Traveling can suck. Seeing things is great, hiking is great, coming face to face with buffalo, endless sights to see…all great. But traveling, the actual physical act of going from location to location is tiring, mind-deadening, spine-jarring and a complete pain in the ass (literally). Now I know that those of you reading this are probably rolling your eyes. You have no doubt just worked a 40-60 hour week at some mind-numbing, soul-sucking job and you are a bit flabbergasted that I have the gall to bitch and moan about getting to travel around the country and see some of the most amazing sights the land has to offer. “Shut up”, you are probably thinking, “you should try my week!”. Meh. Whatever, the point still is: Traveling can suck. We’ve been at it for two solid weeks now, and I am beginning to be a bit tired. The endless schlepping of bags and bits, arranging, re-arranging the car as we add to the stash of goodies we’ve collected, the endless variety of hotel beds, though very comfortable, never quite as good as your own, the endlessly changing din of the hotel air conditioners and individual noises, which if you are fortunate enough to stay for two, nights, you become sufficiently accustomed to sleep through without waking on the second night, only to have to adjust yourself to a whole new cacophony on the next night …We just finished day two at Yellowstone, we’ve seen lots of gorgeous scenery, and I should probably upload photos to please my mother but I am tired. So I’m not going to do that. I am just going to lie here in bed, and whine a little.
Apparently proving I slept through geography class, I had a complete misconception about what I could expect to see in Utah. I had imagined dusty plains and flat lands. Pretty much everything we’ve driven through so far has been mountainous, hilly, rocky, sometimes dusty yes, some green and snow capped, but huge towering mountains nonetheless. Bryce Canyon, even though I was shivering so badly I could hardly see, is definitely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We decided to take scenic route 12 out to Salt Lake City, a winding road that is regularly in the lists of top scenic drives in the US. It was an amazingly beautiful drive with cliffs of every color, from dingy grey to deep reddish orange.
We spent today wandering around downtown Salt Lake City. Now I have to give credit where credit is due: the cultists that run this town put their glassy eyed slave labor to good use, creating around their seat of power some of the most spectacular garden I have ever seen. I don’t know what the mormon’s tithing system is, but they must rake it in, because their flower budget has to run in the thousands. It was beautiful though and smelled heavenly. They had jasmine and tulips and hosts of flowers I could not even begin to name, but if you ever have a hankering to visit Utah, time your visit to arrive in Salt Lake in mid-May. You will not be disappointed. It is a shame however that the entire state is dominated by the religious fringe — I really feel like we are looking at what Clearwater will be in a few years if the Scientology freaks get their way.
Lupe gone Loopy. She is not pleased.
So I feel bad for MBH. Ever since I have known him, he has talked about going to Bryce Canyon and going hiking. Today was supposed to be the day. Except that Mother Nature decided now would be a good time to bring in a nice cold front and dump a load of snow down on Bryce. No hiking for us. For those who know, cold weather is not my friend. Elevation is also not my friend. Combine freezing temps at 10,000 feet and you have a recipe for my own private hell. After doing the drive tour of Bryce, which consisted of driving to a scenic point, jumping out, oohing and ahhing, and scurrying back to the car, we have decided that we are for sure coming back and doing it properly. Once I convince MBH that I need me that house in Arizona, we can take a few excursions each summer. We decided to wait til better times (warmer) to explore Bryce and changed plans and headed for Salt Lake City. There is a huge bookstore there we are interested in checking out, plus we plan to knock on random mormons’ doors and ask them if they’d like to hear the word of reason and convert to atheism. Big day ahead tomorrow. Til then, here are a whole slew of photos to catch you up on our sights, more to come tomorrow.
The first kitch stop, Texas. Where we picked up our mascot, Lupi too.
Santa Fe, Donkey statue. Don’t ask me.
So supposedly, in Santa Fe, back in the day, some nuns decided they were tired of using a ladder to clamber into the choir loft. So they prayed to Jeezus and after nine days a miraculous carpenter arrived who cobbled together a winding staircase to the top (the lighter portion of the wood). It was a miracle, as he apparently used no nails, and it’s a marvel of engineering. The nuns, who were apparently less impressed by the miracle of its craftsmanship than they were concerned for their own necks, had the darker rails added at a later date.
And on to Arizona….
“Take it easy…take it easy…don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you craaaaaazy.” So true…so true.
We arrive in Sedona, Arizona. It’s pretty.
Below are some views:
I’ll upload some Bryce photos later today or tomorrow.
Well we did not get to do the helicopter excursion today. The winds and weather made it untenable to fly in the canyon, so they called us this morning and canceled. Le bummer. So MBH decided we should drive an hour and a half to Bearizona, a drive through zoo, where you remain in your car and drive through the open animal pens. They advise you to keep your windows rolled up, which of course, only the fainthearted and the French would do. Bearizona was actually pretty cool for a number of reasons. Number one, I had no idea wolves were that big. When they can actually just walk up and look in your car window, yeah…wolves are big. And these wolves are the equivalent of teenagers. Not even fully growed up yet. Geesh. There were also assorted sheep (yawn) and white bison and of course, bears, lots of bears. Bears napping (which seems to be a preferred bear activity), bears getting romantic with each other, bears climbing trees, bears rolling around and bears just basically sitting in a stupor. And one poor unfortunate bear who seemed distressed with his life and situation and just rocked back and forth, desperately needing the bear form of prozac. Kind of sad, and a reminder that no matter how nice the habitat, a cage is still a cage.
We then went to the nearby town of Williams and got thai food, and then went to a diner that had about forty kinds of pies. We got two slices and I commenced attempting to convince MBH again, that we really needed to buy a vacation home in Arizona. Except for the crazy political morons and their batshit stupid governor, it’s quite a nice place. He continues to play hard to get.
After lunch, and once again, based on iphone and Yelp, he decided we absolutely had to go to the nearby deer farm, which in addition to deer has camels, donkeys, miniature horses, wallabies, reindeer and other assorted four legged creatues. Now the concept of farming deer is one that baffles me. Do they sell the deer for hunters stew? What precisely are they farming them for? Do the unwitting and hapless people who pay 12 bucks for a bucket of feed for the deer know that they are actually a cog in a machine that is designed to fatten the deers up for slaughter? Are all the sweet little Bambis destined for some backwoods yokel’s dinner? I purchased a bucket of feed and walked out to the pasture where I was confronted by hordes, dozens, possibly hundreds, of deer. “How cute, ” I naively thought and then reality slapped me in the face as I experienced the unpleasantness of being stampeded, accosted, bit and trampled by crazed deer all out to yank-with extreme force-the bucket from my hand and devour anything that might possibly contain a bit of grain (including my shirt and jacket) while smearing mud and deer snot on every exposed inch of skin. Standing there, attempting to keep my footing in the piles of dirt and deer crap, I decided I really don’t care what the ultimate fate of these little bastards might be. I completely understand why people shoot them now. Bambi eyes my ass; voracious ill-mannered locusts is what they are. MBH, who had apparently read about the realities of sending an unwitting human into the midst of the crazed Bambi horde had graciously insisted that I be the one to feed them and he’d take the photos. Then he stood by and laughed while I ran for my life from the evil-hooved onslaught. I am currently contemplating what a sufficient payback might be.
After we left the hordes of demons behind us, we headed back towards Sedona and spent a couple of hours in a small mountain side town nearby, called Jerome. Largely a collective of artist types, it boasts a ghost town, which basically seems to mean that every piece of metal trash that was ever in any nearby town has been assembled there, along with some dilapidated buildings, some goats and a donkey who has been trained to ring a bell to request food. My foolish self, not yet having learned from recent experience, was sufficiently suckered by the cuteness of the long eared beggar, to acquire a bag of feed for him and fed it to him on demand. Now I want a donkey, possibly to be named Fred.
We have scads and loads of photos yet to be uploaded, and the internet at this hotel is so bad it makes it a chore and a half, so tomorrow, when we land at a hotel that has hopefully better internet, I’ll post a gross of photos. Won’t have much to report as tomorrow will be spent driving to Bryce Canyon. Til then…
I love Arizona. This is the second time I have been here and I can truly say, this is the one state in the union that I absolutely love in its entirety. Though the dry southwestern air may cause my skin to crack and peel like several miles of bad road, though the wind stings you with biting bits of dust, though there be flash floods and rattlesnakes in abundance, I love Arizona. The painted desert, the grand canyon, the petrified forest, the miles of endless road, and now, the beautiful red rock mountains of Sedona, there is nothing like it anywhere else that I have ever been that makes me think “I could stay here forever”. I am currently, trying to convince MBH that he feels the same and we should invest in a vacation home somewhere in the state. So far he seems immune to Arizona’s flirtatious charms.We arrived in Sedona yesterday and spent a lovely evening watching the sun set over some towering red peaks. Today we started off the day with a bone jarring, spine crunching and brain scrambling jeep ride on the canyon rims. We finished off the day with a 4 mile hike through parts of the Coconina national forest. Lupe, the road trip mascot was having a spa day of her own and remained behind during the hike.
Anyone who has perused my collection of travel photos will know that I love trees. I am no botanist and regularly murder any unfortunate plant that has been ill-fated to be purchased by me (my black thumb is so well established that MBH has taken to humming taps whenever I go to pick out the next victim from the nursery). My botanical homicidal tendencies aside, I do love trees. I love stately majestic oaks, and drooping mournful willows, but my favorite by far are gnarled, twisted trees, wracked and writhing, that hunker like wizened old grandfathers in their copse. Arizona has a plethora of grizzled old trees, eeking out a bare and meager existence amidst the dust and dirt. Just one more reason I need to move here.
Fauna has unfortunately not been as abundant as the flora, we’ve so far been limited to a dead snake (non-poisonous) and the occasional lizard. I was hoping to see a javelina or a bobcat, but so far the most exciting thing we’ve seen is a feisty chihuahua and a couple of lizards and the lady bug that unfortunately was not washed out of my salad greens at the restaurant we ate dinner at tonight. Mmmmm…protein.
Tomorrow we go on a helicopter ride through the canyon. Hopefully it won’t crash. I am off to bed now but before I go, MBH and I would like to send out a special thank you to my mom, because after all, it is mother’s day and without her, we would not be taking this trip, as she is taking care of the furkids while we are gone. So thanks Mom! It is really appreciated and we will have a rockin’ spa day when we get back.
Three days in Santa Fe is really too many unless you are here to either buy tourist kitch or southwestern art. Although it was nice to have a few days or rest and relaxation after 3 solid days of dawn to dusk driving, Santa Fe is just not my kind of town. For one thing, it is tourist craptacular to the extreme. There is “authentic native items” EVERYWHERE (most of it with a made in china tag). Tourist trap panchos, cowboy hats, pottery, and dream catchers are obligatory and on every damn corner. The one thing I do like about the town is it is very dog friendly and makes me regret that we didn’t bring the furkids. I got a bit of puppy loving on the side with an adorable fluffy thing that some guy permitted me to pet but I miss my own.
The best part of this trip was the day spent at Ten Thousand Waves spa which was my reward for taking care of MBH’s cat. This place is modeled on a Japanese zen garden with waterfalls, tranquility spots for resting and contemplating your navel, community baths, hot rock sauna, foot baths and massages, facials, scrubs, etc. MBH and I shared a couples massage that was truly one of the better ones I’ve ever had. He then went to the relaxation room while I got scrubbed and rubbed and buffed. As the big 4-0 is just a few years around the corner, I have decided that facials are now mandatory so I don’t end up looking haggard (not to mention MBH is aging me something awful). If you are ever driving through Santa Fe, skip the downtown tourist trap and head straight for the spa. Really that made the entire trip worth it.
Tomorrow, we head for Sedona. Hiking and hippies. It should be swell.
So MBH (my better half) and I are on another excursion. This time we are circling the southwest, hitting Santa Fe, Sedona, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and then swinging down through Iowa and St Louis. Iowa to visit the relations, St Louis ’cause MBH hasn’t ever seen the shiny arch. After someone reminded me, yet again, that I have a blog, I realized this is a much better way of keeping people up to date with the latest ongoings on going rather than individual contact. So the blog, sans haunted death spooktaculars, rides again. For those of you who have had the privilege of seeing MBH and I interact, you know that our chief entertainment is annoying the other person past the point of human endurance, a past time which makes our road trips extra special fun. This one, which is scheduled to last an extra long month, might actually end in the demise of one or both of us.
Since our last road trip, MBH bought a new car that has an onboard navigational system. I have realized, ever since the advent of the iphone and the resulting over-reliance on Yelp that has taken over our lives, that MBH has an unhealthy reliance on technology. We cannot go to a restaurant unless the tech gods label it 4 stars or above. However, this disturbing reliance was made super apparent this morning when, attempting to find a back entrance to a place that we had inadvertently passed, he insisted that we couldn’t take the clearly visible road (marked with a stop sign and convenient cars driving on it to prove its existence) because his navigational system insisted that there was no road, just empty fields. After I had beaten him severely about the head, he acknowledged how the presence of the clearly visible road might indicate a flaw in total blind reliance on the gods of tech.
Now anyone who knows my MBH, is aware that he is…persnickety. I have never been able to convince him that the BBQ joints found on the side of the road are usually the best BBQ available, as he remains firmly convinced they serve road kill and cockroaches as hor dourves. However, the gods of tech actually intervened in my favor, when they insisted that there was the best indian food in Oklahoma City to be found at…get this…a truck stop gas station buffet. That’s right, my darling actually consented to eating at a freaking gas station buffet because the tech people told him to. Sometimes, the tech works in my favor.
So far we have traveled through Louisiana, Oklahoma and are currently in Texas. Along the way we have veered off course to see many amazing roadside attractions including, I kid you not, “the international shrine to the infant jesus of prague”. We did however take a very long detour to see the spot where Bonnie and Clyde bit it, while listening to an audiobook that details in exacting detail their exquisite stupidity and incompetence. You have to love people who, like Paris Hilton, become famous not through any great achievement but mostly through being trashy skanks.
I end this blog post in a hotel in Amarillo Texas, having just been to the Big Texan and watched some poor sod attempt, and fail, to consume their 72 oz steak challenge. I am sure that gorging on too much meat and carbs is considered a challenge of endurance in America now, where overeating and indulgence takes the place of more worthwhile endeavors like, oh I don’t know, attempting to build a clean energy source, but hey… I just drank enough margaritas to kill a cow, so who am I to point fingers.
Well I’ve gotten a couple of emails asking what happened to the blog. The bubonic/black/death plague happened. MBH and I both fell ill to the ick, and it was compounded by the freezing cold. In short, this really was the trip to hell. We did still videotape, and we still have that to go through, however there could have been a plethora of ghosts having orgies right over our heads, and we were too unconscious and whacked on Nyquil to notice. We are replanning the trip for another (WARMER) time. We now have one firm rule of travel: We do not under any circumstances leave Florida between Nov and March. Under any circumstances.
So if you are only reading this blog to see if we have found any evidence of ghostly existence, I’ll spare you the boredom, you may skip this entire post. (Well then again..this blog was written before the photos were reviewed. When reviewing the photos of Sloss to include in this blog, one photo showed something ..interesting…more on that in another post later). If you are actually interested in a lot of boring details about someone else’s travel experiences, continue reading…then seek counseling. Our trip is being guided by three things: ghosts, a book called 1000 Places to See Before You Die USA& Canada edition (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/1000-Places-to-See-in-the-USA-and-Canada-Before-You-Die/Patricia-Schultz/e/9780761136910/pwb=1&) and an app on the Iphone dedicated to Roadside America, a collection of weird stuff in cities that you could go and see, but really who in their right mind would want to. Oh right, people like us. So our tours will include both the heights of fantastic, and the depths of banal. I’ll leave you to decide from which source each of our activities were chosen. We left Albany at the ass crack of dawn on the 9th. Went and saw Georgia’s Providence canyon, a miniature “grand canyon”. Probably would have been a lot nicer if we had been at all inclined to hike, but our main goal was to go, “Oooh look!” and haul ass back to the warm car. We then did a drive-by of the town Sylacauga, Alabama, home to the world renowned Housewife Whacking Meteorite monument. No, that’s not a joke. Apparently a woman was struck by a meteorite about 50 years ago, and they built a monument to the meteorite that whacked her. That seems …wrong… somehow. We then continued on to Birmingham. Now out of all the hotels that we are staying at, in terms of ghostly happenings the Tutwiler is the least impressive, more of an afterthought and a place we picked because it was a waypoint on our way to the Crescent and not specifically because of any real paranormal interest. However, we extended our Tutwiler stay by a night so that we could tour Sloss furnaces at our leisure. We arrived very early at the Tutwiler and they graciously allowed us to check in, which was nice because I desperately needed to take some painkillers and a nap. MBH decided to order room service for lunch and I told him to get whatever he wanted and I’d split. The downside of traveling is the portions of food you are served in restaurants and the resultant weight gain, so I figured neither one of us would be harmed by sharing some calories. He ordered an appetizer of fried pickles and a Reuben sandwich (the last time I let the man order the meal with no input from me…). Surprisingly the fried pickles were amazingly good, probably the best I’ve ever eaten (not that I’ve eaten a lot because the concept of a fried pickle kind of makes me want to puke on principle) and definitely better than the usual room service fare. MBH spent the afternoon puttering around and setting up the cameras for the first run of filming. Amazingly everything worked out and all the equipment was set up without a hitch, which was a relief since the practice runs at home were filled with non-stop debugging. Now as I said, the ghostly “events” at the Tutwiler aren’t all that exciting. Basically people hear knocking. Tres boring and we weren’t very hopeful that our first stop would prove fruitful. We’ve clearly proved the existence of psychic phenomena however, because our predictions were accurate. The only halfway exciting thing that occurred happened on the first night while riding back to our room in the elevator. We called out to the ghost, “Hey if you are there, let’s hear some knocking” and we were immediately rewarded with the sound of knocking filling the elevator car. Amidst hysterical laughter, we rode giddily until we realized of course that the knocking was just the general sound that this one particular elevator made.
1000 Things to See recommended the Highland Bar and Grill for dinner. It was a chic french inspired restaurant that served very good food, however, while it was really tasty, I can’t honestly say that your life will lack meaning if you fail to eat there before you kick it. It was an excellent meal, and for Alabama, might even be a phenomenal meal, but in the end, it was just a meal. Delicious, but not unique. The next day we woke up early and headed to Sloss furnace. No ghostly activity to report there either but the place itself is awesome and at the very least makes me appreciate that I was born in an era where I can earn a cushy living in an air-conditioned office rather than risking life and limb amongst the death machinery. We had lunch at the Irondale Café, more famously known as the Whistle Stop Café (also in the 1000TTSBYD), made famous by Fannie Flagg’s novel and the subsequent movie, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. We did eat fried green tomatoes, and they was tasty, yessirree. The café was cafeteria style southern food, filling, fattening and very, very good. After waddling out, we spent the remainder of our time in Birmingham seeing various attractions such as the Vulcan statue in Vulcan park, various civil rights monuments and eating a hotdog at Famous Pete’s Hot Dogs. After that, we headed back to our hotel to pout over the lack of paranormal activity and the complete normalcy of the last two days…
Although we didn’t see any actual ghosts, it appears Birmingham itself is fast becoming a ghost town. A good majority of the stores were shuttered and boarded up, and it appears that the economic downturn is hitting it hard, if it hasn’t already knocked it out. I never saw Birmingham in its heyday so I can’t say if the depressed economy is something new, but the town does have the aura that accompanies a slow death and may be the most haunting thing we see all trip.
I attempted to upload photos of the trip, but we are currently experiencing some technical difficulties (no internet where we are to fix, so you’ll have to be patient. ) More to come soon!
We left early on our excursion and have made it across the Georgia line, stopping in Albany for the night–not at a haunted establishment. We have decided to add a day to Birmingham, mostly because we want to visit Sloss Furnace, and it wasn’t going to be possible under our previous itinerary. So far, the scariest thing we’ve seen is the plunging thermostat. With every mile carrying us farther North, we wondered…why exactly did we decide to leave Florida in winter?
One of the key hurdles to our spending several hours in a car together was our tendency to start tickle fights if seated next to each other for prolonged periods of time. Not to mention the punch buggy game, or the incredibly mature habit we have of pointing a finger right in the periphery of the other’s eye and chanting “I’m not touching you, you can’t do anything because I’m not touching you.” We’d projected that with a three week trip and our incredibly mature and grown up habits, someone was going to end up with a cracked rib. However, I’ve made a little bed in the back of the SUV where I curled up and read for the majority of the trip while MBH listened to an audiobook and we’ve made it thus far with nary a bruise nor an aching side from poking fingers.
So tomorrow we are off to Birmingham. If you are interested in the histories of the places we will be visiting you can find some reading material here :