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We got an early start and headed out of Alabama, soon making it to the Georgia state line and the Eastern time zone. From there we headed up to Atlanta, where I learned that tales of the city's traffic had not been exaggerated. We took the beltway around the city instead of going through it directly. I cannot imagine what kind of mayhem we'd have run into if we'd gone right through, as the drivers on the beltway were crazy enough. (I learned why signals are so rarely used: as soon as you turn one on, some bozo cuts you off.)
Eventually we meandered around Atlanta and arrived in the suburb of Lawrenceville, home of the triple-A Gwinnett Braves, where we located the stadium and collected our pennant as well as pictures of their nearly-new stadium. Soon we were back on Interstate 85, bound for our penultimate stop of the day: Greenville, South Carolina for a pennant from the Greenville Drive, the single-A affiliate of the Red Sox. Our arrival there was greeted with the similar brand of eerie wariness that we'd received elsewhere on our deep-south pennant chases, but we got a pennant and headed for the North Carolina border.
Outside of Greenville we stopped at a Chick-Fil-A to eat. We used up nearly the last of our cash getting chicken strips and a sandwich - the only bill left was, quite strangely, a 100-dollar bill. With this as our only cash, my dad's after-snack peach milkshake was bought using it, which prompted nearly the entire restaurant staff to check and double-check the bill for accuracy. The comical nature of the counterfeit concern was apparent from my perch at a booth across the building. (The bill, of course, checked out.) My mom proved our trustworthiness to the cashier by returning a phone left in a nearby booth by the store manager - and while I cannot be entirely sure, I think they may have been using the opportunity to test us.
We'd gotten no more than a few miles over the NC border before, in the span of about five second, it went from 90 degrees and ominous to a 60 degree downpour where we could barely see a foot in front of the car. We exited near Bessemer City and wound our way westward out of the storm. Using dad's dog-like navigational skills, mom's GPS and iPad maps, and my studious analysis of a road atlas as old as I am, we navigated north and east on secondary roads and followed the storm the rest of the way home. Our route took us on NC-150 through the Lake Norman area, where we saw - amongst other stupidities - folks water-skiing while lightning struck and thunder rolled. I understand the reports of Lake Norman deaths now.
Before we knew it, we were home and unloading our things into the house. I'm glad we sprayed for bugs before we left, as a number of them are curled up. We've gotten rid of the ones along the main walkways in the house, but we didn't get them all and as such will need to vacuum them up tomorrow.
On this trip, we covered more states and provinces than we did last year (26 to 25) in more days (30 to 28). We traversed the continent in a manner that would nearly encircle last year's route, but we somehow ended up with less milage (8252.2 to 8355.4). Total mileage for both trips combined comes out as 16,607.6. The number of car fixes increased (3 to 1) and we ended up with more pennants as well (17 to 15, though we got four free ones in Vancouver).
Tomorrow: we sleep in. Our trip has come to its conclusion earlier than we had planned, but I would prefer it this way, as the similar scenery of our southern excursion increased our anxiousness to get back home.
We wanted to leave our hotel room as soon as possible, so we ended up getting on the road out of Louisiana at around 9:20. Our first stop of the day was Vicksburg, Mississippi, which we arrived at around 11:00. We entered the visitor center and watched a short movie detailing the events of the Vicksburg campaign before going on the auto tour around the battlefield.
Vicksburg was a stronghold along the Mississippi River and widely considered the key to holding the river by both Confederate and Union forces. The Confederates stationed at Vicksburg were led by General John Pemberton, who was one of the more incompetent generals of the war. Ulysses S. Grant, along with other Union generals, had tried various times to get to Vicksburg with no success, but Pemberton left Vicksburg eastbound and engaged Grant's forces. Grant routed Pemberton's forces until Pemberton - for some unknown reason - thought it was a good idea to retreat the entire way back to Vicksburg, which was built up with fortifications.
When Grant arrived, he was anxious enough to get the campaign over with and secure the Mississippi for the Union to order frontal assaults on the nearly impregnable fortress that Vicksburg had become, but these were unsuccessful. Eventually, having more supplies than the Confederates, he outlasted them in trenches until the southern forces could no longer bear the hunger and disease through the ranks. The surrender of Vicksburg occurred almost exactly the same time as Gettysburg.
The auto tour took us along various sights along Union lines and trenches. While veritable forests have grown up almost everywhere on the battlefield now, the hills are clearly unnatural and are the remnants of the Confederate stronghold. We worked our way past large stone and marble monuments set up by states to commemorate where their infantry units were located along the battlefield, and in that regard it's very similar to Gettysburg. The open spaces there were made it easy to see the eerie hilliness of the terrain, with the lines clearly distinguishable by the naked eye even today.
(As far as monuments go, Illinois had the best one: a massive domed structure with the names of every known Illinois native present at the battle. They were organized by unit and within unit they were alphabetized, making it easy to spot various set of brothers who had signed up at the same time. The floor had a mosaic design depicting Illinois' seal, and at the very top of the dome was a hole the same size as the seal on the floor. I'm sure there was more symbolism in the structure there than I noticed.)
The heat was ridiculously oppressive, as the dry heat we'd accustomed ourselves to in the southwest had morphed into mugginess so thick I'd venture to call it a warm airborne slush. Opportunities to walk around outside were already severely limited due to the fact that they don't want people climbing all over the battlefield and that there are no less than three species of poisonous snake in the region, so we didn't miss anything.
(Not only did the siege of Vicksburg result in one of the first uses of trench warfare in history, but also featured a crater blown into Confederate lines - both tactics used at Petersburg later on in the war.)
Before the road looped back around to go back along the Confederate lines, there was the USS Cairo on display as well as a small museum dedicated to it. The Cairo was one of seven steamboat warships that made up the Union's small inland navy, and was sunk by the first usage of electric torpedoes (or what we'd call "mines") as it rolled along at its max speed of a whopping nine MPH along the Yazoo River. All of the hands safely got off the ship, but the Cairo sank to the bottom of the river and was covered by silt. The ship was lost and nearly forgotten until the 1950s, when scientists ascertained its position underneath the silt on the bottom of the river. In the mid-60s, a crane - itself, ironically, known as the Cairo - helped to lift the ship out of the water. After accidentally cutting the ship in two, it was towed away for restoration which continued into the early 80s. It was then transported to Vicksburg for display under a gigantic white tent.
How good a shape the ship is in cannot be overstated. While load-bearing beams that had rotted were replaced during its restoration, almost everything on the ship was still original, including the boiler area and gigantic pistons that drove the water wheel. (The ship ran on a ton of coal an hour when running at top speed.) The explosion that led to its sinking is still visible near the front of the ship, and the coolest thing about the experience is that they built a trail through the ship so you can actually look at what the sailors did while on it. The museum next to it showcases the preserved artifacts found on the ship, such as vases that look as good as new and smooth-looking, nearly unworn leather shoes. The brass firing mechanisms used on the cannons were in astounding condition and bottles of ammonia were not only still intact, but also half-full. The bell recovered from the ship had actually trapped 1863 air and, when it was recovered, burped it back out.
After exploring the Cairo, we'd had enough of the mugginess and got back to the car to get around what remained of the battlefield, which mainly consisted of more monuments for Union and Confederate units alike.
We left the park around 1:30 and headed on I-20 to Jackson, which is not only Mississippi's capital city but the home of the Mississippi Braves, the Atlanta Braves' double-A affiliate. Their stadium was nice and we purchased two pennants (one for the minor and major league teams alike) from a very dull lady who barely talked and reacted blankly to the things we said. We thanked her anyway and were back on the road within short order. In about an hour's time we arrived in Meridian, the last town of any repute before the Alabama border. We got gas there, and - quite hungry by this point - we went into town in a futile attempt at getting something to eat. We got a sense of the Meridian downtown in as far as we wanted to get, but we left hungry.
We continued along the highway as magnolias began in the median and along the sides of the roads. The magnolias got bigger as we approached the Alabama border, which we did a little after 4:00. We stopped at a badly laid-out welcome center and learned that the double-A Birmingham Barons were not playing today, but were yesterday and would be tomorrow. This threw another wrench in the debate between stopping in Birmingham and just sucking it up to get to Atlanta, which continued in the car in various forms as I drove us into Birmingham, where we finally found a parking space at a hotel and went in to inquire about getting an Internet signal for the iPad map software and possibly a room for the night.
The hotel was full, despite their severe lack of parking due to repaving of half their lot, but the stop was not a waste as we met and talked with their assistant general manager, who is originally from Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He knew a lot about the evolution of Charlotte as well as the Kannapolis/Concord area due to the fact that he'd worked in Concord hotels, and is neither a fan of racing nor the rampant Dale Earnhardt worship present in that region of the state. Hungry but fearful of eating too much, we split a club sandwich and hit the road again to a hotel an hour away, which we'd booked in Oxford on advice from the Wilkesboro fellow, who spoke highly of the hotel quality in the area.
The sun began to set as we worked our way through the surprisingly upscale Birmingham. We avoided a lethal time-killing combination of road construction, backups through multiple stoplights, and a crash ripe for rubbernecking by getting on the Interstate and heading on out to Oxford. We made good time as we worked our way through more NC-like terrain at the southern end of the Appalachian chain where the mountains are no different than large hills. Despite an utterly black road that no one could possibly see - dark to the point that I was convinced it sucked light in and ate it like a ravenous wolf on steroids - and small, highly faded stop signs away from the road to the point that only I saw them - and out of the corner of my eye at that - we made it safe and sound to the hotel at 8:30, where we ordered a proper dinner of three hamburgers. While not great they were certainly serviceable enough, and we wolfed them down along with many glasses of lemonade. (We didn't go the pitcher route this time, though I think we easily could have finished one off.)
Tomorrow: we return home after a month on the road. Today marks the day we go beyond the 28 of last year, but, ironically, we may just end up with fewer miles even though we could nearly encircle last year's route with this year's route. I suppose we've cut down on the meandering this time.
We got the call from the dealership around 11:00 and had the same older gentlemen who dropped us off pick us up and drive us over. The car's oil was changed and the water cooling system belt had been replaced. We cautiously got onto the freeway, but all systems were nominal as we took it up to speed.
With a fully functioning car - the first time since Utah - we headed east on I-20 bound for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Our previous route would have taken us to minor league teams in San Antonio and Round Rock, but this route takes us to the Texas Rangers in Arlington and the independent AirHogs in Grand Prairie.
The landscape became more grassy, with mesquite trees replacing the scrub brush of previous days. The flat prairies were replaced by hills that rolled increasingly, to the point that I now fully understand why they call that region "Texas hill country." The rolling hills built up our elevation until we lost all of it going down a 6% grade on a curve, a section that the usually laissez-faire Texas government actually put up signs about. North Carolina warns you of every little thing on the road whereas Texas - like most western states - only put signs up on the worst of the worst parts of the road.
(At this point my dad said "look at the grass - it's like a plant!" This, we assume, referred to the fact that the grass was not uniformly growing but instead mostly grew in small clumps akin to exceptionally furry scrub brush. That, or he's just being crazy again.)
Before 1:30 we had made it to the outskirts of Fort Worth where we split off on the western terminus of Interstate 30 which took us through the center of Fort Worth - but not before we passed under perhaps eight or nine bridges simultaneously. The traffic was not as bad as anticipated so we quickly passed through Fort Worth and entered Arlington, a suburb situated roughly between the two major cities.
(Side note: If you're in the middle of nowhere, good luck finding a Texas policeman, because there are none. However, in the Fort Worth city limits alone, we saw no less than four policemen with cars they pulled over. People still drove crazy, but it was significantly less crazy.)
We meandered off the highway and finally found parking after about two dozen marked-off entrances to a large parking lot. We finally worked our way in and headed across the street to the gift shop, where we found the pennant section and selected one. Soon we were checked out and headed back to I-30.
A lot of independent league teams are situated next to or near larger metropolitan areas that have major league teams, but cannot have two due to strange and slightly arbitrary zones set up by MLB. While larger cities such as Los Angeles or New York can support two teams, areas such as Dallas/Fort Worth or Minneapolis/St. Paul can only support one team apiece. As such, both St. Paul and Grand Prairie (right next to Arlington) have independent-league teams - both in the American Association, one of the larger and more respectable independent leagues. We'd called the Grand Prairie team office earlier and were promised a tour before we could get a word in edgewise. We got to the stadium and the lady we'd called did not disappoint in terms of friendliness and excitability.
Our tour guide did not have access to various keys that would have been helpful in getting around the stadium - which is exceptionally nice considering it's an independent league team - but she was a staff member who doubled as an usher and one of the few who didn't have a business card. Her excitability cannot be overstated - she reminded me of you when you're hyped up on a high predisone dose.
The Grand Prairie team won the American Association championship in 2011, but their attendance has shrunk to the point that, if all the fans of an average game sat together, they could only fill up perhaps three sections. Apparently the previous general manager had a tendency to give tickets away, and when the current GM stopped the giveaways, attendance plummeted. We gave her some ideas accumulated from our experiences in Sacramento and Vancouver as to possible ways of getting the attendance back up, and she promised to pass them on, but at the same time she expressed opinions intimating that the higher-ups in the AirHogs staff didn't always value her opinions because she was an usher. (She knew more about what needed to be done than anyone else did, though.)
She took us through the parts of the stadium that she could, which included the suite areas which were nicer than the triple-A digs we toured in Sacramento. To get us to a larger suite she climbed over the small rails that divided the suite seats outside and let us in from the outside.
The hallways are decorated with pigs crawling on or flying various vehicles, including rockets, airplanes, and - my personal favorite - a WWII bomber with baseballs for ammunition and bats for rockets. The stadium is filled with little touches, such as baseball seams on stairs. Also, the field is completely made of AstroTurf save for the circles of dirt making up the pitcher's mound and the area around the batter's box. Since independent teams have to make do with whatever money they get from attendance and souvenirs, AstroTurf for everything cuts down costs. (Plus it eliminates bad hops - a definite plus.)
We got a picture of our tour guide holding Yoder the Duck, and she took us back to get us copies of a picture of the team right after it won the 2011 championship, among other pictures. She then took us downstairs to see the kid's playground area before taking us to the gift shop, where we got a pennant along with a hat and a t-shirt for dad. After thanking them profusely, we got back on the road at 3:30, and had no more destinations for the day save for one: a restaurant called Ponchatoulas in the middle of Ruston, LA, halfway between the Texas border and the Mississippi border.
We got back on I-30 through Dallas until the traffic slowed to a halt, but we were able to exit and worked our way to I-35E which took us down to I-20, where we ran into a bunch of Texans with bad cases of road rage. One guy came within about six inches of sideswiping us while other folks raced around trucks without turn signals. Texans are nice to a fault if you talk to them but you wouldn't get that impression if your experience was defined by the drivers. Perhaps they get all of their frustrations out on the road leading to their mellowness in other endeavors.
Traffic thinned out as we bolted for the border. At around 6:30 we stopped for gas in Waskom, the last town of any size before the Louisiana border - and they do not make it clear where the gas station is or how to get to it without ripping your axles in two. After running over a gigantic pothole that I'm amazed didn't do any damage, we crossed over the highway and tried accessing the gas station via an adjacent shop, but there was no connector, so we had to get back on the frontage road to get to the gas - which was badly needed as we had landed on the big red "E" and only had perhaps a half-gallon left in the tank. We filled up and washed the windshield with the help of little hotel shampoo bottles while under the gaze of a bunch of rednecks who practically emanated the sound of banjos.
We got back on the road and within just a few minutes we'd made it to Louisiana, a state I've never been to before today. My mom told us about the history of Shreveport, named for a certain Captain Shreve that, over a period of many years, un-jammed the Red River and the bustling area that became Shreveport honored the man in their name.
I'm convinced that if you take out the casinos, there would be no Shreveport.
We successfully avoided a random bottle of Gatorade that fell out of the UPS truck in front of us as well as plenty of potholes. Unnecessary road construction has been my pet peeve on this trip, but I will say that Louisiana is a state that could use a heapin' helpin' of road work.
(The Frenchness of the state was apparent when we entered: their welcome sign had French in addition to English and they had what I think was some sort of radio antenna shaped like a tall, thin Eiffel Tower.)
Aside from these oddities, Louisiana's scenery is barely distinguishable from rural areas of North Carolina. The only discrepancy between the two is that Louisiana's trees are rather taller and occasionally curve over the highway to the point that it feels like you're driving through a tunnel. There was little wildlife but a lot of roadkill - the most we've seen since the veritable menagerie of Michigan. We mainly saw armadillo and dog roadkill.
We exited in Ruston and navigated the one-way streets and road construction through its quaint downtown and found the restaurant where we saw a large group of people standing outside. Thinking that this was the line to get in, we figured it must be good. As it turned out, they were a party of eleven and we were seated when we walked in.
The food was an odd combination of delicious and nearly unpalatable. I found the gumbo to be ridiculously atrocious, but the fried crawfish and fried pickles were absolutely amazing. We're finally back to the land of proper sweet tea, and although it was not the flavored sugar water I'm accustomed to, it was a good change of pace from the lemonade that's been our standard order throughout the trip.
Tomorrow: Jackson, MS, or Birmingham, AL. We're going to get as far as we feel is possible after we tour the Civil War history in Vicksburg.
We left Lubbock at 10:00 and found a gas station in the midst of the confusing roads. We then exited the city - surprisingly easier than we had originally thought - and headed southeast, bound for San Antonio. Flat farmland was on either side as oil fields began to dominate the landscape. Eventually we ran into gigantic wind farms which stretched for miles and miles into the flat distance, and also saw a Google Maps truck taking pictures when we were in the town of Snyder. (If a snapshot of our car makes it to Google Maps, I'll inform the good folks of BZPower.)
We got on the Interstate and entered the town of Sweetwater, which styles itself as the Wind Energy Capital of the World - and I certainly believe it. We got gas at around 12:30 and got drinks before hitting the road again, traveling on the Interstate for about ten miles before exiting on Texas Route 70, which we went on for a good ways.
That is, until our car decided to overheat.
There were no odd sounds, smells, or sights emerging from the hood, but we diligently pulled over at the first chance we got. My dad and I checked under the hood, where everything seemed nominal, while my mom accessed the owner's manual to check on what our dashboard had told us. We waited for a while with the engine off to let it cool down, which we did for about a half-hour. During this time we assessed the levels of coolant and oil, which were both surprisingly low given their Santa Fe top-off but not enough to account for the engine overheat.
We gingerly turned the car back on and everything sounded alright, so we cautiously rolled down the road for about two miles before the engine heat shot up and the dashboard urgently beeped, telling us to stop the car immediately, so we pulled off on a farm-to-market road and stopped the car. Again we checked under the hood, but everything once again appeared to be normal. We did not want to try going any farther down the road, however, so we contacted OnStar for roadside assistance and proceeded to get in touch with possibly the most incompetent and klutzy person we could get, who clearly read off the screen in front of her without comprehending our situation. Eventually - after a ton of re-explaining and exasperation (especially when she asked if we needed a ride literally right after we'd explained the entire situation using small to medium-sized words) - we got ahold of a towing company who sent out a truck to get us. After this, we cancelled our San Antonio and Austin reservations and booked a room in Abeline.
Then began a long wait wherein we all tried our best to pass the time before a fellow who worked down the street rolled up and pulled off to help us. He knew quite a bit about cars - though he wasn't a mechanic - and tried to rectify the situation by adding some coolant. When that didn't fix it, he called his buddy in to bring in some oil - but even after that fellow showed up the same issue was occurring. After some careful exploring of the under-hood area we discovered a dry-rotted, half-ripped, and rapidly disintegrating belt near the engine area. None of us knew what it was but we theorized that it was likely a fan belt, which would make sense given the overheating. (I don't know about the second fellow, but the first one said that he worked for the county government to maintain the county road system, and that they were in the process of paving the mostly unpaved county roads.)
After those two gentlemen left, we waited around for a little while longer before the tow truck arrived. The car was put up on a bed and secured five different ways before we stuffed ourselves into the tow truck cab that lacked air conditioning. We rolled down the windows, which was fairly unpleasant for me in the back - I didn't have enough room to sit down normally and, to avoid breaking my legs, I had to lean them over halfway onto mom, and with the windows down got a face full of air for a half-hour until it went sightly numb.
The tow truck driver used to be a tank driver in Iraq and was very friendly, but scared us when we were careening down the Interstate at 80 MPH. Near the dealership some crazy guy in a pickup truck pulled out in front of the wrecker and braked trying to instigate a crash. After a reaction by the driver I didn't fully see but I assume to be an obscene gesture and his call to the police to report the fellow as a likely drunk, we pulled into the dealership, where we threw away our incredibly warm sodas and acquired cold water bottles.
We waited in the dealership for a few minutes before they set up a shuttle to the hotel. We got all our necessities (read: meltable stuff) and piled into the shuttle, which was driven by a Korean War veteran originally from Alabama but who had lived in Abeline for nearly his entire life. (He was in Korea not when it started, but when it ended.) He had recommendations for barbecue places in Abeline, as we were unsure how many days we would have to stay here. (As it turns out we'll only be here for a day as they replace the belt and do an oil change.)
After getting to the hotel, we ate there as we had no car. It's probably the best hotel food of the trip - certainly better than the bland brick of a chicken breast in Grand Forks or the burned toast of Idaho Falls fame. We replenished our own coolant by ingesting nearly an entire pitcher of lemonade.
Tomorrow: Shreveport, Louisiana, as we've decided to reroute the trip on Interstates, which are safer if the car has another issue. Once we're back in the south we're back to more densely populated regions. (At least there's sweet tea.)
After breakfast, we re-packed our bags and headed out of Santa Fe bound for Lubbock at 10:35. We gassed up before exiting Santa Fe and took I-25 northbound (but the section we were on confusingly took us southwest) before exiting on US-285.
This drive was the epitome of boring. While one lane in both directions, passing other vehicles was incredibly rare due to the deserted nature of the route. We've gotten to the foothills of the Rockies now, with the mountains of previous days turning into hills that slowly roll along until there's nothing but flatness.
Everything we saw from Santa Fe to the Texas border consisted of mostly the same scenery: ever-so-slight hills covered in scrub brush. Similar to facial hair in an odd way, I dubbed one of the flatter areas as we descended "the Valley of the Five O'Clock Shadow."
As the hills stopped the brush became much less prevalent, due either to lots of grazing or the overall aridity of the region. We then merged on I-40 - the road we practically lived on for the first half of last year's trip - for a little ways. The section of I-40 was designated as "Historic Route 66" but I'm pretty sure the rapidly deteriorating frontage road that paralleled the highway was 66. (I can't be sure, though.)
After the I-40 jaunt, we exited onto US-84 which took us all the way to Lubbock. The nothingness continued, but somehow it turned into more intense nothingness. After going through that section of New Mexico I'm pretty sure I now think of nothingness as a tangible thing - something that one might even be able to package and sell. ("Look, honey, it's pure New Mexico nothingness!")
This bleakness was broken up by tiny little towns that generally consisted of a church, grain silo for the train, and a few houses that looked to be on the verge of collapse. We eventually made it to the small town of Fort Sumner, the site of Billy the Kid's death and grave. We didn't visit the grave - it was too far off the road - but we heard that they had a cage around it after the Kid's footstone was stolen (and safely recovered) twice. I'm not sure of what a footstone is, but I'm pretty sure it has to do with his status as a criminal.
After a few tens of miles more of nothingness we arrived at the last town before the Texas border - Clovis.
I pity those who live there. It's so bad that the windmills don't even bother moving, and the good part of town is indistinguishable from the bad part to the point that I'm not sure if there even is a good part.
We entered Texas with little fanfare, and then - a little before 3:30 - we saw an image that embodies the United States of America more than anything else we've ever seen: two McDonald's located on the same side of the road no more than perhaps 100 yards from each other. As it turned out, they were actually building a new one, but the image of two McDonald's in this tiny town near Lariat was priceless. (And also probably tasteless, but that's just my opinion.)
The road - which was four lanes (but not an Interstate) all the way to Lubbock - was rutted very badly in the right lane - but they wanted you to stick to the right lane except to pass and to do 75 MPH there. We ended up in the left lane, as that was the only way to prevent our bodies from being vaporized by the intense shaking that the right lane provided.
Little towns were dotted along the farming landscape as we called you. The landscape did not change much but there were huge - and I mean huge - swaths of land where cattle would be grazing in massive stall banks and enclosed areas. They stood somewhat proudly atop massive piles of a substance I didn't want to identify, and the smell did not disappoint. I don't think it's in my shirt, but how it avoided embedding itself into everything within a ten-mile radius is a miracle in and of itself.
After navigating the worst of the stink, we saw pecan tree orchards and soon entered Lubbock, which has the dubious distinction of having the single most messed-up road system of any city in the entire world. Obviously I have not been to all of the cities in the world, but I do not have to, as nothing - and I mean nothing - can be more confusing than the sheer labyrinth that is Lubbock.
It's not like other cities. Other cities have messes of one-way roads due to their old systems being overtaken by faster roads as their metropolitan areas expand. Lubbock, I firmly believe, was intentionally designed by a team of sadistic traffic scientists who broke out of their padded cells and teamed up to create its road system.
A lot of cities have loops around them - usually an even three-number Interstate spur. The loop around Lubbock is not an Interstate but hangs off of the end of Interstate 27 as, technically, state highway loop 289.
Let's just say that this is a circle evocative of Dante's Inferno.
The loop is split into an inner and outer loop - the inner loop is an Interstate-quality limited-access highway, while the outer loop (technically also a part of loop 289) parallels it, but has stoplights and serves as a frontage road for the inner loop.
The problem lies in the fact that the frontage road is one-way. You can only go one direction while on either ring of loop 289, and if you miss your exit - as we did - you have to get on the one-way frontage road and try to work your way back via other roads. In addition to this bizarre road setup, throw on lanes that merge without warning, a distinct lack of accurate road signs, and ever-changing directional signs for the loop, and you've got a good idea of the terror that is the Lubbock road system.
We finally got to our hotel, where the manager greeted us at the front door. All of the employees wear ear-sets which evoked my dad's now-running joke about them being Secret Service agents assigned to put him under house arrest. After the haul to Lubbock and surviving the Lubbock roads, we were none too keen on getting back in the car. We went downstairs to eat at the hotel ... it seemed nice, we could not get served and waited around for fifteen minutes for the one and only waitress to come over and get our menus.
The bottleneck was due to the fact that the bar was open and the only waitress was also the only bartender, and her attention was focused on making the drinking crowd happy. Realizing how slammed the place was, we left and went back to our room to figure out something. My mom went to the guest laundry to do a few loads while we decided to scout some food out on the town. As it turned out, the folks at the front desk - who are incredibly helpful and may or may not be under the impression that we're incognito hotel inspectors - recognized us from earlier but soon found out that we hadn't eaten. The kitchen was not busy at all, as no orders were getting through to the chef, and really not wanting to go out, we acquiesced to their pleas to order room service. (They even called before the room service even got here to see how it was and thought it was "unacceptable" that it hadn't yet arrived.)
Tomorrow: we try to escape Lubbock for San Antonio to see the Alamo and the famous River Walk.
After delicious breakfast which included corned beef hash, blueberry muffins, and coffee so strong it took us one pot of cream each to tame it, we left the hotel when we got the call from the dealership that the car was ready. We went over to pick it up and realized that, in addition to fixing the cylinder (which turned out to be due to carbon buildup on the spark plugs), they rinsed off the outside, cleaned a bit of the interior, and fixed a rear taillight that hasn't been coming on consistently. We talked a bit more with the crew there - who still wanted us to trade it in - before thanking them profusely and heading out in a much smoother ride.
Since we had a day on the town, we headed downtown to a very historic section of Santa Fe - the Plaza, which was made out to be more than it really was. It was still nice, with brick streets blocked off to car traffic and a nice big green area in the middle with a number of trees, but it wasn't all that mind-blowing.
(Side note: Santa Fe passed an ordinance in the early 1900s that was unusual for the time - it said that all new constructions must be adobe-style. There are no buildings which are not adobe-style, leading to the interesting sights of seeing adobe-style Wal-Marts and McDonalds. Also, I did not anticipate the kind of hippy culture that thrives in the Plaza area - it was kind of like some parts of San Francisco.)
After navigating around some sort of wedding in the popular Plaza area, we found parking and within short order found something to do: a New Mexico history museum located next to the Palace of the Governors, a 1610 construction that has been modified over the years but still retains original portions. We toured the museum and learned quite a bit about New Mexico's history, from the arrival of the Spanish to the Puebloan revolt to the Mexican-American War and finally to the present day. It was extraordinarily well done and maintained a great number of unique and original artifacts.
After roughly two hours touring the museum and the adjoining Palace of the Governors (which was really squeaky but didn't tell us too much more than the museum itself), we headed out of Santa Fe on I-25 northbound towards Glorieta, a nearby town and the namesake of Glorieta Pass, the site of a far western Civil War battle often referred to as the "Gettysburg of the West."
The far western theatre only lasted for a few months and did not greatly affect the war's outcome, but if the Confederate forces had won at Glorieta Pass, then the reach of the Confederacy could have extended to southern California, reenforcing their case as a legitimate country to potential European allies. The three-day battle ended in a technical stalemate, but the Union won by sending a detachment behind Confederate lines to Johnson's Ranch, the site of relatively unguarded Confederate supplies. The Union burned them, forcing the Confederacy to retreat to Texas and ending the far western campaign.
(The Battle of Glorieta Pass also featured a character by the name of Major Shropshire, who was trying to take out a Union artillery battery at Pigeon's Ranch. Motivating his men to take the hill, he said "come on and help me take that position, or stay back and watch men who will." He was killed approximately five seconds later leading the charge up the hill.)
Our route not only took us through Pigeon's Ranch - a place where some of the original house structure still stands, with rocks behind it that Confederate snipers once crawled upon - but it was also once a part of Route 66. We got to the visitor center in the town of Pecos and asked questions of the ranger there. Most of the battlefield is in private hands, and those private hands don't care for snooping around - unless you're on a ranger-led tour. Unfortunately the next such tour was scheduled for next Monday, by which time we will be deep in the heart of Texas. The one non-ranger trail didn't have much on it that we hadn't seen in Mesa Verde - plus, the nearly 7,000-foot elevation was made doubly unpleasant by our unfortunate lack of sunscreen.
The lack of trails or other roads to parts of the battlefield was disappointing, but since there was nothing else to see in the area we headed back to the highway, where we passed by Pigeon's Ranch again - but after heading on the Interstate for a while, we exited near an old church, which the ranger had told us about. We went on a road that dead-ended at Johnson's Ranch in Apache Canyon, the site of the Confederate supply burn. While looking at the old church we encountered a man who asked where from North Carolina we were from. He was born and raised in Winston-Salem, but lives in Boston now and also has ties to the Oakland area. He's on a big road trip of his own, following as much of Route 66 has he can before coming up to Oakland and then back to Boston.
We then got back on the highway bound for Santa Fe, where we got a late lunch at "Bumble Bee's," which specializes in burgers, gourmet tacos, and general Baja cuisine. We all got a fish taco - yet another item crossed off my food bucket list on this trip - and they were surprisingly delicious. While the soft shells were not big, the amount of fish, sauce, pico de gallo, cabbage, and avocado they put on the thing makes it tricky to eat without getting half of it all over your body. Originally anticipating their size to make them appetizers for a larger meal, we were full by the time we had finished them.
At around 6:00 we left for the stadium of the Santa Fe Fuego, an independent minor-league team in the relatively new Pecos League. The Pecos League functions on a unique business model comparative to short-season A ball - but with league tryouts to make the teams competitive and a limit of just a few years for players within the league. The league is in its third year, and within its first two years, it saw 119 players sign with affiliated minor league teams or higher-level independent league play.
The play was surprisingly intense with a lot of excellent defense and pitching. Most of the offense was provided by extra-base hits on the part of the visiting Roswell Invaders, who use baseballs with green seams on them for home games as part of their alien shtick. They did not sell pennants, but they had a cool hat, which we got. We left at the end of the seventh inning with the Fuego down 7-2. (I've seen better outfield defense at the high school level.)
When we left around 8:00, the sun was setting behind mountains, providing a fiery backdrop for the black smoke of two forest fires, which are sizzling behind the mountains. Fortunately for us, that's due west - a direction we won't go in for the rest of this trip if we can help it.
By around 8:30 we pulled back into Bumble Bee's, where we got some more tacos. I tried the shrimp taco, which was even better than the fish.
Tomorrow: either Las Cruces or Clovis, with the outlying possibility of Carlsbad. These routes will all serve to take us down south so we can take I-10 to San Antonio.
He's the lord of all strangeness. - Ignika: Nerd of Life
How awesome is Sumiki on a scale of 1 to 10? - Waffles
42. - Black Six
[He's] the king of wierd, the prince of practicality, the duke of durr! - Daiker
Sumiki is magic. - Cholie
Sumiki says, "Do I creeeeeeep you out?" Yes, he does. - Waffles
Sumiki is a nub. He's cool, but he's still a nub. - Ran Yakumo
"What is a Sumiki?" You may ask. But the answer to that is still unknown, even to the Sumiki itself. - Daiker
Ah, Sumiki. - Electric Turahk
LISTEN TO SUMIKI - Cholie
Sumiki is best snickerdoodle. - Takuma Nuva
BZPower = Sumiki + McSmeag + B6. And Hahli Husky. - Vorex
What's a Sumi? Does it taste good? - Janus
I would have thought Sumiki wanted to reincarnate as a farm animal. - Kraggh
EAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH - Kakaru
Sumiki: the horse_ebooks of bzp - VampireBohrok
Everything relates to Sumiki. No really, everything. - Daiker
He's in worse mental condition than I thought. - Obsessionist
I'm just wondering why I'm looking at some cat dancing ... I suppose the answer would simply be "Sumiki." - Brickeens
I was like a beast, screaming through the mind of Sumiki at the speed of sound. I.. I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. What I saw was the end of infinity, through which one can see the beginning of time, and I will never be the same. - Portalfig
I imagine the 13th Doctor will be rather like Sumiki, at the rate we're going. - rahkshi guurahk
I was quite sure Sumiki had another set of arms stashed somewhere. - Bfahome
Note to future self: don’t try to predict Sumiki, he’s unpredictable. - Voltex
Let's be honest, I would totally have picked my main man Sumiki to lead my goose-stepping night killers anyway. We tight like that, yo. - Xaeraz
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Every week, I post a new "Tuesday Tablescrap", a small MOC not worthy of a topic, but something to post and inspire me to build more.
10/25/11 - Duplo Flower
11/1/11 - Slender Man and Masky
11/8/11 - Bizarre Black Spaceship
11/15/11 - 2001 Monolith
11/22/11 - My Little Slizer 50
11/29/11 - Punching Bag
12/6/11 - Thunder and Escorts
12/13/11 - Three Concepts
12/20/11 - Kaxium Alternate
12/27/11 - None (Christmas Break)
1/10/12 - None
1/17/12 - Volant
1/24/12 - Nidman's Chute Shoop Shop
1/31/12 - None (Brickshelf down)
2/7/12 - None
2/14/12 - Atomic Lime
2/21/12 - Spearhead
2/28/12 - Glatorian Kahi
3/6/12 - Seeker
3/13/12 - Skyscraper
3/20/12 - Microphone
3/27/12 - Toa Vultraz
4/3/12 - Flammenwerferjüngeres
4/10/12 - Umbrella
4/17/12 - Lime Beetle
4/24/12 - Special - Flame Sculpture
5/1/12 - None (BZPower down)
5/8/12 - Purple Ninja
5/15/12 - The Original Sumiki
5/22/12 - 7/24/12 - None
7/31/12 - Tahu
8/7/12 - None (BrickFair)
8/14/12 - Special - Chess Set
8/21/12 - Heavily Armored Wasp
8/28/12 - Spaceship Drill
9/4/12 - Scuba Vehicle
9/11/12 - Orange Guy
9/18/12 - Strange Flying Thing
9/25/12 - Goblet
10/2/12 - None
10/9/12 - Aim .............................. Down
10/16/12 - Gold Bot
10/23/12 - Teal Mech
10/30/12 - Special - Teal Mech (#2)
11/6/12 - Bits and Pieces
11/13/12 - Two Spaceships
11/20/12 - TARDIS Interior
11/27/12 - Christmas Creep
12/4/12 - Toaraga
12/11/12 - Fireplace
12/18/12 - Abstract Duckling
12/25/12 - None (Christmas)
1/1/13 - Black Bot
1/8/13 - 1/22/13 - None
1/29/13 - Handheld Rhotuka Launcher
2/5/13 - 8/6/13 - None
8/13/13 - The Hinklebot
8/20/12 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi
Formerly known as the Bring Back Teal Club, the Unused Colors Society is a club that serves to promote colors that are little-used or discontinued, such as teal, old purple, or metallic blue.
Akuna Toa of Sonics
Popup2: The Camel
~System Of A Down~
Thunder on the Mountain
Toa of Vahi
WORT WORT WORT
Toa Kuhrii Avohkii
Toa Neya 2011 Edition
~prisma son of dawn~
.: WoLVeRINe :.
The Great Forgetter
Thomas the Tank Engine
Oh my miru
Element lord Of Milk.
Lexuk Toa Of Insanity
Michael J. Caboose
Lord Kaitan de Storms
Toa of Dancing
The Oncoming Storm
Toa of Pumpkin
Toa Zehvor Blackout
Lord of Ice
Zarayna: The Quiet Light
Vorex: Keeper of Time
Toa of Smooth Jazz
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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:
You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.
just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle
so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay
nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION
[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange
Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra
have we mentioned hats
Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.
Also a long line of really great hats.
You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.
To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.
It's a long story.