Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leg 6: Kingman, AZ to Venice, CA

Miles traveled: 339 miles
Time traveling: 6 hours
Average speed: 49 mph
States traveled: Arizona, California

Since we spent the last several nights staying in not-so-nice motels, we decided to splurge a little for our last night on the road. We Pricelined and found a lovely hotel known as the Springhill Suites by Marriott.

Front desk area

This hotel was leaps and bounds from the Blarney Inn. It had a nice, modern style, the staff was cordial and helpful, and there was a continental breakfast!


It was honestly the first night I've slept soundly in several days. We took to opportunity to sleep in, enjoy our breakfast, and take our time getting back on the road.


If you've noticed that these are all photos stolen from the Marriott's website, that's because I loved the hotel so much that I decided to donate my camera to them! Well actually, I forgot it. But for the low, low price of $20, they are shipping it back to me. But I feel pretty dumb.

There was actually not much to see today. We drove through the Mojave, which was quite desert-y. We stopped at In N Out for lunch.

If you know me at all, you know that I eat very little meat. But I make exceptions for In N Out. It is delicious. This is actually only the second In N Out burger I've had in my life, but they were both freaking yummy. I actually finished my burger today before Marcus, something that never happens.

We ran into some stereotypical California traffic but eventually made it to our house in Venice. We unpacked the car and walked around a bit. Marcus showed me the beach and some bits of the neighborhood. Now we're getting settled, figuring out where to start on this whole "moving in" thing.

I'll probably take a few days off from blogging and return with a "Roadtrip Tips" post, so if you should have any questions or tips of your own to share, comment away. Until then, thanks for following along! Keep reading!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Leg 5: Holbrook, AZ to Kingman, AZ (via the Grand Canyon)

Miles traveled: 454 miles
Time traveling: 11 hours
Average speed: 41 mph
States traveled: Arizona

Having reserved today mostly for sightseeing, we set out pretty early and grabbed breakfast at a Mexican joint near our motel. We're both big fans of Mexican food, and our huevos rancheros were delicious.

Our first stop was the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. The park is a 28 mile loop with several pull-off points to look around and take photos.

The first stop was at the actual forest area. These trees are around fifty to two hundred MILLION years old. They became petrified when they got covered in mud, sand, or volcanic ash and submerged in water, causing the minerals in the sand to soak into the cells of the wood.

The different colors seen in the wood are created by different minerals: iron, the main ingredient, causes reds and oranges, copper causes blues or greens, quartz causes white or gray, and manganese and carbon add black.

We hopped back in the car and continued along the trail. These next pictures are known as "Teepees" because of their shape. The bands of different colors are due to the different concentrations of minerals in the soil.

They were very pretty but it was hot hot HOT out there in the desert. We only made a couple more stops on the trail before moving on. Our next stop, recommended by the book, was a little place called Stewart's Petrified Wood.

It's pretty hard to miss due to its giant dinosaur statues, teepees, and a yellow school bus perched on a cliff above it.

It's illegal to take pieces of petrified wood from inside the park, but it is collected and sold legally from private properties in the area. This place had tons!

These raw pieces were being sold at $2/pound, but there were also shiny, polished pieces for several hundred dollars per slice. Also for sale were meteorites, fossils, carvings, and ostrich eggs. Oh, did I forget to mention the ostriches?

There was a huge pen of ostriches next to the shop laden with huge signs saying things like "Ostriches bite!" and "We are not responsible for accidents!" So we were understandably a little cautious when we went over to see them. They did not seem particularly friendly. The man in the shop asked me if I wanted to feed them and I said, "But the sign says they bite!" and we said "Nahhh, they won't bite you!" Alright, guy, I'm not buying that. He said they have over a hundred ostriches!

We left pretty soon after that because I got bit (stung?) by what I assume was a fire ant. I've never encountered fire ants before, but as soon as I felt what it did to my leg, I was pretty sure that's what it was. It burns!!

We continued on to the Grand Canyon, and let me tell you, that is one big hole!! We really lucked out because apparently this weekend was a "fee-free" weekend, and we got free admission to both the Petrified Forest AND the Grand Canyon (would've been $10 + $25).

The South Rim of the canyon has about a 25 mile trail to drive along with look-out points throughout. Each point gave a totally different view of the canyon.

We were able to wander around a little bit at each look-out and Marcus had a lot of fun scaring me by climbing out on rocks to take pictures.

I tried to explain to him that no one would be able to tell if his pictures were taken from a slightly more dangerous spot, but he said that wasn't the point. What do I know? Just about as soon as we got out of the car, I tripped on a rock, stumbled toward the edge, and cut my foot. It was a high-injury day for me.

It was pretty spectacular, and we were both really glad we went. I don't really think you can get a sense of how big it is just by looking at a few views of it. The whole thing is over one million acres! That's crazy!

I hope you've all enjoyed reading along with our journey, because at this time tomorrow, we'll be at our house in California! If you've been keeping up with us, please leave a comment so I know who's out there. (I know a lot of people have been clicking through from Facebook, tell me who you are!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Leg 4: Shamrock, TX to Holbrook, AZ

Miles traveled: 610 miles
Time traveling: 11 hours
Average speed: 56 mph
States traveled: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona

After a lovely stay in the Blarney Inn (as recommended by our friendly local waitress), we set out for a pretty early start to our day. We had to drive pretty far before we found civilization to get breakfast, so we snacked on some Poptarts in the car.

We made our way to Amarillo, Texas, grabbed breakfast at Denny's where I inhaled a stack of chocolate chip pancakes, then we got back on the road to visit another classic route 66 site: Cadillac Ranch.

There are ten classic Cadillacs planted in the middle of a field on the side of the highway. If that doesn't sound strange enough, according to the book, they have been placed at exactly the same angle as the pyramids of Giza. Furthermore, over the years, they have been totally covered in spray paint.

There were empty spray paint cans strewn all over the field, and it was obvious that these cars have been painted over and over throughout the years (they were placed there in 1974). Check out the depth of the paint on this car!

It was definitely an interesting sight to see. We wandered around for about ten minutes taking photos and laughing at the kids trying to find cans on the group with paint still in them. Marcus stopped snapping for a minute to let me take a picture of him for a change.

I spotted a white heart painted on one of the cars and asked a fellow traveler to take a photo for us. It was super windy, to explain the awkward hair hold/lean.

We traveled on.. Texas looks mostly like this:

Later we entered New Mexico, which mostly looks like this:

Actually, New Mexico was totally beautiful. I've never really been to the desert at all before, but there were mountains and mesas, cacti, wildflowers, creek beds, and red sand. I took about a bajillion pictures because it was so pretty but traveling at 75 mph in a car with windows splattered with bug guts is really not the best way to photograph the landscape. You'll have to take my word for it. Later we passed through some mountains like these:

It was really cool. I'm officially a fan of the southwest. We stopped at a few souvenir stops, but nothing really interesting to report. We eventually entered Arizona and made our way to Holbrook, a classic route 66 town. We had really wanted to stay in the Wigwam Motel, but our lack of planning led to us not getting through to their office til today, and they were all booked up. We picked another motel instead, ate at a local Mexican restaurant (yum!), and walked around town and met the locals.

The southwest is crazy about dinosaurs. There are probably at least twenty dino statues on the street where we are staying tonight. Not that I mind, they make for some great photo-ops!

Check out those white, white arms.

As the sun set, we walked down to take a look at the wigwams before we were promptly attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes and had to retreat to our motel room. Tomorrow will be mostly for sightseeing, as we could pretty easily make it to California driving at the rate we have been. We're backtracking a bit to visit the petrified forest, then moving forward to the Grand Canyon. So, good night for today, I leave you with a photo of where we could be sleeping.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leg 3: Joplin, MO to Shamrock, TX

Miles traveled: 382 miles
Time traveling: 9 hours
Average speed: 43 mph
States traveled: Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

After two long travel days, we decided to make today a bit shorter. We slept in a little at our too-nice hotel, had a relaxing breakfast, and hit the road. We got back onto route 66 so that we would pass through a little bit of Kansas on our way to Oklahoma.

We were in Kansas for about 13 miles, and let me tell you: It. Was. Thrilling. There were a few more cornfields and a few little towns that looked like this:

We crossed over into Oklahoma but must've taken a wrong turn at some point, because our "historic" road transitioned pretty suddenly into gravel. Now, I know some of you country-folk readers are used to such "off-roading" in your hometowns, but we city-folk were a little surprised by this.

See? Surprised and confused. Suddenly, we were IN the cornfields we had been admiring for all those miles. We looked at the map on our GPS and tried to head back to the highway, but our little road turned into an overpass and went straight over the highway instead of onto it. Eventually we found our way out of the crops and got back on track.

My guidebook informed me that pretty soon we would be close to the world's tallest totem pole. How do you pass that up??

It was pretty strange and pretty cool. There were lots of other smaller totems on the property also. It really amazes me what interests people and what they choose to do with their passions. These totem poles were literally in someone's backyard.

See the little bit of house on the left? And this is not even half of the totems. There were no stairs inside the big totem, but you can look up through a shaft up to the top. It seemed that a family of birds had made their home inside. There was also a sign with some totem facts:

There was also a small gift shop on the property with, inexplicably, a fiddle museum inside. I kid you not, check it out:

We talked to the woman inside, presumably the owner, and signed her guestbook. She seemed interested in our travels, but probably hears the same story every day. I should've told her I'm a famous blogger.

We continued on without much to see but billboards. After seeing about fifty billboards advertising the "Cherokee Trading Post," we decided to stop. We needed a bathroom break anyway. I highly doubt that any actual Native Americans were involved with this establishments, but there were lots of fun photo-ops and interesting things to see.

A bit later, we passed right through a wind farm. Marcus and I are both big "fans" of these windmills, and this was the most I had ever seen in one place (there were about four times as many as are in this photo).

When planning our route for the day, Marcus read in my book about Texalo, Oklahoma, which was described as a ghost town with a delicious bbq joint. Well, we didn't see any ghosts, but we did see some horses. We got out to say hi and Marcus took some pics with his new camera. Blogger will probably destroy the quality of this photo, but it's a fantastic shot.

As for that bbq joint? It appeared to be deserted, so we decided to move on.

We made it to Shamrock, Texas and stopped at the first place we could find for dinner. It was full of locals and local flavor (Marcus is still smiling every time he hears someone with a southern accent). We (again) had not booked a hotel in advance, though we read a few reviews online. We had pretty much decided to stay at the motel next to the diner we were eating at, but I decided to ask the waitress what she recommended. She told us to definitely not stay at that motel and directed us to another around the corner. Thanks waitress!! This motel is nice enough, and has pretty snappy internet, so it's fine with us. Tomorrow we'll be heading through much of the state of New Mexico, and I expect it to be hot hot hot! Stay tuned for more Twitter and blog updates!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Leg 2: Indianapolis, IN to Joplin, MO

Miles traveled: 582 miles
Time traveling: 13 hours
Average speed: 45 mph
States traveled: Indiana, Illinois, Missouri

When we started planning our trip, I bought this roadtrip guidebook from Borders.

It's been a pretty good resource throughout our journey. It has town-by-town descriptions of several popular roadtrip routes throughout the US, including route 66. When I first read through the attractions we would be passing, I noticed one that I knew Marcus would not want to miss.

The Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield, IL is the birthplace of the corndog. Being a huge fan of corndogs, it was a big hit with Marcus.

After our lunch, we jumped on the historic route 66 for a ways. At this point, route 66 is basically a two-lane highway running directly parallel to the main interstate, only a few hundred feet to the right. It has been re-routed at every interstate entrance ramp to avoid the traffic, so you have to loop around and make a left turn to stay on it. At one of these we got confused and got back on, but once we figured things out, we got back off to make it to our next destination.

Henry's Rabbit Ranch was a bit underwhelming. I was expecting fields filled with little fluffy bunnies merrily hopping about, but instead there were a lot of rabbits of the vehicular variety. Like this:

We did find one rabbit though:

There were supposed to be actual rabbits there (it says so in my book), but we suspected that they must've been taken to a cooler location. It was probably around 100˚ here. After that, we hopped (haha get it? rabbits??) back on the interstate where there wasn't much to see in the rest of the state of Illinois. The rest of the state looked pretty much like this:

Marcus kept saying, "It's so farmy!" I, having had experience with farms, was less impressed. And then the road bends, and out of nowhere, this site springs up.

We had suddenly entered St. Louis, Missouri, and were seeing what I have now learned is called the Gateway to the West. It was really cool to see in person, if only from the car. We passed through some quick but serious rain that cleared up just in time for the sun to set, and it made for some really beautiful skies.

We had known we were aiming for the city of Joplin but weren't positive we would make it all the way there so we hadn't booked a place to stay. I tried to use Priceline via our phones to get a reservation but apparently the internet connection wasn't stable enough to actually book, so I made a call to dad in NJ who graciously offered to negotiate a price for us and gift us the room for the night. We ended up in a way-too-nice hotel that I wish we could've stayed longer at. There was two pools, a spa, and they gave us complimentary beer/wine tickets when we checked in that we didn't use because we were already too tired. We must've been really tired, because I mean, who says no to free beer?! But there was something else calling my name:

Pillows, labeled soft and firm. For real? Way too nice, dad. But thanks, we loved it anyway!