Saturday, July 30, 2011

Home Sweet Home

July 30 – There’s nothing more to say. No stops today – we were homeward bound and nothing was stopping us.

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Final Stats: 19 Days, 19 States, 11 National Parks, 3 World Heritage Sites, 2 Cars, 5,982 Miles!

Almost Heaven, Almost Home

IMG_3854July 29 -- Mammoth Cave National Park is, quite simply, gorgeous. It may actually be my favorite of all the parks we’ve seen; so lush and green and, even more importantly, so full of life. I don’t think I’ve heard as many birds, as many crickets, as many bugs anywhere else.IMG_3899

After a short hike around, we walked to the visitor’s center shortly after it opened, and good thing we did as many of the tours were sold out well in advance, and those that hadn’t been were selling out fast. But, we were able to get tickets for the one we wanted, the two hour “Heritage Tour.”

Well, Mammoth Cave is spectacular, by far my favorite cave to date (although Ellery still prefers the caves we saw in Belize). And the tour was great; the ranger described in wonderful detail how people have been touring the cave, and writing their names on the walls and ceilings, since the early 1800’s. And the fact that it was cool in the cave – compared to the 100 degrees plus temperatures that have followed us throughout this trip – was an added bonus.

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Leaving Mammoth Cave, we started heading for home. But … wait … there’s more! What’s that sign ahead? Lincoln’s birthplace awaits!

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So, a quick diversion there, and back on the road. And what a road! Through Versailles and Lexington, some of the most beautiful horse country I could have imagined, and then through the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, finally stopping for the night in a huge Days Motel on the top of a hill that appears to cater to the hundreds of people who come to this lake region for a weekend (or more) of recreation.District 1-20110729-00176

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Duck Walk!

IMG_3849July 28 – We did more today than I ever expected.

Up early, our goal was to see the National Civil Rights Museum first thing in the morning, then head back to the hotel for the 11:00 a.m. duck walk, and from there to Graceland.  So, we took the Main Street trolley down to the Lorraine Motel and were there well in advance of the opening time.  And yes, I felt very guilty that we rushed through the museum in an hour and a half – it was well worth a longer trip, but Ellery was determined to see the ducks and, well, I wasn’t going to let her down.  But, there was a lot to be had in that hour and a half – I had forgotten how well-done the exhibits were, and there was a half-hour film about MLK, Jr.’s last days that was really very good.  In the end, the only part of the museum that we gave short shrift to was the portion in the building where James Earl Ray took his shot, dealing with his capture and prosecution. 

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We did make it back to the Peabody in time for the duck walk, which Ellery dutifully captured on video.  It was, indeed, quite fun and I’m glad we saw it.

The Peabody Ducks

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IMG-20110728-00168 Then it was back on the road, just a few miles, to Graceland.  IMG_3851Is it wrong that we spent more time at Graceland than at the Civil Rights Museum?  Probably, but Graceland is so over-the-top, so kitchy fun, how can you not take the time to see all the gaudiness that was Elvis? 

                          

Up until this morning, we really had no plans for after Memphis, just the quickest route home.  But then I noticed that Mammoth Cave in Kentucky was a possibility.  The longest known cave in the world, it couldn’t be missed.  So that’s where we headed, arriving at the delightfully run-down, old-fashioned Mammoth Cave Hotel within the National Park (this was our 11th National Park of the trip, in case you’re counting) well after dark, where we were greeted by a small snake at our front door.  After shooing him away, we made it inside just in time to fall fast asleep.IMG-20110728-00170

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eastward Ho!

IMG_3823July 27 – Yes, I’m a bit behind in the blogging, and the downside of that is that it is difficult to remember the details. Not the big stuff, but the little stuff like … where the hell were we on Wednesday?

Ah yes, we started in Kansas City, MO. And we drove east, arriving in St. Louis just around 10:00 a.m. I don’t recall anything about the drive, except that I believe it was rather unimaginative – nothing particularly beautiful or ugly. Just road.

The plan was to drive by the Arch, snap a few photos, and continue on to Memphis in time for the 5 p.m. duck walk at the Peabody Hotel (where I had decided we would spend the night, after our less-than-stellar Holiday Inn experience). But that Arch is pretty alluring – close up and in person, it is pretty magnificent. Since we had made good time, so up we went. (Actually, first you have to go down below the Arch, and then you take a pod-like tram to the top). And I realized that St. Louis is one hell of a big city. Really big. Oh, and the Mississippi River is pretty ugly down here, as compared to up north.

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After the Arch we walked along a small historic riverfront area (in need of some life), ate lunch and got back on the road. But, eeek! Would we make it by 5 p.m.? It was looking iffy but I was determined to make a go of it.

Chickasawba-20110727-00149We crossed into Arkansas – quick, stop for a photo, but keep moving. We crossed into Tennessee – quick, stop for a photo, but keep moving. Memphis-20110727-00152Yes, we were going to make it, with 3 minutes to spare (seriously) when, disaster struck in the form of … a wrong turn. Yes, a single wrong turn got us to the Peabody at 5:10, minutes after the ducks had departed for the evening. Sigh … well, there was still tomorrow.

So, we checked in, went to the rooftop for a view of Memphis, and then I had my annual meat fix at the Rendez-Vous. Bar-be-que that was definitely worth it.

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Then we headed to Beale Street. Everything I remembered and more – the more in this case being Bike Night, a Wednesday night tradition. Hundreds of bikers and bikes. Plus the usual streetside musicians, beer garden bands, and wandering crowds. And “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” being played and sung at every single bar up and down the street. Really, Memphis didn’t turn out any other song? None?

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Well, tomorrow includes a stop at Graceland, so we’ll see if there isn’t another tune or two around.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Day On The Road

Stateline-20110726-00131July 26 – This will be a short update because today was nothing but a long, long, long day in the car, driving from Denver to Kansas City, Mo. Lots of driving, punctuated by only two stops of any note: Fort Hays, Kansas (where there is an EnerSys plant, and where my friend Katherine went to school) and the Brookville Hotel in Abeliene for the best fried chicken dinner anywhere.

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Oh, and we did stay at the same crappy Holiday Inn as the Kansas City Chiefs, back in training after the lock-out ended. Those are some big, big guys.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Relax and Reload

IMG-20110725-00122July 25 --  For nearly the first time since the trip began, Jordan was up without any prodding and quickly packed.  If there was any doubt last night that she was ready to go home, it was resolved.  She wanted to go home.  So, we drove to the airport, again in silence but, this time, not an angry one.  I asked her if she wanted me just to drop her off and she said no, so I helped her check in and walked her to security.  As I told her that I hoped we’d see her again, maybe in a less stressful situation, and that I really did like her, she gave me a slight smile as she headed through the screeners.

Yesterday and today were days when I really needed friends; I was amazingly lucky, really, to have them waiting for me in Denver.

While I was sad to see Jordan go, things really did lighten up; it was really the best thing for all of us.  I returned to Denver proper and joined Leslie and Ellery for breakfast.  Soon, we picked up Gabe and explored the 16th Street Mall in a bit more depth, and made our way to the capital for the obligatory sighting of the mile-high marker (although I’m told there are three of them and no one is really sure which step is a mile high).  Eventually, Phil and Rachel also joined us, and we spend several nice hours just hanging by the swimming pool.  At which point Ellery suggested that the women all get pedicures so, off we went and had our toes painted.

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After saying good-bye to Phil, Leslie, Rachel and Gabe, we returned to our room briefly, but were soon picked up by David and Anne, and we all headed to a very cute little neighborhood overlooking the city for a nice Mexican dinner at Lola, a stroll around the neighborhood, and a drive through various parts of Denver (which included our sighting of a Calatrava bridge under construction – we’ve now seen four Calatravas on three different continents).  Denver really is a lovely city; lots of diverse neighborhoods, a solid city center, and enviable natural beauty.

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