Richard & Suzanne & Duncan's Big 2006 Road Trip #1
This time we were going to be ready for our adventures well in advance, and have the truck, us, and our stuff ready to go for an early departure.
Well, as you may have guessed, that didn't happen. Not only that, the truck's stereo conked out only several hours prior to departure, so Richard had to do some additional unplanned dashboard bashin' to make sure we were well-"tuned" for our trip. Just when the preparation process couldn't get much more interesting (& further delayed), we sat little Duncan down for his lunch and realized that something was not right with our young son - his little eyes looked as red as the sheeting on a STOP sign! So, an emergency appointment with the pediatrician (diagnosis: pinkeye!)
After the doc was done with Dunc and the truck was fully loaded, it finally came to pass that we pulled out of the driveway as the late afternoon sun blazed in our faces. We popped into the pharmacy for eye drops, grabbed chow to go from Chateau Jack, and pointed Truckasaurus northward on Interstate 17 to finally begin our journey (already three paragraphs into the story).
The drive north up the Interstate was (mostly) quiet and enjoyable, with the new stereo finely crankin' out tunes from both MP3 discs and our trusty iPod. From many miles away, we saw the smoke of the large 'Brins' fire that was ravaging the forests north of Sedona, and saw the flames shooting from the torching trees, even at a distance of several miles.
As we climbed out of the Verde Valley, we stopped once to help out a couple parked by the side of the road who waved us down - it seems they stopped to switch drivers in their rental car, and as they walked around the vehicle, the doors closed and promptly locked automatically for their safety - with both of them outside the car at the time. So much for being safe... Fortunately, DPS showed up and helped them out.
The sun set on the longest day of the year (in more ways than one) as we approched Flagstaff and joined Interstate 40 (or old US 66, if you prefer) for the trip eastward to Holbrook. Spent $78.00 (ouch) for fuel at the Flying J in Winslow, then finally made it to our waiting round room at the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, where the Lewises had very kindly left our teepee's light on for our (very late) arrival. Moved in, put Duncan to bed, and settled in ourselves for a brief doze in our happy concrete cone before tomorrow's fun.
Loaded up & piled in for another trip
After our few hours of teepee sleep, we prepared for another day on the road. Richard wandered down to the ADOT district office to get e-mail and check in on a few projects, while Suzanne & Duncan enjoyed the morning in their round-floored room. Got together and headed out eastward again, and proceeded nonstop through the Painted Desert, past the concrete dinosaurs lurking along I-40's shoulders, and into the western edge of New Mexico. Exited off the superslab onto old highway 66 in Gallup, and parked ourselves at Earl's Restaurant, where we were personally greeted by the proprietor and a fine lunch was served unto us. Then back onto the highway eastward past Grants and to our favorite Stuckey's stop (oh no! it's now just a generic gas station!) and back onto historic 66 for a quiet drive past the small towns and picturesque pueblos of western NM.
We missed a turn back onto the freeway east of Mesita and continued along old 66, which quickly became really old 66 as the cracked pavement and ancient all-white centerline carried us away from the busy traffic on I-40 and into the wildlands of New Mexico. Didn't worry too much at first as we rolled over the old wooden bridges and by the desiccated guide posts, but as the pavement started to disappear into the desert dirt, we were starting to wonder just where this little detour would take us. We kept our faith in the old road, though, and were rewarded as we completed our exploration of this stretch of historic highway and rejoined modern pavement at NM 6 just a few miles south of the freeway. Then down the hill into the valley of the Rio Grande and New Mexico's largest city, and a stop at the Hotel Albuquerque to meet up with the fine folks congregating to wish ol' US 66 a happy 80th birthday. Met a whole lot of people who shared our interest in historic highways, and got a chance to finally put smiling faces with names that we'd known only electronically for several years, while Duncan explored the greenery and water features of this fine hotel. Also watched Ron Jones, a 66 friend of ours, demonstrate his ability to shatter multiple solid stone blocks with his head and a bit of willpower, but we're pleased to report that after the administration of proper liquid remedies (that apparently came in cold cans) that he and his head were feeling much better.
After the burgers were consumed and the farewells were said, then down I-25 to spend an excellently enjoyable evening at Richard's sister's farm by the big Rio on the edge of town. Duncan played with a set of kids who had almost as much energy as he did, and we all caught up on old times and family fun long into the night.
The fun folks at 66's 80th birthday BBQ
Rolled out of bed to the smell of breakfast as we continued to enjoy the hospitality of Richard's sister's family. Had a great home-cooked breakfast, walked the land, visited the livestock, and appreciated the country atmosphere while Duncan found lots of new scattered roundish flattened fibrous things to play with.
After the hands were washed & truck reloaded with the industrious assistance of all the kids, we rejoined the Interstate and headed eastward again over the Sandias and onto the open plains. At the world-famous tourist trap of Clines Corners, we snacked on sandwiches and Richard found two more cool 66 shirts to add to the collection. Farther down 40 in Santa Rosa, another large pile of money was left behind in exchange for truck fuel, and then on to Tucumcari, whare an afternoon drive along old 66 thru town resulted in the discovery of ice cream and a stop at the city park in the middle of town to let Duncan burn off energy running around the picnic tables and gazebos.
Once Duncan was re-restrained, we re-entered the Interstate and after a few miles entered something called Texas, while Truckasaurus' odometer accomplished the feat of showing two hundred and ten thousand miles on its busy dials. Only a few miles into the Texas panhandle, we decided to call it a day a bit early in the small burg of Adrian, where a very clean and comfortable room was found at the Fabulous 40 Motel, right next door to the Midpoint Cafe made legendary in past Big Trip logs. Richard wandered across the freeway to fetch a remarkably good pizza, while the rest of the family made the acquaintance of the very friendly pony and goat who reside behind the cafe. Duncan loved feeding the pony all the tasty weeds surrounding their enclosure, and the pony reciprocated by affectionately nibbling Duncan's hand as the treats were offered. Sat down to watch a maginficent storm-enhanced sunset and munch the pizza on the benches in front of the Midpoint, when Fran Houser, the owner of the cafe, rolled up in her big red pickup truck and invited us inside for a slice of pie and some friendly conversation about all our recent adventures. It was very nice to see Fran, and even nicer to meet her pies once again. Then across the parking lot to say good night to the goat and pony, and back to the spacious room for a warm bath and quiet rest.
Scenes from a day called 3
The good part of this day began early, as we wandered back across the parking lot from the Fabulous 40 Motel to the Midpoint Cafe, now open and serving their usual great food. After brunch, Fran asked Richard to look at an old US 66 shield she had received from a former TxDOT worker that she was thinking about auctioning off to raise funds. The shield showed every indication of being authentic (proper materials, appropriate weathering / sun exposure, marks on back consistent with post mounting, etc.), and Richard & Fran ended up in a discussion on sign lettering and the changes in standards through the years (including the brand-new Clearview sign just across the street from the cafe). After this, Fran invited us to affix our signatures to "Gus", her big red truck - she's inviting her guests to sign her truck as a 4-wheeled moving memento to all those people who appreciate old US 66 and her fine establishment. After the felt-tips were put away and our big blue truck was loaded, we rolled east out of Adrian along the old road through Vega and then onto the newer highway on into Amarillo, where fuel was found at the bargain price of $2.69 and we bade farewell to 66 and veered onto US 60 to continue our journey. On thru Panhandle & Pampa, where we were greeted by a "wheel-y" fun metal guy standing in the parking lot of a burger stand, and into Miami (Texas), where we stopped for a while at the city park to let Duncan cavort on the brightly colored playground equipment while his parents rested & stretched from many hours on the open road. A few miles east of Miami, we crossed the state line, and were once again in an "OK" kind of place. We bumped along the rustic route of US 60 through the western part of Okla-land, passing the scenic small towns and occasional brush fires. In Seiling, where US 270 & US 281 get together to gang up on US 60, we stopped for a spell in the historic downtown business district. The drugstore soda fountain had closed a couple hours earlier, but the Duckwall's variety store had a few useful essentials for our needs, including some hard-to-find Play-Doh accessories for Duncan's amusement (get that out of your mouth, son!) Then up n' over to the outskirts of Enid, where a good dinner was grabbed at Big Mike's Grill in Lahoma, then off US 60 and onto US 81 for more two-lane twilight wandering up to the town of Medford, where we bedded down as the sole guests for the evening of the Medford Motel. Alas, our stay was less than restful (no fault of the motel!), as a series of minor misadventures resulted in a sticky wet child, some soaked clothing, and a very late bedtime.
Playin' on the open highway
We woke up mighty early at the Medford Motel in order to get a head start on a busy day. Richard took the truck out for a fillup at the gas pumps out front of the Co-Op across from the grain elevator, while Suzanne picked up the previous evening's wreckage and Duncan made new friends with two local kittycats. It looked like we were going to get a good head start on the day when Duncan, on his last trip out the motel door, managed to splat flat on his cute face in the parking lot, and ended up with a fat gravel-embedded lip and a bunch of tears (and a bit of blood) on the floor.
We dug the gravel out, patched up the kid, cleaned up the blood, waved bye to the kitties, and headed north out of Medford on US 81 across the final miles of Oklahoma and into the state of Kansas. Left 81 and jumped on US 166, and scooted along the south edge of Kansas through the cool morning breezes. Our first stop was in the small town of Cedar Vale, where we pulled to a stop in the shadow of the historic brick buildings lining the quiet downtown streets. We wandered the streets with Duncan a while, and fed a few of the numerous litter barrels festooned with funny yet useful messages.
Back on the road after our visit to the Vale, we turned onto US 75 and soon found ourselves having flashbacks from last year's trip as we finally made our way to the site of the original Little House On The Prairie a few miles outside the town of Independence. Although the actual Little House long ago vanished into the Kansas landscape (since of course the historical significance of the original teeny hut wasn't recognized until many decades later after the books got published), a little replica house is in place on the site to show what it likely looked like, and to offer the obligatory photo op. Duncan had much fun scooting 'round the grounds, which also include a historic post office and school relocated to the site.
After this "Wilder" experience, we turned north onto US 169 for the final leg of our outbound travels. This went quickly, with a quick pass thru Carlyle (blink and you'll miss it) and a longer stop in the slightly larger town of Garnett, where we obtained provisions for our upcoming week's stay among the gallon tubs of pudding and bundles of Beanie Babies at the Shop-Rite market (& pizza place). Then back on 169 into the Kansas City suburbs, then over and up on the streets of the fast-developing suburbs, and then the turn into the driveway of the Sheraton hotel in Overland Park, our home for the next six days. This time it only took four full cart loads to move our items from the truck to our Club Level room, and we settled in for our stay, venturing out once in the evening to the opening reception for the AASHTO Subcommittee on Traffic Engineering meeting, the activity that will be occupying us for the next few days.
Lots of fun on the prairie
Richard was up early and headed down to the day's traffic engineering meetings, where he learned about the latest things happening on the various states' highways and then presented info on some minor issues with the design of some big freeway guide signs using the new Clearview typeface back in Arizona. Meanwhile, Suzanne & Duncan hung out in the room and recovered from their days on the road, doing a bit of cleanup of some messy dishes and one messy child. Later in the day, Suz & Dunc came downstairs to join Richard at a reception hosted by a major KC-area engineeering firm, and then adjourn outside to let Duncan burn off some youthful energy romping through the tall grass of the shady hotel courtyard. The back to the room to rest up for the next few days, and that was it!
The delegate from Arizona would like to make a movement, er, motion
Another day of nonstop meetings for Richard, as he went from one session leading a discussion on upcoming bicycle facility design guidelines straight to a lunchtime conference call for a task force on US bicycle routes and then directly to more afternoon traffic engineering talks. No rest for the weary traffic engineer!
Suzanne's and Duncan's schedules were slightly more enjoyable, with the friendly meeting staff taking them into downtown Kansas City to the Hallmark Visitors Center where the behemoth of greetings tells the story of how they come up with all them cards from their Kansas City headquarters.
The evening hours saw us reunited for a bus trip out to the town of Olathe to see the Mahaffie Stage Stop and Farm Historic Site on the old Santa Fe Trail. Here we enjoyed a barbecue dinner hosted by the good folks at ARTBA, and then wandered the grounds, looking at the exhibits on trail life in the 1800s and letting Duncan meet the goats, chickens, and bunnies. Before leaving, we were treated to a ride in a historic horse-drawn stagecoach around the property (see photo), and experienced firsthand a form of surface transportation from a pre-Truckasaurus era. We then got back into a more modern mode of motorcoach travel for the return trip to the hotel, just in time for a Midwestern summer thunderstorm to put on a light show for us as the lightning bolts and rain came down around the bus as we rolled down I-435 back to our waiting room.
Riding the stagecoach at Mahaffie's farm
More meetings for Richard, as the crowd changed slightly from the state traffic engineer monoculture attending the AASHTO meeting to the more diverse hordes attending the NCUTCD meetings beginning in the afternoon. Not much to report from the meetings, other than much Important Stuff was done (according to the notes, I think). Suzanne & Duncan didn't do much, and enjoyed every minute of it. Immediately after the meetings adjourned for the day, a bunch of us from the NCUTCD Bicycle Technical Committee herded into downtown KC on the Missouri side to hunt down some quality moo at the Hereford House steakhouse. We weren't disappointed - Richard was served a big honkin' Kansas City strip steak which might be big enough to feed a family of three for several days - a hypothesis we were willing to test. ;) Suzanne enjoyed some tender prime rib, and Duncan feasted on rolls and the occasional kid-size chunk of cow from his parents. Apparently this was quite satisfying to him, as he conked out soundly before we'd even cleared the plates. Full and satiated from our protein-enhanced experience, we drove home along US 56 & 169 through the stately neighborhoods and lively shopping zones of the metro area back across State Line Avenue into Kansas, and on to the Sheraton so we could conk out as well.
The Hereford House - good moo (and good Zs for Duncan)
Still more meetings for Richard today. 'Nuff said.
Suzanne and Duncan, though, did a bit of exploring instead, venturing around the roundabout and over busy I-435 to poke around the neighborhoods of Overland Park and enjoy a bit of fresh air and (slightly hot n' humid) sun. They discovered some yard sales on their travels, which allowed them to chat with the local folks and do a bit of friendly haggling for useful low-price treasures to be transported back to Phoenix. Duncan was wearing his new AASHTO/NCUTCD hat as a souvenir from the week's meetings, and it looked darn sharp on him as he rolled along the suburban sidewalks.
This evening's activity was a dinner for the committee chairs (and the people who sit in 'em) at Johnny Cascone's, a highly regarded Italian eatery in Overland Park. Our group's table stretched all the way from one side of the restaurant to the other, with Duncan at the head (or tail?) of it all. The pasta was primo, the meats masterful, and the desserts delectable. After all this Itali-action, we walked off that stuffed feeling by making a short stroll to the Hy-Vee market next door for some food for our future travels. Duncan really liked the bright yellow kid-friendly shopping cart where he could sit up front and "steer" and beep, and so we went up & down the aisles accumulating our items. Once stuff was stowed in truck, we returned past the fireflies (and suburban deer!) back down Lamar Avenue back to the hotel.
Happy times in Overland Park
The morning brought the final session of the seemingly-endless meetings of the week - but the last one was a long one, going until 1 in the afternoon as the National Committee endlessly pondered incredibly important changes to national traffic control standards.
After the meetings, we were scheduled to go with the BTC gang down to Union Station & Crown Center in central KC to take in all the interesting stuff down there. However, the length of the meetings and the shifting schedules of some folks meant that our outing had to be scrapped as the participants scattered to the four winds (especially that darn steady wind out the south at about 10, gusting to 15). These wrecked plans turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it allowed us to get some badly-needed rest hibernating in the room away from the 98-degree temperatures (and 70+% humidity) of the outdoors. Didn't mean we stayed inside all day, though; we did go out to the grassy hotel courtyard for an hour or so to run Dunc and get a bit of fresh air, as the Convention Center next door prepared for yet another big event. Then back to the room to catch up on triploggin' and to de-messify our hotel room in advance of tomorrow's departure on the homeward journey.
And then, later that evening after the sun went down... Thump. Thump. THUMP.
That big event next door at the Convention Center turned out to be a concert - a remarkably loud one, in fact. The late part of the evening (and a hour or so into the next morning) was spent hearing and feeling the emanations of bass from the building next door, which even if providing a bit of vibro-massage, didn't really fit well into our plans for some pre-travel sleep. Sheer exhaustion finally overcame raw noise, and we all drifted off for a few hours among the insufficiently muffled amplified mayhem.
Duncan romps and rambles on the Sheraton's lawn
You know it's going to be a rough morning when someone with a "JUST MARRIED" sign in their car window gives you the finger. But let's back up a bit first.
After an abbreviated rest due to last night's disruptions, we awoke groggily and began the packing process for the trip home. Last night, during all the thumping coming over from the convention center, the desk clerk at the hotel had promised us that since we were in a Club-level room, that we could come down in the morning to have a complimentary breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. However, this morning when our appetites were primed and ready for the meal, we were advised that since we were staying at a group rate and not the full Club Level rate, that we did not deserve the breakfast, unless of course we wouldn't mind paying a $35 "upgrade fee". No, we weren't interested in paying that price for a darn dinky meal, and so we continued our pack-up process just that much grumpier and hungrier. Richard finally escaped for a few minutes to grab some McDonald's to go so we wouldn't be too starving for the haul-out, and that's when he ran into the aforementioned less-than-blissfully wed couple. So, to look at it philosophically, we could console ourselves in knowing at least there were less-happy people out there than us.
Three (or was it five?) cartloads later, we had Truckasaurus loaded, and Richard pointed its big bluish nose down the parking ramp and westward toward home. We wanted to clear the metro area quickly before getting on the byways, so we took K-10 out to Lawrence (home of the red n' blue KU Jayhawks), where Suzanne was able to obtain her Taco John's fix for the trip. Then south on US 59 and west on US 56, where a few miles past the turnoff we saw a set of nicely preserved passenger rail cars arranged as a dwelling, complete with old-style banjo crossing signal and semaphores overhead. The place looked more than intriguing enough for closer investigation, but the NO TRESPASSING signs told us we weren't exactly welcome.
So back in the truck and on into Overbrook (motto: "Don't overlook Overbrook!") for a few yard sale finds and conversation with the locals, and onward thru the curves of Scranton and down the wide brick streets of Burlingame's historic downtown to stop at the town park's playground. Here we let Duncan sample the slides and meddle with the merry-go-round, while his parents sat in the shade of the big spreading trees to escape the 98 degree high-humidity heat. After Duncan was pooped (in more ways than one), we were back in the truck and again westward on US 56, noting the lateness of the day, the fact that it was still 1300 miles or so between us and home, and that we'd only managed less than 100 miles so far - but we were letting the charms of east-central Kansas take away the stresses of the Sheraton, and so we said the heck with time and speed and let the small towns lure us into their side streets and back ways.
The most significant example of this was in the town of Marion, seat of (what else?) Marion County. We stopped on US 56 to take a picture of a scenic arch bridge, and something in the back of our heads told us we should take the side road instead of the highway and drop by for a while. It turns out that Marion is everything a small-town stop should be - inviting green shady park, excellent ice cream stand (the Big Scoop) right across the street, and dozens upon dozens of tiny rhinoceroses lining the streets. Rhinoceroses? Yes, this town's Chingawassa Days celebration uses Pete the Rhino as its mascot, and so the town's merchants keep up the spirit by adopting small concrete rhinos and decorating them in festive and fun ways. We moved along the streets of downtown Marion bagging rhinos left and right as the shadows grew long and the ice cream was digested.
Well, turns out Marion had almost everything. The local motel was full, so we bade our farewells to this rhinoceros-enhanced burg and continued west for just a few miles more to the hills of of Hillsboro, where the classic neon sign of the Hillcrest Motel led us to an inexpensive room for our evening's rest. Rest, though, was a bit tough to come by when the locals had obviously spent some rather serious money at the fireworks stands, and so we watched the bright explosions in the sky (some rivaling many professional shows we've seen) until it was time to tune out the booms and call it a night on a much-improved day.
The rhinoceri of Marion
We headed out of Hillsboro westward on US 56 into a cloudy Kansas morning, appreciating the temporary coolness of that constant south wind. First stop was a Duncan-rediapering on the town square of Lyons, then a brief stop in at Dollar General for a few useful items, including a big colorful one-buck ball for Duncan's great amusement. Then back over Lyons' brick streets to the open highway toward Great Bend, where US 56 bends southwestward along the Arkansas River and the route of the Santa Fe Trail for its continued travel through the cornfields of Kansas. We diverted off 56 a bit to visit Fort Larned National Historic Site, an important way station on the Trail, where we learned quite a bit about life on the wild frontier, Duncan gleefully clomped up n' down the wood-planked breezeways, and two more stamps for Suzanne & Duncan's National Parks Passports were inked. Farther down the road in Kinsley, where US 50 joined US 56 for the trip to Dodge City, a large sign proclaims the town to be midway between San Francisco and New York City - we'll presume geographically, and not politically. ;)
We moseyed down US 56 a piece longer, then diverted onto Kansas 144 (marked with the state's distinctive sunflower-shaped route shield) & thence to US 160 for a bit of westward wandering. The town of Ulysses granted us a brief respite from our travels, where we relaxed at the park and Duncan inspected the unconventional playground hardware while burning off all that endless energy. The diversion onto US 160 also allowed us to catch a few miles of Colorado, where another state sticker was added to the truck's map (only one for this trip, though) and Truckasaurus got wettened by some wandering Plains rainstorms. Then south on the US 287/385 combo for a brief visit to Oklahoma, where we again looped around the Boise City "squared-about", saw some funny dinosaur crossing signs for the museum, and deposited $90 in the coffers of Love's Truck Stop for another full tank of fuel. Then south on 385 out of OK's handle into Texas, our 4th state of the day (not counting hilarity, rage, and ennui). Several miles later, we dropped into Dalhart in early evening, and the X made by US 54 and US 87 marked the spot where we'd end this day's journeys, fittingly at the XIT Motel. Here $38 bought us a clean and spacious near-suite experience, including king bed, sofa, fridge, microwave, and more than enough room for all of us to stretch out Texas-style. A walk down to the DQ yielded a decent dinner, and then back to the room until after midnight for some "une-xit-ing" yet not unenjoyable times doing dishes from the road and catching up computer work.
The dazzling delights of Day Dozen
Tried to get an early start this day from our restful room at the XIT, and mostly succeeded, except for the time at McDonald's getting breakfast and checking e-mail. An hour's drive or so south of Dalhart found us (again!) on I-40 / old 66 in Vega and Adrian, and so of course we stopped by the Midpoint for lunch - and again couldn't resist another couple slices of excellent pie, and more conversation with a busy burger-makin' Fran and fellow travelers from across the globe. Also at Adrian came an important decision - do we proceed west on I-40 & I-17 back to Phoenix, or do we avoid the likely potential of heavy traffic & delays on I-17 south on the afternoon of the 4th by returning by a different route? We pondered this while again feeding Fran's pony out back of the Midpoint, and decided to head home by a more southerly route.
We headed south out of Adrian on TX 214 as the clouds began to build in the Panhandle sky, and zigged and zagged our way along the backroads into the state of New Mexico (got an hour back!) and into the city of Clovis, where we joined US 60 for the trip home - and also experienced something unparalleled in our travels. As we waited patiently for our turn at the pumps at the Allsup's Fina station in Clovis, the price of regular unleaded dropped from $2.57 to $2.48 while we watched in pleasant astonishment (note: nearly every other town in the area was showing $2.99 or so). Then westward on our old friend US 60 through the small villages of eastern New Mexico and into Fort Sumner, where we skipped the Billy The Kid hoopla (until Duncan's older) and instead stretched our legs in a small quiet town park, where Duncan discovered the joys of running down and then back up ramps over and over and over again. After Fort Sumner was all summed up, we continued west on 60, where we wandered through Vaughn again as the afternoon rain began to fall. Here we decided to veer a bit off 60 for a while and take our other friend US 54 for a scenic diversion through the central part of the state, and the southbound drive gave the truck a thorough rain-induced cleaning as we drove through the summer storms and watched the antelope prance in front of the spectacular mountain vistas seen through the slightly-cleaner windows.
Many storms have rainbows afterward, though, and we found ours at the Rainbow Inn in Carrizozo, a small town at the foot of the Capitan Mountains where 54 & 380 cross. It was earlier than we'd planned to stop, but a wise choice nonetheless, as the Rainbow's room was spacious and comfy, the chow at Elsie's down the street was first rate, and we turned in for a relaxing rest - well, except for that one moment when Duncan accidentally ran headlong into a table (but the black eye, like the dark clouds above, will eventually go away ;)
P.S.: Worry not about Duncan - after only a couple minutes, he was just fine, and bouncing off the less-sharp furniture as normal.
The wide-open vistas of US 54
After our rest at the Rainbow, we zoomed out of Carrizozo westward on US 380, with some minor regret that we wouldn't have time to enjoy the Smokey Bear Stampede festivities in the nearby hills. Didn't have time for a sit-down breakfast, so Richard devoured the last of that Kansas City steak that stayed cool in the 12 volt fridge, while Suzanne popped a Pop-Tart and Duncan crunched on some munchy cereal. Up the grades and down the descents, and we reached I-25 (first time on freeway since I-435 in KC) in good time and turned north to Socorro, where the friendly Smith's staff helped us fill our cart with a few things for the final day on the road, and a few more so we won't starve the first day home. We were invited to stay for the evening's fireworks, but we had to politely decline so we could be back home in decent time (and also because Richard has to be at work bright and early the next day).
Then back on 60 westbound up into the mountains lining the Rio Grande, then leveled out on the Plains of San Augustin and sped past the rows of sky-scanning dishes of the Very Large Array. A few miles later, we were hankerin' for some pie in Pie Town, but the entire town was closed for the 4th of July - not a cafe or store open at all. Pieless, we rounded back west on US 60 and proceeded to the small but bustling town of Quemado, where we pulled into town just in time to miss the BBQ at the local firehouse. Didn't miss everything, though - we browsed a roadside flea market, saw the festively decorated displays from the parade earlier in the day, and stopped by the general store and hardware/supply/feed store to say hi and to get a few things we just can't find back home.
As Quemado receded in the rear-view, the clouds were building overhead, and as we passed the place where Truckasaurus was ambushed by a dust devil back in '01 the sun started to disappear into the cumuli, and a few miles later as we rolled back into our home state of Arizona dribbles of water began to drop intermittently onto the truck. By the time we arched around the White Mountains on US 60 and entered the interestingly named town of Show Low, the dribbles had become a downpour, and we stopped for a spell to wander in the nice cool wet (coldest we'd been all trip!) and let Duncan indulge his puddle-playing urges, which he certainly indulged in with moistened gusto. Suzanne plans ahead well, and had Duncan's 2nd change of clothes ready as we dried ourselves off, got our last Dairy Queen for the trip, and turned to head down the hill.
We traveled west, er, south on US 60 thru the forests surrounding Show Low, still recovering from the ravages of the Rodeo / Chediski fire four years ago. We woobled and wobbled down & up the switchbacks of Salt River Canyon, letting the truck's tranny take a load off the brakes as we let all them faster folk pass as we trundled into the turnouts. The sun (and heat) began to reappear as we neared the town of Globe, and we debated dinner options as we continued past the tailings piles and towering stacks of Claypool and Miami.
Duncan has been an excellent traveling companion, and the little guy has given us little trouble over the many days of wandering. However, today he seemed a bit out of sorts as we traversed the hills of Arizona's copper country. His quiet disgruntlement was puzzling to us as we descended past the rocky pinnacles of Queen Creek Canyon, and about a mile before the tunnel we finally understood the nature of his concerns as he proceeded to project the sum total of his past several meals over and around the interior of Truckasaurus. Finding a place to pull off here can be a challenge, but we finally found a place to dismantle and decontaminate and stick Dunc in his 3rd change of clothes (what a prepared mom!) among the late-day shadows as we sniffed the aroma of burning brakes as the semi-trucks hurtled by.
Cleaned up and buckled down, we toodled through the tunnel and on into Superior, noting with slight dismay the absence of open eateries. So we kept goin 'round the south side of the Superstitions and back into the Phoenix metro area. We pondered our options - head straight home into the setting sun and unload hungry, or get off the highway and find a place to decompress and relax prior to the final urban miles. We exited US 60 for the final time as the highway became freeway at the edge of Apache Junction, and traveled on the old road into AJ to find friendly folks at Cobb's Plaza restaurant near the middle of town. This allowed us to reminisce about our adventures and plan new voyages while enjoying excellent grub (and more pie!) while Duncan energetically explored the furniture - and gained another lump on his head when he misjudged a bit of altitude. Oops.
As we calmed Duncan from his booth-induced boo-boo and he regained his typically cheery composure, we exited into the now-dark sky and started the truck out onto Apache Trail for the final miles home. This street was once US 60/70/80/89 in years past, and has maintained some small part of its neon charm in these less-zoned regions of the metropolis, including a motel advertising their "POO" (I suppose they'll change that last light bulb someday...) Then up Power Road to catch the near-new Loop 202 freeway, as the fireworks displays of the east Valley began to boom out their splendorous shells. The UHF radio tuned to the local DPS channel was relaying tales of gridlocked traffic further west as the fireworks worked their distracting spell on the traveling throngs, so we turned north onto Loop 101 for a spin around the Valley's outskirts as the fireworks blazed in the distance. Over and around to the north side of town, and then a triumphal procession down 7th Avenue and Coral Gables to our waiting driveway and the end of our journey as the clock struck ten (midnight back in KC) and the dog yipped his welcome as the engine was shut off and the junk was disgorged. Several hours of unloading was still to come, and we still had to stick the kid in his bed and get the house habitable again, but we had the pleasant memories of a good trip to keep us going into the wee hours.
So what's next? As the title has alluded to, once we recover from this trip there's a trip #2 planned for later this year to the upper Midwest (if we can afford the fuel, that is), and if we're properly motivated we'll set up some webpages from that adventure as well. See you all in a month & a half or so!
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Latest Historical Revisionism 10 July 2006 (format boo-boos)Scripting: Richard C. Moeur