Mackinac Bridge: 222 Miles

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No road sign can bring a smile to my face quite like that one. It shows up as you head north out of Flint on I-75, which isn’t an especially exciting drive but I love it.  Watching as the urban blight of southern Michigan gives way to rolling hills and then to the wooded paradise above the 45th parallel.  I ended up taking the interstate all the way instead of US 23 like I’d planned.  I had a boat to catch & things to do, plus after two and a half weeks on the road from Arizona I really didn’t feel like another meandering trip. Even a short one.

There’s a little bit of ice still hanging around on Lake Huron.  Not so much on the open lake, but enough of it is still clinging to the harbor that the boat actually struggled to shove it out of the way & get out into the open water.  All the years I’ve been coming here I’ve never had that happen.  At lease the boats are running, so it’s better than last year.

Anyway I made it to Mackinac Island in one piece, and thus ends the journey I started nearly a month ago in Sedona.

This Week In Awkwardness

As I moved into central Arkansas the land got progessively flatter & wetter as the mountains gave way to the Mississippi River Valley. Also I started seeing armadillos everywhere – dead on the side of the road.

At one point I spotted a dead skunk hanging on a tree branch. I’d be really interested to know how that happened.

I encountered about a hundred kids on a field trip at one of the attractions I visited and I think one of those little brats made me sick.

I made it back to Michigan but I don’t have a wifi connection here, so while there are a few posts still coming, it may take me a while to get them up.


Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Village Creek State Park, Wynne, Arkansas

Parkin Archaeological State Park, Parkin, Arkansas

Memphis, Tennessee

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

The Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee

Hampson Archaeological State Park, Hampson, Missouri

Kennett, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

Old Courthouse, St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri

Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri

Fort Wayne, Indiana


Added to the Travel Map:

The Great River Road, United States – not really all one road, more like a series of routes paralleling the Mississippi River all the way from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

This Week in Awkwardness

I spent most of the week in various parts of Arkansas.  I’d heard of the Ozarks and wanted to see them, but I had no idea how beautiful this entire state really was.  It’s so stunning I don’t even know how I’m going to cram it into blog posts.

They seem to have three major obsessions here: Walmart, Bill Clinton, and antiques.

I figured out that I’ve spent a grand total of $26.50 on activities on this whole trip so far.

I got a cabin for a couple days and accidentally left the heater on while I was gone for a few hours.  When I got back it was nice & toasty, and there were hornets quite literally coming out of the woodwork.  I got a different cabin and spent the rest of the evening freaking out at everything.

In the second cabin I was joined by some new friends for breakfast on a couple mornings:

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Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Rogers, Arkansas

Bentonville, Arkansas

Walmart Museum, Bentonville, Arkansas

Alma, Arkansas

Keo, Arkansas

North Little Rock, Arkansas

Maumelle, Arkansas

This Week In Awkwardness

I left Arizona and have now made it across New Mexico and half of the Texas panhandle.  I-40 parallels Route 66 through this area so even though I’m not on that road I’m passing through the same towns, most of which still embrace their Mother Road history with many hotels and quirky tourist traps from that era, and of course plenty of memorabilia.

I feel like the land is getting progressively flatter and emptier as I go.  Still looking forward to trees.

I woke up at 5:30 one morning to a nearly complete lunar eclipse that I had totally forgotten about.

I’m always surprised by how many abandoned buildings there are on the plains.  Maybe it’s just because they’re out there in the open, not hidden by plant growth, but they seem to be everywhere.  Trespassing has never been something that bothered me much, but these places always feel so exposed I can never bring myself to explore them.  I get questioned by the police often enough as it is.


Book Finished:

The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan

This was a fascinating look into the sudden rise of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the everyday lives of its residents.  The town grew up around the nuclear enrichment factories that were part of the Manhattan Project, an organization so secretive that most of the workers had no idea what they were actually working on.  Many of them were women out on their own for the very first time.  The stories were a little heavy on the women noticing how many single men there were around them, but I guess if that was what was going on, that was what was going on.  Amongst the experiences of the female employees and their feelings about the work they were doing, Kiernan does a good job of explaining the history and science behind the rise of the Manhattan Project and its role in World War II.

Favorite Quote:

“And if you got your M voltage up and your G voltage up, then Product would hit the birdcage in the E box at the top of the unit and if that happened, you’d get the Q and R you wanted.  It was that simple.” – they seriously had NO IDEA what they were working on.


Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Journey: Amtrak’s Southwest Chief

Chicago to Flagstaff, 1,782 Miles


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So I’m in Arizona for the winter, and instead of spending 3 super crappy days or 5-6 somewhat less crappy days in a car, spending hundreds of dollars on gas, lodging, and food, I decided to let Amtrak do the heavy lifting.  For $154 I got to spend two days lounging around reading & watching the world go by while still managing to end up on the other side of the country.  Flying would have been shorter, but almost certainly more expensive (I have better things to do than check prices on 47 different airlines) and a bigger pain in the neck.  I boarded the train with absolutely no hassle.  I didn’t have to show up two hours early, or spend any time at all standing in line to have a stranger pat me down & look at my skivvies through some weird Star Trek machine.  I brought a large backpack, 44-pound duffel bag, purse, blanket, pillow, snacks, outside water, AND nail clippers on board, nobody batted an eye. Try getting all that on a plane.

Along the way I got to see not only my origin & destination, but everything in between.  I wasn’t hurtling along 30,000 feet above it, I got to be a part of it, all the wild animals, little towns, big cities, and beautiful landscapes across nearly 1,800 miles, with no effort involved.  And seriously low-stress travel: wide comfy seats, footrests, legroom, no screeching babies, and there was a whole lounge car to go hang out in if I got tired of my little nest.  My fellow travelers were pretty mellow too, the only time I heard anyone get even a little upset was some guy who didn’t like his upper level seat because he struggled with stairs; the conductor put the smack down on him pretty fast, he’d bought the wrong kind of ticket, and there was no fixing it now.  I never saw anyone being rude to other passengers or staff.  Even the cell-phone chatters were quiet and respectful of the people around them.

The only problem I had was with my second seatmate.  The first one was pretty close to perfect, he sat quietly and we ignored each other for five hours until he got off in Missouri.  The second lady, she wanted to talk.  She gave up on me pretty fast, because I went mm-hm and stuck my earbuds in, but I saw her chatting up other people through the whole trip.  Not one time did I see her sitting alone reading or whatever.  I don’t think she even slept, she was like some kind of chatty vampire, feeding on other people’s exhaustion.  Speaking of sleep, it was surprisingly easy to come by.  We spent the night crossing the plains so there was nothing to look at anyway, the seat leaned back pretty well, with enough space that I wasn’t in the lap of the person behind me, I had my blanket, pillow, and eye mask. I took a drowsy motion sickness pill to help a bit (I didn’t need them for nausea and I need those for small roller coasters) and just passed right out.

Yeah it took forever, but this was a great trip.  I re-read one of my favorite books (Tricky Business, by Dave Barry), saw lots of interesting, beautiful things, and finally got to cross the Southwest Chief off my bucket list.  So many people just want to get where they’re going, they miss a lot.  The difference between planes & trains is the difference between tourists & travelers.  Do you want a journey – an experience?  Or merely a destination?

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