Driving to Evanston, Wyoming, on Wednesday, June 1, the same day a freak tornado hit Springfield, Massachusetts.
The Wyoming border. Parts of this trip were driving marathons, including this leg from Salt Lake to Irving, Texas. I didn't stop anywhere except for gas, fast food, and sleep.
Because Randy and I were planning to drive Route 66, and John Steinbeck named Route 66 "The Mother Road" in his book "The Grapes of Wrath," I decided to listen to the book on the drive to Dallas. I think the book was 21 hours long, and I finished it about 10 minutes after I arrived in Dallas. Steinbeck dedicated a whole chapter to describing Route 66 in the 1930s. This book was a pretty somber way to drive to Dallas.
There really is a large truck stop called the Jesus Christ Is Lord Travel Center, where you can be born again and get a cheeseburger. I didn't go inside, because I was in a hurry, and the windows were all covered in paint, which made the place a little creepy from the outside. But now I wish I had gone in for a Diet Dr. Pepper.
This was a great graduation. It was just under an hour with one speaker. This is the dean, Michael G. Roth, Ph.D., conducting the graduation.
John receives his first hood. All Ph.D. hoods in the United States are blue on one side (the outside?). And the UT Southwestern hoods have orange and white on the other side. John's degree is in biomedical sciences.
This is the graduation party. Mark and Kate took off to Ecuador for Doctors without Borders (or one of those organizations) on Saturday morning.
A bunch of guys from the elder's quorum and John's friend Matt loaded the moving truck on Saturday morning. I like to rent from Penske because U-Haul often doesn't have the truck at the promised time. This time Penske didn't have the truck. They got it pretty quickly, but they didn't get the packing quilts and hand truck to us until after we were finished. We did use some of the quilts, and the hand truck came in very handy when there were just two of us to unload in New Haven.
Dallas had a lightning and hail storm that smashed skylights and put bowling-ball-size dents in the Astle's roof a couple weeks ago. John saved some hailstones in the freezer for the insurance company, but the defroster reduced their size quite a bit. This is a reduced-size hailstone.
On Sunday we went to Spaghetti Warehouse in Dallas's West End for dinner. We shouldn't have used the tag some nice girls gave us for the parking lot, because when we came out we had boots on the left front and rear tires of John's van. So did the car next to us. That cost us $113.25 instead of $5.
On Saturday, we accompanied John and his seven classmates in the Medical Scientist Training Program (M.D./Ph.D. program) to a nice luncheon at the university, where they received their white jackets.
John and his classmates (one was missing, as was the codirector of the program, Dr. Michael Brown, who was awarded a Nobel prize in 1985 for his discovery of the mechanisms of cholesterol metabolism, which led to the use of statin drugs for control of cholesterol).
John's M.D. graduation was held in the symphony hall in Dallas. And yes, a woman was playing this giant pipe organ for the proceedings.
Chieko, John, and Michael.
John with his sister Jamie, who came down with her family for the M.D. graduation from Oklahoma City between girls' camp (Jamie and Kali) and Cub Scout camp (Caleb).
On Tuesday morning John picked Chieko up at the Wyndham Hotel, where we had stayed, and took her, Susan, and Candice to the airport. And I headed off in the Penske truck on my second driving marathon toward New Haven, Connecticut. I had planned to stop in Memphis for one of my favorite BBQ joints and maybe a couple other spots, but I had zeroed in on getting to New Haven and stopped only when I had to.
...and most of the way through Tennessee. I saw more state police in Tennessee than I've ever seen anywhere. It seemed they were in every other "official" turnaround spot waiting for speeders.
On Wednesday, I traveled through eight states, including driving through Manhattan and paying $40 in tolls, $32 just to cross the George Washington Bridge. I had stopped at a Target store in West Virginia and bought a sleeping bag, towel, and washcloth to sleep in the Astles' new home in Branford, Connecticut, Wednesday night. I hadn't expected that all the floors would be hardwood. But I was so tired, I went to sleep at 11:30 p.m. and woke up at 6:30 a.m. in exactly the same position I had gone to sleep in.
John and family ended up about a day behind me, so on Thursday morning I dropped by Yale, which was chartered in 1701. This is the Yale Sterling Memorial Library.
On Thursday afternoon I started unloading the truck. The temperature was 94 degrees, and the humidity must have been at about the same mark.
A huge thunderstorm hit in the early evening, so I took a nap on the unused packing quilts and waited for John and family to arrive. After they got here, they took me to a seafood restaurant in Branford on the waterfront, where I had scrod (a New England staple cod) fish and chips that were quite light, flakey, and yummy.
On Friday morning, John and I finished unloading the truck, and I left his family with all their boxes stacked in the living room, garage, and basement.
Here they are (Wells was having a nap) at their new home with its 1-1/2-acre yard. You can see pictures of their house and yard in my previous blog. The backyard looks narrow, but the trees behind there also belong to this house. And we just learned (on June 24) that it is full of blackberry bushes. I love blackberries. We used to pick them on vacation in the Pacific Northwest (officially marion berries) and make syrup in the trailer.
My official East Coast picture. I will take a West Coast picture when I get there. This is a Branford harbor on a bay on Long Island Sound.
This is the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, where militiamen, or Minutemen, shot and killed two British regulars on April 19, 1775 . Other skirmishes had occurred earlier in the day all along the road from Lexington to Concord. The first colonists were killed in Lexington early in the day, but the battle here, with the regulars, was the first battle that involved organized Minutemen fighting under the command of an officer. This is the location of "the shot heard round the world" that Ralph Waldo Emerson made famous in his "Concord Hymn."
This is where the two British regulars are buried on the opposite side of the bridge, where the regulars stood during the battle.
This is the Battle Green in Lexington, where the first skirmish took place and colonial militiamen were killed. Seven hundred British regulars had come to seize munitions that were stored in Concord. However, the patriots learned of the intended seizure and moved the arms. The only thing the British soldiers accomplished was starting the Revolutionary War.
John and Misa told me that if I passed a Clam Box, I should stop. So after Concord and Lexington I looked one up on the GPS. It was only 15 miles away, so I went. I didn't know I had to go through Boston, which I had planned to avoid, but the Clam Box was worth the drive. And it was in Quincy, another place I wanted to visit but didn't think I had time.
I ordered the whole clams rather than the strips. This was certainly a plateful of fried clams. I enjoyed the whole clams, but they got to be too rich, and I ended up turning the last half into strips. I loved the whole experience of sitting on the waterfront outside the original Clam Box eating clams and fries at dusk.
Because I was already in Quincy, I visited John and Abigail Adams's house. It also housed several subsequent generations of Adamses. I didn't try to find his birth home, but I do plan to go back.
As I drove through Springfield on the way to Lexington-Concord, I passed a spot where the tornado on June 1 (the day I left Utah) crossed the freeway, leaving a path of tree sticks and a crumpled freeway sign. I stayed in Springfield on Friday night, and on Saturday morning I drove into the area that was hit by the tornado.
This is in a little farm town in Ohio. It's a rain gutter downspout. Most of the pictures in this blog include GPS information (assuming Blogger retains that information--I haven't checked), so you can find their exact locations if you're interested.
I arrived in Chicago on Sunday afternoon, June 12, and picked Randy up at the O'Hare Airport, where he had to return a rental car he'd has since Thursday. We then went into Chicago, where the Chicago Blues Festival was happening at Millennium Park, near the shore of Lake Michigan.
The is commonly called The Bean. It's officially Cloud Gate, a sculpture made by Indian-born artist Anish Kapoor on the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park.
We tried to eat at Lou Mitchell's Restaurant, but it was quite dark, so we headed to another diner Randy had seen. That one was also closed, but the valet parking guys directed us down a back alley to a place called the Hop Haus, which had the most delicious filet mignon (and other) sliders. A little pricey, but I'd go back if I had the chance.
Our first stop on Monday morning, June 13, was for lunch at the Launching Pad Drive-In, where this former muffler guy has been turned into an astronaut holding a rocket. It's in Wilmington, Illinois.
The inside of a Route 66 drive-in looks much today as it may have in the 1950s, with some additions, such as the tables.
I suppose the food--a cheeseburger, chocolate-carmel malt, and fried cauliflower--may be original. At least it felt like 1950s to me.
Driving the old Route 66 road, which parallels the current "Historic Route 66" road somewhere in Illinois. Some parts of the old Route 66 road are long gone, some parts are still here in pieces, some have been turned into walking and biking paths, and some are still being used for automobile travel. We spent much of our first day on the "Historic Route 66" (newer road but not the Interstate).
With an old (oaky, 2010--it looked old to me) Harley Davidson parked in front. A couple was driving this down Route 66.
This little travel trailer is on the side of the Odell Standard Oil station. It reminded me of our old Li'l Loafer trailer.
This school bus is not part of the traditional Route 66, but it certainly fits the kitschy atmosphere. I think this was in Pontiac, Illinois.
Burma Shave signs. We found a few sets of these in Illinois and along a long stretch of the old Route 66 that we followed in Arizona.
We stopped at Funks Grove to see the Funks Grove Maple Sirip shop. The shop was closed, because we were there too late in the evening, but we did find an old train station and a lot of silos.
Abraham Lincoln's tomb in the city he was instrumental in making the Illinois state capital, Springfield.
The only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned, in Springfield, Illinois. The nameplate says, A. Lincoln, which is how he commonly signed his name.
We stayed near St. Louis on Monday night. We wanted a picture of the Gateway Arch behind the old court house, so we went into St. Louis when we arrived, about midnight. St. Louis is not the safest city. In fact, it has been listed as the least safe city in the United States. First thing, a tall guy approached us as we were taking pictures and asked if we had a light for his cigarette. He was odd, and I wasn't sure he even had cigarettes. Randy smartly walked off behind a stone structure so if the guy was going to mug us, he at least didn't have us together.
We got back in the car and headed for the freeway to Saint Charles. Suddenly a police chase came screaming by. The lead car had a young black felon and his wife or girlfriend and a baby (we learned later from the morning news). The felon was followed by about 10 or 15 or 20 police cars, trucks, SUVs and unmarked cars. Other unmarked cars parked and hung around the area.
After the procession flew by, we headed toward the freeway again. Then the whole screaming parade came toward us from a different direction. Then from another direction. Over the next 10 or 15 minutes it screamed past us five or six times, all from different directions. The last time we were making a left turn toward the freeway, and the sirens came from behind us. I had to zoom to the right side of the road or join the chase.
In the video you might hear me say, "He signaled to turn left." The felon really did.
You wouldn't see this in a comedy movie. Finally, all was quiet and we got onto the two-lane Martin Luther King Bridge. As we crossed the Mississippi River, the procession came flying the other direction on the same bridge. Then it was finally gone. We thought. We traveled a few miles on the freeway toward St. Charles, and sure enough, the flashing lights had finally succeeded in stopping the car along the side of the freeway.
This gift shop near Castro, Missouri, is the Unfriendliest Gift Shop in America. It's also called Indian Harvest Grand Opening. We got off the freeway to see what this Route 66 attraction was, and to find out whether Indian Harvest was a fruit stand or curio shop.
We drove past and turned around in a little paved area that led to a radio tower. Then we pulled into the parking lot and snapped a couple pictures. A woman sauntered out and asked what we were doing. I asked if this was a gift shop. She said, "We sell pots and pipes and...." I don't know, a bunch of stuff. And she ended with a little dance step. I couldn't tell if it was a sales pitch or a complaint.
Then she really started ranting, "Pictures don't pay the bills." This is exactly what a crooked jalopy salesman would have said in "The Grapes of Wrath" along this same road. And she was just starting. She went on and on complaining that we had turned around in her driveway, yes that was her driveway, and we were parked in her parking lot, the parking lot she had paid for. She turned and marched back to the teepees, and I snapped another picture, unfortunately just as she turned around to see if we were leaving. She raised her hands and yelled, "Git outa here!!!"
I later felt bad, thinking she had bought this place with her retirement savings and discovered no one wanted Chinese Indian trinkets on Route 66 in Missouri. I was going to write her an email with ideas for increasing business--like adding fry bread samples. But when I looked the place up on the Internet, I found several comments indicating she and a man who also runs this place have been treating customers exactly this same way for 11 years. If you happen to make it to the entrance of the gift shop, they apparently charge $2 to come in.
This stone memorial was made by Larry Baggett, whose self-made concrete statue sits out front. He died in 2003. It's a memorial to the Trail of Tears, the trail the United States forced the Cherokees and other Native Americans to march along on their way to relocation in what is now Oklahoma. Many died along the route, thus the name Trail of Tears. Baggett built these stone shrines when an old Cherokee told him the spirits of the passersby couldn't pass because Baggett had built a stone wall in the way. So he put in stairs. And then he continued building memorials of stone and concrete.
This is the first thing we saw in Joplin, Missouri, as we entered the area where the F5 tornado hit this city of 50,000 on Sunday, May 22, and destroyed 30 percent of the city's buildings. More than 150 people died from the tornado, fungus infections following the mayhem, and lightning that killed one policeman the next day while he was helping people.
This was what we saw next. This used to be a Home Depot. You can barely see the Home Depot sign above and behind this heap.
The areas we went into had new power poles and lines already installed. You can see the new poles in the background on the right.
As we were getting ready to leave for Oklahoma City, Jamie called to tell us a severe thunder storm, likely with big hail, was heading their way. They live in Oklahoma City. We decided to reserve a hotel in Tulsa and raced the storm as it left Oklahoma City and headed toward Tulsa. All along the way we kept our eyes open for shelter that didn't exist. This was Oklahoma. It's flat. We arrived at the hotel in Tulsa about 15 minutes before the storm hit. Luckily it didn't drop hail in Tulsa, since there was no cover under which to park the car, although the storm did some hail damage in Norman, South of Oklahoma City.
On Wednesday morning we backtracked about 15 miles to the Blue Whale swimming resort in Catoosa, Oklahoma. The resort is no longer in operation, but the whale is still here, along with some new picnic tables.
We met Jamie, Kali, Caleb, and Emi for lunch at Pop's, across the street from the Round Barn. Pop's, with its 500 flavors of soda, is a modern Route 66 must-see stop. You can see pictures of Pop's in my blog from last year's road trip to Mt. Rushmore. This is inside the Round Barn.
Braum's serves the best ice cream. A large double waffle cone is under $3. Try to get that at a Baskin Robbins.
The Canadian River bridge near Bridgeport, Oklahoma, is 3,944.33 feet long and was completed in 1933, about the time of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," which starts in Oklahoma.
Lucille's service station, built in 1941, near Hydro, Oklahoma. None of the restored service stations on Route 66 is a working gas station. Most are museums or gift shops. This one seems to be just a building.
Here we met Kal, Ali, and Donna. They came from Scotland, bought this Chevrolet Corsica in New York for $500, painted it up, and drove it to New Orleans. We met them on their way down Route 66 to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, then to Roswell, where they planned to speak to aliens, and then to Houston to meet a friend, put the car on eBay, and fly home. It was 105 degrees here. They asked if we had air conditioning. We said, "Yes." They said, "You win."
We arrived in Amarillo, Texas, late, but the Big Texan was still open. This is where you can get your dinner for free if you order the 72-ounce steak and eat it, along with a potato, roll, and salad within an hour. They had six people earlier that evening who had tried. Failing costs $72. We opted for a smaller filet mignon and a whatever Randy got.
The Bug Farm has an abandoned restaurant, store, and gas station that look like the people just left one day, leaving everything behind, including merchandise. The door is open and the stuff is still here.
The Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo. You can see more pictures of these with John's kids from our Mt. Rushmore trip last year.
Near the midpoint between Chicago and Santa Monica.
Adrian, Texas, claims to be the midpoint on Route 66. Although the midpoint is in dispute, due to Route 66 changing routes over the years, this is close enough for us.
The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, is probably the highest priority must-see Route 66 stop. We had planned to stay here, but we only made it to Amarillo, Texas, the previous night. The neon lights would make a great picture, especially the little fluorescent swallows over each garage. That's right, each room has a garage and each garage has a neon swallow.
One of the garages with an old Chevy and tribute to the animated movie "Cars," which was based on Route 66.
The El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico, is pretty big and hosted a lot of movie stars during the heyday of filmmaking in this part of the country. Movie stars included Clark Gable, John Wayne, Claudette Colbert, and many more. The rooms are named after the stars who stayed here.
The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, is the same as the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California. Unfortunately we passed both at night, and they aren't lighted well at all.
This is one of the most famous billboards along the old Route 66. This is strictly a tourist trading post and is near Joseph City. Good luck finding it at night.
We stayed overnight in Flagstaff, which is a nice mountain city in the Kaibab Forest. On Friday we drove to Williams, the last town to be bypassed by the Interstate in 1984 and the turnoff for anyone going to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The town has a great Route 66 flavor of old and new tourist shops.
Williams is also home of the train that was the original access to the Grand Canyon and still makes the run.
We followed a 70-mile stretch of Route 66 that loops far from I-40 between Seligman and Kingman. About halfway is the town Peach Springs, which provides a glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
A little farther along this route is Hackberry, another must-see stop. This old gas station has a ton of memorabilia as well as stuff for sale. Cold soda is the best thing it sells.
And inside the restroom are a lot of pinups (no R rated). According to another traveler in the store, the women's restroom is decorated similarly.
Oatman, Arizona, is out of the way for anyone traveling the Interstate. Route 66 takes a twisting track up a mountain here to this former mining town, where burrows were brought in to haul ore. Oatman turned into a ghost town and then was restored into a tourist stop with shops and restaurants in the old wooden buildings with their boardwalks. These burrow descendants roam the street waiting for tourists to feed them alfalfa pellets and carrots. The young ones who were still nursing had address-type labels stuck to their foreheads that said, "Do not feed." If the burrows got onto the boardwalk, the restaurant owner would come out and shoot them with a water gun connected to a 2-litre pop bottle.
This place was way cool. This is Elmer Long standing under the Lionel train he got when he was three years old. He has spent the past 12 years or so building this bottle forest in his front yard near Helendale, California. He was much more friendly than the lady at the Indian Harvest joint. Elmer's wife saw us with cameras, invited us through the gate, and went to fetch her husband. He yacked until the sun was dipping too low for pictures. We each left a $5 tip in his tip mailbox. See, pictures can pay the bills.
A bottle tree.
They have a wonderful garden with hanging grapes, which were huge and green but not ready to eat, a new avocado tree, an orange tree, and a lot of other growing things to eat.
After about six hours of driving through Los Angeles on the old Route 66, following the intricate directions on our map, we arrived at the Santa Monica Pier late in the afternoon.
Just to be sure, this is the West Coast water at the edge of the pier. That ends Route 66. And that completes my coast to coast to coast part of this trip.
We arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada--Henderson, actually--pretty late Saturday night. On Sunday we drove home through some serious rain storms, stopping for lunch at a cafe in Beaver. I dropped Randy off at his house and arrived home about 6 p.m., when Chieko cooked a nice filet mignon, medium rare, Father's Day dinner. Total mileage: 8,006.5 miles, including in my car, the Penske truck, and a little running around in John's car in Irving, Texas, for an average of about 533 miles per day for the 15 days when I was on the move.
This shows the entire trip in yellow and orange highlighter in a 2012 Rand McNally Road Atlas. I don't know how they publish a 2012 atlas in 2011, but they did.
This shows Route 66 in yellow highlighter in a 1957 Rand McNally Road Atlas. 1957 was the last year before the Interstate Highway System was started.