Richard & Suzanne & Duncan's Big 2011 Road Trip


Day 1 - Saturday, June 18th, 2011
Phoenix, AZ to Kingman, AZ
231 miles

Hey, didn't we just get back from a road trip a couple weeks before this?

Yes, I suppose we did. But gluttons for punishment we are, so here we go again!

It was a remarkably busy couple weeks at both the office and home, between our fly/drive trip to those M-states (with a W in between 'em), and with space camp, swim lessons, and a whole bunch of work deadlines in between. So, it might be understandable if we missed our scheduled departure time of noon on Saturday, especially with all that going on. But, through some minor miracle, we were able to assemble a bunch of useful items for more than two weeks travel and important meetings, toss it in the truck, and start rolling. And only 12 minutes late!

OK, we're rolling - and now everyone is hungry already. So, a first stop - after only one mile - for processed yummy pseudoethnic items at Taco Bell, and now we're really off and rolling. Right?

Really. This time, Richard steered the truck up I-17, and we left behind the freeways and cacti of the Valley of the Sun for the mountains of central Arizona. The first northbound leg was uneventful, save for a bit of unwanted heating under the hood as we climbed up the canyons, but once we leveled off at Sunset Point, the gauges unwound - and so did we, a bit.

Exited the freeway at Cordes Junction, bypassed Prescott, and rolled north on state highway 89 on up to the fast-growing town of Chino Valley, where out in front of the Safeway store some volunteers were brightly advertising "cotton candy for cancer!" Duncan's sweet tooth was most pleased with this fundraising opportunity for a good cause, and soon sticky pink fluff was distributed randomly on face, hands, and truck's interior surfaces.

Once we got everything sufficiently de-cottontaminated, we set forth north to intercept I-40 and its older and more famous cousin historic US route 66, and we veered west along the one-way streets of Ash Fork and on beyond over the grasslands of the northern Arizona plateaus.

Many road trip aficionados are familiar with the town of Seligman, where the concept of "Route 66" as a current-day tourist destination got a big start. And of course, we couldn't pass up the chance to say hello to our friends at the Historic 66 Gift and Barber Shop, and Mirna and the gang welcomed us amid the bustle of other tourists visiting from places around the globe. Although Richard's extensive collection of US 66-themed shirts was not added to during this visit, Suzanne did find herself a spare 66-pattern handbag, and Duncan located a classic die-cast metal gas pump perfect for fueling up his fleet of cars back home.

A little ways east of this is the notorious Snow Cap Restaurant, where within the vivid decor and confusing entryways some fun folks lurk ready to wreak pun-demonious hilarity upon unsuspecting patrons. We ordered a frankfurter we ended up dubbing an "Adventure Dog" (even though that wasn't what it was called on the menu) due to its interesting array of condiments, and this was devoured and followed up with loopily-dispensed ice cream that froze tongues and tickled tummies.

A bit to the west, the aircraft-embedded multi-hued facade of Historic Seligman Sundries attracts 66 visitors. Frank & Lynne Kocevar have done a wonderful job of refurbishing this historic building into an enjoyable stop where one can savor fresh coffee, purchase unique items, or just have a staring contest with the desperado mannequin stationed along one of the aisles. Duncan decided to dance out front with a swirling pile of weedy seeds spiraling in the afternoon light, while mom & dad chatted with the Kocevars and met Moe & Joe, a pair of rambunctious doggies staffing the back end of the store.

We'd spent several special hours in Seligman, but it was time to move on, and so after stocking up on Mini Moon Pies (yum! more processed roadtrip food!) at the discount grocery, we squinted west into the setting sun and ambled over to Kingman, the seat of Mohave County and our place of rest for the evening. As one drives along old US 66 through the hills of this city, the bright oval of the Hill Top Motel sign (with Zenith Chromacolor TV!) appears, and we attempted to check in - only to have our little amphibian make a beeline for the motel's pool. This actually worked to our advantage, as Dennis & Holly, the proprietors of the establishment (and people we're happy to call friends), were at the pool enjoying a late-day dip with their very energetic puppy. But rumblings of hunger were commencing, and we continued up 66 a piece to downtown, where the chrome and candyflake of a car show was taking place on Beale Street, as we took our places at an outdoor table at Mr D'z Diner for some sunset alfresco dining right along the old highway. Then back to the room in our old truck on by the cool cars, and some air-cooled rest amid modern decor.

And this was just the first half-day. This could be a long & interesting trip...


Day 1 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Ready to roll again! Duncan is raring to go! New cactus antenna dude reporting for duty
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Cotton candy for cancer! Sugary fluffy yumminess Pink, adhesive, and happy
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
The fabulous Snow Cap on Route 66 in Seligman Duncan in Angel Delgadillo's famous barber chair Crazy ice cream at the Snow Cap
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Faster than a speeding bullet pop... Historic Seligman Sundries - please park all aircraft in the wall outside On Route 66!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Hanging out on the 'seedy' side of town Say hello to my little seedy friends Mr. D'z Diner on old US 66 in Kingman
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Dinner alfresco on a nice summer night The neon of the Hill Top Motel sign beckons to travelers Hill Top...
Loading...
Loading...
...Motel! And the rooms actually do have Zenith TVs



Day 2 - Sunday, June 19th, 2011
Kingman, AZ to Las Vegas, NV
112 miles

This Fathers Day began with a couple of surprises for Richard, as he was bestowed with some thoughtful and appropriate gifts (nice necktie - with burgers!) - and was then ordered to take care of the family's well-being by heading out & finding some breakfast to bring back to the room. Then Duncan made a beeline for the pool while Dad prepped the truck for another day of travel, and Mom tidied up the room and prepared for travel.

For many decades, steam locomotives ruled the rails that spanned America, and one choice example of these long-gone choo-choos is Santa Fe number 3759, now occupying a place of honor in a downtown park next to Route 66. Duncan yelled "all aboard!" as he imagined himself the engineer of this mighty 4-8-4, as the parents played conductor and read the plaques telling the story of this engine's service pulling passenger trains all over the West from the 1920s to the '50s.

Then a visit across the street to the Kingman Powerhouse, a former electric station now generating business for the area through tourist and visitor information and services. Duncan thought the models of local buildings made by local VICA students were really cool, and then we made our way out by the benchmark denoting 3333.33 feet above sea level to watch more-modern trains rumble along the BNSF mainline curving behind the building.

We left US 66 behind and diagonalized northwestward on US highway 93, a 4-lane road that has some brand new just-built segments that bypass some tricky stretches of old road up near the state line. One of these new pieces o' highway is the new O'Callaghan-Tillman Bridge over the Colorado River into Nevada, which is a most impressive sight from below, but doesn't provide much of a view at all while driving above - but that's probably a good thing, because I don't think anyone wants distracted drivers crashing through the barriers and plummeting nearly 1000 feet to the rocks and river below, taking out a few camera-wielding tourists on the way. :)

We bumbled through Boulder City, climbed the grades of Railroad Pass, crested the hill, and descended into Sin City as Elvis serenaded us with "Viva Las Vegas" on the Truckasaurus' stereo. A veer and steer on the palm-lined streets brought us to the massive pink-tinged monstrosity of the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, as the weekend folks wobbled out and we wandered in. The layout of this hotel can be a bit frazzle-inducing, especially with a overstimulated 6-year-old on one side and twentysomething partiers tottering by on impossibly-tall shoes on the other, and so a pizza break was decreed to settle things down and fill some bellies.

Once the mozzarella was munched, Richard did the half mile hike (one way) to the room to unpack the truck, while Suz & Duncan watched death-defying circus acts - while the gamblers below performed their own wallet-defying stunts. It should be noted that one level of Circus Circus is devoted to games of 'skill' for all ages - and here is where the younger Mr. Moeur converted his manic ball-rolling energy into a little stuffed piggy. Dad reappeared and showed off his hand-eye-hammer coordination by kerplunking a chicken into a pot, which yielded another prize of a fuzzy blue Peep, which then became an impromptu bit of headwear for the remainder of the afternoon fun. Suzanne was hankering for doing a bit of wagering, so the boys wandered offto let her sit down at a slot machine for a while. And although "Noah's Ark" did not deliver a flood of riches, it was still an enjoyable interlude (but since the slot's theme is Biblically-related, does this count for church time? ;)

So what does Duncan think? "Every single moment here is the best moment of my life!"

But it gets better - off to the Adventuredome! (no post-apocalyptic scenarios required). This enormous indoor amusement park sits grafted to the Circus Circus like a big bubble oozing toward the freeway, and underneath its rose-colored glass lurk many methods to separate a kid from his sense of balance (or his lunch). So we skipped the slightly wild and scary stuff, and instead had a pleasant round of mini-golf complete with deceptively curvy AstroTurf surfaces. But Dunc reallyreallyreally wanted a round of "Laser Blast", and so father and son waited patiently for their turn to grab a ray gun and zip and zap.

But it was busy, and the line was long. Somehow, Dad found ways of keeping the kid entertained without causing property damage or hearing loss while the line shuffled intermittently forward. And, after many minutes of patient waiting, right before the doors were to open...

"I really hafta go to the bathroom..."

Fortunately, after that bit of pressure was relieved, we were allowed back to the front of the line (thank you, folks!), and soon little hard-to-hit Duncan was bravely prowling darkened corridors blazing red streaks of energy, as his sharpshooting Dad covered him with supporting fire. Final score: we got shot up a bit (OK - a lot), but we had fun anyway.

A family can only take so much Adventuredome, though, and after one more wacky choo-choo coaster ride, we made the long trudge from the pink hemisphere to our rooms out by the far back end of the property. Mom collapsed in a heap on the king-sized bed, and Dad was thinking a bit of horizontal recovery sounded good too, but little Mr. Endless Energy wanted to pleasepleaseplease go to the pool that we'd walked past a few moments before. And so it was that Mom remained in the room for a bit of blissful aloneness (yay!) while Dad & the Duncster snuck out for a splish and a splash until sunset.

OK, it's now evening in one of the most exciting cities on Earth. We're surrounded by world-renowned eateries, amazing architecture, and zillions of bright lights and sights. But we're just too bushed to leave the room. Hey, what's in the cooler - leftovers? Sounds good to us! And so we closed out our evening with the TV showing the Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony being held less than half a mile away, and the thermostat set at "cryogenic" to help us rest our cares away.


Day 2 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
And what else would Dad get for Father's Day? Thanks for taking me to the Hill Top! Splashy fun on Route 66 in Kingman
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Wet & happy Duncan Watch this! Big sign, small kid
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Ol' Santa Fe 3759 in Kingman New engineer ready to build up steam Alll aboard!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Duncan and his dad on the caboose Las Vegas Boulevard - Stratosphere in the rear view We're here at the happy pink place!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Dynamic dancers and crazy contortionists Who's ready for pizza? Genesis, chapter 6, 20 lines
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Our new porcine buddy Rollicking kid-size rides at the Adventuredome Wheeee!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Swimming in the Nevada sun That's Mr. Peep-head to you! Conked at Circus Circus



Day 3 - Monday, June 20th, 2011
Las Vegas, NV to Elko, NV
432 miles

Although we'd enjoyed running away to the Circus, it was time again to organize ourselves and carry our new stuffed friends from the beds and back to the truck, and then plod down to the check-out desk, where through the magic of "resort fees" and taxes our quoted $35 room rate had ballooned to a total of $48 - but then again, it's still not quite highway robbery.

Speaking of highways: time to get out on 'em - it's going to be a long day. A spin thru the Jack In The Box drive-thru for burgers and strawberry shakes, onto the freeway, and we were leaving Las Vegas. We exited onto another stretch of US 93, now dubbed the "Great Basin Highway", stopped briefly to purchase an inexpensive back-scratcher, and motored north into the arid desert of Nevada.

Several miles along, and just when we were just getting into a driving-type groove, an inconspicuous orange sign appeared: "30 minute delays". And sure enough, we ground to a stop in a long line of travel trailers and pickups, waiting for the flagger to grant our wishes and let us through.

Eventually, we were waved through and wheeled our way by the grinding machine gouging more annoying rumble strips into the new asphalt (yes, I know the crash reduction factors...) and soon we were in a platoon of impatient drivers playing "pass the string of big slow RVs!" on the 2-lane highway. A while up the road, our gaggle of vehicles entered the surprisingly lush and fertile landscape of the Pahraganat Valley, and stopped in front of something else big, green, and friendly - the smiling fiberglass dinosaur in front of the Sinclair station in Alamo. Duncan immediately used his new dino-buddy for some climbing & clambering, as Richard snapped a photo or three and conversed with some travelers towing some way-cool classic shiny Airstream trailers.

Fortified with lemon ices and other snacks, and after the obligatory "Extraterrestrial Highway" photo opportunity (drove the road in 2004), we ventured onward into the emptiness of central Nevada. Now remember that we are quite accustomed to the vast open spaces of Arizona, but the utter desolation of this state makes even the quietest stretch of Arizona road seem like the New Jersey Turnpike by comparison.

Many miles north on state route 318 is the quiet little town of Lund, and after a couple of hours of unremitting driving, the playground next to the century-old school (and Whipple's General Store) looked very inviting. Fun was had in the grassy fields and on the monkey bars, as we basked in the cool Nevada air while still-snowcapped mountain ranges towered in the distance.

We turned east on US 6 (still the longest US highway, from California to Cape Cod), which extended us into the city of Ely. We drove old US 50 by the downtown buildings and pondered our afternoon feeding options. We were thinking of trying one of the casino restaurants, but when we saw the magic words "soda fountain", we screeched to a stop in front of Economy Drug, and entered anxiously awaiting some dairylicious delights.

It was even better than expected. The counter staff at Economy Drug serve excellent sandwiches in little red baskets, complete with checkerboard paper. The ice cream flavors were varied and excellent. And it gets better still (at least from a kid's point of view): just down the stairs, the basement is filled with a fascinating array of toys, including Lego kits at greatly-marked-down prices! Wowee! Given all this, we're not absolutely sure that Duncan left skid marks sprinting down the stairs - but we wouldn't be surprised if he did.

It was with some regret that we finally pried our son's fingers from the last package downstairs and returned to the truck, but many miles still needed to be covered by nightfall. All that high-speed driving also had the Truckasaurus a bit thirsty for some 87 octane fuel, and so we thought we'd be cool and use our iPhones' built-in mapping capabilities to locate a convenient service station. This turned into an amusing misadventure, with locations popping up on the map turning out to be bottled-LPG distributors or oil wholesalers (maybe one of my keys just might fit...? ;) but eventually we were guided to a Chevron with some $3.81 unleaded, and we continued our quiet way north.

One unfortunate negative aspect of these empty highways is that when nature does finally remind an occupant of the vehicle that it's time to attend to important activities, it can be many miles between towns - or even to a culvert or a single lonely tree. This caught up with us near the 93 / Alt 93 junction, and we were most dismayed to see many miles with nothing but closed or utterly abandoned stores, gas stations, or other facilities. Things eventually worked out, but it made for some "uncomfortable" travel for a bit.

As the sun began its western descent, we turned onto route 229 for a 'shortcut' over to Elko, and a detour into the remarkably scenic Ruby Valley. We wended our way under the jagged snow-covered peaks of the Humboldt and Ruby ranges, and on past verdant pastures and well-kept farms. The valley sustains a wide variety of life, including some very speedy deer - one of which decided that we needed to verify our emergency braking capacity by suddenly sprinting out into the roadway directly in front of us.

We spent a few moments alternately gazing at the majestic mountainsides and into the rushing waters of a babbling brook - reliving in our minds just how close we'd come to re-enacting our 2006 incident that nearly took the truck out of commission (while the deer watched from the hillside - laughing to itself, we'll bet). And once we'd gotten the adrenaline down to a manageable level, we took one more look at the scenery, started the truck, and became acquainted with millions of other life forms supported by the ecosystem - teeny bugs making most splatterous impressions upon the windshield. By the time we reached I-80, our visibility was very impaired, and heroic efforts were employed with limited success to debug the windows sufficiently for freeway travel.

And so it was with 'creative navigation' we reached Elko right after sunset, and cruised Business 80 (old US 40) thru town looking for just the right place to rest our heads. Many interesting motels appeared with their blinking neon marquees, and we ended up selecting the Centre Motel, right across the street from the mighty white polar bears looming above the Commercial Casino. Again the absence of towns in Nevada worked against us, as the room rates weren't exactly inexpensive, but we settled into a comfy room (ah - there's the air conditioner - in the closet) and into the beds, lulled to sleep by the twinprops zooming just above the rooftops as they landed at the airport nearby.


Day 3 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Stuck in traffic in the middle of nowhere Our new green friend in the green Pahraganat Valley Gotcha by the tail!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
It Came From Duncan Space! Fun lil' playground in Lund Cavorting with the other kids
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Slip-sliding fun Dunc showing off his roundball skillz You can't catch meee!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Told you that you couldn't catch me! Lincoln Highway in downtown Ely Economy Drug (& Soda Fountain!) on US 50 in Ely
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Ready for some soda fountain fun Satisfying sandwiches on red plaid paper You mean it gets better?
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Wow! A whole floor of inexpensive toys downstairs! It's Duncan's lucky Lego day Scenic views in the Ruby Valley
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Snow-topped Nevada peaks (did we repeat ourselves?) Scenic afternoon view on NV 229 Flowing streams full of snowmelt
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Spring runoff for an arid land "Bear"-ly across the street from the Commercial Casino There's still some neat neon on old US 40 in Elko



Day 4 - Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Elko, NV to Boise, ID
240 miles

Let's rewind a bit before we get started: late the previous evening, Richard decided it might be a good idea to look at the agenda for this day's meetings, and then ask the GPS for its best guess for travel time to the meeting in Boise. Once the math was done (including factoring in one lost hour for time zone changes even though Boise is west of us), and the result... well, so much for a long restful sleep.

And so it was that the alarm went off at FOUR AM, and we roused our groggy bodies into the truck for a long day of road trip action. Grabbed hotcakes & McMuffins at the drive-thru, and wiggled our way north on a curvy and scenic stretch of Nevada route 225, watching the Owyhee River rush and rumble alongside the highway. A spell of driving brought us near the Nevada / Idaho border, where the Duck Valley Indian Reservation straddles the state line. At the general store (that's "Tammen Temeeh Kahni" to the locals), we stocked up on butterscotch pudding, beef jerky, cinnamon rolls, and other snacks to help us survive the many long days of meetings and travel still to come.

After bidding farewell to the Valley of the Duck (and a very interesting-looking moth that Duncan spotted on the windowsill), we motored up Ida-highway 51, brumbling through Bruneau and crossing the wide Snake River, impounded in the C.J. Strike Reservoir. From here it was only a short drive to Mountain Home, home of an Air Force base - and more importantly, Grinde's Diner, a charmingly retro-themed eatery occupying a former Dairy Queen near the middle of town. Duncan spun on the stools and Suzanne played the vintage Ms. Pac-Man machine as Richard pondered all the different ways a hot dog could be served up (with tater tots, of course). We still had meetings to git to, though, so we grabbed the food to go and chomped and chewed (carefully) at 75 MPH, watching the distances dwindle on the D2 signs. Very soon, we were exiting on Federal Way as it wends along the canal & bluffs, merged onto Capitol Street, and drove up to the Grove Hotel, our home for the next several days.

Whoops - the hotel was back there. And we're on one-way streets. Let's try that again, shall we?

OK. Into the driveway. Engine off, everyone out. Check in, start unloading. And unloading. And unloading (OK, we as a family do many things well, but packing light isn't one of them). Then Richard scooted down to the meetings (already in progress), while Suzanne stayed in the room arranging - and Duncan de-arranged.

The annual AASHTO Subcommittee on Traffic Engineering (SCOTE) meeting consists of of the chief traffic engineers from the 50 states plus DC & a few other places discussing important and vital issues affecting states and the traveling public. Although Richard isn't the chief traffic engineer for Arizona (not even close...), he is an associate member of the committee, and contributes to the discussions both online and in person.

But the seat for the Arizona delegate is vacant. It turns out that Mike Manthey, the state traffic engineer for AZ, had been suddenly struck ill by some unknown bug, and had to leave.

Congrats, Mr. Moeur - you just got 'promoted'. You up for it?

The afternoon discussion included a presentation on the upcoming AASHTO Guide for Bicycle Facilities, which has been involved with since the mid-1990s. Looks like a new and greatly expanded and improved edition is coming soon, and there was some discussion of how this will help state and local agencies in appropriately accommodating increasing numbers of bicyclists on streets and roadways. There was also discussion on the 2009 (very problematic) edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), and although the most dynamic part of that discussion occurred before our arrival, there were still a few comments about how the Federal Government had in some ways made it harder instead of easier for traffic engineers to properly design traffic guidance, and opportunities for mischief from trial lawyers and other miscreants.

The day's meetings wrapped up around 5 PM, and all three of us reassembled in the lobby for a hop onto a motorcoach for a trip to the west - the Wild West, as re-enacted at Coolwater Creek. Duncan eagerly explored the ghost-town buildings (complete with the occasional smiling skeleton), and then tried his little hands at fishing in the pond, assisted by his dad (and others who actually knew what they were doing). We feasted on barbeque as gunshots rang out around us, as the most bumbling gang in the Old West attempted to rob something or other (we think). A good time was had by all, and we rode the tractor-towed wagons back to the bus happy and well-fed, as the sun set on this longest day of the year in the motorcoach's rear view mirrors.

Speaking of a very long day: we'd now been up for almost 20 hours straight, and needed some recuperation. But Duncan was still stuck in "hyper" mode, as he danced repeatedly to dad's iPhone ringtone (the main theme from the 1970 movie "Airport", in case you're wondering - it's a great bongo-laden Alfred Newman score). Now this normally wouldn't be a problem, but we're up on the 10th floor of a busy hotel. And everyone below us probably a bit tired too. So the phone was retrieved and silenced, the kid was hog-tied and showered, and we rested peacefully in our deluxe bed, and dreamed of busy days looming soon.


Day 4 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Adding Idaho to the truck's map (for the 2nd lap) Grinde's Diner in Mountain Home - food n' fun Grinnin' at Grinde's
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Welcome to the capital of Idaho - Boise Coolwater Creek - strange doings 'round hyar Suzanne & Duncan riding the tractor-pulled wagon
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Welcome to Idaho! Duncan patrolling the ghost town Meeting new bony friends
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Casting away our problems Mr. Conehead Obligatory Duncan + Rich Brown photo, 2011 edition
Loading...
Sunset from the 10th floor of the Grove Hotel



Day 5 - Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
in Boise, ID
1 mile on foot

After not quite enough sleep, the plonkety-clonk of the iPhone's alarm ushered Richard into a somewhat-wakeful state, and he prepared for a very long day of meetings beginning before 8 AM. Upon arriving at the conference room, he saw his boss, who explained that he still wasn't feeling all that great (muttering something about an emergency room visit) and that Richard should still be the "official" delegate and sit at the table behind the little flag with the copper star. Well, so much for goofing off this morning... :)

Suzanne & Duncan had an even better idea: venture out on this rather warm (by Idastandards) day and stroll a few blocks south to Julia Davis Park, an expanse of refreshing green along the river in the heart of the city. Adjacent to the park is the Discovery Center of Idaho , a place where a budding young mad scientist & his mom could perform enjoyable experiments in seismology, meteorology, optics, physics, HVAC engineering, and even a bit of arc welding thrown in (watch out for the sparks!) Duncan learned how green screens can make you invisible on television, peered through a periscope at the buildings of Boise, applied the Bernoulli effect to a number of objects and people, and gave expert veterinary care to a passel of portly plush puppies.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Richard took off his AASHTO cap and put on his NCUTCD chapeau, as he convened the Bicycle Technical Committee to review proposals for new regional bicycle route signs and how to best accommodate cyclists in temporary traffic control work zones. Then another meeting kept him busy until after 7 PM, at which time both he & the rest of the family resolved that a good dinner would be an excellent idea.

Fortunately, many of our friends had the same idea, and so our gang of guys and gals walked a block or so to the Bardenay Restaurant, which in spite of its popularity on a warm summer night was able to serve our mini-mob in short order. We commented offhand that this crowded brewpub was a "hopping place" - so, of course, Duncan starts hopping. And hopping. And hopping. But fortunately didn't knock over anyone's hop-flavored beverage. :)

Once the tables were cleared and the checks were settled, we walked through the Grove Plaza, a focal point of evening activity in Boise's downtown street life. Duncan spotted the splooshing & gooshing fountain set into the pavement at the center of the plaza, and before you could say "take off your good shirt, son" he was gleefully darting and sliding through the spouts of clear water, dodging the hipsters as they steered their monochromatic singlespeeds through the cooling jets. Dunc's fun was magnified when a group of teen girls arrived and began cautiously testing the edges of the fountain - that is, until Dunc would grab them & drag them right into the flow, producing many happy shrieks from many big girls & one little boy. But then other noises were heard - rumbles of thunder from a storm that had snuck in from the valleys. So time to say thanks & bye-bye to our new friends, and bundle ourselves back to the room to watch a flashy show of lightning from our 10th-floor perch - and then to roll into bed to get at least a bit of rest before the next day's obligations.


Day 5 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
The impish interim representative from Arizona is recognized... Suz in the Michi-spot Discovering the Discovery Center of Idaho
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Veterinarian Dunc fixing one sick puppy Ghost Dunc having fun with the green screen The BTC gang at Bardenay in Boise
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Let's make dad disappear! Frolicking in the fountain Finding more friends to moisten!



Day 6 - Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
in Boise, ID
0 miles

Still no rest for Richard - he was out of the room and down the elevator a few minutes after 7 AM for more meetings. First up was the General Session of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, where the organization showed its impressive collective wisdom by unanimously approving all three of the proposals Richard brought to the floor from his technical committee. Then many more hours of technical committee meetings, discussing the recent approval of green bike lanes and analyzing alternatives to help bicyclists and other road users share roadway space.

Suzanne & Duncan had a somewhat more-enjoyable day, starting off with building some of those Lego kits purchased from the drug store in Ely. Then out the door and over to the downtown cinemas, where they enjoyed a whole waddle lot of fun watching "Mr. Popper's Penguins" on the big screen.

When the meetings wound up and dinner time was at hand, we reassembled our friends for foraging, and wandered the busy Boise streets until the Piper Pub and Grill appeared on a second-floor balcony. They were able to seat our group and get us fed most expeditiously, and we enjoyed the food and socialization. Duncan was getting a wee bit bored with all the talk about families, friends, and the relative effectiveness of roadway treatments on crash rates, and was most happy when a family with several kids near Duncan's age appeared. The younguns started playing "Star Wars Battles" for entertainment, and many foes were vanquished using imaginary weapons and powers - and best of all, in a manner that wasn't disruptive to the other dining patrons.

We then figured it might be a good time to walk off a bit of that good meal - and how about an ice cream shop for a destination? Sounded good to us, and so we set off west a couple blocks to the Ben & Jerry's listed on our iPhones as being nearby. But then we arrived - and they had just locked the doors. Duncan was most distressed at this sad turn of events, and began to cry mournfully - which seemed to have absolutely zero effect on the young chickie-pie gabbing on her cell phone behind the counter.

OK, now for another plan. Persuaded the kid to take his trail of tears up the street, and we managed to lift our mood a bit by visiting a local game store. Here we saw that game we weren't able to get at the Mall Of America due to an "incident" on our previous road trip last month. and things turned out a bit better this go-round. Then a few doors down was a build-it-yourself dessert bar with dozens of flavors of frozen yogurt, and toppings ranging from the delightful to the slightly unnerving. This put us back in a reasonable frame of mind, and we headed back to the hotel in a better mood.

But one more complication. As we traversed Grove Plaza, Duncan noticed the fountain had just shut down, which placed him back into "sad" mode. Dad cheered him up by inventing a new game: "run through the imaginary fountain", which had the desired effect, and much easier to clean up, too! Then got our dry butts up to the room, and an attempt at a few hours of sleep.


Day 6 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
BTCers at the Piper Pub Piper Pub playtime Feel my Force Lightning!
Loading...
Swirly tubs of yummy frozen yogurt



Day 7 - Friday, June 24th, 2011
in Boise, ID
2 miles

This day started very early for Richard (again!) as he trudged down to meeting rooms for the final batch of NCUTCD meetings. These went reasonably well, if not too swiftly, and Richard was finally able to drag his beyond utterly exhausted body back up to the room to collapse in a heap.

Suzanne & Duncan simply stepped around his inert form and walked back down to Julia Davis Park, for a late-morning visit to BAM! - the Boise Art Museum. They hoofed it through an exhibit on rather eclectic shoes, and were culturally uplifted by the paintings, sculpture, and other art-infused items. Then a visit to the rose garden for some florally fragrant frolicking, and then a zip to the Boise Zoo to see many fuzzy fauna, including lions and tigers, fluttery butterflies, and a prairie dog exhibit that lets kids like Dunc pop their heads up right in the middle of their busy town.

By now, Richard had regained some semblance of consciousness, and walked down to meet the family for a belated picnic lunch next to the playground. Then over the bridge spanning the canal where the swan boats gracefully floated, and a return visit to the Discovery Center of Idaho, where Duncan ran from exhibit to experiment to show Dad all the neat stuff.

But the day's fun wasn't done. As we might have mentioned (or failed to mention) previously, the lower floors of the Grove Hotel double as the Qwest Arena, a 5,000-seat home for the local professional hockey and basketball teams. In fact, the second and third floor guest rooms double as hospitality suites for games and other events (but don't have much a view when there isn't an event).

But an event was planned for tonight, and one of very great interest to the family - the El Korah Shrine Circus was in town! Earlier in the day, hotel patrons were treated to the sight of elephants and tigers (and maybe even a bear) strolling into the hotel's back entrance, and this evening three rings were laid out on the floor of the arena ready for amazing acts - and all we had to do to get there was simply press "down" on the elevator.

Since we arrived a bit early (yes, it happens once in a long while), and the event had open seating, we were able to get a truly "ringside seat" just behind the hockey boards (Duncan, don't touch the trapeze rigging! Put that back!) This gave us an excellent view of not only the circus, but of all the activities and action that go into to putting the big show on (wasn't the lady selling elephant ride tickets the same one on the trapeze - and is that her on the rope holding up the other acrobat?) And of course when you have a bunch of kids in a large dark room, there's nothing more natural than selling them light-up sparkly things to wiggle and wave around. And Duncan was able to persuade his notoriously tight-fisted dad into purchasing a neato "light saber" for his use in defending the forces of good. However, Duncan being Duncan, he promptly ("it was an accident!") turned it into an overpriced multicolor flashlight after one strike against evil too many - but Richard will fix it later, like he always does.

After the echoes of the band and the 2-stroke engines of the "Motorcycle Sphere of Doom" faded away, we realized we hadn't quite managed to have dinner yet (and no, cotton candy doesn't qualify as "dinner".) But we were far too tired to even think about going out for anything. Solution: have pizza delivered to the room (great idea), while we made some sporadic efforts at cleaning up the mess in room 1035 prior to tomorrow's check-out.

So when do we have to be out of here tomorrow...?


Day 7 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Julia Davis Park - a green gem of Boise Duncan goes BAM! New butterfly friends flutter by
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Stopping to see the roses A happy little hut at the Boise Zoo More butterflies than you can shake a net at
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Chubby lil' Boise prairie dog Duncan getting in on the prairie dog action It's time for the El Korah Shrine Circus!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Ready for exciting three-ring action Front row seats! Hoopin' it up very impressively
Loading...
Loading...
Engaging elephants at the Shrine Circus Feel the wrath of my lightsaber, er, flashlight



Day 8 - Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Boise, ID to Fairfield, ID
108 miles

As the parental units regained consciousness to the sound of a hyperactive child diving and spinning eagerly off the chairs and tables of the hotel room, we realized last night's circus ticket should have had a disclaimer: "may have side effects, including but not limited to small children using furniture and other handy yet fragile items to re-enact viewed events, including extreme gymnastics and trapeze acts."

Time again to move along. Time to hunt for impossibly small Lego pieces under impossibly large beds. Time to squeeze laundry into bags that seem to have mysteriously shrunk. Time to use all our olfactory and visual capabilities to accurately classify "done" and "can get one more wearing out of". Time to empty out the fridge and countertops and load it all onto the cart down to the truck (remember me?) patiently waiting in the basement.

And so it came to pass that all that belonged to us was delivered unto the Truckasaurus, and all that belonged to the hotel remained in the room (if perhaps not in its original position). But since we'd already paid for parking, we thought we'd take a look at the Saturday open-air market on the streets of downtown Boise. Many vendors tempted us with their wares, including meticulously-crafted jewelry, wood carvings and furniture, and the occasional home-made food product. One booth was performing a real-life re-enactment of what you ought to do when life hands you lemons, and the resulting lemonadey product was a tart yet tasty refreshment on this warm Idaho day. At a local bookstore, we snagged some interesting reading for the young and middle-aged, and then plummeted in the elevator to again take our seats in the truck for the exciting second half of this epic journey.

We followed the signs for US highway 20 (a road on which we'd spent many miles between Illinois & New York on our 2005 road trip), merging onto I-84 eastbound (and US 26 and US 30) on the outskirts of the city. This leg of the trip was quite uneventful, as we discussed all the things we planned on seeing and doing over the next couple days as the truck's wheels whizzed over the concrete pavement.

But then, as we approached Mountain Home (again), the truck's wheels suddenly seemed to be doing a much less good job of whizzing. At first we thought it might be something with the pavement surface, but the truck's inability to track a straight line became much worse rather quickly (and, no, before you might ask that question, Richard had not been drinking...) until the steering wheel became more of a general suggestion than an actual control mechanism.

And then came the noise. Something like... a bobcat. A bobcat being fed into a wood chipper. Slowly. Very slowly.

And then the clunks. Something like... a group of angry clowns playing a badly tuned bass xylophone. OK, make that angry clowns on meth.

Richard steered (well, kind of) the stricken vehicle to a stop on the shoulder. Location: just outside a city that could possibly fix such a predicament. Time: about 3 PM - perhaps enough time to effect repairs, if... a place could be found that was open on Saturdays.

iPhone out, call AAA. Give AAA information in detail. Get to the part about "Mountain Home, Idaho", and receive the reply that I was in touch with AAA Arizona, based on my cell phone area code. Call AAA Idaho. Give information again. In detail. Get response that their local tow truck would be headed our way soon. Yay!

Get call a few minutes later. Turns out the local AAA tow truck was on a call, and the Boise trucks would be a while as well. Does 6 PM sound good to you, Mr. Moeur?

NO.

Start driving again. Slowly. Realize we didn't have earplugs. Turn up stereo instead.

Made it to a local Ford dealer. Explained our situation. In spite of the fact we own a Chevy truck, get a sympathetic look. Then the bad news: all the mechanics had already gone home for the weekend - they couldn't help us.

Then the good news: the guy said that Les Schwab Tires about 2 miles away could fix our problem, and they were open until 5 PM on Saturdays.

But we had to get there...

We clunked, clanked, and screeched slowly down the streets of Mountain Home, waving to all the other drivers and bystanders plugging their ears and making faces at our raucous racket. We made the final turn into the tire store (apparently they heard us coming - for quite a while), and they waved us promptly into an open service bay. The front wheels were removed, and the damage assessment commenced.

An aside here: prior to our departure, we had the Truckasaurus checked out stem to stern by our local mechanic, with special attention to the drivetrain and bearings, especially the front wheel bearings after that incident in the swamps of Alabama back in 2003. They confirmed (as did I) that everything looked fine and well-packed, and that the truck should be fine for a simple 3000-mile trip.

Only now, 1100 miles later, the Les Schwab folks could not even find a vestige of the right front outer bearing - just a gray superheated greasy goo. But the spindle and rotor still looked relatively undamaged, and so a simple bearing replacement and repack would have us rolling happily again. And the part was in stock. How does half an hour and $50 sound?

And look what's right next door. Grinde's Diner. Double disaster-averted bonus!!

We paid our bill and bounded back into the vehicle, checking out the motels which we oh-so-narrowly averted being an unwilling multi-day customer of, and eastward on US 20 we resumed, leaving the freeway behind and rolling into the foothills of this scenic state. We wound our way past red-painted barns and fields filled with munching moos, analyzing the map and the motel list for a nice little place to spend the evening. There was still some daylight left when we reached Fairfield, but we knew the next town with a guaranteed bed was many miles hence, and so we stopped in front of the Prairie Inn - and were immediately greeted by a big happy friendly black dog who had honed his canine hospitality skills to perfection. It turned out the owner was a transplanted Arizonan, and we swapped stories while filling out the paperwork, and set about settling in to our first post-Boise stop.

But Duncan wasn't ready for calling it a day yet - especially after seeing that big bright yellow Union Pacific caboose next door now doing duty as the town's visitor center. Dunc climbed the ladders and spun the brake wheels, making "woo- wooo" noises as his dad assisted in the conductor duties. Then father and son walked the wooden sidewalks of quiet downtown Fairfield, impressed at how the 1100 or so residents of Camas County made do nicely with such a compact court house. Then back to the room where Mom was having a grand time relaxing without the boy underfoot, and then to recharge our batteries (in the truck's case, literally) and count our blessings after such an eventful day.


Day 8 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Bustling street market in Boise Duncan befriended by a real Vandal Hurtin' Truckasaurus getting some care
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Busted wheel bearing - ouch US 20 Ida-scene Mooving right along
Loading...
Loading...
The fair town of Fairfield All aboard (again!)



Day 9 - Sunday, June 26th, 2011
Fairfield, ID to West Yellowstone, MT
280 miles

We awoke early to get a fast start to a busy day, and we were rolling east on US 20 by the farmland of this section of Idaho. Several miles after joining up with our old friends US 26 & US 93, the green fields gave way to mounds of black lava as we approached Craters of the Moon National Monument, the site of an impressive amount of igneous activity very "recently" (well, in terms of geologic time). The blacktop highway led us by jagged sharp ridges composed of "aa" lava (named by somebody who stepped on them with bare feet?) and smoothly undulating "pahoehoe" rock (the sound of someone laughing at the guy who stepped on aa?). At the visitor center, we learned of the explorers who discovered the wonders of this very inhospitable land, and of the geotectonic forces that created and shaped this and many other features of the northwest US, including Yellowstone.

Some notable features of this area are the cinder cones dotting the landscape, with their black slopes jutting into the blue sky. Some of these are open to climbing by visitors, and Duncan had a great time bounding up and down the squishy pebbly slopes, while his dad appreciated how the loose material was very forgiving to more-experienced knees and joints. Lurking below the surface, though, are a network of caves created by former rivers of flowing magma, some of which have collapsed to create striking formations, while others are open to exploration (provided, of course, you've passed the 'bat disease inspection' by the Park Service - and remembered your flashlight). The intrepid pair of spelunkers known as Richard & Duncan squeezed through the gaps and clambered around the debris in the semi-darkness, while Suzanne stayed outside in the sunshine admiring the stark vistas of this scenic area. And once the bolder boys completed their bouldering and reconnected with Mom, we walked the unusually undulating pathways that led through the lava fields, admiring the intricate patterns created by the fluid stone as it solidified.

Then back in the truck to resume course eastbound, and a spell of scenic driving brought us into Arco, a small city that is unabashedly proud of its place in atom-age history. Back in the early 1950s, Arco became the first city in the US to obtain its power from the wonders of the harnessed atom, as part of government nuclear research - which is still a rather busy activity in the area. We were pleased to see many intriguing eateries; however, since we showed up on a Sunday, they were all closed - except for the Pickle Place, a restaurant wearing a shade of vivid green (and a huge working rocking chair out front in the same cucumberific color).

And the unusual aspects of this town didn't stop there. Just across the highway from the Pickle Place, under the cliffs with the oversize numerals of high school classes gone by, the black streamlined sail of USS Hawkbill (SSN 666), a recently-retired nuclear submarine, looked like it was surfacing out of the Idaho earth. And in the shadow of those giant 6s on the conning tower were displays on both the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the awesome power of atomic might to deter ever greater martial bloodshed, and then a display with a brightly-painted Mark 14 torpedo, which Duncan was immediately homing in on for some climbing & picture-posing enjoyment.

And since Arco seemed to have that glow of a nice clean well-maintained town, we got our Pickle Place food to go and basked in the energy of another massive round yellow fusion reaction at the town park as we munched and played. A spray bottle duel between Dad & the little squirt amid the playground equipment burned off some energy and provided some cooling and then back to the vehicle to resume our wanderings.

Our new clear day continued as we stayed on US 20 eastward out of Arco, as the bright & cheerful "NO ADMITTANCE" signs of the Idaho National Laboratories bracketed the roads leading from the highway off to indistinct industrial buildings far from prying eyes. And although that original reactor is still open for tours (never mind that little meltdown), we looked at the watch and realized we needed to keep rolling, as the snowcapped Tetons began to appear on the eastern horizon. Saw I-15 again for a whopping half-mile in Idaho Falls, and then onward on a 4-lane US 20 northeastward through the valleys affected by the Teton Dam failure back in the 70s (not a great moment for us in the civil engineering community), maneuvering around the bulky RVs and 5th-wheels also sharing this busy highway.

As US 20 transitioned into a winding 2-lane roadway, we re-entered the forests of lodgepole and aspen, passing the vacation chalets and camps advertising "discount" rates that certainly didn't seem all that economical to us. This had us wondering just what we'd find when we got to the Yellowstone area, as none of us had had the chance to visit this part of the country before. We surmounted the Continental Divide and crossed into Montana, and a short time later we found ourselves in West Yellowstone, a refreshing spot of unbridled commercialism nestled in the heart of unforgiving nature.

As we drove the main drag, passing the motels, eateries, and oddball shops, we saw a dismaying number of signs with their simple understated message of "NO VACANCY", with the occasional "Sorry" sprinkled in. And the few motels without a showing 'NO' were displaying prices with triple digits - not exactly what we were anticipating. We turned onto a side street to ponder our predicament, and our eyes spotted another lodging option: "CABINS". We inquired of the proprietor what this entailed, and he stated it was simple: He'd rent us a bare room with two bunk beds, a table, and a fridge, tell us where the bathrooms & showers were down the path ("tell us if you see any bears"), and charge us $90 for the privilege. He also explained helpfully that this town was only open 4 months out of the year, and that all revenue generation opportunities had to be squeezed into this time - hence the rather high cost of living around here. And the only other feasible alternative: sleeping in the truck, if the local authorities would allow it.

Duncan: "Bunk beds? Yay!"

So, we paid the cash and moved in, realizing that he hadn't mentioned anything about "bedding". Time to dig out the few blankets we had from the deepest recesses of the truck, although the low-80s temperatures right then had us thinking little of cozy cuddling later. And now, how about dinner? It would seem the swarms of skeeters had the same idea, and had already gotten a head start on using us for a hearty evening meal, in spite of prodigious application of repellent. So we swatted and scratched our way to the center of town, picked up some silly & easily-packable souvenirs, and chowed down amid all the folks doing the "deep woods dance" trying to avoid those bothersome bugs. Then back to our costly cabin as the temperatures plummeted, and a snuggle under some questionable bedding for a quiet night.


Day 9 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Cruising the many-numbered scenic byway To the Moon, Moeurs! Our little lunar visitor
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Stamping our extraterrestrial parks passport Lava, lava, everywhere 'Aa' - which is the noise you'd make walking on it
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Subtle striations in the pahoehoe Intricate patterns in the igneous rock Swirls, now solidified
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
And yet life blooms even in the most inhospitable places Crunching up the cinder cone King of the cone!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Barreling down the squooshy slopes The boys are a bit beat after that climb A contrast in landscapes
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Rugged peaks surrounding the area Green valleys give way to black lava Duncan takes in the volcanic view
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
An unusually undulating pathway over the aa & pahoehoe Watch your step... Into the caverns of lava we go
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Small kid, big cave The intrepid spelunkers Pop goes the Duncan!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Atom-Age Arco Proud of their nuclear families Atomic Energy - The Friend of Arco
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Odd place for a submarine Torpedo on target with a rambunctious warhead The vivid green seating of the Pickle Place
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Gotcha! Basking happily in the rays of a fusion reaction Idaho National Laboratories lurking in the distance
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
A jaunty sign with a stern message Neon of West Yellowstone luring in the tired traveler Outside our tiny costly cabin
Loading...
Loading...
Getting eaten alive by the pesky skeeters Bunk boy!



Day 10 - Monday, June 27th, 2011
West Yellowstone, MT to Jackson, WY
270 miles

In contrast to the previous day's warmth, the overnight low in West Yellowstone was a sub-freezing 27 degrees, which combined with our rustic cabin and makeshift bedding, made for some rather nippy napping. But the sun eventually rose, we shook off the morning chill, and prepared for another busy day. In keeping with the theme of this mercantile mini-metropolis, we grabbed breakfast at McDonald's, and then made the sudden transition from asphalt and neon to pine trees and meadows as we crossed the boundary and entered Yellowstone National Park.

As we were posing by the entrance sign and paying the entry fee that was as steep as the surrounding mountains, Richard resolved to be a continuous embarrassment to his son by talking like Yogi Bear all day, complete with gratuitous references to "pick-a-nick baskets". This had the exact opposite effect, with Duncan and even Suz getting into an animated spirit of things.

This expansive place of natural beauty has a variety of striking sights, ranging from peaks still sporting shrouds of snow, rushing blue streams teeming with trout (and funny-looking guys trying to catch them), impressive roaring waterfalls spilling onto ancient rocks, blue lakes stretching nearly to the horizon, rolling forests of lodgepole pine (much of it still recovering from a disastrous fire almost a quarter-century ago), and tourists. Lots of tourists, in varying plumage and attire, ranging from 'tanktoppus blondissimi' to 'nihonicus photogenicus' to 'marriedcouplinus retiri'.

And let us not forget that this whole place is actually a well-disguised volcanic caldera that may eventually go kablooey, possibly affecting the entire planet (and perhaps sending the first grizzly bear into space). The sulfurous spurts and clouds of noxious acrid gases (which admittedly make the pit toilets smell good by comparison) coming from countless cracks in the crust remind us that the ground underneath us is still roiled by masses of magma just waiting for an opportunity to erupt or explode (or just blow off a bit of steam). In the Norris Basin, the blowholes and bubblers have stained the scenery with many vivid colors as they deposit minerals from deep within the earth, and we walked the wooden pathways heeding the warnings that one simple step across the forbidding landscape could result in a terminal case of hotfoot or being parboiled without the benefit of a pressure cooker.

Yellowstone traffic control rule #1: if a 2000 lb bison and its baby decide to stand in the middle of the road like a big brown meaty barricade, you let them. For as long as they want. :)

All this driving, geyser-sniffing, and wildlife-dodging had us ready for a break, and so Richard readily whipped out his credit card for some refreshing ice cream at the Canyon Lodge. And then a few miles of motoring brought us to an amazing abyss - the gigantic gouge through multihued strata of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with rushing & roaring waterfalls below, and rushing & roaring vacationers rumbling above. Then an afternoon cruise curving around the blue expanse of a very full Lake Yellowstone, as the whitecaps on the water matched the snowy peaks beyond, and 1930s-era yellow buses were spied in the windows and rear-view.

And a few miles farther down the road a new term was added to the Road Trip dictionary. Geyserstress: knowing Old Faithful is only minutes away from erupting, and being stuck behind an ancient Winnebago doing 20 below the limit, spewing aromatic hydrocarbons to share with its followers. And so it was that just before we blew our tops, we were sprinting across the massive parking lot and made it... just in time to see the impressive and world-famous Old Faithful blow superheated steam and water hundreds of feet into the Wyoming sky.

Relieved that we were successful in seeing this scenic sight, we made our way over to the shops teeming with our fellow travelers, and waited in line for a snack served artfully out of a indeterminate white cardboard box. Richard approached the register, reached into his wallet, and...

Those well-versed in the art of plastic-card-based commerce know all too well that horrible sickening sinking feeling in the pit of one's belly when one reaches for the Visa card - and it ain't there. And all that frantic dumping and rummaging isn't all that appreciated by those behind you in the line (although it might provide a bit of ironic amusement). But no time to panic - just start analyzing where that piece o' plastic might have gone AWOL, and go from there. Some brow-furrowing forensics determined that it was most likely that the card departed from us back at the Canyon Lodge, and so we asked the staff at this establishment if we could have their telephone number.

The response: "They're a different concessionaire. We don't have their number."

Plan B: use the iPhone to seek out contact information. Problem was, the middle of a national park isn't exactly a wireless hotspot, and so we impatiently waited as the packets made their slow way from who-knows-where into our devices, as Richard held the phone up in the air like some sort of demented Statue of Liberty. But eventually a number materialized, and the search was on.

Call. Message. Press "0". On hold. Get human. Find out it's not the correct number, but he can look it up. Give number. Scribble down. Attempt transfer. Disconnected. Call scribbled number. Transfer. Hold. Transfer. Talk to the actual human being who processed our ice cream transaction.

"Your name is spelled how? Last 4 digits? Yes, your card is here."

OK, that's the good news: the card was safe and sound. The bad news: it was 50 miles away. And company policy was made clear: either we pick it up in person, or it's shredded tomorrow.

Our second lap around the Grand Loop was not quite as enjoyable as the first, as the day was getting long and the mileage piling up (get outta my way, buffalo!!) But a bit over an hour later, we gratefully retrieved our card, and set course for a bit more late-afternoon adventure. The wolf-watchers with their spotting scopes that would put any shooting range to shame were out in force along the turnouts and byways by now, along with hordes of mosquitoes which dotted the truck's surfaces. Another hour and a half of late-day driving had us departing Jellystone and immediately entering Grand Teton National Park, and the scenery continued unabated, although there were a few more delays due to fully racked elk deciding to take in the evening air while straddling the center line of the highway. And there was one positive side effect of our plastic-induced delay: viewing the majestic peaks of the Grand Tetons, bathed in the pink and purple rays of a beautiful 9 PM sunset.

In contrast to our utter unpreparedness for West Yellowstone, we'd actually heard from many folks that the Jackson Hole Valley was not a place for the light of wallet, and that this former cowboy town now repositioned as a resort destination might require a (successful) cattleman's fortune to find room & board. And so months prior to departure, we investigated our lodging options, pausing occasionally to pick ourselves off the floor after reading the astronomical prices quoted for a simple room for the night. And right before we gave up on the idea of even passing this way, we remembered that a long string of somewhat unfortunate events back in last year's Big Road Trip involving a beloved blanket of Duncan's had left us the recipients of a precious certificate good for one evening at any hotel in the Hilton family, at any price, anywhere on Earth. And so it was that when we pulled up at the Homewood Suites, we were pleased and relieved that the fine folks at Hilton Corporate would be footing our $441 bill (plus tax).

The bell cart was commandeered to deliver our junk into the four-room suite, and we carefully moved the origami-folded duck-resembling plush towels ("towel fowl"?) off the fluffy bed as our tacky possessions mingled with the tasteful decor and appliances. Then a snuggle into our cozy covers, with a renewed appreciation for indoor plumbing, and the dishwasher in the kitchen softly serenading us to sleep.


Day 10 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Welcome to Jellystone! Contributing substantially to Federal revenue Stamping the Parks Passport
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Peaceful view in a busy place Bucolic bison Fluffy buffalo
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Teeny baby bison! Where does the bison cross the road? Anywhere he wants! Gibbering kid at Gibbon Falls
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Duncan & dad on the overlook Highways to grandeur Snowcapped peaks above the caldera
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Stark landscapes of Norris Basin Phew! Stinky! Pacing the path over the fulminous fumaroles
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Making our way amid the summer crowds Falls of the Yellowstone Duncan pondering the plunge
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Gracefully gouging geology Arch bridge and big falls
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Upper Falls lead into the chasm Rugged mountains and lazy river Blue lake under white peaks
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Yellow bus in the rear view Classic conveyance, still in daily use Old Faithful spouting off on schedule
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Greetings from Grand Teton! Jagged peaks in evening light White peaks silhouetted by fading rays and blue sky
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Tall peaks staying abreast of the setting sun Truckasaurus enjoying the sunset scenery And only $441 per night!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Settling into the suite 'Towel fowl' giving us greetings We do many things well - traveling light isn't one of them...



Day 11 - Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Jackson, WY to Kemmerer, WY
173 miles

After an exhausting previous day and a very late arrival, we set the alarm for 9:00 AM - and yet still managed to sleep thru it. Now the Homewood Suites already has a generous check-out time of noon, but it soon became apparent that we would be hard-pressed to meet this timeline, especially after the second helping of hot breakfast yummies from the buffet downstairs. But the Homewood did come up with a very effective incentive for our departure: it was explained in a very polite and professional yet firm manner that if we weren't completely out and gone by 1 PM, an additional $100 penalty would be assessed - and no, the certificate won't cover that. So the bell cart burned rubber, a few extraneous items were heaved off the balcony, and by 12:30, we were clear and they were ready for another night of 100% occupancy at eye-popping prices.

So, what's the town of Jackson all about? As we mentioned earlier, it started as a cowtown that somehow through the years transmogrified into an all-season resort catering to those who are willing to fork over large amounts of cash in trade for some magnificent scenery and exciting activities. And we wisely decided to skip the art galleries, furriers, and bistros. But it isn't all frou-frou and hoity-toity: even the frugal traveler can find low-cost fun. First stop was for Duncan to attain a bit of enlightenment as he traversed the labyrinth in the courtyard of the local Episcopal Church, and then for some properly-priced shopping for a good cause at the thrift store next door (Look! A big bin with more Legos! Yay!) Then a stroll under the elk-antler arches at each corner of the town square (refreshed every season from the nearby refuge), and an affordable lunch at Great Harvest Bread Company, where the excellent loaves and memorable meats made for a good meal. Nearby, there are some benches where one can get a bit of rest, but what makes it special are the sculptures of famous folks sharing the seating - you can ensconce yourself next to Einstein, or take a load off your feet along with Mark Twain and company.

But it was finally time to get the 'hole' out of Jackson, and we steered southbound on US 189 as the overflowing Hoback River looped under the highway and the jagged snowcapped peaks of the Wind River Range shone in the distance. And about a mile south of the 189/191 junction is the small town of Daniel, with the obligatory bar, post office (the bar was busier), ruins of a gas station, and the Daniel Trading Store, which proudly proclaimed of the "nicknacks & doodlywacks" that could be found within. And who are we to argue with such a sign? And it turned out that to be that & more - they also do custom embroidery, t-shirt screening and other services for folks near & far. And as for those "nicknacks?" Well, now we need to figure out where that giant metal fish is going to fit when we get home...

Later on, as we were motoring through the "oil patch" of Wyoming, noting the rigs and drilling activity, Duncan was busy in the back seat, making 'woolly mammoth parts' with his Legos, and Richard was just... driving. But then an excited cry arose from the right seat: "moose!!!"

And there it was, half-hidden in the greenery of La Barge Creek - a big happy moose munching contentedly in the creek. We might not have seen any moose in Yellowstone or Grand Teton, but this satisfied our moose-viewing quota for this vacation. Didn't see any squirrels, though.

In our hundreds of thousands of miles of travels, we've visited some exceptionally friendly towns, such as Eupora, Mississippi, Marion, Kansas, and Cooperstown, North Dakota. But Kemmerer, Wyoming (and its sister burg Diamondville) can now be added to that list. From the time we entered to the time we left, the people of this town (where the J.C. Penney department store chain got its start) treated us nicely and made us feel welcome, and anyone traveling through would be well-advised to stop by and say hi.

But we wouldn't say that things went perfectly. We stopped in under the classic angular sign of the Antler Motel, and were promptly checked into a spacious two-bed non-smoking room. And all was well, up until we tried to turn on the air conditioning.

There was no air conditioning. Kemmerer typically doesn't get hot enough to need A/C. Today was a rare exception. Uh oh.

The clerk didn't have any A/C-equipped rooms available, so she cheerfully refunded our money. And then: "We'll hold a room in case you can't find anything else in town. Just call us."

We then wandered through town, but found that all the other places of lodging also had very friendly staffs - but no rooms big enough for all of us.

So back to the Antler. Investigated a different room. Said it would work fine, as long as the window screens and ceiling fan are restored to functionality - "and a few feet of duct tape, and we're good!" And we were in - and at a very substantial discount in account of our 'trouble'! :)

We were pleased to see the friendliness continued unabated at the Arctic Circle down by the US 30 interchange, as the locals asked us about our travels and made friends with Duncan, and the burgers and ice cream were better than first rate. And back to the room, where Richard repaid the hotel's generosity by fixing the wobble in the ceiling fan and adjusting an ornery soap dispenser, and to bed with the windows catching the night breezes, including the occasional faint wail of a Union Pacific coal train traversing the plains.


Day 11 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Looping through the labyrinth Arches of antlers at the town park Sharp kid amid horny protuberances
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Yee haw! Big statues in Jackson And this time the Twain we meet Hangin' with Al
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Wyoming scenery reflected on the Truckasaurus' side Ramshackle service station in Daniel Nicknacks and doodlywacks!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
New four-legged doodlywack buddy Moose! Lego blocks are a-buildin' in the back seat
Loading...
Loading...
The striking sign of the Antler Motel We love Arctic Circle ice cream!



Day 12 - Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Kemmerer, WY to Green River, UT
314 miles

We packed up and cruised out of Kemmerer, waving at the friendly folks, and made a quick drive south to Interstate 80 in the Wyoming sunshine. Merged on the busy superhighway for a few miles, and exited onto old US 30S (now known as Business 80) to ease ourselves into Evanston, a good-sized city tucked into the far southwest corner of this very rectangular state. Although we'd visited Evanston several times in the past, and even stayed here in '06, we hadn't really explored downtown. And so today we parked under the brick facades of the century-old buildings of downtown and strolled the shady flower-lined sidewalks for a while.

Time brings changes to every town, and here in Evanston the storefront space previously occupied by the Stockgrowers Bank was now home to the local pet store. We peered into the tanks of calmly swimming fish and cages of cuddly hamsters, noting that the vault (still plastered with lock inspection stickers dating back to the 1920s) now protected valuable stockpiles of fish tank accessories instead of bullion and valuables.

Just down the street is the City Drug Store, with its classic modern red lettering standing out from the white exterior. And what does that sign say... soda fountain? Alas, City Drug's soda fountain had just recently been relegated to the mists of history due to the extra cost of operation, with the empty stools sitting forlornly in front of the still-shiny mirrors, counters, and soda dispenser.

But those seeking creamy treats on Evanston's streets are not out of luck. After picking up some snacks at the drug store, we crossed the street to "Scoop", an ice cream parlor smartly occupying a corner storefront, where the servings and fun are outsize. We didn't shoot a game of billiards on the pool table, but Duncan did ride the coin-operated tractor ride to great jouncy bouncy satisfaction.

But we had many miles still to cover, and so we set course along what promised to be a very scenic drive on highway 150 through the highlands of the Uintas. But that came to a screeching halt only a couple miles out of town - according the WYDOT sign, 150 is still closed for the winter - and it's almost July! A quick visit to the nearby ranger station confirmed the sign - only the day before the plow had finally made it through the accumulated snow up in the peaks and passes. She said we might be able to make it across, if we brought chains...

No, we didn't bring our chains (it's summer, remember?) So we got back on the Interstate and entered Utah along a more-conventional and familiar route. But what's this - rain? And as we exited to take a less-extensive scenic cruise along route 32, the skies opened up and drenched the truck and roadway as we saw the preparations for the big rodeo in Oakley (gotta remember that diner is there for next time, though). Then down steep grades into Heber City, and a return trip to the Dairy Keen restaurant ("Home of the Train"), and an enjoyable meal amid all the rail-themed decor and activities as the rain cascaded outside.

Utah DOT has spent quite a bit of funds and effort improving US 189 as it plummets toward Orem and Provo, and the truck navigated the re-engineered curves accurately in spite of the wet pavement. Then a "shortcut" through Orem brought us over to Interstate 15 - which was an utter parking lot due to our poor timing of merging on right in the middle of rush hour and a major reconstruction project. But the slowly surging clots of cars finally delivered southward to Spanish Fork, and we exited onto the curvy swervy alignment of US 6 as it runs next to the railroad and river to traverse the rugged middle of this state. A while later it seemed like a good time for a break from all that driving, and a rest area just off 6 provided this opportunity, and some historical information of how the railroad shaped this area - all in a very fitting roundhouse-themed motif. Then on into Price, the center of activity for much of southeast Utah, and a stop at Smith's for snacks and fuel.

Someone had told us that the drive from Price down to Green River on US 6 would be rather boring, with not all that much to see. Today, it was nothing of the sort, as we watched multiple bolts of lightning strike the buttes from the low-lurking gray clouds, accompanied by a long-lasting rainbow stretching from the grasslands into the sky. But the sun disappeared redly in the west and we rolled onto Green River's main drag in the darkness, scanning the way-cool neon signs for just the right place to sleep. This was found at the Robber's Roost Motel, where the price was anything but larcenous, and the spacious room offered a place to stretch out of the rain. Then to bed as the thunder rumbled outside, and dreams of the final few days to come.


Day 12 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Wooden folks out front of Bob's Rocks in Kemmerer Downtown Evanston Duncan is very Fine-O-Meter today
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
A genuine Duncan Fine-O-Meter in Evanston The old bank, now a very secure pet store Lock inspection tags going back almost a century
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Wathching the fish wriggle & swim Sleepy meeses City Drug in downtown Evanston
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
The late great City Drug soda fountain Ice cream delights at Scoop Riding the wacky tractor at Scoop
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Closed? But it's summertime! Gray clouds & mist welcome us to Utah Great to be back at Dairy Keen
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Woo woo! Trains coming through! Rail-themed rest area on US 6 Balancing boy on the slippery rail
Loading...
Loading...
Rainbows & lightning on the Utah buttes Resting under the neon of the Robbers Roost



Day 13 - Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Green River, UT to Cortez, CO
292 miles

We awoke to schizophrenic skies - one moment bright and sunny, the next gray and overcast. But we packed up and proceeded nonetheless. First stop was yummy breakfast sandwiches and very messy donuts at the Chow Hound food stand while the rain came down outside, and as soon as it cleared a bit Duncan and the family were across the street at the town park (defended by a full-scale Athena missile, similar to the ones launched nearby almost 50 years ago) to burn off some of those carbs. Then the obligatory photo with the giant slice of watermelon on the east side of town, across the overflowing Green River after which the town was named, and onto the road less-traveled - in this case, the road much less-traveled.

Starting in the early 20th century, US 6 and US 50 heading east out of Green River followed a 2-lane alignment that rolled along with the local topography. But when Interstate 70 was constructed, the older highway fell into disuse, and nature began to reclaim the asphalt and sign posts. Today, this old highway is not exactly what one would call "smooth" (truck: you can say that again!), but does provide a quiet alternative to the busy lanes of I-70. And nobody except the jackrabbits and antelopes is going to complain if you stop right in the middle of the road to get just one more view of the mountains and tablelands.

Several miles south of I-70 on US 191 is the turn-off to visit the scenic splendor of Canyonlands National Park. Now we Arizonans are still partial to that really big red ditch back in the north part of our home state, but we'll admit that this upstream collection of Colorado River canyons still ranks rather impressively on the "wow" scale. At the visitor center, Duncan used a microscope to examine some samples of the local strata, and both he & his mom added a new set of stamps to their National Parks Passports. Then a drive on the high desert plateau ensued, visiting a variety of viewpoints overlooking excellent examples of erosive etching, as the softer lower layers of rock wear away from wind and water to create sinuous chasms, hoodoos, and pillars of stone. And another truckworthy dirt road even led to the very bottom of the canyons, but a glance at the narrow, cliff-hugging alignment and treacherous switchbacks had us deciding to play it safe by staying on the pavement.

"Hey, here's a great spot for a photo. OK, son, stand at the edge - now take one step back, OK, another... oops." As anyone who has known our son for any period of time is likely aware, his natural instinct when seeing any kind of rock is: climb it! This did result in a bit of parental blood-pressure-raising, as Duncan would see a bunch of fun-looking rocks and begin clambering, blissfully unaware that the other side might hide a 1000-foot drop to a messy fate. We were moderately successful in wrangling the 6-year-old out of most of those gravitationally precarious situations ("ohhhh daddddd!"), but it reminded us that our kid still was a kid in terms of judging capabilities vs. consequences.

On this trip, it seems that national parks come in pairs. And a short drive on 191 brunged us to the entrance of Arches National Park, where the same strata that formed the canyons are now eroding and collapsing into even more graceful formations. After making our way to the visitor center for water and a chance for Duncan to ride on the metal animals in the courtyard, we wound our way up the steeply sloping roadway and over the mesas to see Balanced Rock perched precariously on its rapidly-eroding perch, and then to the pinnacles and arcs of the Windows, with an appropriate blue screen of sky for a background. The tilted terrace of Skyline Arch in near the north end of the park, and then a trudge of an almost-mile hike to the overlook for Rainbow Arch - only to find out it's an much longer walk to get a decent view.

As the ruddy rocks started to blend with the setting sun, we drove into Moab, noting the very large number of bicycles... and noting with slight dismay the far lower number of bikes that were not on car racks and actually being ridden. Food sounded like a good idea, and so we parked ourselves in the red vinyl booths of the Moab Diner for some satisfying grub. But the time was getting late, and the motels around these parts were looking somewhat full and expensive, so Richard scratched his head, pulled out the iPhone, and considered our options. The "internet specials" listed for the motels of Bluff and Monticello were a bit out of our budget, and we were fully aware of the diminishing options for lodging after that. But then we remembered there was a nice motel in Cortez, Colorado we'd stayed at before, and so we searched - but no listings were found under that name. But a bit of additional investigation found the property under a new name, and we called ahead to reserve. Turned out to be even less than the other places!

But now we have to get there. We drove US 191 in the darkness, looking out carefully for deer or other animalatory complications. A left turn on US 491, across the Colorado state line, on by the quiet farm towns and their pinto-bean bounty, and finally into the White Eagle Inn at a very late hour, with the light left on and a message to have a good night and that we didn't have to pay until everyone was awake again tomorrow.


Day 13 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Robbers Roost sign in daylight Locking us in... or out? Mmmmm. Donuts.
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Wearing a yummy donut Well-defended city park The finest in aerospace sculpture
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Play in the park in Green River Now that's a monster melon Old US 6 & 50 ducks under the railroad
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Quiet stretch of historic highway Old US 6 & 50 stretches into the distance Old truck, bumpy highway
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Welcome to Canyonlands! Say cheese! Plopping another stamp on the passport
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Our young geologist examining the strata Vista of red rocks Vast vistas, colorful kid
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Duncan and his dad explore the landscape Conquering the rocks Another vast view
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
OK son, back up a bit - now a bit more... Makes you feel a bit small The road not taken
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
The Green River loops its way to meet up with the Colorado Fantastic formations deep in the canyons Hiking the slickrock
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Thataway!! Second national park of the day One more stomp of the stamp
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
A question of balance OK, nobody breathe... Blue screen of sky shows thru the Windows
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Big arches, little arches Double the arches! "Let us now bring the committee to order..."
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Delicate Arch from far away Not quite life size Tilted vision of Skyline Arch
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Down in front! Little lizard scurries over the ruddy rocks Riding the animals of the entryway
Loading...
Dinnertime in Moab



Day 14 - Friday, July 1st, 2011
Cortez, CO to Holbrook, AZ
269 miles

After that very long evening, we weren't in much of a hurry to get going right at the crack of dawn. How about the crack of 10? (does 10 really have a crack?) But awaken & prepare we did in our usual not-really-worth-writing-about manner.

Now the White Eagle Inn (formerly known as the El Capri Lodge) has many things to commend it to the traveling family, including clean and spacious rooms, comfy beds, and owners who are friendly and very helpful. But the White Eagle also has an amenity that any young'un (or young at heart parent) can't resist - a miniature golf course on the grounds free for guests! Duncan was very happy to knock the balls around (even if it occasionally wasn't actually his ball), and a good time was had before it was time to finally depart.

Lunchtime in Cortez. Many delectable options. But which one would give us the best balance of economy, flexibility, and minimum delay? Why, a pizza to go! And so it was we munched while scooting southwest on US 160 on by Sleeping Ute Mountain, and followed the undulating highway to a most peculiar corner of the country (literally).

The Four Corners Monument is one quarter Arizona, one quarter Utah, one quarter Colorado, one quarter New Mexico, three quarters Navajo, one quarter Ute, three quarters redeveloped, one half undeveloped, seven eighths hot, and $3.00 per person (so what are we up to by now?) It's also the only place where four states touch, and very close to US 160, so it was busy with license plates from many states and folks from numerous nations. We waited patiently for our turn to take the obligatory photographs of the wacky quadristatular contortions (Left foot Utah!) with that merciless Southwest sun deflected slightly by Suzanne's Lego parasol (hey, would it be cooler if we all waited in Colorado?) Then a circuit around the vendor booths to review the impressive handmade artworks and other souvenirs of this place, and some time to read all the markers and exhibits on the surveyors who set this spot well over a century ago (yes, in spite of what you might have read, it's in the right place! Well, roughly, anyway.)

Scenery Fatigue: a condition that can be described as being presented with yet another majestic geologic formation in front of us, and thinking: "Oh great - another bunch of red rocks in our way."

It was a bit too hot for playing outside this afternoon, but a break for a snack at the Burger King in Chinle, with its indoor play area full of happy kids, seemed like just the thing for an afternoon break. Then south for a loop around the new roundabout at Burnside Junction (why are people still going straight across?) and west on 264 to Navajo Route 6, where the 2-lane blacktop took us by open fields with frisky ponies and octagonal hogans with their doors universally facing the eastern horizon. And before we knew it, we were back on old Route 66 and in Holbrook, and a return visit to one of our favorite geometrical places - the Wigwam Village in Holbrook. Idalia gave Duncan a huge hug as she passed us our key, and we moved in our final room while saying hi to the other guests.

Night fell and bellies rumbled, and we cruised the neon of US 66 in Holbrook over to Joe & Aggie's Restaurant, a favorite eating place for us and many other tourists and locals. The munchies were excellent as usual, and Duncan greatly envied the ultra-extensive collection of colorful vehicles from the motion picture "Cars" in the display case (Joe & Aggie's is even listed in the movie's credits!) Then dessert sounded good, and so we adjourned to the Safeway supermarket to pick up a pint (or maybe more) of ice cream happiness to eat back in the tepee. But a chance encounter in the checkout line: we ran into Rosemary "Peewee" Maestas, the co-proprietor of the Wayside Cafe, another excellent eatery on Route 66 in Holbrook. Peewee gently reminded us of the bad news that the cafe wasn't open on weekends, but she did mention something about giving her a call to maybe let Duncan play in their pool tomorrow if we have time - a very nice gesture. :) Then across the street and to the room before the ice cream melted, and a shower & sleep amid the sloping walls of this happy place.


Day 14 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
The White Eagle Inn in Cortez - a nice place Added amenity - mini-golf! The links await the goony golfers
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Our future golf pro working on his form Four states, two tribes, many flags, $3.00 per person Duncan & his dad occupying many simultaneous states
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Right hand Utah! Looking at four states from a different viewpoint Dunc & his mom hanging out in four states
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Monumental feet Painted pony on the open reservation Sunset at the Wigwam Village in Holbrook
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Ride 'em dino! Joe & Aggies on Route 66 in Holbrook Order up!



Day 15 - Saturday, July 2nd, 2011
Holbrook, AZ to Phoenix, AZ
218 miles

We began the final day of this particular journey by awakening within our conical confines and procrastinating with all our might, knowing that we had to be home today - and also knowing home was locked in a heat wave. Do we have to go?

But we did dutifully depart the Village of Wigwams, and made it only a few blocks before a sign for a "CAR WASH!" attracted our attention. Now Truckasaurus was clean two weeks ago when we departed, but thousands of miles of bugs, rain, bugs, mud, bugs, dirt, and bugs had left their toll. We parked in front of the hose-and-cloth-armed volunteers, and learned it was a fundraiser for the Standing Horse Youth organization up in Dilkon on the Navajo Nation. These careful cleaners did an excellent job, scrubbing and shining up pieces and parts that hadn't seen daylight for decades.

We left a donation that we hoped would cover their efforts and then some, found some planter holders that could double as medieval headwear at the Family Dollar store next door, and looked for an open restaurant. Not too many of them on a Sunday in this town, and we ended up at the McDonald's for lunch, already bulging with a bustling crowd. The gang at McDs included a English couple completing their round-the-world bicycle tour, and Richard tried to give them helpful suggestions on routes and roads to the east. We also met some other traveling folks and their kids, including a nice girl shuttling between Farmington and Tucson for her studies, and Duncan enjoyed some extended play time in the tunnels and tubes as the parents chatted & chomped.

By now, the temperature had reached 100 degrees in Holbrook - but, given the fact that our final destination was well above 110, we didn't complain. And we did see clouds and rain on the horizon - right?

Let's go back to that chance run-in we had last night at Safeway. Now we remembered that Mrs. Maestas had distinctly mentioned a "swimming pool" and that "Duncan was welcome", and so we boorish flatlanders decided to be rude enough to actually take her up on the invitation. Turns out she was more than sincere, and in a few minutes we had the truck pulled up next to the neat old-time gas pump outside their side gate, and Peewee & Frankie immediately ushered us into the back yard for an impromptu low-key poolside party. Dunc was in the water in a flash, er, splash, and not too long later some other kids came by to assist our son in the displacement of water and the production of loud happy noises. The adults relaxed in the shade and swapped stories of travel, events, and other business, and a good time was had by all for a pleasantly extended period of time.

A glance at the watch revealed that it was now after 5 PM, and we still had about 200 or so miles still to cover before completing this trip. We toweled off and said our fond farewells, and rolled westward on by Geronimo and Joseph City, checking the new signs that had just been installed as part of a project managed by a member of Richard's ADOT design team. We veered onto old 66 and came to a stop between the friendly fiberglass bunny and the iconic yellow sign of the Jackrabbit Trading Post, and said hi to the Jacquez gang again, while Duncan closely examined the impressive selection of toy firearms ("CanIhaveitpleasepleaseplease?""OK.""Yay!") and Suzanne found the perfect summer hat for touring highways and other outdoor activities.

By now, our blood sugar levels were reminding us that lunch was a while ago, and so we cruised 66 into Winslow and parked under the impressively tall neon sign of the Falcon Restaurant. As we were digging in, and almost as an afterthought, we decided to check the iPhones to see if anything interesting had happened that we should be aware of.

There had indeed. A semi-truck had overturned on Interstate 17 north of Phoenix (along our planned route), and the freeway was completely closed, with seven-mile backups reported and a reopening time estimated at 10 PM. Out came the maps and calculator, and we charted an unexpectedly different course for the final leg by choosing to drive state route 87 home, deciding that the delay of mountainous motoring plus many miles of cross-city street travel was still better than being stuck for hours with thousands of new friends on the Interstate. We rolled south into the darkness as the terrain imperceptibly transitioned from grassy plateau to pine-studded forest, and all hands scanned alertly for deer, elk, or other vehicle-destroying ungulates.

Down the switchbacks of the Mogollon Rim we swayed, passing the small towns of Strawberry & Pine swelled with weekend visitors. Then a loop thru the roundabouts of Payson, south on the four-lane superstretch of the greatly-improved Beeline Highway, and then the turn west on Shea to traverse nearly 20 miles of stoplight-hindered city streets. But it really wasn't all that bad this late at night (except for that drunk driver who almost sideswiped us), and it gave us some moments to reflect on another successful vacation. And so it came to pass that the GPS displayed "you have arrived" as the clock swung a little ways past 11:30, and we shut off the engine in the driveway happy that our fifteen days and three thousand miles was complete. But we knew well enough to unload before that darn sun had a chance to rise again, so the stuff was hustled in, the Mighty Truckasaurus was secured for a well-deserved rest, and we were off to sleep in our own beds to ponder happy memories... and plans for the next trip?


Day 15 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Duncan & his new plant friend Meet "Planty" Car wash time!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Before: a very grubby truck Scrubbing the Truckasaurus Little one manages the operation
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
The truck's clean & everyone's happy New headwear from the Family Dollar Ice cream at the McDonalds play place
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Hangin' out at the pool with the Maestas gang Pooltime play The boys are getting wet
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
Peewee's perky pups Puppy love Here we are!
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
This is a stickup! Wrangling the Jackrabbit Falcon Restaurant on 66 in Winslow
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...
We have arrived The final word from the GPS Home "sweat" home, late in the evening

See you next time!


Back to Our Big Road Trips Page

Richard C. Moeur's Home Page


Latest Historical Revisionism 05 August 2011

Scripting: Richard C. Moeur
rcmoeur@aol.com
All text and images ©1996-2011 Richard C. Moeur.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of text and images is strictly prohibited. Refer to Standard Use Agreement for details.