Home Again, Home Again

Day 52: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Start: Duncannon, PA
End: Amherst, NH
Miles Driven Today: 450
Total Miles: 9,378

It’s over. I’m sitting here in my easy chair, getting used to home again. There’s a huge pile of mail to sort through. Bags to unpack. Laundry to be done. But that’s for tomorrow.

We had another lovely visit with Bob and Sharon yesterday. Sitting around the kitchen table, we caught up on the trip and the happenings in the almost two months since we last saw them. It was a nice respite before the final sprint home, and visiting with good friends was a fit way to start and end this grand adventure.

Of course, Jasmine felt right at home and climbed up onto the kitchen table. Perhaps she wanted to get in on the conversation. Or perhaps, she was just a little thirsty!

Singha! Jasmine's favorite brand!

Singha! Jasmine’s favorite brand!

Juliet spent the evening searching for food. She sniffed (and snarfed) every inch of the house, looking for tidbits of food that the resident dog, Lily, had dropped on the floor, under furniture, etc. She was driving us nuts! I think we’ve created a monster… 🙂

Buddies

Buddies

We have marveled at how much both dogs have changed throughout this journey. Jasmine is much quicker to acclimate to a new situation. She co-existed with Lily after a few minutes. Perhaps it’s because she had met Lily on the way out. But climbing on the table, accepting treats from everyone, and running around the house without her tail between her legs…such progress. Juliet is so much more curious, confident and STUBBORN. True Dachshund traits are coming out. But what’s really great is to see the two dogs finally bonding.

Our final leg of open road

Our final leg of open road

We’ve had a great run. NOTHING bad happened to us. No flat tires. No pickpockets. No items stolen from our room. No car trouble. Rarely any crowds. No tornadoes. No forest fires. We’ve had an incredible experience and the trip of a lifetime. I’ll summarize it all this weekend, after a bit of sleep and settling in!

Today’s travels were long, but relatively easy. There had been an accident on the bridge through Harrisburg a few weeks ago, so we decided to skip going through Harrisburg and went some backroads to reach the Interstate. So, once again, we had some picturesque travels across open roads.

But we were soon motoring our way back to New Hampshire. We flowed through New York, retracing some of our route on the Turnpike to the East of the Catskills and then through Mass and up home to New Hampshire. We hit very little heavy traffic except for areas with road work. Even then, we made it home in around 8 hours.

Back to New York

Back to New York

Massachusetts - We skipped it on the way out

Massachusetts – We skipped it on the way out

Close to home

Close to home

Waiting for us when we got home was a huge pile of mail, some packages we sent home, and Tom’s prized piece of Acoma pottery that we purchased in Albuquerque. It was a great welcome home, along with an in-tact house (thanks Sam!).

Acoma Pottery by Michael & Robin Romero

Acoma Pottery by Michael & Robin Romero

All is well. We’re a bit sad that the trip is over. But there’s really no place like home. As we were driving the last few minutes until we reached our house, I looked at the lush landscape that we call home. We’ve seen a lot of beautiful places and driven some wonderful open road. But seeing our town…the road home rivals any of the picturesque and quaint backroads we took.

It’s good to be back.

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Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico

Day 21: Monday, May 20, 2013
Start: Santa Fe, NM
End: Taos, NM
Miles Driven Today: 91
Total Miles: 3,144

Today we said goodbye to Santa Fe and hello to Taos. After re-jiggering our travel schedule, we’re staying three nights in Taos. This way, we can go see the Rio Grande Gorge, the Taos Pueblo, the Earthships, local museums, Bandelier National Monument, Ojo Caliente and Abiquiu and not have to rush.

We decided to take the High Road to Taos on our way up (thanks for the tip, John and Barb!). This was a spectacular drive through both scenic desert and mesas and through the Carson National Forest. People think of New Mexico as dry brush, but it’s spectacularly beautiful.

New Mexico open road

New Mexico open road

More open road

More open road

For the last few days, we’ve seen the same couple at breakfast. We’ve exchanged a few pleasantries. This morning, they stopped by to say goodbye and told us about their trip up to El Santuario de Chimayo. As we were driving up the High Road, we saw the sign for El Santuario. We stopped at this lovely (and still active) mission. There were as many people worshiping as there were tourists viewing the lovely main church (the artwork inside was so wonderful) and the grounds.

Door at El Santuario de Chimayo

Door at El Santuario de Chimayo

El Santuario de Chimayo garden

El Santuario de Chimayo garden

At the edge of the parking lot, a couple (Arthur “Lowlow” and Joan Medina) was selling chile powders, lavender and sage. We bought some chile powders and started chatting with the sellers. They grew their own chiles and made the powder and were in the process of joining a co-op of certified growers of both Chimayo and Hatch chile peppers. It seems like genetically modified seed has been infiltrating the Chimayo and Hatch growing fields, and these small growers are trying to keep their plants pure. Arthur is also an artist, and their Lowrider cars are famous! I wish we could see his art! There will be a website soon (LowLow’s Lowrider Art Place).

Joan Medina

Joan Medina and her homegrown goods

Before we left Chimayo, we stopped at a Chimayo woven good store. Traditional native designs are created using giant looms. The pieces, from rugs to sport coats, are quite striking in their intricate designs and quality. We loved the work and the loom room!

Loom rooms

Loom rooms

After we left Chimayo, we started to climb higher into the mountains. We then hit an art district with a number of small galleries. We stopped at a co-op gallery in Truchas where I got some brilliant glass art jewelry by Barrie Brown.

We snaked our way through Carson National Forest. The vistas were fabulous…and definitely not what I expected in New Mexico!

Through Carson National Forest

Through Carson National Forest

Vista in Carson National Forest

Vista in Carson National Forest

What a view

What a view!

When we finally reached Taos, we were a bit disappointed by the end of the ride. We tried to check in to the hotel, but our room wasn’t ready. We headed to the “Old Town” area of Taos (nothing like Santa Fe, I’m sorry to say) and walked around for a bit.

We checked into our hotel, the Sagebrush Inn. Walking into the room was…alarming. It had this odd, “you don’t want to know” smell to it. Whomever wrote glowing reviews of this place on Yelp and TripAdvisor must have been employees or paid reviewers. I was afraid to sleep on the bed.

We were hungry, so we decided to get out of the room and get some dinner. More Yelp-ing yielded the Downtown Bistro. We were looking for some salads, and this was one of the only restaurants that seemed to have some fresh green salad alternatives. We headed down to the restaurant and were greeted warmly by the chef/owner. When he opened the door (we got there at opening), I was on the phone with the hotel in Albuquerque that mucked up our reservations. He politely waited for me to finish, and welcomed us in.

We chatted about our travels and hotel woes, traveling with dogs, etc. He was very friendly and nice. We were seated, and we ordered our salads and a bowl of Red Chile soup. The soup was, in one word, exquisite. A superbly flavorful and spicy broth was peppered with little morsels of meat. We told the chef how much we were enjoying it, and he came out with MORE for us. Really! The salads were fresh and crisp and the balsamic dressing was perfect. It’s hard to do simple. A salad may just be a salad, but perfect greens, a balance of flavors and a really beautiful dressing…hard. We’re definitely going back before we leave. Sorry, but I was so into the soup that I forgot to take a picture of it!

We were chatting with the waitress (who was giving us tips on where to go and what to see) and we told her that we had to find a doggie daycare place for the pups when we were visiting Bandelier. She told us that her sister was a dog sitter and promised to give us her number. A couple of minutes later, she was back with a cell phone with her sister on the line! We chatted for a few minutes, and soon we were talking about our hotel. She gave us a recommendation on another place to stay (Hotel Don Fernando), and we stopped by on the way back to the smarmy Sagebrush Inn.

The front desk guy was great. He let us see a room (roomy, not fancy, but CLEAN), and then gave us a rate that we couldn’t turn down. We went back to the Sagebrush, packed up and moved. To the Sagebrush’s credit, they didn’t charge us for the room and apologized for the issues we had with the room.

So, here we are in our nice room. We’re looking forward to a couple of days of sightseeing. We’ll then head to Albuquerque, where we’ll stay through Memorial Day weekend. We’re planning a day trip to Acoma, seeing Old Town and Sandia peak, visiting the Petroglyph park, and just chilling. I’m sure there’s a shop or two that might interest me.

Once again, the people we have met have made the trip special. Okay, the spectacular scenery has been great as well!

Route 66: Tulsa to Oklahoma City

Day 14: Monday, May 13, 2013
Start: Tulsa, OK
End: Oklahoma City, OK
Miles Driven Today: 140
Total Miles: 2,424

Today was another day of slow travel and good chats. We decided to only go as far as Oklahoma City, so we had a short trip planned. Given that short day, Tom graciously took me to two Quilt shops so I could find some Route 66 fabric.

We first stopped at Quilt Sampler. This is a very large quilt shop and sewing machine dealer. They had lots of Route 66 fabric choices, plus Oklahoma-specific printed panels. I got a set of vintage post card panels and some Route 66 fabrics. They were really sweet people, and they pointed me to another local quilt shop just a mile or two away.

We went on to the second quilt shop, Cotton Patch. While this is a much smaller shop, the ladies there had a nice selection of Route 66 fabric–entirely different than the fabrics at the Quilt Sampler. I got some yardage, and they were nice enough to give me a discount!

Cotton Patch - Tulsa

The nice ladies at the Cotton Patch in Tulsa!

A few dollars lighter (Bob, that’s the PRECISE amount), we headed back to Route 66. Tulsa is one GIANT road construction project. We encountered closed roads, tons of closed lanes and terminal gridlock all over the city. It was really frustrating to drive around Tulsa, and once were were out of the city and back on the open road, we were happy campers. I don’t think I’ll tire of driving these lonesome highways and back roads.

Oklahoma Open Road

More open road. Nope. Not getting tired of this at all!

EZ66 Guide

EZ66 Guide

We have been using Jerry McClanahan’s Route 66 EZ66 Guide for Travelers to navigate our way across Route 66. For those of you that haven’t traveled 66 before, it isn’t a straight shot down a clearly marked highway. Historic Route 66 traverses, crosses, meanders to and fro…it’s a mishmash of roads, highways and bygone ways. To really ride the historic path, you really need a guide. This book provides both East-to-West or West-to-East turn-by-turn directions across the entire route, as well as recommended sights, side trips, places to eat and stay. It’s the ultimate guidebook. However, its value really isn’t understood (it’s not a book that you sit and read) until you’re on the road, hunting for the next turn or the next cool stop. Then, it’s a fountain of information that you can’t get with any other book. We love it.

When we were going through the book, we found Jerry’s invitation to visit his McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery in Chandler, OK. We decided to make a stop. His phone number and address are in the book, and there’s a sign on the door asking people to call him if they stop by. We did, and he came out of his house (next door) and invited us in. He asked us to sign his visitor poster and then he showed us his artwork. Jerry paints in oil, acrylic and watercolor (and does pencil sketches) of Route 66 places and people. They images are nostalgic, but contemporary. Very nice!

McJerry's Route 66 Gallery

Jerry McClanahan’s McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery

Jerry McClanahan

Jerry McClanahan – Author, road-tripper and talented artist

While I was signing his poster, I noticed a family from Taipei, Taiwan had been by. We have run into these people three times since we started on this trip–at the Mule Trading Post, at Gay Parita, and now (a near miss) here at Jerry’s gallery. We’re wondering when we’ll see them next!

We chatted with Jerry for a few minutes and were back on our travels. As we made it to Arcadia, we encountered the Round Barn. Mr. Sam, the “storyteller” of the Round Barn, was there to greet and chat with us. This old barn was built in 1898. It was in ruins for quite some time until a group of volunteers began to restore it in 1988. The upstairs loft (pictured below) is a huge open space often rented for parties and weddings. It’s enormous!!!

Arcadia Round Barn

Mr. Sam postcard from the Arcadia Round Barn

Inside the dome

Inside the dome at the Arcadia Round Barn. Round barns were built to accommodate animals working/walking around items like milling stones.

Arcadia Round Barn Panorama

Panorama of the Arcadia Round Barn

Of course, a visit to the Round Barn wouldn’t be complete without a picture with Mr. Sam!

Mahgrit and Mr. Sam

Mahgrit and Mr. Sam. Mr. Sam is upwards of 86 years young! Apparently, he’s quite a land baron!

We motored on after Arcadia and made it to Oklahoma City. We didn’t venture downtown; we instead opted to stay on the outskirts. Tomorrow, we’re aiming to reach Elk City (leisurely travel) or Amarillo, TX (ambitious motoring). We’ll see how far we get! There are some interesting sights along the way! I have a feeling that Elk City is more realistic; we might save Amarillo for our end point on Wednesday.

The dogs have been adjusting well to the trip. The travel is now our routine. Each day, we get up, get dressed, take them out, feed them, pack up and motor on. In the late afternoon, we reach our destination and get settled into our hotel room. We make a few stops to give them breaks, but they’re primarily snuggled in back, sleeping in the sunshine peeking through the car windows.

I do have to say that they are enjoying the recliners at the La Quinta hotels. It’s almost like home! Until tomorrow…

Jasmine and Juliet

Jasmine and Juliet love the recliners at the La Quinta hotels

Route 66: Springfield to Joplin

Day 12: Saturday, May 11, 2013
Start: Springfield, MO
End: Joplin, MO
Miles Driven Today: 82
Total Miles: 2,118

Today was not a huge travel day, but it was definitely FULL. This blog post is full of pictures of the many interesting things we saw today!

We had a slow start to the morning and didn’t leave the hotel until around 11 a.m. We were aiming to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma by the end of the day, but given the miles we’d have to cover, we just decided to wing it and figure out the game plan around 2 or 3 p.m. We left Springfield and started out, once again, on the open road.

The Cuba-to-Springfield route yesterday was quite a zig-zag across Interstate 44. Sometimes running parallel to the main artery, sometimes crossing, sometimes going through some more pristine country, following the precise Historic route requires some very specific directions. We are using the Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. It gives turn-by-turn directions, sites to see and great side-trip options for the Route 66 pilgrim. However, today’s route was relatively free of twists and turns, and we had a lot of open road with old barns, stone buildings, and farmland to mark our way.

Open Road Again

The open road. Today’s travels were less fussy and more direct.

The second town we came to after leaving Springfield was Paris Springs. There, we found the Gay Parita Sinclair Station, a replica of an old Sinclair gas station with vintage trucks, cars, gas pumps, signs and other great memorabilia. Gary Turner and his wife Lena run the place. What was clear when we pulled up and walked in was that it wasn’t going to be a short visit. Gary invited (okay, cajoled) us to eat one of his delicious (yum) donuts and have a cup of coffee. He sat us down on his porch and started to chat about travels in the area. He autographed and gave us a picture of his station.

Gay Parita Filling Station

Gay Parita Filling Station in Paris Springs, Missouri

Gary Turner

Gary Turner, Owner & Proprietor, Gay Parita Sinclair Station. Come visit with the expectation of staying awhile.

The station, garage and grounds were one big antique “museum.” Old signs, restored gas pumps, vehicles in various stages of restoration, vignettes, kitsch, trinkets and stories…this was a gem of a stop. We sat with Gary as he told us about the region and as he quizzed us about our travels and goals. He told us about the “best steak ever” and the “nicest motel to stay in Carthage” and the most “beautiful vintage town.” His wife Lena sat with us for a few minutes as well when Gary went to greet some new visitors and then showed us to the barn and the vintage outhouse, AKA Gary’s ‘doghouse.’

Old police cruiser

Old police cruiser; one of the many old vehicles on the Gay Parita property.

Perpetual fixer-upper

Perpetual fixer-upper

Mater's uncle

Mater’s uncle?

Gary's dog house

Lena says this is Gary’s place when he’s in the “dog house”

While we were ‘visiting’, another Route 66 pilgrim pulled up in his vintage 1950 Ford. Of course, it was as if he was pulling up to a filling station in the right era…pefect!

Vintage Ford

Vintage Ford on the Route 66 pilgrimage. The owner is on the road with his restored cruiser.

Vintage 1950 Ford

Vintage 1950 Ford. WOW!

We had a couple of photos, bought a pictoral guide to Route 66 (autographed specially for us by Gary), and were sent on our way with a hand-drawn map to Red Oak II, a town of restored buildings and artwork. This really was a great way to learn more about the area and to be welcomed with some genuine interest and hospitality!

Tom Mahgrit and Gary

Tom, Mahgrit and Gary

Photo Op!

Gary is very much into the Route 66 experience. It was by far our favorite stop!

As we made our way to our next stop, we traversed Johnson Creek across this bridge, built in 1926, and passed a vintage Phillips 66 station. Just a couple of pieces of history that make this route so special!

1926 Johnson Creek Bridge

1926 Johnson Creek Bridge

Vintage Phillips 66 Station

Vintage Phillips 66 Station in Spencer, MO

We followed Gary’s map and found Red Oak II, the brainchild of Lowell Davis. There was an original Red Oak, but Lowell Davis moved it to this new location. It’s a collection of old buildings, lovingly restored, as well as wonderful sculptures by Davis. It’s an obvious labor of love. We were greeted by Davis himself, as he rode his John Deere mower across the grass. Unassuming and very sweet. We told him how much we were enjoying his work. He smiled, chatted for a few minutes, and went on mowing. His dog, Duke, followed us for awhile as we ambled up the streets of this “town.”

Red Oak II

Red Oak II near Carthage, MO. An entire village of relocated and restored buildings and automobiles is the brainchild and labor of love by artist Lowell Davis.

Red Oak Biplane Art

Biplane Art/Sculpture at Red Oak II

Self-made convertible

Self-made convertible

Acres of fun

Acres of buildings, sculptures and vintage machines

The Boys Night Out

The Boys Night Out

Water sculpture

Love this water fountain sculpture!

Missoura Summer Night

Missoura Summer Night

Biplane

Not quite flight-ready

Billy Goat

Billy Goat. Love that it’s chewing on a tin can!

Democrats Outnumbered

Democrats are in the minority here!

Sign to Red Oak

Sign to Red Oak on Historic 66

After we left Red Oak, we went on to Carthage, relaxed a bit downtown and enjoyed an ice cream cone. Carthage’s downtown was a bit…quiet. But the courthouse was quite spectacular.

Foxfire Farm

Foxfire Farm – Another Lowell Davis sculpture in Carthage

Jasper County Courthouse

Jasper County Courthouse in downtown Carthage

Jasmine and Juliet

Jasmine and Juliet enjoy downtown Carthage

We decided to venture off to the next metro area, Joplin, for the night (another Drury…love it!). Joplin, Missouri was the town that was all but leveled by a tornado not so long ago. From what we saw, it has bounced back!

I’m not sure how far we’ll make it tomorrow, but we’ll most likely make it through the corner of Kansas and into Oklahoma. Perhaps we’ll make it to Tulsa as we originally planned! But hey, if we don’t…there’s nothing wrong with that! That’s the beauty of this kind of travel!