Day 11: Thursday to Memphis

The day started with a side trip around Van Bruen and Fort Smith, towns off the interstate 40 in Arkansas. Both were old western frontier towns in their day. Van Bruen’s main street looked like something out of a movie.

We thought Fort Smith had heard we were arriving….

…but then we realised it wasn’t directed at us.

We then spent the next few hours hours off the I40, running parallel to it on minor roads. This gave us a great opportunity to see some smaller towns and to see how the locals live. Arkansas is beautiful. We still had the last of the fall colours, with lots of lakes and rivers, kayaking and bushwalking. Not what I was expecting in this area. I think I was expecting flat farmland. Some of the towns felt like we were driving through a John Grisham novel.

Next stop was Memphis. We arrived mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day exploring around Beale St. Dinner was ribs at the ‘BB King Blues Club’, complete with live band. It’s hard to believe this is the exact location where so much music history was made.

 

 

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Day 10: Wednesday across to Arkansas

We thought today would be the boring day where the main aim would to be to head east as far as possible. Turned out to be anything but boring.

An hour east of McLean, Texan we stopped in Elk City, Oklahoma. A coffee shop was recommended by a lady at the National Route 66 Museum, so we headed there before returning to the museum. We’re starting to learn. Don’t ask for a coffee. You’ll get a disgusting brew too strong filter coffee. What you need is a specialty coffee shop. They’re fancy because they serve lattes and cappuccinos. And the staff generally don’t understand why you don’t want a flavoured syrup added to the coffee.

 

This specialty coffee shop, ‘Beyond the Palette’, was superb. The staff, and then the other customers, were fascinated by us. Everyone was so friendly. We’re now into the land of fantastic accents. We loved theirs, so they probably found ours equally interesting. The owner of the cafe had been to Santa Fe once and seen the ocean twice! She was in the 50s. No wonder she found us interesting. After a ‘medium’ coffee that was far too big to drink we headed back to the Route 66 museum. Every town has a Route 66 museum, but Trip Advisor said this was the best. It was. 16 buildings filled with everything from cars and bikes to spanners and barbed wire! There was also a short documentary about the history of the route.

Next stop was Braums, an ice cream and burger chain, for lunch (this is the first burger I’ve had!), before hitting the road to get some miles behind us. Across Oklahoma was flat with not a lot to see. The original plan was to stop in Oklahoma City, but we’re learning that smaller towns are easier and much more interesting. So here we are in Fort Smith, just over the Arkansas border. Starting to lose track of states now. 9th state now. Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas added since the last time I did a stocktake.

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Day 9: Tuesday around Santa Fe and onwards

The day began with a flurry of snow as we opened the door to go to breakfast. The hotel, “The Inn of the Governor” was right in central Santa Fe, one of the oldest cities in USA, settled by the Spanish in 1610.

The morning was taken up with a walk around the old city, including visits to the oldest house in America and the oldest church.

By midday we were heading south to rejoin Interstate 40 and Route 66 heading east. We hit Route 66 at Tucumcari, which we expected to be a bit of a tourist trap town. No. Just a sad town dying of neglect. Not a single diner to be found, just some sad restaurants and lots of old abandoned motels.

Continuing on we hit Texas. A few ranches, cotton farms and massive wind farms. Thousands of wind generators. As it got dark, the windmills each had a single flashing red light on it, but they all flashed in unison. All around us, thousands of red lights slowly flashing in unison.

Our destination for the night was a small town in northern Texas, McLean, on Route 66. ‘The Cactus Inn’ remains from the glory days of the Route (quite possibly with no maintenance since the 50s), with the Red River Steakhouse right next door. The steakhouse was everything you could wish for in a Texas experience. The food, the accents, the restaurant itself.

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Day 8: Monday to Santa Fe

Time to move on, but not before a few photos from in bed!

Then it was time to hit the road. ‘They’ say you should never look back, but we did – for this. This photo is an almost exact replica of the photo I’ve had as my computer background for months. Quite surreal to finally see it for myself.

As we heading toward Santa Fe we passed Four Corners, the location where 4 states meet,

then continuing on to Santa Fe. The landscape we came through today was a geologists dream. You could spand a lifetime working out what was going on with the conplex landforms. Late in the day, as we travelled just north of Albuquerque, it felt like we were driving through the opening scene of Breaking Bad. We probably were.

Arriving around sunset we had a quick look around town,

then dinner at Casa Chimayo, a local New Mexican restaurant. Fantastic!

Finally some decent wifi, I can catch up.

6 states so far… California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colarado (briefly – just cut the corner) and New Mexico.

Little Things We’ve noticed – Part 4 (I think)

  • All through New Mexico there were lots of utes, sorry, pick-ups loaded with firewood selling it by the side of the road. And not a tree to be seen anywhere.
  • Lots and lots of pawn shops in New Mexico towns.

 

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Day 7: Sunday in Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

An early start so we could be out and about to see the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. I’ll let the photos go the talking.

Then it was off to Monument Valley in Utah, our 4th state so far. Again, words simply won’t do it.

View from our bed.


Little Things We’ve Noticed – Part 3
• I think the water shortage in the desert here could be solved if they didn’t use 10 litres plus of water in the toilet. Seriously, what’s that about? Don’t worry, there won’t be photos.

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Day 6: Saturday towards the Grand Canyon

After a late night we were off to a lethargic start. After recovering the car from the valet (yes, posh, but isn’t that what they do in the movies) we headed south to an factory outlet shopping centre going to grab a bargain. No, similar prices to what we can get in Aus if you shop smart. We then headed out of Vegas to the Hoover dam. Pretty impressive. Lucky we got in before the traffic jam we saw as we were leaving. Cars were banked back for over a mile waiting to get in.

I need a wider angle lens!

Next stop was Seligman, a tiny town on Route 66 where we had lunch at ‘The Road Kill Cafe’.

Continuing on, we arrived at the Grand Canyon after dark, so we’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see it.

The weather has continued to be quite warm and sunny, although it’s getting cold out tonight.

Little things we’ve noticed – Part 2:

  • These people don’t drink much milk. It’s quite hard to find in the convenience stores. And orange juice. Plenty of soft drink and alcohol, but nothing more healthy.
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Day 5: Friday (and Carol’s Birthday) in Vegas

Last night we bought some cereal-in-a-cup from a nearby drugstore for breakfast in the room this morning. Why is everything so sweetened here? Then it was time to explore our hotel/casino a little. Although the temperature today was forecast in the high 70s/low 80s (thats high 20s in real language) the pool was closed for the season. Looked good too, but no time to linger. Things to see.

We then caught the Deuce bus up the strip to just beyond where we walked yesterday to explore the northern end of ‘The Strip’. First stop was The Venetian. Amazing. The street scene was reminiscent of the Japanese village we found in Osaka years ago. It’s hard to believe you’re indoors.

Next stop was to The Mirage to grab some tickets for a show tonight. While we were there we found out about a technical tour of the show that was about to happen, so we stayed close by having a coffee in Italy until the tour began. The tour showed and described the lighting, sound and staging for the show. This is going to be good!

Next stop was to continue north by bus to ‘Downtown’. Can someone explain to me why ‘downtown’ is north. Shouldn’t that be uptown? Anyway, we arrived in Freemont Street, the old, orginal part of Vegas after a considerable journey. I wasn’t expecting it to be as far, and I wasn’t expecting it to be a few miles of nothing much between the strip and downtown. (I just noticed I’m already talking in miles without even thinking about it!)

Freemont Street was amazing. It must be compulsory for every weirdo in the USA to come here to do an apprenticeship at some point in their life. Much of the strangeness wasn’t photographed because … well, just because. Carol was keen to see how it had changed in the 38 years since she was last here. She thought it was a bit sad. He did, however, have lunch in The Golden Nugget’ for old times sake.

Time to head back to the Strip for a relax and a drink before the show. A not so quiet drink in the Mirage, a quick bite at Denny’s and then the show.

‘The Beatles – LOVE’ by Cirque du Soleil. Words can not describe this. To understate it, it was acrobatics to Beatles music. At any one time you simple didn’t know where to look. You could see the show a dozen times and still be noticing things you hadn’t seen before. Amazing!

Finally, it was time to head back and get some sleep before moving on tomorrow.

Toy shop, USA style!

 

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Day 4: Thanksgiving Thursday in Vegas

Another early start with a long drive from Oakhurst to Las Vegas. Carol had her first experience driving through the Mojave Desert. Brilliant scenery including the largest wind farm I’ve seen and a huge solar farm.

We arrived to a chaotic Vegas just after sunset, with along half the population of California. Aren’t these Americans meant to spend Thanksgiving eating turkey and pumpkin pie with their family? After checking in to the Excalibur we set out on foot to explore some of the strip.

Dinner was the largest pizza ever at the Bellagio. I think its tomorrow so I’m going to bed.

 

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Day 3: Wednesday in Yosemite

We picked up the hire car, a Nissan Rogue (if you said Nissan you’d be wrong – its a Nee-sarn) and headed for Yosemite Valley. The first few minutes/hours in the car were somewhat unsettling, with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the vehicle. We cleared SF quickly, crossed the Bay Bridge (Wow!) and hit the freeway. A few hours later we arrived in Yosemite Valley. It took a while to get our bearings, but once we did the cameras were working overtime.

 

Around sunset it was time to head off the mountain to our accomodation in Oakhurst. Or was that Oakdale. Oh shit. That’s a story you’ll only here in person, but suffice to say, Oakdale and Oakhurst aren’t exactly neighbouring towns.

The weather in Yosemite was amazing. We were unsure if it was too late in the year to get there, but even the locals were commenting on how good it was for late November. Water was still flowing from the waterfalls and the ‘fall’ colours were still in full display. Just stunning.

Little Things We’ve Noticed – Part 1

  • Headlights. They keep their headlights on high beam at all times. Coming toward you, behind you, always.
  • Speed limits seem to be a suggestion rather than something that you actually follow.
  • Why does the Golden Gate Bridge get all the glory? The Bay Bridge is spectacular.

Gotta go now, got to get the turkey in the oven. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

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Day 2: Tuesday around San Fran

Plan A: Get up early, grab tickets for Alcatraz, Open Top bus around the sights, cable car to somewhere. Fail. Alcatraz is sold out for the next week. We knew the night tour booked out early, but….

Plan B: Talk to the tour desk at the hotel. OK. Cable car up the hill to Union Square in downtown (which is up a hill, so shouldn’t that be uptown?) After a look around we decide to walk back to Fisherman’s Wharf via the local growers market to catch a ferry ride around the bay. So far, so good. What time is that ferry? 12:00. What’s the time now? 12:30. Damn.

Plan C: We’ll get the 3.45 ferry. Lets walk up Lombard St. to fill an hour or so. Fantastic! Great architecture, interesting streets, lots to see. Let’s continue on to Mrs Doubtfire’s house. How far is it Lach? Up two blocks and along 11. Umm. OK. Lets go. Again, brilliant homes, lots of great views and generally a nice walk, albeit a bit hilly. What’s the time now. 3:15. Oops. That’s a long way back to get the ferry. Maybe we can make it? No.

Plan D: Here’s another ferry company with a 4:30 trip. Under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz. Fantastic!

22600 steps later we sit down for a well earned drink, a dinner of crepes, followed by sundaes at Ghirardelli. Back to the hotel to prepare for the start of the road trip tomorrow.

 

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