Crossing the Desert

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Yosemite NP to Cedar City, Utah, 495 miles

0902 Yosemite to Cedar City 495

Map credit: Google Maps 2017, courtesy AAA

Saturday morning, we were not in a huge hurry to get going, as we planned to use our breakfast vouchers at the Majestic, so we got packed up and made our way down to the dining room.  While we would have preferred to order from the menu, it was pretty clear that having the buffet would be the thing to do, so we surrendered.  The buffet was good, and the food was fresh since there were a lot of people getting it, too.  Just one problem – the eggs Benedict was a very popular item, and it was out almost the whole time we were there.  I finally got one just when I was about to give up, and had the egg over the delicious lox they served.  It was time to say goodbye to Yosemite Valley, though we would still be in the park for quite a while longer.  After one last look at the lovely old hotel, we hit the road – turning east for the first time….

Our route would take us back out to California Highway 120, which would take us completely across the northern portion of Yosemite, and then we would take US 395 south for a bit.  It was a pleasant drive through parts of the park that we hadn’t seen, and there were lots of people hiking, camping, swimming, and hanging out on this holiday weekend.  We drove past Tuolumne Meadows and then caught a glimpse of Mt. Dana, the second-highest peak in the park, which still had snow on it!  Kim was getting her first practice at winding mountain roads after a few days of no driving at all.

We were almost out of gas, and we had heard all about a little gas station that had a great restaurant in it, but somehow we missed seeing it.  We went into the town of Lee Vining hoping to find it, but no luck.  We did find Lake Mono National Park, so we stopped there to see what it was and to find out about the gas station, which turned out to be just inside the park.  We had a look at Lake Mono, which is a big saline lake with some volcanic islands in it, and it’s a great place for birding.  It was already getting hot, and we had a lot of ground to cover, so back we went to the Mobil station (home of the Whoa Nellie Deli) to fill up, and then we were off, ready to cross the desert that is Nevada.

While US 50 across Nevada may have earned the title “Loneliest Road in America”, we would beg to differ with that opinion.  At least it had three little towns on it!  This southern route was much more deserted!  If not for the horses, cows, and extraterrestrials, we would not have seen any living things.  We saw not a single other car going in our direction!  Early in the route we went through the town of Tonopah, home to the creepy Clown Motel (calling David M!!) and then we saw not much else except the ‘town’ of Rachel (which was pretty much a trailer park). We enjoyed the Extraterrestrial Highway, but we disappointed not to have any (live) ET sightings. We stopped for gas in Caliente, the smallest incorporated town in Nevada (population around 1100) and admired the depot (which is also the library, town hall, and museum) that was across the street from the Sinclair station. We finally made it to the Utah border and found our way to the Holiday Inn Express in Cedar City.

Even though it was Saturday night, we barely made it to Centro Woodfired Pizza before it closed at 10 PM; however, the host seated us cheerfully and our server, Jacee, could not have been friendlier.  We shared a pizza – Kim had Fennel Sausage and I had Pollo Bianco – and had a beer and both were delicious!  The thin crust pizza was done perfectly and the toppings were plentiful and good.  We were enticed by the Nutella Piegato for dessert – “pizza dough filled with creamy Nutella, folded (Piegato) and baked in our wood fired oven until gooey and delicious. Finished with whipped cream and a nutella drizzle.”  Oh boy, was it good!  And we saved enough to give Jayce a couple of pieces, too.

We didn’t even try to blog or do pictures tonight, because tomorrow would be a LONG day and we needed to get some rest.

 

Buffalo, Bismarck, Big Bugs, and Bears

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Jamestown ND to Medora ND ~365 miles

Bugs!

After a fantastic night’s sleep at the Jamestown Quality Inn (which was packed – where did all of these people come from??) we repacked our bug-spattered car (ick!) and headed out in search of breakfast.  We tried a place across the street which didn’t open until eleven, but some of the women working there pointed us in the direction of the Depot Cafe downtown.  After a bit of searching we found it, in the “mall”.  It was a happening place, although we were the youngest patrons in there by about 20 years.  But they knew how to make a good breakfast!  The place was full of railroad memorabilia and all of the menu items had train names.  Kim and I both had “The Fireman”, a ham and cheese omelet with hash browns and toast.  Good way to start the day!

Breakfast at The Depot Cafe

After a short ride through downtown, we arrived at Frontier Village and the National Buffalo Museum – what a great time we had! Frontier Village was great – an old West street lined with museum quality shops and services – a newspaper office, post office, saloon, blacksmith, dentist’s office, barber shop, church, school, law office, bank, general store, etc.  Writer Louis L’Amour grew up in Jamestown, so there is a Writer’s Shack that honors him and his books. There was a stagecoach, so we paid our $5 fee and hopped aboard.  What a ride! We were practically hysterical!  It was fun for ten minutes, but we determined that we would have been whiny pioneers!  We rode out of the village and past a few buffalo grazing, then returned back to the stagecoach station.  From there we walked down to see the World’s Biggest Buffalo, which is one of Hampton Inn’s Landmarks.  We first discovered these mostly restored pieces of Americana on Route 66, and now we are on the lookout for them.  It was a big buffalo, all right – 60 tons!!  We walked through and looked at most of the exhibits, then drove down to the buffalo museum to try to see White Cloud, an the only female albino buffalo in North America.  It was a hot day (for North Dakota) so she was down in the shade of the trees, pretty far away, but we got a few photos of her.  It was almost noon and we had not gotten on the road, so we opted to skip the museum and get going.

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown ND

Our goal today was to get to Medora, in extreme western North Dakota.  We had been duly warned about the boringness of North Dakota, so we had searched high and low for places of interest so that the drive wouldn’t just be interstate all the way.  Our first detour took us south of Jamestown to pick up a section of “A Very Long Straight Road” which goes from Hickson to Streeter, North Dakota.  They were not exaggerating!  What we didn’t expect along this straight road through the prairie was lots of water!  And it came right up to the road, in lots of places!  It appeared that some of the water had appeared unexpectedly and had flooded out areas.  There were even seagulls!  What was really odd was that it wasn’t clear from where the water came – no rivers, just seemingly random ponds and lakes.  We enjoyed the drive out in the country and on our own. Shortly after the town of Gackle (spelled out in red, white, and blue tires) we turned back north and rejoined the interstate, headed for Bismarck and another state capitol.  Best things about the interstates out here – no traffic (NONE!) and 75 mph speed limits!

A Long, Straight Road

On the way to Bismarck, we passed the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane in the town of Steele.  It was behind the Lone Steer Motel/Cafe/Lounge and there was a pretty little memorial garden there.  It was a nice little diversion…

World's Largest Sandhill Crane

The North Dakota state capitol in Bismarck is one of only four capitol buildings in the US that are skyscrapers (you may remember the Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge from last year’s trip, and Florida and Nebraska are the other ones).  We didn’t think the building was very pretty from the outside, but we loved the art deco interior.  Again, symbolism abounded inside.  We had a wonderful tour guide, Taryn, who shared some of the fun facts about the capitol.  Here are a few things we learned: The sculptures in the huge Memorial Hall represent farming and mining, the two largest industries in ND; the chandeliers represent heads of wheat, weigh 1000 pounds each, and contain 109 light bulbs each; the lighting in the House chamber represents the stars and moon at night, while that in the Senate chamber represents sunrise and sunset; the bronze doors of the elevators depict the pioneer experience; and there’s a really cool room that serves no particular purpose (it’s a back entrance to the Secretary of State’s office) that is lined in “monkey wood” – you can see the faces of different animals in it.  We enjoyed the views from the 18th floor, especially of the mall with “North Dakota” spelled out in flowers.  Across the way from the capitol was the state historical museum and a statue with Sacajawea and her papoose.

North Dakota State Capitol

From Bismarck, we went south to see Fort Abraham Lincoln, but when we got there, we learned that the park had just closed (at five PM), so we turned around and visited the ND Veterans’ Cemetery next door, then continued west, bound for the Enchanted Highway.  But first, we saw the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, “Salem Sue”, a statue of a cow so big (38 feet high and 50 feet long!) that we could easily see her from the interstate.  We just took pictures from the road and chose not to stop for this one.  Erected in 1974, Sue honors and advertises the dairymen of the area, their superior herds, and the production of high quality milk.

Salem Sue, World's Largest Holstein Cow

The Enchanted Highway runs from Regent, ND, to the interstate due north, and it is lined with some of the World’s Largest (are you spotting a theme here?) Metal Sculptures.  It was easy to see where to get off the highway, as “Geese in Flight” holds the Guinness World Record as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.  It was erected in 2001 and is built of used oil well pipe and oil tanks.  Other sculptures along the way were The Deer Family (2002), “Grasshoppers in the Field” (1999), “Fisherman’s Dream” (2006), “Pheasants on the Prairie” (1996), “Teddy Rides Again” (1993), and “Tin Family” (1991).  Which one is your favorite?

"Geese in Flight" World's Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture

On the Enchanted Highway, we saw lots of pheasants by the road.  They hang out right along the sides of the road (something we had noticed on our Roadside Giant Tour in 2007) and this year I even got some good photos of them!  We also saw beautiful fields full of sunflowers in full bloom (second largest cash crop in ND) and we enjoyed the rolling green hills dotted with big rolled bales of hay.  By the time we got to Dickenson, we were pretty hungry, so we stopped at the first place we found, El Sombrero, and wolfed down some pretty good Mexican food.  It was dark by the time we pulled into Medora, so we found our hotel and lugged in our stuff.  We loved having our own little Teddy bear to greet us!

Teddy!

Thinking North Dakota was a lot more fun to cross than Kansas,

Jan

Day 2 Jamestown to Medora ND

And they’re off…really badly off!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

OK, I’ll take all the blame for our late start today!!  I know, it’s not like I haven’t known for weeks that I would be leaving this morning, but it’s sort of like knowing when Christmas is and still not being ready.  And I have had just a little bit on my plate lately!  But Anne and I spent a good part of the evening printing transfers, ironing transfers, washing t-shirts, buying t-shirts, printing Flats, laminating Flats, cutting out Flats, making a cute suitcase for the Flats, shopping for some last minute necessities, and enjoying a fantastic dinner at Margaret’s.  By the time we got all those preparations done, I still had a bit of packing to do…

Suffice it to say that even getting up before seven didn’t get us out the door before 10:30.  And I think Anne thought we would be ON THE ROAD by ten.  Oops.  But we did get going, and shortly after we were on our way it started pouring down rain.  We need the rain so badly that we couldn’t be upset about it!  And it only rained for a few minutes, anyway.  When we realized we would be going through Mt. Airy, NC, at noon, we decided we would have to stop at Snappy Lunch for a Pork Chop Sandwich.  You may remember that Kim and I stopped in Mt. Airy (aka Mayberry) on our 2008 Sassy Sisters Trip, “Ye Olde Curiosity Tour”; however, we had breakfast there, as we had gotten an earlier start!

We parked right on Main Street and strolled down past a big crowd at Floyd’s Barber Shop and turned into a very crowded Snappy Lunch.  Right up front was a woman whose only job was cooking pork chops, and boy, did they look good.  We never even saw a menu, which was fine.  We just ordered our pork chop sandwiches “all the way”, like the locals eat them.  Talk about YUMMY!!  A HUGE boneless, breaded, fried pork chop (twice as wide as the big bun it was served on) dressed with mustard, slaw, tomatoes, and chili – what a mess!  And have you ever noticed that the places that serve the messiest food usually have those little napkins like we had in the “Hav-a-Nap” dispensers in the grade school cafeterias?  The ones that cover about six square inches of your lap?  Seriously.  We attracted a bit of attention when I started pulling the Flats out of their cute suitcase and lining them up on the table, but it was so worth it!  I didn’t see anything even close to resembling this food in Australia!

After lunch, we were lured into Opie’s Candy Store by the smells and the colorful variety of candies inside.  Mmmmm, mmmm, as Andy would say.  Mighty fine candy!  We only bought a little, and the Flats loved it.  Did I mention it had poured down rain the whole time we were at Snappy?  And that the line at the barbershop was for the tour bus load of people who had to board the bus in the pouring rain? It was the happening place to be, but we were running so late that we didn’t even go to the old jail!  We zoomed right past the Blue Ridge Parkway and traveled up I-77 through Virginia on our way to Charleston, WV.  From there, we thought we were going to Huntington, Ashland, Lexington, Louisville, and Indianapolis, but Lee, our wonderful Australian Garmin guy had another plan…..

We sort of missed a little exit on the interstate, so we just did what Lee said on his ‘recalculation’, and the next thing we knew, we were headed for Ohio!!  So instead of crossing Kentucky, we crossed Ohio from Chillicothe to Dayton!  We were running so late!!  But, in the good news category, there was NO traffic, five o’clock or otherwise, and the scenery was lovely – gently rolling hills reminiscent of Pennsylvania Dutch country.  So we just sat back and enjoyed the ride, and felt bad that our time with Carolyn would be less than planned!  In fact, we took it so easy that we almost ran out of gas, and Priuses are not forgiving when they are not fed.  When the tank is empty, they just stop.  No sputtering.  Not that I’ve ever had that happen to me….So, around Dayton, we took another unintended detour in search of a little pusholine.  You know you cut it a little too close when you put 9.44 gallons in your ten gallon tank!

Crisis averted, contact made with Carolyn, and plans in place, we stopped for a quick drive through at the Steak and Shake (Anne’s VERY FAVORITE thing) in somewhere, Ohio.  Soon, it commenced to being dark thirty, and we skedaddled on around Indy and soon pulled in the driveway of Carolyn’s beautiful home.  We had a quick tour of the house (it was FANTASTIC!!) and met her two sons.  Daughter Ann was fast asleep already, but Jack and Sam were hanging out in the basement watching TV.  They had graciously given up their rooms to Anne and me – what troopers!  Then it was sharing time – Anne shared jewelry, I shared the Flats, and Carolyn shared DESSERT!  My, oh my, did we enjoy that!  Key lime pie with macadamia nut crust, a humongous piece of carrot cake, and shark’s fin pie (chocolate and peanuts and vanilla ice cream).  YUM.  Soon it was bedtime – Anne couldn’t get there fast enough!!  Of course, I found things to do online for a while.  What a great day!

Sweet dreams!

Jan

Delta Dawn

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Morning comes earlier every day…it was sort of sprinkling on us by the time we finally got going, but it stopped before we even got to downtown Vicksburg.  Although our Hampton was right across the street from the National Military Park, I had learned my lesson when I was here with my daughter Kim last summer.  Just so you know, anytime something is called a “National Military” cemetery, even if it’s in the South, it’s a Union graveyard – so if you’re looking for confederate memorials, you won’t find them here.  This particular cemetery is a loop drive of over 20 miles, and at a 20 mph speed limit, you’re gonna be there for a while…  We passed, although we did learn something about the Illinois memorial later on.  I’ll fill you in shortly.

We decided to skip breakfast this morning and have an early lunch at Rusty’s (recommended by Kim’s friend Christy, who grew up here – thanks!!) so our first stop was the Coca-Cola museum.  In the summer of 1894, Vicksburg businessman Joseph Biedenharn put Coca-Cola in bottles and delivered it to rural areas near Vicksburg.  This was the first time Coke was served in bottles rather than from a soda fountain.  You already know the rest of the story – but the first Coca-Cola bottling franchise started right here in Mississippi!  The museum provides a great timeline and description of the bottling process and how it has evolved.  Best of all, it has LOTS of coke memorabilia and some really wonderful old advertisements.  We loved it!  It took all we had not to order a coke float at 10:30 AM, but we restrained ourselves.

From the Coke Museum, we walked down the street and decided not to go into the Doll and Toy Museum, so we headed down to the riverfront and the floodwall.  The same muralist who has painted murals on the floodwall in our hometown of Paducah, Kentucky,  has also painted historic scenes on the floodwall here.  The above photos are both panels from the Vicksburg floodwall.  I just love these murals and we always learn things while looking at them – and I love it when learning is fun!  For example, I’ll bet you had no idea that 36,325 soldiers from Illinois participated in the Vicksburg campaign or that there are 1300 (!) monuments in the 1800 acre National Military Park here.  The Illinois monument is considered the grandest, and it was dedicated in 1906 after being built for just under $200,000.  Here are a few of my favorite murals by Robert Dafford (a native of Lafayette, LA) and his talented team, and you can see them all at http://www.riverfrontmurals.com if you’re so inclined.

We took our time wandering around the waterfront, and we were a little perplexed about the width of the river here – it’s not nearly as wide as we expected the Mississippi to be.  Then after seeing the mural of the two bridges over the river, one of which I had crossed last year, I remembered that this section of the river is only a canal now.  The river carved a new channel in 1876, leaving Vicksburg without a port until 1903 when the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers diverted the Yazoo River into the old bed.  The city has built a nice little park down at the waterfront, too, but it’s still not nearly as nice as Paducah’s riverfront!

   

We had finally killed enough time – it was time for our next meal!!  Up the hill we went to Rusty’s Waterfront Grill, which was already starting to fill up by the time we got there, well before noon.  The place was packed long before we left!  I decided to eat “light” so I ordered a side salad and an appetizer portion of crawfish tails, and look what I got.  YUM!!  Kim had a chicken sandwich, and we both drank about a gallon of tea.  Now we were ready to start our ride up the Delta on the Great River Road!

 While we were leaving town, I read in one of our books about a little place we might want to stop, so we set the Garmin for Margaret’s Castle.  Boy, were we in for a surprise.  For just a small sample of what we saw and heard, go to http://ucmmuseum.com/rev_dennis.htm We actually got to meet Rev. Dennis, but sadly, Margaret was in the hospital and is at the end of her life.  Rev. Dennis is 93 years old, but that didn’t stop him from preaching to us!  He was being visited by him home health nurse when we were there (that didn’t stop him either) but he seemed glad to have company.  We learned a whole new version of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel story, and we all recited the 23rd Psalm.  You’ll get a general idea of Rev. Dennis’s philosophy from looking at some of the pictures of the ‘castle’ he has built.  You have to admire his single-minded devotion and persistence!

Once we got on the GRR, the scenery didn’t change much.  We passed cotton fields and rode along the banks of the Mississippi.  The land is flat, the soil is dark, and the weather was hot.  No wonder the Blues got their start down here!  We just drove on, talking and singing along with the radio, until we hit Greenville, MS, and the home of the original Doe’s Eat Place.  We know about Doe’s because there’s one in Paducah, but it’s likely that many of you have never heard of it.  Doe’s is famous for their tamales and chili, their spaghetti sauce, awesome steaks, and our personal favorite, chocolate cobbler.  Doe’s is some mighty good eating, but if you saw the original (and still open) Eat Place you might not believe me!  Read all about it at http://www.doeseatplace.com/ and then get to one at your earliest convenience!  But remember to get there in the evening, when it’s open!!  Good thing we weren’t counting on having a meal here today…

 

From Greenville, we turned east and took off on the Blues Highway, headed for Greenwood and the Crystal Grill.  Of course, we had to stop in at the Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland (http://www.highway61blues.com/), and we were glad we did.  Even though the museum is just in a storefront and the signage is straight off the copy machine, the material in the exhibits and the history in the rooms are incredible!  It’s amazing how so many talented Blues musicians came from this poverty-stricken, education-poor Mississippi Delta area.  We had several conversations about how and why this came about, but the proof of it all was right there in front of us, and gosh, is the music ever good!  And even though Leland is also the hometown of Jim Henson (of Muppet fame), we missed the visitor’s center dedicated to him, but not for lack of trying.  We drove all through the streets of Leland (there are not that many, and we have seen them all) and I narrowly escaped an attack by a Cujo-like dog (really!), and then just as we gave up and got back on the highway, we saw a giant Kermit sitting on top of a building not anywhere near where the Garmin thought it was…  We didn’t go back, but you can read about it at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20070722/ai_n19388321/

 

It was a short, flat ride from Leland to Greenwood, whose most recent claim to fame is the arrival of the Viking Corporation (you know, upscale kitchen appliances) and the appropriately upscale Alluvian Hotel.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what we saw wasn’t it.  This classy looking boutique hotel has little in common with the Delta country we’d spent the day driving through.  See what you think – http://www.thealluvian.com/

We were looking forward to our meal at the Crystal Grill, which Kim’s buddy Jim had told us not to miss.  We were not steered wrong!  Read the review that made us hungry before we got there at http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurant/Review/2851-3194/crystal-grill  We loved the dinner special – we got a salad, meat and two sides, pie, and iced tea for an impossibly low price.  We both had fish and mac & cheese; I had green beans with mine, and the breads were yummy.  Even though we’re not huge fans of meringue, the chocolate pie was delicious!

From Greenwood, we decided we’d make it a fairly early night and just go as far as Oxford, home of Ole Miss (hotty toddy!) so that we could stop by Graceland Too in Holly Springs on our way to Memphis and Paducah tomorrow.

We’re not singing the Blues – we’re loving it!!

Jan