Entries in Driving (4)

Friday
Jun042010

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.

 

Saturday
Jun052010

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.

 

Sunday
Jun062010

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. 

ON DIRT ROADS!!!

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...

Sad...

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.

 

Wednesday
Jun162010

Day 18 - Pops was flooded.

After being advised to NOT try to make it to Oklahoma City on Monday we set out Tuesday morning about 10am. After a few mishaps getting back up to approximately where we left off on Route 66, we made a turn at the Route 66 overpass we had seen on Friday night when we arrived and headed west again.

As much as we enjoyed spending time with Scott and Cindi and Kaitlyn and Carter, and we did… it was nice to get back on the road.

Heading west from Oklahoma City was much easier then much of what we had already driven. We were basically just driving thru older industrial areas.

Our first real stop was lunch. Happy Burger in Sapulpa, Oklahoma was a really tiny place but the burgers were great. They also had the fry's that Steak n Shake should have had. The place is also filled with every bit of Pepsi memorabilia that you could ever imagine. I know that, at one point or another, I had owned some of the items in the place. This location had originally been built as a Tastee Freeze in 1971, so it wasn't the oldest building we had been in but certainly worth the stop for the food alone, that is, if you like burgers and fries.

UPDATE: Happy Burger itself has been around MUCH longer then it has been at this location.

We left Sapulpa and drove thru one small town after antoher. When we came to Bristow Oklahoma we had one of the funnier navigational mistakes of the trip (so far). We've made a lot of U-Turns, more than we care to keep track of. As a matter of fact, in the beginning of the trip we toyed with the idea of keeping track of things like "number of u-turns", "number of bathroom breaks" or "number of photo stops" but soon realized it would be too hard. Bristow needs to be remembered for the double u-turn fiasco. Lets just say, sometimes you get turned around.

Headed south on N. Main you need to make a right on W. 4th then a left on Rolland St. Lets just say it sounds easier than it is. As you leave Bristow the road opens up and there are way less towns and it really gets beautiful.

As we've noticed before, Route 66 is filled with views and sites that if you don't slow down you'll never be able to appreciate. We've also learned about "highways", "byways", "business loops", and "bypasses". To find the old road you have to keep your eyes open. For example... the Ozark Trail. This little bridge and old run down drive in theater were on one of the little side loops that could have easily been missed.

As a matter of fact, when we stopped to take this "Historic 66" photo the man who lived across the street from the sign walked out to chat with us. He had lived there, on this little stretch of 66 forever and he was really proud of the road. He told us that he had petitioned the Route 66 people for the sign in front of his house for 8 years and was excited to FINALLY get them to have the prisoners to make him a sign. He also told us that, as we had suspected, the Route 66 signs were controlled by a different group than the state and federal highway signs.

Sometimes you need to find a new way to take a photo with the "roadside giants". To be fair, this penguin wasn't even that big.

As we started thru Stroud Oklahoma we saw this old neon sign and Beth decided to pull over to take a few photos. Once again I ended up helping this family take a photo with the sign. They were on their way to Seattle from one of the Carolinas. I'm not sure they wanted to take as long as I put them thru to GET the photo but I KNOW they'll remember this moment from their trip.

The city of Chandler represents the middle of the state of Oklahoma and they also claim it is the middle of the United States. I'm not sure how that works out but they even have a big sign infront of the local public swimming pool claiming it, so, you know... it MUST be true right? This sign was on the front of a Route 66 museum. Later in the day we ended up standing round waiting so, in retrospect, we probably should have gone in. Oh well, maybe next time.

Leaving Chandler you drive thru Warwick, and Luther and eventually you come to Arcadia. It was in this area that we started to see evidence of the flooding from the day before. The soil in this area has a deep red clay look to it and all over the side of the road we saw huge puddles of water with this amazing color. We also drove over a few bridges where the creeks or rivers were really high and the water was the same color. It was amazing.

We had no idea just how high the water had been, but we were going to find out.

One really famous attraction is this old Round Barn. You can't miss it on the road, it is RIGHT on the side of Route 66, its a very low key stop. No one is going to try to sell you anything and you can walk around in and out and take photos and in actuallity the construction of the room is really amazing. As with most old structures it has a long past of being originally built and then it burns down or suffers some sort of weather related damge and then it is "repaired to its original glory" at some point or another.

Hmm... its amazing how the dome of the barn and my head look so much alike.

What we were really looking forward to was Pops. Cleaver name. It is not, as you may think, named after someones dad, with an apostrophy "s". Instead it is plural "s".

Pops is a road side attraction with over 400 flavors of soda on sale. Its also a gas station and a diner. At first we just went in for a shake. We started chatting with one of the waiters and he shared with us a photo of the flooding the day before, a photo which, by the way, Beth had already found on Twitter. The water hd come up to the second row of pumps and that means in the nearby fields it must have been at least 4 or 5 feet deep. It was pretty amazing that there wasn't more damage.

Remember the family at the Skyliner Motel sign above? We ran into them again and it turns out he is a wine maker. I set up another shot for him and eventually his wife joined in as well. It was really nice, they offered us a bottle of wine but we politely declined because we don't drink. I told him it would be better to save it for someone who would enjoy it more. 

The art direction in Pops was amazing. They had slide shows that played on large LCD screens all over inside. Very much a 21st century roadside attraction.

These bottle displays would NEVER fly in California. You'd think that, "they must be glued down right?" Well sort of. Up to about 7 feet up they are glued down just so you don't PLAY with them as you sit at your table to eat, but above that... higher up... up where they will surely reach escape velocity if it were to fall... the UPPER bottles are NOT glued down.

OUCH!!

But the bottle everyone comes for is out front.

Its 66 feet tall (think about it... it took me a while) and it lights up at night. Lets just say I'm glad Beth had done her research because, I had NO CLUE this thing lit up like a Christmas Tree at night. Well, I guess its not like a Christmas Tree... unless your Christmas Tree is shaped like a giant pop bottle. (oh yea, they don't say "soda" in the mid west.)

A lot of times Beth gets really nice compliments on her photos. Often times its "wow what a nice camera that must be..." and although good equipment is part of it there are other factors in play. You know that little control at the top of your camera with the green box on it... DON'T USE IT. you really need to explore the things your camera can do and play. Remember, at least you aren't wasting real film so don't be afraid to take some bad photos.

But sometimes the real trick to getting a good shot is patience and patience can be really hard. We sat around the Pops parking lot for HOURS... I think we were there at least 4 hours because we wanted to shoot this thing at sunset.

Yea... it was worth it.

Make sure you watch this video till the end. What a difference a day makes... We shot this video and photos the day AFTER the flood. Except for all the dust in the parking lot we would have never known.

To see even more pictures from this day, please go to my Flickr page.