Sunday, June 17, 2007

The End of Thyme

Day 15: 887 Miles
Total: 7,453 Miles

I'm home in Brevard, North Carolina. As I alluded in an earlier blog, my plans changed again. And again. With some things going on at home I decided to cut my trip short. Instead of going on to Boston and New Hampshire, I was going to go to Auburn for a few days, then head home for a Sunday night arrival. Then I got the email from Sue that I was dreading.

An announcement in the paper said that The Essence of Thyme, my favorite hangout in Brevard since we moved here six years ago, was closing. The announcement said that Saturday was going to be the last hurrah, and that a final group picture for all of the Thyme faithful was going to happen at 10:00am. The annual group picture is always important to me, and none would be more important than the last one - the end of Thyme. So I spent Thursday night in Auburn, New York, did what I had to do there on Friday, then left on my final 800 mile drive Friday afternoon. I spent a few hours in a rest area in southwestern Virginia Friday night, then made it to Brevard by 8:30 Saturday morning for a final cup of coffee with the owner and my friend, Michael Collins.

Overall, the trip was exhilarating; a trip of a lifetime. It's a shame that it had to end on such a sad note. My emotions are mixed; I'm happy, I'm relaxed, and I'm heartbroken all at once.

Here are some final pictures of my trip. Thanks for reading my blog and sharing your comments and well-wishes with me. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

This first picture is downtown Auburn, New York. Ironically, this is Genesee Street - U.S. 20, where I intended to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Instead I drove about 15 miles in total on this road.

One of the things I looked forward to in my planned visit to the northeast was visiting real roadside diners. While I didn't get much opportunity to do so, I did eat in two of my favorites. Both are in Auburn. The first is the Hunter Dinerant, which has been at its present location since the 1940s. My mother and her sisters used to eat here as teenagers. I eat here every time I visit.

Another favorite is the Auburn Diner. This place sat boarded up for years before being moved to a new location and completely remodeled. It's beautiful inside. Very small and always full. It's old location was right across the street from a gas station my grandfather owned in the 1950s. My dad used to walk over for coffee every day until grandpa splurged for a coffee maker of his own.

This is my favorite of the fabulous Finger Lakes in upstate New York - Owasco Lake. It is also the smallest of the Finger Lakes, measuring about a mile wide by 10-12 miles long. It is absolutely beautiful, and I can sit staring at it for hours.

This is one of my favorite views looking east across the width of the lake from West Lake Road. I just love the patchwork quilt of farmland across the lake.

Back in Brevard, my favorite place - The Essence of Thyme.

Here is a picture from the street as everyone prepares for one last group picture among friends.

Michael Collins and me - a smile to mask the sadness.

For one last time,


Friday, June 15, 2007

New York, New York

Day 14: 709 Miles
Total: 6,566 Miles

Well, actually it's Auburn, New York. Upstate. Finger Lakes country. One of the most beautiful areas in the country (Brevard, NC excepted). I'll be spending the night here. I would have liked to stay longer, but that won't be possible this time. I manage to come here almost every year. I was born here, and my grandparents lived here, so there are lots of memories to go with the beautiful scenery.

It was a long drive to get here though, so I took all interstate. I spent the night in St. Joseph, Michigan, about an hour from Chicago. Then I took a detour to Detroit to have lunch with a good friend. Two hours later I was on the road to Auburn. Since it was all interstate driving and just one pit stop in Ohio, there are no pictures today. I'll make up for it tomorrow.

Not much else to report. Hopefully some more interesting things will happen to report on tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sweet Home Chicago!

Day 13: 603 Miles
Total: 5,857 Miles

I made it! All the way from Chicago to Santa Monica and back again. The last two days were pretty brutal, but I still had a chance to see and experience some things I missed on the trip to California, so it was worth it.

I left Lebanon, Missouri at about 7:00am today and made good time throughout Missouri and into Illinois. I wound up stopping for breakfast in Rolla, Missouri at a Huddle House. The main reason was because it was completely redesigned and didn't look anything like any Huddle Houses I have seen before. These are mostly in the south, so some of you may not be familiar with them. They are typically 24-hour diners.

This one had all fifties-retro decorations and looked really nice. I liked the atmosphere, but they should have spent some of the money used in the redesign to hire a new cook. Enough said.

I drove through one of my favorite places in Missouri today - Devil's Elbow near Fort Leonard Wood. The road loops off of the main four lane section of Route 66 and crosses this narrow bridge. It was early in the morning and still foggy when I went through here.

This is a used car lot. Really. I had to shoot this. All of these cars are for sale. I guess they're "fixer-uppers."

This beautifully restored Phillips 66 station is in Cuba, Missouri.

This restaurant in Lincoln, Illinois is undergoing a restoration.

This guy is in Atlanta, Illinois. I believe he is a close personal friend of the Gemini Giant at The Launching Pad restaurant.

This is a section of Route 66 in Illinois that is being utilized for a walking parking, jogging trails, bike paths, etc. The sections are broken up every so far, but they stretch on for many miles.

I showed another picture of this restored station in Odell, Illinois in an earlier blog.

In the next town over, Dwight, Illinois, is this restored Texaco station. It has the distinction of being in operation longer than any other service station on Route 66. I missed shooting it on my way to California, so I'm glad I got a second chance.

The home stretch - downtown Chicago skyline from Jackson Avenue.

Like Santa Monica, this was very anticlimactic. Worse in a sense, because I couldn't even park to get out and take a picture of myself in front of Lake Shore Drive and Jackson Avenue; the eastern terminus of Route 66. All I could do was take a shot through the windshield while I sat at the light. Still, I made it! Though virtually indistinguishable from the hazy sky, that's Lake Michigan straight ahead.

Now it's on further east. My plans are changing again, but I'll fill you in as I go. Tomorrow is Route 20.


A Looooong Day

Day 12: 556 Miles
Total: 5,254 Miles

Greetings from Lebanon, Missouri. I drove 13+ hours and was exhausted when I got in last night. Then I had problems uploading pictures. So I'm a day late, but here are the details of my Tuesday.

I started out at about 8:00am from the Irish Inn in Shamrock, Texas. The room was fine and the meals in the attached restaurant were so-so. I wound up eating dinner there, and then got a free breakfast. It was worth every penny.

I quickly crossed the Oklahoma border, but it seemed to take forever to get everywhere I was going. Early on I stopped to take a lot of pictures, then got backed up in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. It was fairly late by the time I hit Kansas. Still, the drive was pleasant through Oklahoma. There are lots of miles of pristine original Route 66 roadway to drive on, and I really enjoyed it.

I had run into a bit of rain but quickly drove through it. Kansas and Missouri look like they were totally drenched. By the time I reached Kansas it was sunny but signs of flooding were everywhere. I couldn't even get to the bridge I had taken pictures of before because Route 66 was completely flooded there, and I had to detour around. I'm glad I got to see it a few days ago.

I was set on making it to Lebanon, Missouri to stay at the Munger Moss Motel - a Route 66 classic. Because of that, I drove over 500 miles and didn't get to the motel until late. I had a nice conversation with the owner about the romanticism and nostalgia provoked by Route 66, and how it is making a major resurgence due to baby boomers and new generations discovering it for the first time.

Here are a few shots I took. This first one was of a bar not too far from where I stayed in Texas.

Also in Texas, this is an unused stretch of Route 66 that runs parallel to the current route. You can see a van to the left in the distance that is on the current Route 66. This occurs a lot in Texas and Oklahoma in particular. It may be that they simply stopped using two out of the four lanes in some cases and turned it back into a two lane highway. In some cases it may literally be an older road that was replaced with a newer one.

This is a nicely restored Texaco station in Chandler, Oklahoma.

This is a really cool place in Stroud, Oklahoma. It is the original "hard" Rock Cafe. I had lunch here. The place was built in the 1930s and used rock excavated for the building of Route 66. A great place to stop and visit.

Just a cool motel sign, so I shot it.

Miami, Oklahoma classic road food joint. It's the home of the Ku Ku burger.

I took a different iteration of Route 66 back through Joplin, Missouri this time. Nice downtown area.

I took another picture of the Route 66 Drive-In. I like this one better.

This restored Sinclair station is very nicely done. It's located between Heatonville and Halltown in Missouri.

The Munger Moss Motel. Great place, great owners, great sign. Only $38!

It's on to Chicago today.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Luck o' the Irish

Day 11: 474 Miles

Total: 4,698 Miles

I wound up getting a good night's sleep at the Monterey Non-Smokers Motel, making it a very good value indeed. I would highly recommend the place. I was on the road before 8:00am without having had any breakfast. My route was going to take me through Santa Fe, and I thought I would have breakfast there, particularly if traffic was bad. It was worse than bad; it was a nightmare.

Even after having breakfast and waiting until nearly 10:00am to resume my trip, traffic was still extremely heavy. And I hadn't even arrived at the bad part of town yet. The historic section, with its narrow, broken roads, would be miserable to navigate through under the best of conditions. These were far from the best of conditions. Major traffic jams, road construction, new one-way streets and temporary no left turn signs made following Route 66 impossible. I got confused. My GPS unit got confused. And even the Route 66 guide that worked flawlessly everywhere else got confused. After losing Route 66 and spending 45 minutes trying to pick it up again I wound up backtracking and taking I-25 for a short distance out of the city to pick the route up again in a more reasonable location.

I decided to take a picture to prove I was there, because I don't ever intend on returning. So here it is. The plaza in the historic section. Good riddance.

The rest of the trip was very nice. It was a long day, but I had a chance to see a couple of things I missed on my way to Santa Monica, and I was able to take lots of pictures of motel signs, abandoned gas stations, and rusted cars sitting out in fields. "Why," you ask? They just appeal to me, I guess. The nostalgia of it all, the history.

The motel below is in Santa Rosa. I guess the name is truthful, though one might expect a beach rather than the desert with a name like Sun & Sand.

I made it back to Tucumcari, New Mexico. The town was very quiet on Monday afternoon. I had a quick lunch at Rubee's Diner, took a few pictures, then hit the road again.

This Tucumcari motel may have been paradise once upon a time, but it has long since closed down.

Here's the famous Blue Swallow Motel again. That's the owner's 1958 Chevy over to the left.

One of the places I missed on my first trip was the Midway cafe in Adrian, Texas. It was closed then, and unfortunately, it was closed today as well. I hope it isn't permanent. This time I got a shot of the sign below, which sits directly across the road from the diner.

I didn't take good notes with this picture, so it may have been around Adrian, Texas or Vega, Texas. In any event, I killed two birds with one stone - a closed down restaurant and an old junk truck sitting out front.

This was the biggest omission on my trip out to Santa Monica - The Cadillac Ranch! It doesn't sit on the main section of Route 66; it sits on the frontage road across I-40. By the time I remembered it I was many miles down the road, and I was mad at myself for forgetting it. My return trip allowed me to make amends though.

According to Jerry McClanahan, the Cadillac Ranch was never located on Route 66, and wasn't even moved to its present location (between Bushland, TX and Amarillo, TX) until 1997. Still, it's very cool and there were a lot of people stopping when I was there. Several had cans of spray paint, adding to the graffiti. It was very windy so I tried to stay upwind as much as possible.

The other thing I got a chance to do was to see the restored U-Drop Inn/Tower Conoco in Shamrock, Texas all lit up at night. It looks great!

I arrived in Shamrock after 8:00pm since I lost another hour moving to Central Daylight Time, so I referred to the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide and the Irish Inn got a high recommendation. So $58 later, here I am. The room is large, clean, and has wireless Internet access. So far, so good.

Tomorrow I'll be headed through the Sooner and Show Me states.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

If It's Sunday This Must be Albuquerque

Day 10: 404 Miles
Total: 4,224 Miles

I had a nice chat with the owner of the Grand Canyon Hotel this morning. When she and her husband purchased the hotel, it had been closed for 35 years. Needless to say it required some serious renovation, which they are still in the process of doing. Still, it's a very nice hotel and I enjoyed the ambiance greatly. She also told me that this hotel is the oldest in the entire state of Arizona.

I wound up leaving at about 8:00am, but took my time through several cities. I stopped off in Flagstaff to wander around a bit, and I really liked the place. It seems like it attracts a wide range of people, with Route 66ers being just a small part. I saw lots of boats, bikes and just people in general. The city is very historic and there are lots of shops, restaurants and just a lot of energy in general. I took a few shots including the converted train station and the historic hotel below.

The scenery gets to be really amazing as you approach New Mexico. The first picture below is a few miles from the border, and the second one is right on the Arizona - New Mexico border. Between Grants and Albuquerque was a stretch of Route 66 with unbelievable scenery at a place called "Dead Man's Curve." It was so unbelievable that I became so enthralled that I forgot to take any pictures. I think the name comes from people not paying attention to their driving and ultimately missing the curve. The curve itself isn't that tricky if you're actually watching where you're going.

Since I took my time and since I lost an hour moving to Mountain Daylight Time, I didn't arrive in Albuquerque until about 5:00pm. I'm staying at the Monterey Non-Smokers Motel. When I arrived and inquired about room availability, I was told by the man behind the counter in a thick German accent, "I have one if you are a non-smoker!" I assured him I was, and I must have an honest face since he gave me a room key. I then went out and bought a carton of Lucky Strikes and a case of cheap beer for tonight.

The room is great. It cost me $50, and even Sue would be happy here. I'll let you know come morning, but this might be the best value I have ever come across in a motel/hotel room. And to think it's only $12 more than the place I stayed in Stanton, Missouri.

The motel is just a few blocks from Old Town, a nice touristy historic part of Albuquerque. I had a good Mexican meal there and took a few photos.

These last two pictures below are for my brother-in-law Paul. But I have to share the story of how they came to be with everyone else. Sue and Paul's parents moved a lot. We even nicknamed them "The Boomerang Family" because they moved back and forth between Las Vegas and Michigan every six months or so. When Sue, Paul and their other siblings were kids, the family moved several times within two adjacent Detroit suburbs - Southfield and Oak Park. But finally, the family decided to have a new home built in Albuquerque, New Mexico in an area called Rio Rancho Estates.

They made all of their moving plans, had going-away parties and finally the time came to pack up their belongings and say farewell to Michigan. They climbed into their car and spent three weeks meandering toward their "final" destination. Final, in this case, meaning nine days. That's how long they lived in their new house! Sue's mom was not always easy to please, and after the fourth or fifth day she decided she had enough of the house and Albuquerque. It took another few days to pack everything up and move back to Michigan.

So their vacation lasted longer than the time they actually spent living in Albuquerque. Which is good for a couple of reasons. First, I would never have met Sue if they had stayed in Albuquerque, and second, the story supplies me with never ending amusement. Come to think of it, I've almost spent more time in this city than Sue did when she "lived" here.

So here you go Paul. It's now the city of Rio Rancho (the "Estates" is long gone). Here is 1609 Grande Blvd SE, Rio Rancho, NM.