Monthly Archives: June 2014

Journey’s End – The Road Trip Concludes

Tuesday morning we hit the road promptly; we were headed to New Orleans, had a lot of miles to cover, and wanted to arrive at a reasonable hour. We still wanted to get a feel for the Texas countryside, however, so we kept to US and State highways rather than the interstates. While Tyler drove, I got on the web and booked a room in the French Quarter.

There’s really not too much to say about the drive. The distances were long, the highways lightly travelled. We found a great little BBQ place in Lufkin; really good brisket and sausages, and signed pictures on the wall ranging from Larry Hagman to Sarah Palin to pretty much the entire country music world. Super friendly, too… all in all a perfect respite!


We continued driving, and arrived in New Orleans around seven or so. We drove into the French Quarter, and found our hotel. Checked in, cleaned up, and went out to walk around and check the place out. It was hot and humid, and the sweat started to flow pretty much right away.

The French Quarter was interesting; parts of it were charming and parts of it were not. I found that the amount of “charm” was inversely proportional to the proximity of Bourbon Street. The distant side streets had beautiful architecture, quaint shops, and friendly people. Bourbon Streen, on the other hand, reminded me of a cross between 1970’s Times Square and Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Mostly strip joints, packed with loud, drunk, overweight tourists stumbling around carrying cheesy plastic hurricane drinks. Nothing against any of those things per se, but I think it is a shame that the most famous site in such an iconic city is so debased in this way.

After our walking tour, we had dinner at Arnaud’s, which was a bit tourist-oriented (no surprise I suppose), and the food was good but not great. Walked around some more, and decided to call it a night. The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, took a walk around the Garden District, and got on the road.

Our destination for Wednesday was The Elms, an antebellum plantation house in Coosada, Alabama, just north of Montgomery. I have a boatload of cousins that live there, and we were stopping in for dinner and a night of accommodations. Not such an aggressive driving day, so we chose a backroads route through southern rural Mississippi and Alabama. Another day of stress-free, traffic-free, and truck-free driving on the rural highways, complete with another BBQ lunch!


As always, our visit to The Elms was a beautiful time, lovely dinner with my aunt and uncle, my cousin Peter and his wife Janet (who so kindly hosted us!), as well as a half dozen other relations. We had a splendid dinner and breakfast and were lulled peacefully to sleep by the music made by the cicadas in the trees.

The destination for our final evening was Charleston, South Carolina. Again, we took the smaller roads, which was slow going at times due to construction, frequent towns, and inconveniently placed rivers and creeks. We arrived in Charleston in time for a late dinner. I had asked Karen to make a dinner reservation for us, as she had been looking at Charleston restaurants recently. She booked us a table at McCrady’s, a 200-year-old location with an excellent restaurant. As we had now officially made it from coast to coast, it was great to celebrate with a fantastic meal and delicious wines!

One of the things we celebrated during our dinner was the fact that we had made it coast-to-coast in a car with 125,000 miles on it, on tough roads with countless potholes, cattle guards, and railroad crossings, with no problems or breakdowns whatsoever. This all changed the next morning in the genteel and civilized confines of Charleston, when we awoke to a flat left-rear tire. So, instead of seeing the Charleston sights, we spent the morning watching Hoda and the Andy Griffith Show in the Firestone waiting room while the TT got a well-earned set of new tires.

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The repair work set us back a bit time-wise, and I had a flight to catch at Raleigh Durham airport in the evening, so we had to hop on I-26 and I-95 to make some tracks. Once we got comfortable with the travel time, we decided we had enough time to stop for one last picturesque Southern lunch, this time at Johnson’s Fish in Manning, South Carolina. After a tasty lunch of fried (and very bony) fish, hushpuppies, blackeyed peas, cabbage, rice with gravy, and sweet tea, we got back on the back roads for the final few hours up to RDU.

We got to the airport in ample time for me to make my flight, which would cover in six hours what we had taken eight days to drive. I hopped out at the curb and cleared my bags out of the car, and Tyler and I gave each other a big hug. With that, I walked off to catch my flight back to Karen and Brian in California, and Tyler drove off to his life as a graduate student, and beyond.




Travel maps for the last part of the trip follow! Click to enlarge…

Greetings from Plano – The Road Trip Continues

We have traveled a long way since I last posted, let me get y’all caught up!

When I last wrote, we had just reached Grand Junction, Colorado, and the lovely El Palomino motel. We slept well at El Palomino, and had an adequate (and free!) breakfast. Then we were back on the road, headed East.


Our first diversion was to Aspen. Interesting place, beautiful setting with beautiful people. We followed a Tesla into town, saw a guy running errands in his Ferarri, and other interesting examples of the affluent at play. The weather was OK, not great, and the town was packed with viditors for the big Food and Wine festival.

As it was getting to be time for lunch, we decided to grab something to eat and see some sights. We killed two birds with one stone by taking a gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain, and having lunch on the patio there. A bit chilly and breezy, but all in all a great stop.

From Aspen we headed up to Independence Pass, a very high (over 12,000 feet) crossing of the continental divide. We took a walk around, were duly impressed, then got back on the road to Leadville.

Leadville is one of the highest reasonable-sized towns in the USA at over 10,000 feet, and, believe it or not, Karen’s mom was born there. We decided to stop and snap a picture or two to send to her, grabbed a cookie and some coffee, and continued to Denver.


Looking at the clock, we decided we had time for one more diversion, so we left the freeway at Silverthorne and went north to Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive through the park was pretty amazing, it goes through long stretches well above timberline, with steep drops into deep valleys. As Tyler is not a big fan of heights, he was most comfortable driving avout 15 feet from the edge, well into the oncoming lane! He gladly relinquished the wheel at the earliest convenient opportunity.

I spent the night at the home of some old friends, Carolyn and Cody Sutherland, in Niwot, Colorado. Tyler had dinner with us, then spent the night with his friend Zach, who graduated a year ahead of him at Wake Forest.


We were on the road by 9AM, headed in the general direction of Santa Fe. While not the most direct route, we decided it would allow us to enjoy some more lovely mountain scenery before spending some quality time on the prairie. We went south to Colorado Springs, where we saw some of my old haunts there, including Garden of the Gods (which looked fairly humble a day after Utah!) and Manitou Springs. We drove by my old house in Chipita Park, then got back on 24 for the drive through South Park.

Our next stop was Great Sand Dunes National Park, a really uniqu place where several miles of sand dunes have piled up against the mountains, completely devoid of vegetation and up to seven hundred feet in height. It was an interesting time to visit; the wind had come up to about forty miles an hour or so, and sand was swirling off the dunes. We wend for a short walk and were thoroughly sandblasted. Peapole were fleeing off of the dunes themselves, staggering through the wind and looking like the walking dead in a zombie movie as the came towards us in the dust and sand.

Taos is almost directly south of the sand dunes, so we decided to make a stop there. We were prey disappointed, actually. We both thought that it had the feel of a planned development rather than of an authentic place. We got our of the car in the plaza, took a quick picture, then got back on the road.


Years ago, Karen and I had been through the area, and we ate lunch at a place in the small town of Chimayo. As I had fond memories of the place, and remembered it as being very authentic, we decided that would be our dinner stop. Rancho de Chimayo did not disappoint, and the margaritas and the food were delicious, and the atmosphere was a welcome relief from all the ersatz adobe of Taos.

As Taos was so disappointing, I was fully expected to experience the same feelings in Santa Fe, and was delighted to find this was not the case. Santa Fe was lively, charming, and authentic. We got a bargain on a room at the Hilton there, and took a walk around town before retiring for the night.


Since we are both meeting friends in Dallas, we got on the road early on Monday, at 7:30 or so. Knowing that we had reached the end of the scenic portion of the trip, we decided it was time to put some serious mileage behind us, and hopped on 285 South, towards Roswell, and the long drive to the Lone Star State.

Not much to say about the drive, other than it was longer than we calculated. I had it in my mind that it was 570 miles, but I think that must have been as the crow flies. The shortes road route is more like 650 miles, and the route we selected was just over 700 miles.Seven hundred flat, straight miles!


We made it to Texas in plenty of time to meet with friends – Tyler with a friend from school, and me with John Little, a good rugby friend who is now a lawyer and bar owner. After a few beers and a delicious burger, it was time to head to Plano, and the opulence of the Fairfield Inn.

By the way, for those who are interested, here are maps of our route so far. Enjoy!

Time for a Road Trip!

Tyler has decided to stay at Wake Forest for one more year to get a Master’s degree. As a grad school student he will need to live off campus, and thus will need a car. Since our old Audi TT is basically gathering dust in the driveway, we decided the thing that made the most sense was for him to take that car out to North Carolina, rather than trying to find a car to buy out there. And what better way to get it there than to drive it ourselves, seeing some sights along the way!



We left Thursday morning at around 8AM, headed across the Central Valley to Yosemite. We decided to cross the Sierra Nevada at Tioga pass, in the north part of Yosemite National Park. This is a high pass, for California anyway, and traverses Toulomne Meadows and other less crowded parts of the park.

On the way to Yosemite we passed through the site of last year’s Rim Fire, one of the largest forest fires in recent California history. The scope was truly incredible – mile after mile of dead trees, as far as the eye could see at every viewpoint. A bit sobering. The drive through Yosemite was as beautiful as we had hoped – I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this!

After descending from Tioga Pass, we did a quick jaunt past Mono Lake, then headed through the California desert to Nevada. Anyone who has driven across Nevada knows there is not much to see. It is basically known as Basin and Range country, which is exactly what it sounds like – cross over a range of mountains, then descend into a basin, cross it, and climb the next range. We amused ourselves by sighting the road as far ahead as we could see, and estimating the distance to the last visible part before curve or horizon – longest was 16.5 miles. Pretty in its own strange somewhat lunar way – all 300+ miles of it. We ended up stopping finally at the old mining town of Pioche, near the Utah border.

Neither of us slept that well, so we were on the road shortly after 6AM. After a ultra-hearty breakfast in Cedar City, Utah, we headed up into the mountains, bound towards Colorado. The drive across Utah was simply spectacular. We stopped at Bryce National Park and went hiking for about an hour to burn off some of the bacon from earlier. Leaving Bryce, we traversed the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, followed by Capitol Reef National Park.

By  the time we left Capitol Reef, we decided we’d seen enough sculpted red sandstone, so we determined that we would hightail it to Grand Junction, Colorado, in time to catch the minor league baseball game there. We checked into a motel and hustled to the game, making it into the stadium in the middle of the second inning.

For our troubled, we were treated to some of the most comically sloppy baseball we have ever seen! By the fifth inning we couldn’t take it anymore, and headed out to the local brewery to grab dinner and a beer. The beds at the El Palomino provided a lovely night’s sleep, we’ll see how the free breakfast measures up!

Time to Flip!

So, with the assembly of the lower hull complete, it is time to seal and paint the bottom, then flip her over. I had to do some research on just what steps were necessary to finish the bottom of the boat, what kind of paints to use, etc. I determined that the procedure was going to be as follows…

First step was to spend some additional time sanding the hull. In order for the finished boat to look good, I had to smooth out every divot, clean up the edges, etc. Yet more sanding – and after every pass, it seemed like I found new stuff that had to be handled. Finally, I had to declare things “good enough”.

After sanding, I sealed the hull with a clear sealer. The point of the sealer is to protect the wood from the water. Since I won’t be leaving the boar in the water for more than a few hours at a time, it may not have been necessary. But, I figured what-the-heck, might as well do it right.

After sealing, it was time for another pass with the sander. The sealer leaves a rough texture when it dries, so I had to smooth that out. Once the hull was smooth, it was time to prime. The job of the primer is to smooth out imperfections (of which there are many!) and help the paint to stick. It is nasty stuff. Thick and sticky and toxic-smelling. I put on one coat and let it dry, then it was time to sand again. After sanding, I did a second touch-up coat of primer, and put the stuff away, hopefully for a while.


After priming, it was finally time to paint. But before that, it was time to address the paint odor issue. Painting in the basement was smelling up the whole house. And, I was worrying about the toll that all these fumes were taking on my limited stocks of brain cells. So, I bought a cheap canopy and the best respirator I could find, and moved the whole kit outside.

The paint went on smooth and looked awesome when it dried. I went with white for the hull, with dark blue trim. Managed to get two coats of both colors on while fighting the heat wave. Early morning breeze and late morning heat (not supposed to paint when it is hotter than ninety degrees) left me a slim window.


By the way, the safety glasses are actually bifocals – normal if I look ahead, but magnified if I look down, so I can see what I am doing for close-up (like, within two feet) stuff. Ah, the ravages of old age…

The boat looks great from a distance – just needs a little touch-up. I’m not going to let anyone within five feet of her, though… that is where you can start to tell just how much of an amateur I am! But I am happy with things so far.

Usually when boatbuilding, the “flip” is a big deal. With most boats, it is difficult, takes lots of people, and is followed with celebratory drinking afterword. In my case, though, it just takes two of us to pick her up and turn her over – about like moving a couch. So I skipped the party, flipped the boat, put a coat of sealer on the inside of the hull, moved her back inside, and started plotting my next steps.