The Route (for Rosie and Helen)

Here it is, with the map at the bottom…

June 1: Davidson to Nashville Tennessee (410 miles)

June 2: Nashville to Little Rock Arkansas (363 miles)

June 3: Little Rock to Oklahoma City (345 miles)

June 4: Oklahoma to Amarillo Texas (255 miles)

June 5: Amarillo to Albuquerque New Mexico (284 miles)

June 6: Albuquerque New Mexico to Sedona Arizona (349 miles)

June 7-8: Sedona

June 8: West Hollywood (475 miles)

June 9: LA

June 1o: LA

June 11: Ojai California (83 miles)

June 12: Visalia California (197 miles)

June 13-14: Three Rivers California (29 miles)

June 15: Visalia California (29 miles)

June 16-19: Downieville California (344 miles)

June 19: Elko Nevada (389 miles)

June 20: Idaho Valls (320 miles)

June 21: Gallatin Gateway Wyoming (150 miles)

June 22: Cody Wyoming (172 miles)

June 23: Gilette  Wyoming (248 miles)

June 24: Badlands South Dakota (308 miles)

June 25: Sioux City South Dakota (287 miles)

June 26-28: Rochester Minnesota (238 miles)

June 29: Holland Michigan (hard to tell with the ferry)

June 30: Niagra Falls NY (394.2)

July 1: NYC? Rockville Centre? Quogue?

And…Davidson NC

TEXAS! (Caveat Lector: this is a long one)

Left Oklahoma City in rain which followed me for a quite a while. As soon as it stopped I got off the highway at a KOA Camping place with a restaurant, stores, etc etc. AND buffalo.  The Oklahoma state animal.  Two buffalo statues and two real live buffalo. In a big pen (I thought it might be a dog park until I saw the buffalo).   Calli was beside herself.

Calli meets her first buffalo

Barking up a storm while wagging her tail and trying very hard to get to them.  This behavior would prove to be a theme for the day.  The fake buffalo was, she deemed, ok.

I feel like the gnome in Amelie.

I had been told at the Oklahoma Information/Welcome building yesterday that Route 66 is well marked off 40. That is true and not true. Sometimes it just says 40 Business, which is code for old 66.  I got off at Elk City and drove through.  It was like driving into a different world. Lots of really old motels and abandoned stores.

Taking photos is less moronic than texting only on Sunday mornings at low speed ….

And the Route 66 Museum, which, unfortunately was closed.

Route 66 Museum

But I took a photo anyway:

Route 66 Museum only slightly more deserted than Route 66 itself

I stopped at a park in Elk City and met some lovely people who told me how tricky it was to actually follow 66. Meanwhile Calli desperately tried to pull me into the adjacent pond in pursuit of the ducks, barking and wagging.

I contented myself with getting off at several Route 40 business exits (all route 66) in western Oklahoma and eastern Texas.  The road quality itself reminded me of the old road out to Quogue when we were kids. It felt well worn and soothing.  I guess I should think it was just a crappy road, but I liked it.  I passed some kids playing outside their house in the very untownlike town of Erick, Oklahoma.  They were in bathing suits and playing with a sprinkler and waved at me (I was the only car on the road).

Crossing into Texas was as bizarre as crossing into Oklahoma yesterday. A moment of silly realization that I am actually doing this crazy thing. And it’s fun. There is a beautiful rest stop pretty soon in Texas, where I got an immediate taste of “I love this” and “I hate this”.  The I love this is easy:

View from the rest stop

Not a great photo (it’s better full size, so click on it). But wow. The landscape was breathtaking.  I met a really nice woman driving home to California; she was also walking her dog. I told her what I was doing and she laughed because her family thought she was crazy to drive from around the Austin area to San Diego.  She was  having a blast, and, well, so am I.

So I held her dog while she went in to use the rest room and then she held Calli. When I got back out, Calli had sat down in the grass.  The burr-filled grass. She was COVERED. I had never seen such burrs.  Her mat in the car is now covered with them too and they are NOT coming out.  (That is the I hate this part).

We drove past the Big Texan Steak house, home of the ‘free’ 72 oz steak (google it). I had told Jon and Conor I would eat there but as I drove past, I could see it was not dog friendly (excuse: it looked unappealing).  Went to my hotel early (1:30) and the woman behind the desk told me to come back at 2:30 and my room would be ready.

Drove along Route 66 and ate at Smokey Joe’s (recommended by the Bring Fido app).

Smokey Joe’s

Great outside porch right next to 66, which, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, was great fun.

Route 66 from the porch of Smokey Joes

Lots of bikers (the motorized kind).  Food was meh.  But I was really hungry, and it was the first time I’d eaten anything other than nuts, kind bars and either ramen or lentils and couscous since I started (also to google: making lentils and couscous in a hotel room with only a water boiler-bring little baggies of spices).  So even just ok food tasted good.  I got a salad, even though Calli wanted a hamburger:

Just once can we get real food?

I might be missing the joke, but self-inflected?

Am I not getting the joke or do they not know the difference between inflicted and inflected?

After lunch we walked around 66 a bit, then went in search of the Botanical Gardens. They seemed closed but there was a park with a central pond around which lots of families were fishing and/or having a picnic. The walk around the pond was about 2 miles and I needed it. Both really pretty and really badly taken care of…astonishing amounts of trash. And full of water fowl. Cue buffalo and duck reaction from my traveling companion.

Park near the botanical gardens

Next stop: Pet Smart, where the really nice groomer told me what kind of a comb I would need to buy to get the burrs out of Calli’s tail. He took a few out to make sure it would work. Worth the $13 (seriously? for a comb?).

So by now it’s 4:10 when we arrive back at the hotel and a different young (underline that young) woman at the desk tells me my room will not be ready for 2 hours. They are short-staffed, housekeeping is behind, the other woman did not tell her I had already tried to check in, no point in calling housekeeping, no manager on duty.  I confess, dear reader, the nice little old lady who talked herself over the bridge in Little Rock morphed into an Aeschylean Fury. Ok. Not really. I tried to be nice.  But I like the image, especially because I can try to imagine a Fury in Aeschylus going outside and calling the main La Quinta number and saying “hey, y’all, I’m staying at your hotel all around the country and this just won’t do.”  Suddenly my room would be ready in 20 minutes.  So I got back in the car, found a dog park to which the good lord had sent puppies that wanted to chase Calli, who, in turn, wanted to be chased.

My room, albeit cleaned, is pretty not so great.  Old. Very Old. Smelly in a someone smoked in here in the not very distant past way (THANK YOU ANNIE FOR THE MRS. MYERS LAVENDER ROOM SPRAY), backing on to a room with at least a kindergarten class and a yappy yappy dog.   But, it’s fine.

I’ve seen enough of Amarillo. Plus it’s supposed to rain. Can’t be raining in New Mexico.

Don’t go to Little Rock the first weekend in June

You’ll have to wait to find out why.

I’m in Little Rock. How could I NOT go to McArthur Park (even if it’s the wrong McArthur park, song-wise). McArthur Bark Park. Saturday morning. No one there. Oh well.  Cool rock benches, however:

Rock bench at McArthur Bark Park

We moved on to the river and found a spot on the street in the River Market:

Mostly just proof I was there

Parked, we headed toward the river. But because it’s the River Festival, which I thought might be cool, the whole river district was closed…well, except to sweet, fast-talking little old ladies with a cute dog. Took awhile but they let me into the still closed festival area.  The guys building one of the stages happened by while I was talking to security, and they had just built a stage in Charlotte, and we got talking and next thing I know I’m getting behind the barriers to walk over the pedestrian bridge:

Calli was less than impressed:

Arkansas River

We then headed back toward the Presidential Bridge over to Clinton’s library. But even that side of the river was bustling-with a bike race.  I met some really lovely people who told me not to go to Fort Smith but to go to Petit Jean instead, where there was great  hiking–about an hour out of Little Rock. When people hear what I am doing they are pretty speechless.  It’s like telling them I’m a Classical Philologist.  The look I get is different, but still puzzled.

Pedestrian Bridge leading to the Clinton Library

And another:

Flowers are a nice touch

Clearly, someone collecting so many photos of a dog traveling companion will jump at the chance to help others with photos. I offered to take a group shot of a family in front of the Clinton Library (where there is currently an X-treme bug exhibit), to allow the mom taking the photo to get actually in the photo. While concentrating on the camera, Calli decided to befriend the bug in the pool out front:

The Extreme Bug exhibit meets the Extreme Mud Puppy

I did get her to pose in front of the library itself.  And, of course, with the other bugs:

More Extreme Bugs..

By that time it was 10:30 so I walked back to my car and left. I was going to go hiking in Petit Jean, I really was.  But a wiser voice told me that I should get some distance behind me so as not to have a day like yesterday, when I was tired before the drive. It started raining not so long after the exit that I would have taken for the hike, and I thought “well, at least it’s not torrential.” So of course, it became torrential. So torrential I tried to pull off onto an exit…but could not see the road. Followed slowly the truck in front of me and pulled off, going off the shoulder only slightly.  More cars followed and soon there were quite a few (20?) cars on the ramp pulled over to the side.  I should have taken a photo through the windshield.  It was astonishing. Later, at a rest area, I got talking to a guy who was probably on the same ramp.  He said his car had started to hydroplane.  Bless my Subaru.  40 West was ok after it let up, but 40 East a different story, with an accident that I can’t imagine the driver walked away from and a huge backup.  I hope the driver made it.

With the rain and Google Maps changing its mind (never happened to me before: ‘get off in a mile, get off at this exit, get off, go left, go straight, take a u-turn, get back on highway and go another few exits’), it was 5 before I got to today’s La Quinta.  It’s great but the fridge doesn’t have a freezer for my ice pack.  Checked Bring Fido and got in the car AGAIN to take Calli to a dog park, that turned out to be an enclosure behind a gas station. Sigh:

Gas Station Dog Park


Another angle

At least she likes the room:

Where are YOU going to sleep?

Mastering the learning curve: Nashville to Little Rock

If yesterday I was too focused  on ‘getting there’, today I was maybe not focused enough.  But I had a blast all morning and paid for it this afternoon.  Took Calli again to the same dog park (and got lost going back to the hotel). After breakfast and loading the car, we drove into Nashville to see the replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park (built in 1897 for the Centennial exhibition).  Centennial Park is great: easy parking, beautiful grounds–just lovely.

Pond at Centennial Park

The Parthenon is a hoot.

The view of the Parthenon across the pond in Centennial Park

Calliope did an excellent job of guarding Athena’s treasury in the opsithodomos

Guarding the opisthodomos

She also makes a great sphinx

The Parthenon Sphinx

She also gets a patience award…

I had picked out a hike outside of Nashville and on the way to Little  Rock. It was just off I-40 and looked great. But there were signs all over warning about theft and I asked an older couple who were just leaving. The guy had been a defensive arts instructor and went on at length about how dangerous it was and people come off the highway looking for opportunities. Meanwhile there have to be 6 cars there. I decided to take a risk for once. It was pretty hot. But a great little hike:

The trail at Hidden Lake


I managed, even with the AllTrails app, to go a bit astray, but am not sure how. The hidden lake was worth it

Hidden Lake Tennessee

But then I paid for my full morning– five and a half hours in the car, and I was a bit over heated and ate almonds and a Kind bar for lunch while driving.  I did stop for water and dog walks at rest stops, but the rest stops  are not great.  Maybe also listening to “Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History” is not the best choice for a long drive.  Sometimes I turn it off and just drive.  Calli was a trooper.  We hit Little Rock in time for traffic. But the La Quinta here is in a new part of Little Rock, sort of outskirts…very new (the opposite of yesterday) and nice.  And we are very tired…

Day 1, not as expected

Woke up in a raw panic. It took me a few minutes to figure it out.  I’m traveling. Have to get moving. Have to get to the airport.  Whew. No airport. No hard and fast time schedule.  Panic dissipates. So Calli got her last run round with Luna at 6:30, as usual, and I got my last fix of Summit Coffee.

Then, the road. Oh wait. Not yet.  First the Latin Placement Emails.  Then the road.  Left at 9:30. Calli was pumped.  For a while. Where are we going? Fisher Farm? Lucky Dog?  Huh? Wait. Why? We are just driving driving driving.  And,  as for the driver, she was in ‘get there’ mode. It didn’t seem like a road trip until we got beyond Asheville and the Smoky Mountains.  Had to be new territory. Then I started to relax more.  At every rest area   I checked for nearby hikes (thank you All Trails and Bring Fido). Nada.  And I  had to keep moving. Why? Well, I don’t know. I was annoying myself and I was really annoying the dog.  (“Seriously, either a dog park or I’m going home”).

Rest areas in Tennessee are not puppy palaces–this sign is only one of several varieties found are all over the place:

I’ll spare you the rest of the pictures.  We never did find a hike (there was a great one, but it turned out to be 30 miles behind us. We didn’t go).

I finished listening to Michael Lewis’ “The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds”, which is about the lives, research and remarkable friendship between Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. Mostly I liked it a lot.  (end of review…too tired).

I have always been curious about Knoxville and got off to see the University, a sprawling construction site with no visitor parking.  I parked illegally in a staff lot (I am staff, just not there) near the (huge) music building, which sports this impressive rock:

And a lot of construction.

Eventually we got to Nashville, where I’m staying at the very underwhelming LaQuinta. But only a ten minute drive away is an incredible dog park and somehow I summoned the energy to put the very confused Calliope back in the car for a romp in greenery:


Now THIS is more like it

We are going back there tomorrow!  Dinner? Bourbon and Ramen Noodles and Chocolate. 🙂

Ready, sort of

I was berating myself for over packing until I realized I’m bringing the same suitcase for six weeks that I used for one week a couple of months ago in Athens.  I’m mostly packed. Starting from:

Clean slate ready to be packed

Making sure I had enough of Sal Suds in my oh-so-old-but-still-good-never-leaks Platypus.  Feels like the Classics Semester Abroad in a bottle.

I’ve taken this stuff all around the world. Washes everything. And the platypus doesn’t leak and rolls up as it empties.

Although I won’t see Anna and Tommy Barbee at the Farmers Market for quite a while, I’m taking a bit of Barbee Farms with me–a strawberry bucket to hold front seat “essentials”: Altoids, tissues, hand wipes, SPF in every form imaginable:


Strawberry bucket from Barbee Farms
SPF, Altoids, all kinds of stuff I probably don’t really need…


Dog food, people food, single use ice packs (a lot of them!), Calli’s “suitcase” and mine

And finally: the car is packed.

I know this seems to be a lot of “stuff” … but there are TWO CASES of those ice packs that you squeeze in the middle, releasing heaven knows what that makes them cold for 20 minutes: enough of them to ice my back at will.  The Subaru is very comfortable, even for long rides, but this is a long ride.  I also have a box of “you have to bring this on a road trip”: everything from an extra quart of oil (plus funnel), “fix a flat”, and jumper cables to duct tape (even though I’ll immediately call AAA).

Dog food. People food (I took about half out since last post!).  Dog treats. People treats. Some albums for Jon from his room.  The Impreza’s trunk is small so I’m pretty pleased.

Ann and Helen, most of this will be gone before I get to Rochester! There will be room for your (very small) bags!

Now to try to cull some of the books in the pile…

Next stop: Nashville.


Road Food

After driving and hiking each day, I want to chill and read, not look for a dog-friendly restaurant (that’s what lunch is for).  So I’m bringing a kitchen, of sorts: collapsible water boiler, Summit thermos for “cooking” and my ancient soup mug with a cover (morning yogurt, evening meal).

Kitchen Equipment

I might be over-prepared….

Coffee, granola, peanut butter
Lentils, couscous, miso, ramen, spices, more granola

And of course, rounding out the nutritional necessities, bourbon and kind bars (thanks Annie and Amy!)

Travels With Calliope, or Carrie Fisher made me do it….

When Carrie Fisher died suddenly late last year, I knew it was time to stop putting off my bucket list. My kids assured me that my general approach to life has always been a lot healthier (“Ma, she did a lot of cocaine in her 20s”), but still…  A few weeks later I upgraded to a junior suite (on my own dime) at the SCS in Toronto.  Always wanted to do that. Worth it.

Now with the flimsy excuse that Jon is finishing his Masters at UCLA and I want to be there so we can not attend graduation together (we’ll be in Sequoia), I’m loading the dog in the car and driving out to California. And then, well, as long as I’m out there….

From Davidson we’ll take a week to go to West Hollywood; from there to visit friends in Ojai whom I haven’t seen in too many many years.  Jon will be working at Sequoia National park, so I’ll be there for a few days as well.  Then to visit my cousin Elizabeth in the mountainous Downieville CA.  After visiting Liz, I’m going to drive through the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Black Hills National forest and the Badlands (where I’m staying at a place with no address, just a GPS coordinates!).  Then off to Rochester MN, where my niece is a resident at the Mayo Clinic.  From there, two of my sisters will join me as we cross Lake Michigan (on the pretty pricey ferry), stay in Holland MI and then drive into Canada to cross over Niagra Falls.  Then on to NY.  And, finally, home…with a stop in Roanoke to see Conor.