Santa Fe express

April 29, 2009

When we last checked in, we were in Denver and starting to slowly get ready to head out.  Left a bunch of deer meat with my brother, emptied the last of the Third Base Brewing Hopnesia from the growler, packed up, and headed on down 25.

We went down to the bottom of Colorado and stopped at Trinidad Brewing Company on my brother’s lady’s insistence.  We ate, filled up the growler with the really amazing Wee Heavy Lassie (it’s illegal to serve more than 10 oz of it in CO) and dropped down into New Mexico to camp the night at Sugarite State Park.  We stopped at the front welcome center as the sun was setting behind the mountains. I started trying to figure out the payment rules while Courtney ran across the road to the bathroom.  A car pulled up at the bathrooms and a guy got out of it and started talking to Courtney…

(cue ominous music)


assorted notes

April 28, 2009

We went with my parents back to the Third Base brewpub, and I’ve discovered that my father does indeed turn up past eleven.  But you just can’t take your parents anywhere: “I’ll take that with the potato wedgeies” he tells the waitron and mom responds “I’ll give you a WEDGIE!”

We left on Saturday, drove to Mason City and hung out with Michael and Kelli all day.  Even made a nostalgic visit to Perkins, but the thrill is gone.  It was great talking to them, it seems to be a four way pick-up as if we were just hanging out the week before.  (On the way to Mason City, I decided that all fortune cookie fortunes should be read aloud and followed by the phrase “…AT MENARDS.”)

We left that night because the road was calling and I was up to drive.  We didn’t make it too far because it started to rain and that sucked and we can.  We stopped at a rest stop on 35, just inside the Iowa border.  The rest stop was also a welcome center built like a big red barn.  And a casino.

The next day we gassed up at Kum & Go and headed across the bottom of Minnesota into South Dakota to start playing the “Think! Why Die?” game. (random Think blog link) I know we created and played several variations when we would go to South Dakota during the summer when I was growing up.  The rules: When you spot a THINK! fatality marker you point and shout “THINK!”.  Who ever says it first gets the point.  If there’s 3 in a row, you get points for the 3, even if you just say it once.  The winner has the highest score when you leave the state.  If you call one that isn’t actually a THINK! sign, you’re a dork, don’t do that, you lose some points or get a spanking or a threat to pull the car over.   This time we had an upset: Courtney won, 40 to 39.  Besides being morbid, this game makes you even more aware of how fragile life is and how badly people drive.

We came across South Dakota, passed Assman Implement and about 300 pheasants in the ditches and fields, dropped down to North Platte, NE when we heard there was snow in Rapid City.   Camped, and then came across 80/76 to Denver yesterday.  Hung out with the brother and his girl, and Alissa dropped by (last time I saw her was 16 years ago when she left Iowa City).

Today we’re loafing just a bit and then heading more homeward.


Rolling With It

April 27, 2009

So we hang out at Roy’s folks’ place for a few days, fix the car (Advance was cool, exchanged the part with no questions, the new part and its performance is a later post), and hit the road. First stop was Mason City to visit Mike and Kelli (and Jack the Dog). Did you know they have a Wright house there? It’s moved to a new location, which seems pretty weird, since he was so particular about house placement. They also had a cool neighborhood with other prarie style houses. Want.

After Mason City, we started out towards the Badlands and the Black Hills. Rain. Rain. Rain. Wind. Trucks. Apparent tornadoes. Rain. Wind. The car, however, performed like a champ. (again, I’ll leave the crunchy details to Roy) We call ahead to Roy’s kin in the Black Hills, and are cheerfully informed that it’s been snowing for a day and a half, and the power is out. We were in the vicinity of the Missouri River and decide to take a detour down some 2 lane route south across South Dakota and most of Nebraska. (did you know Nebraska has this funky marshy area with sand hills and pelicans?)

Getting to North Platte took the rest of the day, so we stopped, had some local Mexican food, and settled down to camp at Lake Mahoney, because you can’t beat $7 a night. This morning, we took off bright and early from camp, and hit 80 west. After about an hour, and eating breakfast at a random truck stop (these rock so hard!) just over the Colorado line, we hit snow. Nothing major, it was the light, dry, tiny kind. So the pavement was dampish, it stuck to the grass, and we couldn’t see the mountains as we approached Denver, but that was about it.

So now, we’re in Denver, camped out in Roy’s little brother’s living room, drinking beer, and telling stories. Due to the snow, I think the 80 route is scrapped…so we’ll probably drop back down to New Mexico and take some variant of the southern route. Or not.


denver, co

April 27, 2009

in denver.


yesterday, tomorrow

April 24, 2009

Yesterday we went to the Pleasant Creek “lake” which is also emergency water in case the nuclear power plant melts down.  It’s about 10 miles from where I grew up and went to school.  We walked some trails, mostly because all we’ve been doing is sitting in the car, sitting in someone’s house visiting, sitting in a brewpub, or sitting somewhere there’s a wireless connection.

Then we went to experience the smells of Iowa City: The Soap Opera to get some scents and soaps, and The Tobacco Bowl to get tea, our fix for nostalgia, and split a Djarum clove cigarette so we could ask ourselves “how the heck we ever smoked 5+ of those a day?”

Tomorrow we’re heading out, going to meet up with friends in Mason City on our way to South Dakota.  Not sure where we’ll spend the night, yet.  Could be Mason City, could be the Interior, SD in the Badlands, could be somewhere in between.

We’ve decided NOT to hit Minneapolis, MN, nor Ames, IA.

Today, I think I’m going to go walk the fence that surrounds my parents’ property, see if there’s any gaps, trees down, or damage from last year’s flood out in the back corner that may have been touched by the river last summer.



April 24, 2009

While we were in Indiana, we stopped twice at Three Floyds Brewpub in Munster.  We’re both investors in the brewpub and like to ‘keep our eye on our investment’ and we also brought our “free pint a day” cards for their rare use.

Alpha King Statue at Three Floyds Brewpub, Munster, IN

Alpha King Statue at Three Floyds Brewpub, Munster, IN

Courtney spotted the Zeitgeist sticker behind the bar (Zeitgeist is a bike/cycle bar in San Francisco).  We sampled some of the Three Floyds brews, carefully, because many of them are pretty high alcohol. We were just a couple days early for Dark Lord Day, the only day of the year they sell the Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout.  Oh well, have to keep moving.

Once we made it to Iowa, we also stopped in the brewery that’s just (inexplicably) 15 miles from my parents house.  It used to be something like Cedar Brewing Company, but rolled over to Third Base Brewery.  Last time we were there, a couple of holiday seasons ago, the brewer was testing out some flavoring additions to his holiday offering and asked us to give our feedback.  He said he was actually happier working there after they switched to “Third Base” because they gave him a lot more freedom as a brewer.

This time we sampled the Black Cobra Oatmeal Stout (really good), Amber, and IPA.  Seem to be making some great and true-to-style beers there.  We left with a growler of the IPA for having while we’re camping in the Badlands in South Dakota.



April 24, 2009

Last year, Cedar Rapids and most of eastern Iowa suffered from incredible flooding. I moved to Iowa the summer of 1993, and experienced the joy that is a 100 year flood. The floods last year blew 93 out of the water (good god, please pardon that pun).

Coming into Cedar Rapids day before yesterday, I was astounded and a little horrified at how the town looked disturbingly like what we just left in New Orleans. That’s a testimony to: one, how badly New Orleans was jacked up that it’s still in the condition it is today, and two, how badly Cedar Rapids really got hit. They didn’t get the same publicity, but the damage is frightening.

We made it to Roy’s parents’ place, and promptly went out on the back 40, climbed up on a hay bale, and watched a meteor storm, or at least tried. The storm wasn’t as intense as hoped for, but we saw 2. The rest of our time has been spent sleeping, hiking, catching up with old friends (hi, Tanea and Todd!), and hitting shops we miss (like the Soap Opera).


Iowa (Shellsburg, Center Point, Urbana, Vinton, Cedar Rapids)

April 22, 2009

Drove from Crown Point, IN (to Three Floyds Brewpub and then) along Route 30 to Cedar Rapids, through some of the flooded-out areas up to my parents place in the country between Shellsburg and Urbana, Center Point and Vinton.  Going slow because the car temp is crazy.  Finally made it to my parents place last night, went out to sit on hay bales to watch the Lyrid meteor shower.  This morning we got the new coolant tank in CR and put it in the car.  I’m starting to get pretty good at that part.

Now I’m sitting in John’s Truck Stop (Urbana) to use the wireless and update. This is where my dad comes for coffee in the morning to talk politics. (This was one of the sociological justifications I’ve heard for Iowa having the first caucus–the local institution of daily coffee political debate that infuses the state.) There’s 3 shifts, the morning, noon, and 3PM. My dad’s part of the morning crew. The 3PM crew has been arriving and talking to us. Just met a neighbor who has lived down the gravel road from my parents house for my entire life–I don’t think I’ve ever met him before.

Still not totally convinced the car is OK.  Going to drive around a bit without the trailer and make sure it’s behaving.  Heading down to Cedar Rapids now to see some of our friends from college.



April 22, 2009

My grandfather lives by himself in a town called Hobart Indiana. He has 2 bionic knees. He likes to sing in choir, he loves to cook. He is awesome with his hands because he’s a carpenter. He drives a shiny black Chrysler and likes to swim on Thursdays.

My grandfather is 92 years old.

Roy and I went to dinner at his place Monday afternoon. He cooked red beans, rice, and chicken while Roy installed a new hard drive on his computer. The day before, he tried to burn a cd, but the disc was cracked. It shattered in the drive, and we couldn’t get it to open for the longest time. Once we were able to get it open and sweep out some of the pieces, we couldn’t get it to close. Roy popped the machine open, and we took the drive apart to shake out more of the pieces, but once we got it put back together, it skipped when playing a music disc. So, new drive for the machine.

Dinner was awesome, and it was good to talk with Papa. When I got laid off, I was embarrassed to tell him at first. Once I did tell him, he told me to cheer up, because I am not my job. He talked about what it was like during the depression, and how when things are rough, spirit counts for more than vocation. When I started to build the trailer, he was very impressed, not with my building ability, because I really didn’t have any, but because I had the gumption to try in the first place. Now that we’re roaming the country dragging said trailer behind us, it’s made the trip much easier, but it made the prospect of taking the trip in the first place much easier to consider. This time around, Papa says he’s proud and impressed with us, not because the two of us got laid off, but because we had the gumption to say “to hell with it” and hit the road instead of stewing at home. And he believes that when you take a chance on the world, the world will take a chance on you.

More and more on this trip, we’ve been meeting new people and catching up with old people, but the common theme heard in almost all of our interactions is “why not?”

Ever get the feeling the world is trying to tell you something?



April 21, 2009

Made it to Crown Point and my mom and dad’s place. It felt good to see everybody in a strictly visiting context. Usually, I’m around for disasters and/or emergencies. I’ll be back there next month to help out post medical issue.

There’s a lot I’m not saying in this blog. I didn’t write about all I saw in New Orleans. I didn’t write about all I experienced in Atlanta. Not because they aren’t stories to share, but because they aren’t stories to share on here.