Here we go again!
This first day started out with packing, loading, reloading, repacking, and finally heading out the driveway just hoping we'd remembered everything (including the kid).
Only a few miles north of Phoenix, we celebrated an important and historic milestone. As we exited off I-17 at Badger Springs, our Truckasaurus rolled 200,000 miles on its odometer. We said goodbye to the "1" that had been seen so long, and welcomed the "2" into view, and we're hoping that some of the other numbers on that first reel get their chance in the spotlight before the ol' truck falls completely apart.
South of Flagstaff, a late spring shower cooled us and washed all the bugs off, and then a loop west (yes, west) on I-40 took us over to Bellemont to look at the recently constructed I-40 freeway signing project. We proceeded to investigate some bent sign letters here and there (apparently caused by snow flung by plows during our rather wet winter) as we turned around and headed east again.
We looked at signs all the way out to Winslow, then grabbed some $2.07 gas and continued cruising to Holbrook splashing through the occasional rain (hey, a double rainbow!) In Holbrook, we had a great dinner at Joe & Aggie's Cafe - the oldest continuously operating restaurant on old Route 66 (63 years so far!) The 3rd generation of Joe & Aggie's family treated us great, while the 4th generation played peekaboo with Duncan as we enjoyed our meal.
East of Holbrook, under cloudy night skies, we investigated how the signs installed a few years ago were holding up and reflecting back to all those I-40 travelers. The signs shone brightly back at us as we rolled eastward, and we exited Arizona satisfied that those signs were doing a good job at telling people where to go and how to get there.
A few minutes later, we rolled into Gallup, New Mexico, where a spot for the night was reserved for us in the Rita Hayworth suite at the historic El Rancho Hotel on old US 66. We lugged our stuff in and spread it out around the rustic wood furniture and king-size bed, and all three of us rested well from a busy first day.
Hey, has the warranty expired yet?
We spent the morning enjoying the cool Gallup breezes out on the balcony of the Rita Hayworth suite at the El Rancho Hotel, and then cleaned up and packed up to face our second day on the road. We hit I-40 a bit past noon, and zipped eastbound, interrupted only by a brief stop at one of our favorite Stuckey's to reload on GooGoo Clusters and other odd stuff. Then a stop on the west side of Albuquerque for some gas in truck and a change for Duncan, and off east again.
East of ABQ, we turned off I-40 to head northbound on the Turquoise Trail, a picturesque drive around the back side of the Sandia Mountains. Here we wound our way by the busy little villages and through the rumbling throngs of motorcyclists out for some Memorial Day weekend hellraisin'. At Santa Fe, the historic capital of New Mexico, we turned right and headed north, er, southeast on I-25, and curved our way along the route of the Santa Fe Trail and around some of those rugged New Mex mountains. A side trip to the small town of Pecos gave us another break from driving, and then back on around as I-25 finally straightened out and started heading in the same direction as the signs kept telling us.
We continued northward, rolling through alternating sunshine and rain showers, and watching the antelope cavort across the green landscape amid the herds of contentedly munching cows. A quick stop at the local market in Springer for ice cream and then eastward with the setting sun behind us on US 56 to the town of Clayton, tucked into the far northeastern corner of New Mexico. Here we found shelter for the evening at the clean and charming Mission Motel, built in 1937 and still sporting some of its original neon glow. The owners couldn't have been more friendly or helpful, and we settled into our spacious room just before a big storm ended our long but fun all-New Mexico day.
Look! It's Stuckey Boy!
This Memorial Day began in a wet and foggy Clayton, where we waited for the visibility to improve by rearranging stuff and chatting with the motel owners and some of the guests. We swapped stories of epic bike rides, weather back home in Phoenix, some memorable motel moments, and other idle banter.
Once the fog lifted a bit, we drove down to the Clayton tourist info center, where we used their free wireless Internet connection to send stuff to the folks back home and so that little Duncan could meet Moonbeam and Spike, two happy giant dinosaur sculptures that greet Clayton's visitors in their unique prehistoric way.
After the last dino was straddled and the last byte was transferred, we headed east out on US 56 toward the point where New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma meet. A close look at a map will show that New Mexico sticks out a bit where it meets the Oklahoma Panhandle. This is due to an 1859 survey error that resulted in the TX/NM state line being set 2 miles or so too far to the west, and in Texas getting a big sliver of what was supposed to be NM territory - something that has New Mexico disgruntled even to this very day.
After we curved around the corner of Texas, we took a short side trip to visit the exact point where TX, NM, and OK come together. We balanced Duncan right on the survey marker, took lots of multi-state pix, and got to place two stickers on our new big US map on the back of the truck (long-time Big Trip fans will recall that our old US map blew off the back of the truck during our 2003 trip). While Richard & Suz managed to visit all the lower 48 plus Alaska prior to Duncan's arrival, this new map shows the states all three of us (including Duncan) have visited, and will fill up quite a bit on this journey.
We drove diagonally across the panhandle of Oklahoma, looping around the courthouse in Boise City onto US 56/64/287/412 just before grabbing some fuel and Dairy Queen snacks on the edge of town. While fueling, Duncan decided to try out the driving skills he'd acquired from watching Dad - which is fine, as long as the truck ain't moving. :) Then more diagonality on US 56 took us up into Kansas (our 4th state of the day) as we barely missed the corner of Colorado, and then a left turn onto US 83 led us onto the highway that will take us on much of our northbound leg. A quick stop in Garden City for leg-stretching and diaper-changing, and then on northward through many proudly flag-flying small Kansas towns.
Just north of Oakley and just south of I-70, we stopped in for a spell at a very lively location - Prairie Dog Town. Here we visited many funny fuzzy folks, including oodles of little yipping prairie dogs, gaggling geese, happy hogs, and other friendly fauna. The good thing was that the recent wet weather did keep the heat away and the dust down, but there were minor problems when the occasional rambunctious pygmy goat decided to distribute the mud on our frontsides in their zeal to get a tasty snack from us.
After the mud was brushed off and the souvenirs stowed, we continued northward on US 83 into Nebraska, our fifth state of the day. We pulled into McCook around sunset and spotted a nice room a block off US 6 behind the flashing neon sign of the Cedar Inn, where we were greeted by the friendly staff and their little black dog. After check-in, Richard was outside the room scrubbing all the animal by-products from Prairie Dog Town off the wheels of the stroller, while Suzanne was trying to calm a grumpy Duncan. As Richard scrubbed, a small green friendly frog hopped up out of the grass and into the stroller, apparently intent on making our acquaintance. Not wanting to be rude, Richard picked up our new friend and returned to the room so he could meet the rest of the family. Upon seeing Suzanne and Duncan, the frog was so impressed by the volume and intensity of Duncan's yowling that he decided to hop out of Richard's hands and right onto both Suzanne and Duncan - just in time for the motel staff to also enter the room with some extra towels and sundries.
Much hilarity ensued.
After our little froggy friend was politely and carefully escorted out of the room and to a slightly more suitable habitat, we calmed down and moseyed up US 6 to Fuller's Family Restaurant, where we enjoyed a hearty well "McCook-ed" meal, marred only slightly by the absence of a non-smoking section.
See? Day three!
Woke up, loaded up, made sure the frog wasn't tagging along, and headed out of the room, stopping briefly in downtown McCook to express-mail the keys for the Rita Hayworth room back to the El Rancho Gallup (oops!) and to grab some grub at Taco John's. Then north again through the cool weather up US 83 to North Platte, where $1.95 fuel awaited at the Flying J just off I-80.
We continued north on US 83 up and down the rolling hills and vast open greenery of Nebraska's Sand Hills country, zipping past the herds of munching mooing Nebrascows. It's a long way between towns here, so we entertained ourselves by conversing with the cattle using the truck's PA - they moo, we moo, everyone moos, and life is not bad.
There are a few towns out there, though. Seeing all those big beefers in the fields has us hankerin' for some jerky, so we wandered into the local grocery in the small burg of Thedford, and restocked on that and other tasty snacks as the friendly staff asked us about our trip and welcomed us to their fine state. Then back north on US 83 to the lovely town of Valentine for a brief soft serve stop, and then on into South Dakota (another state sticker!) past the many small reservation towns and many small reservation casinos.
We didn't have time to see the highly-recommended car museum at the junction of US 83 and I-90 in Murdo, so we p