Saturday, October 26, 2019

Road Trip Pt. 5--Goin' Home

I left Morton on a Sunday morning hoping to beat the rain.  I headed south to pick up US 36 once again, this time to drive across Missouri.  I made it to Hannibal before a downpour, which squelched any attempt to play tourist in the famous Mississippi city.  So on across Missouri, thankfully US 36 was all 4-lane at this point which made travel in the rain easier.

Not much to see, but I did pass through the home of sliced bread!  Of course the woman at the gas mart had no idea what I was talking about...

Then through St Joseph and into Kansas where the rain finally stopped.  Kinda fun crossing three main rivers (Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri) in the same day.  Looking for a place to stop for the night, I found this...


So, OK, Marysville and US 36 are part of the pony express trail, but the Surf Motel in the middle of Kansas?  At least it was a nice room for $50...  a good deal.

The next day, I continued on US 36...  and found this building in another small Kansas town.


 Rather unusual architecture.

At some point, I found a way to cut south and hit US 24 that would angle down to I-70 in Western Kansas.  US 24 runs close to my home town back in Illinois, so I thought it would be fun to reunite with the highway.  Very worthwhile, a sort of scenic route until I hit I-70, wherein Western Kansas turned into a million square miles of corn, buzz cut flat for as far as the eye could see.  Way boring!

I-70 took me to Denver, and I decided to just follow it home.  Thankfully traffic was light for the remainder of the trip, and Glenwood Springs canyon was absolutely beautiful in the late morning light.  A long drive that day but I made it home.  Quite the adventure, all in all.  I highly recommend lazy road trips on America's alternative highways.



Monday, October 21, 2019

Road Trip Pt. 4--My Home Town


Can't go back to Illinois without visiting my home town of Roanoke.  I noticed that the population is up to 2000 from the 1500 of my youth.  Bustling!

What was really odd was distances...  we literally walked miles to school in the snow uphill both ways!  But I drove right past stuff this time...  Everything was now so close!  Drove right past my old house where I grew up...


Of course, it's really almost unrecognizable...  the whole left side was a small garage, now it's a major addition.

And the Pinky Winky (yep!) is now reduced to rubble...

I did drive out in the country (all corn!) to visit a couple cousins.  Not many relatives left, so I'm appreciative of whatever family I can maintain contact with.  Cousin Bob, now in his 90's is still on his farm, still driving back and forth to Texas a couple times a year.  Marge and Brent have a fantastic farm, huge acreage, plus turkeys and now pigs...  What an operation!  Plus they are now experimenting with some organic farming. It's great to get first hand info on farming in America these days, and I miss my 40 acres...

John and I had lunch at a small cafe in Roanoke (used to be the Texaco station!).  Met another woman there who turned out to be another cousin!  She and her sister, now living in Utah, are hopefully coming to SLC this fall.  Can't wait...  I've always been family shy, so any links are so appreciated.  Looks like it's time to update the family tree.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Road Trip Pt. 3--Fun & Games

I hit Peoria about mid-day and crossed the Illinois River into Morton, a sleepy little satellite to Peoria.  I remembered I "went steady" with a girl from Morton when I was in high school...  can't remember her name, tho...  some relationship!  Oh, and it's the pumpkin capitol of the universe (big Libby canning plant).



Anyway, CarPlay and my iPhone found my friend John's house and I was soon settled in his wonderful domicile.  And soon I meet his wonder wife Peggy.  John and I were childhood friends and have managed to keep in contact over all these decades.  So many of our high school class have passed away, and others are scattered.  I myself ran away from home after graduation, soon to fall into college life and the 60's lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock & roll... and radical politics.  Thankfully I made it through, somehow, and hopefully, finally, gotten my shit together as a person.  Well, time wounds all heels, or something like that, and now life is good, and it's wonderful to still have some contact with my past.

John informed me there was a Caterpillar museum in Peoria, so off we went to check it out.  Cat had a big influence on me and my home town...  many fathers worked there (mine, briefly), my uncle retired from Cat, and several classmates, including John, also worked for Cat.  Every childhood visit to Peoria usually involved a drive past the extensive plant facilities. 

First up at the museum was the giant, and I mean giant (50 feet plus high) ore truck.  The bed is so big, the museum put a movie theater in the bed (showing historical movies about how Caterpillar helped change the world!).  Not sure this pic even begins to do justice to its size.


And here we are in front of the truck's tires (imagine changing a flat!):



Then I tried the bulldozer simulator...  not only did I not fill the trench with dirt, I bombed the whole simulator!  Don't let me around heavy equipment!


After visiting the Cat gift shop and buying a couple t-shirts, we went next door to the Peoria Riverfront Museum.  They had a special exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  But what NASA never knew was that I was holding up the moon helping the astronauts find a good landing spot.


That evening, looking for some good music, John found a listing for the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra.  Well, I'd heard of this group from their applications to the Utah Arts Fest, so I was excited to actually see them in person.  So off we went to the Peoria Contemporary Art Center to hear the band.  And they were everything I hoped, mostly instrumental which I appreciate, and with the stage presentation I expected.  Sorry the pics are crappy, too much motion from the players.



And, of course I bought the t-shirt and CD...  A fun night...  sometimes fate just delivers...


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Road Trip Pt. 2--Two-Lane Blacktop

Two lane blacktop certainly defined the next part of my journey.  Leaving McCook, I headed due south on US 83 into Kansas and the junction with US 36.  (By the way, if you haven't seen the movie,  Two Lane Blacktop,  check it out...  the great existentialist American movie of all time).  Wonderful road with rolling hills through agricultural Nebraska and Kansas...  an easy stroll in the early morning light).  Thankfully I had slowed before encountering the county sheriff!

Hitting US 36, I continued across northern Kansas.  Again, a very easy drive.  And somewhat cooler (Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas had hit 95 degrees the day before).  Sure, there were some grain trucks and a few farm vehicles, but with generally light traffic, no problems with travel.  I sure enjoy two lane highways these days.   And they are all in excellent condition, well maintained for all the agricultural traffic in this part of the country.

And how else are you going to find the center of the country?


And the home of the black squirrel?


Finally, in late afternoon, after crossing into Missouri, I finally tired of two lane travel, hit the Interstate north to Des Moines and a Holiday Inn, and planned a direct stint to Illinois to end this part  of the journey.  Again, stay tuned for Illinois adventures.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Road Trip Pt. 1--Taking Off

With a new car and a 5 year gap since visiting my home town, I decided a road trip was in order.  I planned to travel 2-lane highways (actually less stressful than Interstates these days), explore a couple National Parks, and in general, take my time. 

I left on a Sunday to avoid traffic, which gave me plenty of time to explore some parts of Dinosaur National Park that I'd never seen.  Here's a couple shots, including a view into Echo Park, where the Green and Yampa Rivers converge.



I'd seen the fossil quarry on previous trips, also camped at Echo Park once, but had never driven the road to the overviews.

Then it was onward to Steamboat Springs, a favorite ski town I've enjoyed many times over the years.  Of course, it's gotten developed all to hell like most ski destinations, but it still has its charm.  Also, Steamboat hosts maybe my favorite Mexican restaurant...  unique and well prepared Mexican delicacies.



Note my Steamboat Springs classic sports car races t-shirt (from the 90's).  No one in town noticed either...  Condos killed the classics...

The next morning found me back on US 40, a quite, wonderful ride over Rabbit Ears Pass and into some beautiful ranch country.  Hitting Granby, I took US 34 into Rocky Mt. National Park.  But there was a delay...  for an elk crossing!



As the road climbed to the summit, I crossed the continental divide.


Eventually I reached the summit of the park, where a long, steep path led to an overlook.  I was proud of myself able to make the climb up to the top at 12000 feet in one haul.  Still in some sort of good shape at my age.  A few pics from this site.




Coming out of the park, I followed US 34 down a long, steep canyon formed by the Big Thompson river.  The drive was slow and tedious, with a fair amount of traffic, which limited my scenic appreciation, until I finally reached Loveland.  Then it was into Eastern Colorado...  flat, hot, dry, stinky (lots of giant feedlots), until I got to McCook Nebraska.  I wanted to drop down to US 36 into Northern Kansas, but the little towns did not seem to offer much in the way of lodging.  In McCook, a reasonably sized cow town, I found an amazing, new, modern Holiday Inn Express.  This was one of the most beautifully appointed hotels I've ever stayed in (mine wasn't the only opinion about the design), quite the surprise in such a modest sized location.

Next up, Kansas....  stay tuned...