USA 2006 part 4

November 20th, 2006

The last week of the trip was a quick 6 days from the east coast back to California. Not super rushed, we still had time for a few stops, but the leisurely pace of the first 3 weeks was over.

Day 22, Monday 2006-11-13 Washington DC, Virginia, Carolinas, Georgia

I left Vegas late sunday on the redeye to DC. Shayna picked me up Monday at 6am, and we went back to her parents to take a little nap. Shayna had been there since late friday night – she drove 14 hours friday to DC from St. Louis, over 800 miles, the longest drive of the trip. So she had already spent some time with her parents, which is nice. After our nap we got up and went to lunch with her parents then hit the road. We wanted to be in Athens, Georgia, by monday night, and we made it around midnight. Hurray.

Day 23, Tuesday 2006-11-14 Georgia, Tennessee

Tuesday I woke up early and went to a coffee shop, then got a run in before we hit the road. Shayna was out late in Athens with her friend Jillian, who so graciously hosted us, so she slept in a bit longer than I. We jetted to Atlanta to meet up with my family – mom, dad, Leslie, Michael, and my 9 month old niece Katherine. It was a quick lunch, mainly to give Les my old windows laptop, but it was nice to see them all. I grew up in Atlanta, and i showed shayna my parents house on our way out of town. We made our way to nashville for dinner – we couldnt’ find the restaraunt we wanted so ended up eating sushi. We then drove through torrential rain to spend the night in memphis. When we arrived we had a couple drinks on Beale Street, which is similar to New Orleans Bourbon street, then we hit the cheap motels again.

Day 24, Wednesday 2006-11-15 Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma

Woke up and went to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. It was entertaining to see his place, but more entertaining to be part of the experience, trying to understand america’s infatuation with the king. He had a great voice, charisma, and unusual style. His house was great – each room had its own theme, like the yellow and dark blue TCB (Takin’ Care of Business) room in the basement to the jungle room with green shag carpet on the floor and ceilings. But my favorite was the converted athletics room – the racquetball court was filled with gold records and elvis outfits. It seemed to capture the elvis vibe the most.

After Graceland we had lunch at Corky’s BBQ, and it was awesome. I had the pulled pork plate, which came with side of beans and cole slaw and the table got some deliciously buttered rolls. Shayna got the pork sandwhich with fries. Once our bellies were full, we hit the road, through arkansas, stopping only once in Alma to take a picture with popeye. We made it to yet another cheap hotel in Oklahoma city

Day 25, Thursday 2006-11-16 Oklohoma, Texas

The Oklahoma City Memorial turned out to be one of the most moving sights on our tour. The bombing occured in 1995, killed 168 people including 19 children in the daycare center, damaged hundreds of buildings, many had to be destroyed, including the Murrah federal building which was the main target. The memorial was completed in 2001, just a few months before 9/11. Not sure exactly why i was so moved, i think it was feeling the courage people had when faced with tragedy, seeing and hearing people rising to the occasion. They presented a timeline of the events in different formats – mostly pictures with annotations, but also some video and a few computer rooms where you can get more interactive info. I distinctly remember getting choked up watching the video – hearing about people’s utter disbelief when they see the federal building destroyed, where only hours earlier they dropped off their children in the daycare center. They could not comprehend that their babies were not alive.

After Oklahoma City we hit the road again, stopping a few times in Texas before making it to Alburqueque. Stops included the big Texan (home of the 72oz steak), the giant cross, and my favorite thing in Texas – cadillac ranch. There were about 12 cadillacs from the 50s, all buried in the ground nose first, covered with years of tagging. And just as the lonely planet predicted, there were cans of spray paint lying around so we could tag the cars ourselves. The beauty of it was just the simplicity of it all, just a bunch of cars buried in the ground, middle of nowhere, surrounded by farmland. This was my favorite thing you could only find on a roadtrip.

Day 26, Friday 2006-11-17 New Mexico, Arizona

We saw many native american sights on this road trip, but the Acoma Sky City experience could be my favorite. Monument Valley was the most impressive natural sight, and i loved the vision and large collection of native american artifacts at the crazy horse memorial, but our Acoma guide through sky city was the more informed and most moving of all the native americans i’ve come across. He would talk with Love and profound respect about his culture and mother earth as well as with deep anger about how his ancestors were taken advantage of by the spanish. I learned that, like most native american tribes, the Acoma were a matriarhcal people – the women owned the property and made the decisions. This naturally leads to a more peaceful society, compared to some other patriarchal tribes like the navajo and apache, which were known more for fighting. Apache is not an apache term, its the acoma word for enemy. I also learned about their magic numbers 4, 7, 12, 21 and their simple philosophy of teaching their children to respect themselves and they will get respect. Once they know how to respect themselves, they are encouraged to leave the reservation and see the world. Most return.

Day 27, Saturday 2006-11-18 Arizona, Californa

Woke up in Kingman Arizona, thanks to shayna’s late night power driving. The town had a historic route 66 museum, the fourth one we saw, but this time we stopped to investigate. It was informative with many displays, from a miniature railroad to life size trail wagon. It covered the trail before route 66 that settlers took to california, and talked about how the great depressio and drought of the 1930s forced many in the midwest to seek fortune in california along this route. With the boom of the 50s came improved roads and many more towns as more and more people flocked west. The towns were mostly hotels, restaraunts, and gas stations, but all had character. The journey was a colorful experience, but eventually the interstate system and chain stores replaced the character. As they put it, speed and predictability won over adventure. On the bright side, the Historic Route 66 from chicago to LA is now a tourist destination itself, attracting enough people to sustain the older towns that were almost forgotten.

The last noteworthy event on the trip occured in arizona right before the california border – a flat tire. Lucky for us it was actually a fun experience – i quickly put on the spare tire and made it the 30 or so miles to Needles, CA, where i had the good fortune of buying 4 new tires. Apparently i had another tire that was about to go, and since they didn’t have my EXACT tire size, i was advised to buy all 4. It was good advice, and i did. This allowed us to zip on thru california at record breaking speeds to get home saturday night in time to have a drink with friends and retell our stories from the road.

That’s it – see my final blog recapping USA.