Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Denver and Missouri

I drove about seven hours yesterday, from Ohio to Greensboro, North Carolina, passing through West Virginia and Virginia at different points. It struck me that I really am doing a hella lot of driving and will continue to do so for a few more weeks. And I'm still not even done recounting my drive east even though I'm closer to starting my true drive west. In any case. After Utah and driving through the Rockies I arrived in Denver, where I stayed with P. and his wife C. Like AK, they had put me up on my way out, so it was kind of neat to do the same basic visiting in reverse. I haven't become an entirely new person, but my time at the farm did, I think, do some good work on my overall outlook on life and sense of direction, and maybe that was noticed by my hosts. Or maybe not. In any case, it was a lovely visit. We had a nice dinner one night, and enjoyed a sunny outdoor lunch on another. I tried an alpaca slider. Not necessarily going to be my go-to protein, but interesting enough.

A field I came across in Kansas.
I once again stopped in Hays, Kansas at a local brewery. I had a soup/half sandwich combo. The soup was so-so but the BLT was not skimping on the bacon.
The rolling hills of Kansas. It's simply not as flat as everyone says it is.
I also repeated my journey by breaking in Kansas City, and having dinner at Antoine's. I planned on having a steak but was tempted by their special of the night: osso bucco. Honestly it was good, but I think a steak would actually have been more satisfying. I sat in a high chair along a small bar that faced the kitchen, as there were no tables available. I had a great vantage point to see a new dude screw up a lot of salads, which I think was as frustrating to him as it was to the servers and higher-ups of the kitchen. More interestingly, I saw the guy who seemed like the second in command cut a lot of steaks from a larger chunk, which was pretty neat.
The next morning I found that my car's back left tire was no longer inflated. I put on the spare and spent a bit of time waiting for it to be patched. It doesn't look that flat in this photo, but it was.
My end destination was Tennessee, which I could have reached in one long day of driving, but I decided that I wanted to see just a bit more of the country before arriving at more familiar locales. To that end, I stopped in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Honestly this was a pretty arbitrary decision, and I mistakenly assumed there would be some kind of old school, not-too-fancy, hotel right in the heart of this old town along the Mississippi...I was wrong. Still beautiful though. Missouri is pretty, who knew? Full of racists? Yep. But pretty.
The river.
I stopped here for a buffet barbeque dinner, which I enjoyed. I then drove back out close to the interstate and stayed at a rather average hotel.
The next day I chose to take quite a meandering route. I wanted to see as much of the Mississippi as I could, but I don't think there really is any road that nicely runs parallel to the river and allows you to actually see it. I did take the Great River Road route, which kept me close to it, but I had to work a little to actually see the river. I think I spent a minute in Illinois before entering Kentucky and then finally Tennessee. Really small roads, lots of country and not so much of the ubiquitous same-ness that the towns right along major highways usually exhibit.
It was very cool to drive in the morning, as there was a nice amount of mist on the river. It eventually burned off, but not before I snapped this pic.
Me and the Mississippi.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cross Country Drive Continues: Nevada, Utah, Rockies

My evening in Battle Mountain was uneventful and the next day I hit the road on a generally early note. I had asked the nice older lady at the front desk for directions to Lewis Canyon, which I read was nearby, but her directions were ultimately very confusing, as they were actually directions to an entirely different canyon two hours away. I ended up going to that canyon, as I already had basic directions, and it was worth my time. Lamoille Canyon was a little ways outside the town/city of Elko, which is, if I were ever to drive through Nevada again, I'd stay instead of Battle Mountain. I didn't quite know what I was going to see as I started the ascent after driving on pretty flat roads for a handful of miles. This first photo is right before I really got into the canyon itself. It was relatively untraveled area, so I was able to basically stop and stand in the middle of the road...but I was not smart enough to avoid getting my finger in the picture.  I also saw some very pretty birds around these parts.
I tried throughout my drive up and around the canyon to take photos that took in the scale of where I was - the bottom - and just how dramatically the mountains (mountains?) rose around me. I would have loved to see this in the summer, as I imagine maybe then it wouldn't be so brown? My main issue with Nevada and Utah and parts of western California was just the brown-ness of it all. Yes its exact hues varied a bit, but brown on brown on brown just ain't my thing.

An educational sign informed me that this location was where three (I think it was three) different glaciers crashed into one another one billion (hyperbole) years ago thus forming this series of ridges and dips.
I took a small walk on a loop trail and got to see some slightly different trees/landscape.
As usual, I've waited too long since the experience to retain the information I learned at the time. For example, the body of water in the photo below has some fancy geographic name, as it was formed by melting ice one zillion (hyperbole) years ago. I do recall the informational sign/paper guide as saying that this one of the last spots to still have water in the height of summer, and was usually warmer than other spots during the worst of the winter.
It was gorgeous, and as I walked around its edges I thought to myself...'is that a beaver dam?' And then I almost convinced myself that it was not, because what do I know about Nevada and beavers? Nothing, is what.
Beaver dam? Or just some weird bottleneck of sticks and whatnot?
But then as I was walking just a bit away, I found this...which is, unless it was staged to confuse people like me, clear proof of beavers in the area. I thought it was quite neat to see how they use their teeth to whittle and chop away at the base of the tree. The texture and angles. It just got to me. So cool.
Once I drove as far as one can into the canyon (about twelve miles), I turned myself around and drove back to Elko. I had read about the Basque population in Nevada, and Elko specifically, and decided that before getting back on the highway it was entirely worth it to stop at Basque place for lunch. There were a few to choose from, but the Star Hotel generally had the best ratings, so it is there that I stopped. The main dining room was thrumming, with many family-style tables where different sets of folks all sat elbow to elbow. I ended up at a small table for two in a corner, so didn't really have the group eating experience. Their salad, which was simple in being mostly greens, was not simple in its deceivingly simple dressing. Very good. I also had a lamb burger that I had no complaints about. I wish it had been possible for me to overlap with the establishment's annual Cowboy Poetry Festival...but it simply wasn't in the cards.
As I was getting into my car, I looked down the street a bit and saw a sign for Mona's can't really make it out because my phone's camera is rather shitty, and I felt kind of conspicuous, but this was a brothel. Mona's Ranch brothel. This made me think of Tales of the City a bit, which will probably only resonate or make sense to about five people.
I was also amused by the idea of a bar called Stumble Inn, and was sorry that this business didn't make it.
Once I left Elko I just drove through Nevada and into Utah. Seeing salt flats and other brown things. It's a weird landscape with a sense of beauty, I guess, but guh, not my favorite. Once I arrived at Ak's in SLC, we soon got into her car and made our way to Ensign Peak (or at least I think that's what it was), which we then climbed. It was pretty steep and I won't lie and say that it didn't tax me a little, but in a good way. My main regret was simply not thinking to bring water. We were two of many making it up in order to be able to see the city/the lake as the sun set. Pretty stuff. After that we had a lovely dinner.
And the next morning I got up quite early to once again hit the road, but I did need gas. Here is a thing I saw at the gas station.
This is a few hours south and west of Salt Lake City. Definitely interesting, but again, to me, rather bleak.
Me looking a little happier than I actually am about the landscape.
Eventually I crossed over into Colorado and found myself entering the Rockies. I was really glad that I got to do this, as I was unable to drive through the mountains last winter because, duh, snow. And even more glad that it was still decidedly fall, and the different colors of foliage were quite lovely.
I wanted to stop a lot along my Rockies drive, as there were more pretty things to photograph. But I managed to generally keep it together.
And thus concludes my Nevada->Denver part of the drive. What I've learned is: I do not really like Nevada; I could have really enjoyed spending way more time exploring the Rockies (I saw people kayaking in a river and I would love to do that); the Rockies are intense and tall. That's basically all the lessons.