasn’t light! It was pretty much bumper to bumper cruising through the desert at 95. The idiot red pickup driver (who I still want to strangle) decided that it’d be smart to merge into our lane while his back bumper was in line with our front wheel. I do not know how he fit without taking our front bumper off AT 95 MPH! Grr–pisses me off! Boyfriend says that tailgating is the only way to prevent people from cutting you off like that. You wonder how the big trucks play into this horrific scenario? Boyfriend says that he was once pulled over on this stretch of road for going 56 mph in his truck. It seems that the police, when they monitor this stretch of highway only pull over trucks for speeding, so the drivers are leery of going fast enough to keep up with the car traffic. This is generally a 4 lane divided highway (occasionally there’s an additional slow vehicle/ truck lane), so when one truck wants to pass another truck, they must get into the obscenely fast left lane which causes this traffic to actually use the pedal on the left and creates the slight backup that left me saying Hail Marys. Look at a map: there’s no major cities to swallow that traffic up as we headed into Nevada and yet, without changing anything, suddenly the traffic went poof–all gone! What changed? Big trucks could suddenly put the hammer down (alas, I now speak truck driver almost fluently when I can get past the accents) and away they went. Since I doubt anything will slow the cars down, it seems logical to either build the trucks their own set of lanes or raise their speed limit to something at least a bit more reasonable.
I just read that in 1990 SWIFT was so proud of itself for having their governors set at 57 mph! Good Grief! This site says that in 1998 they raised it to 60 for individuals, 62 for teams. That’s still a HELL of a lot slower than the 95 we were traveling at! I’m pretty sure that this is the company that was sued by the state of AZ(?) in the 2000s and told to either raise their speeds or get out of the state.
I’d ask the boyfriend which state/company it was, but he just called to say he was going on tow number 4 today. He woke up at 2pm, left the house shortly later to get gas so we can calculate our milage for the trip and it’s now almost 6pm. He was called 3 times while we were away even though the county/state know that they’re supposed to call the company phone before they call his personal one. Tows 1 and 2 came before he picked up the company phone again. Ah well, he needs the money after the trip anyway.
Anyway, enough of my rant on CA drivers. After that stretch, even the city driving we did wasn’t so bad. And no, at no point did I drive during this trip.
We made it into Nevada without incident (thank you Mary!) and decided to cruise the Las Vegas Strip a little. I have some family that lives in and/or used to live in the area, but we didn’t stop to see anyone. The only thing that interests me about Las Vegas is the Luxor because I’ve heard that inside the pyramid is essentially it’s own city. I saw some of it from the street, but decided that I had no interest in evading the crowded streets to see it up close. We vamoosed shortly afterwards.
I fell asleep as we left Nevada and all I remember is waking up in some steep hills while boyfriend seemed to be going 20 miles over the speed limit. I can neither confirm or deny this, though I do know he commented on us being back in AZ for a little while and I know it was jarring to open my eyes in the dark and just see looming shadowy mountains dead ahead.
Utah was a nice change of pace. The weather was wonderful (it was good to be cold again) and there were some nice scenic areas right off the interstate. We stopped at 2, I think.
We decided to call it a day early in Colorado and checked into a hotel shortly after crossing into the state. The hot tub felt amazing after all the car camping we’d done
This was my first time meeting his older brother and though the second time meeting the younger, I didn’t really talk to the younger at the time. Still, I must have made a good, if silent, impression because the boyfriend was told to not screw things up with me back then. Let’s just say that I made a new BFF in his older brother as we commiserated over having to stop by boyfriend’s best friend’s house regardless of original destination (I learned early on not to leave home without a book) and other annoying things boyfriend does. Older Brother ordered us a pizza for dinner and we were astonished to see that unbeknownst to each other, boyfriend and older Brother have the exact same dinnerware. Then we met up with younger brother at Walmart (where he works) to pick up supplies and visit (it’s actually really weird to have a tour guide at Walmart). We decided to sleep at a hotel that evening so we wouldn’t feel to guilty about using all his brother’s hot water to wash off the grime of 3 days of travel.
On Tuesday, boyfriend got out of taking a good long walk by conveniently forgetting that rolling the front passenger window all the way down causes it to get stuck. He says it was an accident, but the rest of us know that at least unconsciously it wasn’t. But, he had fun pulling out the tools and taking the car apart, though he ended up having a local guy put the new motor in rather than risk seriously cutting himself inside the door panel (he’s on blood thinners). Don’t worry folks, he got to actually use his tools later on in the trip.
While he played with the car, older brother and his wife took me on a walk along the Rio Grande which isn’t far from their house. I can’t remember the native name for the canals that the road we took paralleled, but at two places the Rio Grande curved near enough that a short venture off the road brought us to it’s banks. Banks that were swelled because of the freakish amount of rain that they’d had the day and night before we arrived. Brother and Wife said that they hadn’t seen the water that high except during monsoon season and even then not for the past few years. Brother decided to turn back shortly after the first glimpse at the river, but Wife and I kept going. She teaches writing at the local university and we had fun discussing the Robin Hood character and the fanfiction that she writes about Autolycus from Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. We walked all the way to the border of Isleta Pueblo, which Wife says is probably a good 5 miles round trip. We stopped at a New Mexican (not to be confused with Mexican) food stand so that I could try the difference between “Red” and “Green”. At this stand, I preferred the Red for both taste and consistency, but that evening when we stopped at Henrietta’s Restaurant (which features New Mexican cuisine as well as basic American fair (so that boyfriend and older brother could eat while I tried something new), I went with the Red which wasn’t as good as the Red at the stand. The rice at Henrietta’s was really, really good!
That evening we stopped by younger brother’s house so that they boys could get their pictures taken (by me) to mark their first visit in a long time. I’m kind of pissed that the 3rd picture is so fuzzy (I used his Android) because it’s my favorite.
Nope, younger and older brothers aren’t twins, though when I posted these pictures to facebook, fb decided on it’s own to tag older brother as younger brother every single time. It was pretty much universally decided that boyfriend is the milkman’s kid (a joke because he looks like their mom’s side of the family and her dad was a milkman).
We ended up staying at older brother’s house Tuesday night.
Wednesday started our vacation proper. We got into the car and resumed our way west into Arizona where first on our list was Petrified Forest National Park. We picked up his Access Pass (free for those who are permanently disabled) here. This is mostly a driving tour, though there are also lots of short hikes (and I’m sure there are long ones too, though I didn’t look for these). We got there at about 2pm.
First was the Painted Desert.
Pictures don’t do it justice.
Then there were the Petroglyphs:
And finally the Petrified Wood:
After leaving the Petrified Forest, we intended to aim for the location of the car accident that claimed his mom and grandfather in 1996 on Hwy 89, but when we stopped at a rest area we looked at the map and saw that the famous Meteor Crater wasn’t too far away and even though it was nearly 5pm, we figured it’d be a fun place to stop for a peek. Well, it turns out that it’s $18 per adult and as we weren’t in the mood to spend that much to take a quick look at a hole in the ground (we were both too tired to want to spend the full 2 hours to feel like we’d gotten our money’s worth), we turned around and continued on our original path. We did like this sign, though:
As we headed up 89 away from Flagstaff, Boyfriend remembered that his grandfather had been headed away from Sunset Crater Volcano towards the Grand Canyon when the crash occurred. When we saw the turn off, we decided to take the scenic loop that seems to be collectively known as the Wupatki National Monument. It was a wonderful drive with a few stops to get out of the car and walk to see the Pueblos. We probably missed a lot, but the sun was just setting and it’s was a gorgeous view.
We made it the last few miles to the Grand Canyon and Boyfriend is confident that he did locate the crash site (it would have been shortly after taking that loop, just as the survivors remembered). We entered Grand Canyon National Park at the Desert View Watchtower at about 10pm. There were a couple cars in the parking lot as well as 2 RVs that appeared to have bedded down for the evening, so we found a relatively dark place to spend the night (I’m happy to report that when it comes to infrastructure in the US, public parking lots are very well lit at night…ugh). We did do a little walking around before we made up the bed, seeing what we could of the canyon in the dark.
We’d just gotten the bed made up and I was reading some of Sense and Sensibility when we saw red and blue lights in the car’s parking lot (we were in the RV/Bus lot). Turns out that you aren’t allowed to sleep in the parking lot of the Grand Canyon, so everyone got kicked out. Not sure why this concept was so difficult for one of the cars to believe, though. We saw the lights flashing at his car for awhile and even saw the guy turn on his flashers, so we weren’t positive it wasn’t a drug bust rather than a simple “please leave”. After the ranger got to the RV’s and started giving them the formal boot, the car came back to talk to the ranger! Anyway, once the ranger got to our lot, it was pretty clear to us what was going on, so we got ourselves more or less packed away again and boyfriend was just checking the oil while he still had light when the ranger got to us. Oh well. We made our way back the way we’d come in because we were aloud to park as soon as we exited the National Park proper. There’s a big “wide space” where there are about a dozen stands where Native American’s sell there artwork just before you enter Park grounds and that’s where we slept.
In the morning, the Grand Canyon was simply gorgeous! In terms of what’s considered the major tourist attractions there, I think we found the least touristy and we entered it on the less traveled side, which is exactly what we like.
After leaving the Grand Canyon, we made our way south to I-8 because he wanted to show me real desert.
It was pretty until it wasn’t anymore. We went through this part of the country from noon to sunset and while it wasn’t hot in the car or even outside the car (despite the 100 degrees on the thermostat), the sun was just unrelenting. I’m not used to that much sunshine! It made my eyes hurt and gave me a headache even as the temperature was wonderful. I put on sunscreen even though we didn’t get out of the car, just to be safe (by the way, I now have a few new freckles on my right cheek). Phew! I was glad when the sun finally set after we made it into Southern California, which has some interesting landscape itself:
Sand dunes for awhile and then, because California is in the midst of a horrible drought, look at all the water! I couldn’t get a picture of all the cows crowded into pins at the center of these fields.
These mountains of stones look like they were pushed there with a giant bulldozer. Are they even individual stones? I’m not sure….And after 20 minutes of fruitless searching, I still know nothing about these boulders except that there’s a Desert View Tower in Jacumba, CA.
We stopped at a Denny’s for dinner this night where I was able to dump this second batch of pictures. In Southern California, we cruised Ventura Blvd for a little bit then he started seriously up 101 (the Pacific Coast Hwy) towards LA. At some point that night he noticed the temperature gauge start to shoot up for a moment only to slowly back down to slightly above normal. We stopped at a Walmart for some antifreeze, but when he went to fill the radiator, he found it full. He suspected that it was just the thermometer sticking and we made plans to stop somewhere so he could buy a new one. Happily for us both, I slept through all of Los Angeles, waking up when he tried to stop at a public beach in Santa Barbara only to be told that it was closed because of the oil spill. He kept going a bit (I fell back asleep) and we pulled into a rest area to spend the night.
7200 miles. 1 former truck triver male. 1 ambitious blogger. 1 20 year old Ford Explorer.
We left Smithfield, VA on Saturday, May 23rd. For whatever reason the boyfriend decided late (like 5pm) Friday evening that we were going to get everything packed and meet The Kid at the bowling alley so that they could bowl a double in the National Tournament then leave from there, so I started running around like a chicken with her head cut off to make it happen. Obviously it didn’t, haha. Nah, I knew it wouldn’t, but we’re both procrastinators, so it’s better that we did this because then we’d have left later on Saturday. I had to update the GPS which originally said it would take 3 hours to update; luckily it only took about an hour including a glitch that stopped the process mid-way.
I woke him up at about 10:30 on Saturday. We still had to finish packing the Explorer and he had to pick up some of his pills from Walmart, so we didn’t officially make it out of town until noon. Here’s the first thing you need to know about truck drivers: they do not stop. There is point A and point B and unless it’s explicitly on the list, they don’t stop except to use the bathroom and to eat. It was all interstate (85) from Southwestern VA to Mobile, Alabama. It was kind of nice to see Downtown Atlanta at night, but for the most part I just napped until we made it into Mobile at 2am.
Our destination was the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Wow! I’ve been on a few navy ships in my life, but this one (actually 2 since the USS Drum is located there, too) are probably the best. They have as much original equipment as they can while still being visitor friendly.
First off, we slept right next to the USS Alabama in the back of the Explorer. Yep, this was all part of the plan, though the boyfriend decided that we only needed 3 comforters to use as bedding (2 as mattress and 1 as blanket). This was one of our only errors. After the first night, we left the bedding comforters simply flat under the rest of our stuff (rather than refolding them and packing them next to the pillows) and a flattened comforter isn’t very comfortable. We needed at least one and probably both of the two that were left home. The other issue is that we aren’t used to sharing a blanket and many a morning I woke up completely wrapped in it while he had none (though he would take it at times himself). I seriously believe that the secret to happy bed-sharing is simply having separate blankets. It’s what we do at home.
We started the museum with the USS Drum (a submarine). Because the park is designed for this to be your last stop, we decided to tackle it first and I’m very glad we did because we had the submarine almost to ourselves. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in it with a large crowd and being that it was Memorial Day Weekend, by the time we left, the whole museum was crawling with people.
I was really excited that we could climb up to where the periscope is (pictures 1 and 2)! 3 is the rear torpedo room.
To get between the Alabama and the Drum, there is a hanger full of various airplanes. One of the things we noticed while driving around the parking lot the night before was that a lot of the aircraft parked in the yard were damaged. The boyfriend asked about it and we were pointed towards a digital picture frame which showed the destruction from Katrina in 2005. The entire back wall was ripped off and airplanes tossed around like toys. They are still trying to recover.
We finished our tour on the Alabama which I would call a floating city except that aircraft carriers are so much bigger! I lost count of the number of kitchens. Had a prolific thought about segregation and the military (because the marines had (have?) their own areas including kitchens and everything seems to be about every class having their own “separate but equal” stuff and no intermingling). Norfolk has the USS Wisconsin, but since it must remain in a condition ready to go back into service, I don’t think the public is able to see as much as you can see in the Alabama. I haven’t been below decks on the Wisconsin yet.
We continued west from here, only stopping at the Louisiana Visitor’s Center where I learned all about the Atchafalaya Basin.
Crossing the Mississippi at the mouth wasn’t as impressive as I expected it to be. I fell asleep at some point (I ended up sleeping in every state except Tennessee during out trip) and woke up at about 2am when he stopped at what was supposed to be a rest area, but didn’t have any bathrooms. We decided to park anyway and made our bed in the back of the Explorer. This is what we saw when we woke up:
Shortly after, on the road again, we had a bit of fun as we blew the doors off a State Trooper as we went 82 mph in an 80. We do live recklessly, haha.
We were supposed to arrive at his brother’s house by Thursday the 28th. Instead we rolled into Los Lunas, NM on Monday the 25th at about 6pm. ‘Cuz that’s how truck driver’s drive.
I’ve been able to work out most of the route from out 2 week(ish) excursion. I’m waiting for the boyfriend to wake up so we can finalize and finish it.
Roughly 7200 miles in a 20 year old Explorer.