2013 Journey home to Ottawa via Rte 66

The journey home to Ottawa – April 2013

I’m back in Ottawa, and am safe and sound. Once again the byways and highways of America will be safe !!

When I left Syracuse, New York this morning it was not an early start, but I only had roughly 3 hours to travel before being home !! The border crossing went smoothly – as it usually does , and even though I said I had extra alcohol to declare I was waved through !!

The first service center down the 401 highway I pulled into for a cup of Tim Hortons coffee ( I expected to pass a Tims in Syracuse but didn’t see one). One of the first things I noticed about all the folks in the service center  was how calmly and quietly they went about their business – no drama, no noise – just a very pragmatic approach to standing in line and waiting for their turn at the counter. Once I landed in Ottawa, I went to pick up my mail and turned over 2 bottles of tequila I had picked up for the boys who managed my mail while  I was gone. They were pleased !!

I have a few statistics which may or may not help make some sense as to what I have been doing the last 6 months:

  • just under 25,000 km driven
  • 55 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings viewed,
  • of the lower 48 states, I was in 13 of them
  • contributed to the economy in Arizona (also known as retail therapy)
  •  sewed a dozen quilt tops and have brought home at least 3 more that require some finishing work
  • danced at least twice a week and sometimes three for most of 5 months
  • finally saw the Grand Canyon,  – and left my heart in San Francisco !!

This means my road trip for this year is over. And just in time – I was at a Tupperware meeting tonight, I’ve got a Civil War Round Table on Thursday, boxes to unpack and get sorted, phone calls to make, part-time jobs to begin again !! Thanks to the arm chair travellers who stuck with me throughout this journey. Your comments were always appreciated.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day !!!

I spent the day travelling the Earth !! When I was in Ohio this morning, I discovered they have  some sort of historical lakeshore trail that had a lovely view of Lake Erie on my left and lake side cottages and businesses on my right. But then I had to move back to the Interstate highway to make better time . I counted 2 wild turkeys – and I love seeing those things – they’re so fat and brown – and even though I don’t cook – the only thing I could think of was “what size of roasting pan would I need to fit that bird?”   I also saw a couple of herons – but only because they moved.  Usually they stand so still , you can be almost nose to beak before you realize they are in front of you.

I made good time to Rochester New York – surprised even me – but mostly because there was a lot of construction on the roads !! My friend helped me out with my quilting issue, and then I left.

As I was checking Gert, my amazing GPS, for my next destination, I noticed an address I put in 2 years ago. I can’t remember what I read or where I heard the story but – there is a distillery in New York state who was going to begin producing Dorothy Parker gin.  Dorothy Parker is one of my favourite authors. She was suicidal and an alcoholic and a brilliant writer back in the 1920s. I have loved her poetry and short stories for ever !! Back to the distillery –  they and a second location in NY state were going to be the retail outlets for the gin. I put both addresses into Gert for future attention. I was VERY surprised to see that one of the locations was nearby , and on my route to Syracuse………so I followed Gert’s directions – and got yet another bonus  – the road also followed the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal was once a big deal – until the railways came along and made it obsolete.  Today many stretches of the canal are now parks .

This email is late tonight because once I found my hotel, I headed out to dinner. I am in Syracuse New York, and tomorrow (Tues) will be back in Ottawa. Someone tipped me off about the celebratory ticker tape parade but I shall try to look surprised anyway !!!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Today started off like the last couple of days – more farmland, but because I am now in Indiana the landscape has evolved – hills roll less and there are more trees !! It was easy to drive down to Cincinnati to see a couple more FLWright houses – but I think I most enjoyed the lime green water tower for the GE Aviation plant !!

On the weather channel this morning, there was an expert who not only talked about flooding, but explained how widespread a river’s drainage system is. That was cool – and it certainly helped make sense of why flooding I have seen is ending up in Chicago !!

I have a pet peeve  – when I stop at the welcome center of a new state, and look over the pamphlets and lure cards, inevitably I find brochures of interest to me  – and the locations are nowhere near my route!!  This sucks !!  Also on this road trip, I have arrived at a place either too late in the day to take a tour, or the place I want to see is closed on that day !! Of course, any “problem” can also be seen as an opportunity – make a list for a future road trip.

After Cincinnati, headed north to Dayton – home to the Wright brothers and their invention of the airplane. There are several aviation museums here, but even more importantly – I came across my first Tim Hortons !!  Just like the college kids shirts that say “I bleed green” referring to their school colours, I have to say that I bleed Tim Hortons !!  I could not pull into the Tims parking lot fast enough, but then I got choked up – this is my first Tims in 6 months !!  Even our military get fresh Tims coffee !!  Just looking at those familiar doughnut shelves and seeing Timbits – I could barely speak !! The coffee tasted soooo  good !! It kept me going all the way to Springfield and another bonus – the Westcott House.

Yes, another FLWright house – but one that only required $5.8 million to bring back to life. Springfield, the city, has lost most of its industrial base, (and it looks tiny on a map) so for them to raise that kind of money would have been a miracle.   With the day mostly over, I headed north towards Lake Erie. The sunset was a lovely orange – did anyone else happen to catch it? It was reminiscent of the sunsets in Arizona – which are phenominally orange (something to do with the red rock dust) and gorgeous to see !!  I highly recommend.

Several times today, when I was at various rest areas, I met herds of other Ontarians coming back north from Florida and Texas. They are all heading back to Windsor and the south-western parts of Ontario.  I’ve been the only Canadian plate on the road for a while.   Now that I am at Lake Erie, it should be easy to follow east to the Buffalo/Rochester area. I have a friend to stop in and see briefly, and then see how far I get under Lake Ontario. At least this part of the drive is way nicer than trying to go through Toronto, and it’s faster and more scenic. I can’t appropriately express how much I detest/hate/loathe driving through Toronto !!! I’m almost home !!!y

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Today (Sat) nothing exciting has gone on. The weather was good – always a plus, and warm enough to take off the parka !!  Eat your hearts out Wpg’ers !! Missouri was all green rolling farmland, and looked like Kansas except that Kansas didn’t have trees. And also Missouri looked a lot like England will be looking right now – and I saw blooming daffodils and tulips – quite lovely – especially since the tulip festival in Ottawa won’t happen for a few more weeks.   I crossed several wide rivers, and I know one was the Missouri and one was the Mississippi, and the Mississippi was flooding !!

The big news on the American weather channel has been  all about the flooding in the Chicago area. Haven’t heard about flooding in the Winnipeg area yet – so I guess your snow hasn’t started to melt yet. The Mississippi fascinates me – and I have read a number of books written by folks who canoe or kayak its entire length. It is certainly something I would like to try, but I don’t think I’m enough of a camper for such a trip to happen.

The Rideau Canal trip was only 6 nights out in the “wilds” and even then on my last night, I was at a lock close enough to my house, that I called for a cab and went home and slept in my own bed. And the next morning had a Starbucks in my hand when the cab dropped me back off at the dock. I’m quite sure the guys who tackle the Mississippi River don’t see too many Starbucks !!

At dusk I counted 11 deer all munching grass too close to the highway – and I was looking forward to pulling in for the night – BUT – I just found out I am in the same time zone as my home town, even though I have another 2 days on the road before I land there. So I’m thinking about driving a bit further – I’m still on I-70 and headed towards southern Ohio. At some point in Ohio, I will move up under Lakes Erie and Ontario to catch another interstate to Syracuse New York. And then it’s only another 2 1/2 hours to Ottawa. It sounds shorter than it is !! Thanks for being my ears as I cross the States.

Friday April 19, 2013

Wichita Kansas to Blue Springs Missouri – so I didn’t make a lot of miles today, but there happened to be a number of sights I wanted to see – and no time like the present to see them. And most of them I have passed by at other times, so strike while the iron is hot !!

Just outside of Wichita is a rest area named after Knute Rockne. This is a name I’ve always known, and I thought he was associated with Notre Dame University, so reading the story  boards in the building was very informative. His was a great story – emigrated from Norway and started at Notre Dame at 22 studying chemistry and playing football. He was very revolutionary (in a good way) and came up with a better football uniform, some football moves that helped his team win championships, and went from being a student to being the football coach at Notre Dame. He wrote books, was a spokesman for Studebakers (built in South Bend) and won more football games as a coach than anyone else!!

Unfortunately his life ended abruptly when the small plane he was travelling in crashed in Kansas (only 3 miles ofrom the rest area).   Kansas is my new favourite state – mostly the rolling hills and cattle grazing – very relaxing !!  And then I caught a glimpse of their crazy side – a hot pink limo (with a white roof so it didn’t look entirely like a cartoon).  And they do seem to play a lot of country music – but I noticed that the themes of early country music (that would be 100 yrs ago) is the same theme as today – my girl left me, the truck died, the dog ran away – or maybe the girl ran away, the truck left, and the dog died??? I think the guy could solve all his problems very easily by developing some people skills, spend more money on vehicle maintenance, and get a cat  !!  Problems solved !!  They should have asked me !!

I had to go to Topeka – state capital – and this winter visiting state capitals seems to have been a theme!! Their capital building was under construction, so I drove around its perimeter. The dome is topped by a figure shooting a bow and arrow. Kinda cool !! I also drove past the school first affected by the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which segregated schools in Kansas in 1954.

Then I went looking  for the renovated Union Pacific train station – and Gert was taking me along some dubious streets – but then I turned a corner and there was a huge building with a really well done renovation, and a lunchroom where “Harvey girls” still serve.

Then off to Gage Park, with a carousel for me to photograph. It looked like a great place to take a family on a summer’s day !!   Up the highway to Lecompte – the territorial capital before Kansas became a state. It is a small village in the country, and according to the local signage boasts only 3 things of importance – the Constitution Hall, the local history museum, and the Democratic party headquarters.

I really wanted to track down someone so I could play devil’s advocate, and ask where the Republican party headquarters were – but didn’t get the chance !! But then I had to pull off the road to watch 3 turkey vultures, circle and ultimately land on lunch !!   I was only minutes from Lawrence, one of my favourite places – I get retail therapy there – and always leave feeling refreshed and ready to go !!

To Leavenworth, to the C.W.Parker Museum. It wasn’t open 2 years ago when I was near – so now was the time !!  Parker made circus rides (and carousels) back in the early 1900’s. There are 3 carousels in the museum, and the one I got to ride is going to be 100 years old tomorrow – so the museum is having a party !!  The oldest carousel was not built by Parker, and was made sometime between 1850 and 1860 – exactly the same decade the first camels were brought to the United States for their military experiment. Talk about a story going in circles !!

Anyway, I did some touring in downtown Kansas City Kansas and downtown Kansas City Missouri – separated oly by the Mississippi River or maybe the Missouri River. Signage was not a strong point – but I do know both rivers go through there. Just a really cool place !!

Wednesday, April 17 & Thursday April 18 

Yesterday was a long one !!  I spent several hours in the morning packing the van for the trip back to Ottawa. Most boxes and bags fit in well enough – but then there was the 5 foot craft table !!  And I gave it a test run after I bought it, but now was the moment of truth !!  With the van packed, I was able to slide the table in parallel to the roof, and I say roof, because there is only a 3 inch clearance – but 3 inches was enough to pack some more stuff !!   I checked off some more FLW houses in Phoenix prior to heading north. When I toured my first FLW house near Dubuque Iowa in 1990, I learned about a Texas professor who had written a wonderful book, that catalogued all the FLW homes built throughout the world. I decided at that moment I would buy the book and check off each house as I saw it. Thirteen years later I haven’t done too badly !!    The trip north to Flagstaff ( caught a few snowflakes) and then east on I-40 was interesting in that even though I am now re-tracing my Rte 66 trip, the perspective as I drive in the opposite direction is entirely different. The mountains are still beautiful, crossing the plains is always amazing, and as usual it is the smallest of events that delights my soul. When I got to the New Mexico rest area/ welcome center, I got to see the best bathroom sink counter top ever – local red rock polished enough to be useful, but rough enough to know that if someone wanted to try this at home, they would likely pay big bucks for the effect !!   In Gallup, New Mexico (my stop last night) the wifi was sooo frustrating!!  My laptop didn’t like my hotel wifi, two different McDonald restaurants didn’t have plugs, and the Starbucks I Eventually got to was in a Safeway grocery store, and the plug was 7 feet up the wall. I had to stand on a chair to reach it. But my perseverence did pay off. I saw an email from a fellow snowbirder, who had departed Mesa the same time as me. This morning (Thursday) I was wide awake at 4am, and on the road by 5am, so was able to catch up with the other snowbird. We were able to trade stories about the road, before heading off again!!   The driving conditions ( from 5am until noon) were wonderful and I made good time. It was only after I reached Tucumcari, and headed north-east towards Wichita Kansas that the high winds alternately pushed or buffeted my van as I went !!  One of the stories my friend and I had shared was that there were tornados in the Oklahoma City area ( my original plan).   Tonight, as I sit in Wichita, I am watching the weather channel and hearing about flooding. This should make for some interesting moments – first to see if I come across any flooded areas, and second how to proceed if #1 happens !!  Aren’t you glad you are sitting in your arm chairs? Tomorrow sould be interesting !!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Today was a travel day for me.  When I left my cousin’s home late this morning, I was at a 1000 foot elevation. The sky was overcast and there was a light rain falling.

Going further east at 2000 feet, I was now in the rain clouds. At 3000 feet, the clouds were at their thickest and I was driving with zero visibility. This did not appear to hamper the driving habits of the locals, but I maintained a steady slower pace. At 4000 feet, I was now above the rain clouds, and the sky was blue, there was no rain and it was difficult to believe I had just driven through some lousy weather. At 4100 feet, I was now at the top of the mountain range, and at eye level with the communication towers !!  It also meant I had an 8 mile drop with a 6% grade, and lots of corners to contend with. And best of all, the high gusty winds talked about on San Diego’s local morning weather were now pushing at my vehicle. But it really only takes a matter of minutes to descend down to 1000 feet to the desert floor – and then it is flat flat flat !!

I always know when I am approaching Yuma Arizona, because the sand dunes are so distinctive. Seeing them always makes the Walter Mitty side of my brain go into gear, and I expect an Arabian sheik on a white charger to appear at the top of one of the dunes. He has come to whisk me away to his tent for an afternoon of Scrabble and a pitcher of Arnold Palmers. (Hey !!  my imagination can go any direction it wants to !!)

From Yuma, I headed north to Quartzite, a small town that had the aforementioned camel corps travel through in the 1850’s. It was also where one of the noted camel jockeys brought over from the middle East spent his life after the camel experiment. Hi-Jolly (an Anglocized version of his real name) is commemorated withn a stone cairn and the local cemetery named after him. I took a few photos for possible use with my presentation in May.

Kept on trucking to Mesa, and got there at suppertime. Tomorrow, Tuesday, I have to summarize the winter palace and load the vehicle with all remaining boxes. Then it’s time to head further East and home. I’m thinking I want to go back along Route 66, and try to see some of the sights I missed on my trip west in the fall.

I’ll let you know !!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 

Tony Bennett was right – I think I left my heart in San Francisco (I do have an ex who would say I have no heart, but that is just one man’s opinion)(and another story for another day) !!  I loved the house boat community (like tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle) and the lama who gave me a good medallion (for a small donation) and the cupids bow and arrow sculpture near the Piers (reminded me of some of the crazy art on Rte 66) and especially the locals for their patience with visiting drivers.

Last night (Mon) my driving mode kicked in, and I got to Bakersfield. I was trying to think what I know about it, when I saw Buck Owens Drive, and  remembered he was the inventor of the “Bakersfield sound”. Around Bakersfield, Gert ( the intrepid GPS) took me past acres and acres of trees that I suspect might have been almond groves.  Did you know they smell almost as bad as pig manure, but not quite?  Ugh !! So glad I could have that experience as I kept driving to Fort Tejon.

Fort Tejon is associated with my camel project – although the camels may have also been held across the highway at the Tejon Ranch – which was originally owned by Edward Beale in 1843 and which is still in operation today !! The fort itself does not exist anymore, and the name refers to the site, which is run as day use only. That means there are no Park Service folks around to answer any questions, and a fee of $3.00 is paid on the honour system. There was a small display room (open) and a wonderful variety of brochures to take.

Onward to Los Angeles where I hoped to see a museum exhibit celebrating the 100th birthday of Loretta Young (were she still alive). I even had a coupon for $5.00 off the admission price they emailed to me !!  Found a public parking spot right across the street, and figured I had hit the jackpot. Parking in any downtown area is always tricky – but LA is crazy !!

Unfortunately the museum wasn’t open on a Tuesday (how did I miss that detail?) so I asked the parking lot guy if he would refund my fee – and he did !!  What a sweetie !!  As well, just down the block I had passed a sign saying Special Event. The parking lot guy said there was going to be a movie premiere later that day for a movie about a baseball player. Since there was also a mini Brooklyn Dodger stadium being built right there, it had to be about the Jackie Robinson film coming out. Of course, I didn’t think about it until I was on my way elsewhere, but Harrison Ford is in that film, and I missed my chance to truly embarrass myself and scream I love him !!

For the next couple of hours I went chasing FLWright buildings – and managed to check off quite a few on my bucket list. There are only a couple left in the area, and they will have to wait for another time. Part of my travels took me through Beverley Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, and Malibu (beach community to the stars). Have to say I wasn’t all that impressed. From the highway side, it would be instant death trying to get in or out of their garages, ( the lot lines and highway pavement meet up a little too close to be reasonable)  and the backs of the houses looked really trashy !!   I guess several million dollars really doesn’t buy much these days !!

Next goal was the Queen Mary at Long Beach – really impressive, even though I have travelled on the Queen Mary 2.  The Queen Mary was used during WW2 as a troop ship taking soldiers over to England, and at the end of the war bringing the soldiers and many war brides back to Canada and the United States. But as an ocean liner, it was easy to see she was a beauty !!  On board, I met two of the most engaging old guys ever !!  They are volunteers with the local ham radio club, and volunteer at the ship to explain communications back in the day. We had a lot of fun swapping lies !! Due to changes that have been made over the years to make the Queen Mary a viable money maker, it was tricky to get from one deck to the next sometimes, but overall the spaces were so beautiful and on a sun-shiny day in California, who cares !! The ship closes at 6pm to casual tourists like me, and it was actually later before I felt I had to take my leave – but not before getting a couple more photos.

Found some wifi, so I could send my cousin an email and alert her to my eventual arrival – and that is where I am now !!
I’ll be here a couple of days, so emails will resume then. As I’ve said, I am in transit to home – but the route is circuitous !!!!!
Thanks for travelling with me – I am a better person for your presence.

Monday, April 8, 2013 

I ‘m currently on my way south.

When I got down to the Piers this morning, all I could see were wall to wall tee shirt shops – not my idea of a good time – but I found street parking, and paid for a couple of hours.
I truly believed that is all it would take for me to see what I wanted to and carry on !!

I found the Boudoin bakery – and bought a sourdough turtle. What wonderful bread. According to one of their bakers, there is something special in the San Francisco air that helps the yeast to rise and the whole mixture to make up the way it does !!  I did a bit of wandering around as I was trying to determine where I would catch the cable car. No luck – so instead I bought a ticket on one of the city tour buses, and sat up top. San Francisco has the most amazing architecture (I think I’ve mentioned that before) and all sorts of “Hollywood” connections. When we got to the famous crooked street block on Lombard, I must have looked in the wrong direction, because I didn’t see anything that resembled the postcards !   One of the bus stops was at a museum in Golden Gate park that currently has an exhibit of old Dutch masters. That happens to be one of my favourite group of painters, but I didn’t want to break up the flow of the overall tour, so stayed on the bus. We went through the Haight-Ashbury section where sex and drugs and rock and roll were born !!  It was amazing to see the psychedelic store fronts still going strong !!
When the bus got back to the Pier 39 area, I hopped off so I could feed the sea lions. They weren’t in an eating mood, and just like the ones I saw on the beach a couple of days ago, were laying around sleeping. There were some in the water, and some making that ever delightful snorting sound – but no one particularly active.

I have to admit I picked up another small baguette of the sourdough bread. It is sooo good on its own !!  One of the local specialties is having clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, but I never got that far.

When I left my vehicle this morning, I snapped a shot of the street signs where I parked – cause by the end of the afternoon, I had no idea where I left it !!  Not even a senior moment – the day was full of sights and sounds and smells !!

I never did figure out where to catch the cable car, but it doesn’t matter.  When I left my parking spot, I headed back over to Lombard Street to look for its crookedness again, and managed to get on the street the cable cars go up and down – just like in all the movies !!  So while I was driving up the hills – yes, more than one on the same street – a couple of the cable cars were coming down the street. That was a neat moment !!

Gert, my GPS, was set to take me south, but because of all the one way streets, we seemed to go around in circles before I was once again on the Bay Bridge. I like that bridge.

I have had to knock a couple of plans off my list for now. Once again I am getting messages from home, with pleas for me to return !!   It’s nice to be missed !!

At the same time, it means building up a trip for next year !!
Right now,  I am on an inland route, and taking the interstate back down towards Fresno.

Tomorrow is Ben & Jerrys free cone day, and I hope I land near one of their shops.
Wish me luck !!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

For you still sitting in snow – the farmers roadside stands are selling strawberries, artichokes and avocados (7 for $1.)

And this morning I noticed a new blister on my left middle finger – the one that was holding too tightly to the steering wheel yesterday !!!

And I slept in a bit – so I got a late start on my sight seeing – and I’ve got a huge long list of things I want to accomplish !!

Gert, my intrepid GPS, has been given all the addresses of my priorities. So I got on the highway and started ticking things off the bucket list !!  First was an FLWright building in downtown San Francisco. That was quite the adventure. All the streets are one-way, and someone had decided to put half of them under construction ! Apparently they didn’t get the memo that I was coming into town for the first time ever !!!   Really? These folks can do road work year round, and they have to do it now ??

I landed in Union Square, which was all designer shops, but it got its name because it was used to hold rallies for the Union Army during the American Civil War. The buildings in the area are a wonderful mixture of seriously old and seriously new, so I am going to try to get back there just to walk around. However, the art gallery I had hoped to visit was closed so myself and two other Wright enthusiasts only got to gape at the exterior !!

On to the next stop in Berkeley – which meant going across the Oakland Bay bridge, 5 lanes of speeding Californians going just over 7 km from San Francisco to Oakland and Berkeley. Gert got me to a store I needed to make a personal visit to, and another FLW house. I found out I was in the hippie section of town, but I kind of figured that out when the smoke shop window contained an extensive display of bongs !! And there were all sorts of street people ambling along, mixed in with university students. Looked like it could be a fun place. As well, tracking down the FLW house let me wander through some neighbourhoods the average tourist would never see !!

The next FLW house was actually east of Berkeley in a community I couldn’t find on any of my maps, and I got a bonus in the form of the Europa Deli…custom made sandwiches to die for. I ordered cut off the roast rare roast beef on sourdough (another San Franciscan speciality) with horseradish that was so good and so bad all at the same time. Turned out it was out of some nameless commercial jar, but it was phenominal. I really wanted to bring some home with me !!

I came back to San Fran, to find the visitors center for the Golden Gate Bridge – but instead I ended up finding a couple of streets with painted ladies – not “the painted ladies of postcard fame” but the real deal all the same. And I found the Golden Gate Park, which had a real carousel, so I had to stop.  Turned out it was made by Spillman in North Tonawanda New York (part of Buffalo)(I’ve been to the factory/museum before)  and it had 4 rows of animals, which is rare. So I had to take as many photos as possible. And then on to the Golden Gate Bridge, very pretty, but I think I prefer the Bay Bridge. ( I never did find the visitors center) Anyway, the Golden Gate connects folks to northern California, and I carried north to Marin County and 3 more FLW buildings. The Marin County Civic Center reminded me of Gammage Auditorium in Tempe – lots of circles, and it also had a spire that looked like the Romeo and Juliet tower in Spring Green Wisconsin.

Today when I was roaming all over, I realized I was seeing a lot of wooden homes – clapboard, but also a lot of board and batten, and a lot of cedar shakes. The kind of houses one would equate with a small fishing port or seaside village, instead of being in the middle of a huge city. And wisteria, which can be a tree or vine, was in vine (and fine) form draping over neighbours fences. I like to think of wisteria as lilacs on steroids – gorgeous large purple clumps of blooms !!

I also saw Candlestick Park, and a cable car ( plan on riding one tomorrow) and Alcatraz Island Prison, and bikers with calves of steel actually pedalling uphill, and a cruise ship coming into dock, and a British Airways plane landing at San Fran International Airport, and Canada geese that looked like they had no intentions of leaving !!  Can’t say I blame them, this is quite the city !

Tomorrow I expect to complete my stay in the city, and be back on the road headed south.

Saturday April 6, 2013

Wow….has this been a long day !!  After I awoke in San Simeon this morning and ate an indifferent breakfast, I was all ready to tour Hearst Castle. Well I thought I was !!  The folks, who read these emails, and you know who you are, who raved about Hearst Castle – “You have to see it”!!  They were right – but you forgot to mention it is 5 miles up a mountainside !!  As I turn on to the access road to the visitor center, I spot the turrets in the air – and had a huge OMG moment. Wiliam Randolph Hearst was truly larger than life, and the estate reflects that. Pictures of the place are always great, but to see it all in person was better !!  And the morning was gone – and here I was hoping to be in San Francisco before sunset !!

Anyway, CA 1 (California Highway 1, aka Pacific coast hwy) is only 2 lanes wide. With the green hills on one side and the mesmerizing ocean waves on the other, I was reminded of scenes in New Zealand and Ireland – the only thing missing were herds of sheep !! The road does a lot of winding and I thought I saw giant dead fish on the shore, but then I saw the sign telling me a viewing area for sea lions was ahead. Couldn’t pull in there fast enough !!  Sure enough I had seen sea lions sleeping on the beach. Apparently this is their season for molting, and they do a lot of resting and flicking sand over themselves. What a life !! Oh yeah, they also make ugly snorting noises.

So now I’m happy – I’ve seen sea lions, the road lets me see the ocean easily – and then suddenly the landscape changed – the road was still only 2 lanes wide, with no shoulders, but now it was going up and down the sides of mountains with LOTS of switchbacks !!  And because you had to drive slowly – a couple of times the road went down to one lane, and then there was the rock slide and no radio reception – the trip actually got to be really mind numbing. I was so relieved when I arrived in Carmel. Someone told me it was a small town with lots of cute houses, and I found it also had a house built by Frank Lloyd Wright, so I headed there. And thats when I also found the cutest collection of houses  – lots of interesting architectural details, clever landscaping, Mercedes and Porsches in the driveways !!

My original plan was to see Pebble Beach golf course, John Steinbeck’s old neighbourhood in Salinas, and carry on up the coastal highway to San Francisco – but I tossed all that out and went inland to Stanford (nice looking university grounds) and checked out a couple more Wright houses. For me its not just about what he built but where he built.

And then the sun set, I’m tired and ready to get off the road !!  And my hotel is still 25 miles south of San Francisco !!  I almost wish I was sitting in the arm chair next to you.  That’s the tired me talking…but at the same time I can hardly wait to see the Golden Gate Bridge tomorrow !!  and only 2 more days to Ben & Jerrys free cone day. Two years ago I was in Ohio, last year Pennsylvania, and this year Cali ……….woo hoo !!

CA 1 is behind me – in more ways than one – new bumper sticker  – LOL

Friday, April 5, 2013

I LOVE CALIFORNIA !!!  Probably didn’t get as far today as I thought I would – but I have landed in the small town of San Simeon, in preparation for visiting the Hearst Castle tomorrow.   I have a bragging moment – this morning when I left the hotel to go back to the Santa Monica Pier, I set the GPS but after a few blocks realized I could manage without it !!

Los Angeles is really a city of highways and interstates – so to be able to manage them on my own was great. At the Pier, I needed to take a photo of the sign indicating Mile 0 for Rte 66. Then I headed north. I really wanted to drive right along the coast, but the Pacific Coast Hwy is not consistent – so I was on HIghway 101, and it was actually a better choice. There were times I got a better view of the ocean, and there were times I got to be imprressed with the other scenery. California seems to be all about mountains – sometimes they rise straight up from the shoreline, and sometimes they sit back a few miles to give the highway room to run near the water.

At Santa Barbara, I spotted a sign for an old mission – and then I remembered that back in California’s early days, Franciscan monks built a series of 21 missions to assist in converting the natives to Christianity (thats the really short version) .  Anyway, the mission I saw was originally built back in the 1700s, ruined a couple of times by earthquakes and rebuilt. I was impressed – and then I spotted the best part – Friar Foto Op – a full-size figure of a monk with a place for folks to put their head !!  Too funny !!

Once I drove further north, the hills became filled with market crops, horses and cattle grazing, and then miles and miles of grapevines !!  And I thought the wine country didn’t start until the Napa Valley. The hilltops looked like scoops of ice cream set side by side – lovely !! My personal goal was to reach Guiseppe’s Cucina Italiana in Pismo Beach.

Two years ago, one of my tango partners raved about the butternut squash ravioli – and I promised him I would. there have been times in my life when I have declared something to be better than sex – but I’m telling you, the meal I had at this restaurant was soooo much better than sex !!! It began with homemade sourdough bread and a dipping mixture of grated parmesan cheese, finely diced garlic with balsamic vinegar added in to moisten and make a paste. And a glass of local Chardonnay. And the butternut squash ravioli – pasta rolled paper thin and filled with purreed butternut squash, not swimming in a cream sauce but definitely foing the dog paddle !!! Instead of a sweet dessert, I had a small Caesar salad – unlike any other – the Romaine leaves lightly tossed with dressing but left whole and placed in a straight line across the plate, with 3 big sourdough bread toasted croutons on the side. Happy Happy Happy !!!

My waiter gave me directions to Orchard Supply – a California hardware store – one of my carlashes needed some double faced tape. They had all kinds of Mike Holmes books (Canadian) and a selection of patio furniture that made me want to sit outside (I don’t do sun). And then , the sun was setting, and I had to yet find a hotel – so settled in at Starbucks to do the google thing. Another day gone by way too quickly – and I’m still not in San Francisco !! Oh well – tomorrow maybe ??

Thursday, April 4, 2013

First of all, I am alive and well in Los Angeles. Probably should have stopped several hours ago, but once one gets into the LA area, it’s tough not to carry on !!

I would rather talk about the journey !!  Last night when I stopped in Kingman AZ, and fired up the laptop, my internet connection would not connect – so after taking “corrective actions” that just weren’t working, I shut down and went out looking for some apple pie and coffee. It seemed to me, that in a Rte 66 town, there must be a local diner or restaurant with homemade pie. So I found this place called Calico’s, and they brought me a great piece of apple pie, warm and better than (my) mom used to make – so I was really surprised to find out the pie was commercially made, although the restaurant bakes it !!  And when I got back to the laptop, it decided to work.

This morning, I went back to Calico’s for breakfast, and while I was waiting for some perfectly poached eggs to appear, I caught sight of a hawk out the window. I got to see him catch an updraft of air and begin to circle and circle and circle without any flapping of his wings. Really cool – but I turned my head for only a second, and he was gone.

After breakfast I headed into the Mojave Museum – the door attendant was pleased to learn I was Canadian because some folks from France and Germany had already arrived. There wasn’t as much on display about the camel corps as I had hoped for, but the Andy Devine display was neat. Most impressive of all was his parade saddle he used in the Rose Bowl Parade for a number of years.  I had a lovely chat in French with the tourist from Provence. And another lovely chat with the librarian – the museum has an excellent research library and an online presence, so I didn’t need to stay.

As I carried on westward, I was able to travel on pieces of I-40 and historical Rte 66 – and what I realized was that no matter which road I chose, they both crossed the Mojave Desert – a barren rocky boring landscape. But in Needles California, I stopped at a National Park Service center to ask about the desert plants blooming. Probably spent too much time talking in there, but came out with a map, and a plan for a detour of sorts. I headed into the Mojave Desert to photograph the Joshua tree in bloom.

And then I had an encounter of the insect kind !!!  I was driving along a 2 lane road, with no shoulders, and felt a tickle on my hand. Sitting on my finger was a beige with brown spots and lots of legs thing !!  I very calmly flicked it off – but now all I could think of is that this thing was in the vehicle and might come crawling back. I couldn’t pull over, so I aimed the air conditioning to the floor, and hoped this would hold the bug in one place. Must have worked – a few miles down the road when I could pull over and opened up the passenger door – there it was – waiting for me to shove it outside !!

Got the photos I wanted, got back on the highway, and when I eventually came out the other side of the desert, stopped for a nap, before carrying on to a AAA recommended dinner destination !!  Peggy Sue’s Diner has an entrance that looks like a juke box, and the interior is filled with all things early rock and roll. Unfortunately the food was less than average.

At this point I was so close to LA, I just kept moving along.

Tomorrow, I have to go to the pier to get my Mile Zero sticker  – and then I’ll be heading north up the Pacific Coast Highway towards San Francisco. I want to stop at the Hearst Castle and an Italian restaurant in Pismo Beach, so we’ll see if it happens. Both places have come highly recommended by friends !!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Noonish and the vehicle and I were both fueled  – gas for the van and a large coffee for me !!   Quick review, as there are a few new readers – I’m traveling and checking off items that have sat too long on my bucket list. These emails began as a safety measure because I travel on my own. I have a great love of life, and a sense of curiosity and adventure that never seems to quit !!  I take great delight in learning something new everyday and making new friends.

Now back to I-17 headed north to Flagstaff Arizona. It’s a beautiful sunshiney day, and I am getting to see what I drove through in the dark last November. An absolutely jaw-dropping scene!!

The desert blooming is something I am never here to see – and there has been more? rain this year, so the ground has a green cover to it, and there are flowers that look like a higher power took orange and yellow bingo daubers to add colour !!  The tops of the saguaro cacti are getting whiter which means their bloom time is nearer.

After 3 hours of climbing in the mountains, I am at 7000 feet elevation in Flagstaff, and can see the snow-capped San Francisco Mountains ahead of me. There are lots of pine trees and signs warning to watch for elk crossing the highway.   Turned west on I-40 to Williams.  It has the distinction of being the last town to have its section of Rte 66 bypassed by the interstate.

Anyway there was a quilt shop there I hoped to visit, that was closed last fall when I went through town – and this time the shop was in the process of moving to a new location so still not open for me to check out. That was a good reason to carry on. Arizona has the longest stretch of old Rte 66, and the original highway is now the business loop through the small towns, so I followed the loop through Ash Fork to its single historical marker. The town itself barely exists anymore but I really hit paydirt with the marker.

I am researching the U.S. Camel Corps for something I’m writing for my Civil War group. The marker at Ash Fork pointed out they are on the 35th Parallel, which was surveyed for its feasability as a route for settlers. The survey, done back in the 1850’s, involved using camels as well as the traditional horses and pack mules. It was a test to see how well the camels managed in that part of the States. ( they passed with flying colours!)

At Seligman, I was met with the ultimate kitschy Rte 66 souvenir shops, their exteriors covered with old licence plates, gas station signs, highway signs, neon lighting, cigar store Indian statues, – and a Roadkill Cafe, the culinary delights yet to be seen on the Food Network !! When I pulled into Kingman, I decided to stop – and tomorrow I want to visit their museum and Rte 66 info centre. It’s a hoot to exit on Andy Devine Boulevard. He was a TV star back in the early days of TV, and it seems to me he was usually the cowboy’s wacky sidekick. Anyone remember that?

Thanks for being with me.


First, we left off at Tuesday November 06, 2012 –

The drive from Williams to Mesa AZ took place in the dark, and I am guessing through some pretty impressive mountains. I got this from the fact I did a lot of hair pin turns with 8% road warnings for semis. Unfortunately I would have missed seeing the red rock mtns in the area. They are awesome, especially in the Sedona area, where there are natural vortexes that make for some supernatural occurrences.   Once back in Mesa, I returned to my Argentine tango classes. Last year at this time, I was a beginner, but this year I am way improved !!  Yeaaaa  !!!

So, I ‘ve mentioned before how I must have been raised in a closet, hence my surprise and amazement at some of the things I come across in my travels !! For example – Yesterday I was at a gas station in Scottsdale, and behind me pulled in a new Maserati. WOW!!  It was really hard not to stare – the car was gorgeous !! I’ve only ever gotten to see them in a museum or Robb Report magazine !!  And it wasn’t even an old couple with the car, but a good looking middle aged couple !!

A couple of days ago, I was at Joann Fabrics standing in line beihind a couple of little old ladies. The granny ahead of me put her bank card and an ID card on the counter, and I asked her if that was her ID for getting into bars. I don’t think she got it, but then she pulled another card out of her wallet, saying it was the one she was most proud of – her Concealed Weapons Permit. I wanted to ask her if she actually knew how to handle a gun, but at that point I felt it more appropriate to just drop the subject !!

January in the Phoenix Metro area is so exciting. That’s when the majority of snowbirds, American & Canadian appear. They have stayed north to be with family for Christmas and now it’s time to get warmer !! The Barrett-Jackson auto auction takes place. For the week prior to the auction, folks can tour the cars displayed museum-like, and outside food vendors just like you would see at your local fair are waiting to help you re-energize !!

I love tracking down the places locals go, and so far I have found Last Chance, the only store of its kind in the entire US, owned by Nordstroms, a dumping ground for all things that haven’t sold in any of their regular or discount stores, and if you’re diligent you might be rewarded with a real find, such as red satin heels initially priced at $485.00 for $15.00.

Then there is Rosa’s Mexican Grill, authentic Mexican food without  flying all the way down to Acapulco !!

And the Red Mtn Park, your basic city park, but filled with local animals like quail, ground squirrels, jackrabbits, venomous snakes, and Canadian geese and ducks that have stopped by for the winter !! And I have had the rare joy of attending the church services of Mesa’s oldest Black Baptist congregation.  The state of Arizona turned 100 years old only last year, and this congregation is celebrating its 95th year. I know nothing about Baptists of any colour – but I enjoyed the way they celebrated their members and community.

Many of my other waking hours down here in Arizona have been spent making quilt tops for charity. And packing up to return to Canada, and resume my life there. And preparing for the remainder of my travels into California…………

April 03, 2013…

So, finally , today Wednesday April 03, 2013 – I am back on the road…heading north to Flagstaff Arizona to get back on Rte 66 and west to Los Angeles and Santa Monica.  the weather here has turned warm and wonderful !!  Wish me luck and great gas mileage !!

Beryl Staves the Bucket List Traveller /aka Susan