Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Chair

Down a west Texas backroad
Not really sure where
Sits a crumbling farmhouse
Inside, just a chair

Curiosity in me
Came out right away
How long has this chair
Been left to decay

The house, the land
And the chair that's inside
Left rotting and cold
Was once owned with pride

What forces at work
Caused them to go
By choice or by force
We may never know

Who was the first
To build on this site
Who was the last
To turn out the light

The image we see
Does not show the glory
Of what once was here
There's more to the story

Imagine the scene
Years past from this day
A family once lived
To work, eat, and play

Children are singing
And playing with dolls
Dad sits to rest
As a Texas night falls

As he rests in this chair
His long day is done
Tomorrow is near
Work starts with the sun

A tired child walks up
"Can I sit with you Pappy"
"Sure my sweet baby"
His heart is so happy

A prayer is whispered
As she falls asleep
I pray the Lord
My soul to keep

Good days and bad
As years they go by
Filled this grand house
Time sure does fly

Who knew way back then
What the future would be
This house is reduced
To the image we see

No doors or windows
To keep out the cold
No human around
To make their story told

Pictures and keepsakes
No place to be found
A home filled with laughter
Void of all sound

A house full of memories
Has now been stripped bare
The rooms are all empty
Except for a chair.

How to train your woman

Mop bucket, check.  Little bit of Dawn dish soap, check.  A couple of mom's clean towels and a dish towel, check.  Trouble later for perhaps ruining a good towel cleaning my car, check.  As a teenager, there was some satisfaction that came from washing my own car.  Even into my 20's and 30's, I still had the desire to set aside a couple of hours or so to bring whatever I was driving to a shine.  Don't forget the Armor All for the tires.  Check.  While filling up the mop bucket with water and watching it foam up from the dish soap, not one time did I ever think that my mission to keep my car clean would be analyzed by my 50-year-old self later down the road.  Sounds simple enough right?  People wash their cars all the time.  So what.  Well, I may have washed my car a little more than the average person.  Still, no big deal.  One mission and one mission only; have a shiny car with "wet look" shiny tires as I drove to school, work, the park, or to get roast beef from Armond's Meat Market.  But it's not that simple.  I realized something about myself a few years back and it carries with me today.  Albeit unknown to a young Clay, there was another, super-secret unknown mission hidden in the ruined dishcloths and bucket of suds.

It may have been a year or so ago.  I forget exactly.  But it must have been a nice, sunny day because the line for the automated car wash was long.  Credit card, check.  $2 off wash coupon, check.  A couple of microfibre towels to get the leftover drops that the dryer always misses at the end of the car wash conveyor, check.  I'm not sure which one of us noticed it first or even said something out loud first, but what caught our attention was a couple who were in the vacuum area.  Taking a wild guess, I'd say they were in their 60's or maybe older.  The woman was in and out of the van, sweating as she worked hard to get it vacuumed and clean.  It wasn't so much that, but the fact that the man (husband we assumed) was sitting on the raised concrete pad next to the vacuum machines.  He was watching as his van was getting cleaned without him having to lift a finger.  Meanwhile, back in the long line, opinions and judgments were taking shape.  Then thoughts became spoken words.  The conversation centered around how this guy was some kind of jerk making his wife clean their car while he sat and watched.  Men joke all the time about how to train your woman to do things for you so you don't have to.  Looked like this guy found a way.  As the sympathy for the woman grew stronger, so did the opinion about this a-hole who gladly sat idle while she struggled to make his life easier.  This went on for a couple of minutes as we slowly made our way closer to the machine that can do in 3 minutes what used to take me an hour.  Then it happened.  Can't deny it, because we both saw it.  Didn't catch it on video to prove it, but for me, it's burned into my brain like a hot iron brand on a cow's rear end.  This poor, sweating, not-so-fit older woman, reached into the van and pulled out a walker.  She made her way to the spot where Mr. Insensetive was sitting and helped him up and held him steady until he could slowly make his way back to the passenger door of the van.  WTF.  Holy crap.  Opinions and judgments were shattered, and rightly so.  For me, those opinions and judgments did a complete 180-degree turn.  Who was the a-hole now?  Who is Mr. Insensitive?  Not that man.  He was not physically able to help her, but he was there.  Prior to the moment she brought the walker into sight, this man was no better than the dirt hidden under my fingernails.  And why?  Never once did it cross my mind that he couldn't help, not that he wouldn't help if he could.  There's no guarantee that he would have, but by then it didn't matter to me.  I felt like crap.  Nice...real nice.  Ultimately, the analyst comes out in me.  I can't help it.  Was I completely inept at fully assessing a situation before forming an opinion or making a judgment on someone that's so far off base it would lead to a complete fail?  Or is it that as humans, we all make judgments regardless of the information we know at the time?  I've judged people before that moment, and I still do.  We all do and we can't deny it.  What we see and hear naturally causes us to form an opinion on what we believe is the truth.  It's in our DNA, just like we natively eat when we are hungry, drink when we are thirsty, and sing out loud when we hear Journey's "Don't Stop Believing".  We cannot escape it.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am judged by what people see or hear about me.  I can't live my life worrying about that.  I will judge and will be judged.  The things we say, or think, about other people without knowing the situation tell more about who we are than about how they are.  With that in mind, I try harder to think about those things I can't see or hear before truly forming an opinion about someone.  Everyone has their walker that others do not see.  Sometimes it's never seen, and other times it's brought into view when we didn't expect it.  Maybe we have that "a-ha" moment and realize that we were completely wrong.  Maybe we don't.  As for me, I can't live my life hanging on what others think about me.  I have faults.  I joke around sometimes and say "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken".  Not my quote, but I like to throw it around in conversation.  I am wrong.  I do wrong.  I am human. 

This secondary mission that is part of the paint-by-numbers canvas of my life is the split between interacting with people and inanimate objects, like cars.  It's an escape from dealing with people in general.  I'm sure everyone feels this way every once in a while (see, I'm forming opinions like every human does...and I just did it again).  I happen to feel this way more often than not.  I can spend hours working on cars, research, photography, reading, games, or whatever brings that disconnect from dealing with people.  The balance is off, but is it wrong?  In who's opinion?  Who has the right to judge me for what I do?  Who decides what's the right balance between keeping to myself and human interaction?  Should I worry that people don't see my walker and have that a-ha moment to feel sorry for me and change their opinion to a more favorable one?  The answers to these questions are "nobody" and "no".  Fact; I'm what people refer to as a "loner".  What does that lead to?  People forming opinions and judging me for what they see and hear.  Three things to know about this.  One, I don't care what others think of me.  Two, know that while I'm being judged, either fairly or unfairly, people are judging you too.  Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Maybe right this second.  Maybe during the time you have spent reading this, someone has judged or formed an opinion of you.  How do you feel about that?  Does it bother you?  Do you let other's opinions of you affect how you live?  Some people do, others do not.  I'm with the latter.  The third thing to know about this...see number one.  When I finish writing this blog entry today, I'll probably retreat into a self-satisfying loner stage for a little while.  I'll be judged for it.  But I'll survive.

All that sounds pretty blunt and negative right?  Not the approach I try or want to take.  It carries with it the damage to others of being who I am.  While my DNA tells me not to care what others think of me, the way I approach the "balance" has left a path of destruction.  People I love and once loved have been hurt by my actions.  I have a selfish side and a side of me that would do anything to make others happy.  I've shifted more to the selfish side.  By far.  Maybe it's age.  Maybe it's medication.  Maybe it's too many slices of pizza affecting the chemical balance in my body.  Sometimes I don't want to figure it out and I'm perfectly happy being more selfish than not.  Is that age, chemicals from big Pharma, or many years of pepperoni talking?   Other times it hits me and I think "what the hell are you doing?"  This is NOT how you planned things.  Is this the new normal?  Am I the bull in the china shop?  Am I self-less or selfish?  Who I am really? 

To be continued. 

In the meantime, go ahead and pull up Don't Stop Believing and sing as loud as you can.  I won't judge.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The introvert speaks

I was PRAYING...that the loud bangs I heard coming from underneath my truck were simply those of a large rock or two that I had just run over. After all, the road I was driving on was "rough enough to rattle your teeth from your head" as my Dad used to say. And I was going a bit fast. I was enjoying the thrill of the slight fish-tailing feeling kicking up dust along old Route 66. The fun lasted until the moment I hit the brakes. They were virtually gone. Luckily for me I was on a straight road so I didn't miss a turn and wind up laying upside down in a ditch in the New Mexico countryside  with no one within earshot of me. My heart sank as low as my foot needed to go to get me to stop...all the way to the floor. When I finally did get J3 to a halt (J3 is the nickname for my truck, I'll say what it means later), I sat for a minute to calm down before I got out to check the situation. When I was finally able to peel my hands off the steering wheel and go look under the truck, it took a millisecond to see the problem. There, dangling in the wind like a monkey in a tree, was my driver's side brake caliper. One of two pistons, gone. Brake pads, gone. And like a monkey in a tree I could hear it mocking me with that monkey laugh. I'm 70 miles from Amarillo in the middle of nowhere. I was mad for about a second, but really there was no sense in it. What good would it do me to be mad?  I turned around and headed back east where I knew that I-40 was about 10 miles back. I looked for my piston and pads just in case I thought I could fix it. They were nowhere to be found. Lost amongst the tumbleweeds, jackrabbits, and antelope...and perhaps many other parts of vehicles that traveled the Mother Road over the last 70 years this stretch was used. This was Wednesday, just the second day on my adventure. By Monday I would have driven some 3600 miles, and not the miles I was looking forward to.

On Tuesday morning I woke up and just decided "I'm going to Colorado". Just like that. I had already planned a lunch with my mom and daughter, so I took my time packing my camera gear and some clothes.  Oh and some Lemonheads and Mike & Ike. Must haves for a road trip. Lunch with my two favorite people was great, then I headed west. I love the feeling of being on the road, especially when I know that on the second day I'd be spending the night in one of my two favorite states. My other fav is, of course, Wyoming. I was jamming out in a one person karaoke contest in my truck...and I lost. I can't sing a lick but I was smiling and enjoying the ride. I also knew that I'd be driving through the dreaded Dallas late at night, which, if any of you have ever driven through Dallas, know is as close to hell on earth as possible. Traffic is always a nightmare. To my delight, I made damn good time and made it through with no delays. Somewhere around Chillicothe I pulled into a rest area and stretched out on the back seat of my truck for some sleep. It was dark and quiet except for the wheels of the occasional car or truck going by on Hwy 287. It reminded me so much of my childhood road trips in our motor home. The sounds and feel to the air were very familiar and brought back so many good memories. At times I was that child again, laying there with my eyes closed imagining I was in my bed inside the motor home. The only sound missing was my Dad's constant snoring. I miss that. So many nights I either didn't sleep well or had to put a pillow over my head to try and sleep. I'd give anything to have him keep me awake at night with his snoring. It was a happy day, but I fell asleep a sad 10 year old boy.

I didn't sleep very well. Not due to sadness, but I just couldn't get comfortable. So about 5am I decided I'd push on so that I could spend some time along Route 66 before stopping the next night in Durango. I actually had a destination in mind, which is something I don't do often.  I made reservations at the always classy Super 8 Motel in Durango.  What could possibly go wrong?  I was Rocky Mountain High and I wasn't even in sight of any mountains yet.  I passed some familiar sights, like the Big Texan restaurant and Cadillac Ranch.  Just at the New Mexico border lies the ghost town of Glenrio.  I'd driven through here 7 years prior...and it looked exactly the same as it did back then. There are one or two people, about 6 dogs, and some chickens that live there.

For a few moments, I thought about getting back on the interstate and trudging on through the desert to Albuquerque and on to Durango.  But I figured I'd just keep on old Route 66 until it met up with I-40 later down the road.  This would prove to be a mistake.

For the first time in my thousands of miles of adventures, I ran into a problem I couldn't fix.  There was that one time in Utah I almost got stuck in the sand, but we won't talk about that.  No pics, so it didn't happen.  Anyways I was able to get back to the interstate and spend a lovely 17 minutes...yes a full 17 minutes, with roadside assistance trying to explain where the Texas/New Mexico border on I-40 was located.  No joke.  I said no less than 7 times...I'm on I-40 east at the Texas and New Mexico border.  She couldn't find it on the map.  Really.  I think that was the most frustrating part of the whole ordeal.  I sat for enough time to watch a movie, the Magnificent 7 (which was good by the way), and probably had enough time to watch another movie, by the time the tow truck arrived.  

The driver was kind of quiet as we started back towards Amarillo, which is where I...the introvert who hardly strikes up a conversation with a stranger...started to ask questions to get some conversation going.  Perhaps he is an introvert too...we probably would have both been fine if we didn't say a word to each other, except for the fact that it was a 70-mile trip back and this thing couldn't get above 60mph.  I wasn't about to start a karaoke contest.  I would have come in 3rd place even though there were only 2 of us in this nasty cab of a tow truck.  The ice broken, we talked a lot about life...and I realized just how lucky I am even though I'm riding shotgun with my crippled truck almost 1000 miles from home.

I have a horrible memory when it comes to names with faces.  So let's just call him Juan.  He told me about his childhood, filled with memories, like a horrible father and dealing with gangs.  He'd been in prison for robbing an inhabited dwelling.  Someone had stolen something from his house when he was gone, and he went and stole it back.  Problem was there happened to be someone home sleeping and he didn't know it.  Bam, instant prison time.  We talked about the old days when people would simply fight things out if it came to that.  Settling a score with a gun just was a rare thing back then.  Nowadays he carries a gun with him 24/7 as protection.  He's often sent to bad neighborhoods to repo cars.  His dad, a horrible father when he was young, now rides with him sometimes and carries heat with him protect the son he treated so badly as a child.  I was glad to hear that his dad had finally come around to love and do everything he could to protect his son.  That wasn't always the case.  I was lucky growing up.  My dad was an awesome, fun-loving family man.  As a child, Juan had to turn to the streets to find someone to protect him.  I felt guilty as I listened to him.  I've always believed in the philosophy that if you and everyone you know throw your problems into one big pile and you had to choose to take some problems back, you would find yourself picking your own to take with you.  Juan had to carry a gun to do his job and support his family.  Not to save others, but to hopefully save himself from harm.  He told me that being in the gangs has sometimes helped him get out of some hairy situations because he knew what to look for, how to act, and what to say, even though he may be forced to repo someone's car.  Someone who could easily pull a gun and shoot him. I can't imagine having to do that.  That hour and a half or so taught me a lot and put things into perspective for me.  I realized how blessed and lucky I've been my whole life.  I respect the hell out of Juan.  He told me if it wouldn't be for his family and his job, he'd definitely be in prison or dead right now...along-side some of his "friends" he walked the streets with growing up.  When we arrived at the dealership, I thanked him, told him how much I appreciated the fact that he had to drive so far out of town to get me, and wished him well.  I'll never forget that conversation and how it made me feel.  I had mixed feelings knowing his dad is there for him now to protect his son...even to the point of placing himself in danger for him.  He has a dad he can call whenever he wants.  I no longer have that.  But at the same time I never once felt unloved by my dad, which is what Juan wanted so badly as a child.  

My point in all this is to not judge people on what you see or don't know what they've been through or are going through.  Thank God that your problems are yours because others have it far worse than you or me.  I'll keep my problems.  I don't want anyone else's.  

More to come on the rest of the trip later.  

Oh, and J3 stands for "Jezebel 3".  I called my first truck, the Avalanche, "Jezebel" because she really "got around"...from Washington State all the way to Florida and many states in between.  J2 was my first Ram truck I bought in 2012.  It was only fitting that I keep the Jezebel thing going, since all of my vehicles have gotten around quite a bit.    

Friday, January 13, 2017

No animals were harmed in the making of this blog......

....however I cannot promise that feelings won't be hurt. I will NOT name anyone so as to protect them, and perhaps myself, from harm.

I have this recurring vision. The wedding reception is over, the bride and groom have had their send-off through a tunnel of smiling family and friends holding sparklers with shouts of encouragement and well wishes.  But the voices are now quiet where once people were hugging and telling each other goodbye...yet there I stand...alone...the fire in the sparkler has long since flamed out. All the guests and employees are gone, except for me there, in the dark, cold, and rain, just staring at what once was bright and full of life...and I can't move. I'm paralyzed.  More on that later.....

As a PSA, The paragraph you are about to read below is from a relationship that occurred FAR in the past...nothing recent:

A little while back, I received an unexpected email from someone which whom I'd had a past relationship. She sent it to me not even knowing if my email address was still valid or not. She took a chance that I'd see it, and I most certainly did.  This email, from the start, proceeded to rip me to shreds from one end to the other. As I read each sentence, my mind was already pushing my finger to hit the "reply" button and proceed with telling her how completely off base she was. This was literally the worst scolding I've ever endured in my life. I had to read it more than once to fully comprehend how much of a lowlife piece of scum she was portraying me to be. If you know me well, you know that I am who I am and I feel as though if others don't like that, it's their problem not mine. But this really bugged me because it was sooooooooo off base and uncalled for and I REALLY wanted to hit that "reply" button and proceed to tell her how wrong she was, and that by saying what she said, that she really didn't know who I am. Never in my life did I want to defend myself more than I did while reading that email. For the record, she interpreted things differently than they actually were, and it just made me realize how people absorb things differently. I never did acknowledge or reply to the email, just let sleeping, rabid, blood-thirsty dogs lie. It did make me think about how, in general, our actions and words are interpreted by others.

I've been confused about a lot of things lately, and sometimes with that confusion comes over-analyzing of every little thing. I've made some life-altering decisions as a result of things building up inside me over a long period of time. These decisions have not come without consequences that have had negative effects on others as well as for me. But I've had to make some tough choices, and some of that was based on gut, others on analyzing, and no doubt some have been a result of over-analyzing. The results have been mixed, with some good and some bad coming out of it. I haven't handled everything in the way that I'm most capable of, but sometimes pressure from outside collides with those pressures coming from within. The results can be disastrous if not handled with care.

I'm a friend, father, uncle, great uncle, brother, son, and an "ex" to some.  By no means have I been the best at all those....jack of all trades and master of none.  But at the same time, I do not believe I've been the worst either. The email I referred to earlier did make me think though....was there even a small chance that what I felt was off base, while highly exaggerated, true?  I can see how battles from outside and internal pressures can create a situation that reaches beyond one's grasp and give a sense of a loss of control. After all, we are not only a product of who we are as individuals, but a product of what we do and the environment around us.

I've suffered from anxiety and depression. Decisions I've made can be interpreted in many ways; are my choices due to thoughts related to anxiety or am I in "self defense" mode and doing what's best for me?  Am I delusional?  Don't answer that. I moved myself into a small condo to try and figure out where I'm supposed to be, both physically and mentally. At times it's s a struggle, and at times I feel it makes perfect sense. I've come to terms with the notion that if I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life...if that's my destiny...that I'm ok with it. I can be happy being a friend, father, uncle, etc. and nothing more to anyone. Is that what I want?  I don't really know. I don't have expectations, because with that comes disappointment if things don't go my way. I've done a pretty good job of controlling that way of thinking. I am grateful for anything that comes my way, be it a simple "thank you" or some payoff for working hard. If I never hear a "thank you" again, I won't be disappointed...because I don't expect it. See how that works?  It may be a bit unconventional but I'll never be upset if someone doesn't thank me for anything. On the other hand, I like to be appreciative and thank those who deserve it.

As I see myself standing there alone in the cold with a skinny piece if metal that was once a sign of life and celebration, I don't feel sad. I feel happy and excited about what's next. In my vision, the paralysis is overtaken by possibilities. I can sulk in the fact that the party is over and everyone has left, or I can celebrate the fact that something wonderful has just begun...for a young couple on a new journey, and for what's next for me. Maybe I'll grab my camera and take a road trip. Maybe I'll call someone to chat about life. Maybe I'll go home and rest. Or maybe I'll go find a pizza joint and enjoy a hot pizza and cold beer. I don't let the vision end with me just sitting there helpless, lonely, and sad. I'm too strong for that. I have too much that I want to do. More and more I'm looking at the positive side of everything. Lord knows the start of 2017 has been quite the test for me. But I haven't been beaten yet. I'm still going strong.  Life is full of possibilities. Some of the roads are bumpy and some are smooth sailing. Either way, I'm traveling it. I'm determined to make this a better year than 2016. Like a good friend tells me when he ruffles the feathers of others; "you have to crack some eggs to make an omelet". Well, I don't like eggs so I'll put it my way; "you have to squeeze and destroy some tomatoes to make pizza sauce".  I'll try to do a better job at dealing with the damaged tomatoes than I have in the past. J

As for the very slim chance that the person who sent me that email reads this blog, just know that while those words may have stung at first, I know who I am.  You obviously don't. I'll just leave it at that.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Route 66 day 2: Miles 749 to 1022. So much to see, so little time.

So before I get started on today's adventures, I have to backtrack just a bit. At about 5:30 a.m. on Thursday we saw a shooting star and it was the first time Denise and I saw one together.  It was an awewome glad we got to share that together.  A silent wish was said as we rumbled into the night.

I also wanted to talk about my experience with the St. Louis arch quite a few years ago. Not sure if you are aware, but you can take a ride to the top.  Now, there are 3 things I'm afraid of...elevators, small spaces, and drowning while I'm burning to death...or burning to death while I'm drowning.  Either way 2 of my 3 fears were tested inside this arch.  The third was still a possibility had the elevator blown up and flew into the Mississippi River while we were going up.  Reluctantly I got into the small pod because I didn't know if I would ever get the chance to do this again...sober anyway.  As we started going up, another nice curveball.  Since the Arch is...well...arched, the pod has to adjust to keep the occupants sitting horizontal and not dumping us on the floor. So every so often as the pod made its way up, it would start to tilt then make the adjustment to stay level.  About this time I'm talking myself into taking the stairs back down the 600+ tall deathtrap. We finally made it to the top and while I had survived ascent, I'm sure I was a bit greyer than when we started.  There ain't much room at the top but oh look there are windows so we can see where we gonna land when this thing falls over...cause it was swaying back and forth.  Fan-freakin-tastic.  A quick view or two and I'm looking for the stairs. Well as you may have figured, they were not going to allow this scardey cat walk down the stairs.  Like a whipped puppy I got back into the sardine can and held my breath while saying a few prayers in my head.  I was so happy to be on solid ground.  That was done...never to be repeated again.

One other quick note about my only other visit to St. Louis.  On the last day of our visit we went to a few antique stores.  In the corner, calling my name, was a 1949 Emerson television.  Original finish on the wood, oval screen, and the one big speaker on the bottom.  I'm in love.  I ask how much...and I swear I thought I saw angels when she said "give me 20 dollars and you can haul it out of here".  OMG.  I practically had the money out and the tv in the van before she finished that sentence so as not to give her time to change her mind.  It cosf $500 new back then...thats about 7 million dollars and 98 cents in today's money.  I kept that thing for years until, sadly, Katrina left it in a pile of old glass tubes and screen on the floor.  Like a lot of other things, it was gone forever.

I meant to mention all that yesterday...even had it written down but I thought I could remember everything without the notes...turns out I can't remember shhhhh.....stuff (see Grammy I'm being a good boy).

So at 6:00 my sweet alarm goes off.  It is so soft I fully expect to see unicorns and fairies flying overhead...not quite sure if unicorns can fly but hey...this is my blog so I can say they do if I want.  I look out the window and it's still pitch black outside.  Since I want to travel in daylight to see all tbat Route 66 has to offer, by unanimous vote of 2-0 we decide go sleep in a little longer.  We got up about 6:30, packed our stuff onto a luggage cart, grabbed some hotel breakfast, and hit the road. Zig-zagging between the north and south ends of I-44 we followed the Mother Road through farmland and small towns, hills and prairies, and tiny two laned sections to divided 4 lane sections.  We crossed bridges dating back to the 1920's.  We stopped at a gift store that happens to have the largest rocking chair in the worls.  We stopped at so many places to take pictures I started getting a little worried that we would spend the entire vacation in Missouri.  I finally had to just convince myself I can't stop everywhere and only stop occassionally.  For every place we stopped for pics, we passed up 20 other photo ops.  There is that much stuff to see.  Old barns everywhere.  As we made our way west, one of the places we did stop was this ultra cool old gas station with tons of memorebelia and old cars.  The Gay Parita filling station and garage...established in 1930.  As we walked along the fence to take pics, this old gentleman smoking a cigarette asked where we were from...then invited us inside the tiny station.  His name is Gary Turner and his is the owner of this totally awesome roadside relic.  He gave us some info on some things not to miss in the upcoming journey and was an absolute delight to talk to.  We found out he sees tons of visitors from Australia and New Zealand every year.  Just goes to show you the global draw the route has.  He also had to stop mid sentence to take a shot of his inhaler.  I realized then that he, along with the many many other sites we saw today, probably don't have a whole lot of time left.  He told us to get a picture out in front of the station and send to his son's website and he would add us to the page showing the thousands of visitors that have stopped by. Well, I thought he was going to get a camera...then he asked for mine.  I gave him my phone and he obviously is somewhat  technically challenged, but to me that just adds to his charm.  He's a true old timer and such a nice guy.  I asked him if we could take a selfie with the three of us together.  The look on his face just screams "how in the hell is this working".  Classic.  I'll never forget him.

A few more miles and countless old relics later, the sun is setting on day 2 and we set our sites on Joplin to spend the night.  We check into a Motel 6 that leaves a lot to be desired, get some dinner at a local dive, grab some frozen custard that looks like a place right out of the 50s, then settle in for the night about 7:30.  Oh, one last thing.  Old downtown Joplin is very beautiful.  Oh and one last one last thing.  Since we are just a rock's throw away from Kansas, I can safely say that Missouri gets an "A" for Route 66 signage.  It was pretty easy to follow, but I would still suggest to anyone attempting to make this drive that you invest in the specialized maps.

Goodnight to all, and to all a goodnight.  See you in Kansas tomorrow!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Route 66 2013 Day 1: Miles 0 to 749. I see dead things.

I can't believe this guy is actually arguing with me about this. I told him I refused to carry on a conversation while standing in the middle of the railroad tracks where I could not see if there was a train coming up behind me. I was getting pissed!  I stepped back onto the tracks and said "fine then...I'll watch your back and you watch mine OK?  Do you understand why I kept walking???  Just then I could feel a vibration in my left foot and shortly after heard the sound of a train barreling our way. It was coming from behind him. Even though it was quite a ways out I was getting tense.  Then the sound of soft music slowly got louder and louder until it snapped me right out of my dream and signalled the time I had been waiting for for months. Time to grab the bags, grab the woman, grab the beef jerkey, grab the Mike & Ikes (thanks Grammy) and get ouselves on the road! 

Just in case you were confused at what I just said there, my alarm is soft music, not the un-Godly beepng sound that MUST have been created from the bowels of Hell. Doesn't take much to wake me up, especially on road trip day.

It's cold outside, but not nearly as cold as I thought I had seen on the news. About 39 degrees. We got everything loaded up, taking extra care so as not to forget the sweets, and headed out at 3:20 a.m. for our first stop. Coffee, tea, and biscuits. We pulled into Burger King and was promptly told coffee would be another 15 minutes.  Umm, no time for this crew to wait.  Pull into McDonalds...not open. Say what?  It's the day AFTER Christmas...come on people!  So on down the highway to another McDonalds and sweet mercy they were open. We got our morning pick-me-up and, with smiles on our faces and fuel in our bellies, began to make our way to St. Louis, which is our jumping off point for Route 66.  As we headed north the temperature kept dropping...finally bottoming out at 26 degrees.  Through Mississippi We saw plenty of deer....however most of them appeared to have tied one on pretty good the night before.  They were sleeping on side the road. Not very safe. Some appeared to be slammed....others were really of them really needed to pull itself together. It was not a pretty site. 

Memphis came and went and the flat, sparsely populated Arkansas plains greeted us with open arms. Its kinda like that smelly aunt that you really hate to hug (although I would not have first hand knowledge of a smelly aunt).  You know it's inevitable that she will get her hug, just like it's inevitable that we have to drive through this so we just grin and bear it.  Quick lunch at Wendy's and the welcomed hills of Missouri finally come into view. Texture to the land!  Besides the dozens of hawks making quick meals of field mice that we saw along the way, we did see two unexpected sites. A coyote was competing for field mice withthe hawks and, perhaps the oddest sight of all (besides me making a duck face using a couple Pringles chips) was a camel walking alongside the interstate. I doubt if he was also competing for field mice but hey, who am I to judge. I have duck face Pringles and we are getting a kick out of it. There may be a picture somewhere....

Around 2:00 we roll into St. Louis. Denise had never seen the arch in person before so I decided to pass the exit I was going to take and just loop around through the city back down to our jumping off point for the Mother Road. As we traveled passed the arch I think we both realized the same thing....we had no idea how much wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. We were also thinking that there was no way we were going to drive through town to go back south where we needed to go. That section of town made the ninth ward look like a Sandles resort. That was some BAD looking shit right there (sorry for the language Grammy).  I felt to need to check my back pocket for my wallet even though I was going 60 mph down the interstate. Maybe I was jumping to conclusions, but have you seen National Lampoon's Vacation?  I was afraid I would wind up with more than just "Honkey Lips" on the side of my truck.  When I got off the interstate to merely turn around, a girl approached the side of my truck and also next to the car in front of me. Neither me nor the other driver looked up. From what I could see she was trying to sell something. I wasn't buying. And I double checked for my wallet to make sure she didn't pull some voodoo shit and teleport my wallet into the box she was holding (sorry again Grammy).

We made our way back to where we jumped on Route 66 and my awesome co-pilot read off the instructions on the guide. Turns out I have to give kudos to Missouri on marking the road. Since none of thr highways are actually designated as 66, they have posted signs leading the way. There was not much to see close to town, but things started getting more interesting as we went west. We ran across some old motels and gas stations...some of which required some strategic U-turns. I snapped a few pics and we thoroughly enjoyed our first little bit of the Mother Road. As the sun began to set...DIRECTLY in front of us...searing our eyeballs...thoughts were on where to eat and where to stay. Denise saw a sign thst said "voted best pizza in St. Louis".  Knowing how much I love pizza, this seemed like a match made in heaven. was more like a match made in a small town in Columbia.  We were dissapointed and couldn't help but think who...just who is the real Justin Beiber.  And who the heck voted them best pizza?  3 people with the flu and the son in law of the owner?  At any rate we left with full bellies and the knowledge that people around here have no idea what a good pizza tastes like.

Just down the road we found a nice Comfort in and decided to get comfortable...749 miles, 15 hours of driving, a headache, and lingering disappointment behind us. I sure was hoping that people around here have the same taste in comfort as we do, unlike their taste in pizza. Two thumbs up in the comfort department. Also two thumbs up for putting a hotel next to a convenience store that sells beer. We are partaking in said beer as I type this. Sitting in a comfortable bed...eagerly awaiting a full day of Mother Road adventures tomorrow. It's like Christmas again and again.  Matter of fact every day with Denise is like Christmas.  I'm so very blessed.

Time for bed...hopefully no more dreams where I'm getting pissed at someone (sorry Grammy...last time) and I double checked and I still have my wallet...although I feel like I was robbed of some money paying for pizza that tasted like shhhhhhhh....told ya I wouldn't do it again Grammy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Getting our kicks on Route 66....part 2! Pre-trip planning for December 2013 road trip

After last December's adventure, I was already looking at the calendar to see how Christmas and New Year's Eve 2013 would fall. A road trip during the Christmas break from work was inevitable.  The only questions were 1.) which days of the week would be spent scouring the countryside, 2.) where would I wind up, 3.) would I be going alone yet again, and 4.) would cockroaches survive the next ice age?  The first of those questions to be answered was #1.  Being that Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, I knew I'd be heading out in the wee early hours of Thursday morning and plan to be back for New Year's Eve.  Wow, 5-6 days...I could tear up some serious pavement in that amount of time.  The wheels in my head were already spinning.  I hadn't been back from the last trip long before I was already thinking of where to go next Christmas break.  Next question to be answered was #3.  As things moved forward in my personal life it had become very apparent that I now had a traveling partner.  We've taken a few short trips and she seems to love it as much as I do.  I warned her I have a bit of a wayfarer attitude...I just go with the wind.  I don't make reservations most of the time.  I may mark some spots on the map that I want to visit, but everything in between those dots is open range.  Maybe two places are 200 miles apart, but I make drive 400 to get there.  Some people just can't handle not knowing where they will be and when.  Lots of structure.  Luckily for me, Denise can just go with the flow.  The first time we took a little road trip I told her it was a test...of course I didn't say it was a test before we left because I didn't want her to pretend she enjoyed it to satisfy me.  But it was very important to me that the person I was going to be with could handle this type of thing.  I was unsure what she would think about traveling like this because she has such a busy life with 3 kids and a business to run.  School, dance, sports, me being a big baby when I'm sick, etc.  You have to plan things out to make any attempt at keeping your sanity.  Well, she passed with flying colors.  Turns out a trip like that was just what the doctor ordered for her.  She was able to relax and NOT worry about deadlines for advertisements, placing orders for inventory on time, skipping lunch because she was too busy...but she did take care of the big baby.  Passing with flying colors is an understatement.  She is the perfect companion in EVERY way.  I have the need to take these types of trips, and she has the need to be taken away sometimes.  Match made in Heaven.  I appreciate everything she does for me, and in return this is one little thing I can do for her.  I told her we were going in December, and she said I'm ready.  Done.  

So question #2 gets my juices flowing....I love looking at the maps and seeing how far I can get in the allotted time.  Should I go northeast up to Tennessee?  How about due west to New Mexico?  How about driving around the traffic circle on Brownswitch Road with a long trailer for 5 days and clog up the whole thing so no one can enter it?  Inevitably, nostalgia starts to kick in and I narrow down an area that I love, yet can go off the paths I've been before and explore new territory.  In this case, my thoughts turned to some of the old towns along Hwy 287 from Denton, Texas to Amarillo.  Over the years, the highway has been modernized to 4 lanes almost all the way, as well as bypassing some of the Main Streets of the little downs along the way.  Following the maps, I found myself lost in the old days of when the lonely highways went directly into these now familiar towns.  Through the awesomeness of Google Maps, I was able to see some new and interesting places within these towns that I was planning to visit.  I happen to love historic court houses nestled in these little town squares.  Many of them date back to the 1800's and were marvels of architecture for the time.  Each county seat would try to be more ornate than the others.  So following the familiar path northwest from Dallas I spent a couple weeks marking stopping points and things were falling into place.  Awesomeness.  Then something happened and it all changed.

While going through one of my external hard drives I came across my pictures from the 2009 trip that included the Texas and New Mexico stretches of Route 66. If you have ready some of my other blog posts (if you haven't I suggest you read them immediately if not sooner), I have been bitten by the nostalgia bug ( and I have no cure and couldn't be happier about it).  A new plan began to hatch in my head.  I've always wanted to drive the entire route, but I've come to grips that unless I hit the lotto or retire, I won't have the time to do it all in one shot.  But I had the opportunity to put more miles of the Mother Road under my belt AND catch those spots I saved on the map, albeit exploring them west to east instead of east to west.  Hey, I'm not long as I am there I don't care how I get there!  I immediately went for my awesome EZ66 guide and special maps I had purchased prior to the last trip down the route.  There have been so many alignment changes and most of what is left is not clearly marked that you need a special set of maps to navigate it.  Now I'm REALLY pumped!  New territory, nostalgia, old familiar places...and the best travel companion I could wish for!  I'm ready to throw some underwear in a bag, grab the camera and some beef jerky, sour Skittles, and some water and hit the road now!  I have a plan!  Even though I have the route pretty much mapped out, I still don't know where we will stay or when.  I'm taking my time and taking pics along the way.  This is probably one of the most planned trips I've made, but at the same time there is still enough "unknown" to drive my adrenaline meter through the roof.  

As a side note, I made a huge ass boo-boo on my last trip down Route 66.  The last group of pictures I took, especially those at the world famous Cadillac Ranch, were "somehow" deleted from my memory card so I have no proof that I was there.  I also have no proof that not only did I eat a 72oz. steak at the world famous Big Texan restaurant in Amarillo...I ate 2 of them then got an extra thick vanilla shake at Dairy Queen just after.  But since I lost all my pics, you will just have to take my word for it.  So I'm definitely going to visit the Cadillac Ranch again this trip.  I would eat another 144 ounces of steak, but I don't want to be a showoff with Denise so I'll just skip it this time.  There may, however, be an extra thick vanilla shake or two to write about though....

Now here we the waning hours of Christmas Eve...and as excited as ever.  I absolutely love being on the road exploring.  The truck is all clean (I'm not OCD about ANYTHING...except having a clean truck before I leave).  I have no idea why that is.  Everything will be neatly packed into a spotless truck when we leave...and won't remain that way for long.  It's like having Christmas 6 days in a row.  Each new day exploring brings out the kid in me...and this kid can't wait.  

Oh, and as far as question #4?  My money is on yes they will.  

As I leave my blog for the night....I'll leave you, all 3 of my fans, pictures from the last trip down the Mother Road and a warning....I WILL be detailing this next adventure right here.  If you have made it this far with my rambling and haven't had the urge to stick a butter knife in a toaster, I thank you for hanging with me.  See you on the road!

An old Whiting Brother's hotel in New Mexico

New Mexico does a pretty good job of marking the old highway

Old Whiting Brother's gas station in New Mexico

Same station as pic above.   I knocked on the door, but no one was there.

Old store in the very small town of Budville, New Mexico

I forgot where this old station was, because I didn't write it down and I can't remember what I did yesterday.