Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quest for Quirky Americana Pop Culture Landmarks II: Week 1

Day 1

We are outta here! On the road again, launched off from "the pad" of the Newtown Square fire company tonight. We are on the road! Peter, Preston, MikeWe left at 7:15 PM from Newtown Square, PA. We took care of some stuff and got on the PA Turnpike in Harrisburg. Day one was rather uneventful. 234 miles later, it was mid night, and we were still in PA. We did stop for gas, and the great news is that we are getting about 24 MPG!! We had planed on 16 MPG, so we are happy over that! Tomorrow we will hit Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

We were planing to stop at Hell MI. Its a town that's one mile square. If you want to look for it, it's just south of Pinckey. They have a store their called The Devil. As we were going to be arriving in town about 6:00 AM, we tried to persuade the shop owner to open early for us. She would not. Since none of the stores would open for us, and the local Chamber of Commerce has stop replacing the Welcome to Hell sings that have been stolen on a regular basis. There was no reason to stop. If you want to have some fun, call information for the lower part of MI. The number is 313-555-1212 and asks them for the number for The Devil in Hell. After they call you childish and immature, and get mad at you for wasting their time, have them type it into their computer and see what comes up. Guaranteed loads of fun!

Day 2

As we were going to Sullivan, OH, we noticed the exit for Kent State University. We decided to stop in and visit the site of the killings in 1970. Being a Neil Young fan, I have always wanted to visit this place. The campus was very nice. Mike wants to transfer. We drove around looking for the plaque. My previous research on this location told me that it was a plaque in a field. We were surprised to find it located on the campus map. We thought it was something that they would like to hide. As we were driving around, looking for the May 4th Memorial, we noticed that the campus Police were closing in on us, so we beat them the punch and pulled them over. Much to our surprise they were quite nice and lead us right to the location. We read the information that they had there. A new memorial was built in 1990, and all the information was written by a public relation firm, so it is one-sided.

We arrived in Sullivan, OH--it gave a new meaning to the word a hick town. We could not find Paul Bunyan, and did not think that this place had a need for a muffler shop. At About 5:00 am the local quick mart opened. We stopped in for directions. I knew that we were in trouble, when I had to explain who Paul Bunyan was. He gave us directions to the local trading post that has a 20 foot totem poll in front of it. We were surprised to find out that the Indians native to Ohio had sliding glass doors, and A/C in the Tee Pee's... Not wanting to get some buck shot in our back side, we left before we woke up the shop owner.

We camped out in a rest area somewhere in Ohio. Mike parked the wagon in the RV area and we slept for about an hour. We did not stop in Indiana, After the let down that we had last year in Notre Dame, we choose not to stop in this state again.

As we approached Chicago, I found out that I should have checked the maps that AAA gave us, because the map of Chicago was not in the pack. Luck was on our side, when you are trying to find the World's tallest building, a map is not needed, you just look up. We parked and got our tickets. They made us watch a movie about Chicago. I thought that it would be a video on the making of the Sear's Tower, but it was a 8 minute commercial on Chicago. We went up, did the tour and came back down. They don't let you get on the roof. Mike and Pete liked it, Preston thought that The World's Trade center was better.

Luck once again was on our side, as we were looking for Lake Shore Drive, Peter noticed the Route 66 signs, and the beginning of old Route 66 in Grant Park. The start of our trek down the Mother Road. For all you Married with Children fans out there, the fountain that is shown in the opening is the one from Grant Park.

Our next stop was Wrigley Field. It took us a while to find it. We went to ask a local man getting in his car for directions, he blew us off. It turned out to be a good thing, because if we had asked him, we would of looked like fools, because we were parked in front of it!

Our next stop was Des Plains, IL and the World's First McDonald's. After back-tracking and re-back tracking, we found it. We went inside and the lady said that they where closed, and to come back tomorrow. I told her our story and begged for the two-cent tour. She wanted to know how we got around the gate. I told her that it was opened. As we were in the building, she had no choice but to give us the tour. She reluctantly gave us the TWO-CENT-TOUR, and not a penny more. Not what we were expecting from America's number one family restaurant...

We then arrived in Niles, IL, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After our last let down, this turned out to be a pleasant surprise. We could not get in to it, but it was as promised. I was not the real thing, but close, well worth the visit. After a day of let downs, it was nice to find a cheesy road side attraction, and it was in deed cheesy.

The total miles for day two: 875. We have stopped in the middle of IL and are planing for day 3.

Day 3

Mike repackaged the car so that the stuff is easier to get to. We ate and got on Route 66. The road is well marked, and made finding our way easy. Our first stop was the ROUTE 66 Museum. It turned out to be a hallway in a truck stop in Shirley, IL. We got our Route 66 map and were quite happy to find out that not only is it a map, but is a poster, too! We drove to Atlanta, IL and they had Bermashave signs telling us about the old clock in town. It was closed.

As we drove down Route 66 we were expecting more, it's not what we pictured. We did see some old hotel signs, the neon was gone and they just painted over it so you could read it. We paralleled I-55 and were thirty feet away from it most of the day. We were only people on the road and were able to make good time. We ended up on Route 66 spur that took us nowhere. The road dead-ended at the Chain Of Rock Canal. We looped back and sat in traffic on interstate 55.

Hannibal, MO turned out to be a bit of a detour, and since Mike was the only one who read The Adventures of Huck Finn, we opted not to make the detour. We did, however, stop at the Home Town and Tomb of Abraham Lincoln. I thought it was kind of tacky that they made you sit in a theater to watch a movie about the life and death of President Lincoln.

Once in MO, we went to the Arch (Its correct name is the Jefferson Westward Expantion Musuem.) and found out that you can go up in it. It's a 40 minute ride in a capsule that seats five. There was a forty five minute wait, and we chose not to do it. As I sit here typing Mike and Peter are talking about Six Flags Over the Mid West. Peter wants to stop and get some fireworks. We will camp out tonight and Mike has just promised to cook a creative dinner. Last year he was well known for his ability to cook spaghetti and hot dogs, in the same pot, and at the same time.

We are now driving through Sullivan, MO and looking for Paul Bunyan. This town looks like the kind of town that would have one, but no luck. We spent some of today playing with the GPS. It was amazingly accurate. We should have the mapping program up at the end of the day. We saw signs for Fort Leonard Wood and one of the locals said "yeah they came there". Much to our surprise, Fort Leonard Wood is an ARMY camp. A quick visit to the base fire dept, and dropping off a couple of T-shirts, we managed to find a spot to pitch our tents, and warm showers in the morning!

Day 4

Wow, what a night. I have seen some real bad campsites in my day, but the campsite at Fort Leonard Wood was the worst. Between the smell of urine and the rocks in our backs we were pretty happy to leave. The fire dept. at the fort was kind enough to let us use their showers this morning and God knows we all needed showers. The car ride would have been hell if we didn't take showers. Speaking of cars, you should see the '89 Caprice Classic Estate now. There is not a single trash bag in here, and Preston loves to keep his car as messy as possible.

We are currently driving on Interstate 44/Route 66. The wonderful people of Missouri are the worst drivers we have ever seen. They love to switch lanes without using their turn signals. Actually, they very rarely use there turn signals for anything. The proud residents of this state also have a problem with going the speed limit. The speed limit in Missouri is 70 mph on the Interstate, but for some God-forsaken reason they all drive 65 mph. Why they do this we don't know, but one thing we do know is that it is very annoying when you set the cruise control at 73 mph and you have to keep hitting the break for the damn locals... Suprisingly the state of Missouri resembles Pennsylvania in a lot of ways. It's all mountains and trees, not a lot of farmlands.

We made it to Branson, MO for the biggest ball of string. As we were pulling into town it looked like a nice clean area. It was bigger then we thought for a population 3,500. It is, however, a big vacation spot in the Orzark Mountains. It was like Wildwood NJ, only newer. A pre-fabricated, stucco-covered, over-priced, tourist trap. The ball of string was custom made as a money-maker. Not what we would call a road side attraction, and not worth $30.00 to see. We left Branson, the town turned out to be a bust, but so was the whole state of Missouri.

The only hilight on this state was in Aurora when Peter was dancing with the STAR 104.1 FM chicken in the middle of the road so he could win a mug. The last stop in this state was Joplin, MO and KLIU the radio station that played Louie, Louie 24 hr a day. Thankfully Joplin was not a detour, because, you guessed it, they changed their call letters, and their format. They are now Christian rock.

Back on old Route 66 we went in to Kansas, and the "13.8 miles that links Route 66". Happy that we were no longer in MO, we drove the 13 miles and stopped at all the road side attractions. Since the Interstate does not go through Kansas, the towns where all but deserted. We did find the last arch bridge on Route 66. It was no ball of string, but it was a road side attraction.

As I sit here in the back seat, I can't help but notice all the change stuck to the floor. It makes me wonder what happened to the remnants of Peter's Heath, Snickers, and M? blizzard that he got in Indiana? Although Peter did tell me that they ripped him off with the M?'s, and didn't put any in his cup.

We just left Oklahoma City, and the bombing site. It's a vacant lot with a fence around it. People leave items on the fence ranging from crosses to car license plates. The street is closed and the buildings around the site have not been fixed or torn down for the most part. They still use the parking lot under the Federal building for government employees in surrounding buildings.

The city of Oklahoma City was clean and easy to get around. The people were nice, but Mike noted that it seemed that the whole town was in mourning. We stopped by two fire houses, including Station One. They where the first ones in on the explosion. They had 6 poles, and would not let us slide down any of them.

We have traveled 536 miles today. Peter can't wait until we get to Arizona where there are no trees. Camping out again tonight. (Sorry this page was not updated last night, but we couldn't get cell phone service at the bottom of Red Rock Canyon).

Day 5

Red Rock Canyon was a neat place. It did have it's drawbacks, though. The shower head was the low-flow type, so by the time the water hit your feet, it was a fine mist. The shower heads themselves, were installed by a short person, because we kept hitting our heads on them.

Route 66 in Oklahoma is not well marked, and we kept on losing it. We did, however, find the Route 66 museum in Clinton, OK. We are not sure why, but the Route 66 museum is not on Route 66. It was closed and did not open for five hours. It looked like a real neat place. Lots of neon, and old cars. As we were leaving, we saw a truck pulling in and the guy driving it turned out to be the Director of the museum. We told him what we were doing, and asked if we could have a quick tour. He told us that "this is run by the government and we have to follow their hours of operation" We tried to bribe him, but where unsuccessful. He said that the only reason that he was there that early was because of a small fire that they had last night, and he was there to clean up.

Back on the road again, we tried to find the historic gas station in Canute, OK, but with no luck. As we drove along getting on and off the Interstate as Route 66 winds its way across OK and TX through cities and towns, it was what we were expecting of Route 66. We saw more hotels and diners, the neon was gone but the old signs where still there. As we pulled into Amarillo, TX. the town was filled with Route 66-era hotels, diners, and filling stations, (now with new gas pumps).

We found the Cadillac Ranch without too much problem, and it was most definitely, and without a doubt, a cheesy road side attraction! The ten Cadillac's were sitting there face down in a row. When Stanley Marsh planted ten brand new Cadillac's in the ground they where complete. Now, several decades later, any piece that can be broken off, has. They are covered with graffiti, and once a year Stanley repaints them white to let more graffiti build up on them. People from all over the world have stopped by to scribble their name on them. Mike and Peter were expecting the car still to be in good shape. They said that it was better this way.

We had seen some street signs with stupid sayings on them all over Amarillo. As we found out from a local who stopped by to check on the cars, Stanley Marsh put them all over as art. Personally we think he should stick to Cadillacs.

As we entered New Mexico we came across the neatest 'Welcome To...' sign to date on this trip. We do have some items from the good news / bad news department. Crushed up Cheetoes do wonders when trying to get dried heath bar blizzard out of the carpet. This little item was found out by accident. The bad news is that now that the floor is clean, Mike took it upon him self to spill Pepsi on the drivers seat. Also when Preston was driving we lost the right rear hub cap!

We planned on driving to Gallup, NM., but we decided to spend the night at the Marriott in Albuquerque. Preston turned on his charm and we got a lovely room on the concierge floor, for a very cheap price. We ate dinner at a cafeteria type restaurant at a rest stop. Needless to say the first thing we checked out in our hotel room was the lovely toilet. Boy, was that food good. Tonight will be a relaxing night spent by the pool.

We will be awaking bright and early tomorrow to continue this exciting journey through the beautiful USA!

Day 6

Let me start out by trying to explain the foul odor that has taken over the inside of the car. On second thought, it can't be explained.

Our first stop was the Aztec Indian Ruins Nation Monument in Aztec, NM. As we were approaching, Peter was looking for Tee Pee's that the Indians lived in. He was quite upset to find out that they lived in condos, drove cars, and owned motor boats. We later found out that, from the park service, they did not use tee pee's because they did not have any large game to kill for the hide.

The Aztec ruins turned out to be real neat. They had three story buildings that they lived in. The door ways where really small and Preston had trouble getting through. We quickly came to the conclusion that the Aztec's where short and in good shape. They also had a community center called a Kiva, that they meet in for community programs. You could hit a button and they played Indian music. We tried to get Peter to do an Indian dance, but he wouldn't.

Our next stop was the Four Corners National Monument. That spot where four states come together. In case you are wondering, the four states are Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. The site is run by the Navajo Nation and it coast $3.00 to get in. Well worth the money. We took the mandatory pictures of us standing in all four states. They did have an authentic Indian tee pee there. I told them the Aztec Indian's did not have tee pee's do the fact that they did have large game around for the hides.

We did find out what the major money maker is for the Navajo Nation. Gas. All the gas station that we drove past and eventually had to stop at where selling gas for $1.59 a gallon. You don't realise how big the Navajo Nation is until you are paying $1.59 for a gallon of gas. It went on for ever, covering two states.

They next stop we made was at two big pillars. As we were approaching them, we thought they had to be something. They weren't, just two big pillars. We climbed them, and scribbled our names on the pillar as everyone else had. The oldest date we saw was 1972.

As we arrived at the Grand Canyon, Peter summed it up by saying "oh, shit, this is nice." Just as last year, upon our arrived at a National park, it started to rain. All the camp sites where full. To make a long story short, I have to find some guy named Brian tomorrow and give him one of my fire company shirts.

Depending on weather and availability, tomorrow we will hike down to the bottom on the Grand Canyon. We will probably not have a update tomorrow, due to no phone service in at the Grand Canyon, but stop back and find out any way...

Day 7

It's the end of week one and we have been together for 2941 miles, 12 states and 168 hours. This morning we tried to get a back county pass to camp at the bottom. We had no luck. We did go on a hike to the bottom--of Dripping Springs, that is. The Ranger lady said that it was not that bad of hike. However, the trail is not maintained and is rough in places. They advised us that how ever long it takes to get down, it takes three to four times longer to get up.

The hike down was not bad to start. It had its hard spots and its easy spots. The trail was classified as "very serious", but we were making good time. The trail had remains of stairs build in 1902. Most of the trail was the side of the Canyon on one side and a drop off on the other. We made it to Morning Wood Ridge and decided to eat lunch. Peter noted that there was a cave-type dwelling that we could sit in if it started to rain. At that moment, the skies let loose and we ran for shelter.

We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on squished bread. That was only the minor problem with lunch, we forgot to bring a knife to spread the PB & J... Being the ingenious people that we are, we dipped the bread in the jar. We sat for a 1/2 hour in the pouring rain deciding what to do. Wait out the storm and maybe have to walk back up in the dark, wait and still have to walk up in the dark--only with rain--or admit defeat with mother nature and leave now and walk back in the rain.

As we left in the rain, it was hitting us so hard it hurt. Within minutes we were soaked to the bone. The temperature dropped and we were freezing. We marched on with mud slides and rock slides giving way beneath our feet. The path that we had walked down was now a river. All the water from the Canyon above was pouring down our path. It was shin-deep at times. The steps that had helped us down were now a water fall as we tried to make our way to the top--like salmon swimming up stream. All the time I was thanking God that my feet where dry do to my sheep-skin sneakers I had gotten from the J. Peterman Catalog. Now, if only my urban sombrero had not blown off at the height of the storm.

We made it to the top in less time that it took up to get down. We figured we made good time because we were all mad that we were stuck in the rain. We took hot showers and ate dinner, and are now going to bed to contemplate an another hike on Wednesday.

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