The Trip – Day 9

Sunday, September 6, 2015

We had new breakfast companions this morning. A couple from somewhere in California had spent the night after bringing their daughter to San Diego to start college. Another couple were from San Diego and we learned little about them because they sat at a separate table and we didn’t talk to them till we had finished and were heading out. Zane was at our table, but his wife (whose name I still don’t recall) had spent the night with their daughter after Zane was the DD yesterday for their wine tour.

After breakfast, we got some advice from host Ben to help us lay out our plan for the day. We returned to our room, loaded our backpack, and headed out. Zane was on the front porch playing his guitar when we walked out the front door. I told him that he could probably make a little extra money if he’d set up in Balboa Park like the other musicians we’ve seen there. Most of them put cans or jars out for tips. He thought that was a pretty good idea, except that he normally performs in a jazz combo. He was smiling and happily strumming his guitar as we left.

We walked to Little Italy, which is only a few blocks from the Keating House.

Stick ball players in Little Italy

Stick ball players in Little Italy

We had no specific plans there, except that we wanted to see it while we were in the area. You can definitely see the Italian influence. Guys were playing stickball in the street, disrupting traffic. Signs abound touting the accomplishments of Italian-Americans such as Leon Panetta and Martin Scorcese. We stopped for coffee at a small shop and asked a woman outside sitting at a table where we might find a train stop. Turned out that her husband, who was on his way back from some place down the street, is an Indiana native from Lafayette. We talked to her for a few minutes until the husband showed up. When he arrived and found out we are originally from South Bend, he mentioned the names of a couple of girls he dated while they were attending Purdue. The names weren’t familiar to us.

To find the train station, his wife suggested we walk west to the railroad tracks and turn left. We did so, and found a major station just a few blocks away.

We stopped a young man wearing a transit uniform for assistance. His name was (and probably still is) Fritz Jacob. Fritz gave us full instructions on the purchase of day passes for the train. He even helped us operate the card dispensing machine. We bought 3 day passes, and Fritz scanned them at the ticket reader to make sure they’d work when we were ready to use the train. We thanked him for his help and considered getting on the train but decided to visit the USS Midway aircraft carrier instead. We were only about two blocks away from it and we thought we’d be better off if we could beat the rush to get on the big ship. I think we made the right decision.

We stopped at an information booth at the pier and were able to purchase admission tickets there. We even got senior discounts. The lady who sold us the tickets said we could bypass the ticket line at the ship and make fun of the people standing in line as we walked past them. She laughed pretty hard at that, and I could tell she had a bit of a mean streak. She made me laugh, though, and I could see how being mean could have its benefits.

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Me taking a random photo on the Midway. Yes, that’s a toilet

We boarded the ship in short order and wandered around on the hangar deck, which is where the planes were kept when they weren’t preparing to take off. A number of docents were working on the ship, answering questions and giving presentations on various aspects and functions of the ship and its personnel. The Midway was commissioned in 1945 at the end of WWII and was named for the famous Battle of Midway, which took place between the US and Japanese naval forces in 1942.

Wheel on USS Midway

Wheel on USS Midway

I was particularly interested in visiting the Midway because I had recently finished reading a book about the battle.

During our tour of the ship, we talked to men who had actually served on aircraft carriers in various capacities and some who had taken off and landed aircraft on them. I spoke to each of them and asked as many questions as I could in the time that we had with them. I mentioned that I had read the book about the battle to one of the docents, and he suggested we check out the exhibit on the Battle of Midway on the hangar deck.

Our visit to the flight deck was very impressive. At one juncture, we stood in line for about 40 minutes waiting to see the bridge and its various facets. That part of the ship interested us in particular, since our son, Pat, had served on a Coast Guard ice breaker and his job was driving the ship. We remembered what his station (at the wheel) looked like. Although the Midway is larger that Pat’s ship (USCGC Mackinaw), many aspects of the bigger ship looked familiar to us.

The bridge

The bridge

Midway was larger and was equipped not only for controlling the ship but also for controlling the airplanes that it harbored. The docent who conducted our group through this portion was an officer, and, like the others, is in his late sixties or early seventies. He was very astute and talked very fast, but he was extremely interesting and added a touch of humor to his presentation. We learned a great deal in the twenty minutes we spent with him.

To end our visit, we stopped at the Battle of Midway exhibit on the hangar deck. A video presentation was scheduled for 2:00, so we decided to stick around for it. Just before 2, we were herded, along with about 40 other people, into a small auditorium. After we were seated, the lights were dimmed and the video started. It didn’t take long for me to get emotionally involved in the film, even though I knew that some of the dramatizations were overdone. I saw a number of people in attendance who appeared to be Japanese or Japanese-American, and I wondered what they thought of the overt nationalism of the film. By the time the American pilots were being shot out of the sky, a couple of tears had streamed down my cheek and onto my shirt. I couldn’t help my reaction. I guess that’s what happens when you start to understand that, because of human nature, things like hatred, distrust, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and war will never disappear.

We left the Midway and walked back to the train station. The line of people waiting to get on the big ship was very long when we left, and we were happy that we had decided to visit it early in the day. We waited for the “Green Route” train, hopped on, and rode to Old Town. We decided to check it out because we had heard about it from several people while visiting San Diego. Our host at the B & B, Ben, compared it to Tijuana. We found out why.

The train ride to the Old Town stop was only about 12 minutes. We got off and found an entrance to Old Town, which contains Old Town State Historic Park and the city’s Presidio Park. By the

Typical scene in Old Town

Typical scene in Old Town

time we entered the place, we were famished. The time was nearly 2 p.m. We stopped at the first restaurant we spotted inside the park a place called Barra Barra. We were fairly pleased with the food, except that it was no better in quality than that of many Mexican style restaurants back in Indiana. If we ever return to Old Town, we’ll definitely try another place. There are many restaurants, with many varieties of food.

We spent several hours in Old Town before deciding we had seen enough. As the afternoon wore on, more and more people poured into the area and most of them seemed to be young children who had been out with their parents since early morning after a night will too little sleep. Little shops were overflowing with people scrambling to find something worthwhile to take home as souvenirs. The afternoon was getting hotter, and Ben’s comparison of Old Town to Tijuana was starting to make sense.

We made our way back to the train stop, caught the Green Route south to the station, got off, and walked back to the Keating House where we spent the remainder of the evening.

We talked about our plans for tomorrow, and how we would go about making our move from the Keating House to the Horton Grand Hotel.

The Trip – Day 8

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Barb and I got up at 6 a.m. No alarm, we just woke up at that time. Breakfast at the Keating House runs from 8 a.m. till 10. You can meander down to the dining room any time during those two hours and your breakfast will be ready for you. Our breakfast consisted of coffee, juice, fresh fruit, a tasty quiche, and delicious homemade bread which is made by Ben and Doug right here. We met another couple at the table this morning. They’re from Troy, Ohio, and are visiting their daughter here in San Diego. The daughter is a public school teacher. The husband, whose name is Zane, is familiar with Fort Wayne because, being a musician, he’s visited Sweetwater Sound many times. Zane plays a guitar. Sorry Zane’s wife, I don’t recall your name but you’re a very pleasant person and are fun to talk to. I’ll try to catch it tomorrow.

After our pleasant visit at the table with the Buckeyes, we loaded a backpack with snacks and water and walked to Balboa Park. We saw many people and dogs at a dog park close to Balboa. A number of people were training dogs on the sidewalk and at traffic signals. We also noticed lots of people jogging.

California condors

California condors

Few people we spotted on the sidewalks coming and going made eye contact with us. That’s OK. We understand that customs vary from one place to another. This didn’t keep me from striking up a conversation from time to time.

We picked up some maps from the visitors’ center in the park as well as two coupons for $5 off a day ticket at the zoo. We carried the coupons to the zoo entrance and paid $43 per ticket instead of the usual $48. No senior discounts. You can buy a ticket in the morning, leave the zoo, and return later if you request a wrist band identifier.

The San Diego Zoo is large. It has over 3,700 animals on 100 acres of land. If I were running the place, I would consider reworking the map that is offered to visitors and attempt to make it easy to understand. The map we were given does not, as far as I can tell, contain a north arrow. I NEED A NORTH ARROW ON A MAP. We spotted many people besides ourselves squinting at and rotating their maps (identical to ours) in vain attempts to understand where they were and which direction to proceed.

Panda having lunch. Like some humans, Pandas spend up to 16 hours per day eating. The difference is that they eat bamboo. Try once eating bamboo for 16 hours.

Panda having lunch. Like some humans, Pandas spend up to 16 hours per day eating. The difference is that they eat bamboo. Try once eating bamboo for 16 hours.

At any rate, with some difficulty (and with no thanks to the zoo’s mapmaker) we were able to make our way along almost every thoroughfare and visited each exhibit we considered important. We arrived at the entrance

Elephant manicure. Shortly after I shot this, the elephant switched feet on the manicurist, who wasn't finished with the job. The elephant was somehow instructed to put the right rear foot back into the foot hole.

Elephant manicure. Shortly after I shot this, the elephant switched feet on the manicurist, who wasn’t finished with the job. The elephant was somehow instructed to put the right rear foot back into the foot hole.

at 10 a.m. and walked out at about 5:30 p.m. We were on our feet the entire time except for a few minutes while we ate lunch. Our feet were abused and our legs were overworked but we made it through the day.

We were pretty well spent after leaving the zoo, so we stopped at a Starbucks on the way back to the B & B and drank our coffee sitting at a sidewalk table. After getting caffeined, we walked past a pizza joint (called Pizzicato) and, looking in the window hungrily, found it a very interesting. We returned to our room, got cleaned up, and walked back to Pizzicato. We split a small salad and then split two slices of pizza. Each slice was unique unto itself and each was so tasty and good. I don’t recall what each was called, but it doesn’t matter. When you’ve walked many miles and burned many calories, any pizza will taste just fine.

After supper, we stumbled on sore feet back to the Keating House where we literally crashed into bed.

“What’s up for tomorrow?”

“Something we can do with without using our feet.”

“Sounds good. Let’s go to sleep.”

“Zzzzzzzz.”

Koala. According to Wikipedia, San Diego Zoo has the most koalas outside of Australia.

Koala. According to Wikipedia, San Diego Zoo has the most koalas outside of Australia.

 

 

The Trip – Day 7

Friday, September 4, 2014

Rising for the 3rd time in The Linq, we weren’t quite as refreshed as we were the first two nights. It was noisy last night, with doors slamming, loud people in the hallway, and various and sundry sounds emanating from the room next door. We’re wondering if this is common in Las Vegas; that more people and louder people show up on Thursday nights. Well, we won’t be around to see if it holds true for Friday nights as well.

We got our luggage loaded and ready for departure, then walked out of the hotel and into a nearby Starbucks. We ordered coffee and breakfast sandwiches. I had a reward star on my Starbucks app and tried to collect it, but the young lady behind the counter told me that they don’t do the rewards. Boo Starbucks.

I scorched my mouth on an over-nuked egg and bun, then furthered the damaged with extremely hot brew. Not an auspicious way to start the day.

We returned to the hotel room, grabbed our bags, and debated whether or not we should leave our key cards in the room. I said I’d take mine along just in case. Good thing I did, because you need the key card, idiot, to run the elevators! Remember what happened on Wednesday?

Google Maps helped us make our way out of Las Vegas. In actuality, finding our way in to the hotel and back out again was really quite easy. If we ever return to this place – this Mecca for the dissolute – we would again stay at The Linq. There are probably nicer places but at least we gained enough familiarity with it to expedite a future trip.

“What are we going to do now?”

“What would you like to do?”

“Get the hell out of here.”

“OK, I can take care of that. But which way should we go?”

“I don’t know . . . what’s southwest of here? That direction seems like it’s calling me.”

“OK, off we go.”

So off we went, southwest on I 15. Mileage at the hotel before we left the parking garage was 52,421. Time was 7:58 a.m. Pacific. We stopped at an Arco station in Nevada after reading a billboard telling us we should gas up before hitting California. We did so. Price per gallon was $3.10. After fueling, we proceed southwest on I 15 and we hit the California state line at 9:01 a.m., mileage 52,464. We found ourselves climbing, then descending, then climbing, then descending as we made our way through valleys and mountains. The temperature remained surprisingly mild and stable – 74 to 82.

At 9:41, mileage 52,512, we pulled into a gas station in Baker for a pit stop. Highlight of that town for me was the “World’s Tallest Thermometer.”

We sidetracked onto I 215 and stopped at the Perris, CA exit and searched for restrooms and food. We found ourselves in a parking lot near Jenny’s Family Restaurant. We walked up to the entrance and hesitated to go in. The front door was not the prettiest sight in town. Our daughter, Denise, would have walked away without hesitation because she believes front doors of restaurant are good indicators of what’s inside. As we walked away, several people walked toward the door. I asked one of them if they had eaten at Jenny’s before. One of them had, and he said that he eats there quite often. That was enough for us, so we followed the others into the place.

Turns out that Jenny’s has very good food and less than desirable restrooms. Barb and I each ordered the soup, salad, and half sandwich lunch options. We were both stuffed by the time we stopped eating. Not only were the portions ample, they tasted good. Jenny’s needs to spend a little more time cleaning the restrooms, now that they’ve perfected the food making process.

We passed through an agricultural inspection at Yermo, where we had to slow down and let some guy in a uniform peek into our car and wave us through. We didn’t even have to stop. I don’t know what he was looking for. Must be something big.

Back on the road, we continued on to San Diego, our chosen destination. We arrived at the Keating House Bed and Breakfast at about 3 p.m. Mileage was 52,755, or 2,474 miles from where we started at home 7 days ago. Address of the place is 2331 Second Ave. We parked the car in front on the street and made our way up the stairway to the front door.

The Keating House

The Keating House

It was wide open, no screen door. Ben, one of the two proprietors (Doug is the other) was inside and greeted us when we stepped through the open door. “Do you always leave the door open?” I asked. “Yes, generally. We don’t have insects,” Ben replied. Well, that’s not quite true. I did see one fly having its way in the dining area, which is where Ben led us before he proceeded to give us a detailed overview of San Diego, the sites and wonders of the area, and enough information to make us aware that the Keating House is smack dab in the center of all sorts of wonderful things to see and do. Ben also gave us a small map with our location highlighted and several other potential destinations identified with a ball point pen.

We carried our luggage to the room and left immediately for Balboa Park to see what we could find. The walk took only about 15 minutes.

West entrance to Balboa Park

West entrance to Balboa Park

Balboa Park is huge and impressive. Lots of museums and other attractions are there, along with the San Diego Zoo entrance. We walked around and made mental notes of things that would be good to do. We returned to the Keating House neighborhood and found the Hob Nob Hill Restaurant, mentioned by Ben as a good place to eat. It is. Barb had a grilled scallop salad. I had a turkey sandwich with potato salad. The food was great. We’d definitely go back for more if we have the chance.

We visited a small market down the street from the Hob Nob Hill and found some great wine specials. Buy one, get the second for 5 cents. They also sell fruit, so we bought a couple of large apples.

We walked back to the Keating House and, after deciding we’d do the zoo tomorrow, fell asleep even though the B & B is very close to the path of airplanes landing at the San Diego Airport. It reminds me of home – 5710 LWW, west of South Bend, just south of the runway at the South Bend Airport.

By the way, the Keating House is not air conditioned. We sleep with the windows open and a steady, pleasant breeze keeps us very comfortable.

The Trip – Day 6

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I failed to mention a few things about the Whispering Creek B & B in Sedona. First, besides serving delicious breakfasts, Cheryl puts a couple of bottles of wine and some snacks on the dining area countertop for her guests’ evening enjoyment. Also, the WiFi connection is excellent. There, now I’m caught up with Whispering Creek.

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H & M store entrance

So anyway, this morning we woke up in The Linq. We got up very early to make sure we caught the Gray Excursion bus to Hoover Dam at 8:45. But wait, the room phone rang before we left the hotel and a woman told us that the 8:45 bus was canceled due to air conditioning issues. We agreed to take the 12:10 bus. However, that trip did not include a lunch. Now we had to come up with something to occupy our time till 12:10. So we headed out on the street and looked for something interesting. Mornings on Las Vegas Blvd are pretty uneventful, but we found some outlandish things inside buildings. There are so many buildings with so many entrances, escalators, stairs, and elevators, that it’s difficult to keep track of where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. I just followed Barb and tried to grab a few photos along the way.

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This is INSIDE A BUILDING!

We eventually made our way to the spot under the Planet Hollywood globe where we were told to catch the bus to the dam. The Gray Line bus arrived just ahead of us. We showed our tickets to the driver, he checked his list of attendees, and he allowed us to board. The driver left right after we boarded, then proceeded on to about six other pickup points before telling us that his name is Giovanni. Giovanni is a very pleasant fellow, but his English is a bit rough. After picking everyone up, he told us some things that I did not fully grasp. I thought I understood him to say that we had several things to do before heading for Hoover Dam. At one point, Giovanni stopped at a traffic signal and looked to his left across the street. “Hey you guys,” he said. “The line is very long here. It will probably take 20 minutes. Do you want to stop?” People on the bus looked around, apparently trying, as Barb and I were, to figure out what in Sam Hill Giovanni was talking about. Some people muttered “No,” and we shook our heads in the negative direction. Thankfully we didn’t have to stop and spent 20 minutes in line waiting for who knows what. But then Giovanni announced that we’d have to stop at “the terminal.”

This is not inside a building

This is not inside a building

Giovanni seemed perturbed that he had to stop at the terminal. I was perturbed too. When we arrived at the Gray terminal, all the passengers had to leave the bus and walk into a large building. We were herded into a room and were told by a guy who seemed to be in charge that we’d be taken to another room where we’d “check in.” He then proceeded to give us other options for enhancing the trip, including a potential helicopter ride over Lake Mead and the dam. Other tours were available with brochures at the desk.

“Is this standard procedure?” I asked. The boss looked over at me.

“Yes, sir.”

I said no more until we had reached the other room. The boss walked past a few seconds after Barb headed for the restroom, and I confronted him.

“This is pretty irritating,” I said.

“Sir?”

“Having to stop like this,” I said. “It’s just aggravating.”

I ranted for a minute or so, then even threatened to report the incident to my friends (as if they’d give a shit), figuring that he’d start worrying about how many friends I had and whether they’d report the incident to their friends.

Here’s the thing. Giovanni made it appear that having to stop to “check in” was out of the ordinary. Barb and I had been aggressively confronted in a number of places while in Las Vegas by people trying to sell us packages and other stuff we didn’t need. I was fed up with sales pitches, and started thinking that anyone who said hello to us was probably some sort of huckster. Thus, my reaction to the “check in” process by Gray Lines.

Come to find out, by way of Barb (when she returned from the restroom), that we really had been informed that there would be a “check in” before continuing on to Hoover Dam.

Oops.

Check in took only about 10 minutes. We were back on the bus in short order. Giovanni drove us to Hoover Dam like the professional that he is. During the bus ride, we were entertained with a very interesting audio history of Hoover Dam and also of Las Vegas. The visit to the dam was interesting and educational, and lasted for exactly the two hours that it was supposed to. We returned to Las Vegas safely without a hitch, and were dropped off within a block of our hotel.

And I had acted like an ass at the Gray Line terminal.

I plan to write a letter or send an email to the guy I mistakenly raked over the coals, although I imagine he encounters lots of rude and cranky old farts in his line of work and it’s all in a day’s work.

We spent the rest of the day talking about the great excursion to the dam and my unseemly conduct, and in walking around parts of the area near our hotel that we hadn’t already seen. We returned later, pretty well exhausted. Once again, we had spent the day without putting one coin in a slot machine.

Here are some photos take at Hoover Dam. If you can’t figure out what they are, just use your imagination and come up with a good story for each:

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The Trip – Day 5

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

We enjoyed another tasty breakfast and lively conversation at the Whispering Creek B & B this morning. It’s nice to visit other places, and even nicer when you’ve made new friends.

After breakfast, we loaded the car with our stuff, said goodbye to J & J and our gracious hostess Cheryl, and drove into town. We stopped at a Sedona travel center and picked up some maps for future reference. While there, I spoke to an employee who pointed out several maps and brochures. His badge displayed his name and also “Philadelphia, PA.” I asked if Philly was his hometown. Yes, it is. I told him that I attended a White Sox & Athletics game in Connie Mack stadium many years ago. He told me that he grew up just a few blocks from the stadium, and that its name before Connie Mack was Shibe Park. I mentioned that we live in Fort Wayne, IN. He smiled and said that as a child and teenager he used to listen to WOWO, and is still amazed that he was able to hear a radio station as far away as Fort Wayne. I told him that WOWO was known far and wide because of the power of its transmitter. Growing up in South Bend, however, Barb and I usually listened to WLS. After our interesting visit with the man from Philly, we drove to Basha’s grocery store, where we picked up some travel snacks and went to the Starbucks counter.

I struck up a conversation with a woman in the Starbucks queue after the store manager came out to tell us that another employee would be there soon to expedite the service. She told us about a few other coffee shops in the area that have really good organic coffee. Somehow, the conversation shifted to cycling. She said that she loves to ride the trails. She said that she crashed the other day, going headfirst over the handlebars. She showed us wounds on her arm to prove. To make sure we understood the full scope of her accident, she hiked up her dress and showed us another gash and a bruise on her upper thigh. I love the friendliness and openness of Sedona residents!

All good things must come to an end, and our visit to Sedona ended this morning.

“OK, so where to now?”

“Back to I 40?”

“Then what?”

“We don’t want to see what we’ve already seen.”

“Then west it is!”

“How about Vegas?”

“Well, why not?”

Mileage before leaving Sedona: 52,109. Time of departure: 9:48 a.m.

We decided to avoid the hairpin turns and hair-raising experiences along Highway 89A north of Sedona, and instead took Highway 179 (also known as the Red Rock Scenic Byway) south to I 17, then north on I 17. The sights along 179 are amazing, especially in the morning and late afternoon. The formations actually change as the day progresses and the sunlight highlights different features.

Upon reaching I 40, we headed west. There was a lot of interesting terrain along the way through Arizona. We saw the aftermath of what appeared to be a horrendous accident on I 40 eastbound. What was left of a semi was blazing away, with firemen on site trying to douse the flames. Cars and trucks were stopped for several miles. Many people had exited their vehicles and were meeting and talking to people they had never met. There’s many an opportunity for making new friends, even during catastrophes.

We stopped once before reaching Las Vegas, at a truck stop seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We fueled the Subaru at a pump where a Subaru identical to ours was parked on the opposite side. “Nice car,” I said to the woman pumping gas into it. “Yes, I guess so!” she replied. She lives in Phoenix. Her car is a 2012 model, just like ours. She loves the car and always uses her cruise control. After refueling, we sat in the parking lot and ate the remains from supper last night, then got back on I 40. We hit the Nevada state line at 3:03 p.m., mileage 52,387.

We arrived at The Linq hotel in Las Vegas at about 5 p.m. The mileage is on the car’s odometer, which at this moment parked in a very large garage in which I once managed to get lost, so I’m not going out to look for the car in order to report the mileage. Take my word for it, it displays all the miles we’ve traveled.

We unloaded the car after much discussion about what to take in and what to leave in the car, and found our way to the registration desk. We paid up and found the elevator. The door opened and we stepped in. The door closed and I hit the button for the 8th floor. We waited for a minute, thinking the elevator was on the way up. I thought the ride was rather slow and smooth, and looked up at the screen displaying the floor. It showed “L,” which was where we started. Barb and I looked at each other and started searching for the panic button. The door opened suddenly and two young women stepped in. We told them the elevator wasn’t working. They asked if we had scanned our room door card on the sensor near the floor buttons. “Of course not,” I said. In a few seconds and some embarrassed chuckles we were headed up.

Our room smells fine, looks pretty clean, and seems almost new. There are two beds. Cell signal sucks. The wifi works ok, but with the resort package you only get two connections for free. So Barb’s cell phone is connected and my laptop is. My cell phone is almost useless, since the ATT signal here is nonexistent. It’s almost as if the hotel jams the signal.

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Home delivery.

After unloading the stuff in the room, we headed out on the street. It was still daylight when we started our excursion, so the really weird and outrageous stuff hadn’t started yet. But it wasn’t long before the sun went down and oh, boy, the sights we saw you wouldn’t believe unless you’ve visited here.  We almost wore ourselves out dodging the cartoon and movie characters, detouring around oriental groups gathered for mass selfies, and jumping over slumbering street people. It was almost as good as a metabolic session at Longevity Fitness.

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BBQ chicken salad at Yard House

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Seared tuna salad

It wasn’t long before we worked up appetites, and we found a place called the Yard House. Barb ordered a seared tuna salad. I had a BBQ chicken salad. Both were delicious. I couldn’t help but take pictures of them which I’ll cherish for a great long while, especially when I’m trying to figure out what the hell we spent our money on during this trip. After gorging ourselves, we returned to the street life and meandered about aimlessly until it was time to return to the room. We have to rise early in the morning to meet a tour bus for an excursion to the Hoover Dam.

Got dizzy snapping this one

Got dizzy snapping this one

We’re in bed but most of Las Vegas is just getting fired up. And we didn’t put one coin in a slot machine today.

The Trip – Day 4

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

We keep getting out of bed at 4:30 local time. It still seems like oversleeping, since we’re usually up between 6 and 6:30 at home.

Another fine breakfast at Whispering Creek B & B this morning. The couple we’re now calling J & J (because their names each start with J and also because we’re B & B) were at breakfast again this morning. Another couple, quite a bit younger, showed up also. They’re from NYC and are driving to California in a rented car. They wanted to see the country but apparently don’t want to see it twice because they’re going to fly home.

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Trail leading to Bell Rock.

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Bell Rock

We decided to stay in and near Sedona today, so started the day visiting scenic byways along State Highway 179 south of town. We parked the car at the Bell Rock byway and walked mostly uphill to within a hundred yards of the formation. As we approached, we saw people standing on the thing, very high off the ground. How they got there is anyone’s guess. We walked as far as we thought necessary to get good vibes from the vortex, then headed back to the car. A number of people on bicycles, mostly of advanced age, pass us on the trail heading upward toward the rock. Must be something about that thing that makes old people want to get there fast.

We met Pam on the trail, a woman from Boston whose husband was back at the hotel swimming pool. She was huffing and puffing in the heat, and she had failed to bring water along. She was getting thirsty, and for that reason decided to cut her hike short and head back to find her husband. She said that everyone who hears her speak guesses she’s from NYC. She said that because I guessed that she was from NYC.

We later visited Chapel Rock, a big rock containing a Catholic church. Who should we run into there but Pam from Boston, along with her husband. He looked refreshed after his morning swim. Somehow it came up in our conversation that South Bend is our hometown. Pam’s husband couldn’t help but mention Boston College, nemesis of Notre Dame. There’s always something to talk about with strangers.

After a brief visit to the chapel, we stopped at several interesting spots along Highway 179. Look anywhere and see something wonderful. IMG_20150901_102508You just can’t help reaching for your phone or camera to take another shot. I wonder how many photos are snapped each day in Arizona. Too bad for Kodak that we don’t need them anymore.

After seeing sites south of Sedona, we visited a number of shops along the road. The first was a little shop that sold, among other things, nutritious and organic smoothies. I struck up a conversation with the young woman who makes the smoothies and discovered that her hometown is LaPorte, IN. She has been in Sedona for two weeks, and has filed an application to Glendale Community College to enroll in their PA program. Nice kid. Her mom is a psychologist and lives nearby.

We stopped in Tlaquepaque next and visited about 3,431 art shops. I’m not kidding. At least that many. It was grueling, but we made it without buying one work of art. One shop, containing rocks and other naturally beautiful things, had a massive geode for sale. Asking price was $10,000. The thing must weigh 500 pounds, and both halves are displayed just inside the front door of the shop.

Another interesting place is the Navarro Gallery, which contains the amazing bronze works of Chris Navarro. Many other shops were equally impressive. I saw many things I’d like to look at every day, but most of them were very costly and we’d rather have enough money to return home after this trip.

We had lunch in Tlaquepaque at a place called The Secret Garden Cafe. Scott served us. He does refrigeration work when he’s not waiting tables. His brother joined him in the area a while back because of marital problems. They are honest guys and will not rip anyone off. Scott said that he only gets calls on his cell phone for his refrigeration business when he’s not actively serving a table. That works out pretty nice for him. He attributes this fact to divine intervention. Try the Taos Club sandwich for lunch. Very nice.

I think we walked about 83 miles today. I’m not kidding. We finished the day downtown in Sedona, eating Italian fare at the Sedona Pizza Company and wondering exactly how many miles we had walked. Yes, it seems like all we did today was eat and walk. But we also talked to many people, including a lady at a shop whose name I don’t recall. She was a school teacher in several states. Her husband is a school psychologist and was having two interviews today for part time jobs as a school psychologist somewhere in the area. She was very much hoping he would get one of those jobs. I suppose he’s been underfoot too long, probably making her life miserable. I didn’t get a chance to ask her because she was summoned to help a customer. I hope, for her sake as well as her husband’s, that he got a job offer.

We’re checking out of the Whispering Creek B & B tomorrow.

“Where should we go tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

“Let’s see what we feel like in the morning.”

“Yes, let’s see which way the wind is blowing.”

 

 

 

The Trip – Day 3

August 31, 2015

Barb and I crawled out of bed at 4:30 this morning. That’s 7:30 back in Fort Wayne, so I guess we actually overslept. We had neighbors in an adjacent room last night and we met them at the breakfast table. They’re from Denver and are first time visitors like us. One thing we like about B & Bs is that you meet and have conversations with people from different places and with different experiences. This adds an interesting dimension to a travel experience.

We’re staying in the Whispering Creek B & B in Sedona. It’s located just a couple of blocks from Uptown Sedona, so it’s a short walk to get there. Our room is very clean and modern, and the bed is extremely comfortable. Breakfast this morning consisted of eggs, chicken sausage, hash browns, and toast. The coffee was excellent. Cheryl and her husband Joe are the proprietors. Cheryl is very informative about Sedona and the surrounding area, and provided many recommendations about things to see and where to find good food. Plus, she makes very good breakfasts and offers a variety of options with a different menu each morning.

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Denny & Diane Bailey on the left. Barb and me on the right. Photo taken by a friendly fellow at the Spoke and Wheel tavern.

Shortly after breakfast our friends Diane and Denny Bailey (who are staying at another location in Sedona) picked us up and we drove to the Grand Canyon. The Baileys have visited the area before and know how to get around. Good thing, because it saved us the aggravation of heading the wrong way on the wrong highway.

We decided to take a shuttle bus at the Canyon, and picked the Blue Route. We picked that route because there were shelters at each of the stops and we wanted some means of protection in case lightning struck. A storm seemed to be brewing and we could hear thunder. We boarded the bus (free ride) and rode west, stopping perhaps six times before we disembarked. We found pathways to the edge of the Canyon with plenty of places to get dizzy and feel like you were going to be lured too close and sucked over the edge by one of the thousands of spiritual vortexes that come and go all through this region.

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Young man standing on the ragged edge of Hell.

Luckily, none of us were sucked or kicked over the side. But there were a few Canyon visitors who seemed to be tempting fate.

I took lots of photos and thought each time I hit the take button that the photo could not do justice to what I was actually seeing. Cell phone cameras are much better than they used to be, however, and some of the pictures are pretty good.

I won’t say much more about what we saw. You really have to see it for yourself to understand how awesome this place is.

After returning to Sedona, we went to the Spoke and Wheel Tavern. It was about 5:oo p.m. when we finally sat down and ordered food. We made it for happy hour, and saved a few bucks on drinks. We all ordered the Chicken Jalapeno quesadillas, which was recommended by Diane and Denny. They were delicious. Our last meal of the day came 10 hours after our previous meal. Cheryl’s breakfast kept us going quite a while.

Diane and Denny dropped us off at the B & B at the end of the day. We hope to see Diane in Indiana soon when she returns to visit family.

“What should we do tomorrow?”

“Wanna climb one of these rock formations?”

“Oh, sure. Let’s pick one with a spiritual vortex so if we fall, we’ll fall into the vortex and gain new insights.”

 

The Trip – Day 2

Barb and I woke up this morning in the Comfort Suites hotel on West I-40 in Oklahoma City, OK, after having driven 698 miles yesterday getting here from Fort Wayne. I’m not implying that it was a surprise to wake up in that particular place. It’s just that when you drive so many miles in one stretch it tends to dull the mind and certain events that take place during the mind’s dull stage sometimes fail to register completely.

“Gee, how did we get here?” I said.

“Are you kidding me?” Barb replied.

Ha ha, just joking.

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At any rate, one of the attractions of hotels these days is that they often provide a free breakfast. Well, the friendly folks at Comfort Suites on West I 40 in Oklahoma City should be paying patrons to eat the fare they provide. Barely warm scrambled eggs that lost their meager warmth upon hitting the plate and sausages that were the first shade of grey. The peanut butter and English muffins, however, under the circumstances, were to die for. Coffee tasted OK, but could have been hotter. Next time, McDonalds.

After struggling through breakfast, we loaded the car and found a Phillips 66 station around the corner from the hotel. The windshield on the Subaru was decorated with a pound or so of bug guts. I grabbed one of the squeegees provided near the gas pump and noticed that the sponge at the end was dry. That was because there was no fluid in the bucket that held the squeegee. So we decided to challenge ourselves and keep the bugs till the next pit stop. At least the gas was cheap – $2.03 per gallon. We drove to the nearest intersection and saw another gas station. Gas was $1.99 there, of course.

“Where to?” Barb said.

“Well, we were headed west when we got here,” I said. “No sense turning around and heading back now. Should we keep going in the same direction for a while?”

“Oh, what the hell,” Barb said, and off we went, west on I 40. We were on the highway at 7:05 a.m. Central time.

To be honest, the drive west through Oklahoma, as I reflect a few hours later, did not leave many lasting images in my mind. There were a number of references along the way to “historic Route 66,” with arrows pointing to places off I 40, none of which we followed. I thought at several points that it would someday be nice to drive that venerable highway, taking plenty of time to stop at the tourist traps and museums along the way, and wondering if Todd and Buzz would roar in with their Corvette and sign autographs.

We exited I 40 at Elk City, Oklahoma, for a pit stop. BEWARE! After peeing and fueling up, we left the  gas station and discovered that, due to road construction, we couldn’t re-enter I 40 west at that location. Somehow (I’m blaming it on confusing construction signage) we got on an entrance ramp for I 40 east and headed back toward Oklahoma City. Yes, we fully understood that we were going east. That’s why we took the first available exit and reversed directions after adding 20 minutes to the trip.

We verified the correctness of our direction when we hit the Texas state line at 9:30 a.m. Although Texas is famous for its oil industry, it was interesting to see thousands of gigantic wind turbines cranking away as we drove along. Some appeared to be miles and miles away. I subsequently discovered that Texas generates more wind power than any other state. Thank you, state of Texas!

We stopped in Amarillo, TX (mile 51,428) at 10:50 a.m. for a pit stop, then continued west (what the hell) and entered New Mexico at 12:19 Central. But wait, New Mexico is on Mountain Time, so the time in NM was 11:19 a.m. Man, this was getting confusing.

Still going west on I 40, we were thrilled to see the most interesting terrain so far on the trip. We have no photos, as Barb’s attempts to snap some from the car while we were in motion were not successful. You can see plenty of photos of the interesting sites along I 40 here.

Along with the beautiful scenery in NM, we were struck by the apparent poverty in some of the areas. Ramshackle mobile homes and other buildings, apparently homes to someone, dotted the countryside. Perhaps the people living there are not poor, but we couldn’t help but guess their circumstances based on what we could see. We know that many of those folks are native Americans of various tribes. It makes you think about what led to their situation, and how the lands we were driving through were once theirs and theirs alone.

Oh, don’t forget to consider stopping at the Flying C Ranch plaza. They have “everything.” We’ll have to catch that one the next time through.

We took another pit stop at Albuquerque at 2:19 p.m. at mileage 51,726, then continued west and crossed into Arizona at 4:48 Central time, mileage 51,881. But wait, AZ is currently on Pacific time, so it was actually 3:48 p.m. I shudder to think what it will be like on our return when we’ll lose three hours instead of gaining them.

We continued west on I 40 until we made it to Flagstaff.

“Isn’t Sedona around here somewhere?”

“I think so.”

We found a route to Sedona, and took Highway 89A south off I 40. About that time, a thunderstorm moved through the area. Highway 89A proved to be the scariest road I’ve driven on in many years. It winds down through the mountainous area south of Flagstaff. Rain started coming down in buckets. Lightning strikes hit to the right and left of us as we slowly snaked our way along the circuitous road. I clenched the steering wheel, trying to keep from driving off the precipitous edge of the road and also trying to keep from hydroplaning on the fast-forming puddles. Barb kept watching Google Maps on her phone and commented that the road looked like intestines on the map. We both wondered what would happen if lightning hit one of the many loose boulders high above us.

Luckily, we made it all the way to Sedona without plunging off the road. Luckily also, we found the Whispering Creek B & B and checked in for the night. We were both exhausted, and fell asleep wondering what tomorrow might bring.

 

The Trip – Day 1

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We left home this morning at 5:38. I had a difficult time loading all the stuff in the car, but Barb took over the job and, as usual, made everything fit. We stopped at Starbucks at Village of Coventry for caffeine, then got on I 69 and headed south. In Indy we took I 465 South to I 70, then west on 70. We stopped at a Pilot station near Brazil for our first pit stop. The restrooms passed inspection. More coffee there, then westward on I 70.

At St Louis we somehow managed to find our way to I 44 South. Throwing fate to the wind, we followed that road past Springfield, Missouri (home of the world headquarters of the Bass Pro Shops) and on to Joplin, where we stopped at our second Pilot station of the day for fuel and to inspect restrooms. They were tolerable.

Since I 44 worked well for so many miles, we decided to stay on it and some hours later found ourselves in the lobby of a Comfort Suites hotel in Oklahoma City, except that we were no longer on I 44 but somehow fumbled our way onto I 40. We thought, what the heck, we’re tired and hungry too so we checked in and guess what. A Cracker Barrel happened to be within walking distance. So before we knew it we were devouring great cold salads with grilled chicken. It was a raucous place though, filled to the walls with chattering kids and wild seniors.

After dinner we returned to our car and found two very old and very classic cars, one parked next to us and the other close by. Both had Indiana license plates. I couldn’t help but snap pictures.

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Nice cars. I thought about returning to the Cracker Barrel to search for the fellow Hoosiers but Barb talked me out of it.

A bit later we found an outlet mall and wandered around, stretching and trying to regain circulation in our extremities. We were at least partially successful.

Back at the hotel, we’re wondering where we might end up tomorrow.

 

The Trip

1929 Bentley Speed Six Gurney Nutting Coupé 8523047419
Barb and I are leaving soon for a two-week driving excursion. I have a (mostly) planned itinerary, but won’t go into detail at this point. I’ll post as we make our way along to keep the readers (thousands, I’m sure) wondering where we’ll be next. I’m writing this on Thursday, August 27, 2015. Our plan is to depart early Saturday, August 29. Readers (the thousands) are welcome to respond with travel suggestions or guesses as to where we might be headed. It’s all by car, so you can forget about destinations across bodies of water.

I’ll post again when we depart and at various points along the way.

 

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