Route 66 – 2400 miles of fun

6/30/18

Route 66 – Day 1

Illinois and Missouri

Jeff has wanted for a very long time to drive Route 66. It has been a bucket list item for him and since he fulfilled my wish to go to Italy last year I felt that it was only fair to reciprocate and drive 2400 miles from Chicago to L.A.  I mean, it’s almost the same thing as Venice, right? Maybe not, but at the end of the first day it appears that this trip may offer a certain charm of its own.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Ariston, which is supposed to be the oldest restaurant on Route 66. Of course, it did not open until 4 p.m. and it was 2:30.  However, when the owner saw us peering in the window he insisted we come in and look around. Then he put us behind the counter and took our picture. He was a sweet old man and told us that this was his last day of ownership of this restaurant after 60 years.  He looked as if he might cry and we both left the restaurant feeling as if we had known him forever and hoping that he would be happy in his long awaited retirement.

There are a lot of biggest, oldest and other superlatives on Route 66.  Our next two stops involved seeing the biggest covered wagon in the world (driven by Abraham Lincoln no less) and the biggest ketchup bottle in the world, perched jauntily atop a water tower.  Not to be missed. A famous stop on Route 66 in southern Illinois is Henry’s Rabbit Ranch. Ranch might be overstating it; apparently there is one rabbit that Henry shows you when you come into his general store. This too was closed even though the guidebook stated it would be open at the time we were there.  However, there was a huge sign that read “semi-retired – will only be here by chance.” So apparently we missed our chance. Our last stop before reaching St. Louis for the night was in Edwardsville at an historic building whose businesses served Route 66 travelers in the day.

There is only one business in the building these days. It is now The Evermore Gallery; a tattoo parlor.

 

7/1/2018

Day 2 – Missouri

Breakfast was at the Eat-Rite Diner today.  And we did. It is one of the oldest (again with the superlatives) restaurants on the route.  While we were there I read the lunch menu and it said

Burgers – 2.95

Hamburgers – 6 for 7.95.  

I guess the words burgers and hamburgers must have meant different things back in the 30’s….

We then headed to Cuba, Missouri (named after the country), a town that underwent a huge economic depression in the 1980s and revitalized itself by painting 13 murals on the walls of buildings throughout the downtown area.  Apparently Amelia Earhart landed in this town on one of her flights for a very brief time because she had some kind of technical problem. She has her own mural.

Lunch was at Harold’s BBQ Shack, a charming place where waitresses wear t-shirts that say “I’m a hick chick from Missouri.”  Just down the road was – wait for it – the world’s largest rocking chair.

We stayed for the night at a “motor inn”, one of those motels where you drive your car right up to the entrance of your room.  Jeff said, “I feel nostalgic about this trip but I’ve never been here.” And true, we’ve never been to this particular motel but we both stayed in similar places when we were kids. And I think he was nostalgic (we both were) for what life was like when we were kids. Not that it wasn’t without its own problems, but in a lot of ways it was simpler time, like a motor inn where you just pull up to the room.  It had a playground with a metal slide too. No plastic for us when we were kids. If you burned your legs a little, well you would survive.

Nostalgia.

 

7/2/2018  

Day 3 – Missouri and Kansas

There’s nothing like breakfast in a diner. Preferably an old one with pots and pans hanging on the walls and a lady with a hair net cooking your breakfast to order. Today it was Anton’s Coffee Shop.  The coffee was ground right in front of us with a Ronocco (that brand still exists??) grinder. Delicious. After a pretty drive through southern Missouri we crossed into Kansas and had lunch in Galena. We had to search for a while for a place that was actually open. Apparently many places in this part of the country are closed on Mondays and many others close for the July 4th week, often without putting up any notice. After lunch at a Mexican restaurant that was open and had excellent food (unexpected in Kansas….) we walked to Pickers’s Post, a vintage/collectible/antique market.  The proprietor was excited that we were from Chicago. She took our picture and told us she would put it on her Facebook. (Which she did.) A small town named Commence, Oklahoma was the birthplace of Mickey Mantle and that was our next stop. There’s a statue and a baseball field named after him. It’s a good thing too because there was not much else going on there. We are staying at the Campbell Hotel in Tulsa, a relic from the past if ever there was one. They seem to have a spirit of independence and defiance out in this part of the country that is unlike Chicago. The restaurant next door to our hotel, Maxwell’s, had been changed to a deli named Jane’s.   We were disappointed as the guide book made Maxwell’s sound really classy. However, the staff insisted that Jane’s was just as good (doubtful) and told us we were going to be in their Monday night Trivia game, even though we said that we were leaving after we finished eating. They gave us game cards anyway and then when no one else agreed to play they had to cancel it. (They must not have wanted us to hog all the prizes.)

 

7/3/18

Day 4

Oklahoma

 

Churches

Gun shops

Pawn shops

Churches

Pick up trucks

Blue jeans (even when it’s 104 degrees outside)

Casinos

More Churches

Rhinestones

 

We had the best breakfast today (I know I keep talking about breakfast but these old diners are the bomb) at the Corner Cafe. We were waited on by a woman, easily in her late 60s, whose name is Wanda. She had a huge beehive hairdo.  My french toast was 3.99. When was the last time anyone in Chicago had breakfast in a restaurant for 3.99? Sometimes I think this part of the country is in a time warp.

Other interesting things we encountered today:

It was 104 degrees

We drove through a town where every single business in downtown was closed. (permanently) A real ghost town.

We ate at an outside cafe by a river and a crane landed 5 feet from us and sat there for quite a while.

That’s the great thing about this trip. You just never know what is going to happen.

 

7/4/2018

Day 5

Texas:

See Oklahoma Day 4

We saw a guy driving on the sidewalk today.  I have to give him credit. He was driving pretty well. He navigated a telephone pole and then a low wall. Then he turned into a parking lot, cut off the corner and pulled into the street.

People love their religion here. We went to see one of the world’s largest crosses. It is 19 stories (that’s right stories, not feet) high. It’s enormous.  It belongs to a church and they have a whole display. There is also a tomb with a stone that has been rolled away, as well as three life size crosses with people nailed to them.  On a hill.

This morning on our way out of Oklahoma City we stopped at the bombing memorial.  The bombing happened in 1995 at a federal building. 168 people died. I had honestly forgotten about it until we saw the memorial. It was really well done and very touching.  I’m glad we saw it and had an opportunity to remember.

 

7/5/2018

Day 6

Texas and New Mexico

I forgot to mention that I peed on Route 66. Well, not on it actually but on the side of it.  This was in Oklahoma. We were on a really old part that goes on for a few miles and is pretty deserted except for the occasional cow or horse. And I had to pee pretty badly. But don’t worry; no one was around,  I used a kleenex and I took it with me. No harm done.

We had breakfast at the Stockyard Cafe today, which is a great name because it is smack in the middle of a stockyard. There were no cattle there because it’s only used for auctions and there was no auction today. But out back were the pens where they keep the cattle while they are being auctioned off.  It was one of the most interesting settings for a restaurant that I have seen. There was also a dead cow in the parking lot.

One of the really weird things about this part of the country is that there is crap everywhere. Old tires, shells of cars, appliances, railroad ties, hot water heaters etc. It is common to find them heaped on the side of the road. It’s as if something breaks and instead of putting it out for garbage collection people just toss it in their yard. I can’t imagine that this is true for the whole of these states but the towns that Route 66 goes through are often depressed because new highways were built that mostly bypassed these towns. Their only livelihood is often tourism and it’s not enough.  But the junk; oh my. In one town we actually saw a truck cab lying on its side in the grass by the side of the road. It had obviously been there for a very long time. It’s as if someone tried to take the corner, misjudged it, overturned the truck, got out and walked away. And no one in the town seems the least bit concerned.

We are staying in Tucumcari New Mexico tonight. We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant and we were the only ones in there. The waitress told us that the town in mostly retirees and that the young people are urged to get out so that they don’t end up on drugs or pregnant. Now that’s depressed. (And depressing.)

 

7/6/18

Day 7

New Mexico (again)

Our cat is dying.  Claire called us two nights ago and said that he was walking funny.  His back leg kept giving out. Yesterday he could hardly walk at all so Sarah took him to the vet. The vet said he had lost a lot of weight and was very dehydrated and that his kidney failure had advanced quite a bit.  By this morning Frankie had stopped eating. We conferred with Sarah and Claire several times and finally decided that it is best to have him put down. They are going in tomorrow morning. This was a very hard decision. Frankie is 20 years old and the best cat anyone ever had. But the hardest part is that we will not be there to say good bye.  You don’t cancel a long planned and awaited vacation because your cat is dying, especially since there are two perfectly capable people at home to handle things. I just feel bad. He has been a part of our family for almost as long as anyone can remember. I wish I could say good bye. I know it won’t matter to Frankie but it will to me.

We will continue on our trip and we will enjoy it. We have already planned a little reminiscence party for Frankie when we get back.

Miss you already buddy.

 

7/7/2018

Day 8 – New Mexico (it’s a big state)

We are in Albuquerque tonight, sleeping in a vintage Airstream RV.   We thought it would be cool but it’s kind of like the idea of an outdoor wedding in Chicago. It sounds better than it turns out to be.  It’s very old (hence the word “vintage”) and it has a toilet but no shower. The showers are across the parking lot. The lighting is awful and the air conditioner sounds like a train is running through the place.  But, it’s only for one night and we will survive this adventure and live to tell about it.

We drove by the Walter White house from Breaking Bad. The owners put up a six foot wrought iron fence around the house because apparently people used to drive by and throw pizzas on the roof. (recreating a scene from the show.) People are so crazy.  

We went to Old Town in Santa Fe this morning and bought a really cool metal flower sculpture. It cost 80 dollars and we decided to ship it home because we are flying home. We drove to a UPS shipping center and they charged up 90 bucks to ship it to Illinois. Yikes.

 

7/8/2018

Day 9 – New Mexico and Arizona (finally)

After we both recovered from sleeping on the worst mattress ever (circa 1969 I think) we went to breakfast at a local diner and chatted with two guys who go in there every morning. They were very friendly and interesting to talk to. Of course when they found out we were from Chicago they said that they will never go there because it is too violent. But our interaction with Lou and Alfred reminded me of one of the reasons that this trip is so much more than just driving 2400 miles. It enables us to get to know our country better; the different regions, cultures and behaviors of our fellow countrymen (and women).  

We spent a good part of the afternoon at the Petrified Forest, which was absolutely breathtaking.  I love our national parks – they rock.

And we get to sleep in a real bed tonight in Winslow Arizona.  

 

7/9/2018

Day 10 – Arizona

“Standing on a Corner in Winslow Arizona..”  That’s how we started the day. Winslow doesn’t have a whole lot going for it but boy they are sure trying to cash in on this song.  There’s an actual corner with statues of Jackson Browne and Glenn Frye, who co-wrote the song. There’s a story on the internet that says Jackson Browne actually thought up the lyrics when he was in Flagstaff but that the word Winslow sounded better. But nobody in Winslow cares about that story.  They have a gig and they are sticking with it.

We drove a lot today but much of it was on the actual Route 66 (you can’t drive all of it) so it was cool and the Arizona part is very pretty.  We stopped overnight in Kingman Arizona. The propietor of the hotel was an Israeli man who apparently knows everything there is to know about Kingman and Route 66.  He claims that many famous people stayed in this hotel because it was one of the first to have private bathrooms. He says that the Three Stooges stayed here and that is all Jeff needed to hear.  However, the air conditioning sucks and although Moe, Larry and Curly probably didn’t even have AC, here in 2018 it sucks.

 

7/10/2018

Day 11 – Arizona and California

Another long day of driving.  (I guess that’s sort of the point, right?)  But we drove through the Mojave Desert and that was fascinating.  It’s hot and dry and arid and windy at times and we actually saw a tumbleweed blow across the road.  Just like in the movies. And people actually live out there. Every once in a while you would see a cluster of trailer homes or ramshackle houses and we also saw the occasional trailer sitting completely by itself.  I think this is the Western way of living off the grid. We stopped for lunch in a town called Oatman. There are Burros wandering the town (by design) and the whole town smells like manure. I guess it’s their tourist attraction.  We saw some babies (or whatever you call baby burros) and they were cute but then we saw a male burro who was obviously in heat (and I don’t mean the temperature kind) and he kept following a female around and braying really loudly. Then another male came over and kicked him in the head so that kind of cooled him off.  Just as we were leaving another male burro stopped right beside us and peed a bucket of urine right on the sidewalk. It was a fun place to visit but I don’t think I would want burro antics as part of my daily existence.

Tonight we are staying in the Wigwam motel in San Bernadino. The units are shaped like teepees but they are actually made of concrete.  I was fearing the worst after last night but they have been completely remodeled since they were built in 1948. And the air conditioning works.

 

7/11/2018

Day 12

California and, wait for it, Santa Monica Pier!

We did it. Two thousand, four hundred and fifty one miles.  We drove from San Bernadino to Santa Monica today, which is only a distance of 76 miles. However, Route 66 at this point goes through heavily populated areas and it took us four hours.   The only stop we made was at the Donut Man for a mid morning snack. Tasty. We got to the Santa Monica pier and found the sign that said Route 66 – End of the Road. It was really cool to to see that sign after 12 days in the car and 8 states.  We asked someone to take our picture in front of the sign. After that we watched other people get their picture taken and it occurred me; there is no way all these people just traveled Route 66. They were having their picture taken for fun, because the sign is there.  I’ll tell you I got a little annoyed, even though I have no definitive proof of this. You could just tell. Jeff thought it was funny that I got annoyed but hey, we put in the time and these people are just posers. Jeff said, “why don’t you say something to them?” But me?  I’m a bigger person than that. Let them have their unearned fun.

 

7/12/2018

Day 13

We are staying in a Hampton Inn in Foothills, California, about 15 miles south of Anaheim.  The traffic here is horrendous. We went to a Canyon Nature Preserve and hiked. It was hot but very pretty. Then we went to a Panera to cool off for a while. We saw an Angels game tonight. We are trying to visit every baseball stadium and that one made 18.  So we are getting there. It was a very nice stadium. They have a Japanese pitcher who is apparently very good although he is currently on the disabled list. Tonight was his bobble head night and there were a lot of Japanese people there wearing his jersey.  It was a beautiful night for a baseball game.

 

7/13/2018

Day 14

We spent the day in a town called —-. There is a lovely beach there and we brought a lunch and sat and read and walked for a while.  The town is adorable with little shops and restaurants and pots of money. We went to a Dodgers game in the evening; number 19. Those fans are weird. They get there in the third inning and then keep getting up to get food and beer because they don’t sell anything in the stands. Most of them did not seem the least bit interested in the game. Almost every single person who came out of the tunnel immediately turned around and took a selfie.  It is a great ballpark; lots of character. But the people who go to the games treat it like a tourist attraction, not a sporting event. Only in L.A.

Home tomorrow. What took us 14 days to drive will take us 4 hours to fly.  This was a great trip; better than I expected. But I’ll be happy to be home.

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Need to Know

I wasn’t sure I would continue blogging after our Slice of Life Challenge was completed but then I heard that some people continue to write every Tuesday for Twowritingteachers.org. I enjoyed blogging so much that I thought I would join in.  That way I know there’s at least a chance that someone else will read and comment…..

I have spent a lot of time blogging about my family, specifically my dad and all his eccentricities. But my husband’s family (dare I say any family?) is not immune to eccentricity and downright weirdness at times.  

Jeff speaks to one of his sisters every week or so. She lives in Wisconsin so we don’t see her too much.  She has a 27 year old son who lives with his longtime girlfriend. Apparently at dinner a few nights ago the girlfriend announced that she was bisexual.  She also reported that she has never, nor does she intend to, act on it.

So, I ask, what was the point of making that announcement?  Why do we need to know? Is privacy and discretion about one’s sexual preference a thing of the past? She is in a very long term committed relationship. She and my nephew are actually domestic partners.  (That’s a story for another time.) So, I ask again, why do we need to know? I suppose you could speculate that she wants to be herself and not have any pretense about who or what she is. And that’s a valid point. But if you’re in a committed relationship to one gender and you announce that you are attracted to the other gender but you don’t intend to act on it, are you just saying it to get attention?  To be validated? Is the significant other going to spend his days wondering if you are going to change your mind and leave him for a woman?

I was very confused by this announcement and quite frankly I’m not sure how we are supposed to react.  Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of people freely choosing and expressing their sexuality. However, in this case it just seems like a moot point.

And again, why do we need to know??

Enough

On the last day of our Slicing and the eve of Easter I ask myself, “what are you going to write about?  You’ve written for 30 days straight. How can you have anything left to say, think or feel?”

But….

I have three daughters, Katie, Sarah and Claire. And today two of them will be here to dye Easter Eggs. That’s a tradition that we have kept and they still enjoy, even as they have grown into adulthood.  My oldest, Katie will be returning home from her trip to Ireland with her husband Jon. She will miss the egg dying but that’s ok. She has her own life, as they all do. They join in when they can. Last night after the Good Friday service we went to our friends’ house for an ice cream party. This is another tradition we have had for many years.  It started with a casual invitation to go to Dairy Queen and it has evolved over the years to the point that we now have to do it at someone’s house. Only Claire came with us; Sarah was doing something with her fiance’s family. And so it goes. Tomorrow they will all be here. And that will be lovely. We’ll talk about how church was, a bit of politics (only a bit…) Katie’s trip, Sarah’s new job etc.

I loved when my children were little and the Easter Bunny was around, and they lived with me and I knew their every movement, and I read them stories before bed and kissed their warm, sleepy faces in the morning. I loved taking them shopping for frilly new Easter dresses, stopping at McDonalds for lunch, going on school field trips, and curling up and watching Disney movies on the couch.  I absolutely miss those days. But I have been surprised by how much I enjoy my children as adults. It is a joy to see the persons they have become. They are strong, independent women. They have very different interests, passions, and vocations. Their partners are good men; they have chosen well. I am proud of them and proud of the job that Jeff and I did raising them. We were not perfect parents; far from it.  And I realize that raising children definitely has an element of luck to it. But what really matters is that we did our best. And as I look around the table on Easter morning, I will be certain that it was enough.

 

Patience is a Virtue

Patience is a funny thing.  Some people seem to have it in abundance; others not so much.  It appears that you are either considered a “patient” person or an “impatient person.  Jeff would definitely consider me to be an impatient person. I don’t like to wait for things to be fixed, ready or delivered.  I want to solve problems immediately, sometimes before I have all the facts that would help me to make a better decision.  There is one area in which I do consider myself patient, and that is with children.  I can wait hours for a child to figure out how to hold scissors correctly, name letters or tie their shoe.

On my recent trip with my dad I realized another area in which I am not patient; the elderly.  My dad has a bad knee so he walks a bit slowly.  It is a long way from the entrance of Midway airport to Gate 15.  As the three of us walked I constantly found myself about ten feet ahead of my dad. Jeff, who is possibly the most patient person on earth, was walking right beside him.  Every time.  Honestly, elderly people can drive me a little crazy at times.  They repeat themselves.  They do everything slowly. They forget stuff.  Jeff loves them. We used to visit an elderly neighbor of ours who had moved to an assisted living facility.  She had early dementia and would often tell stories that we knew were not true.

“No, Jenni Mae, your daughter was not here yesterday.  She is in Colorado,” I would state.

Jeff would shoot me a quizzical look as if to say,” Why are you arguing with a 93 year old who has dementia?”

He would listen and nod thoughtfully as she spoke.  He can sit and listen to old people for hours.  I would rather play Candyland with a four year old.  I could do that all day.

So maybe patience is not a characteristic that can be summed up that easily.  I think human beings have components of both patience and impatience, depending on their passions and interests.

Don’t get me wrong. I love and respect my dad and elderly people in general.

But give me a four year old any day.

Divorce and Denial

Last day.  We started out with breakfast; my dad, my brother, Jeff and me.  My brother is in the middle of a divorce and he has a new girlfriend. He was telling us about a problem she is having with her kids and as soon as he went to the bathroom my dad started his “I’m in denial about my son getting a divorce” routine.

“He shouldn’t be getting involved with her (the girlfriend).” he said. “That’s just more trouble; he has enough problems of his own. And what’s wrong with Nicole? (soon to be ex-wife)  She’s really nice.”

“Dad, it’s not that simple.” I try to clarify. Again.  “Things are over with Dave and Nicole. And he’s happy with Laura. I think she’s good for him.”

“Nah. And why doesn’t Dave ever have any money?  She (the girlfriend) is bleeding him dry, I’ll bet.”

“Dad!” I said. “I don’t believe that at all. He’s broke because he’s spending so much on the divorce.”

My dad will not under any circumstances accept that my brother is getting a divorce.  I think part of it is his generation. People didn’t get divorced, at least it was quite rare. When you got married you were in it for life. If things went bad you tried to fix it or just stuck it out.  However, I also think my dad is comfortable with life being a certain the way. Dave getting a divorce changes things. He doesn’t know what to expect and that doesn’t suit him.

I know I have talked about my dad a lot these last few slices. But I’ve spent four solid days with him and the material has just been too good to pass up.  I love him dearly and he has a good heart. But you cannot, under any circumstances, teach this old dog new tricks.

Monopoly

Last night was Monopoly night. My nephew Parker, who is ten, recently learned the game and was very excited to play with us.  Several things happened that I did not expect and one that I did.

Parker got mad when he had to go to jail one too many times and ran outside to sulk for a while.  He also got upset when he did not notice that someone had landed on his property until it was too late. This was the thing that I did expect.

Jeff, who is not a competitive person by nature, apparently makes an exception for Monopoly. He was buying up property like he was Donald Trump and never missed an opportunity to charge someone who landed on his places.  He also was big on not telling anyone when he landed on their property and quickly handing the dice to the next person and trying to move the play along. He bought up everything he could get his hands on and basically took mercy on no one.

My dad apparently plays Monopoly exactly the same way that he lives his life.  At the end of the game (which we set for one hour) almost all the properties had been bought and my dad owned exactly one.  Jeff said that in all the years he played Monopoly he had never seen anyone with only one property. My dad also refused to pay the $50 to get out of jail until his third turn, when the rules force you to.  At one point he actually asked if he could stay in jail because he knew if he got out he would probably land on someone else’s property (since he did not own any of them) and have to pay rent. My dad is not competitive either so in spite of the fact that he was losing he still enjoyed the game and got into the spirit of it. The best part was when someone would land on the “Go to Jail” square. He would inevitably yell out “You’re going to jail, call your mama!”

And then when someone took too long rolling the dice he would scold “Let’s go, bro!”

That game brings out an interesting side of people.

All in all a fun family game night!

Captain’s Log – Day 2

We all survived the first day of this trip, or as I like to call it, My Mission of Mercy.  We decided to go to the aquarium today because my nephew loves sea animals. I told everyone we would be at my brother’s house at around 10ish. I was tired last night from a long day of travel and I did not want to have to get up too early.  I mean, that’s what vacation is supposed to be about right? Relaxation, sleeping in a little bit? We tried to do that. At 9:30 my brother texts us to find out what time we are coming over. I say around 10. At 9:45 he calls me again to ask me to bring a newspaper for my dad. At 10:10 we are on our way and my dad calls me to ask where we are. At 10:15 my nephew texts me to ask when we are coming. We walk in the door at 10:20 and my dad says “It’s about time!” and my brother comments “Now it’s going to be super crowded at the aquarium.”

It was a relaxing start.

We went to the aquarium, which was very interesting and not “super crowded”. Afterwards we went to Johnny Rockets for lunch. We ordered right away because we were starving. Thirty minutes later we were still waiting. The people at the next table were threatening to leave if their food was not delivered immediately. Theirs arrived about 5 minutes later.  Our food did not. The waitress came over and cheerily told us that it would be “right up”. Ten minutes later it was not. We contemplated leaving and just then a different waitress arrived with our food. She breathlessly placed the tray on the table. She took one plate off the tray and the tray and the rest of the plates tumbled to the floor. She was horrified but not nearly as much as we were.  As she started picking up chicken nuggets and hamburger patties off the floor we all got up in unison and walked out. My dad, however did not go willingly. There was one plate of food on the table that was intact and he said to me “I’ll just take a few fries for the road.”

I hissed “No you won’t. We didn’t pay for that so we’re not eating it.”

We drove to Chick-Fil-A.  My dad asked what they serve. I said chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, anything chicken.

He asked for a hamburger.