Friday, September 28, 2007
End: Jen and Russ's house in LA
This was another instance where we really motored to reach our destination early. As previously reported, we weren't able to visit the Canyon on this trip, so that will wait for another day.
We left the lodge at around 7:30 and were back on Route 40 before 8:15. MM was playing with the Sirius trying to find pregame coverage for the Giants and Packers. We didn't stop for lunch and actually only stopped once for gas so intent were we on getting to our new home in LA. We were unsuccesful as by 10 am local, when we switched to the station that said it had the feed from The Fan all we heard was an insane sounding woman yelling, "My momma has a fig tree!" Interesting.
Once we got the radio going, we listened to the Giants get dismantled, the Mets lose another heartbreaker, but the Bears got off to a good start, despite the Bears' announcer describing Sexy Rexy as "a clown in a dunk tank."
The aforementioned one stop was in one of my favorite places on earth, Needles, CA. Home to Snoopy's brother, Spike.
When we finally arrived in Los Angeles, 2838 miles from our start, there were some problems with the house (all of which are now fixed), since we stayed at Jen and Russ's for the evening. But all of that information will have to wait for the Monkey in California blog, which you can see for yourself doesn't exist.
Thanks for reading and your patience...Damien
End: Huluapai Reservation, AZ
Ok, so we lost our notes for this day, which is why there was such a long delay in getting this post up. I'm going to try and do it from memory, but those that know me know my memory is rubbish.
So we got up early in Amarillo. Filmed a short Monkey video and got on the road. To be honest, while this day had the longest amount of car time, it also had the least amount of stops because we wanted to get motoring through the state. For example, we normally stopped every hour to hour and a half the first three days. This Saturday, there was over 200 miles before our first start.
So much of the day's treck, aloung Route 40, ran directly parallel to Route 66 that our stops were almost all at Route 66 tourist/cross country driver areas. The first place was just a normal rest stop but was in the most boring state in the Union, New Mexico.
Now, some folks tell me that NM isn't boring at all. As proof of its boringness, you need to look no further than NM's elected leaders. My former home state of NJ had, in just the time I was a resident we had Jim McGreevey, Richard Codey, and Jon Corzine. California has this guy. New Mexico, has Bill Richardson, a man so bright he's running for president as the heir to the Clinton legacy against Hillary Clinton.
So here's my comments on New Mexico. Blah, blah, blah...dust, tumbleweeds, highways, and some side trips on Route 66. Kind of cool driving along the old Dust Bowl road, but I was racing towards something and couldn't be bothered by this touristy stuff.
I was racing towards Winslow, AZ. Where I not only wanted to stand on a corner, but also to visit a restaraunt called the Turquoise Room which had this great Tex/Mex and American Indian fusion which I rememberd from the last trip across the country in 2003. Tom Ruth reccomended the place to us, and its been on my mind since.
There's one small problem, at about noon we were 80 miles from the AZ border when I declared that Winslow was "just across the border." If you clicked on the link above you might be able to piece together that "100 miles north of Phoenix" is not "just across the border."
So we pull into Winslow at aroun 2:30 and unfortunately, the restaraunt stops serving at 2:00. But there's some good news for us! So, with a four star quality meal in our bellies we're ready to head out, except for one thing....
MM needs to stop at a pharmacy to get some anti-cold/flu stuff (she's almost better, but doesn't want to start off her now job as a sick person). The only pharmacy in town, is a Wal Mart. As some of you know, the only time I went to a Wal Mart I was ripped off. During the trip we saw a puff piece on Wal Mart about how they have a computer that knows everything about everyone and they want to take over our brains and force us to buy cheap crap. Ok, maybe that wasn't the theme, but I suspect they use that computer to keep track of liberal activists and prevent them from buying cheap crap in Wal Mart.
I did get to tell my Mom on the phone, "I'm standing in a Wal Mart in Winslow, Arizona!", but she didn't get it.
So anyway, we're back on the road, after a brief diversion.
From here, we're on the road for another couple of hours, they get on Route 66 for a trip to the hotel we're staying at, the Hualupai Lodge at Diamond Creek. Now, they don't seem to have a website, at least not one that google can pickup, and there were a few small problems with the hotel...namely, they didn't have hot water or gas. No hot showers, no hot tub, and the menu was limited. We found out the next day that the absence of a 4-wheel-drive vehicle would make it impossible to take a jaunt up to the Grand Canyon just 20 miles away.
All that being said, I think we're going back. Why? There seems to be great white-water rafting available just right there, and there's no cell phone coverage. NO CELL PHONE COVERAGE. They got the gas fixed, so a mini-resort with no cell phones might become a popular vacation destination.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Friday, September 14
Start: Springfield, MO
End: Amarillo, TX
Best Thing Heard on Radio:
DN: Well, the Grateful Dead channel had all of a three hour Bob Weir concert…but MM let me listen to all of BatBoy the Musical. Of course some random DJ in Oklahoma randomly said, “you can’t roller skate in a heard of buffalo.” He also opined that “you can’t bathe in a birdcage.” True ‘dat
MM: Reggae cover of “Blowin in the Wind”
Best Thing Seen on the Road:
DN: The Fuel truck for Crist Fuel
MM: Sign that reads, “Hitch hikers may be escaping inmates”
There were some early cool stuff right off the bad in the Show Me state. The road sign for the Road Bunk Café was an early favorite for best thing seen on side of the road, and we were happy to see Marybeth had her own exit. Exit 103 was for routes MM and B.
However, we also took time for our road stop of the day to go to the Precious Moments Park and Chapel. Now you might expecting some pretty snarky commentary from me on this, but the truth is that Marybeth collected these statues when she was a little girl and was interested in seeing the place. That it seemed like the set of a really cool horror movie was just a bonus for me.
The flower garden, fountain area, museum and chapel were nice, in a quiet secluded sort of way. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that these cherubic statues were going to come to life and hack me to pieces. When I told MM that it seemed like a horror movie set, she replied that it seemed more like “Alice in Wonderland.” I guess she never saw the “Don’t Come Around Here No More” video.
One drawback to these statues is that just about all of the girls are blond. Now for a curly haired brunette, it was always sad that she couldn’t get one that looked like her. Never fear, at the Precious Moments Official Gift Shop, you can build your own doll. Green eyes, curly hair, overalls….whatever you want. When you pick the doll its just a bald babyish thing wearing underpants, but you can do with it whatever you want.
Now, I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but one of the biggest was making a crack at checkout about them throwing in the underpants for free. First off, the woman insisted on calling the doll's underwear “panties.” (Underwear free with every doll) The second was she told me about the internal fighting on whether or not to have panties for the dolls. Trust me, this is not the kind of woman you want throwing around the word “panties” in mixed company.
And what was the debate about? Were they worried that people would just stick to a bald doll with panties rather than by the accessories given the chance? Did they really think the panties would make the difference for someone sick enough to want a creepy-ass, bald doll with no clothes?
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
Finishing at the museum, we got back on the road to Oklahoma. There are two things I remember about Oklahoma from before the trip. The first is that it is the birthplace of Michael Rosensaft. The second is Wesley Clarke, having won his only primary, goofily proclaiming, “Oklahoma is OK with me!”
Oklahoma is not OK with hitchhikers however. In various parts of the state, we say brown signs that read “hitchhikers may be escaping inmates.” Well, OK then.
Now Marybeth gave me some trouble about not mentioning a billboard for “foot tall pies” back in Indiana because the sign said “Actual Size!” which of course wasn’t true because even a foot tall pie would be tiny on a big ‘ol billboard. Well, the good people of OK must have thought that a pretty funny sign because a billboard for some steak house also bragged of showing the steaks in actual size. I believe the advertised steak house was the inspiration for a scene in “The Great Outdoors,” because the restaurant claimed you could eat for free as long as you scarfed down a 72 oz. porterhouse in a half hour.
Some weird DJ around OK City responded to a question about what roller rink a caller should go to by opining that “You can’t roller skate in a field of buffalo and you can’t take a bath in a bird cage.” Oh, that heartland wit and wisdom…
About 60 miles from Texas we noted a wind farm and MM made some joke about alternative energy having to be outside of rocket range from Texas. As we learned later, wind power is actually being heavily promoted in Texas, much to both of our surprise. The first rest stop we encountered actually had a whole video presentation on how it was wind power that tamed the west and we’re just re-learning how to use it now. Go figure. Texas.
“Welcome to Texas, Home of President George Bush” reads the highway sign. I bet New Haven has something to say about that. Or maybe, New Haven has given up their claim...Although the sign did explain my sudden desire to clear brush with my spare time.
Also amusing about Texas was the plague of locusts. From about 20 miles outside Texas until we reached Amarillo, we noted there were a lot of dead locusts on the ground and others scurrying around. A plague of locusts, now whatever could that mean?
In an effort to battle Armageddon, the great state of Texas has put up the world’s biggest cross along the side of the road. Enjoy it while you can, because plans are underfoot to overtake it in the cross arms race.
We closed out the trip by listening to a reggae cover of “Blowin in the Wind.”
For dinner that evening we ate at a Texas Steakhouse that had old movie posers along the wall with other western themed mementos. Our favorite was “Africa: Texas Style” with the tagline of “The Cowboy Who Came to Tame a Bucking Bronc Called Africa.”
Don’t Mess with Texas.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
End: Springfield, MO
Most Memorable thing heard on the radio
DN: Drop Kick Me Jesus, or "B, double E, double R, U, N; BEER RUN!"
MM: Under the Sea from "The Little Mermaid"
Most Memorable Thing on the Side of the Road:
MM: "Apache Trading Post" sign with big knife sticking through the middle of sign.
DN: Crazy D's gas station (hellllo, Nick!) I think its logo was supposed to be a sombrero, but it looked more like a red zoot suit hat.
First off, thanks to everyone who has wished MM well during her rehab. Once we got past the toxic waste dump known as St. Louis she started feeling better. However, as we all know, better isn't good enough.
As I've long suspected, St. Louis slowly sucks the life out of the already infirm, explaining the Cubs' record there the past century or so...
We start the day with a decent breakfast and say, "fare thee well" to our new family in New Paris, OH. Before heading out, we take a moment to film a brief on the recharged video camera focusing on the local sprawl. Then we get in the car and surge past Norge, IN and head into Indiana Proper.
Either our route through Indiana (Route 70) was ridiculously corn field intensive or the state has more corn than any other form of life. We're guessing the state has removed all signage to Notre Dame now that the football team is terrible, or we were just unlucky. Its too bad, as we were told that it was around there that Mr. Ruth was spawned, and MM and I were looking forward to a mini-trip.
Also, Spiceland, IN, has nothing to do with either spices or Spice Girls.
Yeah, thats it for Indiana. That exciting.
I had high expectations for Illinois. Ill. is home to both Abraham Lincoln, and the greatest type of food ever invented. As has so often been the case in my life, Illinois dissapointed.
First, we didn't see one place to get a good deep-dish pizza along the entire 100+ miles we were in the state. We cut right through the southern part of the state and didn't see one pizza place that wasn't a Pizza Hut or something worse.
Second, Illinois is home to several parks, hiking trails and landmarks dedicated to Lincoln, but they apparently don't want anyone to visit them. Twice we took an exit to check out a cool sounding park, and twice we were unable to find said park becauase the signage promoting the local attractions vanishes once you clear the off ramp.
Marybeth was equally kind to Ill., writing "Ill. looks like IN but with knives through their signs."
Being let down by Ill., we turned our attention to St. Louis for a possible lunch stop. St. Louis was described to us by Genevieve as "a nice little city." Hrmph.
We do a second filming of the day noting that every society has their low points. Waterloo...the fall of the Roman Empire, the 2006 World Series. Finnishing the video, we explore St. Louis without gas masks or anything.
Ok, in truth St. Louis' downtown are was pretty cool. We got to see the Arc, the stadiums, and even check out some mass transit at a light rail station. MM got to show me a classically designed wrought iron bridge and explain to me how they work and are different than steel bridges and we had lunch at a nice place, Hannegans.
Hannegans was founded by FDR's campaign manager (Robert Hannegan), so I suppose I can forgive his being part owner of the Cards in the latter part of his life. Of course, there's no proof that owning them isn't what killed him.
We did meet an unabashed Cardinals fan while in the city. He added credence to a theory of mine that it wasn't being in St. Louis that makes one a Cardinals fan, but some sort of reaction to nuclear radiation. When asked where he would eat lunch if he were only in town for a day, CardsFan (I could tell because he was wearing a 2006 World Champs shirt) told us:
1) all the places in the downtown are the same
2) Hannegan's is the best place
3) He would go to the burger joint he was standing next to
At least, I think thats what he said. It all sounded like, "ALSDJFSLKDNG."
One last clearly slanted statement on St. Louis, the people there are clearly liars. We were unable to find the so-called "St. Louis BBQ Ribs" anywhere. Contrastly, we were able to find some grammar/spelling errors on the "history of the restaraunt" section of the menu at Hannegan's (one of which caused a debate on whether "drowed" was supposed to be "drowned" or "growed"). To have some genuine local cuisine, we had to split some toasted beef ravioli which were pretty good.
Moving away from StL through the rest of the state we noticed that a lot of exit signs just had big letters instead of Route numbers or towns on them. For example, a sign would say "exit 53" then there would be a D in a square. (that would be a BIG D, not a crazy one). Is that how MO does county roads? Feel free to drop us a line in the comments section if you know. I've opened comments do you don't have to have a google login anymore.
There were three contenders for the "Most Memorable Thing Seen on the Road" in the 170 miles between StL. and our stop of Springfield. They were:
1) A billboard with three babies and the Virgen Mary that read "Love Your Babies Born And Unborn", a message about as subtle as the immigration episode of Smallville when Clark turns to Ma Kent and hisses, "Good thing you didn't feel that way about aliens 17 years ago!"
2) A strip mall that took its title seriously featuring "Big Louie's Strip club" along with a place to play pool, a convenience store, a pizza parlor and a tattoo joint.
PS - Yes, the links about St. Louis are supposed to be that immature since the only thing I have against the city is a stupid baseball rivalry. Our side trip to the downtown was perfectly pleasant considering the rash should go away in a couple days and if we can't get the stench off our clothes with bleach we can always burn them.
Secondly, the we continue to make news, even while on vacation. The Baltimore Messenger captures the real essance of what makes a winning campaign. Just check out the picture, here: http://news.mywebpal.com/news_tool_v2.cfm?pnpID=574&NewsID=837384&CategoryID=8012&show=localnews&om=1
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
End: New Paris, OH
Most Memorable thing heard on the radio
DN and MM AGREE - Ring of Fire, as sung by Dwight Yoakam
Most Memorable Thing on the Side of the Road:
MM: Billboard that says TiVO THIS! (if she weren't sick, I'm sure she would have said the busses)
DN: a recreation of Noah's Arc. If these folks are in charge of repopulating the earth, the next society will be without engineers or carpenters
The day begins in Charm City with two tired campaign volunteers weerily packing the car with an assist from Will. However, it gets off to a bad karmic start as the battery for the film version of Monkey Across America will not feature much footage of today. MonkeyCam's battery was already nearly dead.
The actual trip gets off to a slow start as our first stop is about 400 yards from Will's house. Sadly, my last memory of Charm City is not an election victory, but of a charming person trying to recreate one of Jesus' miracles by feeding 40 people at a Dunkin' Donuts without the help of anyone else (despite the presence of several paid employees recreating the role of the Apostles by not doing a damm thing to help.) We gave up and headed into morning rush hour just before 9 AM (sans donuts.)
Feeling the high off the big win yesterday (See: Yesterday, below), we tried to find some election news on Baltimore radio. We instead learned that Art Modell is really cool (WBAL), white people only vote for white people (WOLB) and that someone is trying to kidnap Beyonce (some FM station).
The route took us the long way out of MD, leaving its NWestern border. We stopped thrice along the way before leaving "America in Miniature" at Frederick (where we had a non-religious experience at the Dunkin' Donuts), Norge and Grantsville. It was between Norge and Grantsville that we saw the church which advertised the recreation of Noah's Arc (it looked like a skeleton, and according to Will has for some time). In Grantsville, I picked up a copy of this week's edition of Sword of God, which included part 1 of a 3 part op-ed entitled, Why I Don't Speak in Tongues.
It was also in MD where we heard the "awesome" cover of Ring of Fire. We thought Dr. Teeth and Music Mayhem could have done a much better job.
We stopped for lunch in Norge, West Virginia, where the Wendys played U2's Pride as sung by some girl band who apparently thought it was a love song.
We then traveled through WV to PA. We were in PA for about 20 minutes, then were back in WV. From there, we entered Ohio. Ohio was the last state on the list for the day, but we did have to drive actross the entire state.
Quick note on WV: West Virgina might have the most scenic highways in the country if you're into mountains and trees, which I am.
All day we passed large flat-bed trucks that were carrying one part of an extremely long pipe. In Ohio, roughly 250 miles after we first started passing pipe pieces, we passed what was apparently either the end or beginning of the pipe. After this big tube thin with a pointy end we didn't pass anymore in the last 200 miles of the trip. It was sort of suspicious. If Ohio were Syria, it would probably be grounds for declaring war with Illinois.
Ohio itself is a pretty dull state to drive through (DN's opinion). It had neither the beautiful mountains of WV or MD nor being where America starts like PA. But it did have the weirdest thing we saw all day, which was a caravan of busses where each normal sized bus was towing a short bus.
Just before the trip ended, we heard a remake of song that makes Ryan Whineham want to stick an ice pick in his eye (his words).
We arrived at the Mariott in New Paris Ohio (motto, We Treat You Like Family!), just after 6 PM. To get food later, I had to cross into Indiana, a mere 600 yards away.
When we left MD, it seemed as though MM had contracted the same allergy that I had earlier in the week. As the day went on it got worse. It got so bad that upon arrival at the Mariott in New Paris, OH, I sent MM to the room and unloaded all 800 pounds of luggage onto a cart myself to roll into to our room. Two notes:
1) the Mariott in New Paris, OH doesn't have electronic doors and
2) the people of New Paris, OH, are the type of people that watch family members carry 1200 lbs. of luggage on a little cart through doors that close really quickly without helping.
Since MM was feeling more ill by the instant, I set off to gahter us food (see: two paragraphs earlier). MM wanted soup, but at the restaraunts of Norge, IN soup is a scarce commodity. The first two places I visited sent me away with no soup. However the second place told me to go to a place called Charley O's (sic), as it is the hippest place in town.
As I enter the hippest place in town, I'm greeted by the sound of a Dwight Yoakam cover of Ring of Fire. When I joke with the young lady who takes my order about the choice of music, she curls her lip at me and spits, "You're from Ohio aren't you?" When I clarified that I wasn't she gave me directions to the local pharmacy so I could get MM some NYQUIL.
At the pharmacy, I decide to get MM a bowl so she doesn't have to eat her sick person soup out of one of those styrofoam bowls. When the nice older lady at the counter asks me why I'm buying one bowl (if I get two they're on sale!), I explain the situation. This apparently means we're now tight, as she tells me the story of how her granddaughter was assaulted by a snotty girl at school for taking two long to go down the slide at her elementary school and broker her arm and the school won't do anything about it so she told her granddaughter to bash the snotty girl on the head with her cast.
When I stupidly replied that she should wait until her arm is fully healed or she'll break it again, she agreed and said that her granddaughter should (insert chopping motion that I think implies that said young lady should use her empty cast as a club).
So back to Charlie O's...
They earn their title (hippest place in town) as I'm greeted this time by the second coolest TV theme song in history. On a related note, the coolest theme song in TV history was a frequent topic of conversation today as MM filled me in on everything I missed because I never watched said show.
Back to the Mariott in New Paris, OH. I bough so much stuff (the NYQUIL, a case of gatorade, a soup bowl, and food) that I use the luggage cart again and bring the food to our room. MM is cold, so I go to the front desk to get a blanket. The following conversation ensues between me and a guy that wants to treat me like family.
Me: Can I have a blanket, my wife's not feeling well and is cold.
guy that wants to treat me like family: I don't know can you?
(Folks that were at my bachelor party, I pre-inserted the joke for you...)
The title of the blog will become apparent eventually.
As we drive across the country, MM is taking notes on her first child (the Blackberry) and Damien will transpose them into beautiful blog posts.
Now, so that the title of this post makes sense, yesterday was Election Day in Baltimore City and...
photo: Will Kirk (duh)