My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

My Girl: Gettin' After It!!
My truck on her maiden voyage in Moab 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 7- 11/18/12 We're coming home

After Memphis we drove towards Nashville and then veered off of 40 towards Spring Hill, TN where Jenn's cousin lives. I had a great time playing Go Fish and I Declare War with two very energetic and precocious toddlers before again heading out onto the road to drive all through the night back home. This half day is just some of the familiar sights from the road headed up from 40 to 81 to 66 and then our neck of the woods:

 Drove well over 5, 265 miles roundtrip at all hours of the day and night... and the one traffic backup I encounter is here on 495. Really, DC. On a Sunday there's traffic?

 Driving is also a lot more courteous everywhere else that I've been in the  country (excluding New York City...and I was too young to appreciate traffic near LA). As soon as we got back within 60 miles of home, the "Me-First" mentality of other drivers started to manifest itself.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 6- 11/17/12 Graceland

Neither of us are necessarily Elvis fans, but we had the chance to pass through Memphis and visit Graceland. Why not? Now, I'm a bit of a cheap-o. Reasonably so given the expenditures on outfitting the truck and then driving it cross-country with the frequency at which I do. Well, for an adult it is a minimum of $32 each to walk through the house. So we decided to just see what we could see from the road while we awaited my good friend Lumumba's availability to meet us for lunch. Now, probably 90% of my friends on facebook were probably like "Yo, Will is blowing up my newsfeed posting his every move". Part of that was so I could have a quick reference for updating the blog later. The second added benefit was that people could let me know if I was in there vicinity for the chance to meet up. Well, we did get to meet up with Lumumba and tour some historic areas along the way. Here are some of the photos of the day:

 It wasn't too long from here before we made it into Arkansas.
 This was another scary roadside, but fortunately Jenn did not cause me to go into panic mode like what happened in Arizona. Not my finest moment.

The natural state.

 I don't want to make this up, but I think this is the Arkansas River. And it is beautiful. Everyone talks about the Mississippi, but I'd like there to be more conversations on this body of water. Whatever it's called.

 We drove through the night and arrived in Little Rock early in the morning. Just in time for breakfast at a Burger King. I stumbled in there, go breakfast, sat down. Jenn freshened up some in their restroom and also got breakfast. I had hoped to go to their bookstore on campus, but it is closed on the weekends for anyone else who might have made plans and been on the verge of a similar mistake. So I had to settle for this shot instead.

 I bought a sticker at a rest stop, only for it to turn out to be a paper sticker and not a vinyl one. As soon as I washed my car upon returning, that thing curled up like bacon frying in a griddle. Disappointing.
 This is Jenn driving back towards me. In setting up that prior shot, the light turned green and she had to leave me behind. That was her only chance to get rid of me. The fact that she came back with the truck to get me means that she loves me.
 Kampgrounds of America, you have once again saved me in my travels. I love, love, love, that travelers can do a day rental of their shower facilities for $5/person. Sean and I discovered this on the return leg of the Utah trip. I inquired about this again for our purposes such that Jenn and I could shower before heading into Memphis. This is the "Memphis" KOA which is actually in a neighboring town just across the border in Arkansas off of Interstate 55. Maybe Marion, AR. Can't remember. There are so many KOAs across the US and they generally are right there along major arteries and thoroughfares. In the spring, I'd like to do a shorter trip and camp at one of their campgrounds somewhere. TBD.

 This is us crossing the Mississippi which borders Tennessee.

 We've seen a sign like this before, haven't we, Rufus?
 Riverfront drive, I believe.

 Beale Street runs right down to the water. We went to Beale first but got there way in advance of when Lumumba was going to be freed up. So then we made the drive out to Graceland. There was a parade of some sort and we were driving all around Robin Hood's Barn to find an alternate way to get to Graceland. Just as we were ready to give up and head back, Jenn just asks the officer what are people supposed to do who want to go to Graceland. To that, he just stepped out of the way and let us drive up the road 200 feet to the parking lot. Are you serious?!

 I guess I got ahead of myself with the narrative up there. This is the Sun Recording studio. I read on Wikipedia about some of the sights. So as we headed to Graceland, it turned out we got to see a lot of them along the way. Some I missed as I wasn't expecting to catch so many on the same stretch of road.

 This is part of the parade that had everything shutdown along Elvis Presley Boulevard. I got so angry because there was like this terrace sign right along the roadway. I had just cued up my camera as we were passing through the intersection when this lady in a beater car rolled up and blocked the view while waiting to make a turn. Nobody told her to pull that darn far forward and ruin my shot in her busted vehicle. Uggghhhh.

 The tourist area of Graceland. Two guys immediately left their wives and made the pilgrimage over to my truck for photos with it. I thought it was really cool to be in Graceland, and have people stop taking pictures of Elvis to come get photos of my truck instead. My truck has arrived.

 Playing some mean Air Guitar outside of Graceland

 Jenn got right up near the house without paying. This is as close as us cheap-os can get.
 The dude had two jets. Who has two private jets?! The King does. We were debating this with Jenn's cousin when we got to her place outside of Nashville. I reasoned you might be in Abu Dhabi, chilling, eating freshly imported sno cones made from the tips of icebergs when one of your boys calls you up on your satellite phone. And he's all like, dude, I wish I was there. And then you're like, hold up, I'll get you here; get on my OTHER private jet. That's when you have transcended from merely "balling", to "balling out of control."

You know, the crazier thing is that now there's just two jets there chilling. Are they still operational? Could I buy one of Elvis' jets and start my own mini-balling enterprise myself? I may have to look into this.

 Alright, so we left Graceland and made our way to Beale street to take up residence in BB King'ss Blues Hall for lunch.
 Live Music
 Elvis Presley park
My camera was dying, but we had just enough juice to memorialize our rendezvous with Mr. Sroufe. It was really cool having him reach out and be like, "You're in my backyard; let's link up" based on having seen my facebook posts. As much as I can sometimes be anti-FB as I feel I might be a bit too old to still be on there, moments like this that enable you to reconnect with folks seems to make it a worthwhile tool more so than a necessary evil. I just wish it hadn't become quite so heavily commercialized. Brothers got bills though, I guess; so, I can't be mad at that.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 5- 11/16/12- Wagons East!!

We left the Canyon area around 4/5pm the day prior and started heading immediately towards home. We were going to head back south to Flagstaff to jump on 40 heading west with the goal of making it to Albuquerque, NM by nightfall. We'd then stop and get a hotel and then keep pushing the rest of the way. I also had hopes of finding a University of New Mexico Lobos cheerleading shirt. I was again thwarted and left with sadness. Really nice campus. We ate at the Frontier restaurant. I'm spoiling things before we even get into the photos. Here they are:


 Pretty sure this is heading down into Albuquerque.

 Go Lobos
 We checked into the hotel and this looked to be the only place open and there were a lot of people in there. Usually a good sign. They close down for just 4 hours nightly. Maybe 2am-6am if memory serves.
 I ordered the Santa Fe burger, which comes with green chile,some guac I think and other southwestern deliciousness.
 So this is how the rig was setup. I realized at this point in the trip I hadn't taken much in the way of photos of the carrier 'in use'. The orange home depot bucket housed rock salt/ice melt for traction and snow control. I've got a bed-mounted fire extinguisher. All of my own garage-done wiring has held up nicely, but this is extra piece of mind not only for my own tendency to ignite myself, but in case we ran across another motorist imperiled. The carrier latches with a barrel bolt and also I affixed a safety chain that is attached to an eye-bold that I drop into a hole on the fixed portion of the bumper. The rolling Stanley ABS plastic chest is where I kept our clothing and personal effects that we could just roll into a hotel. The box is not entirely waterproof. Our belongings are stuffed inside 6 mil contractor cleanup bags. It rained that first day and not a drop got inside of the box or on our personal effects. Space was a bit of a premium. I packed the tent and two sleeping bags just in case. As you can tell from the photos of Jenn and I, she brought a wardrobe and I was reduced to the space for a hodgepodge of non-matching portions I could wear repeatedly to cut down on space. The carrier I would typically chain to one of the uprights supporting the toolbox in the bed of the truck so no one else could just wheel it away. The setup was secure, but a bit cumbersome to contend with nightly. Another 'burden' was how I secured the tire (and carrier) to the lower receiver hitch. In the event a weld failed and the swing portion of the bumper sheered off, I wanted to have it still be attached to the truck to prevent it from making contact with another motorist. I would otherwise just secure the tire to one of the uprights. But because of the connection between the lower hitch and the upper carrier, I had to continually unlock and relock a second cable lock in order to swing out the carrier, to lower the tail gate, to unlock the rolling case to then roll it inside. It was a bit...involved. And we still ended up having stuff strewn across the backseat which I really have been trying to avoid over the course of these three road trips so far. The setup is getting better, but it is still very much a work in progress to achieve the right balance of convenience and utility.
 Now, what follows is going to be a real treat for any auto enthusiast. I clearly am in love with my truck and my truck alone (and my wife). My dad is more of the car buff. You could show him a partial snapshot of just a car's headlight and he could tell you the make, model, and year within maybe 3 years. He's pretty good. I'm going to show him these pictures and test him on it. I tried to get the little labels describing the cars in the shot too so they could be blown up and we could read them.

 I asked Jenn to look up what there was to do in Santa Rosa, NM as it looked from the GPS that we would be passing through there right around the time that I'd need to gas up. Route 66 Auto Museum showed up and we plugged it into the GPS to check it out. $5 per person gains you admission to take a trip down memory lane. Now, they ask that you DO NOT open any of the doors or manipulate any hoods or such. I would have otherwise LOVED to have gotten some shots seated behind the wheel. You can appreciate the concern though. Some jackalope gets in behind the wheel of some cherry Ford Mustang and leaves his own keys in his back pocket. Rip! That custom restoration of the leather interior needs to be re-restored.

 There's about 30 or so cars and trucks on display, many of which are for sale. I won't tell you which one I was eyeing. The price was just right. If I can just hit the lotto (not even a jackpot) and have an extra 10K or so on hand, I'm going back to NM to claim my ride. Now, others came with a much higher asking price. But this one was right in my range.

 This was NOT the vehicle I was speaking of, but I'd want to pick up one of these too if I was rolling in Jay Leno dough. This thing is a dag-on land submarine of a truck. It's like the original crew cab with a true long bed. That bed is like 10 feet long.

 This is clearly where I started gravitating towards the trucks.

 We did not eat here, as we were needing to makeup time and (we had spent a good amount of money eating out as it was). So we crossed the street to more familiar fare after snagging this photo.
 Still no McRib.
 Back into Texas...this time heading towards Amarillo

 Now, I had posted some things on Facebook about my hunt for the McRib. Others shared there insights and efforts towards tracking it as well. And then Gerard chimed in with a reality check: Jenn and I were traveling through the land of AUTHENTIC barbecue. Maybe we should stop chasing some mass-produced, novelty in favor of finding a taste of the real thing. And that's what lead us to Big Daddy's. I got Jenn to check ahead on the iPad while I drove us towards what her search hit upon. She really started to get into the role of navigator at this point and was helping us to find some great places to stop and sights to see.
 Jenn got chicken and I got sliced beef barbecue. Deliciousness ensued. There was also sweet tea and cornbread and a brownie. I borrowed a move from Steve and started taking pictures of the food.
Recent accolades won by Big Daddy.
We actually got to meet Big Daddy himself. He came out of the kitchen midway through our meal to meet the "feller from DC and ask [me] about the zombies." To be honest, I had wanted to inquire about the whereabouts of the namesake proprietor. I saw photos on the wall of him...and he is a large man and was up in years. The combination of these two factors and his penchant for BBQ made me think better to inquire as not to invoke some sad homily about him having ascended to heaven a decade ago. Well, Big Daddy thankfully was alive and well. We talked about wind mills and power lines, the black man named Jim who has a truck line that travels to support oversize load transfers, and his work in the community which had him, at present, preparing to smoke not less than 30 turkeys to aid a church that had lost it's chef. It was a Spanish church. Big Daddy was sure to clarify that point. He had to leave us as some of the turkeys had arrived frozen solid which was going to be a complication to his smoking operation. I wanted to take a picture with Bid Daddy, but I didn't want to be patronizing. 
 Big Daddy's was off the beaten path a bit. I just followed the GPS as we headed away, but it didn't take us back the way we came to the interstate. We were driving along some desolate farm roads for a while. Now the farm roads in Texas are actually well-paved and maintained thoroughfares with striping and allowable speeds of 70mph. Its just a bit unnerving that they stretch for miles on end and die off into the horizon or are only sporadically intersected by another farm road either terminating into the horizon or onto private land. I didn't know how long we were expected to make it by on these roads. The real hazard to me was nightfall was looming and there was no clear indication of when we'd be back on a main road where one could expect a service station. Right before returning to civilization, we came past this Tyson's plant and also Amarillo Cotton. I snagged photos of both and happily jumped back onto 40.

 Oklahoma City was next. We weren't going to stop for any appreciable period of time as Jenn and I had both been to Oklahoma City back in 2003 long before we started dating for the women's NCAA basketball tournament. The matchups were held in nearby Norman, OK, aka Sooner Town USA. But OKC was going to be our next stop for fuel and food.
 They love God out here...a lot. For scale, that was either a one or two story building to the left of the cross which is absolutely dwarfed by the immensity of the crucifix.
 This restroom doubles as a tornado shelter.
That was another thing that was a bit nervewracking about being on those farm roads. It looked to me like I could revisit the buildout of the truck to make it a storm chasing vehicle and we would be all set on the backdrop of the sequel for Twister 2.
 I got a picture of a guy taking pictures of my truck. It wouldn't be the last.
 This outlet mall had a Coach store. Jenn had exercised great restraint up to this point. I thought it was only fair to unleash her on this outlet. She got a bag.

 We got into town and went to the Bricktown section to visit the Mickey Mantle restaurant. I was thinking bar scene, but we got seated in the upscale, fine-dining portion. It was a bit embarrassing as we were definitely casual. Very casual. All the same, we were treated nicely and the rookie server even parlayed a free dessert for us as first-time diners at Mickey Mantle. I left her a sizable gratuity and thanked her for her conscientious service in spite of our attire.

These got left off and appended here for some reason. So here they are.