21 Jun

Day 22

Kansas serenaded us with thunder and lightning last night and we woke to a gorgeous day with moderate temperatures — something we haven’t had since probably February.

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From Ft. Riley, KS to Jefferson City, MO the landscape is more rolling and it’s wonderfully green. It struck me that this is the first place we’ve seen since leaving Hawaii that actually looks like it could/should actually support human habitation. My second thought was about how incredibly demoralizing it would have been for the indigenous American tribes when they were forced out of the great plains and it’s abundance and into the arid west with it’s lack of large mammals and anything green. We think of the Southwest as being somewhat synonymous with Indian tribes, but forget that many of them and their cultures originated elsewhere on vastly different lands. It made me think of the marginalization of the Native Hawaiians as well. Did you know that they are not recognized federally as indigenous peoples as Native Americans are, and are therefore denied certain rights or opportunities that other first nations peoples receive?

On a lighter note, driving farther yesterday meant that we could lunch near Kansas City today. After much debate between friends on Facebook as to the best KC BBQ, we ended up near Ft. Leavenworth at “All Slabbed Up” for some deliciously tender “que” with one of Art’s army friends and his family.

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After lunch we continued on to Jefferson City, MO (our seventh state for those keeping track) to the home of one of hubby’s cousins. We had a delicious home cooked meal with family and did some laundry. We’re staying here tomorrow and are looking forward to good weather and some canoeing.

20 Jun

Day 21

Today looked a lot like this:
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The high plains of Colorado and northwestern Kansas alternated between amber waves of grain and sprinklings of cattle. The highway was relatively flat and pretty straight. Perfect cruise control conditions.

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To amuse ourselves, we stopped at Prairie Dog Town, which had been advertised in handmade billboards along the highway, and actually recommended by friends as an acceptable diversion.

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It actually had an 8000 lb prairie dog — which was really just this statue. But the five legged cow was real! It had a birth defect resulting in a stunted fifth leg growing out of it’s shoulder. My photos didn’t do it justice. The “town” looked to me like a cheap zoo that decided to own it’s prairie dog problem rather than combat all the holes and burrows. Any farm could probably lay as much claim to being a Prairie Dog Town as this place.

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But farms don’t have creative taxidermy like these Jackalopes, or the turtles with rattlesnake heads.

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I passed on the earrings with snake rattles in the gift shop, but my daughter bought a prairie dog plush.

The rest of our day was more of this:

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The landscape was punctuated with pro life billboards and ones that proclaimed Jesus’ awesomeness. None of the other states we’ve driven through appeared to have this.

We had made good time to Prairie Dog Town, so I suggested that we push past our original goal of Salina since we had no evening plans, and stay someplace that would make our drive tomorrow shorter so we could spend more time with Hubby’s cousin in Missouri. We ended up in Ft. Riley, KS to take advantage of our military membership and get cheap lodgings on post. Best deal per square foot yet! And, I have to say, the historic buildings on post are quite handsome. Now there’s a thunderstorm though, so I need to publish before I loose my wifi.

19 Jun

Day 20

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I had a horse just like this in my bedroom as a teen!

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But again, I digress. Today our friend Alan took us and our combined kids to an amazing arcade in the very cute town of Manitou Springs, CO.

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There was everything from relatively recent video games like Mario and head to head fighting games, to 80s favorites like Galactica and Asteroids,

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to pinball and skeeball (which my daughter loved),

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to actual penny arcade amusements dating back to the late 1800s!

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Everything was it’s original price, so a penny for the English Football, a nickel for the old time shooter, and a quarter for 9 skeeballs. $5 entertained each kid for two hours. They deemed it awesome, and I have to agree.

Somehow, I don’t think driving across Kansas tomorrow will be quite as exciting.

19 Jun

Day 19

Today was a driving day. We achieved a personal best in our recollected history with our Volvo: 366 miles on 13 gallons of gas (normal city driving normally gets us only to 300). Add to that gas being almost a dollar cheaper per gallon than we’re used to paying in Hawaii and this trip is almost a bargain!

But I digress. We parted ways with Route 66 in Santa Fe area and headed north to the suburbs of Denver to visit another pair of friends whom we’ve known as long as we’ve known each other. Art and I and these two friends pretty much started dating after the same party at the apartment Art and my cousin shared (along with our Williams, AZ friend). they had good parties.

Though today’s drive on Highway 25 was pretty, through forested hills and cattle country, I have no photos. No photos either of all our kids together in the community pool (great reward after a day of driving). So, here’s a cute picture of my family at the Grand Canyon before our mule ride.

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17 Jun

Day 18

It’s great when you can pick up with friends right where you left off 13 years ago as if no time had passed. It’s even better when your kids and their kids get along famously too!

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We walked from the house through some irrigation waterways and out to the river…the Rio Grande.

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The kids spent hours splashing and exploring and hunting tadpoles. We wore out the boys and the dog.

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In the afternoon the girls harvested about million apricots from the yard and we filled every bowl in the house with cleaned and pitted apricots to freeze for later (apricot vodka in addition to jam?).

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And evening was a double date at a lovely local restaurant in Corrales, followed by two games of Spoons in a tent in the back yard with the kids!

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It was a pretty wonderful Father’s Day with two great dads and lots of fun family time. Tomorrow we sadly say goodbye but head on to another state and more old friends.

16 Jun

Day 17

Big drive day today. Starting in Williams, AZ we pretty much followed Route 66 to Albuquerque, NM where we’re visiting friends from our DC days.

First order of business was to “stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.”

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Even after playing “Take it Easy” for them, the kids really didn’t get this. It’s obviously a generational thing.

Back on the road, we switched songs and made sure not to forget Winona. Several miles off the highway there was no sign of the town, so we deemed Winona forgettable and headed to Gallup, New Mexico for lunch.

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The Foursquare app told us that the locals like Jerry’s, and they had good fry bread, so there we went. It was good, surprisingly busy, and frequented by hawkers of local handicrafts.

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We all devoured the fry bread and honey!

The rest of the drive was somewhat puzzling. We used a rest stop that had an excessive number of traffic circles both to get to it and to return to the highway. Hubby’s Exit app declared this particular rest area the most confusing rest area ever, and we concurred based on the traffic circles alone. But then there were two sets of rest rooms at the stop. One in use, and the other, possibly, in reserve. And the rest rooms asked users to vote them up or down…

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The women’s room even had two voting apparatus. Wha?

Then there was the sign for the ice cave in a volcano. Huh? Volcanos in New Mexico? Ice Cave in the desert? But, we know our lava fields, and we definitely drove through one, so yes, there are volcanos in New Mexico.

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We asked our friends about the ice cave and they confirmed that yes, there really is a cave, and given the insulating powers of porous lava rock, it really holds cold air in and is frigid at it’s end.

Who knew?

15 Jun

Day 16

Today happened in two parts. Part one, the Grand Canyon.

We checked in to Bright Angel Lodge for our 3 hour mule ride and then walked out the other side for our first view of the canyon. The girl let out an audible gasp. She was more than duly impressed!

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I was interested in all the wonderful lodge style buildings, and learned that the architect of Bright Angel, Hopi House, Lookout Studio and more, not only was a woman (Mary Colter), but also designed Union Station in LA, which I’ve always admired.

I think could have easily lived in the era of train travel to the Canyon, check into the lodge hotel, enjoy a cocktail on the porch with the great view, and have a pack mule adventure into the abyss. I could do it on Kilauea too, or in Yosemite. Not real camping, but early 1900s glamping.

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We were on the South Rim of the canyon, so our mule ride didn’t go in — just a lovely stroll through the Kaibab National Forest ending at a fantastic canyon overlook.

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I asked about the funny hair cuts on the mules. Historically, the US Cavalry used to mark their animals like this. One “bell” meant it was a pack mule. Two bells meant that it could be packed or ridden, and three bells signified the animal’s ability to be used for pack, ride, or pulling. Today, in the Grand Canyon, the bells are a sort of rite of passage. The mules that are ready to be ridden by anyone get the haircut, while the newer ones have plain tails and are for the guides only.

Part two of our day was back in Williams, AZ where we’ve been staying. Williams is a little gem of a town! It has a charming mix of Route 66 and wild west. It is also the terminal for the historic train ride to and from the Grand Canyon (complete with mock train robbery). Every evening a local “thee-A-ter” group stages a gun fight in the middle of the street. It was fun and family friendly and we were happy to have made it back to town in time to see it. And wouldn’t you know it, of all the people in the audience, they grabbed our friend!

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Williams has tired little motels left over from the fifties, a couple of town hotels from the late 1800s, and a handful of modern chain hotels. Plenty of options for the tourist off the beaten track. The main drag has a bunch of shops and some tasty restaurants too. It appears to be grooming itself for a resurgence. I am so glad we stopped here, not only to see friends we hadn’t seen in a while, but to have discovered a great little town.

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14 Jun

Day 15

We’re really moving now. Today we crossed into Arizona, the fourth state on our trip. But first, we stopped at Hoover Dam.

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The main reason we added the dam to our itinerary was because of the Percy Jackson books. I was looking for something more kid friendly after Vegas and remembered that the kids got a huge kick out of the mock swearing in one of the books where Percy and friends went to the dam and got some dam fries at the dam gift shop. We didn’t get fries but we entertained ourselves with hours of puns about the dam bathroom and the dam parking garage and any other dam thing we could think of.

Once we posted a few photos on Facebook that started a whole line of Transformer references too, which, since we went on the Transformers ride at Universal Studios on Day 9, got me thinking about threads already running through this trip.

Hawaii is lingering with us. I have not yet changed the clock on my car dashboard, so she’s still on Island Time. I think it will stay this way until we get to VA (she’s got Hawaii license plates after all). I had a pineapple mojito at Cheesecake Factory, and the last beer at my Dad’s was a Longboard that hubby drank. There was a SUP festival at Santa Monica Pier when we were there, to include some pretty good hula performances. One of our meals was at Islands restaurant, and we stopped at the 7-Eleven at the Hawaiian Marketplace in Vegas and talked story too.

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Twelve by Twelve is following me too. It started in LA when I realized that ever conversation about where we were going eventually broke down into the series of numbers representing which sequence of freeways we’d be taking (do we take the 605 to the 405 to the 10 to the 210, or do we take the 23 to the 105 to…) just like Diane’s Maps quilt. Then there were the Lorikeets on Day 8 — that was one of our Colorplay challenges. Yesterday, I was again reminded of Diane and her freeway research when I saw this Alien Crossing T-shirt in Baker, CA.

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Of course Route 66 has to be part of a road trip. We started at the end in Santa Monica:

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And now we’ve ticked off Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino (in reverse order to the song). We ended the day back on 66 in Williams, AZ, but I know there will be more in the days ahead.

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(I tried to get a picture of a Burma Shave sign, but kept missing.)