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November 16, 2003

Some Details

We've been running ahead of schedule on our journey to Palm Springs, so this evening I have more time to fill in some more details:

When we got into Pennsylvania the powerful winds were blowing something into the headlights that I told myself repeatedly was sand or dirt, but I finally had to accept that it was snow. Fortunately there was no accumulation to speak of. Still, we decided to be cautious and call it a night in Scranton at about 8:30 PM. Even though we were out on the edge of town in a relatively new commercial development area we found Chick's Diner just a block from the motel. This gave all appearances of a real diner (the decor, the menu, the waitresses) and it possessed a fine selection of music in the jukebox that had the traditional interface units right in each booth. The entire restaurant was a smoking section.

Friday morning it was still windy and icy cold, but the sky was clearing and we could at least enjoy the beautiful Pennsylvania vistas as we wound through the hills down to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Turnpike, OTOH, was a generally unpleasant experience...narrow, lots of construction, and confusing signage. One they really liked to use was "New Traffic Patterns Ahead." To me, a new traffic pattern would mean something like we all switch to driving on the left, or we all go in reverse, or we all start cutting donuts. It turned out to be the same thing as a "Lane Shift" in other states. Once we got off the turnpike and onto I-70, driving became more comfortable. Also, the wind had stopped and the hills were mostly behind us, so we began to make better time. Our only complaint along I-70 in Pennsylvania was that the sign for one rest area promised "free coffee" and there was no such thing. There was only the usual vending machine coffee. The vending machines bore little stickers warning "Does Not Accept .50¢ Piece. Also They Jam The Machine." I haven't seen a half-cent piece in many days.

In Ohio, by way of contrast, they had responsibly blacked out the word "free" from the rest area sign. There we found a little trailer inside which were the Methodist Church Ladies selling coffee and snacks at no fixed price, but requesting donations. The coffee was totally acceptable, tasting like standard Methodist Church Lady coffee. I wonder what system Ohio has set up so that all religious and charitable groups that want can have a crack at selling food at internet interstate rest stops.

Early on in the trip we discovered that the right hand mirror was not tight and would eventually drift out to an unusable position. Fortunately, David rescued me. For the first day or so he would reach out into the wind and adjust the mirror, but on Friday he opened it up and discovered it had Torx screws. Normally, that would make it repairable only by a mechanic...or a tool freak! You who know David already know that he had brought along his set of Torx bits (along with LOTS more) so he was able to really tighten down that mirror.

We sailed into and out of Columbus, Ohio, at rush hour. What wonderful freeways and signage they have there! Zero problems. We just flew. Didn't run into any heavy traffic until we got to the belt highway on the west side of town. For dinner we made our first-ever visit to a Waffle House. The cook was absolutely impressive, but their famous hash browns were a bit disappointing to me. I had them with jalapenos, David had them with chili.

We kept flying at a really good pace, so we picked the east side of Indianapolis as our goal for the day. I didn't think I wanted to drive through downtown interchanges while I was tired. Unfortunately, some damn giant marching band meet was going on, so every hotel in Indianapolis was filled with pimply kids. We shuttled on to Plainville, about 10 miles west of Indianapolis before we found a motel with space. The young woman at the desk there gave us a good deal on the room and apologized that she was in low spirits because she had headache and nausea and felt like she was about to vomit! TMI!

As we were in the Indy area we passed two lighted informational signs on the interstate saying something like "HWY 70 WB AT 7 MM ALL LANES CLOSED" Now, to me "WB" means Warner Brothers, and "7 MM" was meaningless. Finally, with help from hotel staff we deciphered the message as "Hwy 70 WestBound at mile marker 7" They could have abbreviated it as "I-70 W at Mile 7" That's my 16 characters vs their 17, and clearer.

Saturday was overcast with some drizzle most of the day. Across Illinois and Missouri we began to encounter self service gas stations where you did NOT pay at the pump...and also some nice collections of inbred gas station owner families.

BTW, gas mileage has been a stunning 8.something, although we did manage to break 9 on our last last leg into Oklahoma which also, by the way, has amazingly cheap gas. About $1.25 at Quik Trip.

St. Louis had THE WORST highways down in the city. Amazingly narrow, twisty things with sudden changes and sudden signage. Missouri border to border has BY FAR the worst highway surface and ugliest "scenery." I-44 is just a mess of patches everywhere. There are no need for rumble strips in the breakdown lanes in Missouri because the entire surface of those lanes is so potholed and uneven a rumble strip would be as unnecessary as a glass of water on Noah's Ark.

A trip across Missouri will make you wonder if Lady Bird Johnson ever really existed. It's nearly solid with billboards...and not modest or interesting billboards, but giant, glaring, huge, stacked billboards advertising Meramec Caverns, walnut bowls, Branson, and a hundred other cheap, ugly tourist traps. Crossing the border into Oklahoma was like waking from a nightmare.

The Will Rogers Turnpike to Tulsa is a beautiful stretch of highway. excellent surface, only a few modest, low billboards, and absolutely stunning welcome centers with helpful, friendly staff. We thought about trying to make camp at the welcome center, but pushed on.

We stayed in Tulsa at the very lovely home of our GNI cabinmate David H. We went out for some Chinese and then took a drive around town to see a few of the sights. David tells us that Tulsa has more art deco architecture than any other city in the US except for Miami and NYC.

Sunday morning was very foggy, but the driving wasn't too bad. The foggy vistas would have made excellent photography, if we'd been doing that. When the sun finally cut through the fog the world took on a Kodachrome glow as Oklahoma's trees still have a lot of color. The temps were up in the 60s and it felt wonderful! We stopped in Oklahoma City to hook up with Michael P. from DC at a Denny's. He's here visiting his ill mother. We went out for a little Home Depot and Walmart shopping and bid him adieu!

| permalink | November 16, 2003 at 04:25 PM


"nice collections of inbred gas station owner families."
The only explanation I can come up with is that after eating all the Moon Pies the only thing left to do is sniff gas fumes. Then things start to get really weird. Having no personal experience with gas sniffing it's only a theory though.
Or maybe they're just immigrants from Kentucky, kind of like the Grapes of Wrath- "Wherever there's a minimum wage job- I'll be there. Wherever there's a trailer court- I'll be there. Whenever my sister runs slower than me- I'll be there."
Or maybe not.

Posted by: Dale at Nov 17, 2003 12:30:38 AM

Excellent point, Mr. Bill. In a future post we will explain how to do the upgrade. I didn't think you drank coffee!

Posted by: Ron's Log at Nov 16, 2003 6:37:39 PM

in your 4th paragraph, you mention getting coffee at internet rest stops, , do i need to upgrade my computer to get these?
glad you guys are doing well on your trip west.

Posted by: bill at Nov 16, 2003 5:50:59 PM

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