Our journey concludes…
Sunday, July 8, 2012: Day 7
Decided to take a day off from traveling and remain in Sedona. Hey, even God rested on the seventh day. Ate cold, leftover Korean food from night before for breakfast without benefit of cutlery. Drove into town in search of hiking trails. Soon realized that temperature was over 100 degrees. Skipped hike in favor of lunch at The Coffee Pot, which is named for a rock formation in the area.
Headed back toward motel, but then decided to turn onto Airport Road. Drove up winding, mountain route to scenic overlook. View spectacular. Drove down to lower overlook. Decided to climb to top of rock formation. Discovered that, wet or dry, 100 degrees is hot! Made it to top and took in incredible view of mountains and canyon. Had to fight urge to thrust fists in the air and yell “Draaaaagooooo!” ala Rocky Balboa. Narrowly averted death on several occasions during climb down.
Returned to motel for rest. Crossed street and found hidden trail behind guard rail. Trail led down canyon to creek at bottom. Gorgeous view of creek and rock formations. Realized that stories about “thin air” at high elevations are true. Arrived, panting, back at road. Decided to find a place to swim. Drove to jump off point of hiking trail which promised swimming at end. Walked approximately fifty feet before noticing tiny moving dots in the distance. Realized that dots were swimmers at end of trail. Made a U-turn and went back to car.
Drove to local public pool. Pool closed. Ate dinner at Red Planet Diner. Paid $33 for fish and chips and meatloaf, along with unsolicited sight-seeing “secrets” from waiter. Decided that, given the prices, food must be scare in Sedona. Drove around looking for good place to view sunset. Nearly missed sunset in the process. Ended up back at overlook on Airport Road. Vistas at sunset awesome. Drove back to town. Parked and walked toward market to buy ice (that’s right, our motel didn’t have an ice machine. Some other “ameneties” not included in $130 rate: TV, internet, vending machines, water pressure, breakfast, decent A/C, and cell phone reception). Accosted by “Movie Museum” curator who really wanted us to visit his museum. Decided museum was lame and headed back to room. Traffic roundabouts confusing to Chuck, or so I gathered from the fact that he advised us to turn fifteen times on straight-shot drive to hotel.
Arrived back at room and settled in for mythical moonrise over mountain. Moon refused to make appearance. Went inside and consumed remainder of Smirnoff. Tomorrow we make our final push for California.
Miles traveled: 0
Mr. Candy Corn photos: at coffee pot restaurant, with tissue holder faces, in front of mountain vista, “drinking” Smirnoff, at top of mountain climb, with mountain overlook sign.
Monday, July 9, 2012: Day 8
Left hotel at 10:30am after fierce, life and death battle between myself and Pip. Finally forced him into carrier and headed back to I-40. Stopped at Arby’s in Flaggstaff for lunch, constantly fending off Squeaky’s attempts to leap from the car and through the drive through window. Ate in parking lot, then headed west. Approached Mohave desert (for some reason, this particular desert has two different spellings: Mohave in Arizona; Mojave in California) as temperature began to rise. Crossed into California (official motto: coast = awesome; inland area, well, not so much) at 2:00pm at town called Needles. Paid $4.89 per gallon to fill tank at seedy “last chance for gas” station. Discovered that town is called Needles due to need for daily heroin injections in order to tolerate living there. Decided that Needles is a hell-hole and should be flattened, burned, or both. Left town and headed into desert.
Twenty minutes later, temperature on external thermometer read 122 degrees. Shirt soaked with sweat, despite running A/C at full blast. Drove through miles and miles and miles of nothing. Began to wonder what would happen if car broke down. Imagined trying to hike to sevice station. Saw clear mental image of my skeleton lying in the dirt, picked clean by whatever spawn-of-satan wildlife lives in such an area. Temperature held at 120+.
Arrived at Barstow. Considered stopping for night until first look at town. Decided to continue on instead. Switched to I-25 and headed South. Temperature finally began to cool, if you can call 110 degrees “cool.” Stopped in San Bernadino for night. Checked into Motel 6 and went out in search of dinner. Programmed Chuck to find Hawaiian Barbeque restaraunt. In a decisive manner, Chuck directed us back onto the interstate, then ordered us to leave it at next exit. Discovered that next exit no longer exists.
Drove to following exit and left freeway. Began to cruise around aimlessly in a futile search for an open restaurant, dodging road construction cones along the way. Quickly became lost. Stopped at Jamaican restaurant. Decided it would be rude to interrupt cashier’s busy schedule of listening to IPod and left. Ended up at Red Lobster and spent $59 for dinner. Proceeded directly to liquor store and purchased bottle of Bicardi rum.
Began to drive in general direction of motel. Realized we did not remember which Motel 6 we were checked into. Finally located correct building by following one of Chuck’s patented least direct possible routes. Attempted to check email using motel’s “wireless” internet service. After fourth attempt at connecting, gave up and had a rum and coke. Tomorrow: San Diego!
Miles traveled: 430
Mr. Candy Corn photos: with Dena’s “cuffed” hands, in Needles, at Motel 6 California motel association sign, on my head, with Squeaky and me.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012: Day 9
Ate cold Red Lobster leftovers for breakfast. Left hotel at 11:45am and headed south. Temperature registered at 107 degrees. Traffic slow on I-25. Passed through Riverside as terrain gradually became more and more beautiful. Temperature began to drop; first to 99 degrees, then to 87. Ever present road construction made travel an adventure, but at last, we reached San Diego city limits. Pulled into Motel 6 parking lot on hotel circle as temperature outside registered 77 degrees.
Checked into motel. Discovered that “Comi-con” was in town. Paid $99 for a $59 room. Set out to explore area. Realized area was covered with traffic. Ate dinner at RK Sushi on Washington Street. Spent $55 for “basic necessities” (coke, ham, cheese, bread, mayo, rum, apples, vodka, oatmeal, mustard, beer, almond butter, and crack. Just kidding about that last one, or am I?) at Albertson’s grocery. Returned to room to rest and reflect on long trip; a trip that lasted 9 days and well over 2000 miles. One statement came immediately to mind to describe such an epic journey: Man, does my ass hurt!
Miles traveled: 105
Mr. Candy Corn photos: with “welcome to San Diego” sign in hotel, between palm trees.
After a few days in San Diego to recuperate from the incredible voyage, I’m left with a few final observations on our trip. For what it’s worth, here they are:
- Gas costs about the same everywhere, with the exception of stores located in places (on the edge of a desert, just before a mountain pass, etc.) where they know you have to buy it to make it to the next station. I bought a tank for $2.99/gallon in Alabama and one for $3.45/gallon in California, with the rest of the country somewhere in between.
- Motel 6 is a God send for pet owners. We stayed at several different chain locations, and for $60 per night we enjoyed clean rooms, decent beds, free coffee, and pet friendly rooms. Bless you, Tom Bodett.
- 2012 is the hottest year ever! Prior to arriving in San Diego, the only place where the high temperature wasn’t over 100 degrees was New Mexico. And that was only because rain had cooled things off just before we arrived.
- Every town thinks it has “the best” something in the world. Whether it is barbeque in Memphis, or enchiladas is Santa Fe, everyone wants to be #1 in a least one category.
- Although interstate travel may be boring, it is much more efficient than taking state or federal highways. We started out avoiding interstates, but by the third day, I would kill for interstate access.
- Some pets do not adjust to changes in routine. Not a single day went by that our cat, Pip, didn’t put up some sort of fight against being transferred from the car to a hotel room, or vice versa. People who say “oh, he’ll get used to it” are either eternal optimists, or idiots.
- Restaurant chains are a good thing. As much as we all like to support local establishments, there are times when the only places you can count on being 1. Open, and 2. Edible, are your Pizza Huts, your McDonalds, and your Arbys.
- The Southeast is humid. Really humid. While it was hot everywhere, the only place where I felt like I might pass out was Alabama. Make no mistake, dry heat can be dangerous, but at least you can breathe more easily.
- Driving is hard work. There were days when traveling 400 miles exhausted me more than working a ten hour shift ever did.
- In California, as well as New Mexico and Arizona, you can buy liquor in grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores; Even on Sundays.
- Cross country trips are awsome, and terrible. There are times when you wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. There are also times when you curse your car, your companions, the highway, whatever state you happen to be in, and life itself. Just like anything else, a road trip has its ups, downs, and diagonals. There will be times where things don’t go anything at all like you’ve planned. You just have to roll with it, or else go insane.
Some interesting statistics from our journey:
Cumulative miles traveled: 2,485, not counting wrong turns, detours, and national park side trips.
States visited: 10, counting Georgia, where our trip began, and California, where it ended.
Mr. Candy Corn photos taken: 111, excluding blurry or dull ones which were later deleted.
Restaurant meals consumed: 13, not including hotel continental breakfasts and cold, leftover meals from our cooler.
Liquor stores visited: 5, including a pharmacy in New Mexico and a grocery store in California.
Bottles of Coca-Cola consumed: Unknown (I lost count somewhere along the way, but it must have been in the hundreds).
Motel/hotel/inns patronized: 8, including five different Motel 6 locations.
Times gone to the restroom on the shoulder of the highway: 4; two for each of us.
Some bests and worsts from the trip
Favorite cities/towns visited: 1. Santa Fe, NM 2. Sedona, AR 3. Sallisaw, OK
Least favorite cities/towns visited: 1. Needles, CA 2. Amarillo, TX 3. Jasper, AL
Favorite restaurants visited: 1. Tia Sopphia’s in Santa Fe, NM 2. Health-R-Us in Helena, AR 3.Mago Café in Sedona, AZ
Favorite rest/gas/shopping stops: 1. Navajo trading post: New Mexico/Arizona border 2. Route 66 trading post: Tecumcari NM 3. Cherokee truck stop: somewhere in Oklahoma.
Least favorite rest/gas/shopping stops: 1. Convenience store: Needles, CA 2. Convenience store: Memphis, TN 3. Shopping mall: Oklahoma City, OK.
One final thought. Everyone should take a trip like this at least once in his or her life. There is so much to see out there, and so many memories. Like the three girls from Asheville, North Carolina that I photographed in Arizona, one of whom then took a photo of Dena and me in front of glorious red rocks; or the two women who pulled over in the middle of a storm in New Mexico and danced in the rain as we passed by. Like the hotel clerk in Oklahoma who may have been the friendliest person I’ve ever met; or the band members from Michigan who complimented our T-shirts (Rush for Dena, and Foo Fighters for me) in Alabama. Like the information booth employee in Sedona who confided to us that the “permit only” parking is unenforcable due to a lawsuit; or the liquor store employee in San Bernadino who took the time and talk to us about mixers for diabetics, and his wife’s struggle to resist sweets. It is amazing how many interesting people you will meet and how many unique places you will visit, some completely by accident.
So get out there if you have the means, or more importantly, even if you don’t. Take a chance if you take the notion. Someone will help you out along the way, or at least won’t flip you off for making a last minute turn, or lane change. Drive an extra fifty miles when you know you should have stopped at the last town. Experience the satisfaction of surviving a desert crossing, or a winding mountain road. Live for three days on the contents of a baggie, a 20 oz bottle, and a pringles can. And, most importantly, if you run into a Best Western employee in eastern Arkansas who gives you “can’t miss it” directions to a local seafood restaurant, tell her I said f**k you! Or at least neglect to return your room key. Thank you, and good night!
I hope those of you who hadn’t already read this account of our trip have enjoyed it. Now that you all know how we arrived here in San Diego, we can move on to all that has happened since we got here. There is much to tell. As always, thanks for reading. See you next time!