Richard and Suzanne's Big 2002 Road Trip
Stage 1: Over and Up
Phoenix, AZ to St Paul, MN

Day 1 - Tuesday, June 11th, 2002
Phoenix, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ
149 miles

Will there ever be a year when we leave on a big trip on schedule? Not this time! After a busy day spent packing, loading, meeting, and second-guessing, we finally got everything situated in Truckasaurus and hit the road, heading up I-17 for the short jaunt to Flagstaff. When we got there, we saw that the contractor was switching out some of the large signs on westbound I-40 at the I-17 interchange. Since Richard designed some of the very signs that were going up this evening, we checked in and observed as the old signs got put away and the big new signs (some nearly 30 ft wide) were carefully put into place. Finally, after some misadventures regarding hotel reservations that didn't quite stay reserved and some last-minute shuffling across town, we settled in at the Hilton Gardens (actually a mini-suite place with a fancy name, but otherwise fine) to rest up for the next few frantic days.

Truckasaurus, ready to hit the road again

Day 2 - Wednesday, June 12th, 2002
in Flagstaff, AZ
16 miles

It's day 2, and we're already splitting up!... but it's not a bad thing. Richard walked to the ADOT District office in Flagstaff (OK, the Hilton Gardens is conveniently located) for an all-day regional traffic meeting, while Suz relaxed in the room and did computer stuff. After this excitement, we plodded off to Furr's Cafeteria for a gut-bustin' all you can eat meal, and then Richard headed back out after dark to again play on the freeway as they hung more of those overhead signs on I-40.

Attention: You may be noticing that our two main characters are not having all that much wacky vacation fun yet. This problem should be rectified by the time you get toward the bottom of this page. We thank you for your patience.

Telling people where to go

Day 3 - Thursday, June 13th, 2002
Flagstaff, AZ to Tucumcari, NM
526 miles

We rolled eastbound on I-40 away from the Hilton Gardens - and then immediately turned westbound so we could see by the light of day "my" new overhead signs that were placed last night. After looping back east again, we cruised on into Holbrook to introduce Suzanne to the giant Mr. Pow Wow sign (but that's another story). Further east, we stopped at Chief Yellowhorse's Cave trading post, which literally straddles the Arizona/New Mexico state line. Here we visited the mama & baby bison, the pretty ponies, and the happy quacking ducks that the Yellowhorse folks keep around to help soothe the weary traveler (and to get them to buy $4.79 blankets!) However, the state line also meant more work for Richard, as the New Mexico highway department project that was building a detour within Arizona had run into some unforeseen traffic complications earlier in the day. Fortunately, a brief trip to the project office in Gallup (but first a stop for chili dogs at Dairy Queen) resolved all the problems between the Arizona and New Mexico folks, and we were free to keep rolling on into the Land of Enchantment, while the prairie dogs popped their heads up along the road to greet us along the way. Stops were then made in Grants for gas, leg-stretching, and souvenir acquisition, and then a non-stop run through Albuquerque got us eastward in a hurry (but the Big I does look nice now that it's done). On the east side of New Mexico, we were happy to stop to look at goofy fun stuff at Clines Corners, but were sad to see the smoke of forest fires in the Santa Fe National Forest in the distance. As the sun settled behind us, the many New Mexicows we saw out on the open range along I-40 inspired us to modify a classic Neil Diamond song we just happened to hear at the time, and "Song Sung Moo" was heard emanating from our truck as we drove by the herds. After all this fun, though, it was very nice to settle in under the outspread wings of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari - and then a refreshing rain shower (rain? what's rain?) put us to our night's sleep.

Ponying up at Chief Yellowhorse

Day 4 - Friday, June 14th, 2002
Tucumcari, NM to Wellington, KS
518 miles

We awakened at the Blue Swallow, and promptly began trashing the motel room by accidentally knocking a picture off the bathroom wall. Fortunately, the owners were all too undertanding of our oafishness, and so we were allowed to leave with our hides intact. First stop was at McDonald's for the obligatory McMuffin, and then the short drive east to the Texas line. From there, it was a a short distance to the the small town of Adrian, where the Midpoint Cafe marks the point on Historic Route 66 that is exactly halfway between Chicago and Los Angeles. Here we took in the 66-themed decor and filled ourselves with decicious slices of excellent pie. Getting back on I-40 just east of Adrian, we were puzzled by the US 214 sign at the interchange - didn't think we were that far north! From there we motorilloed through Amarillo, but were still so full from the Midpoint's pie that we just couldn't stop for the 72 oz. steak special at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. Across the Texas Panhandle we scooted, and then we were OK - and in Oklahoma. Didn't stop much in western Oklahoma, but we did make a point of stopping at the now-closed Lucille's in Hydro to pay our respects at the shrines set there for recently departed heroes of Historic 66. In the truck stop in Hinton, we watched lizards and ate Blizzards, and diverted off I-40 briefly to drive the 1931 bridge over the Canadian River, with its 38 consecutive pony trusses. Stalled traffic due to road work outside Oklahoma City gave us a chance to ponder the deeper questions of our existence, but soon we jumped on a new segment of the Kilpatrick Turnpike and zipped right around OKC - only the signs said the toll is $1, but they somehow forgot to mention that they would be asking for it twice... Without all that change weighing us down, we finally turned northward on I-35 toward cooler country, and stopped for our mandatory Braum's dinner and ice cream experience in the town of Blackwell. Night fell on us as we crossed the Kansas line, and so we found a comfortable rest under the sign of the sleeping driving bear (cute bear, but a bad example for traffic safety!) at the Wellington Motor Lodge just off the US 81/US 160 intersection.

4th day fun on Routes 66 & 81

Day 5 - Saturday, June 15, 2002
Wellington, KS to Clear Lake, IA
543 miles

Leaving behind the lodgings of the sleepy motoring bear, we headed north on the Kansas Turnpike, quickly passing the aviation mecca of Wichita and vectoring northeast toward the empire of Emporia. As we moved along the turnpike, we "moopled" the hordes of herds of Kansas kows that congregated along the fences. When we got to the Kansas side of Kansas City, we pulled in for lunch at Fritz's Union Station, a great little restaurant at the corner of 18th & Grandview that features unique service - they deliver the food to you by train! After calling your order in at the telephone at your table, an electric train runs along a track above. The train then passes by and leaves the food basket, which is then lowered mechanically to the table below. After thoroughly enjoying our rail-served feast, we crossed into Missouri, where we refueled with Sinclair dino-gas while being watched over benevolently by a happy green Sinclair dino (as seen below!). Saying our fond farewells to our new green friend, we again traveled north on I-35, where Missouri showed us green rolling hills, scenic views, and very friendly folks at the truck stop in Cameron. Before we knew it, we were in Iowa, and rolling north toward Des Moines. In "Da Moin", we cruised through the center of town and pondered the Iowa state capitol as its many golden domes passed our view. Up I-35 a spell from there was Ames, where we saw many government cows & bison doing their bovine bureaucratic duty at the USDA agricultural research station. Further along the road, we knew we were getting into the north country as US 30 and then US 20 crossed our path. For the evening, we decided to crash in Clear Lake, a place made famous for being the last stop for a certain Mr. Holly, Mr. Valens, and Mr. Richardson before their fateful meeting with Mr. Gravity in February 1959. Here we found a great place to stay at the Lake Country Inn, and then "bopped" down to the Barrel Drive-In restaurant, where we enjoyed good old-fashioned chow under the stern gaze of a giant chicken.

Our new big green friend

Day 6 - Sunday, June 16th, 2002
Clear Lake, IA to St Paul, MN
144 miles

Are we there yet? Almost! We started by visiting the clear lake which gave Clear Lake its name, and stopped by the famous Surf Ballroom on Buddy Holly Drive where that final concert took place. A stop for brunch at the Happy Chef lifted our spirits, and offered a chance to reset our chronometers with one of the many atomic clocks in this place - one on each wall, in fact! With full bellies and precisely set watches, we turned north again for the final miles out of Iowa and into the North Star State. We were on schedule as we navigated northward, but we hadn't counted on one unscheduled detour. As we passed Owatonna, we began to feel the inexorable pull as we were helplessly dragged into the parking lot of an American outdoor phenomenon - the Cabela's store. In this altar to the outdoor arts, we saw acres of useful hunting, fishing, and outdoor items - but this paled in comparison to the incredible multi-story displays of mounted wildlife found in every corner of the store. After basking in this first-class monument to taxidermy and trade goods, we grabbed our (few) purchases and then stopped in just south of there at the Heritage Trails museum. While the museum was closed, we marveled at the sculpture out front, comprised of three Air Force T-38s frozen forever in steel-supported flight. Realizing that we still had places to get to - and soon - we zipped past Fairbault (birthplace of the Tilt-A-Whirl!) and the Twin Cities suburbs, and made our way up I-35E along the almost-mighty Mississippi to the heart of St Paul, and our destination - the Radisson Riverfront. We pulled up, checked in, and after some interesting activities involving a borrowed bell cart, some balancing, and a good shove or two, we managed to move most of our assorted stuff up to the room. After this fun, we then attended the welcoming reception for the Subcommittee on Traffic Engineering of the American Association of State Highway and Traffic Officials (hereinafter referred to as SCOTE, because I'm tired from just typing it once), and then wandered the riverfront and skyways of St Paul after finally finding a parking garage big enough to safely store our trusty Truckasaurus.

T-38s frozen in sculptured flight

Next Stage:
We Will Call Them 'Minne-meetings' - St Paul, MN to Cedar, MN

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Latest Historical Revisionism 08 July 2006 (fix link)

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