Saturday, September 24, 2011

Complete Honeymoon Series

Full disclosure: I shamelessly backdate my posts. I want the date posted to reflect the date I wrote the post, even if it ends up being weeks before I have the time to upload them. So you can see what's been uploaded and get back to them easily, I will update and linkify this list as the posts go live:

  1. Best Laid Plans...
    (Walnut Creek, CA → Sonora, CA)
  2. Not Abducted By Aliens
    (Sonora, CA → Rachel, NV)
  3. Fossils, Basin & Range Geography, and Zion National Park
    (Rachel, NV → Zion National Park, UT)
  4. (Zion National Park, UT → Mesa Verde National Park, CO)
  5. (Mesa Verde National Park, CO → Gunnison, CO)
  6. (Gunnison, CO → Wichita, KS)
  7. (Wichita, KS → St. Louis, MO)
  8. (St. Louis, MO → Mammoth Cave National Park, KY)
  9. (stayed at Mammoth Cave National Park, KY)
  10. (Mammoth Cave National Park, KY → Lexington, KY)
  11. (Lexington, KY → Lexington, VA)
  12. (Lexington, VA → Williamsburg, VA)
  13. (Williamsburg, VA → Salisbury, MD)
  14. (Salisbury, MD → Lakewood, NJ)
  15. (Lakewood, NJ → Westerly, RI)
  16. (Westerly, RI → Old Orchard Beach, ME)
  17. (Old Orchard Beach, ME → St John, NB, Canada)
  18. (St John, NB, Canada → Waterville, ME)
  19. (Waterville, ME → Conway, NH)
  20. (Conway, NH → Sidney, NY)
  21. (Sidney, NY → Pittsburgh, PA)
  22. (Pittsburgh, PA → Springfield, OH)
  23. (Springfield, OH → Champaign, IL)
  24. (Champaign, IL → Council Bluffs, IA)
  25. (Council Bluffs, IA → Murdo, SD)
  26. (Murdo, SD → Moorcourt, WY)
  27. (Moorcourt, WY → St Regis, MT)
  28. (St Regis, MT → Seattle, WA)
  29. (Seattle, WA → Halsey, OR)
  30. (Halsey, OR → Arcata, CA)
  31. (Arcata, CA → Walnut Creek, CA)
  32. (Walnut Creek, CA → Los Gatos, CA)

I'm also going to be updating the date of this post to keep it as the most recent one until the trip is over (in case, by some miracle, I manage to catch up during the trip itself).


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Honeymoon Photos

We haven't had much internet (or downtime) for proper blog posting so far. The parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado we'e driven through haven't even had much cell pone coverage. But I'm taking copious notes (are there any other kind?) in the travel journal our family friend Angie got us, so posts will be written eventually.

We are also taking lots of photos with Forrest's nice new micro four thirds camera, but again, that requires internet and time, too.

So in the meantime, I've started uploading my iPhone photos whenever we do hit a spot of 3G coverage. See them on our Flickr honeymoon set.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day 3: Fossils, Basin & Range Geography, and Zion National Park

Rachel, NV
Zion National Park, UT
~230 miles


Despite the disappointing lack of alien sightings at the Little A'Le'Inn, we had a surprisingly pleasant time in Rachel, NV. We paid in the morning — it's still weird to me that they had no problem letting us to that. Nice, though.

We noticed that the motel sold postcards. Since we'd stayed in such an unusual location, and at the "urging" of the postcard stamps included in the travel journal that family friend Angie had given us as a wedding present, we decided to buy the postcards and mail them out to our parents and Angie.

Postcards are so much cheaper than we had expected! I had thought they would be like $2-3 a piece, but they're more like 5-50 cents, instead. Stamps are only 29 cents. So we figure, why not send a shitload of dimes postcards out? We're also mailing them to ourselves, so that we get at least one "good" professional photo of the places we stay at, even if our cameraphone and fancy-camera photos don't turn out.

An aside... One thing I wonder, is whether we'll notice the people being different around the country. The folks in Rachel did seem a little different from us, but in the same way that small-town or rural Californians are different from us. They didn't seem distinctly "Nevadan" in any way. Will people further out seem different somehow? We shall see.

Nevada Geography

So we headed out into central Nevada. We've certainly been to Nevada several times each, but mostly near the Sierras: Stateline, Minden, Virginia City, Reno, Las Vegas, Pahrump. But driving out through central and southern Nevada, this has been the first time we've really been able to see the basin and range for ourselves.

It's very clear why the geographic feature is so named. It also gets boring really fast: through a dry deserted desert valley, up and over a range, back through a valley, back up over a range, etc etc, until you hit Utah. Forrest declared that he had "cured [him]self of ever wanting to drive through central Nevada again." The landscape was pretty, in a desolate way, but there was a lot of it and nothing around.

And then we went over one final range, and suddenly we were driving through canyons (that looked just like Red Dead Redemption, I wonder why ;)). The vegetation changed from sage and other scrubby brush to piñon pine and such. It felt like we should be in a different state, the landscape changed so much.


Along the highway, we saw an "Oak Springs Trilobite Site" sign. This trip does have some planned points of interest, but we specifically want to be open to serendipitous discoveries. You might say that I am interested in dinosaours; as a kid, I read every single dinosaour book in my elementary school's library. So when we saw the sign, we had no choice but to turn off the highway and check it out. :)

This small dirt road lead out into the scrubby desert. Soon, we came to a small parking area with a sign explaining all about trilobites. We signed the guestbook, alonside the people who came to the site on September 11th because they were lost, and the locals who arrived on purpose ;) on September 14th to finally see what was at this area they'd driven past so many times.

From the sign (which included a topo map), we hiked down the third-of-a-mile trail to a huge pile of shale. It covered maybe 200 square feet of shale. We searched for trilobite fossils in the rocks, and by "searched" I mean we pushed around the top layer of shale with our shoes. Dedicated paleontologists, we aren't. :P

I was starting to suspect we wouldn't find any trilobites, either due to their rarity or previous hikers already having found and taken them all. I was ready to be bummed, although not especially surprised. Then we noticed a second pile of shale just a little further down the trail. This pile was maybe twice the size of the first one. I squatted in the shade of a pine and started systematically sifting through the shale, breaking open thicker rocks (as the info-sign had suggested) to look for fossils between the layers. I felt determined to really search, now that I'd been given this second chance of sorts.

Just when I was ready to give up a second time and declare the site a bust, Forrest hollered, from where he was still toeing through the rocks, "Found one!" And indeed, he had found the head section of a trilobite fossil. Not just a replica, but a real fossil. This bit of rock represented a critter than had really lived at the bottom of the ocean, hundreds of millions of years ago. I found it pretty exciting to be holding a real piece of ancient history, outside of a musuem and without the watchful eyes of some expert.

After a short debate, we decided to take the fossil back to the metal box that contained the guestbook, so that others could see at least one real fossil too. We took a photo for us to remember it by; it didn't seem right (or worth it for "just" a partial fossil) to take it away with us. As we were driving back out to the highway, another car passed us driving in to the site, which means that our found fossil got to be immediately enjoyed by a couple more people. Instant karma. :)

Driving Slowly Into Utah

Somewhere in Utah, I saw a super tall black and white cow. It was way taller than the other normal black or brown cows in the same lot. It was a little bit bigger too, but mostly it was just this extremely leggy cow. I wasn't fast enough to take its picture, so I have drawn you an accurate rendition instead, for your viewing pleasure.

We also saw a super slow driver. So slow, in fact, that a fifth-wheel passed him. Unfortunately, our 4-cylinder Tacoma just doesn't have the oomph to pass vehicles on uphills. Our pickup doesn't have the pick-up, you might say. :P So we followed behind this guy for miles. Miles, I tell you. Forrest was Not Happy.

While stuck behind this driver in the Pine Valley Mountains of Utah, Forrest told me about some movie that Clint Eastwood John Wayne had been in, or directed, or something.1 It had been filmed in one of the canyons nearby, which also happens to be an area where downwind of where the government had done some nuclear testing in Nevada earlier. The area is now generally safe, except that sometimes radiation accumulates in places like canyons. So the film crew, who shot much of the movie in a canyon, ended up later in life with a much higher rate of cancer than you would otherwise expect. :(

St George, UT

We finally made it into the first proper city in Utah, St George. We needed some groceries for dinner, new supplies of ice for the cooler, briquettes for the Dutch oven, etc.

We found the Hurst General Store, where we bought much of our camping supply needs. One of the cashiers helped me mail some things, find the briquettes, and checked us out. We got to chatting, and she said she'd always wanted to go to New Brunswick, our final destination. Her mother was from Saskatchewan, so she'd seen that area of Canada quite a bit, but she'd never been out to eastern Canada yet. In the parking lot afterward, Forrest and I decided we'd like to send her a postcard when we make it out there. :)

Then it was back on the road again, destination Zion National Park. Nothing eventful happened on the drive there, although we did see a vending machine that sold ice by the bag or block, and a dozen ostriches in a corral.

Zion National Park

Just outside of Zion National Park, Forrest spotted a sign for a motel advertising the fact that they had a big screen TV to watch videos of the park. Let me repeat that for you, in case you don't believe I meant what I said. This motel, right next to an amazingly beautiful national park, thinks you want to watch a movie of said park, rather than see it yourself. And they must be right, because their parking lot was not at all empty.

But I must agree with Forrest's initial commentary: "What??"

As for us, we were hoping to camp in the park. Alas, we ended up in the park on a Saturday, and all the campgrounds were full. Worse, it was getting on to sunset, so we only had a little bit of time to see anything of the park. And while we would have loved more time to hike around the park, we did get to see the amazingly impressive towers, spires, and peaks in the beautiful light of the setting sun. Photos just don't capture the "loominess" of the towering rocks, nor the beauty of the rich orange and pink light on them. It's one of those things you really do have to see for yourself.

So we drove along the road through the middle of the park, enjoying the views as much as we could. We went through a mile-long tunnel, built in the 20's. It was extremely dark and narrow — it reminded me of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, in fact.

On the other side of the tunnel, it was the darker end of twilight. We saw a trail from the small parking lot at the end of the tunnel. Some people were hiking down from it. We could see that there was a lookout ledge just in view, which would only take a minute or two to hike up to. The entire trail was a half mile, so we wouldn't get to see the "proper" lookout, but we figured we'd see what we could from the short lookout.

We hiked up to that small ledge we had seen, and got a decent view overlooking a small canyon. On the way back, we chatted with an older couple from the Grand Rapids, MI area who had done the full half-mile half and some "Angel's Landing" trail that sounded a lot like the Half Dome experience. They were a friendly couple, and we wished each other the best on our travels.

Camping with Jason & Andrew

The road continued through the park, where the terrain changed from towering spires to deep canyons and scrubby pines. Just outside the park boundaries, we ran into a private campground with plenty of available tent sites, for just $20, which included showers and laundry.

Our campsite-neighbors were two brothers, Jason from Colorado and Andrew from DC. They were friendly and let us join them at their campfire. Jason asked us if we "blazed," and while I was busy being confused, Forrest politely said, "No, thank you." Then I realized what he must have meant, and was glad Forrest had declined the offer. :P

We got to chatting with them about our trip, and how our next stop (after the slot canyons in Arizona) would be Colorado. Since that was where Jason was from, he suggested we take the road from Durango up through the Rockies to Montrose. He said it was one of his favorite drives in the state. We were already planning on going to Durango because of the Roadfood book, so we'll probably take his advice. (After confirming via a map that it's not a crazy suggestion, that is.)

We cooked up some dried bow-tie pasta with basil pesto for dinner. (We ended up with basil pesto because there was no plain pesto2, nor fresh pasta, at Smith's grocery store in Utah, which also had the tiniest organic section I've ever seen; we were clearly not in hippy-California any more.) We had also bought some garlic bread, but we decided not to cook it after all because it was dark already and we didn't feel like messing with it or waiting for briquettes or embers.

When we finished eating and chatting with the brothers and the fire died down, we headed to bed for our first night sleeping in the truck. We had to keep the tail gate down for two reason: 1) to keep the interior from getting all humid and condensation-y, and 2) to give Forrest's 6'2" self enough room. It was a pleasant evening, though, so that didn't cause any problems. The three-inch-thick foam mattress was as comfortable as I remembered it being in the store, my zero-degree (heavy, car-camping-only) sleeping bag was as warm as I remembered it, and my new Target-acquired pillows were sufficiently comfy. All in all, it had been a good day and a good night's sleep awaited.

  1. Forrest informed me after I posted this that the movie in question is The Conqueror. He also says, "It's not a problem today because the high intensity stuff has all decayed by now."

  2. Forrest also says that "basil pesto" == "normal pesto". Hrmph. Sneaky basil.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 2: Not Abducted By Aliens

Sonora, CA
Rachel, NV
~400 miles

Bagels for Breakfast

We woke up sometime between and 9 and 10 o'clock and got ready to get back on the road again. We ate bagels, lox, and cream cheese for breakfast on the tailgate of the truck, in the parking lot of the motel.

(We'd meant to eat the lox for breakfast the morning of the wedding, but we forgot it at my parents' house. We thought briefly about trying to pick it up before doing our pre-wedding errands, but it was so chaotic and rushed that we realized it would be more trouble than it was worth. We ended up eating loxless bagels and Starbucks coffee drinks instead.)

After eating our bagels, Forrest repacked the back of the cab and bed so that it was much more sane. I'm pleased to report that everything fits pretty neatly. He did a great job designing the bed platform where we store most of our camping things, and the four milk crates behind the seats in the cab fit like they were designed for it.

Taking Photos

Last night, I saw my mom's first blog post about the Arizona road trip she and my dad are (finally) taking, simultaneous with our own trip. She had taken several photos and uploaded them. I may have gotten a little jealous and defensive, but I'm not admittin' to nothin'. However, you may notice that more photos are getting uploaded to my Flickr honeymoon photo set since my mom's post. ;)

Note, though, that the photos I'm currently uploading are just from my iPhone's camera, which is decent but not really a good camera. We're also taking a bunch of good photos with Forrest's fancy new micro four thirds camera. However, it's not as easy to upload photos from that camera — the photos are in Panasonic RAW format (we're not shooting in RAW+jpeg format for SD card space reasons... despite having gigs of space...), and also we need real internet, not just phone-based 3G that suffices for uploading cameraphone pictures. We probably won't upload any of the better-quality photos until we get home in mid-October. You'll just have to wait. :P

Sonora, CA

We did some more last-minute shopping at the WalMart in Sonora, CA. One thing WalMart does have going for it, is that it has a little bit of everything, making it a good one-stop shop, which matters when we want to just get on the road already. Also, the parking lots of WalMarts can be entertaining in their own right. For example, we saw this crazy DIY camper shell on a pickup truck. Incredibly1, the owner thought he could get $1,000 for it. (Just wait until we upload the photo of this thing. It really is unbelievable1.)

We gassed up at the Shell across the street. One of the pumps was out of order, and Forrest realized this was the same pump that had been broken when he and his brother Ari had driven through on their backpacking trip, in the beginning of August!

A couple other things we saw: a business sign that read "Viruses, Trojans,and Spyware (bad stuff) REMOVED"; and a sign for a quilt show this weekend, which my mom is missing by going to Arizona; I'm sure she's so sad she missed it. ;)

Outside of Sonora, we drove past city limit signs for several little mountain towns. As we approached another one, he apologized and blamed his brother. Confused, I asked him what was up. "Can I tell you something... in Confidence?" he said, just as we came in sight of the city limit sign for Confidence, CA. While I was glaring at his puntastic self, we drove past the sign. "Something," he said. I hated him some more. :P

Through the Western Sierra

We headed out of Sonora on CA-108. Driving through the mountains that are so familiar to both of us, we talked about how we wanted to share this area with our Seattle friends, most(?) of whom haven't really been camping before. Next spring, we may try to round them up for an easy camping trip in the Sierras.

We drove past Relief Reservoir, which Forrest thought had some interesting pioneer story of a wagon train running out of supplies and needing to be rescued. As he recalls, some guy was in Carson City, NV, promoting his new route over the Sierras. A wagon train decided to take it, but the route turned out to be terrible; they got stuck, and started running out of supplies. They sent out some of the men to go ahead over the pass without the wagon. The men returned with a relief party from the western side and helped the party the rest of the way over. When we have internet for long enough again, maybe I'll even fact-check this story. ;)

Weather continues fair. (According to Forrest, a more accurate weather report would tell you of the proto-thunderheads forming over the next ridge, and the 4/8 cloud cover. But that doesn't pay homage to the wagon train diaries full of terse entire-day entries like "Weather continues fair," now does it?)

Just over the summit of Sonora Pass, we pulled over to look down on Levitt Meadow, the jumping-off point for Forrest's own Sierra adventure (with his father and brother) this past August. It was cool and breezy at the lookout point, with no sound but the wind rustling through the aspen and pine and, in the distance, the muted rush of a waterfall over granite. I was glad I got to see where Forrest had been on his backpacking trip, since I hadn't been able to go and he had told me about his trip. Now I have something specific to picture in my mind's eye when he talks about it, that I've seen myself rather than just from photographs.

I started an "adventure list" for ourselves on the back of our shopping list at this point, to have a ready inventory of future trips we'd like to take together, be they simple weekenders or more month-long vacations.

On the Eastern Side of the Sierras

Once we crossed over into Nevada, we were about ready for lunch. We stopped in Bridgeport. As tempting as the seafood place was, we just didn't feel like trusting a restaurant with fish, so far from the ocean. Instead, we ate at the Bridgeport Inn, which has been around since the 1800's. The soups there, both the split pea & ham and the clam chowder, were excellent.

Back on the road, we passed by June Lake, where we had hunted for open campsites on a previous trip. Ugh, I remember those hunts: no reservations, sun setting or already dark, getting increasingly late and dark and tired, finding full campsites and no-vacancy motels, worried about where the heck we'll sleep or how long we'll have to drive through the night to find a place.

I am soooo glad that we don't have any of that on this trip. Or rather, not nearly to the same extent: we carry our own little "motel" in the pickup bed, so our worst-case scenario is just to pull over on the side of the road or in a WalMart parking lot and sleep, in our bed with our own supplies, just as comfortable as in a campground, if not as picturesque.

In a more amusing vein, we saw one of those Adopt-a-Highway signs on CA-120, just off of CA-395, that had been made possible by "one of those June Lake liberals." Someone has a sense of humor.

After much driving through surprisingly monotonous, straight-road-out-into-the-distance Nevada, we got to the town of Tonopah. Between California and Tonopah, we saw only two burned-out motels. Between Tonopah and the next one-motel town, there wasn't even that. The sign on the highway out of town warned, "next gas 163 miles."

Rained Out of Camp

Driving down US-6, watching the fuzzy-bottomed clouds that mean rain following along to either side of us, we realized that neither of us had umbrellas or ponchos. We have an EZ-Up for shade and some weather protection... but it's not a great idea if it gets windy. Forrest got that cute, sheepish "uh-oh, we were dumb" on his face as we thought about our lack of rain-preparedness. We figured we had better find camp and cook our burrito dinner quickly, before the weather caught up with us.3

There was a beautiful sunset while we were passing through Tonopah (which we tried to get a photo of, with us in the foreground, but we mostly failed at that). Sunsets mean that it will get dark soon thereafter. And we hadn't decided on a place to camp for the night.

But as previously mentioned, that's no longer a huge issue for us, because we carry everything we need for a basic camping experience right with us. So we looked at the map, saw that the Toiyobe National Forest was only about 30 miles outside of Tonopah and along the route we wanted to be following, and drove out into it looking for a suitable campsite.

It was deep twilight by then, getting on to full dark. After the second unmarked intersection of the dirt roads in the national forest, I started sketching a map so we wouldn't get lost. On top of that precaution, I declared that we would only take right turns — a rule I learned from playing in this cool old labyrinth amusement park thing that my dad took me to somewhere out by Vallejo, when I was little. In a labyrinth, it means you never backtrack and always find a way out. In our situation, it was a little more simplistic: right-turns-only heading out means left-turns-only heading back.

We started setting up camp in full dark, with few stars overhead as the rain clouds moved in. I normally hate setting up camp in the dark, just because it's a pain when you can't see more than your flashlight's area until the lantern is going. But with the imminent rain, I was also worrying about that. So I started stressing and generally being no fun to be around.

Forrest finally put me to work chopping an onion for the burritos, which helped me calm down and focus on something besides our impending doom. :P Forrest cooked up the ground beef, plopped the can of refried beans right into the same frying pan, and drained the ground beef grease into the now-empty bean can. We set it on the ground to let it congeal, so we could throw it away later without it spilling all over the truck while in transit to the nearest garbage can.

A little while later, Forrest asked me if I felt "uneasy." I agreed. I attributed it to the ancient human fear of the dark and unknown outside the light of the fire. Neither of us could put our fingers on anything specific making us feel uneasy. We wonder now if it was the weather, and our relatively isolated situation, weighing on us.

Forrest was making the third (and final) burrito when we felt a couple rain drops on our heads. All at once it was seriously raining, big fat drops soaking anything exposed. Since we had neglected to set up the EZ-Up, "anything exposed" was in fact everything, including the foot of the mattresses and the outside edges of the seats.

We scrambled to throw everything in the truck before they got truly sopping. I jumped into the passenger seat with things tucked under my arms, not taking the time to kick the mud off my newly-muddy shoes. My fleece got pretty damp; I was cold and wet, which means I was miserable. Again, no fun to be around.

Worse, my muddy shoes started getting me worried that the warren of dirt roads we had followed leading in to the national forest would become impassable mud tracks if we took too long to get out. We had picked this spot to camp precisely because we couldn't see anyone anywhere around. The isolation had seemed like a desirable thing at the time, but now it meant that we wouldn't have any chance of outside help without walking back the, oh, mile or so? to the highway.

As soon as the lantern was cool enough to pack (or else it would melt through its plastic case), we got the hell out of there.

Luckily, the dirt roads were actually pretty solidy packed and did not instantly turn to mush. We got back to US-6 without any further incident. We did a "post-mortem" of the incident, going over what signs we missed and what we should do differently in the future.

The obvious answer is that we should have looked at the forecast to have a general idea of the area's expected whether, and we should have hedded the very rain clouds we commented on ourselves earlier in the day. We might still have safely camped, but we should have chosen an organized campground, not a mile out a dirt road out of sight of anyone.

So it ended up being a "lesson learned" type of experience, but it could have been much worse. We're glad we we able to walk away with it with "feeling really dumb" as the worst thing that happened to us.

Little A'Le'Inn near Area 51

With our mattress wet from the rainstorm, we wouldn't be sleeping in the back of the truck that night after all. So we went back to Tonopah where we figured was our best chance of finding a motel. But when we drove the half-hour back to town, we found that everything was booked — there was some big solar plant event, plus a couple other smaller gatherings, taking place that weekend in this middle-of-nowhere Nevada town.

The night clerk of one motel listed the four or five events going on that weekend to explain the lack of rooms, but frankly my eyes glazed over after the first one as I realized we might have to drive the three hours south to Las Vegas, off our route, before we actually found rooms. It was exactly the desparate hunt for lodging that I thought we would be able to avoid on this trip.

Forrest thought to text Google Search to try to find a closer motel. Just when we thought there wasn't enough signal and the text wouldn't go through, we got back three search results. One of them was the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, NV, a "town" whose only claim to fame is that it's the nearest civilian dot on a map to Area 51.

I called them. When they told me they had just one queen room left for the night, I said we'd take it. They didn't ask for a credit card number, just my name. They told me that if we got there after the front desk had closed for the night, they would leave a map(!) to our room and a key and we could just pay in the morning. Strange; shouldn't they have worried that we'd be adbucted by aliens during the night and not be available to pay our bill? ;)

I fell asleep for half an hour on the ay over; Forrest drove in the dark and silence, until I woke up again. Then we had some good chatting until we finally got to the Little A'Le'Inn. It turned out to be a handful of single-wide mobile homes coverted into a motel, and by "converted" I mean that they rent out the bedrooms of each mobile home as though they were each a motel room unto themselves. Pretty damn weird, but hey, it means everyone gets a (shared) living room and full kitchen.

The walls of the common rooms and our bedroom were covered with framed color inkjet print-outs of "famous" UFO photographs, à la the X-Files "I want to believe" poster. What else would you expect from such a place, really?

So we ended up in a warm, dry bed for the night. We were not, in fact, abducted by aliens, so I'm going to declare that a win for the day. :)

  1. Ever think about how "incredible" is in-cred-ible, like the Spanish creer to believe, thus making the word "incredible" the literal Latin-root equivalent of unbelievable? I think about things like this. I may be on my honeymoon, but that doesn't stop me from being a lingweenie. ;)

  2. The astute readers out there might realize that this isn't really a plan. It's more of a "let's get ourselves stuck out in the middle of nowhere without the proper gear" type of thing. But that would be getting ahead of the story... ;)


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 1: Best Laid Plans...

Walnut Creek, CA
Sonora, CA
~125 miles
~4 hours

Late Start, Like Always

No matter what time we wake up or how little we think we have to do before we'll be ready to leave, it never fails that we leave hours later than we wanted to. In this case, we left ridiculously later. Like, 9:45 PM instead of 2 PM. Oops.

Everything just took so much longer than we thought it would: While Forrest ran around buying things on the shopping list, I stayed home to sew curtains for the back of the truck (both for privacy and, more importantly, to keep the evil Day Star and/or other annoying lights out when we're trying to sleep), drawstring bags for some loose items, and print out notes on our trip.

Target was another hour of going through nearly all the aisles, picking up things on the shopping list. Then back to my parents' house to pick up some items we'd (inevitably) forgotten. Then to Trader Joe's for the One True Peanut Butter (creamy salted, the peanut butter that convinced me that Reese's peanut butter cups were not the only tasty peanut butter). Then to an auto parts store to replace the burned out interior light bulbs and buy some car markers for writing on windows ('cause the second true way to mark that you're married, after Facebook status updates, is to write "Just Married!" on the rear window).

And then we were finally on the road.

Driving Through the Delta

We grabbed some snacks from a "light night" (ie closes at 9:30) Starbucks in Concord. Forrest had never been to downtown Concord, only the strip malls nearby, so I got to show him Todos Santos Plaza with its pretty lit-up trees. I told him how we were only a block away from my childhood go-to lasar tag place, Q-Zar. The old "capture the flag" style games we played then were so much more fun than the "free for all" style that I've played more recently. Grumble grumble.

Highway 4 is right near Concord, and so we decided to take it to head out east. Except for the slight problem that we took westbound 4 instead. In turning around, we stumbled across the old Solano drive-in, which is still in business and was actually playing a movie as we went by. We totally need to go to a drive-in again some time!

So we got going in the correct direction (heh), and headed out through the delta. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy driving through the delta. It's surprisingly sparsely populated, for being so close to Sacramento and the Bay Area. Even highway 4 is just this winding two-lane road, going over crazy old drawbridges that crisscross all the little waterways. Then that Josh Turner song came on the radio, the "Would You Go With Me" one, which seemed an appropriate one start our trip with. :)

Giving Up on Dinner and Camping

Forrest had wanted to cook up some burritos for dinner, whenever we stopped for the night. But since we weren't leaving until night, we quickly scrapped that plan and decided to just head up some Dinty Moore beef stew instead. (Hey, I like Dinty Moore!) But then as it got even later, and we started contemplating that we wouldn't make it over Sonora Pass tonight, we decided to skip the cooking thing altogether and just had fast food.

Once we realized we wouldn't make the pass, and it was getting on toward midnight, we decided to just crash at a motel for the night. The Gold Lodge in Sonora is just your typical little beside-the-highway dozen rooms type of motel, but there's nothing wrong with it.

East Coast or Bust!

Tomorrow we'll get to appreciate Sonora Pass in the daylight. We'll have lunch (maybe PB&J courtesy of Trader Joe's) at the campground Forrest had wanted to show me, and then head out into Nevada.

Even though we're already on the road, driving in our fully loaded truck with a bunch of supplies and a month's worth of clothes, it hasn't quite sunk in yet that we're really doing this. It's quite the crazy endeavor, driving across an entire continent and back. So far, it still feels like a "normal" road trip -- we've driven from Seattle to the Bay Area, and from the Bay Area to Phoenix before. This scenery of the Central Valley and the foothills and the Sierras is all familiar, comfortable. Even Nevada tomorow will be a known quantity. But past that, I think it will really hit us: we're going to see the whole country (at least in width). That's pretty awesome!


Tentative Road Trip Plans

If you'll forgive the very loose sense of the word "plan," here's the list of points of interest we're considering checking out as we drive across the country over the next four weeks. We're very much playing our route by ear, so we'll skip things or add new things as whims and the road take us.

  • Sonora Pass
  • Zion National Park
  • Antelope Canyon
  • Rio Grand Scenic Railroad
  • Casa Bonita (yes, because of South Park :P
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Badlands National Park (where dinosaurs are found!)
  • Corn Palace (Jambool-Dan says if we're in South Dakota anyway...)
  • House on the Rock
  • Chicago (Jambool-Dan recommended an architecture tour)
  • Skyline Chili*
  • National Air Force Museum
  • Pittsburgh (visiting my best friend Olya!))
  • Corning Museum of Glass
  • Ted's Hot Dogs*
  • Viola's Subs*
  • Niagara Falls, NY & ON
  • Hibbard's Custard*
  • Niagara Home Bakery*
  • George Eastman house
  • Bayswater, New Brunswick
  • Portland, ME
  • Kancamagus Pass
  • Swampscott, MA (where Forrest's mom, Sandy, grew up)
  • Kelly's Roast Beef
  • Philadelphia
  • USS Constellation
  • Smithsonian
  • Arlington National Cemetery
  • Colonial Williamsburg
  • Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Versailles, KY (home of Woodford Reserve)
  • Mammoth Cave (a cavern system so huge, they don't know how huge!)
  • Memphis, TN
  • Plano, TX (the third of three sisters' fantastic Sichuanese restaurants)
  • Old Coupland Inn
  • Austin, TX
  • Johnson City, TX
  • Truth or Consequences, NM
  • Luna, NM
  • Mesa, AZ (visiting Forrest's grandfather and uncle)
  • Winslow, AZ (we will stand on a corner here ;))
  • Grand Canyon, AZ

If you have suggestions of things we should see along this general route, please do share!

All these places were suggested by our friend Ben. As you can see, Ben likes good food.


Preparing for the Honeymoon

Forrest and I got married last Saturday!! Of course I will write up a proper blog post, with details and emotions and include all the color glossy photographs (not with circles and arrows, but with a paragraph below each one explaining what each one was*). But for a couple reasons, that very important post will be (probably significantly) delayed:

  1. We're still waiting to receives the photos that many of our guests took (there was no professional).
  2. The post itself (or, more likely, the series of posts) will just take a long while to write properly.
  3. We're very busy readying for our honeymoon!

Point #1 explains the lack of photos, either here or on my Flickr "Wedding" set. Point #3 is this post right here. ;)

Our honeymoon is a month-long cross-country road trip. Quite a lot of prepping and packing goes into such an endeavor, as you might imagine. We're maybe 70% done readying, so the hope is we leave today, with tomorrow being the backup plan.

* Bonus points if you’re cool and/or old enough ;) to recognize the reference.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Today's Tweets

What I found interesting or amusing


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Today's Tweets

What I had to say

  • Busy updating my name on internet accounts! (I won't legally change my name on my passport, credit cards, etc until after the honeymoon.) [ 9:19 AM]
  • But I'll always be Arthaey here. ;) [ 9:19 AM]


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today's Tweets

What I had to say


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Today's Tweets

What I had to say

  • I wonder whether the data would support the hypothesis that geeks with bad eyesight wear glasses (over contacts) more than non-geeks? [ 3:23 PM]
  • YouTube should have an "Oh God My Eyes" button after a video, to say that you wish you could un-see a video. It would decrease view count. [ 3:40 PM]
  • Finally found new shoes! Elastic "laces" so you don't actually have to tie them, but they look like laces. Super sneaky-lazy shoes. ;) [ 9:12 PM]


Friday, September 2, 2011

Today's Tweets

What I had to say

  • Dear cold: Why are you still hanging around, an entire week later? You've seriously overstayed your welcome. Sincerely, me. [10:49 AM]
  • I have absolutely no memory of where I parked the car at work. Time to troll around the lot on a bike to hunt it down... [ 5:09 PM]
  • .@arthaey Car found. Whew! :P [ 5:20 PM]


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Today's Tweets

What I had to say

  • Study finds men & women have same overall IQs, but men overestimate theirs while women underestimate: HT @bernard_ben [11:03 AM]
  • Rhode Island Dept of Transportation sign: "It's gonna be wicked bad out. Stay home, jackass." HT @giynlith [ 1:23 PM]
  • Sitting on the lawn at work, waiting for dark and the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with popcorn, candy, coffee, and pretzels! [ 7:54 PM]
  • I am le confused by #TheLeMovement [ 7:56 PM]
  • Olvidé que la película empiece con español. :) [ 7:59 PM]
  • Und sprechen sie auch auf Deutsch! [ 9:34 PM]

What I found interesting or amusing

  • I feel bad it when someone I don't quite recognize says hi, starts chatting, and I figure out who they are via deduction rather than memory. [ 1:02 PM]