We'll open by noting that the original plan for the return trip was for us to be in Mesquite, Nevada by late Monday night for our next conference - which would have given us only three days to cover nearly two thousand miles. Not an enjoyable concept, and we weren't really looking forward to this stage of the trip. However, we learned late Friday that we wouldn't have to be in Mesquite until early Wednesday, and so we readjusted our schedule to increase the possibilities for a bit more fun - while still planning on some rather long days behind the wheel. Feeling somewhat like our sentences had been commuted, we trundled our loads of stuff down the elevators already filled with the expensive bicycles of the triathletes in town for the weekend's Ironman, and prepared for a slightly more fun day back on the road.
The truck did the limbo under the very low beams in the Concourse's parking garage, and we emerged onto the streets of Madison - right into a red sea of Badger fans contrasting brightly with the overcast sky surging in the direction of Camp Randall Stadium for the afternoon game against Northern Illinois. Our blue truck moved slowly past the stadium amid all those red fans, and then finally out of the city and off into the open cow-covered country of southwest Wisconsin.
Less than an hour or so out of Madison is the small town of Mineral Point, with its well-kept streets and oddly shaped water tower, and is also where the happy pachyderm mascot of Crazy Frank's persuaded us to exit highway 151 and stop for a while amid the brightly colored household goods, tools, and overstock items overflowing this wacky warehouse. Duncan happily skipped and scampered between the toys and tools, while his parents watched alertly as they too browsed the aisles. Then back into the truck and down 151, a quick 5-minute detour into Illinois just to say we'd been there (hey, there's another cool mini-golf course we'll have to visit on another trip!), and then over the broad Mississippi on the US 20 arch bridge into Iowa and through the historic town of Dubuque.
We continued westward on US 20, making good time on the upgraded 4-lane highway as the clouds got lower and darker. We continued on to the small town of Dike, where Duncan burned off more energy in the local food store rearranging the produce as the clerks grinned (and his parents cleaned and re-rearranged the fruits & veggies back in the proper place right behind him). Then west on the new US 20 freeway over to the old I-35 freeway for the trip down to Des Moines, where we filled up on $2.24 fuel (and 2 weeks ago we thought $2.59 was a bargain) and thence set off westward on Interstate 80 for the long voyage toward our side of the country.
Once we got on 80, though, the clouds opened up to set loose their moisture, and the freeway became a very damp drive amid the speeding semis and SUVs. We were hoping to make it into Nebraska by nightfall, but darkness came early due to the low and menacing skies, and so we dared to pull off into Adair and set up for the evening in the spacious rooms of the Budget Inn. However, our spirits were dampened a bit by a few unfortunate occurrences, including a leak in the truck's shell, Richard getting smacked in the small of the back by a blown-about window, among a few other annoyances. However, when all was said and done and all the mild oaths were expelled, the truck was repacked, the leak was plugged, and we settled in for a restful night.
How can you not trust this elephant's advice?
We got a (relatively) early start today, rolling out past the smiling yellow water tower of Adair and back onto I-80 to once again do battle with the traffic on this very busy transcontinental thoroughfare. We saw a sign advertising the savory fare of a Maid-Rite restaurant, but the time was too early for loose meats to be served, and we continued through the final Iowamiles as the rain continued to splatter and sputter. We rolled over the River of Mo and into Omaha, where the big UP locomotives arranged alongside the freeway welcomed us into Nebraska. A quick stop for $2.25 fuel under the giant coffeepot of the Sapp Bros. truck stop, and on into Lincoln, the capital of this unicameral state, and the home of yet another red 'n white university with a healthy football tradition. Our blue truck rolled under the fluttering red flags of Memorial Stadium, emblazoned everywhere with that bold letter "N", and then up to the Save-Mart market, where we stocked up on foodstuffs amid the red-clad locals (one of whom was wearing a cap with the big A of Arizona, fortunately).
Somewhere east of Aurora, the CB chatter told of a rollover crash that had blocked all westbound lanes. So we consulted the trusty map, and exited onto a state highway that would take us around the trouble. However, the road exited upon turned out to be rather unpaved, and was a muddy mess from all that moisture. Fortunately, after a few miles of slipping & sliding, we made it out to US 34, shook off the mud, and cruised on into Grand Island and back onto the freeway in fine shape, bypassing the multi-mile backup.
At Kearney, we were a bit weary of the heavy traffic of I-80, and exited onto US 30 for a more relaxing drive on the route of the old Lincoln Highway. We sped along the scenic open road and slowed as we cruised through the small towns, as we watched the Union Pacific trains laden with Wyoming coal thunder eastward on the parallel tracks. In Overton, we visited an well-preserved bridge left over from Lincoln Highway days refurbished by the local Boy Scouts, and continued into Cozad, where we crossed the 100th meridian, the traditional boundary between the 'wet' and 'dry' halves of the US (although both sides seemed a bit wet this day).
On this day the 100th line of longitude was taken over by the bright colors and blinking lights of a carnival lining the town's main street, and we couldn't resist the urge to stop for a while to enjoy a bit of all-American fun amid the Cozad crowds. Duncan had been watching his dad do all the driving for the past few weeks, and here is where he got his chance to do his own vehicle operation as he took the wheel of a cool copper-colored jeep circling round and round the well-polished track. Then Suz got herself spun in a most fun way in the big pink Tilt-A-Whirl, and then back into the truck with well-adjusted attitudes to continue the journey.
We kept on US 30 west through North Platte, yielding to a flock of wild (or at least semi-wild) turkeys that gobbled across the street right in front of us. Then on westward again, where we got back another hour as we re-entered the Mountain Time Zone, and the constant cornfields of the Midwest gave way to the grazing grasslands of the West. A quick break and a fast snack in Ogalalla as the sun set below the still-dark clouds, and then on into the evening, where as the temperatures fell that darn speed sensor problem decided to again become an intermittent annoyance. Fortunately, Nebraska mileposts their 2-lane roads, and so we were able to calculate our speed and distance just fine as we traveled the tranquil trail of US 30. Sleepytime was a few miles later in Sidney, where we rested our heads at the interestingly named but most comfortable Generic Motel.
All the fun of Day Twenty-One
We spent the morning organizing ourselves behind the white exterior of the Generic Motel, while Duncan was fascinated by the trains rumbling and hooting along the twin-track Union Pacific rail line just outside our front window. After everything was taken care of and Duncan had a chance to prowl the parking lot for some interesting looking rocks, we left the Generic and drove into Sidney, stopping briefly to pick up a blower motor at the helpful local auto parts store, as our current blower has developed an occasional habit of singing along (a bit off-key) with the stereo.
Even though it's still summer, there were reports of snow on the high roads of Colorado, so we made the decision not to head down into Denver and through the challenging heart of the Rockies, and instead chose to continue on US 30 straight west for a slightly longer but less hilly & chilly journey. Just outside Cheyenne, we stopped to fuel at a TA truck stop, where Duncan was fascinated by the model cars in the gift shop - until we were able to entice him away by slapping that red rectangle of Wyoming on the map on the back of the truck in our final "sticker ceremony" for this trip. Then onto I-80 (oops - missed a cool set of wind sculptures on the frontage road), past I-25, and on westward into the wild lands of central Wyoming.
A nonstop jaunt on the Interstate took us all the way to Rawlins, where after a couple hours of freeway time we were happy to do a bit of walking around at the local Pamida store. Duncan was happy here too, as he exercised all that energy propelling our shopping cart, and was even a bit happier when his cart-pushing brought him to the aisle where Playskool toys were 25% off. We selected a few more of those cute yet inexpensive Wheel Pals cars he's so fond of to add to his collection, and Duncan gleefully ran them up and down his parents' arms as we headed out of town and back onto the open road, where herds of ambling antelopes greeted us as we whizzed along the high-speed highway.
We'd been seeing billboard after billboard after billboard for Little America since just past the Nebraska line, and so we rolled to a stop in front of the smiling green dinosaur standing out front of this well-known travel center at about a quarter to seven, expecting to run in quickly to grab a bite to go and also snag a couple of those 50 cent ice cream cones we'd seen advertised for the past 300 miles or so. However, our plans were thwarted, and we didn't get our ice cream and get back on the road until a full two hours later. Allow us to elaborate: After we spent a few minutes letting Duncan meet and greet the dinosaur, we walked into the snack bar to get some food - only to find the clerk rudely flipping the CLOSED sign into place - several minutes before the time printed on the placard. This meant the only remaining food option was the sit-down dining room, where the service was good, but the food, although tasty, was delivered over half an hour after we sat down. Add in the eating time and settling the check, and there went two hours (and the sun, too). We explained politely to the manager that this wasn't what we'd really expected when arriving, and that we'd lost about 100 miles of driving distance due to the delays, and he graciously adjusted our bill accordingly and we left the dino behind us much later than we'd planned on, but much more pleased than we'd been a few minutes earlier. So, if one is looking for a leisurely dining experience, the land of the smiling green dino is a fine place, but those arriving later in the day wanting faster feeding may not be as gruntled.
Once back on the road, we reassessed our plans, and we traveled across the darkness of far western Wyoming seeking a place to rest our weary heads. Just to make matters a bit more interesting, the speed sensor zapped out again, and so we exited onto a deserted roadway, turned off the truck for the wait-a-few-minutes-and-it'll-start-working-again routine, opened the doors, looked up - and decided it wasn't such a bad thing after all, as the Milky Way and its millions of stars shone brilliantly above us. We gazed up at the heavens and enjoyed the universal view, punctuated by the blinking of the occasional high-flying jet and even the flash of a shooting star. Then back into the truck, steering past the bunnies cavorting in the underbrush, and back onto the freeway for the final few miles into Evanston, where we found a roomy room at the Vagabond Motel.
Adventure and dinosaurs on the open road
Given our late arrival into Evanston, we chose to doze a bit late at the Vagabond this morning, and so it was nearly afternoon when headed out and over the border into Utah (after tanking up on relatively inexpensive fuel on the Wyoming side of the line). As I-80 snaked down from the high plains toward the ski resorts near Park City, site of the Olympics a short 4 years ago, we decided to avoid the bustle of SLC and instead veered off onto US 40 for a cruise along the back side of the Wasatch Front. While passing through Heber City, we were looking for a little lunch, and so when we saw the cheery choo-choos of the train-themed Dairy Keen restaurant (voted best in all Utah!), we were more than happy to pull in to sample the burgers and super-thick shakes, while Duncan was distracted by all the railroad playthings within.
After our burger & shake break, we turned onto US 189 for the trip through Provo Canyon down to the central valleys of the state. Road work had the traffic moving slowly, but we didn't mind as we enjoyed the rugged scenery, made even more vivid by the trees already showing their fall colors so early in the season. Then down through Provo and past the BYU campus (didn't we mention them back in chapter 13?) and onto the very busy Interstate 15 freeway. While 15 offers fast service along the midsection of this state, our schedule today was allowing for a slightly more relaxing drive, so we exited onto our old acquaintance US 6 (which we last traveled back in eastern Nebraska) for scenic travel along a much quieter alignment.
A while later, our desert reverie was interrupted by a most unexpected sight. You might remember that when we were back in Wisconsin, we happily sampled all those cheese curds available around that dairy-air state. We had figured that we had left those squeaky treats thousands of miles behind us, but as US 6 rolls into the town of Delta, dontcha know we'd see a sign advertising freshly made cheese curds at the busy Red Rock Cheese Factory. We parked in front of the impressive cow and goat-themed mosaics adorning the front walls and had a very pleasant chat with the nice lady behind the counter, and let Duncan enjoy his time out of the car seat with a scamper around all that fresh dairy goodness within the shop.
After the curds were weighed and stowed in the truck's fridge, we vectored out of Delta onto a very quiet and desolate state route 257 for the long haul into Milford. This part of the drive went well, as the truck motored along efficiently and everyone (except the driver, fortunately) caught up on their sleepy time. An hour of driving (make that an hour and 8 minutes for any UHP troopers reading this) brought us into Milford, where we enjoyed a break from our travels on the lush green lawn of the city park atop a hill overlooking the town. Duncan ran as fast as his little legs would take him back and forth across the grass, as his parents ambled behind him a little more leisurely manner.
Then back in the truck for the haul down 130 to Cedar City, and then onto busy I-15 down to the southern Utah metropolis of St. George. Downtown St. George has undergone a bit of refurbishing recently (will the business route ever be finished...?), and one of the centerpieces of this redevelopment, right by the roundabout, is the king-size brand-new Blue Bunny ice cream parlor. From the giant cones holding up the roof to the bright kid-controlled light show in the center of the room, this emporium of frozenness is devoted to letting the folks of St. George (and us visitors too) fully experience Blue Bunny products in a most enjoyable environment. It was "bring your own banana" day, but we were bereft of tropical fruit, and so we settled for slurping up those very generous scoops served unto us.
Then back into Truckasaurus for the final thirty-some miles of the day, as we cut across the far northwest corner of our home state and twisted and turned through the curves of the Virgin River Gorge, guided in the darkness by those brightly retroreflective signs installed earlier this year in an ADOT project that Richard personally managed (one of the reasons he needed a vacation...?). Then into the brightly lit border town (now a city) of Mesquite, Nevada, where we rolled up to the very pink facade of the Casablanca Resort, and unloaded our stuff for a few days' stay.
You too can have fun in Utah
Today was a relatively quiet day of our second set of meetings, as Suzanne stayed up in the room for much of the day doing mostly nothing and enjoying it immensely, while Duncan puttered and played with his new Pamida toys (among others). Richard went into the meeting and was expected to make a presentation on a topic for which he had no presentation materials prepared whatsoever (the expected topic had been changed by the organizers on very short notice). Richard sat down and cranked out a Powerpoint on the new topic in short order - and then realized as the conference progressed that the crowd might want to hear about the old topic instead. So, he asked the assembled what they'd like to see presented ("vacation pictures" won by a wide margin), and ended up presenting on a topic (Clearview) that he did already have a spiffy set of slides for. Lunch was at the Purple Fez Cafe (one of the top 5 restaurant names for this trip) in the Casablanca with Suz and Dunc, and the rest of the day passed without incident. Our evening meal was across the street at the Oasis Buffet, and we again had a good meal at that tropical-themed establishment - with the bonus of making the acquaintance of a group of ducks who waddled out to meet and greet us personally (especially Duncan) as we walked around the waterfall of the Casablanca's lagoon.
Oh, and this day shaped up to be the most expensive one by far of this trip - and fortunately not due to gambling losses. Richard's trusty 5-year-old-and-then-some clamshell iBook laptop computer (computer: Hi there) has been a reliable traveling companion since before our trip to Portland back in '01. However, all those years of hard living have finally taken a toll on our old friend (I feel fine - really), and on this trip the CD drive finally stopped reading discs entirely and the hard drive has developed a suspicious hum and rattle. (I haven't lost any data, have I?) So, today Richard went a-searchin' on the Net for a new laptop after the meetings were done. It turns out that all the new machines Apple is cranking out these days can't and won't run many of the Classic software Richard uses on a near-hourly basis, but fortunately he discovered a refurbished Powerbook G4 with all sorts of neat stuff on the Apple website, and used his existing computer to order the new one (Such disrespect I'm shown after all my service...) Now, this most experienced laptop of ours won't be discarded completely, but will enjoy a less-stressful but still somewhat busy second life as a auxiliary computer around house or office. So, we're entirely confident our old friend will continue to serve us faithfully until our trip is done, and gfvkkklls$%^&%%&*@#@######
Buffet time, baby!
Richard was up very early today, uploading e-mail while downloading the $3.99 breakfast special at the Purple Fez and enjoying the Casablanca's high-speed wireless services. Then into Dudley Heller's brand-new crew-cab state-issue truck and back across the border into Arizona, where he zipped along with his co-workers to ADOT's I-15 maintenance yard just north of the fast-growing burg of Beaver Dam. Here we viewed demonstrations of vendors' new signing and striping products, and also demonstrated the capabilities of our own in-house equipment and staff, as the booms, cranes, and nozzles extended and retracted on the assembled ADOT (and even a few NDOT) trucks. After the last base was pounded and the the last stripe was sprayed, we jumped into the truck and cruised up and down the Virgin River Gorge looking at the new signs and noting any minor fix-ups that might be needed.
Then back to the hotel, where we spent what was left of the day doing something most enjoyable and exciting - resting. Later, as the sun was plopping most redly below the horizon behind the buttes, we ventured out on the streets of Mesquite and headed down to the Eureka Hotel, where Suzanne blissed out on the buffet, Richard attacked the 1-lb steak, and Duncan gobbled garbanzos and green beans with gusto. Then back to the blue-lit and pink-hued Casablanca and another dawdle with the ducks, and then Richard got to play Solo Parent and put Duncan to beddy-bye as Suzanne ventured on to the casino floor to help win some cash to bolster our bottom line. Although the cash flow wasn't in the direction that we'd hoped for, she finally made her way back to her dozing Dunkie upstairs after much fun was had.
Work amid the scenery of I-15
We spent this morning at the Casablanca resting up from our previous travels and preparing for our last couple days on the road, departing the establishment when the keycards refused to let us back into the room milliseconds after check-out time. We headed out of Mesquite southwestward along Interstate 15, right into the teeth of a swirling windstorm that was blowin' and blastin' all across southern Nevada and elsewhere. The 40-to-50-knot gusts pushed the fully-laden Truckasaurus to & fro as we tried to maintain a semblance of speed, while we carefully watched the semis and RVs as they were occasionally blown into our travel lane by the chaotic currents. We made it over the hill and into a very dusty Las Vegas as the lounge music played on the truck's stereo, and after fueling at a very poorly laid out Pilot truck stop, we cruised past Glitter Gulch and the Strip and came to a stop next to the freshly painted facade of the Hooters Hotel and Casino.
You see, the Hooters is a relatively new enhancement to the Las Vegas streetscape, assimilating the buildings and staff of the old Hotel San Remo and rebranding the property with a bouncing new vigor. However, the San Remo was a hotel that was near and dear to our hearts, as it was the place where we were married on a beautiful spring day back in 1999, and we had had many happy times and fond memories of the place. We snuck into the side door which used to lead to a quiet corridor - and found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of the very busy new bar & sports book, as leather-clad motorcycle folk caroused and consumed. We excused ourselves, bumped our way thru the friendly throngs, and made our way to the restaurant to confirm if the rumors that the San Remo's $6.95 prime rib special had survived all the resculpting that had been done to the place during its Hooterization.
Let's just say that the Dam Restaurant ain't the Ristorante de Fiori, even though it occupies roughly the same place and employs many of the same staff (who seem to be having a bit more fun now). This joint now has a 50s diner motif, and the curving counters and bright colors were a marked improvement over the old place's staid functionality. The prime rib special is still there, and is still good, but has been modified somewhat (the meat's bigger, but all you get is the cow chunk & a potato of your choice - that's it). Suzanne's pizza was very good as well, and Duncan enjoyed watching the crowds gamboling behind the large glass windows as they watched us inside. Only a few feet away from this Dam place (same initials as Duncan!) is the actual signature Hooters restaurant, which now occupies the ballroom space of the former San Remo by the swimming pool. This resulted in some interesting moments, as we tried to explain to our young son that the exact spot where we were wed was right about where that remarkably white-&-orange-clad young lady is serving drinks - although it was laid out a bit differently back then.
While we were lunching, other things were occurring several miles away that would change the course of our travels. US 93, the main road between Las Vegas and Phoenix, currently crosses the Colorado along a narrow 2-lane heavily-touristed roadway running along the top of Hoover Dam. While this was entirely adequate back in the 1930s back when the dam was built, the ever-growing volume of traffic on 93 (and the concern some evildoer might want to use the easy access to the dam to cause trouble) caused ADOT, NDOT, and FHWA to decide that a new bridge was needed to span the gorge just downstream of the dam and carry all that traffic in convenience and style. On this day, the construction was well underway, with tall towering cranes in place on each side of the river doing their part to carry and construct chunks of this new bridge. Well, what happened is that those very high winds we'd been battling out on the freeway were also wreaking havoc on those spindly structures at the dam, and apparently one gust too many sent them crashing down - right onto US 93, blocking it for a very extended period of time only a few minutes before we were to arrive. As we left the San Remo, er, Hooters and turned onto Tropicana, the truck's 2-way radios erupted with urgent chatter as Arizona and Nevada authorities set into motion contingency plans for such a closure and activated roadblocks and electronic message signs. Fortunately, the states of Nevada and Arizona had spent quite a bit of money recently on upgrading US 95, NV 163 and AZ 68, the alternate route around that dam mess, and so our travels along this detour with all the other diverted traffic went relatively smoothly, with only the congestion at the Bullhead / Laughlin bridge (and the occasional idiot who insisted on passing into oncoming traffic on a double yellow) to disturb our driving. This route did allow for one bit of bonus, though - we traveled a mile or so south on US 95 past the turnoff back to AZ, rolled past the "Welcome to California" sign, made a U-turn when the roadway was well clear, and added another state to our list for this adventure (hey, we were there, if only for a minute or two...)
After that extra travel along the detour, we made it into Kingman in late afternoon, with the sun settling down behind the large stony edifice of the Kingman Powerhouse. Nearly a century ago, this was a real power plant, but now the sturdy building serves as a regional visitor center and a gift shop for the Arizona Historic 66 Association (yes, we're back on 66 again!) Duncan had a fine time scrambling up & down the stairs leading to the second floor museum, and then took a liking to several of those cool trucks in the gift shop (alas, they have parts unsuitable for young Duncans, and he had to put them back from where they came). The staff were very friendly and helpful, and the very nice lady at the Association shop even lifted Duncan up to see a big ol' BNSF train rumbling along the tracks right behind the building. Then it was closing time, and we skittered across Andy Devine Avenue to the brightly colored Mr. D'z Diner for dinner, but first we let Duncan visit the majestic #3759, the 4-8-4 Santa Fe steam locomotive now serving as the centerpiece of the city park on the west side of downtown.
Before all the wind-induced wandering, the original plan was to bed down in Seligman or some similar place to allow for some fun 66 travel (and to let Richard do a bit more field work on I-40) before we called an end to this trip. However, after our dinner and dessert from D'z was done, it was dark, and so we drove along Kingman's main drag until we saw the bright bulbs of the Hill Top Motel's welcoming sign. Here we again became the guests of N7ZXS (Dennis) and KC7WHP (Holly), as Duncan got the opportunity to make the acquaintance of their docile Doberman, who covered our little guy with friendly licks as Dunc reciprocated with happy squeals & squeezes. The the final load-in to the final room for our trip (we think...?) and a quiet night amid the cool breezes (OK, full-blown bluster) of a Kingman night.
The places of our windy wanderings
We slept in late at the Hill Top, finally venturing out into the bright Kingman sunshine about (OK, a bit past) check-out time. Fortunately, Dennis & Holly were very forgiving of our tardiness, and we had an enjoyable chat about our recent travels and interesting incidents in their neck of the woods. Then a cruise up Andy Devine and out of town on Arizona state route 66 (better known as historic US 66) to enjoy a quiet and enjoyable drive and to avoid the mountainous terrain of the I-40 shortcut. We moved sweetly through Valentine and trucked through Truxton (if the Hill Top hadn't been so inviting, we likely would have stayed & dinnered at the Frontier), and saw the rock formations of the Grand Canyon peeking out above the hills near Peach Springs. We continued on through the unseasonably green grasslands as the antelope frolicked to our left and the BNSF trains rumbled by on our right, and the sleek machines of the cruising car clubs passed us in both directions.
An enjoyable hour and a half of driving brought us into the town of Seligman, which in the past was an important railroad town, and then gained another life in the mid-20th century serving cross-country travelers on US 66. The completion of I-40 hit Seligman hard; however, the folks of this town decided that they weren't just going to slowly fade away, and they were very instrumental in ensuring that old US 66 wouldn't be just a forgotten line on a folded-up map stuffed away in a dusty drawer.
Two of the chief instigators were the Delgadillo brothers, Juan & Angel. Juan bossed the wacky and wonderful Snow Cap restaurant, serving "dead chicken", "cheeseburgers with cheese", and other eccentric edibles, and providing a somewhat, um, unique level of customer service that (almost) always leaves customers delighted, amused, or at least satisfied. The Snow Cap's eclectic architecture and mind-bending color scheme certainly get visitors' attention, and these visitors in turn do their part to redecorate the interior by leaving photos, patches, and business cards all over the innards of this joint (take one step to the right of the counter, look straight up at the ceiling, and you'll see some familiar names :). Juan passed on a couple years ago to that great Drive-In in the sky, but his children still continue the tradition of customer abuse, er, service, and the crowds still stream in for good eats & fun (if they can figure out which knob really opens the door, that is).
Meanwhile, just a few doors down, Angel Delgadillo is still around and kickin' and he and his family contingent run the town barber shop and a well-stocked gift emporium chock-full of some of the best of 66abilia. Angel's gang have recently developed a diabolically clever plot of stocking a new wonderful 66-themed shirt (or a familiar design in a new eye-catching color) from High Seas Trading Company every time we visit, which has resulted in substantial transfers of funds to the Seligman economy, and one fun shirt after another appearing in Richard's closet. Sure enough, they had another must-have shirt hanging on the rack, and another 66-themed purse that looked great on Suzanne's shoulder, and so we again made our financial contributions in exchange for cool sixty-stuff.
After the malts were melted and the stuff was stowed, it was time to do a bit of traffic engineering work on behalf of the state of Arizona. There are plans to put a big fancy new electronic message sign over westbound I-40 somewhere before the east Seligman interchange, and so Richard is helping the other engineers in Phoenix by figuring out the best place to fit the new sign in among all the other signs, power lines, and rocky ridges. We logged and videotaped what's there right now, took more notes, and collected the info for sending back to Phoenix, then looped around back eastward while 217,000 miles rolled by unnoticed on Truckasaurus' odometer (oops!)
All this fun had used up much of our day, and so we said goodbye again to 66 after a pass through Ash Fork, and turned south along the former route of US 89, now a humbler but still functional AZ 89. This took us through the fast-growing towns of Chino Valley and Prescott Valley, and eventually deposited us on the square surrounding the majestic Yavapai County Court House in the center of Prescott. Although Prescott has grown up into quite the big city these days, they've shown the sense to preserve much of what made the town appealing to new and old residents, and the court house square is very much as it was when Richard walked its grounds many years ago when he wasn't much bigger than Duncan. Here we parked for a spell and enjoyed the cool breezes and wonderful ambiance, as the late afternoon sun filtered through the shady overhang of the mature trees, and musical accompaniment wafted over from the street fair taking over the pavement of Prescott's infamous Whiskey Row on the east side of the square. Duncan thought that the stone staircases were the most fun thing in the entire county, and he eagerly stomped and scooted up and down as his parents tried not to look too worried as they discreetly let him feel like he was doing it all himself while catching or holding him during the inevitable slips and stumbles. Duncan's attention was also distracted by an impromptu football game on the courthouse lawn, and he happily alternated between defensive back, nose guard, and fullback duties as the folks very nicely let him play along. Then over to Kendall's across the street for a bit more food & ice cream fun, and then back on the road down AZ 69 as the sun was setting behind the distinctive stone digit of Thumb Butte looming above the town.
The final few miles of this trip along the southbound lanes of Interstate 17 would give us quite a bit of time to reminisce about the previous 26 days, as the traffic was a slow red nose-to-taillight crawl down the hill from Sunset Point all the way to the Loop 101 freeway encircling Phoenix. As if on cue, the truck also seemed to fall into this nostalgic mood as well, and the speedometer needle again drooped to zero as the speed sensor zapped out just one more time for old time's sake. We pulled off at the amusingly redundantly named Table Mesa exit to let truck sort itself out, and again enjoyed a starry show as the traffic beeped and rumbled by unseen in the cut below. Then back on the freeway and on into Phoenix, and we pulled to the driveway and shut off the engine at 8:43 PM - nearly a month after we'd departed, but bringing back many happy memories (and a few 75% off items too, buried somewhere back in the pile). Then a happy hello to Daybee the doggie, an inspection of the lush meadow that used to be our backyard (our house-sitter performs many excellent and invaluable services, but lawn care isn't one of them), and then time for Richard to repack his bags - he's back on the road (but by himself this time) heading up to Holbrook and the north lands the very next day for ADOT!
Man, Seligman is a fun place!
All done 'til next year!
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Latest Historical Revisionism 18 September 2006Scripting: Richard C. Moeur