Thursday, June 25, 2015

Amos, Mark, and Pepper's 2013 Road Trip

The little car is loaded and all I have left to do is figure out what clothes I'll need to take with me. 
I'm wearing shorts here today, but by the time I get back it might be time for some Carhartts and something warmer.
So, I decided to just check the weather for the first part of the trip and tomorrow night, I'll be camping at Cave Lake state park near Ely, NV.
Forecast there says High 45° and a low of 19°. 
45° is still shorts weather as far as I am concerned. 
Wednesday night, if all goes well, I'll be camping somewhere in the south Utah canyonlands. High of 52°, low of 25°.
Thursday night, I'll be in either southern CO or northern NM. 54° and 30°
Warming up!
Friday night, I hope to spend in Santa Fe with Lisa, and it's about the same: 55° and 32°.
Saturday night at Sumner Lake State Park (I hope). It's like a heat wave! 64° and 39°
Sunday brunch in Portales with Kimberli, then overnight near Monahans, TX, where it's still summer: 75° 50° 
But there are clouds in the forecast, which doesn't bode well for my night or two at The Field Lab with John Wells on Monday and Tuesday, but the temps will be just right: 75° and 54°.
From there, it's Austin with Worth and Michael, then on to Orange, TX and hang with Robert. 
From there....?
6 hours in and I have already lost (again) my Fisher Space pen my friend Bill gave me about 15 years ago. I hope it has just fallen in some hidden cranny in the car.

Elko, NV with another 181 miles to Ely. Maybe the Mickey D's there will have free wi-fi, too.
I didn't make it to Ely because I didn't want to try to pitch a tent in the dark. You global warming alarmists can eat it. I didn't realize olive oil could freeze solid.

I'm in Beaver, UT now, hoping I can make it to Otter Creek State park before nightfall. The route I was going to take (UT 153) is snowed in. 

Wish me luck.
Day 1-
I packed the car, mostly, the night before, only leaving out the expensive or irreplaceable items I didn’t want to be without in case this was the night someone decided to make off with my 1989 CRX.

Pepper was raring to go, waiting at the door, but Amos, old man that he is, seemed less enthused. The gray cloud cover was still there and there was a layer of frost on the windshield. A few minutes idling cleared that up pretty quickly. I was thankful I’d had the foresight to coat the windshield with Rain-X the night prior.

I gave Facebook a final check before I shut down my computer and loaded the last of my gear into the car. I had to make sure there were no stragglers at getting me their contact information.

There were. You know who you are. Be ashamed.

The first part of the trip was relatively uneventful, of course. I stopped at the Chevron on Chinden and topped off the tank and spent the next hour just trying to get the hell out of Ada County in morning commuter traffic. Once on the freeway, Amos and Pepper settled right in.

The ride to Mountain Home was easy enough. The ride to Duck Valley got really interesting when Pepper made some horrible noise, like she’d got her foot caught in a trap, and when I turned to see what it was, I swerved off the right shoulder of the road about two feet, enough to cause the car to very nearly overturn at 60 mph when I steered in back on the pavement.

I was now wide awake. “The Rez” was as I remembered it from last time. The roads were spotty with ice and there was snow still on the mountains. I wondered if the route was going to be passable. It was. We made our way through the scenic beauty of southern Idaho and into northern Nevada.

The first town you hit on that route is called Mountain City, and it must have been something back in the day. Translate “back in the day” to when this was the main thoroughfare to get to Nevada from Idaho. 

“The Miners Club” is still shut down. I would really like to find the owners of the place, from when it opened to when it died, and write a book and/or short movie script about it.

The drive to Elko was scenic and nice. The overcast skies I left under gave way on the trip out of the mountains. Elko itself is a bit of a letdown after driving through such magnificence. I’m not knocking it, don’t get me wrong, it’s just…well…just like any other town. Like my cousin Richie once said to me “All strip malls have the same stores.” Or something like that. I was able to find the Maverik and the McDonald’s, where I was going to re-fuel and use the free wi-fi. 

The refueling didn't work out so well. It was then I discovered 1- I had again lost my Fisher Space Pen that Bill gave me about 15 years ago and 2- I neglected to bring another writing instrument. It was here I spent the first cash of the trip, wasting $1.49 (plus tax) on a pack of 3 sub-standard “Office Depot” pens they had on the shelf at the Maverik. 

Fortunately, the wi-fi at Mickey D’s was going strong, but I was hoping to make Ely (Cave Lake State Park, to be precise) by nightfall.

See, one of my new road trip rules, and I really should publish a list of “Mark and Amos’s Road Trip Rules,” is to do no driving at night. You miss shit driving by in the darkness.. Plus, erecting a tent in the dark is NO FUN. 

While tooling down Highway 93, what I failed to realize is that in November, in northern Nevada, the sun drops below the horizon a little before 1700. That’s 5 pm to you.

So, using the old Boy Scout “each width of your hand from the sun to the horizon equals an hour of daylight, I realized I wasn't going to make it. I’d gotten a FB message from Trent with his phone number telling me to call him when I got to Ely.

44 miles north of Ely, along the “Great Basin Highway,” there is no cell service. I thought it through. “Hell, I've got the gear and food and the whole point of the trip was to take my time and enjoy myself.. Que sera! I’m just going to find a place to pitch the tent for the night.”

I think we camped on a gravel landing strip. There were big yellow and white lines. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of them. The spot was beautiful. The skies were dark and cloudless with so little bleed-over from the light of Ely I barely noticed. I cooked supper on my little camp stove and I didn't think it was bad. I mean, not only did it have to be convenient; it had to be low sodium, too. To use a southernism, “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” and I ended up cooking a bit more than I felt like eating, and so I fed the remainder to Amos and Pepper just as the darkness grew and the temperature dropped. The forecast for Ely was 19F. I believe it.

It was cold.

I tried my best throughout the night to keep Pepper and Amos under covers and near me, but they would move and shake off whatever blanket or sweatshirt I’d covered them with.

It was a long night.
Day 2-
Dawn came on, later than I’d have liked, having hit the rack sometime after 1900. That’s 7 pm to you. And the cloudless skies from the previous night held. It was a perfect morning: tungsten clear blue skies and frigid air.

I stupidly left the dog’s water bowl out and now it is cracked where the water in it froze solid.

It was difficult, breaking camp with my fingers numb, but I managed and we hit the road for Ely. Trent didn’t answer his phone, so we just gassed up and continued on through. 

The drive through Nevada was pleasant and at a few points the weather was nice enough for me to roll the windows down. We saw several huge birds of prey and more cows and sheep than I could count. The plan for the day was to drive to Otter Creek State Park, which had one of those little green tent symbols beside it on the map. It looked like a good place to camp, about halfway through Utah.

Beaver, UT doesn't have a McDonald’s, or I couldn't find it. I ended up stealing wi-fi from a Best Western near where I gassed up. While talking to the young gal behind the counter, a fellow came in and heard our discussion about he route through the mountains. “You –might- make it” he said.


Fortunately, I had Stine’s GPS and the alternate route was only about an hour and a half more. After navigating my way around a tractor-trailer that lost half its load of hay, I found the place.

To say I was disappointed in Otter Creek State Park would be an understatement. Even though all the facilities had been shut for winter, the state of Utah still wanted me to pay $12.50 for a flat hunk of rocky ground to pitch my tent. I wasn't falling for it. This is BLM land

However, Otter Creek reservoir is pretty damn big and we were able to find a place called “Fisherman’s Beach" that had little covered picnic tables and firepits. The toilet was one of those typical Forest Service numbers, but it was open and stocked with TP! I laughed when I saw the horse hitch. During the night, which I expected to be quiet, there were all manner of critters out and about and they wanted me to know it. I heard coyotes, owls, and (I think) elk or deer or something hooting and hollering in the dark.

It was nice to have a table and a place to eat and write, but being right near the water made it colder than the previous night.
Day 3-
In the morning, I had to move the tent into the sunshine to melt all the ice off it. In the meantime, Amos and Pepper got tired of being cold and waited for me in the CRX to finish breaking camp in the frigid morning air.

While driving through the thriving metropolis of Koosharem, Utah, I very nearly plowed into a young deer. It was a fortunate almost-mishap, because when I came to a stop, I noticed a puff of white smoke come out from the right side of the hood. While I am not the most mechanical person, it was even obvious to me that one of those OEM hoses needed replacing because it was spewing coolant in neat little spurts. Fortunately, I had packed some duct tape. 

I managed to MacGyver a fix with the duct tape and consulted the atlas. While the GPS is cool, I like having a paper map. It told me I was perhaps 10 minutes from Loa, Utah, a town I hoped would have something to help me out.

I was relieved to see a filling station/fishing supply place right on the main route through town and I pulled in and spoke to the clean cut young man behind the counter and took him outside and showed the issue. 

“Well, I don’t have anything to help you,” he said, as my heart sank, “but the fellas in the shop out back just might.” He motioned to a large, poorly marked auto repair place just behind the station. As I pulled around a scruffy-looking young man opened one of the bay doors and greeted me immediately. I showed him the problem and he went to work.

It was a pretty difficult fix, mostly due to the position the hose was in and installing it, after the engine was in place, was a struggle. About 25 minutes later, the guy looked pleased with his work and said to me “how’s two bucks sound?”

Mechanics are, like cops, a maligned group, with the reputation of all hinging on the actions of few. Here in Loa, Utah, I met a hard-working honest young man...albeit one how needs to learn the value of his labor.

“That’s no way to run a business,” I said to him, handing him a $10. “If you’re a drinkin’ man, buy yourself a pitcher on me.”

Of course, being Loa, Utah, he probably ain’t a drinkin’ man, but he laughed and thanked me just the same.

With the crisis averted, we hit the road, making pretty good time, considering the setback. The canyon-lands in Utah are stunning and you should go see them. I saw some ancient petroglyphs and awesome wildlife by taking the backroads. I also saw some depressing poverty. Given the fiasco of Otter Creek State Park, my plan to camp at Gooseneck State Park was derailed, so I just kept my eye out for suitable (read: free, remote, and solitary) place to camp. I found it off UT 261 about 30 miles north of Mexican Hat. The sign read “Cottonwood,” which my Idaho friends will chuckle at.

I’m not sure who it was that said it, I think it may have been Noah Tramposh, but he'll get the credit because it sounds like something he'd say. He said something to the effect “If you ain’t got a fire, you ain’t camping.” I decided to build a fire. It was nice. Since I was planning on being able to take a shower at Lisa’s house in Santa Fe, on Friday, I figured one day’s driving while reeking of a fire was acceptable. It was a good decision. The night was chilly, but there was no snow anywhere on the ground at this lower elevation. This was our best night yet. I will not credit the three fingers of Old Crow I had as a nightcap for the improvement.

After sitting, “gazing into the fire” like my friend John Madric suggested, I hit the rack. Pepper and Amos were already in the tent, which pleased me because Pepper has been skittish of it. I have taken to saying “kennel up!” to get her to go in.
Day 4-
The day broke, clear and chilly, but not so cold as the previous days. There was still a small layer of ice on the tent.

I collected everything for breakfast and began the preparations. I have to say, as much as I like to cook, I must be just very lucky, because for the past three mornings my attempt to make –instant- coffee has failed miserably. Yes, I can cook my own version of duck l’orange, but making a cup of Folger's is proving an insurmountable task. The first morning on the airstrip, I think I just put too much coffee in the cup. It still had lots of grains and did not go into solution. The second day, I used less coffee, but perhaps the water wasn't warm enough. 

Today, after making sure the water was at a rolling boil, and only using half a spoonful, I was still subjected to a mouthful of coffee grounds in warm water rather than a cup of coffee. I am beginning to think there’s something wrong with the coffee!

So, still wanting something warm in my belly, I decided to use the remainder of the boiling water to make some warm powered milk for my granola. It was wonderful! 

The remnants of the fire were still smoldering a bit, but knowing I was going to be at Lisa’s in the afternoon, I went ahead and poured a gallon of my precious water on it and then shoveled some dirt on it to make sure. Given how easily I started the previous night’s fire, I can imagine the wild-fires that could result from a careless mistake.

The whole area was sandy, and it took a bit of time to get the sand out of everything. Fortunately, I found a small grassy area where I could fold the tent without it getting covered. I had made the mistake of using the orange five gallon paint bucket Stine had bought at Home Depot for the dog food as a stool while tending the fire and had pushed the lid on pretty tightly. It took some minor struggling, along with the attendant swearing, to get it open.

I finally got it open and got the dogs fed and started breaking camp. Pepper and Amos again waited in the car while I went about all the chores of dismantling the tent and loading the car. My hands weren’t numb, which made it a lot easier. It is always at this point I wish I had brought someone else along. Breaking camp always seems to take twice as long as setting it up, and I am fearful I am going to leave something important behind. In my typical OCD methodical manner, I collect the –really- important things first and put them in front of the driver’s seat: keys, wallet, gun, sunglasses, and watch. 

After double-checking the fire and giving the campsite a once over to make sure I wasn't leaving something behind, we hit the road. Apparently, wild horses in Utah aren't as skittish as the ones in Idaho and I was able to snap a couple of nice pictures of a mare and her brown and white foal.

Realizing I needed to call Lisa and tell her when to expect me, I turned on my cell phone, which I have taken to turning it off while in the middle of nowhere to keep the battery from draining in the search for a network. I was dumbfounded that I had service. I called Lisa and made a couple of other calls, and we began the drive through the Four Corners area. Amos and I have been to the Four Corners before, so I didn't really feel like going that far out of my way.

It’s not something that most Americans realize, but vast sections of that area were long ago divvied up among various tribal nations. As you drive through, there are usually signs proclaiming which tribe’s territory you are entering. I won’t name the tribe, but during one stretch of the drive, the stunningly vast amount of empty beer bottles strewn along side the roadway was so heartbreaking I began to wonder how this romantic notion of Indians as good stewards of the earth came about. It was disgusting and saddening.

The exception, however, was the Apache nation. The highway passes through a corner of their land and they have taken pains to keep it spotless. The sign was in perfect repair and announced, not surprisingly, the existence of the “Apache Nugget Casino.” Even on a Friday morning in November, the parking lot was almost full. They are doing something right.

Once I got out of the high desert, I entered the mountain range north of Albuquerque. It’s beautiful there, with forests and canyons. I got a message from Lisa, who told me an early arrival might not fit with her plans very well, so I decided to take a scenic detour. Looking on the map, I saw a town named “Coyote” and the decision was final. As I turned off the main highway on the road to Coyote, the first thing I saw was a young Native American riding along on a horse. He waved to me as I passed and I briefly considered stopping to get a picture, but it felt kind of creepy, so I didn’t. 

It was a little sad to see the businesses along the route that have gone bust, but it a sight very familiar in the American west. The vagaries of traffic flows can mean feast or famine for locals. Apparently there was a guy named Bernie who lived in Coyote and at one time ran a thriving Bar and Grill called, imaginatively enough, “Bernie’s Bar and Grill.” I would have stopped for a picture but I was holding up traffic (read: two other vehicles) so by the tie I could find a place to pull over and let them by, I gave up on the idea. There’ll be other abandoned places for me to shoot.

While I am talking about traffic, I have come to the firm conclusion the3 Ford F-150 is the official truck for New Mexico. They are everywhere! I have, however, not seen another single CRX.

I hit Santa Fe at “rush hour.” My friends from Boise will cringe, and my friends from Atlanta will laugh when I tell them this meant it took me a little more than 25 minutes to get the 13 miles through traffic to Lisa’s house. As I was pulling into her subdivision I was pleased to see a marked Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office car parked in one of the driveways.

I made it shortly before nightfall, but since I wasn't going to have to pitch a tent, it was OK. Lisa lives in a wonderful little subdivision of, what she called “faux-dobe” houses. She had homemade chicken soup on the stove already, shooting down my plans for cooking for her and her kids (ages 10 and 13). As a single mom, I suspected she does all the cooking. 

Lisa’s boy, Alejandro was home and he really liked meeting Amos and Pepper. Karina would be home later. I’m not so sure she was a smitten with them, especially since Pepper barked at her when she came home.

After dinner, which was delicious, Lisa told me I violated Dr. Nasser’s “no added salt” rule. I figure one meal’s not going to kill me, and I was growing weary of penne rigate and tomatoes for supper every night. Lisa spoiled Amos and Pepper by giving them hunks of the chicken and chicken skin when she took it out of the pot to de-bone it. They might not want to leave with me tomorrow.

Later, I collected my electronics and plugged in my mp3 player to charge. It had died on me, horribly enough, just as I crossed into Nevada, so I had been at the mercy of the radio and about seven scratched and jumpy CDs. To my horror, I discovered the mp3 player wasn't not charged, it is broken. I am not looking forward to driving through those sections of the American west where the numbers on the radio scroll from 87.5 to 108.0 without so much as a pause when you push the “seek” button.

The visit was pleasant and other than a small scare when Pepper made her way out of the yard, without incident. I have not seen Lisa in damn near two decades, so it was very good to talk and catch up. She’s not changed much and she had nice, albeit probably comforting lies, about me as well. She's a massage therapist and I laughed at the irony when she told me she had just bought a new massage chair. Then I realized, you can't give yourself a massage, so it's not all that ironic after all. 

We finally said goodnight a little after 0100.
Day 5-
The little two-cushion loveseat at Lisa’s that passes for a sofa wasn’t really long enough for me to sleep on very well, but after 3 nights of below freezing temperatures and rather uncomfortable sleeping surfaces, it was divine! I couldn't have asked for better accommodations, unless Lisa was going to let me (and Amos and Pepper!) snuggle up in her bed with her, which I figured was out of the question. 

I was a real slug-a-bed and didn’t wake up until nearly 0800! Of course, the guy on the Bobcat with the jack-hammer attachment who decided 0930 on a Saturday would be a good time to begin work on the sidewalk right in front of Lisa’s house would have eventually driven me out of bed anyway. I hope that deputy who lives nearby isn’t a graveyard cop!

The morning broke crystal clear. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and though it was a bit chilly, I could tell it was going to be a gorgeous day.

After a leisurely stroll and some interesting conversations with Lisa about life and everything, catching up on damn near 20 years of lost time, the dogs and I hit the road. While I had access to Lisa’s wi-fi, I did some research and learned a few interesting things. 1- There are no Chase Bank branches in the whole damn state of New Mexico. 2- The “Dom Rock” is actually along the route I have planned to take to see John Wells at The Field Lab. 3- Since its inception The French Foreign Legion has seen more combat than any other fighting force in the entire world.

Yes, I realize that third item has no bearing on my trip, but, really, you know how my wind works.

Also, since an unnamed dark-haired bombshell who lives in Portales neglected to send me her phone number, I decided to re-route my trip. Despite a late start, I felt I could make Brantley Lake State Park, located about 25 miles north of Carlsbad, New Mexico, which also showed one of the green tent icons on the map, by nightfall. I felt playing the odds on it being open this time of year were good, considering how far south it is.

The drive south through New Mexico this day was wonderful despite spotty radio reception and a general lack of music. I had the windows down the whole way and we made good time, rolling into the park a little after 1600. 

That’s 4 pm to you. 

This detour shaved a day off this end, putting me at The Field Lab in Terlingua on Sunday. Upon closer inspection of the map(s) of Texas in my atlas, I will need that extra day to make it to Pop’s house on the evening of the 14th. It’s going to be a long drive that day, from Bridge City, Texas to Jackson, Georgia. 

The route today took me through Roswell, New Mexico, I’ve been through Roswell before, but I again chuckled at how many businesses use the whole “Roswell Incident” as fodder for their advertising and depict little green (or gray) aliens on their signage.

When I arrived at Brantley Lake State Park, my gamble paid off, but I was a little disturbed to see -insects- flying in the air. I actually broke a sweat and had to take off my t-shirt while setting up camp! It was if I had driven to a different season. 

After I set up the tent, I was getting something out of the car when I heard my phone beep. I actually have cell phone service in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico? Will wonders never cease? I listened to the message and it was from John Boy, just calling to check on my progress. I used the chance to call Bill, too and have him Google the weather forecast for the area and give me an update. Lows tonight here are expected to be in the 40s. That’s like summer in Idaho.

Being Saturday, the park office was closed, but the “self-pay” gate was open so I grabbed an envelope and checked the rates. For an “improved” site, New Mexico wants $14.00. For a “primitive” site, they want $8.00. The only difference I could see when I looked was the addition of a picnic table. Needless to say, being the cheap bastard I am, I couldn’t see my way clear to pay $5.00 just for the use of a picnic table, so I chose the “primitive” site.

Sadly for them, I only had a $20 bill in my wallet, so I filled the little envelope with quarters, dimes, and nickels. 

I was unpleasantly surprised to find other campers out this weekend. With the mild weather, I guess I should have expected it, but now, at a little after 1900 (that’s 7pm to you) I am listening to the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” being blasted out of a boom box and the shrill cries of some drunk gal. I am tempted to go introduce myself, but from the wolf howls the, counting their voices, three other men who are with her (Her name is Laurie, by the way), I am sure I’d be an unwanted guest, even if I went bearing my bottle of Old Crow.

Pepper and Amos are now quietly dozing here in the tent with me and the sounds of insects, waterfowl, and frogs are competing with the revelry of my fellow primitive campers. Of course, I noticed they were in pick-ups with campers on them. I have seen inside those campers, so I am not quite willing to say what they are doing is “camping.” They don’t have a fire. Of course, neither do we, tonight. This is a waypoint between Lisa’s and The Field Lab, so I’m not putting much work into it. 

I am typing this while lying on my belly, prone, with bundles of blankets supporting me, like some 50s teenage schoolgirl writing her boyfriend in the Army a letter. This is a very difficult position to drink in, so right about now, I am somewhat regretting not giving up the five bucks for a picnic table. 

Given the luxurious warmth of the night tonight here in southern New Mexico, for the first time this trip I am not going to bundle in layers, hat, and gloves to sleep, but instead just wear sweats and socks. It should be enough. I even have the cover to the door unzipped and the screen door is letting in cool, fresh air. Perhaps we won’t get any condensation of our breathing if I leave this open all night?

It’s still not 2000 (that’s 8pm to you) and I am starting on my second cup of wine. I’m not in the mood to read, so I am going to just edit some of the 800+ pictures I have taken so far.

Tomorrow: Texas!

OY- Just finished the fast-and-dirty editing of the pictures so far and it’s still only 1944. (that’s 7:44 pm to you). 

I am digging this slow moving time. The cloudless dark sky is tonight illuminated by a half moon, which has been getting quickly fatter each night since those tiny slivers I started my trip with.

I think I’ll just sip my wine and think. Not sure anything good can come from -that-, though.

I am often wrong.

OK, I finished my wine and hit the rack, probably sometime before 2100. 
That’s 9pm to you. I was awoken at 2141 hours by Pepper barking, and I heard some voices outside my tent. While reaching for my gun I heard one of the voices say “Fuck, man we already woke him up…”

Then I heard the other voice, a southerner, say “Hey there…”

I unzipped the tent and spoke to them, with my gun in hand.
“We just were going to ask if you wanted to come down and sit by our fire with us” said the southerner. “We’re sorry we woke you up.”
I explained I have an early day and I appreciated the offer, but I was going to decline.

“OK, we’re here on 4 days leave and we just thought we’d ask. We thought you’d just be here by yourself sitting around a fire, so we thought we’d ask. We’re in the Army, here for Veteran’s Day.”

I told them I appreciated the offer and I thanked them for their service and they walked back towards their camp. It was the same camp where the music was coming from earlier.

I lie there for a minute or two and Pepper was whining as if she had to go out, so I decided “Hell yeah!” I’d take them up on their offer. I put leashes on Amos and Pepper and grabbed the bottle of Old Crow and made my way down the beach to their camp. They all seemed pleased I’d accepted their offer.

My earlier assessment was incorrect. There was one gal, named “Dorie” and not “Laurie,” but I was wrong about their reactions. They all welcomed me with cans of beer, wonderful jalapeno poppers that “Sgt. Chuck” was roasting over an open fire, and some really great tasting roasted corn on the cob. They told me they all got 4-day passes from Fort Bliss and had come to let off some steam. They were all drunk, some more than others, and they all loved having Amos and Pepper visit. Sgt. Chuck told me he’d just gotten out of the service last week and was planning to attend commercial diving school. The others were, or seemed to be, fresh recruits. Apparently, they were all members of a Patriot Missile Crew. They gave me beer and accepted my bottle of Old Crow without hesitation. 

Two of them, the first southerner I’d spoken with, “Taylor” and another fellow named “Levi” were both from Georgia! Taylor was from Dalton and Levi was from Commerce. The other voice I’d heard belonged to “Willie” (whose real last name was Wilson), and he was from Middleton, New York. 

The gal, a heavy-chested, dirty-blonde beauty wearing jeans, a tight, white “wife-beater,” and a flannel shirt was much too drunk to be able to tell me much of a story, though it was obvious she was with Sgt. Chuck. The last soldier I met was named “Joah” and he was a quiet, sober young man who seemed to be the kind of guy who does all the heavy lifting among his friends. He’s the guy they call to bail them out of trouble.

We sat around the campfire and I drank a couple of beers while Amos and Pepper were again spoiled with affection and bits of food. As the fire died down and a few retired to the one huge tent they had, I thanked them for their service and made my exit. Except for the ones who had retired (a kind euphemism for “passed out”), they all shook my hand and wish me safe travels. 

Faith in humanity restored.

(Yes, I got a group picture of them with Amos and Pepper.)
Thank you, veterans!

Unable to locate the Field Lab yesterday, I decided to go ahead and head towardRobert's house in east Texas. Probably a good idea, if the dark clouds behind me are any indication of the weather.

Currently in Sonora, Texas, which, ironically, is "Home of the Broncos!"

Lots of Bronco stickers and such. Of course, this -is- Texas, so we're talking -high school- football, not college.

Long drive ahead. Day 6 and 7 updates in about 10 hours. Stay tuned.
Day 6-
After the previous night’s revelry, I impressed myself with my early rising. The soldiers’ camp was quiet, and I was able to hear the critters and buzzing of insects in the quiet morning air. After feeding Pepper and Amos, and having my usual breakfast of granola, I broke camp and loaded the car.

It was another beautiful, cloudless day in New Mexico. My plan for this day was to drive a scenic route to The Field Lab, via the west Texas towns of Marfa and Presidio, and the weather seemed perfect for it. 

Coming out of New Mexico, the radio in my car finally picked up a stray FM signal and I was surprised it was NPR. Apropos, they were discussing Texas, and I learned a fact that would later perfectly explain why my search for decent camping places was utterly futile: 90% of all land in Texas is privately owned.

After traveling through Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, where the phrase “public land” is ubiquitous in the language, this was kind of saddening. I like Texas, I just wish it had more public land. 

After crossing the Texas State Line, I took US 285 into the famous old-west town of Pecos, Texas. I arrived in Pecos and was able to make a few calls and steal wi-fi from the Motel 6 just off I-20. I posted a message for John Wells here on Facebook seeing if he needed anything from the “big city” while I was there, and I tried calling, but his phone must have been off.

It was in this town, back in the cowboy days, that Judge Roy Bean dispensed his own brand of frontier justice. I was fortunate enough to see the sign directing us to the historic “Jersey Lilly” saloon/courthouse where he presided and handed down many notorious rulings. 

Nearby was the tomb of “Gentleman and Gunfighter” Robert Clay Allison, who survived the War Between The States, when he served in the 9th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment under the famous Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a run-in with legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, and numerous gunfights, and eventually died as the result of an accident on his ranch in 1887. His tombstone reads “He never killed a man that did not need killing.”

After going through Pecos, I turned onto Texas Route 17 and headed down through the scenic Barilla Mountains. I had plugged the coordinates for The Field Lab into the GPS and it gave me a rough arrival time of 1650. That’s 4:50 pm to you. 

Without any sure plans as to where to stay the night, we headed out. After a lovely drive through some picturesque small towns I stopped for fuel in Marfa (look on a west Texas road map) and was irritated that, even here in the middle of nowhere, I was still paying $0.25 less per gallon of gas than I did in Boise! 

Marfa, while having the outward appearance of just another west Texas cattle town, is actually the scene of quite the thriving art community. There were several galleries in town, many of them in renovated old-west buildings.

The drive from Marfa down to the border at Presidio was without incident, though I did get a small thrill out of seeing both a coyote and a road-runner, just a few minutes apart, during the ride down US 67. It made me laugh.

Texas Route 170 leads from Presidio to Terlingua, by way of Big Bend, and is very scenic. I had discovered that “The Dom Rock” from the 1980 Kevin Reynolds’ film “Fandango” was just off thed roadway along this route, so I kept my eyes peeled for it. After having a few close calls passing several dump-trucks laden with gravel, I found it. It is situated on the tallest hill between Presidio and Terlingua, and there was even a very wide spot for me to park. After a short scouting trip along a fairly well-worn trail, my heart leapt when I saw it! While it was a little steep, I decided Amos was up to the task of navigating around the edge of the hill for a photo opportunity. 

I was wrong.

While we were attempting to navigate the little trail, the old guy’s legs got wobbly and he lost his balance and began to fall off the edge of the mountain. I had a hold on his leash, but I didn't want to strangle him to death, so I jumped from the rock outcropping I was perched on, to a larger rock precipice below him and grabbed him with both arms, and kept him from falling into the Rio Grande, about 500 feet below us.

Unfortunately, during this amazingly stupid heroic maneuver, I also lost my balance and footing, and Amos and I tumbled headlong into some sort of desert cactus plant festooned with a variety of stinging nettles. Pepper, being the youngster, was able to trot right to the spot, but I ended up toting Amos the rest of the way there. I’m not sure it was worth risking death or permanent disability, but we got to see Dom and we got a picture to prove it. After I carried Amos back to the car, I promised him no more mountain climbing. 

That’s when the itching began.

I was fortunate again when I discovered highway crews doing work just past where Dom is. They had not got to the section where we stopped yet, but were steadily working their way there. I had to wait about 35 minutes for a pilot car to lead me (and only me) along a circuitous single-lane stretch of the highway for about 5 miles, during which no stopping was allowed.

We made it to Terlingua as night was falling and the GPS showed the route to The Field Lab. Or so I thought. I began following the directions it gave and though I distinctly remember John Wells’ map indicating it lie 2.5 miles off Texas 118, the damn GPS took me about 6 miles down a treacherous, semi-dry county road, through “Ten Bit Ranch.” I finally came upon a big gate with an ominous sign that read “Private Property! No Trespassing! Keep Out!”

The little checkered flag icon on the GPS showed my destination lie beyond that gate.

I sat and thought for a moment and decided, since it was the Marine Corps Birthday, that discretion should be the better part of valor this day and it would probably be “a tad unwise” to go romping about on some southwest Texas rancher’s land in a little red Honda CRX. He probably wouldn't cotton to some bald stranger and two dogs tooling through his gate. Texas law probably would allow him to open fire with impunity!

I made a 1000-point Austin Powers turn and got headed back in the right direction, with several soft-sand scares where I got the rpm’s up to nearly red-line while riding the clutch to get us through.

Sadly, I’d not been able to find wi-fi and I missed the better directions John gave, but considering the condition of that one road, I wasn't really up for another random off-road excursion to find the place, so I stopped and took out the atlas.

It was at this point the lack of public land became problematic. Barbed wire was strung along the edge of every single stretch of highway I went down and “No trespassing” signs were everywhere. I was thinking John Wells could probably make some extra cash by setting up a picnic table on a piece of his land, putting up a small sign out on Hwy 118, and charging campers $5 a night for a place to pitch a tent. I’d have stopped for the night.

However, with the itching from the cactus getting worse, I decided to drive on to Alpine, which the GPS (which I utterly despised) said was only about 59 miles away. I got out my atlas and confirmed that it was at least close. So, we blasted up 118 as darkness fell and eventually ran into a US Border Patrol station. I am sure they got all giddy and thought “load car!” when they saw an out-of-state older model Honda with dark tinted windows driven by a single male occupant pull up. The BP agent was a young, blonde man who eyed the car suspiciously as I rolled to a stop.

“You coming from the park tonight?” he asked. He did not ask for my ID.

I laughed and explained my dual fiascoes of the mountainside rescue of my decrepit dog, and the overland 4-wheeling adventure in my CRX while handing him my driver’s license and ACSO ID card anyway. He laughed at my story and pointed out the mud to his partner, a dour, Hispanic young man, who just nodded.

He handed my IDs back and said “I’m from Montana.” I told him I wondered how BP agents are assigned and what was the chance of him getting to work the north border and he literally laughed out loud! I told him I reckoned joining the Border Patrol is not unlike joining the military: they dress you in green and send you someplace where people who speak a foreign language may try to kill you. We chatted for a few minutes about cop stuff and he wished me safe travels when another car pulled up behind me. He was young and I can’t help but think he was a little disappointed he didn't get to take off a load of dope.

Night came on and I made it to Alpine, Texas, which lies just 26 miles west of Marfa on US 67. My route down to Presidio and Terlingua was 197 extra miles. It was worth it, even with the itching. After fueling up ($3.19 a gallon!), I went into the little bathroom and attempted to wash off the nettles or whatever. It didn’t help. The itching wasn’t -horrible-, but it certainly wasn’t fun.

I looked at Pepper and Amos, peacefully sleeping, and decided, since some ominous, dark clouds were gathering behind us to the west, that we should just sleep in the car and make a mad dash across the state the next day. I drove maybe another 100 miles and found a picnic area with other cars and semi-trucks parked. I guess because of the clouds, it wasn't cold at all, and to keep Pepper from panting and fogging up my windows, I just put on my fleece hat and rolled them down. I woke from time to time, but overall slept OK despite the lack of room.

The weather forecast for Pensacola shows rain tomorrow, and I'm not liking that. Long haul into Georgia today.
Day 7-
Veteran’s Day broke foggy in west Texas, but it wasn't cold. The itching was now just mildly irritating, so I stretched a bit to work out the kinks in my back a night of sleeping in the front of a CRX will cause, and then we hit the road.

I called Stine to update her on my plan to drive across Texas in a day and stay with my long-time friend, Robert Freeman, and his new wife, Jill, at their house in Bridge City, which lies spitting distance from Louisiana. 

It was going to be a long haul. The GPS indicated I could be there by 1500 (that's 3 pm to you), but my dealings with that damn thing made me suspicious. Besides, I hoped to stop in Austin and see Worth, if possible. 

My first stop this day was a small west Texas town called Sonora, about 91 miles north of Del Rio, the town that figured prominently in the Cohen Brother’s “No Country for Old Men” with Javier Badem. The most noticeable thing where I stopped was the local high school football field with a big “Bronco Nation” sign sporting the same stylized horse head Boise State uses.

I fueled up and we hit the road. The radio would only occasionally catch a signal, and most of the time it was country music, which I am OK with, but sometimes, it’s catch on religious programming. I listened briefly while some minister spewed anger towards atheists and I wondered how many there are in west Texas.

Anyway, the first part of the drive on east I-10 was relatively uneventful, the only thing of note was a convoy of tractor-trailers headed east with NASCAR logos on them. And they were hauling ass! The speed limit out there is 75 and I was right at 70 and they blew by my little car as if it was standing still. The high winds, and the blast from the passing rigs pushed my car over the fog line and the rumble-strips jolted Pepper awake. Amos, the veteran of thousands of miles, was unmoved by the noise.

When I got to Johnson City, Texas, a town lined with American and Texas flags, I called Worth to see if he could meet me. He recommended a place near the Danish-sounding town of Bastrop, called “Cindy’s Gone Hog Wild.”

He said it was going to be just off the route I was taking to Robert’s, so it sounded like a plan.

Another little irritation I have with Texas is their penchant for putting traffic signals on roadways where the speed limit is 70 mph! I topped this little hill on US 290 and was in a horrible state of panic to see a truck stopped at a red light in front of me about 40 yards. Really, Texas? I mean, either get rid of the damn lights or lower the speed limit! That’s just insane!

When I stomped on the (newly installed) brakes, in an valiant effort to keep from plowing into the back of that F-150, all my camping equipment and gear came tumbling forward, landing all over Pepper who had been lying in the back, forcing her to try to climb into the front seat. She ended up sitting on top of Amos, who put up with the intrusion without complaint. After I had to stop and rearrange all the crap, I started driving with much more caution.

It’s a good thing, too because a deer with a huge antlers decided to prance across the road in front of me. Given the number of innocent critters I saw squashed on the edge of the highway, I think this is a very common occurrence. However, in a CRX, a 400 lb. hunk of meat and antlers crashing through the windshield would almost mean certain death.

Not wanting to die, I managed to piss off any number of cowboys and ranchers by driving my little death-trap well below the posted speed limit.

I finally made it to Cindy’s and Worth showed up a few minutes later. We spent many minutes trying to figure out when it was we last saw one another, and though we couldn't be sure, thinking it was almost two decades, we both agreed it had been far too long. 

I snapped a picture of Amos and Worth and we went inside and had the black-haired waitress, Lindsey, bring us beers and fries, and take our picture with my camera. Cindy’s is basically a big warehouse, and on this summer-like day, they had all the big bay doors open. It was probably 80F outside and a nice breeze made for a wonderful lunch. 

We caught up and reminisced and then I headed out to see Robert. I told Worth the GPS now said I’d arrive in Bridge City about 1700. That’s 5 pm to you.

“Does it take rush-hour Houston traffic into account?” he asked.
“I don’t know” I said.
“Good luck with that” he laughed as he mounted his motorcycle to begin what I must assume is a constant white-knuckle death-defying stunt of driving home in Austin traffic.

I found out what he meant a little later. The traffic in Houston was so bad, I mentally marked it off the list of places to ever go again. I don’t know how people deal with it and, while stopped dead on I-10 in downtown, I said aloud “Humans were not meant to live like this.” 

Fortunately, Houston has radio stations and I was finally able to get some decent music for more than 6 minutes at a whack. I noticed, though, I had driven about 2000 miles through the Great State of Texas without once hearing either a ZZ Top or a Stevie Ray Vaughn song. I had heard three songs from the group “Alabama.” There’s something wrong with that.

The GPS worked OK and guided me to Robert’s house, which is actually the house he grew up in, that Stine and I visited when we were last here. I took Amos and Pepper into the backyard and Jill came out to greet us. It has been a long time since I have heard a southern girl speak with a bit of a drawl and it was wonderful, even if Robert would later make fun of her squeaky “Minnie Mouse” voice.

I noticed, a bit concerned, Robert has a swimming pool. Amos doesn't do well in the dark, so I mentally reminded myself to keep a close eye on him.

We went in and Amos and Pepper met Jill’s son, Lucas. He’s autistic, but loved having the dogs there. I explained to Jill that Amos is a certified therapy dog, so I think his calmness helped the little kid adjust to the new intruders.

Robert arrived about a quarter of an hour after I did. It was good to see my friend, how, apart from a few pounds, hasn't changed a bit since I last saw him. Well, except we also both had hair. I told him I was going to take Pepper and Amos outside and if he heard a splash not to worry because it was just me rescuing Amos from the pool.

Robert stepped outside with me and, seriously, not 3 minutes later, Amos blindly wandered into the pool with a big splash! He went pretty deep and just as I was preparing to dive in, he surfaced and I was able to drag him out. Fortunately, even though it is November, it was a warm night and I was able to get him dried off without the risk of hypothermia. 

Robert and I had a good visit and he didn't hesitate when I told him I’d like to stay until Wednesday. He showed me where everything was and I made myself at home. He hit the rack, probably later than he should have, because he had to get up the next day at 0400 (that's 4 am to you) to fight Houston traffic to give a speech.

The guest bedroom where we stayed was, without doubt, the finest accommodations of the trip. When Hurricane Ike hit the coast, the house was flooded and Robert has done a great job of remodeling the place. The bed was soft and warm and Pepper slept next to me most of the night.

The large backyard is fenced and Amos and Pepper and I are going to take our ease there tomorrow in the warmth. The forecast is for clear skies and highs in the 70s, so it should be a very nice day.
Day 8-
This was an easy day, mostly I just hung out at Robert’s house with Amos and Pepper. I got my laundry cleaned and took my ease sitting in the sun. I didn’t have to rescue Amos from the pool, but, considering it was almost 80F, I considered grabbing my swim trunks (yes, I brought them) and taking a short dip, but I decided against it.

Robert came home and took us for a short drive around the area. He showed me some houses that are still deserted following Hurricane Ike. There was still visible damage in the area, but for the most part, people are rebuilding. I remarked that it was inevitable that another storm would hit, and Robert said the statisticians say it will be another 100 years or so before another one of that magnitude hits, which is why he didn’t just take the money his insurance company paid and move farther inland. 

For putting me up for a couple of nights, I cooked supper for Robert and Jill; some penne with a Bolognese-like sauce, but without onions. If you can believe this, Robert is from Texas and onions hurt his stomach. 

After supper, Robert began yanking out all manner of electronics out of his workroom and hooked me up with some more cards for my camera, a cool mini-card adapter and a 50gb external hard drive for me to save my pictures.

I had forgotten Robert, who was once a nuclear engineer aboard a ballistic missile submarine, is a mechanical and electrical genius, so I told him about my problem with my m3 player.

“Can I have it?” He asked, stating “I like to take stuff like that apart and play with it.”
“Sure,” I said “it’s broken anyway” and I continued cooking.

I heard Robert chuckle in his workroom. A minute or so later, he came back into the kitchen holding my now-functioning mp3 player.

“You fixed it!” I said.
“Well…sort of. See, you’re lucky because while I was sitting at my desk looking for a tool to crack it open with, I happened to notice there’s this little switch on the top” and he pointed to a little black piece of plastic that I had never even seen.

“That’s the button lock. It wasn’t broken, it was just locked. All you had to do was push the switch like this” he said, demonstrating.

I drove 2000 miles of New Mexico and Texas desert without music because I didn’t know the damn thing even had such a switch. I am not sure when the last time I felt so stupid was.

After supper, we drank and talked into the night, reminiscing and laughing. We both agreed it had been way too damn long since we’d done that and made a commitment to not let so many years pass before we do it again.

We finally hit the rack sometime just before midnight and I slept soundly on some kind of cool memory-foam pillow Robert had in his guest room.
Day 9-
The weather forecast for Pensacola showed rain. I didn't want to subject old Amos to another night camping in cold or wet weather, so I decided to just drive straight from Bridge City, Texas to Pop’s house in Jackson, Georgia. The GPS indicated it would be about 1930 hours before I arrived (that’s 7:30 pm to you), but I doubted it was right. Robert pointed out Georgia was also in the Eastern time zone, so it’s going to be an extra hour.

It’s a good thing my little 4 cylinder car doesn't like to go terribly fast because the Louisiana State Troopers were out in force. I counted 12 on a 40 mile section of I-10, east of Baton Rouge. The speed limit is 70 mph there, and 70 for my car is right about 3500 rpm, which is the “sweet spot” where the speed is fast enough and the engine doesn’t have to push too hard. 

I probably would have made it “on time” had I not gotten drowsy and napped for about an hour or so in the parking lot of a Shell station somewhere just east of Mobile, Alabama. Fortunately, no one called the local Sheriff’s Office to come check on me.

It was clear and the driving was easy, but after night fell, I ended up driving over a shredded tractor-trailer tire while I was in the passing lane going around a Wal-Mart truck up a hill just south of Montgomery. 

In my little clown car, driving over anything sounds like a disaster, and this was no different. Fortunately, I gots skills! Thanks to the ACSO EVOC instructors, I was able to maintain positive control and didn't end up under the wheels of the big rig next to me, but was able to hold the little car steady until I could get it off the road and check it out.

There were no flats and I didn't see any fluids coming out of the engine, so I got back in and took off. The speed limit on this section of I-85 is 70 as well, and weirdly, all those Alabama drivers who were blowing by me during the day doing 90 were all doing 55. I didn’t see one single Alabama or Georgia Trooper, so I rolled into Jackson just a bit after 2100.

I stopped to buy a bottle of wine, but the grocery store was closed, so I opted for a Fat Tire from the local filling station. The reader board out front said the temperature was 31F, and judging from how people were bundled up, I though it must have been much colder.

The gal behind the counter eyed me suspiciously, in my shorts and t-shirt, with my bare, bald head, when I walked in. The guy standing next to me was dressed for a blizzard, with his Carhartt watchcap pulled down around his ears as if it was cold!

I got to Pops's house and opened the gate to the rear, thinking he’d hear me and come out. He didn't. I was able to get the dogs out and drive the car into the backyard without him hearing. I had to beat on the door to get his attention. He and Amos have a lot in common.

After a short while of catching up, I turned on the little gas heater Pops keeps on the back porch and made a bed for me and the dogs. While it wasn't as comfortable as Robert’s guest room, it beat the hell out of my tent. But I was tired and was fast asleep. 

I wonder if my CRX can haul one of those little tear-drop trailers?
OK, after a thorough search of my car (and I do that for a living, remember?) the total official "Lost Item" toll is:
- A Fisher Space Pen (Last seen at the Chevron at Chinden/Maple Grove in Garden City, Idaho)
- A Walgreens pair of reading glasses (Last seen at the campsite north of Ely, Nevada)
- A blue Nalgene bottle (Last seen at Robert's house, so I am likely to get that item back in a few years.)
Day 10-
The morning in Georgia was clear and, I thought, warm. The old “American” gas station thermometer Pops has hanging up on his old broken yard swing read almost 50F, but if you only judged the weather by how a couple of carpenters working on the house to the rear were dressed, you’d have thought it was wintertime. They were wearing full coveralls, gloves, and watch caps. I wonder what they must have thought of me, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, standing barefoot in the grass?

I used the coffee maker, and confirmed Beth’s assertion that I had not bought instant coffee. It was good, but I misjudged the amount needed and ended up with half a pot. I think tomorrow, I am going to use the day-old coffee as the water for the next batch to see how strong I can get it.

I had forgotten how much I hate the bathroom here. It’s cramped and the shower head was designed for someone -not- 6’5”. I managed to get clean and get my head shaved without too much difficulty, though I did drop my razor and had to bend in a weird contortion to pick it up due to the cramped space and very nearly slipped and fell out of the shower. That would be a very ignoble way to die, and I was fortunate enough to be able to grab the sink on my way towards the floor! 

Pops went to play his mandolin with his friend Randy, and I pretty much just laid around the house, resting the remainder of the afternoon. Amos, Pepper and I took a nap on the couch, and when Pops returned, I went to the grocery store to buy some fixings for supper. Nothing in the house here is suitable for my low sodium diet. The cans of food and frozen entrees are loaded, and so I bought some rice, frozen mixed vegetables, a couple of jalapeno peppers, and chicken. The people at the Ingle's grocery store were similarly dressed and I caught a few odd glances, but no one said anything.

The supper I made was a very spicy curry chicken stir-fry. I was surprised Pops didn't complain about the odor because though the whole house smelled like the kitchen in a cheap Calcutta restaurant. Considering it was low-sodium, it wasn't a bad meal, but I cooked too much and will end up eating left-overs for lunch tomorrow. 

Amos and Pepper have been scratching more and I reckon they picked up some fleas down in Texas. Betsy said she’d pick some stuff up for me for them. Otherwise, they seem content to lie around the house and sniff in the yard now and again.

Betsy and Christy are coming down today and I’ve got some chores I need to get done. I need to go to the bank and the nearest Chase Bank is in McDonough, Georgia. I am assuming they have a car wash there, too. My little Honda is filthy and needs a good vacuuming. The light hiking boots I wore have holes in the sole now, so I need to find a shoe store and pick up some cheap boots or sneakers.

After a couple of games of Chess with Pops, I decided to hit the rack. When I went outside to turn the heater on, it almost wasn't necessary. The lows in the forecast are only in the 40s. I decided to sleep on the floor next to Amos because Pepper was fast asleep on the couch and I didn’t have the heart to wake her up and make her move. It was comfortable enough, even if Amos did scratch my face while dreaming.
Day 11- (boring update alert)
Apparently, it is still summertime here in the south. The cold nights I was pleased to get when I first arrived have (wait for it)… gone with the wind. I broke a sweat during my sleep and was jarred awake by some sort of large, flying insect landing on my face. And people ask me why I like winter? I heard Boise got snow.

My plans for the day are minimal: a trip to the thriving metropolis of McDonough, Georgia to buy shoes and find a Chase Bank. Betsy and Christy came along and I drove us (along with Amos and Pepper) up I-75 to the shopping area in Pops' SUV. If I ever had any second thoughts about moving away from this hell-on-earth, that horrendous 15 minute drive on I-75 quickly squashed those. I solemnly swear I will never again complain about noon-day traffic on Eagle Road.

I was able to find a decent pair of light hiking boots, and Betsy’s smart phone has GPS which she used to locate the bank. With my two chores done, we all returned home and I spent the remainder of the day just bumming around the house. Later, I cooked some pasta. 

Day 12- (somewhat boring update alert)
My continued search for a cheap pair of +1.00 reading glasses is becoming an exercise in futility. There are three “dollar stores” in Jackson, Georgia and not one of them had a pair. There were plenty of +1.25s to be had, but I don’t want to use a stronger magnification than necessary, so I guess I’ll just make do with the one pair and be very careful not to lose them, too.

Christy came down and brought her dog, Yoshi, along for the ride. The understatement for the day is "He's a big dog."

She has been talking about this animal sanctuary place called Noah’s Ark for some time. It houses all manner of exotic critters that have been rescued from various circumstances like pets for doper-peddlers and crappy circuses, so, since the weather was clear and warm, Justin, Mitch, Christy and I went to stroll around.

In one enclosure, there is a lion, and tiger, and a bear that were seized during a dope-raid. Apparently, the bad guy had the critters together since they were puppies and they are best friends. Sadly, only the lion was out sunning himself.

Afterward, I went and met up with Franklin, who I’ve not seen in many years. We had a good conversation and I caught up on all the (unfortunate news regarding his pending divorce, which made it seem a little like a Roman holiday. 

We met in a little state park south of here and the weather was great. The orange sunset over the little lake was beautiful and I think I got some decent pictures of it, as well as some other wonderful sights.

Later, Betsy, Justin, Pops, and I played Trivial Pursuit. Justin, knowing how little I know about sports, kept choosing that category for my winning question, but his tactic backfired when I got a Tour de France question for the win! Ha!

More insects out on the porch, and if Pops didn’t keep the house 1000° F, I’d have gone inside and slept on the couch.
Day 13-
Not a lot to report from this day. Johnnie came down to Pops’ and brought Emma and we all celebrated Thomas’s birthday with ice cream cake and I heard much talk of the medicinal effects of daily doses of apple-cider-vinegar. 

A game of trivial pursuit ended when Justin drew the winning question after getting Thomas to delete all the viruses his laptop contracted. Later, he’d leave for Rome and Thomas would leave to go to a concert.
Day 14-
Today was a day for chores. I got my new shoes exchanged when one of the metal eyelets broke, I saw Betty (Keith Langley’s mom), I got the oil changed and the tires rotated on my car, washed the thing and finally vacuumed out all the dirt.

Yes, my Space Pen is gone.

Christy made us burgers and fries for supper, then Pops and I stayed up late catching up.
Late night with Pops and now I am loaded and Carolina bound.

Tonight, hopefully we look upon the Atlantic.
Day 15-
The drive from Jackson, Georgia to Pawley’s Island, South Carolina was easy enough. The weather was a bit chilly, but mostly clear. I avoided the super-slab highway as much as I could, and I arrived at Marc and Susan’s scenic abode a few hours before nightfall. Marc’s dogs, Buddy and Zero met Amos and Pepper and there was much posturing, some growling, and a lot of butt-sniffing, but they all seemed to get along well enough. 

Marc had a nice fire going and we drank some spirits and enjoyed the outdoors until it was time to go inside and eat wonderful shrimp-and-crab cakes Susan had made for us from local catches. They were awesome and the sweet-potato bisque she’d prepared was a perfect compliment.

One day, I will make food that good. Of course, Susan ran a very successful local white-tablecloth restaurant called “The Rice Paddy” for damn near three decades, so I suspected she’d know a thing or two about cooking.

Their home is a marvel of carpentry and engineering, but the beautiful open wooden staircase proved to be quite a task when Pepper and Amos both refused to descend it at 0230 hours (That’s 2:30 am to you) when they both began to whine about peeing.
Day 16-

After a breakfast of toast with avocado and tomatoes, we did some target shooting with Marc’s pellet rifle. After routinely shooting an AR15, you might think a pellet rifle would be boring, but it was kinda fun and now I think I am going to get one.

A bit later we took a drive around the island and Marc showed me around some of the scenic sights in the area, including the South Carolina Maritime Museum and The Clemson University site called Hobcaw Barony. It was wonderful and if you’re ever in South Carolina, I suggest you check it out.

I was able to get down to the beach and let Pepper see the Atlantic for the first time. She seemed unimpressed.

After our tour of the museum, Marc had a Bloody Mary and I had a Dogfish Brewing IPA beer at “The Rice Paddy,” the restaurant Susan used to own.

Later, Susan cooked us chicken, green beans, and potatoes for supper and it was, of course, excellent. I learned a new trick for making green beans less bland I am looking forward to trying it out on Stine. 
We drank some more spirits and talked until it was time to hit the rack.

Tomorrow, North Carolina!
Day 17-

After toting Amos down the stairs at Marc and Susan’s house for the last time, and eating a great breakfast of sausage and scrambled egg sandwiches Marc made, we loaded up and headed for North Carolina. The still-unseasonably warm weather made it a pleasant drive, and because the day’s trip wasn’t very long, I took the scenic back-roads once again.

I called Bill from a little town called Newton Grove and my cell service was a little spotty. I believed we had made plans for pizza and beer when I arrived in Durham, which, according to the GPS, was a bit more than 80 miles away.

I was shocked and horrified, as will most of our mutual friends, to learn that not only has Bill become a vegetarian, which I can support, he’s become a teetotaler as well! Gabrielle, too, it seems. I was proud to see they haven’t taken up wickedness and gone the whole hog just yet, though, as there was some tasty cheese on the pizza Gab ordered for us.

While unloading -everything- from my car at Bill's urging, he remarked that the sight of a white, bald man from Idaho unloading a pistol-grip 12 gauge pump shotgun will help present the proper image to the local crackheads in the neighborhood. Still, we parked my car wedged between his Explorer and motorcycle just in case.

Fortunately, he is not a hypocrite and had no problem with –me- drinking several beers and eating meat when we later went to a place called “City Beverage” for the monthly Officers Meeting (East) of The Dunfoamin Club. I got to see Thomas again and met the freshly minted sociology Ph. D., Dr. J. Micah Roos. Poor guy just got his letters and now he has to move to California to ply his academic wares.

The bathroom gave me a start as it was unisex and had only stalls, which was weird. I was pleased there was no one (read: no women) in the bathroom when I went in to take a leak. While we were leaving, Thomas spotted a guy getting into his Tesla and we spoke with him for a few minutes about his car, which was really cool and as silent as a ninja when he drove off. Sadly, I forgot my camera, so I didn't get a picture.

Afterward, I bought several beers from a run-down looking store called “Sam’s.” Looks can be deceiving; this place has –every beer I have ever heard of- and a whole boatload of ones I had not. I bought some “Duck Rabbit Milk Stout” on my now-non-drinking friend’s recommendation and was blown away. Try it if you get a chance.

We stayed up a little too late, but considering the next day’s trip was just a short ride to Asheville it was OK. I ended up sleeping with one of the many cats Bill and Gabby have adopted and I again had to get up and let Pepper out in the middle of the night.
Day 18-

The drive over to Asheville was without incident and the GPS led me directly toBeth’s house. Earlier in the year, I had promised to cook if she gave me a place to crash, so shortly after my arrival, we hit the “Bi-Lo” grocery store and bought the fixings for baked salmon, mostly because Beth’s daughter Abby likes fish.

I called my friend Steve Skufca and we agreed to meet up the next day for breakfast because, unlike Bill, he has not quit enjoying fine, malted beverages.

After supper, Beth informed me she’d joined a billiards league and talked me into going to Barley’s Taproom where we played many games of pool. Eventually, a couple asked to play doubles. 

His name was Jake and her name was Michelle. They were from Pennsylvania and were down here so Jake could attend anesthesiology school. Michelle is an ICU nurse. They’d been in the south about two weeks and told me a hilarious story of their adventure getting lost on Mt. Mitchell and being forced to us an iPhone as a flashlight.
Day 19-

Beth and I got up pretty earlier and met Steve at the Sunny Point Café. I was told there would be a long wait and when we arrived there were only three people ahead of us. I laughed at how bundled up they were. You’d have thought it was cold. They looked at me askance in my shorts and t-shirt.

The “MGB” (mighty good breakfast) was pretty good, and I really liked the chipotle grits. I am sure it was loaded with a bunch of yummy stuff Dr. Nasser would disapprove of. We shared stories and commiserated about our mutual aging issues and medical conundrums. 

Afterward, Steve came by to see Amos and then Beth, seeing me yawning, told me I should nap before hitting the road to Knoxville. I ignored her and we were on our way.

About an hour into the drive, I found myself nodding and, as has become the theme of this trip, I took the better part of valor and pulled into a rest stop on I-40 and napped in the car as a slight drizzle fell.

Feeling refreshed, I tried to call Jon, but his phone would not answer, so I just plugged his address in and off we went. As we passed in Tennessee, the clouds cleared away and it was a beautiful day. It was cold, but clear and the drive was easy enough.

Eventually, I made contact with Kate and Chris and learned their grandkids were also staying with them, and due to the kids allergies to dogs, Amos and Pepper wouldn’t be welcome inside the house. I told Chris we’d probably just camp out in the yard in that case. 

I found Jon’s house pretty easy because he and his beautiful, young wife, Sarahwere standing in the front yard when I arrived. I later learned they were discussing (arguing?) about the erection of Christmas decorations, and judging from the conversations, I think Jon is worried Sarah will go all Clark Griswold on him. He offered the labor of several of his children in the effort.

I checked the weather forecast for Bowling Green and realized iot would be too cold to leave Amos and Pepper outside during my entire visit, so Jon and Sarah, upon hearing my dilemma, immediately offered a guest room. Given that when I got there, they had their two dogs, Henry and Molly, inside the house, I accepted with alacrity. Poor Amos is getting too old to sleep outside in below-freezing weather. 

Yup, I accepted the offer of a warm bed, beer, and supper only because I was concerned about Amos.

Jon then provided me beers and burgers and me and Jon and Sarah sat up talking and laughing for hours. It was a great time and by the time I lie down on the floor with Amos, I was already nodding off.
Day 20-

Pepper and Amos and I got up and went outside and it was drastically colder than the day before. The sky, though, was clear, and the sunrise was awesome.

Sarah and I sat around while Jon cooked us scrambled eggs and sausages, and then I loaded up the car and we headed out. There had obviously been some sort of sporting event at the University of Tennessee, because the highway was loaded with all manner of orange and yellow vehicles going west. I later learned that Vanderbilt had beaten them at a game of football, so I am sure the mood was somber and mean in all those cars.

After about 20 minutes, I noticed an intensely irritating squeaking noise coming from the dash. It seemed to be a be the result of some plastic rubbing and after a push here and a tap there failed to alleviate it, a knife-hand strike that broke a piece of the bezel that covers the gauge cluster seemed to do the trick.

Yes, it was -that- irritating.

A little more than an hour or so, I called Theron and advised him of my arrival time. The GPS had not failed me and I met with him and he sprung for some tasty Thai food from a local diner near his neighborhood, a re-gentrifying area in downtown Nashville.

After lunch, I programmed Doc Rosenfeld’s address into the GPS and headed to Memphis. I was making good time, but just as the sun was setting, I started nodding some and found a rest stop to take a nap. 

I arrived in Memphis a little before 1900 (that’s 7:00 pm to you) and after having the dogs introduced, was fed an awesome mussels in red sauce pasta dish. I hadn't eaten mussels since Steffen served me some at Store Kongens Køkken way back in the 90s! 

Doc and I made some plans for the morning and I hit the rack a little before 2200
Day 21- 

Morning arrived and the rain had set in. Doc Rosenfeld tried convincing me to go to a “spin” class at his gym after he dropped his daughter, Tali, off at school. I wasn’t having any of that, so Elaine convinced him to take me to the Arcade Restaurant, which I am told was Elvis’s favorite place to eat.

We loaded Amos and Pepper in Doc’s Corolla and headed out. We were delayed when some idiot Memphis driver flew off an over pass and took the top off a power pole, dropping live power lines across all lanes of I-240 at Millbranch Road. We were able to eventually skirt the mess and get down to the Arcade, which had two Memphis PD cars parked outside, which I though boded well. Cops generally know the good places to eat.

As we entered the place, I immediately spotted Elvis sitting on a stool at the bar! 

“Is he here all the time?” I asked Doc.

He was sitting near a guy with a camera and I gathered it was some sort of promotion. I told myself if he was still there after we finished breakfast, I was getting a picture!

We got a seat (not in “The Elvis Booth,” though) and at Elaine’s urging, I had the sweet potato pancakes, and though the wait for the food was borderline intolerable, the food was worth it. Most of the waitresses were worth looking at, even if they treated us with slight disdain.

After we ate, Elvis was still hanging around and I asked if he’d be willing to pose and he readily agreed. He was as gracious as the real deal, even when I stepped on his boot. His woman, who looked a week or two from actually giving birth, used my camera and snapped a few quick shots of us. I thanked him and he thanked me and gave me his card. 

I stepped outside and while I was waiting for Doc to program our next destination into his phone, I have to admit I was a bit saddened to see Elvis, looking cool as hell in his 1968 Comeback Special black leather outfit strut down the sidewalk and then get into…a fucking Honda Fit.

A Honda Fit? Come on! I mean, yeah, I won’t argue about the quality, but everyone knows (or should know) that Elvis was a Cadillac man! It was a little soul-crushing.

On our way to the Memphis Gibson guitar factory, we passed by the infamous Lorraine Motel, scene of the April 4, 1968 killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doc explained that in the 80s, the motel was turned into a sort of shrine to MLK and the motel was turned into the National Civil Rights Museum. He told me at that time, there had been some locals actually living in the Lorraine and they were put out, causing one of the more stubborn, Jacqueline Smith, to begin protesting. Apparently, 25 years and 317 days later, she’s still pissed off. I spoke with her and her current issue is the fact “they” have basically ignored Dr. King’s message and have spent $27 million refurbishing the Lorraine to make a shrine to him all while Memphis is rated #1 in poverty and #2 in violence in the US. She kinda has a point.

Anyway, we walked to the Gibson factory, but we opted not to pay for the tour because they are only producing acoustics and we would have had to wait for nearly three hours until there was a tour with the workers actually building guitars. Instead, we walked another block to the “Rock and Soul” museum which was really awesome. The black lady, Toni, who introduced the museum was very knowledgeable about the music and we engaged in some banter about Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, who I am sad to say was not mentioned during any of the exhibits, even though there is one unmarked picture of him.

Toni described Muddy and “Howlin’ Wolf” as “the two that got away” because they never recorded at the famous studios in Memphis, instead going to Chicago to record for Chess Records. I liked her. I wonder what she thought of a bald, old white guy talking Delta Blues music with some degree of knowledge.

We then walked back to the car and drove over to a very cool “international” market that had all manner of exotic foods. I was disturbed, however, when Doc pointed out an abomination. Someone had built a replica of the Statue of Liberty, only holding a cross rather than the torch of freedom. It’s sad how misunderstood some people are.

We returned to Doc’s house and I had every intention of going with him to pick up Tali from school and go to the barn where they stable their Icelandic horses, but apparently I was tired and Doc was unable to wake me up.

I woke up later with one of their dogs, Wendell, sleeping on me. It was nice, since Pepper had gotten into one of the chairs and Amos isn’t able to get up on things without help anymore.

After Doc returned, we rode over to the East End Bar and Grill for supper and met Elaine for supper. In the funniest of ironies, I ate seafood for a second day in Memphis. Tali recommended the fish tacos. She was right: they were awesome. So awesome, in fact, that when she didn’t eat one of hers, I accepted it with alacrity!

When we returned home, we found that Pepper had decided to knock over the trash can, which she had done at Theron’s house, too. You’d think I’d learn.

Tali and Doc went to the living room to watch some NFL and after some more conversation with Elaine, who I discovered was going to be a roller derby referee, I decided to hit the rack so I could get out of their hair early.

Tomorrow, Kansas!

Arrived alive, Emporia, Kansas. 

Lodging secured, showering and shaving completed, pizza ordered, and dogs fed; time to put in some work.

Day 22-

The rain from yesterday had diminished to a slight drizzle, and the weather site DocRosenfeld used indicated I would run into sunshine later this day. He saw fit to gift me with a bottle of Benjamin Richard’s “Lincoln County Lightning” which I am sureJames and Atlas will be interested in helping me consume when I get to Utah on Friday.

After snapping a few pictures of Elaine and Doc with the dogs, we loaded up and headed out. I very nearly got into my first crash just getting on US 385. I snapped a picture of the car driven by some bitch what obviously never learned the concept of “take gap, give gap.”

So, it is now the time for me to formally address Tennessee drivers:



I had thought, driving through Austin and Houston traffic, Texans were the most “in a hurry” drivers on this side of the Atlantic. I was dead wrong. Apparently that little sign on the side of the highway what reads “55 MPH” really means “drive as fast as traffic will allow.”

And, with traffic moving along at 85 miles per hour, it will easily allow you to do 30 over and not seem like you’re doing anything wrong. My little stock 4-banger -CAN’T- do 90 mph for any length of time without the hamsters dying, so I was getting passed like...(googling now)..Michael Waltrip.

I finally made it out of Memphis without crashing, which is a miracle, and made it across the Mississippi Bridge into Arkansas, where the rain abruptly stopped. Highway US 63 was decent enough and I made good time into southern Missouri, where gas was $2.89 a gallon. 

The drive from Thayer, MO into Kansas was easy and scenic and the roads were well-maintained, and my fears of potholes were for naught.

After making a lunch stop and consulting the atlas, I decided that while making it to Salina, Kansas was possible, it would be mostly an interstate trip, which I am seeking to avoid. Instead, Amos suggested we drive to Emporia, Kansas, a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis just south of Topeka, and I agreed with him. Or maybe it was Pepper? Or maybe 20 days on the road is making me think they are actually talking to me?

The radio stations in the area, which I was grateful to be able to pick up, all had ominous predictions for the weather, using words like “frigid” and “arctic,” so my decision to lodge Amos and Pepper and me in a snugly warm hotel room seem wise. Not wanting to just drive around looking for one, I called Bill for some help. 

He didn't answer, but I left him a message that went something like “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go online and find me a hotel in Emporia, Kansas where Amos and Pepper can stay and call me with the details.”

He came through with flying colors and I am now warmly lodged at the Super 8, sipping the remainder of my Old Crow. 

Earlier, I ordered Papa John’s pizza (Hey, it’s Kansas!) and the gal on the other end of the phone told me a large pizza would be cheaper than the medium I ordered. I argued with her for a few minutes, and told her to, in that case, to charge me for a large but bring a medium, to which she refused. Not wanting to waste money, I ordered the damned large one.

When I went out to my car to get my atlas, I saw some men, obviously workers of some sort, standing on the rear patio smoking and drinking beers. The hotel is non-smoking, so I assumed they’d stepped outside for a smoke, so I introduced myself and explained the pizza dilemma. I asked them if any them wanted half a large pizza because I wasn't going to eat it and I finally convinced them I was not some crazed lunatic out to poison random strangers and they agreed to take it. The pizza arrived just moments later, and I delivered half of it to their room.

I should have made them get a picture with Amos.

Tomorrow, it’s going to be a long run to Ron and Kathy’s house, but it will be nice to see all of them again and have Thanksgiving supper.

Now, I am going to waste some time watching “free” HBO.
Day 23 – (Update #1)

It’s Wednesday morning in Emporia, Kansas, and the dawn broke beautifully, with tungsten-blue clear skies and temperatures hovering around 14 °F. I woke early, around 0600 (that’s 6:00 am to you) to take the dogs out to pee and start getting ready. I’ve taken my time, working with no hurry, and now, as I finish up, it’s just before 0900. The car is loaded and warming up. All the water bottles were frozen solid, of course. I also learned that a memory-foam pillow will freeze as hard as a rock, so I have it sitting on the little luggage holder in front of the heater, which I have set to full blast.

That heater is awesome and I had to turn it off in the middle of the night when it got too hot. I woke up sweaty and Amos and Pepper were panting as if it was summertime! I hit the rack a bit before midnight, falling asleep with the “Classic Rock” cable channel playing low. It occurred to me that, barring a few songs at the Rock and Soul Museum, I drove across the whole damn state of Tennessee without hearing so much as one Elvis song!

Given the beautiful weather, I am not inclined to use the interstate to get to Ron and Kathy’s house in Ft. Collins, so I’ve planned a back-roads route that will bring us to the corner of Nebraska before cutting across into Colorado proper. We should still be able to make it in about 8 hours.

You’ll find out later, I guess. We’re off!
Day 23- (Update #2)

The ride across Kansas and into Colorado was as pleasant as it could be. Once I got loaded and on the road, I opted to take a partial interstate route just to get through the flat parts quicker.

Hays, Kansas, which is located almost dead center of the state, has but one gas station and in a state where the other stations are charging $2.98, they realized the advantage they have and were charging $3.58. I knew I should have stopped in Salina! I took I-70 to a town called Colby, where I got off the big, blue road and went due north towards Atwood. It was surprisingly warm and I ended up driving most of the way from Atwood to Yuma, Colorado with the windows down. The bank reader board in Yuma showed the temps at 60° F, and that was as the sun was setting. I am sure it hit 65F.

I also chose the route through Yuma so as to bypass Denver on the busiest travel day of the year. I made the right choice. There were several accidents on I-25. I made it to Kathy and Ron’s house in time for supper, some tri-tip Ron had cooked on the grill. It was excellent.

The dogs settled in pretty quickly, but the loud yelling of the kids playing seemed to upset Pepper and she stayed close by. All the kids loved Amos and he enjoyed all the attention.
Day 24- (Thanksgiving!)

I woke early and took Amos and Pepper for a stroll. It was clear and cold and the pastel sky was lovely. Amos, however, fell in a ditch. Fortunately, there was no water in it and I was able to get him out without injury.

Later, Richie and Ted came up from Denver with their three dogs and we all had a great time watching them romp in the yard. Kathy prepared a nice, traditional thanksgiving turkey and afterward, at the behest of Avery (One of Brian’s little girls) we all had to go outside and hold hands around the big tree in the front yard that was decorated for Christmas and say what we were thankful for.

When the kids were put to bed, we broke out the Jameson and polished off nearly the entire bottle. I couldn’t get Richie to go all Fight Club with me, so I just hit the rack.
Day 25- 

Kathy woke up early (like 0300!) to engage in the Black Friday insanity, so she wasn’t there when I got up. Amos and Pepper and I took a short stroll and I saw a pretty cool bird of prey sitting on a neighbor’s roof. I loaded the car and we hit the road for Ogden, Utah a little before 0900.

I have been through southern Wyoming before, so I chose a longer, but hopefully more scenic route, across the mountains on I-70. I proved to be an interesting drive. My little 4 cylinder Honda is pretty quick on the flats, but hauling up those steep roads, over 10,000 feet passes really sucked the fuel and I had to downshift to get enough compression to maintain any speed at all. I ended up driving in the lane with the 18-wheelers!

It was a scenic route, though, until I dropped out of the mountains around Grand Junction and headed toward Utah. The sky here was gray and overcast, and the clouds were low. The light was poor and it was a dreary ride up Highway 6. The ride was made worse by a tractor-trailer accident that backed up traffic for more than an hour. I turned my car off and considered napping.

I eventually got through and made my way into Salt Lake City, where, after another GPS mishap, I was able to locate Trent and Alice’s house. After a pleasant hour with them and a refreshing local brewed beer (In Utah!), I made my way to Andy’s house in Ogden, where I had planned to cook supper.

Arriving late, we decided to go to Chili’s instead, and I had a burger and a couple of beers Andy doesn't have wi-fi, so I just hit the rack and was asleep almost instantly, only waking up one time when Amos stepped on me trying to get on the floor.
Day 26-

After a short walk with the dogs, Andy and I loaded up and went to the Village Inn for breakfast. The hippie water was fairly efficient and was even able to find some apple jelly for my biscuit. We did get to see Uber-Douche with his Mr. T gold chains and goofy flat-brimmed baseball cap come in after having some sort of verbal dispute with his rather attractive girlfriend.

While in the area, I saw a restaurant called “Sakura” and I remarked that we have one in Boise. Andy’s face lit up and he said “I know where we are going for lunch!”

After an easy day just dinking around the house, shooting these little dart-crossbows at various objects in the place, we loaded up and headed out for lunch and then on to James’s house for a party. Lunch was at a Hawaiian Bar-be-que place and I was a bit taken back to find it was SPAM sushi! I had seen this on an Anthony Bourdain show once, but had never had it. Despite the violation of the “watch your sodium” rule, it proved to be edible and affordable.

Later, at the party, I met a bunch of great people and there was much talk and some minor craziness. Everyone there was keen on helping keep Amos from walking off the edge of the deck or stumbling into the fire-pit, but he was again spoiled with hunks of cornbread and pieces of chicken.
Day 27-

The ride from Ogden to Boise is fairly boring and mine this day was without any incident and not really worth mentioning.
My 2013 road trip, by the numbers:

Days gone = 26
Miles traveled = 6844.00
Gallons of fuel purchased= 186.61
Total amount spent on fuel = $613.39
Miles per gallon (approximate-there's still more than half a tank) = 36.68
Price per mile = $0.09
Average amount spent per day (fuel only) $23.62
Bottles of Old Crow consumed = 2 and a few drams....
Some random thoughts after a 6844 mile, 26 day, 16 state road trip:

- You are not as good of a driver as you think you are.
- Most people are pretty decent.
- Alcoholic drinks are generally accepted as a good way to break the ice.
- There are lots of AM radio stations. Few are worth listening to.
- Peanut butter is very hard to spread in below freezing temperatures.
- Napping in a rest stop is easier than you think. Especially if you're armed.
- Paying at the pump decreases your chances of meeting people.
- It is possible to not eat fast food on a road trip.
- Traveling with a dog makes your trip take longer, but it's worth it.
- There aren't nearly as many cops as you think there are.
- Don't depend on your GPS. Have a road atlas.
- No matter how comfortable your seat, after 9 hours, your back will hurt.
- CRXs are rarer cars than you think they are.
- Jim Morrison was right.
- Listening to local FM radio stations is interesting.
- Richie was right: All strip malls have the same stores.
- Truck drivers are an under-appreciated group of workers.
- So are farmers.
- Stop and take a picture of that thing if you think you should.
- Camping is fun, until it becomes time to sleep on a thin foam pad.
- "It's cold" is a relative statement.
- Sunsets are beautiful. You should stop and look at one.
- Same with sunrises.
- Your windshield wipers are probably longer than they need to be.
- Driving at constant speed without cruise control will give you foot cramps.
- Eating hot powered milk and granola is better than it sounds.
- Some gas pumps do not shut off automatically.
- If you don't let at least one person in, you should have left sooner.
- Unless that person ignores the "lane ends" sign and tries to get ahead.
- Food cooked over an open fire tastes better.
- Take more than one pair of shoes.
- 90% of Texas is privately owned. Don't plan on "camping somewhere."
- The weather is unpredictable. Pay attention to it.
- When feasible, avoid the big blue lines on your road map.
- Visit your friends. You never know if you'll see them again.
- Zip fizz!