Friday, May 30, 2008

Random Travel Update 24

Previous Locations: Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; San Antonio, TX
Arrival Date: May 20, 2008
Departure Date: May 25, 2008

Last location: Tucson, AZ
Arrival Date: May 26, 2008
Departure Date: May 30, 2008

Current Location: Portland, OR
Arrival Date: May 30, 2008
Departure Date: June 1, 2008
Next Stop: Klamath Fall, OR

The trip home began with a Versace Mansion Party in South Beach, an afternoon diving the Florida Keys, and an all night 13 hour drive from the Southernmost tip of the US to the gulfcoast town of Mobile, Alabama, with a stop along the way to visit with a good friend of mine from college. The trip ended with a beer-enhanced float down a river in New Braunfels by tube, a brief trip to the Alamo and another 13 hour drive from the east end of Texas back home to Tucson, Arizona. In the middle there was New Orleans.

We arrived in New Orleans later than expected, due to an issue we had with a box that had in it a particularly dear item that we had left at a do-it-yourself carwash in a questionable Mobile neighborhood. The box was a lost cause until, while eating at a Taco Bell is Pascagoula 30 miles closer to Louisiana, we received a phone call from a gentleman at the Laundromat next to the carwash explaining that the contents of the box had been retrieved by the previous night's employee and was safe there at the Laundromat. This loss, and the accompanying find, was the lowest point and highest point of our trip west.

There are pictures of the Mississippi gulfcoast that will be posted on Picasa soon. A short drive later, we arrived in Louisiana. The French Quarter is more like Europe than I had expected and unlike other tourist-ridden locations, it has a terribly authentic feel to it. Many signs are in French, the streets are narrow and occasionally cobbled, customer service is provided with an attitude, food is generally overpriced, and you can drink in the streets. They also serve Absinthe. Needless to say, we had a marvelous time.

My favorite part, of course, was the jazz. Unlike our disappointing Beal Street blues experience in Memphis, we were able to find packed jazz clubs with real jazz musicians who played soulful music that drew one from the street to their door to listen. The second night we went out was perfect. The all-day rainstorm kept people off the streets but didn't stop the musicians from playing until 2am.

We arrived in Tucson early Monday morning (think 1am) just in time to get some sleep and prepare for Memorial Day lunch with the family while Jon and the Mom went off mountain biking with my cousin, Cal. And now we are in Portland for my other cousin, Matthew's, college graduation. So as one journey ends, another begins.

A big thank you goes out to those of you who generously hosted us at some point in our travels, especially to my parents and even more especially to Jon's parents whose gorgeous home has been our base for the last several months. If it weren't for you, these emails would be awfully plain.



Saturday, May 17, 2008

Random Travel Update 23

Last Location: Daytona Beach, FL
Arrival Date: May 15, 2008
Departure Date: May 16, 2008

Current location: Key Biscayne, FL
Arrival Date: May 16, 2008
Departure Date: May 19, 2008

Next location: Mobile, AL
Arrival Date: May 20, 2008
Departure Date: May 20, 2008

Jon and I have been traveling like crazy the last two weeks. We have been to ten states, over a dozen cities and several state and national parks. We have experienced spectacular American infrastructure, cities dedicated to old music and memories of the past, glorious meadows, rain-soaked forests, vast tree-covered hills, jaw-dropping cliffs, shimmering plains and vibrant green pastures lined by piercing blue skies. We have seen vultures, fox, four-foot long iguanas, cranes, pelicans, brightly colored warblers, idyllic white cows and one dead armadillo. We have eaten from Styrofoam cups at truck stops, out of camp-ware in the rain, at American favorites like Taco Bell and Subway, and at one of the world's best raw foods restaurants in America's oldest city. We have driven just over 3,500 miles and filled our tank just over ten times. We have made it to the most southern tip of contiguous America and our destination: The Florida Keys.

Of course, the more I have to write about, the less time I have to write it. I had wanted to describe the sites of the last week in detail leading you from the western tip of Tennessee, through the world's largest cave in Kentucky, to the gorgeous grasslands of North Carolina and up and down the Great Smoky Mountains on our way to the epitome of southern charm and grandeur in Charleston, South Carolina. But this story will have to be left to the pictures.

Today is wedding day and I must now turn my attention to Kirk and Michelle. After all, it was their wedding that inspired this great journey across the country. Kirk and Michelle are our uber-fit, exceptionally educated, athletically inspired friends from Maryland. It was them who motivated us to hike 50k from White's Ferry, Maryland to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia last Spring.

Their wedding was beautiful, set in a charming Episcopal church on the sea. The bridesmaids were glowing and the groomsmen looked dashing in their pink vests that complimented the bridesmaids' pink gowns. The priest was well spoken and succinct. The parents were jovial and all of the details came together with perfect timing and grace. Kirk's mom, Judy Saylor, is an esteemed artist and her work created a soothing ambiance for the reception, which featured a pesca-vegan menu and gorgeous beach views. Both Jon and I were honored to be in the bridal party and can't wait to spend tomorrow morning sea-kayaking with the bride and groom.

Florida is Florida. Sunny, humid and hot. We were greeted by embers along I-95 as we ventured into the state and we have heard word-of-mouth that the Everglades are on fire, which explains the never ending BBQ scent we experienced this evening.

After tomorrow, we journey back west to Arizona stopping in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas along the way. In the meantime, I will work pictures onto Picasa via my overwhelmed 40gig hard drive. I will send a message when they are up.



Thursday, May 8, 2008

Random Travel Update 22

Last Location: Palos Duro State Park, TX (near Amarillo)
Arrival Date: May 5, 2008
Departure Date: May 7, 2008

Current location: Sallisaw, OK
Arrival Date: May 7, 2008
Departure Date: May 8, 2008

I don't know how many of you all watch CNN. I am thoroughly annoyed by their repetitive, drama-ridden, angst-inspiring, unprofessional coverage of the primary election and "news" in general. However if you were forced to watch it, as I am many mornings when Jon introduces its unintelligible chatter to our otherwise peaceful motel room, then you may have heard about the tornado warnings we have been getting through the tornado belt. We are currently staying at a Days Inn in Sallisaw, Oklahoma near the Arkansas border. We buckled down here last night after driving for ten hours in massive thunderstorms that followed us from Palos Duro State Park in Texas, where we narrowly escaped being flooded in (Go Prius!)

We ate a great lunch at Gupuram Taste of India in Oklahoma City and then proceeded to peruse the town despite the torrential downpour that was upon us. We took some pictures and decided to be on our way around the same time that the emergency broadcasting system went off, complete with sirens and hour-long radio interruptions, warning us of "tornadic activity" in the area. Unfortunately, the rain was too thick to be able to see the funnel clouds that were reported to be just to the north of our path of travel.

We rode horses through Palo Duro on Tuesday and then hiked a quick six-mile trail to their Lighthouse Peak, which winds through a canyon spattered with lush green shrubbery, wildflowers, cactus fruit, bright yellow berry-like chili peppers, and unique geological formations. Jon agreed with me that it looked like The Great Valley in The Land Before Time movies.

We returned from our hike just before nightfall and Jon took me on an authentic turkey-hunting experience (minus guns and bloodshed). Jon speaks fluent turkey and was able to communicate with the Toms (adult male turkeys) roosting a few hundred yards from our campsite. We stalked them all the way to their roost just in time to see their silhouettes, perched high up in a tree, against the fading night sky.

Back at camp we cooked dinner, read a Lonely Planet and tucked into our tent just in time for the torrential thunderstorm and lightning show that kept us awake a good portion of the night and flooded the roads out the next morning (pictures of flooding to come.)

Must go now. On to Devil's Den State Park in the Ozarks. More to come…