|Posted by arpithicus on June 26, 2009 at 2:17 PM||comments (66)|
We entered California road worn and tattered. The days of this phenomenal trip were all melding together into one large lump in our weary cerebellums. We were all in need of some much deserved rest and relaxation. Good thing, we were in the capital of R&R, the land of the 9:00 P.M. Dinners and absolutely no plans to speak of before 11:00 A.M. every morning in LA LA land.
The first night we were in California was excellent, we had a late dinner that consisted of some of the best Sushi I have ever eaten. We toasted the end of our road trip and the beginning of our California section of the vacation in style at a small restaurant in North Hollywood, called Burning Bonsai, that Tracy, our wonderful California tour guide, recommended.
With our Bellies full of raw fish and Japanese beer we departed from North Hollywood and Kat and I drove No More to the first Hotel that we would spend more than one night in since this journey started. We arrived at The Media Center at the Holiday Inn in Burbank, California. As we pulled up to this hotel we saw our new home for the next three days an immense 18 floor, two tower, hotel that stood among the other hotels in the area. We checked into the Holiday Inn and were given two free drinks courtesy of the Holiday Inn at the bar on site and cashed them in immediately. After our first drink, we were on our way to sleep and dream of our next day in the city of Angels.
Friday, started off slowly with a quick dip in the outdoor pool of our hotel immersed in the beautiful weather of California. After the pool we went to a leisurely lunch at a Brew Pub next door to the hotel called BJ?s Brew Pub and awaited the arrival of my cousin Sam to show us around Hollywood in true tourist fashion. After our meal we headed to the heart of Hollywood to see Grauman?s Chinese Theater, the walk of fame, and the Hollywood Sign. We walked through the city of Hollywood with the thousands of other tourists in the area and took inall that we could in the time that we had. Our next stop was dinner with my family that live in California.
Dinner was great and we were able to catch up with some family members that I have not seen in quite some time due to the thousands of miles that separate us on a daily basis. The conversation was good and the food a plenty while we hung out with some very nice puppies. After quite along night, we retired back to the hotel and awaited Saturday which was to be filled with some outdoor activities including hiking and a Cat House exhibit in the Mojave desert.
We woke up bright and early on Saturday Morning and met Benni and Tracey for a tour of the mythical California Forests. I thought this land of movie stars and 90210 folklore was just full of sand and Star Bucks, but we sure as shit arrivedat an amazing trail that seemed to appear out of nowhere in the hills of L.A. We hiked a rather rough trail up hills, through mountains, and over streams. The trail may have been hard and rather long but the pay off was remarkable. The trek ended at a waterfall, which confused the hell out of me because I was under the assumption that water was kind of scarce in California. We hoofed it back up the hills and back to the car in order to race back to the hotel and take a shower so we could be off to the Mojave Desert to see the exotic cats.
All clean and ready for a drive, we embarked on our mission to see large Cats at the Cat House breeding ground. Tracy had secured us tickets to a special twilight exhibit where the cats are more energetic and are given toys to play with while we watch them. When we arrived, the cats were on display and they were given toys or cardboard boxes, balls,grass flats, and cardboard tubes. These felines were awesome; they frolicked and pounced in their cages while we watched from a short distance. We saw Panthers, Jaguars, Lions, Tigers, and some very exotic cats that I have never seen before. The cat house was a great experience that like all the adventures on this vacation had to end so we left the desert and headed back towards the big city. But first, we had to make a stop at the best burger joint in the west, the old In and Out. This of course was fantastic and made Saturday a complete and enjoyable last day in California.
We got back to the Hotel somewhat early and packed our bags for the morrows early departure to the Airport to leave both California and this wonderful quest behind us. We boarded the plane and took off into the air with a sigh and nap. There were some complications on our connecting flight that included losing power on the run way shortly before take off, that took about an hour to solve before leaving St. Louis and arriving in New York. Our friend J picked us up from the Airport and we drove back to Jersey to complete the full circle of this trip.
During our expedition across the nation, we saw things that few eyes have had the privilege to look at. Our lungs were full of clean air from the untainted landscapes of the forgotten lands of the United States. We ate like kings, on food from the regions that we toured. After all of this, we entered back into Jersey and smelled the sweet stank of the arm pit of this country. We stopped at a Wendy?s for a few burgers and drove home. As we arrived at our small house in Glen Rock holding a bag full of Hamburgers and suitcases, we entered the apartment to find our cats waiting for us. We may have seen the great wonders that this country has to offer but Jersey has all I will ever need; my family, my friends, my bed, my pets, and my life. New Jersey may be seen as a crap hole from the outside but to me and mine it is our home and we were happy to be back in its confines.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 19, 2009 at 3:54 AM||comments (6)|
Day 8 and Day 9
For all of you who were reading this blog throughout the trip I want to extend a heart felt thank you from Kat and I. It was a great feeling while we were so far from home to read your comments and see how many people actually care about us to read about our adventure. Sorry for the delay in this post but Vegas likes to charge for everything and our hotel did not have free wireless internet so I did not post. The following post covers day 8 and day 9 and this will be the final post of the trip. You can check back in a few days for a summation of this wonderful vacation and new pictures but the next 3 days will be full of R&R in California.
Another day of the road trip and get this, another day on the road. The first 7 hours of our 8th day was spent driving through most of Utah, a sliver of Arizona, and finally Nevada. We arrived in Las Vegas and drove to the main strip where our hotel, Planet Hollywood is located. We stayed in the Hollywood Hip room and got a free bottle of wine with the room. I guess the recession and the fact that it is 90 degrees here makes Vegas an unpopular vacation spot in June because we got a tremendous deal on the hotel room.
The hotel was awesome and had actual movie memorabilia from the movie Mash on display. Even though we were crazy tired we decided that when in Vegas you must stay up and experience some of the Vegas nightlife. We took our free bottle of wine to the room and realized we did not have a bottle opener to access it. I went downstairs and asked three different people to open the bottle and I was told that I would have to buy a corkscrew from the gift shop by all of them. Being the resourceful people that we are, we took turns jamming the cork into the bottle with a pen until we got it to finally give way to the nectar of the wonderful grapes that were squished to make this wine for us. After drinking some wine we decided that we were hungry and left the hotel room to find dinner.
We found a small Mexican restaurant in the mall below our hotel and went in to feed our hungry tummies. We all ordered another drink and some food. I ordered the Champion Burrito, Kat ordered the grande burrito, and Benni ordered a fajita. I knew the burrito would be somewhat large being called the champion and all, but it was humongous. It was 35 ounces of Pork, cheese, rice, and beans and it defeated me fairly easily. After the food we determined that it was time to take in some tourist sights in Vegas.
While walking around the strip we took in the fountains at the Bellagio, the Siren show at Treasure Island, and walked through a few other casinos as well. Being that we had been to Vegas in the recent past we were not all to sad that we could not stay up to late and called it a pretty night. Before retiring to our room Kat won $50, Benni won $20, and I won $1.63. Hey, I know it is not a lot of money but anytime you leave Vegas with more you came in with you won a lot.
We woke up a little later than we wanted to just because we were so very tired from our travels and checked out of the room. On the last day of driving we were going to do to reach our destination we had no real stops in mind but California. We began to drive out of Vegas and drove approximately 50 miles before we saw what appeared to be a factory in the middle of the desert. This building was at exit 1, 1 mile from the California Border. As we got closer we realized that it was not a factory at all but a casino. Not only was it a Casino but it had a really cool roller coaster in the back yard. We all agreed that since the amusement park got rained out we had to ride this strange desert coaster. We pulled off the highway and hit up the coaster which went through the casino itself. The coaster was called the desperado and was amazing. It rivaled most of the coasters that I have experienced at actual amusement parks and was an extremely un anticipated stop on the final day of our journey.
After hitting up the coaster we made our way to the Hertz Rental Car Return area while battling the horrible traffic that is Los Angles Driving and retuned our mobile home for the last 9 days. It was a sad moment of the trip as Faith was a big part of the journey but it had to be done. We rented a new car which is a Hyundai Accent and is named No More. Get it…. Faith No More. HA. I love puns.
Again Thank you all for following us on this trip and we are looking forward to returning home and chilling with all of you.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 18, 2009 at 1:53 PM||comments (3)|
We survived our night at the seedy 3737 hotel and learned an important lesson about choosing hotels. That lesson was chain hotels are good and no name hotels are bad. The 3737 was under renovation and we booked through Travelocity so they gave us a room that was not yet renovated and looked it. We had no screens in our windows, no air conditioning and the shower did not work correctly but like all the other experiences during this trip it was all part of the adventure.
Our destination for today was Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a 19 mile stretch of dirt and paved roadway that climbs up a mountain to an altitude of 14,110 feet. This mountain road curved, swerved, wrapped, and climbed around and around this humongous mountain for all 19 miles of roadway. The objective was to reach the top of this peak and see an unobstructed view of the Rocky Mountains and the quiet mountain towns below.
For the first 12 miles or so everything was fine, I was driving at 15 to 25 miles per hour gasping at the scenery as I steered faith to the highest point all of us have ever been without being in a plane of some sort. To put it in perspective when we jumped out of a plane last year for Kat’s Birthday we jumped out at 10,000 feet and a plane’s average cruising altitude is 37,000 feet. At about the 13th mile the road became a little more rocky and steep, while it narrowed as well. The nice pavement and guardrails suddenly were nothing but a memory and the only thing stopping us from careening off this insane rock was Faith’s brakes and my foot. I am normally completely fine with any type of driving and heights for that matter but I suddenly felt extreme vertigo. Between the exhaustion of the trip, the lack of oxygen, and the large amount of Caffeine flowing through my veins, I began to get very nervous about driving on this precarious roadway.
If it was not for my competitive nature I would have pulled over at about mile 16 when I saw where I was going to have to navigate hair pin turns through construction with about 3 feet of dirt between Faith and 12,000 feet of free fall. We kept climbing until finally we reached the peak. The altitude did not agree with Kat or I at all but the views were so amazing that we pressed on. We took a few pictures that in no way, shape, or form could capture the endless beauty of the unhindered 360 degree view of Colorado that we saw at “America’s Mountain.” One of the highlights of the peak was being able to have a snow ball fight in the middle of June. The entire peak was full of great packing snow, the kind you wished for when you were a kid so you could build a snowman or a fort. Sure there is snow in Jersey, but not in June. I guess that is what happens though when it is 38 degrees in June. Meanwhile, back on earth it was a stifling 80 degrees.
After we hit the gift shop I relinquished the keys to Benni so he could navigate the path on the way down. He did brilliantly and coasted with no problems to the half way point of the mountain. They have a small booth at this point in which they force you to stop at for a mandatory break temperature check. The lady in the booth pointed her thermometer at his breaks and told us that our breaks were at 81 degrees, the sign read the break temperature should not reach over 300 degrees, and the nice lady complemented Benni on his excellent mountain driving. We headed the only way there was to go from there and that was straight back down the mountain another 9 miles of dangerous road and made it out alive.
Pike’s Peak was another religious experience on this trip. It seems that every day on this trip I am reminded of how beautiful nature can be. It seemed like we were on the top of the world. I can only imagine how amazing that feeling was back in the 1800’s when Lt. Pike first ascended to this peak and looked across the land that his direct ascendants would soon conquer and expand.
After leaving Pike’s Peak we only had two destinations in mind. The hotel which was about 7 hours of driving away in a small town named Green River, Utah and of course TACO BELL. For those of you that don’t know Kat and I have a tradition, every Tuesday we have Taco Bell, it is called Taco Bell Tuesday. Well we have been having our Taco’s every Tuesday for close to four years and we were not going to let a few thousand miles ruin this tradition. Benni had spotted a Taco Bell somewhat up the highway from Pike’s and Benni drove Faith directly to the parking lot. We enjoyed our Taco Bell in Colorado and kept our ritual alive while filling-up Faith and our bellies in one fell swoop.
With a stomach full of Taco’s we all jumped back into the ride and headed West yet again towards Green River, Utah, which happens to be the home of one of the World’s largest watermelon statues. I drove for the first 3 hours and once again I handed the keys over to Benni for the rest of the evening drive. As we drove through Colorado we cut right through the Rocky Mountains. And when I say we cut through them I mean it, we drove up, over, next to and even through them at times via tunnels to make our way to Utah. Interstate 70 showed us why the State of Colorado is nicknamed the Colorful state of Colorado.
Although the last few days seemed kind of boring to all of you reading this, I ensure you that I will never forget the fantastic sights I have seen while traveling through the forgotten states of the United States. Furthermore, even though we were driving through nothingness all day and night we were quite good at finding the weird roadside attraction or wonderful photo-op while hurling down the interstate at 80 MPH.
Next stop VEGAS, and technically according to the slogan I am not supposed to blog about what happens there but to hell with rules and regulations. So, tune in tomorrow for a special unauthorized blog about what happened in Vegas.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 16, 2009 at 4:43 AM||comments (1)|
I have to be honest Mount Rushmore was not on the top of my list of one of the attractions that I was very excited to see on this trip. I thought it was going to be pretty anticlimactic but I was completely wrong. Kat was extremely exited about this part of the trip and I should have followed her lead. The monument was remarkable to say the least. It was damn near jaw dropping. The faces themselves are 60 feet tall and carved out of solid granite. It took 100’s of workers 14 years to develop one man’s dream of a national monument that would last the test of time, far longer than any other man made structure in the great land. We not only checked out the monument itself but we also hiked the presidential train around the beautiful state park and took in a video about it’s creation which was very informative. All in all we were all extremely elated about visiting this national landmark.
After snapping at least 100 pictures between the two cameras we were off on the arduous journey of exiting the state of South Dakota, driving through the state of Wyoming from top to bottom and then getting to Denver to spend the night. Again, I was not looking forward to the 7 and ½ hour drive that we had in front of us but once more I was surprised on this 6th day of our fantastic trip across this country. After several days of flat farmland and nothing to look at but corn, cows, and interstate Wyoming was a magnificent welcomed surprise. Towards the end of South Dakota the landscape suddenly changed from farmlands to what the state referred to as Bad Lands. I disagree with South Dakota on this one completely; this area offered such marvelous landscapes to digest while I guided faith westward. Just before leaving the state of South Dakota for the last time on our trip we stopped at the minuscule town of Edgemont. Shortly after the beginning of today’s expedition we became conscious that we were no longer on the normal tourist path and gas stations and rest stops were becoming more and more sparse so we pulled into a gas station and filled up. Across the street from the gas station we filled up at was a small general store that had a bathroom that we could use before we jumped back on the road. We hit the general store up and stocked up on drinks and beef jerky before piling back into our trusty rig.
While we were preparing to get back on the road a local approached us and started a conversation. I affectionately named this man Dakota and he looked like you would expect a resident of South Dakota would look like. Dakota talked to us for a little bit and we found out that he was originally from South Jersey and has lived all over the country in his long life time. It kind of upset me to think that my jaded Jersey attitude led me to believe that he was either going to ask for something or rob us when he approached but instead Dakota bullshitted with us for a little bit and offered us a map of South Dakota as a souvenir. It just goes to show you that not all people are bad just most of us from Jersey are. Following our conversation with Dakota, we were on our way. About 10 miles down to road we approached the State Line of South Dakota and Wyoming, which was designated as such by a small street named State Line St. and a tin sign welcoming us to Wyoming. As we came up to this small road side town we noticed small holes peppered throughout it. I instantly recognized these holes as bullet holes and we realized we were deep in the heart of Cowboy country. A little anxious about the next 330 miles or so we pushed on with reckless abandon.
As stated earlier although Wyoming had absolutely no attractions to be seen, it’s natural beauty and constant heavy doses of caffeine kept me driving for about 6 hours. The scenery was insanely diverse, from farmland, to step hills, to mountains, to rolling green hills, and back to farmland. I was amazed that one stated could house such breath taking landscapes. We spontaneously took pictures throughout the trip and loved every minute of driving through this country side. As we were taking pictures we knew that there was no way to capture the breath taking scenery that we were seeing with our minds eye first hand but we had to try. This leg of the trip may not have had as many road side attractions as the others but Wyoming solidified the justification for this trip in my mind, this country is so much more than Walmarts, McDonalds, Malls, and Bars. This state has burned so many images in my memory that I would never have seen if it was not for this trip. The moral of this blog is that Road Trippin’ is worth the price of admission.
We exited the state of Wyoming and entered the “Colorful State of Colorado.” Our final destination was Denver for the night but as driving through Colorado we saw a billboard for Cracker Barrel about 18 miles out of the city so we decided to stop and chow down on some yummy breakfast foods at 10 P.M. Unfortunately, Cracker Barrel was all sorts of closed so we settled for a Perkins which is pretty much a Dennys for you south Jersey readers or a Friendlys for all of you North Jersey follows. We got back on the road and headed South to Downtown Denver to the 3737 hotel to check in and try to get a Coors on draft in Colorado before we head back to the room for a well deserved night of sleep.
When we arrived at hotel 3737 we learned an important lesson. You get what you pay for, this hotel is in no way in Downtown Denver and it was absolutely not the best hotel we stayed at. It is all part of the adventure though, so we found a bar called Harvey Thunderbird Lounge which was a wonderful little dive bar where we had a Coors light and shot some pool before going to back to the hotel room.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 15, 2009 at 3:06 AM||comments (2)|
Day 5: South Dakota
Why did South Dakota build Mount Rushmore at the Western Most tip of the state you may ask? The answer is only found when you drive to it from the east. The answer is because there would be absolutely no other freaking reason to drive through this elongated state of cows, buffalo, and gas station casinos. That is unless you are privy to the information that is uploaded to Roadside America on a daily basis. In order to make the 6 hour drive through a state that has no other widely known attraction than 4 heads carved in a mountain, we found 4 attractions along the way to be able to break up the mundane drive ahead of us.
These stops were strategically placed so we could refuel, use the restrooms, and stretch our legs a wee bit. After about 2 hours of driving we arrived at our first stop, which was a tiny church the small town of Laverne, Minnesota. I know, I know I said that we were driving across South Dakota but we entered Minnesota for 10 miles to see this attraction, partly because it was an appropriate thing do on a Sunday morning and partly because we wanted to squeeze another state into our trip. The church was an actual church that had a rock carving that informed us to stop, rest, and worship. We entered the 6 person church and took some photos and signed the guest book, which appeared to be quite full. We stretched our legs a little and stopped at the rest stop that was a small distance up the road before continuing on our journey to the hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Benni and I got a break driving because had finally mustered up the courage to take faith for a spin on the open road. Although, Kat did not like the girth of ol’ Faith she drove her well and took us all the way to our next destination of the Mitchell, South Dakota. While driving there were not many sites to be seen besides cows, grass, and peculiar signs that spoke of all the tourist traps in the area. The sign that was most evident was ones for a place called Wall Drug, but I will discuss that further because that was one of our stops. The next stop which also had quite a lot of signs was the World’s Only Corn Palace. I was confused by this too, but after looking at numerous pictures on line and realizing that in 2 hours from the church my bladder either going to explode or Faith was going to have a wet spot and I was going to be driving for the rest of the trip if you know what I mean. Either way, we agreed to check out this strange South Dakota Land Mark that boasts that 600000 ears of to decorate this tribute to corn and is redone each year.
We pulled off to the highway not knowing what to expect and were soon blown away by how massive this corn palace actually was. Kat parked faith and we left the car excited to check out this Corny piece of Art. It was Amaizing, get it, that is a pun, Aww. Shucks guys I sorry. Another pun. HA. Alright I will stop now, we had a lot more during this trip. Unfortunately, there were no –last one- Cornographic Art made out of corn ears. Sorry, I could not help myself. In any event we entered the Corn Palace, checked out all the art work and ate some lunch from the Cornsession stand. That one was theirs not mine, so don’t yell at me about the puns. After lunch we hit up the restrooms one more time and left the corn palace in our rear view mirror, and headed to Al’s Oasis which houses a giant buffalo.
I drove Faith from the Corn Palace to Al’s Oasis in Oacoma, South Dakota. This driving trip took a lot out of me due to the lack of sleep and the constant driving and I was done driving for the day after we arrived. This was a quick stop to use the bathroom and snap a few shots of the giant buffalo. We completed both of these tasks and jumped back on the road and headed to Wall South Dakota.
As mentioned earlier we saw a lot signs for this 76000 square foot mall of wonderment. When I say a lot I mean a ridiculous amount of hand painted road side signs scattered throughout Route 90, which is the road we were on all day. We decided to pass the time throughout the day by writing down and documenting every sign we for Wall Drug that we passed on our journey from the east side to the west side of South Dakota. The total number of signs that we saw on the way to this glorified dirt mall was 101. Although that number may be a little lower than the actual number because within the last 2 miles there were about 20 or so signs that Benni and I screamed out as fast as we could and Kat tried to write them down but she was unable to keep up with our micro machine man esque mumblings. We arrived at the Wall Drugstore which was at exit 110 on I-90. Like we all thought it was a over hyped strip mall. But hell, I am a recovering mall rat so it was like heaven in the middle of South Dakota. If I lived in this town I would spend all my free time bumming around this wonderful dirt mall.
While at the Wall Drug Store we drank the famous free ice water that all the signs were telling us about and had a cup of 5 cent coffee with a homemade donut. All of you who just made a cop and donut joke can eat it because those yummy pieces of fried dough were great. Some of the random attractions that we took in while visiting the bizarre South Dakota land mark were a mechanical T-Rex that roared, a giant saddled jackalope, a miniature Mount Rushmore, assorted wooden men, and old western art. We bought a few souvenirs and got into Faith to go see the last attraction that was located in the picnic area back were we exited the highway. Just before we left to go see the humongous 80 foot dinosaur we noticed a lightning storm in the distance that was unlike any storm I have ever seen in Jersey. Due to the flat landscape we watched and tried to photograph a constant stream of lightning bolts that seemed to illuminate the sky for miles. We quickly took in the giant dinosaur and loaded into Faith before the approaching storm could soak us to the bone.
We entered the car yet again and embarked on the highway on our way to Deadwood, SD, the location of Cadillac Jacks Casino and our hotel for the evening. While driving we ran right through this awe inspiring storm that lit the entire sky up like a freaking Christmas tree. The rain came shortly after we started driving and mother nature showed us why this country is so amazing with a natural light show that engulfed us completely. As quick as it hit us it was gone and the clouds cleared and left us wondering what the hell just happened. One of the strangest parts of this storm was the fact that there was no thunder just millions of bolts of lightning dancing in the clouds for all to see. It was almost as if nature was showing us Yankees what we are missing living in the shadow of the bright lights of NYC. It also helped that it seemed like we were the only car on the interstate and the show was just for us.
The storm was visible for at least 30 miles on the interstate behind us and it kept on flashing the entire time. As we exited the interstate we saw more lightning in the distance but it seemed like it was about 30 or 40 miles away still so we were in the clear on the storm front.
We pictured Deadwood to be a mini Vegas with a small casino strip and neon lights all over. We were “dead” wrong about Deadwood. After traveling 10 miles around a windy, curvy, mountain road we did not see any lights at all from the “strip.” It turns out that deadwood is nothing more than a series of small hotels at the top of this mountain which happen to have casinos. Cadillac Jacks was no more than one of these hotels. As we entered we saw that there was a petite gaming floor and a restaurant. We ate some food and played some slot machines, where I won $22 and Kat and Benni lost $24 combined which means Cadillac Jack is up 2 bucks in the long run. Mount Rushmore is on the agenda for tomorrow and we are stoked. Check back as usual for more updates. I also want to give a shout out to all the people that are reading this blog and commenting as well. It makes the nights at the hotels a little better.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 14, 2009 at 1:27 AM||comments (3)|
Day 4: Iowa
The day started off a little rocky as we woke up late and missed the continental breakfast and only had about 45 Minutes to get packed, ready, and out of the room. Although we were a little bit rushed we were able to complete all the tasks that needed to be done and checked out of the room at exactly 12:00 P.M.
After checking out we explored the crazy castle themed hotel that we stayed at to rest our road weary bodies in during the night. The hotel came equipped with a coat of arms, gargoyles, and a freaking moat which was really cool. We snapped some photos and loaded into Faith and drove out to Riverside, Iowa which happens to be the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek.
Being that the fictional character will technically not be born until March 22, 2228 the town of Riverside is waiting for the arrival of this savior of worlds by celebrating his future life in style.
As we exited the highway we were greeted by a road side sign welcoming us to the Town of Riverside, IA stating this town is where the TREK begins. Although, our TREK started some time ago, the days journey was merely just beginning.
Upon entering the town of Riverside, IA we soon realized it was a tiny one horse town in the midst of corn fields with one very important claim to fame. With no real destination in mind we began to drive down the main road in this town. While Benni was driving I spotted something quite peculiar out of the corner of my eye. Without really realizing what I had just seen I instructed Benni to make a U-turn so I could get a better look at the Alien object in the parking lot we had just passed. When we got back to the Parking lot we noticed that it was actually a replica of a Shuttle Craft that was used in the Star Trek series. We immediately parked Faith and exited the vehicle with our cameras in hand. Apparently without realizing I had found the one and only Voyage Home, a Captain Kirk Museum and Gift Shop. We got our pictures of the Shuttle and went inside the museum which was full of Star Trek memorabilia and souvenirs. We explored the shop and checked out the exhibits while talking with the very informative shop owner. I bought some Kirk Dirt which combined with the Wrigley Diamond Dust that I purchases makes me a dirt collector I guess. We left the shop with a few gifts and information about our next stop, the exact location of James T. Kirk?s future birthplace.
We loaded back into faith and drove about two blocks to the end of the town, literally, and found a small sign with an arrow that mentioned the spot of the birthplace. We parked the car and walked towards the sign. We followed the sign which brought us behind a salon in the town and found ourselves face to face with what looked like a grave stone declaring the birth of Kirk. We photographed the monument and went back to road. We entered a small antique shop that ended up being really cool and had a very informative clerk behind the desk that talked our ears off about the trip.
Our next stop was a local watering hole called Murphy?s for lunch and then back on the road to battle the very elongated state of Iowa. Knowing that we would be driving for most of the day today we consulted a really awesome web site called Roadside America, ( www.RoadsideAmerica.com ) that has a directory of tourist traps that our not for normal tourists. They describe them as spots that our slightly off the beaten path. I had compiled about 20 or so of these locations during the car ride yesterday and had no idea if we would cross any where near them on our normal route. We came up with a rule which stated that if the spots were more than 10 miles off track we would not go to them.
Our actual destination was Omaha, Nebraska for a fresh steak and then South Dakota for our hotel. Out of over 100 sites listed on this website throughout the state of Iowa the ones we decided that were worth seeing were as follows:
Avoca: Giant Spider built out of a Volkswagen, Beetle
Adair: Smiley Face Water Tower
Britt: Hobo Museum
Cedar Rapids: 262 foot rope bridge
Correctionville: Fighter Planes in a park
Des Moines: Assorted Slipknot locations.
Dyersville: The baseball field from Field Of Dreams
Fairfield: Three Domes of Enlightenment
Ida Grove: A town of many castles
Iowa City: Wooden Nickle and Giant COW.
Marshalltown: Giant Tree House
New Virginia: Giant Viking
Oskaloosa: Mule Cemetery
Storm Lake: Land locked Light House
Stuart: Bank that Bonnie and Clyde robbed
Villisca: Axe Murderers House
As we started driving west we passed back through the town of Iowa City, which I refuse to call a city because it was like Ringwood more or less, we decided to hit the first of these strange attractions. The Giant Cow of Iowa City. We had some trouble finding the giant cow at first but then from around the bend of a small highway in suburban Iowa we saw her standing there looking all MOOtastic. We took a few photos of the old girl and jumped back into faith to find some other weird pieces of true Americana.
I took over the driving duty at this point in the day and drove us back to route 80 and started our journey through IOWA and onto Nebraska. While on the road the plan was to look at all the exits on route 80 and see if any of the towns that we had found roadside weirdness for were mentioned. Kat even created a Bingo board with all the towns listed on it so she could be entertained by this scavenger hunt of sorts. The next town we came across that was on our list was the capital of Des Moines, Iowa and the birthplace of Slipknot. We drove into the town with only a few pieces of information Slipknot played at a place called the Crow Bar under the name MELD, and their first show as Slipknot was at a place called Safari Club. We soon found out while searching the webernet that both of these places did not exist anymore and we were forced to visit the crappy Irish pub that took over the Safari Club, which was called Hairy Mary up until about three years ago. Some sad pictures were taken, because well even though the building was still there it was closed and no longer held any type of decent shows.
Back on the road and saddened by our trip to Des Moines Iowa, which showed us a really amazing capital building, a pick-up truck full of kids, two bums picking through the trash at a store called KUM and GO, but nothing relating to Slipknot at all. We pointed Faith west yet again and took to the road. The next attraction we came to was in the town of Stuart, which houses a bank that was robbed by the one and only Bonnie and Clyde. Which in some ultimate ironic turn is now a Police Station. For what it was worth it was very chill. The building was in a very small town and according to the website the Police Station houses three cops and the Chief Of Police. The building had a sign on it turning itself into the only monument to Bonnie and Clyde in Iowa. All in all I was quite excited to visit this building because I have a strange fascination with Bonnie and Clyde.
The next stop on our list of tourist traps was an easy one. We learned from the website of a huge water tower with a smiley face painted on it that can be seen from exit 76 on Route 80. As we drove to it though we began to see a few wind turbines that were collecting power from the wind. Soon the few wind turbines turned into an enormous field full of them. My only thought is that we actually drove past a freaking wind farm. It was not only amazing that there were at least 100 of them spread out over several fields but just how enormous these machines actually were. I was much more impressed by these green machines than the smiley face water tower which was in the vicinity. Don?t get me wrong it was different but I may never again see a wind farm as long as I live.
Finally, just as we thought we were not going to make any more stops we saw a sign for Avoca which was to house the Giant VW Beetle Spider. We thought about skipping it but determined that it may be a really cool piece of roadside art and punched the coordinates into the GPS and forged ahead. When we arrived at the site of this monstrosity we all knew we made the correct choice? No words can explain how cool this piece of art was so look for yourself.
Avoca was the last stop before we made our way to Omaha, Nebraska for a big juicy steak from the home of mouth watering dead animal. I mean, this town?s steaks are so damn good they ship them around the world in dry ice. It was everything that I expected and more. I ate the best 22 0z porter house steak that I have ever had while Kat and Benni dined on a New York Strip. We all drank some wine and filled our bellies with glorious glorious cow and then loaded back into Faith for the final leg of our drive today to South Dakota for a night on the Country Inn.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 13, 2009 at 3:02 AM||comments (4)|
Day 3 has come and gone and we are still alive so that is a bonus. I am glad to see so many of you are not only reading this blog but posting comments. We love reading them and hope there are many more to peruse through throughout our journey.
Today started out with a self guided tour on the CTA, which is the Chicago subway system. Apparently Wrigley Field has less parking than Yankees stadium, so we needed to find ourselves a park and ride and take the CTA to the game. We found a park and ride in Chicago at the Pulaski station about 20 miles from our hotel and started on our journey. When we arrived, parking was quite available and we noticed we were supposed to pay $4.00 to park but did not quite know where to pay. After parking we say a sign that said pay here. We all assumed that there was a nice fancy digital computerized pay machine that we could feed our money to. We soon realized we were not in the “friendly confines” of our east coast bubble anymore and we walked up to pay for our parking and we were confronted by what can only be described as a dilapidated metal board with small slots in it. We read the instructions on this abacus of pay machines, which informed us that we were to fold our dollar bills three times and slide them into the slot one at a time. It then told us to use our car key to clear the slot where we just forced our money through. After paying for parking we were off to the train to take us to Wrigley.
Luckily Benni is from the city and is mostly familiar with riding subways in New York, so with the help of my smart phone he was able to plot our course which got us to Wrigley Field without a hitch.
Once we arrived at the Wrigley Field stop on the train we could tell that this stadium is not just your ordinary ball park. It had a vibe to it that screamed mid-western as loud as George Wendt screamed DA BEARS.
Our first sight when we got off the train was the roof top seating that surrounded the entire ball park. These seats are not part of the stadium but the roof tops of the neighboring buildings that converted their roofs into bleacher seats to add additional seating to the small intimate ball park.
We entered the stadium and walked to our seats which were the last seats in the third to last section in the ballpark. (Section 505, Row 9) The seats were so small they made the seats at Shea feel like freaking Thrones, and there was a pole partially obstructing my view the home plate. But you know what none of this mattered, not even a little. I was sitting in Wrigley field and loving life watching a ball game with my girl. The game was great although the Cubs lost, but then again that is what the Cubs do isn’t it.
Wrigley Field itself was amazing. A true old school ball park, the Ivy covered walls with no advertisements any where in sight, just green leafy goodness. The scoreboard was hand done by a guy inside the scoreboard recording each hit, run, or error with a pick wooden numeral. Not to mention, the food we ate while watching this baseball game. We had footlong hotdogs with Chilli, Cheese, Hot Peppers, Sour Kraut, Ketchup, Tomatoes, Onions, and Pickles with a side of Chilli Cheese Fries. It was amazing.
It was like being transported back in time before the ridiculous contracts, the blatant commercialism, and the steroids damn near ruined the game that I love so very much. I will never forget Wrigley field, it was an experience that every baseball fan should have. I mean with the trend of baseball stadiums in the MLB you never know when this national landmark could disappear for ever.
When the game ended we hopped back on the CTA, and rode it back to the Park and Ride. We picked up Faith and began our 4 hour drive from Chicago to Iowa City, Iowa. Benni drove this stretch of the highway, so I got to take in some of the scenery. While driving we got to witness what I assume was a high speed chase and then a bail out into the corn fields, that closed the highway down for about 5 minutes which was exciting.
As we drove further through the bread basket of this country we thought to ourselves that the rest of this country is not too different then our little armpit back home. Kat, Benni, and I were discussing how New Jersey was so versatile that we have almost all types of landscapes and people that are throughout this country. We thought this before we crossed the Mississippi River. Our first experience in Iowa was us stopping on the side of the road to take a picture of the Welcome to Iowa sign, when a voice yelled at us in a drunken slur from the corn field next to the sign. Kat freaked out and Benni sped away from the mystery voice from the black darkness of the corn field.
After nearly being killed by the corn field serial killer known as Zeik, we went to the first rest stop to stretch a little. While in the rest area we were confronted by a man that I respectfully will refer to as Toothy Mcgee, due to his one tooth. At first, I thought he was going to ask for money or just mutter something unintelligible but Toothy was great and helped us use the new rest area information center. The jail house tattoos and very bad dental care aside Mr. Mcgee restored our faith in the people of Iowa and we were on our way to the Hotel Canterbury. Oh yea, by the way we are staying in a castle themed hotel. I will post some pictures of the hotel tomorrow. Good Night All.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 12, 2009 at 2:06 AM||comments (1)|
Day 2: Mother Nature thought that by throwing a little precipitation at us today she could cause our amusement on this trip to end. Well Cedar Point Amusement Park may have gotten rained out but a little bit of rain was not going to stop us from continuing to have a great time on our crazy road trip. We decided to abandon our Theme Park aspirations and move onto to Chicago. At first we were unaware of the itinerary or even the exact destination for the day ahead us, but we jumped back onto Rt. 80 and headed west. While driving we discussed what we all wanted to do with this somewhat lost day. We consulted Faith’s GPS system and it gave us a few ideas. The one we all decided on was Addler Planetarium. I called the venue to check for hours and I was informed that it was actually the oldest Planetarium in the United States and that there was no chance that we could make the 4 P.M. closing time. After another lost opportunity we turned to the GPS once again and searched through the database. During the search we noticed a fountain called Buckingham Fountain, which dredged up a memory of the opening sequence to Married With Children, which was supposed to take place in Illinois. After a little bit of research, we found out that this fountain and the one in Married With Children were one in the same. Due to the fact that all of us are T.V. junkies we decided that this would be our starting destination in Chicago. This time only one state stood in our way, Indiana.
Mother Nature thought that by throwing a little precipitation at us today she could cause our amusement on this trip to end. Well Cedar Point Amusement Park may have gotten rained out but a little bit of rain was not going to stop us from continuing to have a great time on our crazy road trip. We decided to abandon our Theme Park aspirations and move onto to Chicago. At first we were unaware of the itinerary or even the exact destination for the day ahead us, but we jumped back onto Rt. 80 and headed west.
While driving we discussed what we all wanted to do with this somewhat lost day. We consulted Faith’s GPS system and it gave us a few ideas. The one we all decided on was Addler Planetarium. I called the venue to check for hours and I was informed that it was actually the oldest Planetarium in the United States and that there was no chance that we could make the 4 P.M. closing time. After another lost opportunity we turned to the GPS once again and searched through the database. During the search we noticed a fountain called Buckingham Fountain, which dredged up a memory of the opening sequence to Married With Children, which was supposed to take place in Illinois. After a little bit of research, we found out that this fountain and the one in Married With Children were one in the same. Due to the fact that all of us are T.V. junkies we decided that this would be our starting destination in Chicago. This time only one state stood in our way, Indiana.
After nearly 5 hours of driving, we entered the city of Chicago. There was small bit of traffic but it was avoided with the help of the wonderful GPS system in Faith. Soon, we arrived in downtown Chicago and found our way to Grant Park, which by the way was a very large, almost Central Park like location. At first, we could not find the fountain but then from a distance we saw it, in all of it’s glory. And let me tell you, my 19 Inch Sharp did not do it Justice in the 90’s, this fountain is freaking huge. See for yourself.
While exploring Grant Park, where the fountain is located, we found some other pretty cool areas to look at. Not only did we get a pretty cool view of Lake Michigan, but we also found some awesome artwork in the middle of the park. There were 106 hollow metal torsos with legs all facing in random directions. There was no explanation for this artwork but as you can see it was amazing and strange all at the same time.
After rushing back to the car so it was not towed or booted due to our meter running out of time. (By the way we paid 25 cents for every 8 minutes of parking which wasted more quarters than one of those damn rigged crane machines at a crappy arcade.) We headed off to Dinner. Benni had been to Chicago before and had some truly amazing stuffed deep dish pizza at a place called Giordano’s and told us we had to have some of this delectable treat. While on our way, we passed through downtown Chicago and also back down 90’s sitcom folk lore. We passed the Chicago Tribune building that was filmed for the opening credits in Perfect Strangers.
We arrived at the restaurant and found out that there was an hour wait to be seated, but Benni informed us that we could order our pizza while we wait because it takes about 35 minutes to cook. While we waited for our famous Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, we decided to get a few drinks at the bar. I ordered a round and sat next to an individual that was from Indiana. We got to talking and since we were looking for a Live Band to check out I ventured to ask him if he knew any hot spots in the area. This mystery man from HickVille told me to check out Blue Chicago and hooked me up with the address as we sipped out local brew. From the loud speaker our names were called and after peering around the restaurant and seeing the amazing sight that was this pizza it was like a call from Jesus himself.
We ended up ordering a Medium, REMEMBER THE PHOTO YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE IS JUST A MEDIUM, with sausage, peppers, and fresh tomatoes. Trying to explain this Pizza with words would be like trying to describe the feeling of your first born being thrusted from the loins of the woman you love. In other words, it can’t be done. The best I can do is show you a picture and tell you that three slices filled me up to the brim.
To cap this magnificent Chicago adventure off, we took my bar friend’s suggestion and checked out Blue Chicago. At first, I was a little wary, there was a tiny little stage and about 10 people peppered throughout the bar. Mind you we entered at 8:45 P.M. and the band was set to perform at 9:00 P.M. Well were we in for a surprise, we got to witness the best blues I have every had the privilege to listen to in an authentic blues bar in freaking Chicago, Illinois. During the set we enjoyed some more Local Beer and absorbed as much of this experience as we could. Being that our hotel was about 30 minutes out of the city and we had a Cubs game to see in the early afternoon on Friday we left after the first set, reluctantly I might add.
I am now sitting in my Best Western Hotel Room in Naperville, ILL. writing this blog wondering if our cars name should be changed to Fate instead of Faith. Who knew a rain storm could cause so much authentic mid-west fun.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 11, 2009 at 12:47 AM||comments (1)|
After getting a late start as usual we drove to the Hertz dealership in Fair Lawn, NJ. By shady, I mean that this particular dealership happens to be sandwiched between an Exxon and a Dunkin Donuts. After making the reservation at this location Kat and I drove by this "certified" rental agency a few times and noticed that they had about three cars outside that appeared to be rentals and all of them were slightly more used than I would like. We began to get a feeling that there may be a problem this morning trying to take one of their three cars to California. Some of you may be thinking, if you had any doubts why would you book with them, well my name is Arp and they were $600 dollars cheaper than all the other dealers in the area.
Either way we rolled the dice and put our faith in the Shady Hertz in Fair Lawn, NJ and did they ever deliver. Not only was the price right but they rented us a PIMPTASTIC Ford Explorer, complete with leather seats, a navigation system, satellite radio, and all the storage we could possibly need for our trip. Due to the fact that we had faith in the seedy rental place and her straight up pimptitude we decided to name her Faith, after Faith Evans.
After picking up Faith and packing her with our suitcases we took off on our adventure. We flew through New Jersey without a hitch and entered Pennsylvania bright eyed and bushy tailed. The air was cleaner and I think I may have been breathing actual oxygen and we were all feeling great. As we left Jersey behind us in the rear view mirror we began the ominous task of crossing Pennsyltucky.
Now I am used to driving left, right, up, and down around Jersey but we ain't got nothing on Pennsylvania. Not only does Pennsylvania believe that Route 80 should be a two lane highway, it five lanes in the civilized county of Bergen, but they also decided to take one of those lanes away every 30 or 40 miles or so.
I drove Faith from 10:24 A.M. to 3:24 P.M. but I still could not conquer the very long state of Pennsylvania. I ended up admitting defeat after the slow lane, the only lane, became a parking lot. I pulled off route 80 and drove off the exit to the first parking lot I could find. Much to my surprise the place we pulled into was called SHEETZ. I am not lying about, this and I have a picture to prove it.
Upon departing from Sheetz with a Tasty Cake, Butterscotch Krimpet coffee in my hand and Benni behind the wheel we embarked on the second leg of the trip; destination Cleveland, Ohio.
The rest of the trip through Pennsylvania was pretty much more of the same, 75 MPH for 30 miles and then construction. Over and Over again. But then in the distance we saw a wonderful sight. Could it be, was it a mirage, an illusion, a case of Road Tripping, no it was real..... Welcome to OHIO....
After a few more hours of driving we arrived at our destination. The Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures in the museum but we did get a picture of the outside and the world?s largest rubber stamp. The museum itself was extremely cool. There were a lot of artifacts from the heroes or Rock and Roll. Jim Morrison's Cub Scout uniform, Jimi Hendrix's clothing, a slue of guitars, the insane outfits of P-Funk, and a ton of others. When we arrived we were also really surprised that there was a Pink Floyd Exhibit which was amazing. A replica of The Wall complete with stage props. The entire 5th and 6th floor was pretty useless to us unfortunately because it was all about Bruce. I mean seriously I was out of Jersey for all of 7 hours and there was Asbury Park in Ohio starring back at me. LAME!
After leaving the Hall of Fame we realized that we did not have any booze for the evening. So we used our trusty GPS and found some stores that could help us with this issue. We found a few and the good news is that we found some beer; the bad news is that we also found that Cleveland has a Ghetto. Now, Now, Now I know what you are saying come on it's Ohio how bad can it be. Oh no, that is what I thought. I have been to some ghettos in my day and the Cleveland Ghetto rivals all of them. There was a stretch of 2 or 3 blocks where none of the buildings had windows, there were churches that were closed, there were churches that sold chicken, there were cars with broken windows, and cops every where. It was insane.
Luckily we found our way out of this mess and to our salvation A Ruby Tuesday. With food in our bellies and sleep on our minds we made it to the Best Western and to this BLOG. Good night all and check back tomorrow for more information and Pictures.
|Posted by arpithicus on June 10, 2009 at 8:48 AM||comments (0)|
In true Arp fashion we are late as usual. We wanted to leave at 8:00 and as you can see by the time stamp, we did not. Oh well, it is Vacation right. And now to go pick up the car and be on our way. To OHIO..... I believe thier slogan is Hey at least your not in Delaware! And if you are reading this Gigi, Mr. Doom and Aunt Kitty Kat will bring you a surprise when we get back.
P.S. You can check out Benni's Blog for more information on the trip at: