June 28th, 2012
Also known as the most amazing road to drive! If you love driving, and long for a road that seems to be made for a Porsche 911, then this is the road for you. Sadly we were not driving a Porsche 911 but rather a GMC Terrain.
We took it easy yesterday morning and then in the afternoon decided to explore Highway 89A. I had found this route for my Mom and Dan back in September 2011. I looked on Google Maps and saw all the twists and turns and told them, “you gotta drive this road it looks amazing.” They did and were incredibly impressed.
Anyone who’s known me for a while knows I love the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire. It’s possibly my favorite scenic road to drive, and it’s where Craig engaged to me. This route puts shame to it.
You climb out of Prescott, up and up to 5000 feet through switchbacks and hair pin turns, as a passenger you can look back and down to see where you just were. The landscape is sharp mountain sides, pine and cactus. Depending on the turn you may also be granted the incredible view down a notch to where you’re going. All the while way off in the distance is more mountains.
Craig drove so I could be the crazy person snapping photos. I locked the doors and hung out the window several times. As a photographer I was getting so frustrated because there were so many amazing views to take in.
Jerome reminded me of every picture I’ve seen of those little towns on the sides of mountains in Italy. The roads are big enough for horse and cart, but somehow today carry cars. Tiny shops all nestled together, on roads stacked on switchbacks. The entire town seems to be an artist haven, with all different kinds of local wares for sale. We didn’t get a chance to stop, but when we return it’s going to be one of my first destinations.
We descended into Cottonwood also known as Clarkdale which is a more bustling town with luscious green valleys below it, still set high in the mountains but with palm trees. Reminded me more of the California coast minus the ocean.
After Cottonwood we got our best treat yet, Sedona. I’ve heard the hype, didn’t think I’d be too impressed, and I now have to eat those words. Amazing, stunning, incredible, are all adjectives that do not do it justice. The massive rock monuments around the area are breathtaking. We arrived at the perfect time 5-7pm, so we had amazing golden light.
I had read up before arriving that driving up to the airport will give you amazing views. It was worth it. We pulled off at the turn out for watching the sunset. The landscape was amazing. I could have stayed there all evening taking photos.
We decided to head up to Flagstaff for dinner, but before we could we passed the “Shops” at Sedona and there was outdoor seating on a terrace with a view of more of the monuments. We ate at the Wildflower Bread Company which seems to be like Panera Bread but healthier and more upscale. We truly had dinner with a view.
After dinner we headed up to Flagstaff through the canyons of the Coconino National Forest. The roads didn’t disappoint, beautiful curves, arching tree cover with sheer rock sides. The sun was setting fast so my photos were getting harder and harder to take.
Leaving the forest we climbed into Flagstaff at an elevation of 6,910 feet. I love Flagstaff, even our first quick lunch stop I fell in love. We hopped back on I-40 and traveled back home to rest up.
If you are ever in Arizona to visit, make sure you drive Highway 89A, you will not be disappointed.
June 28th, 2012
The sun comes up early here. 5:00 am and Craig and I were both awake. I drifted back and forth between sleep and awake, while Craig wrote lyrics.
We got up and headed out to the Safeway for Starbucks and some groceries. It feels like people can tell we’re not from the area. Not sure what exactly it is, but there’s a feeling.
We came back home and relaxed with my Mom and Dan. Craig napped and I worked on installing face plates and cleaning up the bathroom. I took a much needed shower that felt awesome.
We lounged around some more, I got my full lazy on sitting in the living room looking out over the mountains with my feet up in a recliner. It was great.
Later in the evening we took my Mom and Dan down to Lowes for some household items and we had dinner at Applebees. The sunset over Prescott Valley which is quite a scenic drive.
Craig and I spent the evening on the front porch looking at the stars, picking out constellations and watching meteors. I got to see two pieces of space hardware go over head, which is just so cool.
June 28th, 2012
We departed Gallup, NM and quickly crossed over in Arizona. This section of I-40 was particularly flat and looking like driving across Mars, as much as one can imagine. The red rocks of New Mexico were gone, replaced with light brown rock, bleached ground, sage brush and the occasional small shrub.
Craig and I switched drivers so he could sleep. I had to make time to catch up with my Mom and Dan who’d kept going. I put tunes on, kitties chilled out and I put the pedal to the floor. I cruised along doing 85mph and slowly caught up.
We stopped in Flagstaff for lunch only to be surpised that it was not 11:30am like we thought but 10:30am. The nice people at Cracker Barrel worked it so we could get lunch.
I really liked Flagstaff, surrounded by mountains and pine trees, this is more my speed.
After a fill up of gas we were back on the road. Rather than creating drama, I’ll just say the next hour was a bit hairy. Sleep deprivation and I believe pride made for a scary experience in front of me. When we got off the exit to head down 89 to Paulden, a cop stopped the moving truck and a warning was issued. Gratefully all of the other vehicles on the road were ok and no one was injured.
Heading down 89 to Paulden was pretty cool, there’s no speed limit signs, which coming from the northeast freaked me out. I kept feeling like someone was going to stop me and say, “hey you’re speeding!” and I’d have to respond, “but I have no idea what the speed limit is.” It’s quite scenic as you’re driving through state forests.
I had called ahead to our car rental and lined it up to pick it up in the afternoon down in Prescott. We got to the house in Paulden at the same time as the realtor and her very nice sons who were there to help move items in.
This of course did not go smoothly initially. First the A/C was not working in the house, second the fence was not wide enough for the truck, third the trailer lock key was missing and really it just kept getting worse.
After some heated “discussions” things smoothed out and the truck was unloaded. Craig and I drove down to Prescott and picked up our rental car. We ended up with a GMC Terrain which has a nice bluetooth setup and I can make phone calls handsfree.
The evening was getting things setup for own room, getting the evap system working and just relaxing.
June 28th, 2012
As we left Texas the landscape started to change dramatically, the mesas and plateaus rose from the horizon. Today’s color palette was sage, tourmaline and terracotta. As we crossed into New Mexico all we could think about was what grass would look like on Mars.
Highways that go in straight lines for miles and miles. Paralleled by railroad tracks and meager fences. Our destination is Gallup, New Mexico.
Later that day…
We were cruising along with out issue, until my Mom had to stop short in the moving truck in front of us. When she did we had to slam on the brakes and all of the sudden the A/C died. We were hopeful it was just a temporary thing, and it came back for a few moments. But alas, the air conditioner quit again and the temperature gauge started going up and up.
Still an hour out of Alburqueque we pulled off in a tiny town with a truck stop. The Civic proceeded to go all the way up to High on temperature gauge. We looked under the hood to see our make shift cap pretty much still in place. The A/C was strong and working but the engine would not cool off.
The decision was made to swap tow vehicles, which was no easy feat. In the baking New Mexico sun with no shade, Dan reassembled the Blazer’s driveshaft and re-engaged the differential. He got the Blazer off and we reloaded the contents of the Blazer into the Civic and vice versa. He then tested both vehicles and we were on the road again, now driving the Blazer. Sadly this started at 2:33pm and we were back on the road at 4:10pm.
On the road again to Alburqueque we got to come through the beautiful mountains to the east and down into the city. We got lunch/dinner and filled the moving van with gas. We started back out on I-40 West only to see the Blazer’s gas gauge was now on E. Yet only a few minutes prior it was at 3/4 of a tank. We seeked out a gas station which became very far and few between once we got past the city.
Stopping at exit 108 we got gas at one of the nicest stops of the trip. The people were so friendly and laid back. As to be expected the gas gauge was broken but the car only needed 5 gallons of gas.
We proceeded onto Gallup with storms on the horizon. The more the sun set the more beautiful the landscape got. The red rock and plateaus of western New Mexico were amazing. It really looks like another planet. I would love to come back through and spend a few days driving around and taking photos.
Our hotel in Gallup is lacking. Based on Trip Advisor reviews of every hotel in Gallup they are sub par in quality with prices that do not match. We paid $119 a night there, and got Super 8 quality, where as the night before in Amarillo at the Staybridge Suites we paid $124 for the night.
Alas, it is a place to lay our heads and rest up. Last leg of the trip is tomorrow.
June 28th, 2012
In daylight we got to fully check out our hotel which was very nice. It’s too bad we weren’t going to be staying there longer. We headed out to Denny’s and this time I opted for a healthier breakfast; egg whites, spinach, fruit and an english muffin.
We decided at breakfast to drive as far as we possibly could. The great optimism was to go from St. Louis to Albuquerque, which was 1000 miles and 16 hours of driving. We hit the road and journeyed through Missouri. Having done two road trips now, Missouri takes the cake on weird bill boards, and their proliferation of Adult Superstores. I was happy to see the lack of microsurgical vasectomy reversals, child pornography destroys (which it does) and this time only a few Jesus Saves billboards.
The new Missouri billboard I liked had two guys in scrubs on it, and it said, “Man Up!” with the subheadline of “Become a Healthcare Professional Today.” At least it’s got a positive message. We finally made it out of Missouri and off to Oklahoma.
It can be summed up with two words, hot and no shade. As we progressed through Oklahoma we started having problems with the air conditioning in the Civic. Making that situation even worse was that we were carrying the cats. We pulled over at a rest area/gas station to check on things.
The make shift cap we had put on the coolant resevoir had blown off and our coolant was all leaving the radiator. In the 98ºF and humid and we were working under the hood. We came up with a better solution this time, a prescription bottle cap fit perfectly and with a lot of duct tape. It did the job perfectly. We were back on the road with A/C and an engine temperature gauge staying in normal areas.
Oklahoma City split us up, Craig and I ended up stopping at a Starbucks. It was so nice to be back to something familiar and not a truck stop. We ordered our coffees and joked around with the barista who was from Jersey! He agreed that the toll system was insane around the city, even after 12 years of living there.
After our nice detour, we were back and heading to Amarillo. I booked our hotel at the Staybridge Suites and we drove and drove. Western Oklahoma was really quite beautiful. Amazing, amazing levels of flat vistas. So surreal coming from the northeast where there is rarely a road that goes more than a few miles before hitting a hill.
As the sun set the landscape got very picturesque. I wanted to take so many photos of trees that were either tornado damaged or ones that were just blown sideways. The pink, blue and purple sunset was such an amazing backdrop. The farther west we got, we started coming across large wind farms. A really amazing site to see them go for acres and acres.
Texas did not dissapoint, we stopped at a rest stop with a huge building and tribute to the Lone Star state. It was a very dark drive to Amarillo with speckled strobe lights of farms and equipment along the horizon.
Our hotel was beautiful and like a small studio apartment inside. Our timing was impeccable though, the elevator had just broken and we were on the fourth floor. The hotel had staff helping people bring their luggage and items up 4 flights of stairs. We tipped generously for their help.
We managed to cover 750 miles and roughly 11 hours of driving.
June 28th, 2012
We got a late start again but was optimistic about the day. The truck was handling much better. I started off the driving and later in the morning Craig and I swapped.
We finally made it to Indiana and trying to make as good of time as possible. Indiana greeted us with a massive metal cross on the border, and then fields and fields of corn. The biggest cross I’ve ever seen was still to come. Craig and I couldn’t remember which state it was in when we drove through in 2004. It’s certainly unforgettable.
We made it through Indianapolis and with the time crunch I was only able to send a virtual beep beep to my friend Kevin who lives there.
Next up was Illinois; more corn. Lots and lots of corn. Based on the amount of corn being produced in just the I-80 corridor all I can think is America has a serious problem with high fructose corn syrup. There’s no way all that corn was going to items like corn on the cob, corn meal, corn flour, canned corn.
Our goal was to get to St. Louis to sleep for the evening. I really wanted to get a picture of the arches. We decided to stop for dinner before St. Louis to avoid the rush hour traffic. Wishful thinking.
Back on the road at 6:30pm with still an hour to go before getting into St. Louis we started down the road and I noticed something coming off the side of the moving truck. Initially I thought they had blown a tire, but then Craig smelled it. They hit a bump again and gasoline was spraying out the side. We pulled over right away. The gas cap was not placed back on after the last fill up.
We finally made it to St. Louis around 7:45pm at night only to get stuck in gridlocked traffic. All day my friend Kevin from Indianapolis had been warning us that the interchange from 55 to 44 was very hairy. Not only was the corner very sharp, but the lane changes and what you think is the exit is not, but rather for another interstate. To add insult to injury the construction had a whole interstate area closed. On ramps to get back on were closed.
As much prep work with the detailed directions Kevin gave us, Craig and I took the right route but my Mom and Dan got off the wrong one because they listened to their GPS. Worse more was their GPS took them off the highway that would have just been a detour and dumped them on to the streets of St. Louis to be rerouted.
Meanwhile Craig and I made it to the hotel to realize it was no where near what was described. Abandoned buildings all around it. Large parties of people with lots and lots of kids who were running around checking in. Super 8 had booked smoking rooms because of the pets. Eww! The front desk clerk was frustrated and offered to cancel our reservations. We gladly accepted.
All the while my Mom and Dan were still lost in St. Louis trying to make it this way. I started calling area hotels trying to get rooms that did non-smoking, cats and a truck with trailer. Holiday Inn saved the day. We made the reservation and drove straight over. When I walked in the woman was so nice, she said, “oh my, you look really frazzled.” She gave us complimentary breakfast.
We got to our rooms and tensions were quite high. Misunderstandings combined with crankiness ended up having tensions explode and everyone decided to just call it a night.
The positive to the day is I got some nice photos of the St. Louis Arch with a sunset backdrop.
June 21st, 2012
Alarms went off at 4am. We had to be in Danbury at 5am to load up the kitties and head over to Denny’s for breakfast. After a late start we hit the road at 7am.
New York went by quick. Craig and I were the follow car; reporting back about any swaying issues with the trailer and acting as guides to when it was safe to switch lanes. All was going pretty well.
Then we entered Pennsylvania. Where do I begin…carnage is a good start. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much road kill consistently along the side. Construction, holy crap they closed a lane every 30 minutes or so.
First, drunken cone placement. They were all over, never actually on the white line. Tractor trailers kept knocking them over and sometimes they’d flip back into traffic. One proceeded to flip right out in front of the Civic with no time to change path and I hit it. Gratefully no damage.
Jersey barriers and one of the scariest part of the trip so far. My family has their SUV on a tow dolly behind their 26′ moving truck. We had to pass through a section of construction with jersey barriers and the moving truck kept swaying back and forth with the two dolly fish tailing behind it. Craig and I watched as this all happened, gasping and trying to figure out to how to say something without making the situation worse. Several times mere inches were between a jersey barrier and the tow dolly.
But wait there’s more…a story could not be complete without some furniture! At a completely random point where the cars on the road had thinned, we came up on what looked like a big piece of rubber from a tire. No, it was a wooden chair frame right in the middle of the lane. I reacted quick and no damage done.
Now the scariest part, a FedEx tandem tractor trailer. He came up in the fast lane, hovered near my Mom and Dan in the moving truck, passed them and proceeded to leave a very strong wake of air which violently rocked their moving truck from side to side. The tow dolly twisted with each severe sway. Balance was recovered and we lived to make it to Ohio.
I can only hope this was the “working the kinks out” start to the trip. We’d really like to make it to Arizona alive and in one piece.
The day finished off nicely though. We all visited with old family friends from Ohio at a nearby restaurant and got treated to a vintage car groups meet at our hotel.
…and now for some much needed sleep.
June 21st, 2012
I knew the day before would be crazy, and gratefully I was able to wind down at work without project craziness. I probably should have been suspicious at that point. Craig picked me up at work, we headed to Stop & Shop for some last minute travel items. Back home for pizza with my in-laws. Many thanks to them for bringing it over and taking care of our kitties while we’re gone.
Just as we started packing, my Mom called to say that they were settled and ready for us. We collected ourselves and drove down to the Holiday Inn off Exit 8 to pick up their car for the next morning. We arrived around 9:30pm and the place was packed, cars parked on the grass, valet parking and blaring music. Lots of drunk old people; yes I’m calling you out people we passed in the elevator at 11pm at night acting like you’re 19 but you’re like 49.
We visited for a little while, and then realized the time. Back home, back to packing and finishing cleaning our home. 1am we slept.
Side note: I rented a Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS lens that is amazing. I got to play with it in the afternoon. Great lens! The depth of field is so nice.
June 21st, 2012
Well it’s that time again, not exactly our plan but we’re going along for the ride. My Mom is relocating from Connecticut to Arizona. I admire her for deciding to move across the country to an area that has always intrigued her. Politics with standing I hope she has a wonderful new life in Arizona. We are helping them move their items, in particular their Honda Civic and 2 cats.
Below is the itinerary per say in Google Maps form.
Wish us luck please!
June 17th, 2012
Happy Father’s Day Dad. I miss you greatly. I know you’d be amazed at how technology has advanced. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic would make you so happy. MAKE magazine would be in our house and the advent of arduino kits would make you giddy. Love you.