Day 01 - The Journey Begins.

Travel is an interesting thing to do. Your whole adult life is spent working, sleeping and eating and as you get older you spend more and more time trying to 'better' your life.  You buy  a bigger TV, a better bed, a nicer car. You remodel your kitchen you build a new deck or you landscape your yard. In short you try to make home better, and then we leave it for vacation.

Why do we do this? One reason could be to broaden our horizons. To meet new people, see new sights, or try new foods. It could be to explore historical sights or to immerse yourself in the arts. Whatever reason you choose it is almost a universal drive that we have to LEAVE all that we have carefully crafted to be comfortable and to go places that are more often than not LESS desirable then our own homes.

Or… is this OUR distorted reality?  Is this because when we travel we tend to be very frugal. We don't tend to go to "resorts", instead we stay in hotels, or even motels. We tend to go to places for the sights, the history, or the art and not choose a location because of the cuisine or the thread count of the sheets, so for us, travel is usually a downgrade from our day to day life.

And yet we do it.

One of the things that we have almost universally found as we travel is that its the tiny experiences that leave the longest impressions with us. The strangers in Sydney, the wild animals that you can lay down and nap with or the locals who invite you for a day on their yacht. Maybe its the history, the architecture or art. The one constant is that its almost always something that we didn't plan on seeing, that we didn't know we were going to see. 

In short its about discovery.

And so that is the theme of THIS trip.

For the next 30 days we will wander. We have no agenda, no reservations and very few commitments. We are going to let the road tell us where to stop and where to linger. We are on an all out quest for those tiny moments that will no doubt sink into our psyche and our being and become the subject of new stories and memories.

Route 66 is more than a road. Its a bit of US history that, ironically enough, for the very reason that it was abandoned has become a tourist attraction. For decades it was the gateway to the west. A paved road that allowed travelers to safely make a journey that just decades before its creation took the life of so many.

Today we have alternatives. We could fly and deal with the "TSA Theater" or you could jump on an Interstate Highway and blast by everything or… you could do what we are choosing to do.

Go slow.


Stop when we want and drive when we are bored.

We have 2500 miles to travel in 30 days.  Technically thats less than 100 miles day if don't stop anywhere… (which I'm sure we'll do).  

If you want to join us, great. If not, you can enjoy the comfort of YOUR sofa, YOUR TV and YOUR bed at YOUR home. I'm sure we'll be happy to get back to our home when this is all over.


Packing for our Route 66 Road Trip



Day 01 - Dinner.

Well we had our first Route 66 diner experience tonight. We ate at the Artists Café. Its at 412 South Michigan Ave., about 2 blocks from the start of the highway. We met Irene Makris, she was one of the owners. The diner has been there since 1961 and has been owned by her family since the beginning. We enjoyed it.

They don't take credit cards so you have to be prepared with cash but the place just had a really cool old vibe to it. Not a roadside diner but more like the type of diner you would expect to look into the booth next to you and see Jerry and Elaine and George and the Krammer.

Irene was delightful. When she found out we were from San Francisco, she told us a story about a shoe store on Union Square that she has shoes delivered from all the time. Irene has a bit of a shoe thing.

We told Irene that we had came from California to drive Route 66 and she immediately lit up with things to tell us about. At one point she said. "Well you know, the end of the road is just a couple blocks from here." To which I interrupted, "Well don't you mean the START of the road."

Irenes eyes lit up. I think she was impressed that I indeed understood the significance that Route 66 was a road that really did run East to West so Chicago would be the Start of the road and not the end. It meant something to her that I understood that. 

The "ownership of ideals" is something that is important to people and I think that I scored some points with Irene because I knew where the road really does 'begin'.

The food was good and the architecture and decor were awesome, plus Irene told us some fun stuff to see in the morning.

After dinner we went for a walk around the neighborhood and saw the Chicago El go overhead. We had to stop and take some pictures and video... Luckily I had the Flip Camera in my pocket.


I love old funky, touristy camera stores, although I never buy anything from them. This place was right under the El and I noticed it because of the "Since 1899". That was the year my grandfather was born.



Day 02 - The city and the car.

When we first envisioned what this trip was going to be like we had the intention of avoiding all chain restaurants. Being creatures of habit we decided to go back to Irene's Artists Café again for breakfast. Unfortunately our bodies were on Illinois time but our stomachs were on California time. We sauntered into the Artists Café at about 11:40… too late for breakfast.

It's not as if we hadn't been up. As a matter of fact Beth left the room around 6:30 to go running by the lake and well, I was, uh… I was watching all the stuff in the room… thats right. The point is that by the time we went to 'breakfast' we had been up for hours.

When we couldn't get breakfast we headed out to find something and there weren't a lot of options available to the casual observer. So, in a fit of "lets just get this over with" we ended up eating at Subway, Jared would be proud.

After Subway we headed out into the midday heat for a bit of a photo walk thru the Grant Park area of the city. We came across a really cool fountain that kids of all ages were cooling off in and then, and then totally by chance, we came across the big mirrored egg. 

This thing is cool. Frankly, it looks like it was left behind by aliens and until I see some construction photos showing non-reptilian humans constructing it I'm gonna say it was left by an intelligent life form.

What you don't really notice when you walk by the thing is that under it, in the middle is a big upward reaching cavity that is also all mirrored. Needless to say, its weird under this thing, And, for the first time I can totally understand how time travel works.  All you have to do is bend time and space to this shape and I believe you'll be able to be in multiple realities all at the same "time"… sounds simple right?

The next order of 'business' was picking up our rental car. We took the L Blue Line out to O'Hare and spent a bit of time with the guy who rented us the car. Garfield at first was reading the computer display and said, "So you'll be returning the car in California… tomorrow?" We had to explain to him that we'd have the car till the end of June, not the end of May.

Just like I was afraid of they didn't have the Ford Taurus that we want and since we didn't want the Toyota replacement car we had him do a slight upgrade to a Dodge 300.  I've always like the styling of this car and I thought it would be fun to drive one for a month. After a quick 'test fit' by going and sitting in it in the parking lot we signed away on the dotted line and were off.

Almost immediately we missed the giant GPS screen that we have in our Prius back home. Navigating in real time off the iPhone screen is a chore. I'm assuming that we'll end up buying some sort of an alternative in the first couple days or so.

After driving away from the airport with the rental car we realized. They got TOLL ROADS here. Something we don't really have in California. We asked few people in the parking lot of a Target, where we stopped to buy supplies, how much the tolls were generally. The woman said, "Oh you're asking the wrong people, if you live here, you just have a Fast Track Pass" and at almost the same instant the man said, "Yea, they just take the money right out of your bank account."

All I could think of was, "Isn't that the roll of government anyway?"

To get back on track with our "no chains" theme we found Andrew's Open Pit and Spirits. A LOT of old people in this place. The food was better than the lighting but neither of us finished our meal, so that has to tell you something.

Andrew's also had the distinction of being in my 'hometown', or at least the town my parents lived in when I was born. Park Ridge Illinois. Its important to remember that I only lived in Illinois till I was 3 months old and have lived in California ever since.

After calling Mom and getting an address we drove by the house. What a cute little neighborhood with large open front yards and little kids running around playing with not a care in the world.

As we drove up to the house my mom called us back and said, "So have you been inside yet?

"Mom, I'm NOT going to go inside, besides, it looks like no one is here."

"Why don't you go around back, we had such a nice yard."

"Mom, I'm NOT going to just invite myself into this houses yard."

"Well you should at least knock. Your room was at the top of the stairs on the left. Wait till you see it, it was so cute."

"Mom stop, I'm not going in the house."

"Oh come on… just knock and hand the phone to who ever answers."

Knock knock knock….

A little old chinese woman finally answers the door.

"Hi, will you talk to my mom, we use to live in this house when I was a baby."

We then stood there and watched as my mom talked to the woman and eventually she hands me the phone back and says… "you're more than welcome to go in back but we've totally changed the back yard. its nothing like what your mom remembers."

Now the really funny thing was the email my mom sends me as we are driving away from the place. And I quote…

"Dad and I did not like the house but they were hard to find and we needed one - Dad wanted a new one because he did not have time to work on a house - I had had my wonderful one in Rockford - and older house, so I agreed.  The house has no personality - not an ounce - but we did entertain a lot and it was a very, very livable home and we were probably the most happy there - as newly weds.  All the homes were new and they were all about the same price range so all of us were about the same in our financial status.  Great neighbors and great school, the Church was a good Lutheran one.

The yard was wonderful - see how things grow - wonderful Banana Belt living - never too hot and not too cold - the back yard was huge and amazingly nice when we put in trees and a fence - we had a hedge in front - first to do it and every one was not happy with the fence and the hedge but soon they all did it.   They were great neighbors."

We did have a chance to meet the neighbors but of course no one from the early 60's. The people who lived across the street were about my age and they had approached us when we were standing out front taking pictures wondering if we were "casing the joint". 

When they found out we were from California one of them asked us, "So is California really in as bad a place financially as we hear about on the news?" We basically said yes, chatted a bit about taxes and schools and the cost of war to our society. Not that War has caused the economic woes in California, but those were the topics that came up.

The topics got extremely politically charged, not that I was preaching to them, although, I kind of was, but frankly they brought the subject up first and basically they agreed with everything I had to say.

You see, I have a long standing belief that if I guy in Oakland will stick a knife in me for the 20 bucks in my pocket, why is it that people find it so hard to believe that a major corporation wouldn't do despicable things to make 100's of Millions of Dollars? To think otherwise would be naive.

We said our good byes, hopped in the Dodge and made our way back the hotel to call it a day.

Tomorrow, we spend one more day in the city.

Tuesday AM we hit the road.



Day 03 - Thunderstorm on the Tower.

Sometimes things don't work the way you thought they were going to go.

Route 66 historically begins on Jackson St. in downtown Chicago. Jackson runs right thru the heart of the Financial District and right by the base of the Sears Tower. The only problem is that Jackson is now a one way street, and guess what, it goes the wrong direction. 

About a mile from the beginning of the road is a diner called Lou Mitchell's. Beth had read about it and thought it would be a fun place to begin our journey but we thought it may be be easier to avoid doing it with a car full of all our stuff and just head over there today and 'get it out of the way'.

So we grabbed a cab from our hotel. 7 bucks and a tip and we hopped out right in front of the diner. 

Oh crap, its Memorial Day, Lou Mitchell's is closed for the holiday. Well, next door we grabbed a couple donuts at 'yet another Dunkin Donuts' and then decided to just huff it back to the hotel. We don't mind walking on vacation which is really funny because, at home, we are the typical Californian who drives from one end of the parking lot to the other.

Being that we were passing right under the Sears Tower we decided to head up to the Sky Deck at the 103rd floor. They warned us that the visibility was only 5 miles in the lobby but we didn't think anything of it. At the top the rain started… then the lightning bolts, then the thunder claps. At 103 floors you are ABOVE a lot of the lightning… it turned out to be really cool. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a lightning bolt on video? Check it out at 37 seconds in on todays video update. (and yes Jeff Regan, you ARE seeing the effects of the rolling shutter)

We actually stayed on top for a long time. I took a lot of photos for people and we did the "stupid glass box of death", I think they call it something else, where you step out and can look straight down to the ground… not comfortable.

Then we headed down to the street and walked back to the hotel.

Nap time. Cut some video, process some pictures.

Then we get a call from the Borger's, our friends that moved to Illinois from California about a million years ago. They had seen we were here by reading the Facebooker and they invited us to dinner… and that is what we are doing next.

In the morning we'll get the Chrysler out of hock and load it up and hit the road.

Next stop, Bloomington Illinois.



Day 04 - Start of Route 66

OK... Today we are FINALLY hitting the road, and THIS is the actual start. 

Lou Mitchell's is a bit of an institution on Route 66 and rightfully so. The breakfast was great. Just sort of one of those things you need to experience. They don't take credit cards so you need to be prepared for that, sort of the same as the Artists Café in that regard.

We left Lou Mitchell's and back tracked a few blocks to go shoot some video at the official beginning of the Route. Jackson Street has always been the official path of Route 66 but years ago they turned it into a one way road, all but the last block of it before Lakefront Drive... go figure.

So, in order to drive out of Chicago "on" Route 66 you now have to go one block north and drive out on Adams Street. It has taken on the responsibility of being the new 'official' route. As it turns out this is a theme that you run into THE WHOLE trip.

As we drove out of town, this is what the Odometer read. Should be interesting to see what percentage over the "google maps" milage we drive with the side trips and mistakes we'll more than likely make.

These brown "Historic Route" signs will be our best friend for a the next 2000 miles. 

One of the first notable cities you drive through is Joliet Illinois. I'll always remember it as the location of the prison that Jake got out of in "The Blues Brothers".

Not an "official Illinois Giant" but a bonus giant right off the top. This guy is running a jack hammer because it is in the left field of a minor league ball park. The team is "The Jackhammers". The park was all fenced in but there was a gate open so we just walked in, walked out to the outfield, took the shot and left... easier to ask forgiveness then to ask permission.

Illinois has a few of these "giants" across the state. They use to be very popular to entice people to stop at their shops. We found this one right around the time for lunch. It worked... we stopped. The Gemini Giant as this guy is called is the first of the three 'official Illinois Giants'.

In the town of Odell there is an old gas station that is a historic landmark. Out front there is a button to push that plays a sound file with the details about the site. My mom told me that as a kid they always called the "fillin' stations".

The end of our first full day of driving brings us to Bloomington Illinois. Tomorrow we'll take a side trip to fulfill a desire that Chris has had for a few years now. Visit the childhood home of his mother.

View Larger Map 



Day 05 - Fithian Illinois

View Larger Map

The morning of day 5 we got up, had some quick breakfast and prepared for the short drive into Fithian. I have been wanting to travel to Fithian for years. I really wanted to go with my mom but she just didn't want to make the journey. I had been hearing stories of this tiny town for years.

At first when we saw the sign for the town, being from California your first thought is that it is 550 feet above sea level but then you realize that the 550 is indeed the population. In reality, it is probably less than that. 

When you drive into town on from the west the first house on the left is what we have always called, "The Fithian House". I'm sure everyone one who lives in Fithian calls their home by the same name but this old brick house is OUR Fithian House. It was built by my Great Great Grandfather Benjamin Franklin Meade. Ben was born in 1848 and finished the house in 1905. As a young girl my mother went to live in the house with her mother and has always told the most wonderful stories from those times. She moved away in 1940.

As the story goes, when interstate 74 was built there was a big town meeting and they decided that allowing an exit off the interstate that went directly into Fithian would just bring a bunch of crime so they opted to NOT build an exit off the freeway. The result however is that the town is shrinking. These days one of the only businesses left in town is the barber shop on the site of the old Cromwell's Grocery Store, still owned and operated by the son of the Cromwell's, Gary Cromwell. 

Juanita Renfro

Jim Scott (Scotty)

Telling old stories.

Its not every day you run into a street named after your family.

After the barber shop story in the video above, we headed further east to Oakwood Cemetery. I knew the plot number for Benjamin Franklin Meade, A-79-B, but had no idea where to look for it. There was a grave digger guy there and I asked him and although he didn't know the answer he was able to give me the phone number to Tim Lee. Tim managed the cemetery and would be able to give me more info. 

Tim was at home and the best info he could give me was that Section A was on the far east side of the cemetery. So we headed for the tree line and began looking around.

If you go to the Oakwood and are looking for Meades you'll find a lot, we stumbled across at least a dozen Meades and those are just the ones we saw. If you want to find Benjamin Franklin Mead and Loyal Tipton Meade you have to walk as far as you can away from the "Casey's General Store" behind the hedge, and under the peaceful tree and you'll come across a small quiet area where Benjamin Franklin, Loyal Tipton and Mary Elizabeth (Smoot) Meade are buried. 

I found it interesting to see the way they would abbreviate the names. 

Benj. F. Meade

Tipp L. Meade

Of course everyone called him Tipp, even Scotty. 

While on the cell phone walking around the House shooting video and taking pictures, my mom told me a story about Tipp that I had never known before. Tipp, was a designer. He did paint and wall paper and in those days, mixing paint was something that was a LOT more difficult to do and it was one of the things that Tipp did all the time.

Perhaps the thing that affected me the most was that Mary Elizabeth's head stone had fallen over. Which got me to thinking. Why was that? Not the physics of it but, what caused it to happen and why had it never been fixed? Does it have anything to do with my mother moving to California? Are there other Meades near by that can fix it? But wait. My Grandmother had 3 sisters. Tipp had 4 girls. That means that there are no more Meades in the area. 

I'm seriously thinking of paying to have that fixed. I think we may need to step up and take care of it.

Beth took the time to write down what the inscription said on Mary's headstone.

Remember friend as you pass by:

As you are now so once was I.

As I am now so you must be:

Prepare for death and follow me.

I sat there for a long time. It was hot and we had hiked all over this cemetery looking for the headstones and did I mention it was hot? I sat down on Mary's base stone and looked at Tipp's headstone for a long time. I realized that my entire life, for stupid vane reasons, I had completely shunned my heritage. Not to many people know my middle name. I had always kept it a secret and even lied when I was 16 to avoid it being put on my driver's license. But back in 1962 my mother chose to name me after Loyal Tipton Meade, Christopher Tipton Fenwick. 

I had always wanted a "normal" name but I can honestly say that today, at 47 years old, I can't be MORE proud of my family, my heritage, and my name.

I'm sitting on Mary's base stone and you can almost see her fallen head stone behind me, in the foreground is Benjamin's headstone and the raised stone on the right is Tipp's headstone.

And then, like Christopher Reeves discovering a penny in his pocket, (does anyone even KNOW that reference?) all of a sudden I get snapped back into the 21st century by a business call. With Beth driving (and shooting) we are headed back down Interstate 74 toward Bloomington, talking on my iPhone, logged on thru the MiFi and fixing a presentation for a client back in California.

Tomorrow, we'll head for Springfield Illinois. 



Day 06 - Bloomington, IL - St. Louis, MO

Well, we thought we were going to stop in Springfield and although we did "stop" there we didn't spend the night. Instead we decided to push thru and make it all the way to St. Louis. More on that later.

We drove a lot of road that looked just like this today and never once saw a toll plaza.

Second of the "Illinois Giants" in Atlanta, IL.

Believe it or not, we ran into Julie and David at 3 different stops today. First was at the Sirup stop in Funks Grove, second was at this old collection of Gas Station stuff and later in the day we saw them at Cozy Drive In hot dog stand. I doubt we'll see them again but would love the opportunity. BTW... they were from Quebec.

Embracing the name... after 47 years.

Lincoln's tomb in Springfield.

Stopped by Lincoln's Tomb and spent some time there. The tomb was designed and built within 7 years of his death.

This neon Route 66 sign is in the window of Cozy Drive In. Its been there since 1950 and has been run by one family the whole time. It has a great collection of Route 66 memorabilia. The owner also is credited with inventing a device to dip corn dogs into the oil to cook better. On the wall was a history of the various devices he had created over the years.

The third of the "Illinois Giants" in Springfield. We had to back track a little bit, not much, to get this one at the tire center in Springfield. Chris was navigating and not as good at noticing all the fun attractions in the guide books... (take note Jay Norton, we'll be discussing this in Texas!)

There is about 1.5 miles of Old Route 66 between Chatham and Auburn made entirely out of brick. Yet another 'backtrack attraction', missed another one and had to make another u-turn.

This is an old bridge over the Mississippi that was closed years ago but bought by a tour company and now is used only by pedestrians and bicycles. The "Chain of Rocks" bridge is over a mile long and is the longest 'pedestrian' bridge in the US. Believe it or not, we missed the exit for this too!!! Today our "u-turn meter" was pretty much pegged.



Day 07 - St. Louis is by a river.

The St Louis Arch is something of a photographic peculiarity. You are inextricably drawn to it and want to walk toward it and see it up close but it is so big if you ARE to close you can't shoot the whole thing. I normally shoot with a 16-35mm f2.8 lens on the 7D and Beth's lens of choice is the 24-70mm f2.8 on the 5DMK2. Since the 5D has a full frame sensor the 16mm is usually too wide for Beth's taste. As we got closer I could tell she wanted to change lenses so I gave her the wide lens. I'm glad I did, her pictures are great.

The arch is about 630 feet tall, I've heard 640 and 634. I couldn't help but think that if you stretched it out and stood it upright it would be a REALLY tall building.

View of old city hall (in the middle with the dome) from the top of the arch.

I think I took about half a dozen photos of people standing in front of this sign at the top, even directing some people to readjust their framing to include the sign in the shot... I hate the idea of people having crappy vacation photos.

Thats the 24-70 on the Canon 7D.

As for scale... the brown is the Mississippi River, the little red square down there on the barge... thats a helipad for a helicopter tour that flies around the arch. Yea, thats a long ways down there.

After the arch we headed to "Blueberry Hill". What a great burger/music/bar hang out. The owner was there, hanging out and 'running the joint' from his apparent favorite seat at the bar. I happened to notice that the workers were young, hip, trendy kids that frankly, all seemed to really dig their jobs. Hanging on one of the walls in one of the theme rooms was a staff photo from 2009 and what a HUGE staff this place had, had to be at least 70 people in this photo. Also, how many restaurants have staff photos taken together? Anyway, they had one many awards for "Best Burger", "Best Fries", "Best Onion Rings" etc... The secret... simple.. a burger made from a hand made patty... try it sometimes... it helps!

Wanting to be prepared for Jon's birthday tomorrow I realized the only suitable place to shoot a "happy birthday" message was at the arch... which was about 8 miles back at the river... as much as I hate backtracking, we just had to do it... so we returned to the arch to shoot Jon's video which you can see at the beginning of Day 9.

Another Route 66 institution. Frozen custard at Ted Drewes. As we were walking up to get inline I overheard one little girl say to her parents as they were walking away with their order, "I want to meet Ted Drewes someday"

This photo caused a couple who was sitting near by to ask the obvious question... "why you takin' a photo of that custard on the hood of your car?" Cuz we can!



Day 08 - Happy Birthday Jon.

 Happy Birthday Jon. (we actually shot this yesterday)

Saturday morning began with a phone call to Scott, our friend in Oklahoma. Ever since we started talking about this trip Scott has been excited about showing us the sites in Tulsa. Yesterday we got an email from him with directions to his house. Beth suspected he thought we were arriving 'any day now' and sure enough...

When I emailed Scott telling him we would be there probably next Saturday he called and was shocked that since we were "just a few hours away (400 miles) why was it going to take a week to get there. He was also amazed we hadn't been exposed to any toll roads.

I took the time to explain to him that we've been really sticking to the back roads, the 'historic 66' for almost the entire trip. So if there had been any toll roads we were no where near them. Anyway, it would be a few days and not a few hours before we made it to Tulsa.

What WILL be fun though is that Carter Jake, Scotts son will be in a race on next Saturday, so that should be fun to see. I'm not sure what type or racing it is but Scott explained that this is a type of training ground for budding NASCAR racers.

Last summer when Beth went to Texas for the birth of her first niece, she was introduced to "The Wonders of QT" We'll have to take a photo of the GYNORMOUS drink dispenser wall they have there. Its pretty amazing and I guess it is the 7-11 of the south, except that they are gas stations (fillin' stations for you mom) as well.

We're driving down Route 66 this morning and we are pretty lost... Its hard to follow all the twists and turns and cross here and cross back there that happens on this old forgotten road. Basically we are both getting frustrated trying to follow the maps and guide books. All of a sudden we see these kids on the side of the road waving us into a car wash and we think, "Why not??" Turns out they were trying to raise money to go to Béla Károlyi's olympic training facility in Texas.

A while later, we're driving through an unincorporated part of Missouri and we come across another 'attraction' that i think my brother Jon, who turns 44 years old today would REALLY enjoy.  Some day we'll have to come to Missouri to celebrate his birthday.

Take a close look at that sign... "Worlds Largest Fireworks Stores"... PLURAL... we've seen more than one of these places... ONE was even part of a gas station (sorry... Fillin' Station). They like things that blow up here.

I got to tell you, from an art direction stand point, the artwork on these boxes of fireworks was really fun. Just wild crazy zany art work to appeal to dudes... and nothing could have more than 500 grams (or was it milligrams) or powder by law but they play that up on almost every box.

By the way, this is WAY more then the typical "safe and sane" crap they still sell in some places in CA. This is the real deal, you can by a brick of fire crackers for like 25 bucks and this place is not a seasonal thing either... this is YEAR round.  

This is a classic stretch of 66, well, sort of. For much of the drive you are driving on the frontage roads. Here you can see the traffic on the Interstate running parallel to the old highway.

You know that phrase, "highways and byways"? Well today we got to drive on an honest to goodness byway.. . still not sure what it means to be a "byway" but in Missouri, the Historic 66 signs often say "Byway" on them.

This is the BBQ place Missouri Hick, it was good... I think I've had better but no complaints at all... the decor in the place seemed a little forced... they were definitely 'playing to the audience' here.

We have driven by TONS of churches. Definitely in the heart of the bible belt here.



Day 09 - The death and resurrection of Blinky.

If you are at all into photography you probably know a bit about, or at least have heard of 'geotagging'. Geotagging is the practice of embedding metadata into your photos that gives the latitude and longitude of where the photo was taken so that you can locate it on the map. Sure, you may want to worry about some security issues but for the most part, its fun to be able to see where you've been if you know how to read the data.

Beth geotags her photos.

She does this with a thing that we have affectionately named "Blinky". Blinky goes everywhere with her, well, everywhere she goes that she takes her camera, and, if you haven't guessed, it blinks.

We started today in Rolla, Missouri at the Super 8. After packing up we drove up the street to the Waffle House for breakfast. I LOVE Waffle House. It is just so pure and simple and to the point. You can't ask for a better breakfast on the road. Then we hit the road.

When we set out today we didn't have a lot of ground we had planned on covering. If we made it to Springfield Missouri we'd be ahead of schedule. Springfield was 100 miles from us. Lets just say it was a good thing we didn't need to go far.

Total miles driven 113.

Distance traveled 57.

What went wrong?

Uh... we got lost.

I'm gonna try to break this down, minus of course the standard... "oh, that was it, turn around next chance you get" mishaps.

We left Rolla and headed west... you know like the song says. Through Doolittle and then up onto interstate 44 because there is a stretch of 66 that is just totally unpassable. Then off at Exit 172 onto Outer Road North, (we did this several times today as the Outer Road North and Outer Road South traded duties for representing the remnants of 66).

Then, at Exit 169, you cross over I-44 again and turn onto Highway Z, as its called. Z takes you thru Hookers Cut and then you turn off Z thru an area called Devil's Elbow because of a bad turn in the river that clogs with fallen trees annually. The tavern at Devil's Elbow was closed but we met Doug and Jim and Becky. Great people. 

We stood there on the side of the road and talked for a long time... maybe an hour, certainly 30 minutes. They told us all about the Lake of the Ozarks and how it was a good "picture takin' trip". Such wonderful charm they all had. Doug and his wife moved from San Diego 10 years ago to build a 1.5 million dollar bed and breakfast on the lake and they just LOVE the area. 

This was a good lesson in underestimating people. The whole time I stood there with this underlying "California snob" attitude. Oh, I hide it well, but I know its right there under the surface. Then just as we are wrapping up our conversation Doug mentions something about 'leaving his iPhone at home and then says, "Oh I just love Apple, I got myself one of those iPads about 4 weeks ago (CLEARLY he is an early adopters) and I just love it..."

So there I am, put in my place. I'm no different then they are, as a matter of fact, I bet Doug could teach me a thing or two about iPads, after all, I don't have and he's had his for a month. Doug, Jim, Becky... I trust you are reading this, no doubt on your iPad, and I want to say what a wonderful time we had hearing your stories and Jim... I'm gonna watch Walking Tall (the original one) first chance I get. Although we won't be making the drive to Lake of the Ozarks on this trip... we may just be coming back for that...  

A very rare 4 lane divided portion of old Route 66

So we left Devil's Elbow and then thru St. Roberts, crossing I-44 again (told you) to Waynesville (Party Time! Most Excellent!). Thru Waynesville, crossing I-44, AGAIN and down 17 South... this is where it gets tricky... 

So, Lee Redmon calls at this point. He had some questions about video playback on external video displays and why it would look dark... well.. i got wrapped up in Lee's question... the phone went dead and we got cut off. Somewhere in there we also MISSED A TURN!!!!

From 17 South you are SUPPOSE TO veer onto Highway AA... if you don't, God Bless you everyone!

Ever heard of the Mark Twain National Forrest? Neither had we, but we sure saw a lot of it today. We were driving along all dumb and happy, NO CELL service which means NO Google Map updates on the iPhone but basically enjoying the view... ON THE WAY TO ARKANSAS!!! 

It turns out we went about 15 miles out of the way before Beth sort of panicked and realized... "I think this is wrong, we haven't seen an Historic 66 sign in too long." She was right and we pulled over.

So, you know all those ads showing how bad the iPhone coverage is on AT&T and what a looser you are if you don't have Verizon... they are TOTALLY RIGHT. We busted out our Verizon MiFi portable WiFi hub and put that thing up on the dash, we then logged on to it with our iPhones... (yes I said iPhones PLURAL because we ARE that geeky) and we were then able to get Google Map updates. AT&T zero, Verizon ONE! 

Beth, being the sensible one says, "Lets just turn around and get back on track" much like we did 8 years ago in Australia when we got lost in the outback. But this time we didn't have a plane to catch and frankly, we had all the time in the world. So I say... "ah come on, lets go on an adventure!" I take a quick look on Google Maps on the iPhone THRU the MiFi and make my plans to get thru the Mark Twain National Forrest. 


Thats right, for about 15 miles we are driving on dirt roads IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OZARK MOUNTAINS. That pour Chrysler will never be the same. (if you indeed work for Budget and are reading this please be aware that the details included in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and do not accurately represent what may or may not actually happen on our road trip... by the way what does the warning light that says "check t case" mean?)

But this is not the end of the story. Right in the heart of this getting lost dilemma, Beth makes a comment that "at least we'll be able to check the GPS data on Blinky to be able to know where we were later" at which point she reaches for Blinky on her belt loop and...

He's gone.

Blinky is gone.

Death of Blinky!

She is crushed. Blinky has become a friend. He was always with us, he always had good things to say at the end of the day and, well, HE BLINKS... what else could you ask for? But he was gone.

At this point Beth shuts down, she is just beside herself with disappointment, trying to figure out where he was left behind, what she bumped up against to knock him off his decidedly poorly designed lanyard. I'm trying to tell her, "we'll get another one", "at least we aren't lost", "things will be ok". But nothing is working... she is totally and completely angry with herself for loosing Blinky.

Eventually we make it back to Interstate 44 on the dirt roads and by now we are realizing that there are probably only 3 places we could have lost Blinky. The Bridge at Devil's Elbow, the McDonalds we used as a bathroom break or the giant bowling pin that we had stopped at earlier. Although we had driven 30 miles thru Mark Twains Forrest we had only traveled about 6 miles down the interstate since the giant bowling pin which we had determined was the most likely spot for loosing Blinky.

Having been thru this before when I lost my headphones in the middle of the outback 8 years earlier... AND FINDING THEM 3 days later, we thought, "What the hell, lets drive back to the bowling pin and see if we find Blinky.

We drive down the interstate, get off at exit 153, we cross over the freeway (yes, AGAIN) we pull on to Historic 66, we pull up opposite the bowling pin, I hop out, I run across the road and...

He's not there...


Happier times... Before the loss of our dear friend "Blinky"

I keep telling Beth "Its ok, we are driving in a digitally equipped mobile problem solving cruiser, 2 laptops, 2 smart phones (with crap coverage), 2 digital SLR's, 2 point and shoots, don't forget the Flip camera, multiple Terabytes of storage and the all important MiFi card.

We pull over for a late lunch, (we tend to still be eating on California time), pull out a laptop and log on. Our plan is to commit to a hotel location for Tuesday night, order "Blinky 2: Revenge of the GPS Tracker" and have him sent ahead to the hotel we'll be staying at in two days. 30 minutes later... its all taken care of. And we're fed and we head out back on the road.

Beth, amazingly enough, wants to try the "Highway 17, veer onto AA" thing again because there is a bridge she read about in the guide book she wants to take a picture of and this time we don't miss the turn and she gets a great shot of the bridge.

By now, we are tired, frustrated but at least we know we'll be getting "Blinky 2" in a few days but its time to call it quits for the day. Beth finds a place called Mungers Moss Motel, a Route 66 icon and the perfect 'roadside motel' experience we had talked about staying in. I pull up to the motel office, go into get a room and when i get back to the car Beth is smiling ear to ear.

Blinky had been found...

It turned out when Beth had jumped in the car to move it at Devil's Elbow it had fallen off her beltloop and I had been sitting on it the whole day...

Resurrection of Blinky!

We move into our room. We took a nap, we went out at sunset to shoot the old Munger's Moss neon sign and that was another day on Route 66.

Tomorrow... who knows WHATS gonna happen.