Friday, March 22, 2013

Road Trip: Day 5

Abilene, TX to Austin, TX
235 miles

Took smaller highways, thru Coleman, Brady, and Llano. Relaxing drive through old cattle drive country. We made it to Keara's in early afternoon. Parked the camper in the front yard, temporarily, then took a walkabout over to the nearby Thunderbird Coffee House, then the LBJ Museum on the UT Campus. Too bad we only had an hour before it closed, but the nice lady at the desk gave us good advice: start on the 10th floor and work your way down. I will be back to spend more time there, guaranteed. It is a wonderful museum, so many memories of my growing up years...a must see, no matter what your political persuasion!

Keara was working/in class/at a meeting until 9, so after moving the camper to a better spot on the side driveway, we checked out a restaurant a few blocks away. El Chile was darn good. Had to evaluate their house margarita (two thumbs up), and the fajitas hit the hungry spot.

Nice visit with Keara, her roommate Olivia, and Olivia's bulldog Ruby, then we all went to bed. Yes, we slept in the camper. Lloyd slept fine. I will get some earplugs before I sleep out there again. Too much traffic noise for me. But that won't be until Monday...I'm off to Sugar Land today!!!

Subtotal: 2,143 miles

Road Trip: Day 4

Rio Rancho, NM to Abilene, TX
499 miles

It was certainly a 'play all the music/start books on tape' kind of drive today. We listened to the first couple of discs of Molly Ivins' Who Let the Dogs Out, and all the Willie CDs again, several Paul Simons, plus Allison Krauss. I knew when Lloyd got to Texas, his zeal for road tripping would wane. But we pushed on, marveling at all the wind turbines (which don't look so bad here, as compared to in the Gorge).

Quit for the night just south of Abilene at a Best Western situated in a shopping area with walk to it food options. Outback Steak had been a looooong time! One more leg to Austin!

Road Trip: Day 3

Kingman, NV to Rio Rancho/Albuquerque, NM
474 Miles

Up an At 'Em, on the road again (yes, we did play our Willie Nelson cds). Today's drive was rather dull in comparison to the past two. Riding along Interstate 40, which is in serious need of maintenance. I actually felt bad for all the long haul truckers who have to drive it all the time. And there are a LOT of them. Just a reminder of how much of our commerce traverses the country on roads like these, along with the railway alongside. The investment our parents' generation made to build this infrastructure should be matched by our generation to maintain it. One only has to get off on one of the many Rt 66 exits to see the remains of those days, and how different things are now. We got gas in Gallup, NM, and drove through town just to get our kicks on Rt. 66.

The scenery improved greatly when we entered western NM. The roads, especially the bridge transition areas, did not. Thank God the trailer stayed on the hitch.

This night we met up for dinner with old Chevron friends Chuck and Linda Stelting, who retired to Rio Rancho, and our niece Faye, sister Janet's daughter, who teaches 1st grade in Albuquerque.

She's been in ABQ 14 years, when she transferred to UNM from her school in NH after freshman year. I think she likes it. Still felt like too much city for us. Spoiled by the State of the Gorge. But we did enjoy the heck out of seeing them all, and the margaritas at Sadie's really hit the spot!!! Another night at Days Inn down the road from Chuck and Linda's...and we were out the door early to see how close we could get to Austin...

Road Trip: Day 2

Fernley, NV to Kingman, AZ
517 Miles

After a great night's sleep at the Best Western, we were up for another day's adventure. The only bad thing I can say: my personal hell is being stuck in any room, but especially a breakfast room, with Fox News. There is no news. All the snarky little insightful comments by the twinkie anchors makes a mockery of news reporting. Just give me the damn news and keep your comments to yourself, please. We slammed down our eggs and juice and coffee and hit the road sometime just after 8 am. Sadly, there is no NPR on the radio dial. All the lower end frequencies belong to Jesus.

We headed towards Fallon, and noticed interesting things along the way. Such as: there is a Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nevada. There is also a Coast Guard Station. What? So we decided to take note of interesting signs and places along the way. There is an Undersea Warfare Center in Hawthorne, NV, which is also home to the Army Ammunition Plant. There are acres and acres of ammo bunkers on both sides of Highway 95. (Sadly, that night there was a horrific accident with a mortar explosion during training. Seven Marines were killed.)

We stopped at a rest area and veterans memorial park in Hawthorne, mostly to deposit the remains of our morning coffee. The park was over run with Japanese tourists. I don't know where their bus was. Maybe getting gas.

Past Hawthorne, in Mina, we saw The Desert Lobster Cafe, and a sign on the road that said Lobster Crossing. Goldfield had the Santa Fe Bar and Saloon, with a sign proclaiming “the meanest bartender in Nevada”. And don't forget the brothels: The Mustang Ranch (Sparks), The Shady Lady Ranch (Tonopah), and Angel's Ladies (Beatty)- which was originally called Fran's Star Ranch...I do not lie. In Amargosa Valley (Area 51), DennisHof's Alien Travel Center boasted Brothel, Hot Sauce, Pictures and Souvenirs. The UK Daily Mail link for that was the funniest. I found it all very entertaining.

We decided to get as far past Vegas as we could, and aimed towards Kingman, AZ. After gassing up in Boulder City, we stopped at the Hoover Dam. We passed inspection at the security gate. I was relieved that when Lloyd opened the trailer door, a river of wine did NOT flow out, which means my case of camping wine is intact after the rogue camper adventure. We drove down to the dam and across the top on the old highway. There were tons of tourists, and a new visitor center. We had a great view of the new bridge, which opened in Oct 2010, to alleviate the traffic congestion, accidents and security problems that came from having the interstate highway go across the dam. 

Deciding NOT to pay $7 to park, we headed back up to the new memorial park and walking path that takes you over the bridge. It had stairways and handicapped accessible ramping up to the display area and the bridge walk. Well done.

 One of the displays told of the siting difficulties, and how they anchored the bridge in less than optimal rock. Below the examples of the embedded pins used to keep things in place are some of the actual cores, which kept my Geologist happy.
 Beautiful geology, low Lake Mead, new visitor center on left. We'll save that for another time.

The views of the dam from the bridge were fantastic. I did look down, by the way, just a few times...
 My Geologist says to note the fault blocks in the wall on the right. They match blocks on the other side as well. Who chose this damn dam site, anyways?

 Here we are straddling AZ and NV. The two states matched the $100 million from the Feds, and another $50K came from other funding. A $250 million project that took 10 years, on budget, on schedule. And they chose the most difficult crossing to engineer, so that we, the people, could still see the dam. Thank you all for your cooperation. Made me think of the OR/WA CRC project, and what could be...

And here we are at the mid point of the span.

 The arch isn't visible from this angle. The walkway is wide, and you are well protected from the traffic. When you are driving across, you cannot rubberneck to see the views (which is a good thing, remember: part of the reason for the bridge was all the accidents on the Dam road).

 Bottom line, this is an excellent stretch your legs stop! I could have spent the better part of a day here, exploring the visitor center and taking pictures. Maybe on the way back?

The last 75 miles to Kingman were long, as the sun slowly set behind the Colorado River in the west. 
The light was lovely for rock lovers, photo taken from a speeding car...

 We found a room at a quiet Days Inn, at half the price of the Best Western across the street. A glass of wine, Chili's mango chicken with broccoli and rice, and I was ready for a good night's sleep. Again.

Road Trip: Day 1

Sunriver, OR to Fernley, NV  
419 miles

After a lovely weekend skiing and communing with the ONC-CGC gang, we departed Sunriver after breakfast on Sunday morning, St. Patrick's Day. Our plan was to be out by ten. We were all hooked up to the camper at the storage area and on the road just before the big hand hit the twelve. It was a beautiful, crisp cold day, with a fresh dusting of dry snow on the ground. No worries. Or so we thought.

We rolled down Hwy 97 to La Pine, affectionately known as LA Pine, where we turned east onto OR 31, a quiet two lane country road. All was going swimmingly, until we hit rail road tracks. 

The camper which we thought was securely attached jumped the shark. The ball came out of the hitch. The safety chains flew off their slots. And the Coleman Destiny headed on a journey all its own, across the highway, soft landing in fresh soil on the side of the road. The tongue and battery were buried. The battery cover popped off, which made it handy for shoveling. The poor man following us pulled over to help (after his near heart attack). He and Lloyd engineered the extraction of the camper from where it was planted with our handy tow strap. It took several pulls on both sides of the axle from behind, a pull from the front (which only served to bury the tongue again), and magic levitation using 6 hands to get the tongue up and the wheel stand lowered. The only thing that was damaged was the rear bumper (which started pulling off during the first tow attempt) and Lloyd's pride. How did that damn thing come off? The good news (besides no one coming at the loose trailer head on) was that the ball bent up just enough that it now seats much better in the hitch cup. A slight delay, we were on our way in a lot less time than we thought.

The drive across SE Oregon was spectacular, especially for my resident Geologist. He wants to go back that way. 

We stopped at a nice rest area in Summer Lake, where I got this picture of dust devils.

After crossing into NW California (east of Susanville...we did catch a glimpse of Lassen), we rolled on to Reno, where we originally planned to stop for the day. Reno was nuts. Reminded us too much of Houston. We pulled in to a BJ's Brewhouse for a cold one and some light appetizers for dinner, then drove on to Fernley, NV, a small military town east of Reno. A most hospitable and comfy Best Western meant a great night's sleep.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Darwin or Karma?

Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People.

Time to retire that one.

In Polk County, OR, a guy was driving away in a stolen truck from the farmhouse he'd just burglarized. He was found dead at the wheel. Angry victim with a gun take him out? One of those young men who parade around town with their AKs happen on the scene? Nope, it's even better.

This genius stole a couple of firearms, a rifle and a shotgun. They were found on the passenger side floor of the truck, barrels pointing towards the driver. A sheriff's spokesman said that a lever on the shotgun must have been jostled into the trigger guard of the rifle and fired it.

Yep, the guns got their revenge. For some strange reason, The Brave Little Toaster came into my mind. Are they coming alive when we aren't looking?????