Richard and Suzanne's Big 2001 Road Trip
Stage 1: East Thru the Midwest
Phoenix, AZ to Portland, ME
We left bright and early - no, make that two hours late, as usual. First stop was the office (of course) to grab some ice, then off eastward along US 60 past Apache Junction, where we saw a skywriter, er, sky-scribbler (couldn't understand what he was writing, though). A brief stop at Salt River Canyon recovered us from all the twists and turns, then on thru the pines and Show Low for another brief stop at the unnatural wonders of the HonDah Casino (and "our" new traffic signal at the 260/73 junction). Then eastward and upward on 260, topping out at 9400 feet near Greer, then plummeting into New Mexico on US 60.
Then misfortune struck. About 28.7 miles into New Mexico, we were caught in a small but very severe dust devil that took us by surprise from the side (didn't have much dust in it until it hit the rocks and dirt on the highway). Suddenly, the truck was shoved sideways, the hood bent and buckled upward, and literally hundreds of chips suddenly appeared in the windshield, windows, and the relatively new blue paint on the truck. :( After about an hour of pounding, we were able to get the hood to close again (sort of, anyway), and we continued eastward through Pie Town for a brief stop at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array of really big dishes. Dinner was at the El Camino restaurant in Socorro, and then up I-25 and east again on US 60 into the darkness. However, the time we spent earlier pounding on the hood to get it to close was just long enough (and tiring enough) to keep us from making it to Tucumcari that evening - and our reservation at the historic Blue Swallow Motel. We did find a colorful neon sign that led us to the Yucca Motel in Vaughn, where we relaxed after our eventful first day.
Got enough antennas on that truck?
We "Vaughn-dered" northeast from the Yucca Motel along US 54, our road to adventure for this day. We stopped by the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari to say hi and to follow up on our missed reservation (we'll definitely stay there next time, though!), and then rolled diagonally into Texas, where we saw countless cattle - very "XIT"ing. In downtown Dalhart, we stopped for lunch at the Music Cafe, which was also the local signmaking shop, computer dealer, Internet radio station, and ice cream parlor! Munched on some great chili dogs while listening to the station from multibigtrip/2001 speakers at each table (for sale at the register - like we said, these folks do everything). Then onward along US 54, with an obligatory stop in Conlen to say howdy to the tallest Texan we'd seen in a while . We continued our Panhandling in Oklahoma, as we cruised thru Guymon and Hooker, and Richard took pictures of double fine signs in construction zones - his assignment for the week. Then into Kansas, where we had an Oz-ly amusing time in Liberal, stopping to relax at the Munchkin Playground, next to the alleged "Dorothy's House" (we have our suspicions - no feet underneath, no flight hours in the log...). Later, dinner was served to us by a happy carhop at the 54 Drive-in in Meade, and then eastward away from the setting sun thru Mullinville (lots of new figures at Liggett's place!) and Greensburg. Near Pratt, we had another unfortunate experience, as a skunk with poor traffic safety skills chose to complete his life's experiences under our wheels, despite our best swerving. We continued through the now-fragrant darkness to Hutchinson, where we found the Astro Motel under starry skies.
A big howdy from a big Texan
This morning was spent spacing out at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, where we saw another "Odyssey" on our odyssey (the Apollo 13 command module), lots of unpronounceable Russian and American spacecraft and aircraft, and other fun aerospace junk. Hit the open road a bit late, driving past the prairie dogs popping their heads up in the highway bigtrip/2001n, and headed north by northeast to I-135 and I-70, where the Kansas south winds shook our truck as they swept across the highway. We stopped at an old-fashioned wood-floor hardware store on old US 40 in Solomon to get some more weatherstripping to reduce the wind noise, and then traveled old US 40 through Abilene and all its Eisenhoweresque glory. Back on I-70 thru Topeka and the Turnpike, and then on into Kansas City, with its maze of freeways and really really big diagrammatic signs. After getting caught in some rough traffic near the Royals stadium (just missed the Diamondbacks' three game stand), we stopped for steakburgers and malts at Winstead's, an old-fashioned Kansas City tradition for over 60 years. A few more miles along I-70 took us past Boonville and into Columbia, where we circled the University of Mizzou and found a place to rest at the red-brick-and-neon Arrow Head Motel.
Fun at the Kansas Cosmosphere
We rolled on from Columbia through the warm late morning sunshine - the very warm morning sunshine. It seems that we've carrying a bit of that Arizona weather along with us, as the temperatures where we're traveling have been in the mid to upper 90s, with increasing humidity. Fortunately, we hardy Zonies don't mind too much. We only made it a few miles before we were lured off I-70 by the dozens of billboards for walnut bowl factory outlet stores. While we didn't get any of those wooden wonders, we did get other useful items, including a wrought-iron chicken-motif plate holder. After this, a stop at Ozarkland provided us with $1.37 unleaded and other Missounirs, and then onward at full speed... into the bumper-to-bumper traffic of suburban St. Louis. Due to congestion & construction, we decided to take the bypass of the bypass around town, and we proceeded across the wide Mississippi into Illinois on I-270 just north of the historic Route 66 Chain of Rocks bridge. In Vandalia, the western end of the old National Road (the first true US highway, built in the early 1800s, now US 40) we stopped for Wal-Mart essentials, and then we mixed driving along I-70's freeways and US 40's byways as we passed through Effingham and onward into Indiana.
In Indianapolis, we watched the setting sun illuminate the most famous track in motor racing, and proceeded to take the truck on a "lap around Indy" on the local streets and through the heavy traffic from the World Police and Fire Games activities being held in the city. Cruising through town on US 40, we stopped in our tracks as we saw a collection of the most interesting vehicles we'd seen in a long time - a whole fleet of limousines with large amusing sculptures molded into their roofs - available for rent from Love's Auto Rental . We'll see if this gives us some ideas for remodeling the truck someday... Just before leaving the Indy area, we came upon the 1940s-era Admiral Motel, and chose it as our port of call for the night.
Wild rides in Indy
We cast off from the Admiral Motel and traveled into eastern Indiana on US 40 and I-70. Near Spiceland, we accumulated a road sign t-shirt, a reconditioned scanner, some Krispy Kreme donuts, and 172,000 miles on the truck! We then stopped at the Indiana/Ohio border to visit the National Road Welcome Center near Richmond and to pick up some cool valve caps at the local chrome shop, and then on into Ohio we went. We considered stopping at some of the aeronautical and bicycle-related attractions in Dayton, but cloudy skies and the chance of showers kept us pressing eastward. In Columbus, we finally left I-70 behind, and began fighting our way through many miles of construction on I-71. By the time we got to Sunbury, we were utterly fed up with fighting the orange barrels and heavy traffic, and chose (after a relaxing lunch) to instead enjoy a leisurely drive up the 2-lane backroads of US 36 & Ohio 3. We stopped to purchase a US flag wind chime (in Mount Liberty, on Flag Day, no less!) and a curious old 16" US route shield originally from Kentucky (it uses reflective paint, not sheeting, and has no numerals installed). We proceeded through the "square-about" (a town square converted into a roundabout) in Mt. Vernon, and then drove up through Wooster (where our brother-in-law Jeff spent his college days) and arrived in Cleveland just in time to avoid the traffic for the Indians game just starting at Jacobs Field. We then drove past the new Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Browns Stadium, and parked the truck at Waterfront Park to have a romantic moment (yes, Cleveland can be romantic!) and watch the sunset over Lake Erie. We then finished up this day with a drive along OH 2 and US 20, where we stopped for a malt at a roadside stand and then near the town of Geneva we found the small, quaint, and nearly perfect Betty's Motel, featuring a few cozy units with comfy beds, ceiling fans, and hot & cold running cats.
Cleveland skyline from Lake Erie at sunset
We said our farewell to the kitties, left the cozy confines of Betty's Motel, and headed eastward across the "Pennsylvania panhandle" and on into New York and the Thomas Dewey Memorial Thruway (only 496 miles to NYC from here!). Then we shuffled up to Buffalo and across the Peace Bridge in one piece, where we got to spend a few entertaining moments with a very friendly Canadian Customs lady who had an odd interest in finding out just how many firearms we had back in Arizona. After assuring her we would refrain from overthrowing the Canadian government on this particular vacation, we entered Ontario, stopping for lunch at a small place just off the QEW featuring "Canadian home cooking". We entered the bustling tourist trap of Niagara Falls, and found our reserved room under the neon sign and red & yellow Googie architecture of the Cadillac Motel. Following an afternoon's rest from the 34 degree temperatures, we ventured past the t-shirt shops, wax museums, and other unnatural wonders to view that extremely unnatural sight (at least to a native Arizonan, that is) - Niagara Falls. After boarding the "Maid of the Mist VII", we were then taken up into the center of the Horseshoe Falls, which was exactly as had been described - just like being in the world's largest shower, with all the settings on at once, only more scenic! After our moistening treatment, we rested in the gardens along the river, and then chose to feed ourselves and try our luck at Casino Niagara, where we discovered the wonders of the exchange rate. Here, a big picture of Andy Jackson gets you 120 quarters, not the 80 you typically get in Vegas. So you have 50% more fun - until, of course, it's time to convert back to US funds. We did keep some funds in the form of "Loonies" and "Toonies" ($1 & $2 coins) for more Cana-shopping, though. We left the casino rested and happy, and sat down to see the colored lights playing over the falls (no, they probably couldn't do that at the Grand Canyon) and to watch the Friday night fireworks. Then it was back up to the room past the fun & games of the Clifton Hill district, and a good night's snooze in the ol' Cadillac (Motel).
Hey, who left the water running?
Completing our Canadian experience, we crossed back over the Rainbow Bridge into another "foreign country" - New York. We backtracked around Buffalo and made our way to Orchard Park, where we had a free-wheeling time at the Burgwardt Bicycle Museum, visiting the largest collection of bicycles and bicycling memorabilia to be found in the world. We saw the history and development of all things velocipedically, from the earliest boneshakers, to classic cruisers, to the latest double-suspended mountain bikes and slotted saddles... which, as was pointed out, were also all the rage in the 90s - the 1890s, that is. After rolling out the door with lots more unique bicycle stuff, we then took our 4-wheeled motorized bike carrier east along US 20A through the affluent village of East Aurora, where we stopped for some great grinders at Augie's Hoagies. Then up through Attica and Batavia back to the Thruway, where we locked in the cruise control and pressed eastward through the rain. A storm front that had been chasing us since Kansas had caught up with us at Niagara Falls, so now we were finally out of the 90 degree heat, but a whole lot of wetness made driving a bit of a challenge. Due to the weather, and being a bit behind schedule, we drove on across New York, stopping only at the service areas for sticky buns & rest breaks. We broke away from I-90 in Amsterdam and drove diagonally up to Ballston Spa and the Saratoga Springs area. We Michizona bumpkins had heard that the Saratoga area was a popular tourist destination, so we arrived expecting something like Pigeon Forge, and instead found La Jolla East. So, we just kept moving past the frou-frou stores and gold-leaf B&Bs, and instead found a happy little white rustic cottage at the Wayside Motor Lodge near Wilton for our evening's rest.
All I want to do is biiiicycle, biiiicycle, biiiicycle...
We took our time as we packed our stuff out of the little Wayside cottage, and made our way up US 9 and US 4 through the upper Hudson River valley to Whitehall. This apparently-landlocked town has the distinction of being the birthplace of the US Navy, for it was here that the boats that defended Lake Champlain from British invasion during the Revolution were built and launched. We then voyaged east into Vermont, where we saw some interesting rumble strip warning signs and very unpleasant "No Bicycles on Traveled Lane" signs in Rutland. In Killington, we stopped for some Vermontenirs and some colorful long-sleeve shirts, and then further along the twisty Green Mountain roads in Bridgewater, where we mailed our obligatory Vermont postcard and found antique wooden buckets at the Hillbilly Flea Market. At Quechee, we peered into the gorge and stopped at the village for more squeezies and a book on motels - containing, of course, some of the more interesting places we've stayed in our travels. We then attempted to enter New Hampshire, but the fatigue caused by 8 days' driving, combined with some really confusing intersections at bridges over the Connecticut River, had Richard thinking that north was south, and vice versa - which led to a few miles' detours and aimless wanderings before things got straightened out. Taking the hint, we stopped early in White River Junction at the Maple Leaf Motel, where Richard promptly fell asleep for 14 hours straight.
Cozy little cottages at the Wayside Motor Lodge
After that very long rest at the Maple Leaf Motel, we tried again to enter New Hampshire without compassic confusion, this time along I-89 with much better success. Back on US 4 again, we cruised through Canaan and then up into Warren, where we stopped for Moose Tracks ice cream and to see their Jupiter-C missile - feeling safe knowing that New Hampshire is well-equipped with rocket technology. Then onward into Franconia Notch, where I-93 yields to US 3 (and bikes are forced onto a hazardous sidepath), and we viewed the rugged (but slightly smaller than expected) visage of the Old Man of the Mountain, as seen on every official New Hampshire highway sign and DOT vehicle door. North of the Notch, we veered off on US 3 to Twin Mountain, where we finally stopped at one of those fun little mini-golf places we'd been promising ourselves to visit since Texas. This place, aptly named "Fun Towne", offered not only an authentic goony golf experience down to the too-bright colors, the intermittently stuck motorized hazards, and AstroTurf held down with occasional rocks, but also included another authentic New England pastime - candlepin bowling! We tried this unique bowling experience, figuring that the 3 balls per frame would help our scores, but those pins are awfully narrow and those wooden balls are really small, so our scores weren't all that high - although it should be noted that Suzanne soundly beat Richard in both golf and candlepin bowling. After this, we made more stops in Twin Mountain for Gulf gas and a huge late lunch at the Mooseland Grill, and up to US 2 and stops for New Hampshire stuff at the Waterwheel Gift House in Jefferson. Then southeastward we went past the looming shadow of Mt. Washington (home of the wildest weather on earth) and onward into the final state of our outward adventure - Maine! We stopped briefly to stick another state on our US map on the tailgate, then made our way quickly along the back roads into Portland, where we found our extremely-nice-for-government-rate suite at the AmeriSuites in South Portland - our home for the next 5 nights.
Wacky golf & candlepin bowling at Fun Towne
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