Saturday, September 21, 2013

The "Grand Tour" Road Trip - The End

DAY 9, Tuesday (June 18th) - 

It was time to say goodbye to Virginia, but we had one last sight to see before starting our long drive home.  We were up and on the road by 7:15am as we were headed to our 2nd National Park of the trip - Shenandoah National Park!  

At 8:55am we handed over our $15 entrance fee and entered the park.  The Park Ranger said we'd have a bit of rain by the afternoon, but it wasn't going to be just "a bit."  It was ALOT!

We were excited to be in yet another National Park and paused to to check out some pretty flowers just past the entrance.  Beautiful flowers, but the swarming mosquitos? Not so much.

And then the "bit" of rain came.....downpour!  

We were again on high bear alert, but saw only turkey, deer and mosquitos (which thankfully vanished when the rains came).

These two fawns were going crazy in the rain.  Jumping and running, it was hard to get a clear picture. We watched them playing in the rain for quite awhile and then their mothers led them across the road and into the forest.

Another must-do for us on this trip was to walk the Appalachian Trail.  We saw several backpackers hiking through and it made me want to keep on walking.  However, my tennis shoes were soaked from the rain, Robert was hungry and we had no food.  Maybe another time.  

The rain came in spurts.  A hard downpour one minute and then just enough of a light mist to spot my glasses, but it made for some really good photography.

We almost didn't see these backpackers crossing the road.  That would have been a major disaster.

This is one of my favorite pictures taken during our trip.  We pulled into Sawmill Run Overlook (elevation 2195') to look for some moss covered trees, but it was raining so hard that I didn't want to get out of the car.  I glanced out my window and saw this instead.

Eventually found a tree covered in moss that I could take a picture of without leaving the comfort of the car.

On our way out of the park, we stopped and took a picture of the entrance sign as we had missed it on our way in.  As you can see it is still raining.  Time: 12:45pm.

We exited Shenandoah National Park to I-64 west and stopped for gas and McDonalds in Covington, which I firmly believe is the slowest McDonalds on the face of the Earth.  I could have gone out and killed my own cow in less time it took to get our food, but patience is a virtue I suppose.  We eventually got our burgers and extra large sodas and got back on the road.

It was still raining pretty hard as we crossed into West Virginia (time: 3:15pm).

We cruised though Lewisburg, which apparently was voted "coolest smalltown" in 2011.  Not really sure what criteria was used to determine that it was the coolest, but it's what the sign leading into town said.

When we travel, we like to take the road less occupied to explore small towns and see sights that are normally missed when sticking to the freeways.  Since we had such a long way to travel, we drove the Interstate the entire way to Virginia, but on our way home, we decided to take a detour.  Why we decided to take that detour in West Virginia I'm not really sure, but I reckon at the time it seemed like a good idea.

We left the main freeway for SR 60, but quickly realized it was not the best of plans to have left civilization behind.  I made the executive decision that we would remain in our vehicle at ALL times and stop for no one.  However, I was still able to take pictures out the windshield.

Lots of logging in West Virginia.  This is near Crawley.

Robert wanted to stop, but thankfully it was closed.  I'm not even sure what it is or if we would have survived had we gone inside.  It's probably a zombie factory.

We did stop at Kanawha Falls in Glenn Ferris, but there was no bathroom.

Boomer was a cute little town.  I wonder if it had been in the running against Lewisburg for "coolest small-town?"

Lots of coal plants.  This one is in Montgomery.

Cruised through Charleston, the capital of West Virginia at about 5:55pm and it was back on I-64.

West Virginia makes Robert sleepy.
 Passed a train yard in South Charleston...

...and a nuclear power plant in St. Albans.

At 6:50pm, we headed into Kentucky - the horse capital of the world -  another state we'd never visited and both liked really well.  

Robert said when the little gas tank light comes on there is a gas station nearby.  

He was right!  There was a gas staton in Lexington, but it was raining again and raining hard.

Rain storms come and go very quickly and sunsets seem to last forever in Kentucky.  It was 9:30pm and the sky was full of the purple and blue hues of sunset.  It was absolutely beautiful.

Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves pulling into Louisville and finding a Super 8 Motel on the outskirts of town.  It was a rather short travel day compared to others during our trip - only 610 miles - but that was 610 miles of all new roads, sights and sounds.  A good day.

DAY 10, Wednesday (June 19th) - 

A late start as Cabelas in Louisville, Kentucky didn't open until 9am!  HA!  You didn't think we'd take a road trip without visiting Cabelas, did you?

We spent about 2 hours wandering through Cabelas and had lunch at the cafe inside.  Of course I had my elk sandwich, while Robert had pulled pork.  Delicious.  With our purchases stowed away, we got back on West I-64 at abut 11:10am.  

Skies were clear and beautiful, which made for some good pictures out the windshield.

 And then it was Hello, Indiana!  The most boring state ever!

However, there was an Amish Buffet.  I wonder how that tastes?  We contemplated stopping for like two seconds, but kept on.

We saw nothing but freeways and trees, with an occassional farmhouse thrown in.  We got so bored we tried playing "guess the roadkill" as there was an incredibly large number of dead animals on the road.  However, that lasted all of two minutes, because Robert kept guessing "trout."

A quick stop for gas and soda... 

...and a white elephant?

And welcome to Illinois.  The 2nd most boring state ever.

At 2:50pm we crossed over the Mississippi River and Hello St. Louis, Missouri! (87-degrees).

St. Louis was interesting in a photography sense as it was a complete ghetto.  It actually went beyond ghetto.  Lots of graffiti and abandoned and collapsing buildings, but had we stopped to take pictures, I would not have left the car.  As a matter of fact, I would have kept the doors locked and the windows rolled up tight!  And if I had to choose, I would have stopped in West Virginia before I ever stopped in St. Louis.

Needless to say, we didn't stop, even though I had drank too much soda and needed to use the bathroom (like right now!).  Another thing about St. Louis?   It smells. 

But there is a Six Flags!

Stopped for burgers (and to use the restroom) at Culvers Burgers (the owner waited on us!) and then back on the road. From St. Louis we headed west on I-44.   We still had a long way to go to our night's final stop: Super 8 in Oklahoma City.

At about 8pm, we entered Oklahoma, the Sooner State.

Sped along I-44 and watched the sun set over a farmer plowing his fields.

Sunsets seem to last forever in Oklahoma too.
Passed under the Biggest McDonald's in the World on the Will Rogers Turnpike.  The McDonalds is 29,135 square feet, however it was closed for renovation.  Boo.

Arrived at the Super 8 in Oklahoma City around 11pm.  A long travel day: 779 miles.

DAY 11, Thursday (June 20th) - 

Time: 8:20am
Temperature: 76-degrees, wth 82% humidity.


Bye Bye Super 8 Motel...

 ...and prepare for a long, HOT HOT HOT day of travel.  We were 1,322 miles from home and hoped to make it all in one shot.  We didn't of course, but that was our goal at the time. 

Oklahoma is home to one of my favorite country singers: Garth Brooks.  Athough I didn't get to see him, I did see a street named after him. I suppose that's the next best thing.

I 'heart' you Garth Brooks.
Unlike the last couple of states we drove through (Illinois and Indiana come to mind), Oklahoma has a lot of interesting stuff to see.

The earth is very red in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is definitely on our list of places where we would like to return to to do more exploring.

On the road again in Elk City, Oklahoma!
Enter Texas - 10:58 hours and 80-degress!

I-40 is also the Purple Heart Trail.

There were lots of rusted grain elevators along I-40 in Texas. 
 In Groom, we passed by the leaning Brittan tower again...

...and the big, white cross...

...and Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo...

...and another cool grain elevator in Wildorado.

Yeah, New Mexico.

Time: 2:13 hours, Temperature: 87-degrees and windy.

Saw lots of trains during our trip.  This one is just west of Tucumcari.

In Moriarty, we stopped for gas and took matters into our own hands.  The drive was so BORING that Robert bought an audio book - Lee Child's "The Affair" (a Jack Reacher novel) to help us pass the time.   Even listening to the audio book, however, it seemed to take forever to get across New Mexico.  

8pm, welcome to Arizona.  Finally.

We watched the sun set over Petrified Forest National Park as we sped west on I-40.  All the while listening to our audio book.  

We got as far as Winslow and decided to call it a night.  It wasn't quite 9pm when we pulled into the Best Western, but we were tired and hot.  We got the last room.

Today's total mileage:  approximately 807 miles.

DAY 12, Friday (June 21st) - 

Ah, the Best Western.  The nicest hotel we'd stayed in and the most expensive, but you can't really compare it to a Super 8.  A nice complimentary breakfast in the lobby and on the road by 8:15am.  

Happy 1st day of summer! and it definitely felt like summer.  Hot.

Saw more trains as we left Winslow.

But soon after, we finished our audio book (a good book)!  At Flagstaff we turned south on I-17 towards Phoenix and I fell asleep.  I awoke somewhere around Phoenix - I wished I would have stayed asleep for the rest of the trip.  The scenary was ugy and it was HOT.

Took the 85-south to Gila Bend...

...passed by Lewis Prison... 8-West and hello Yuma, where it was 100-degrees.

One last stop in Yuma for gas (3.68/gal) and lunch at Five Guys, where the clerk insisted on telling us about his days in the Navy.  

Around 2:40pm we crossed the California border, where we were questioned about our possession of fruits and plants.  We denied having either, but in all our traveling, entering California is the only time we had to pass through a check point.  All the other states greeted us with we a nice "Welcome to ..." sign, not agents carry guns and questioning our citizenship.

Passing the checkpoint, however, meant we were just a couple of hours from home.  At 4:40pm, we entered our RV to find our cute little cat waiting patiently.

We had a great time but it's always nice to come home, even if it is to an RV.

Today's total mileage: approximately 519 miles.

STATES VISITED: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.

TOTAL TRIP MILEAGE: Approximately 5,492 miles.