Author Archives: Waltz
Yesterday, I followed Route 60 to within about a mile of its end.
Why stop there? Well, I’m not unfamiliar with the east end of 60, as it is Pacific Avenue in Virginia Beach. And just off Pacific Avenue, between it and Atlantic Avenue to the east, is a bar.
If you’re ever in Virginia Beach, by the way, this is the place to go.
Fortunately, there’s a hotel right across Atlantic from The Raven, and it’s about as off-season as it gets, so I got a room for cheap, figuring I’d drive the final mile of my odyssey the next day.
And then I realized that as I’d been extraordinarily lucky on this whole trip, something was going to have to go horribly wrong. I’d die in my sleep, or my car would break down, or I’d get in a bad wreck driving that last mile after surviving the first 2669.
It’s important, I think, to expect the worst to happen. That way, one can only be pleasantly surprised.
Spoiler: nothing bad happened, except that I woke up with something of a hangover (which, to be honest, was not unexpected), and I drove that last mile.
So that’s it – finally fulfilled the whole “follow a major numbered route from one end to the other” goal.
What’s next? Well, probably not much until June. That’s when I’m signed up to be at a dude ranch in Colorado for a week. The ranch is at 9000 feet, and there will be hiking.
I have six months to get into shape. A shape other than round, that is. As I have just proven to myself that I can set a goal and stick to it, I might actually be able to do this.
…nah. Probably give myself another heart attack trying.
I’m glad I went through Louisville on Christmas. Traffic was bad enough. I’d hate to see it on a working day.
To make matters worse, the U.S. 60 signage through Louisville is crap, what with signs that were wrong, missing, or stolen. I had to rely on Google Maps, stopping often and occasionally looping back.
My only real regret, though, is that I drove through the lush bourbon-producing areas of Kentucky on a day when none of the distilleries were open. That was really, really poor planning on my part. Fortunately, I’d toured one on a previous trip through the state: Buffalo Trace.
Now, Buffalo Trace makes a special bourbon called Pappy Van Winkle. This is a nectar I’d only ever heard about, whispered in the kind of hushed, reverent tones generally only used in churches and whorehouses. It is, so I’ve heard, quite rare and hard to get hold of.
Back when I was in Livermore, California, I got hold of some.
That was the 18-year Pappy, and you don’t want to know how much it cost. But it was totally worth it: when I took a sip, the heavens opened up and angels descended to sing Hallelujah (the Jeff Buckley version – pretty sure both Jeff and Leonard Cohen were in the choir). The drink was smoother than a Vegas lounge singer, without even the slightest hint of the usual bourbon bite.
Since any other bourbon is going to be a letdown after that one, I suppose I can make peace with skipping the distilleries on this particular trip through Kentucky.
Maybe next time…
Determined to not stay in Misery for once, I followed Route 60 all the way across the state. For most of its length, it’s a four-lane divided highway – which was a welcome break from Oklahoma’s mostly two-lane version.
And yet, snow chased me across Misery. Clouds hung low, dark and threatening – mostly in the rear-view mirror, fortunately.
But then, after passing through a tiny sliver of Illinois…
Okay, time for a digression. Route 60 passes through a tiny sliver of Illinois. It does this by first crossing the Mississippi, taking a sharp right, and then crossing the Ohio River. Thus, there are two bridges involved, which seems odd to me, but I suppose these bridges also take traffic from other routes in Misery, Illinois, and Kentucky and that was the most elegant configuration they could come up with at the time.
Still, my inner civil engineer had to wonder about a single, grand bridge across the Mississippi just downstream of the Ohio’s mouth, and how cool it could be.
Especially when compared to the existing bridges.
(Photograph once again shamelessly stolen from somewhere on the internet because the lighting sucked when I was in that area.)
Anyway, end of digression.
Where was I?
Oh yeah… Kentucky. So I pull into the area around Paducah and it starts freaking snowing.
And, for good measure, of course it’s Christmas Eve. So there I am, trying to find a place to eat and a place to stay in rural Kentucky on Christmas Eve while snow is falling from the sky and it’s starting to get dark.
I figured my run of good luck was over. It survived Reno, Vegas, and driving through Texas without getting pulled over, and ended in Kentucky.
Then I saw that some restaurants were open. And I found a hotel. It’s a two-star hotel, so I’m roughing it (that, by the way, is my definition of “roughing it”), but it’s still more inviting than the Clown Motel (which, admittedly, is not a high bar to clear). On top of which, I discovered that it’s probably not going to snow very much, and the roads should be clear tomorrow.
And then I discovered that this is not a dry county.
Of course, that just gives my luck an opportunity to run out tomorrow.
Today I continued to follow US 60 through north Texas and most of Oklahoma.
I lost an hour crossing the time zone boundary at the NM/TX state line, and another three hours in Amarillo because that’s where I happened to be when my car hit a milestone. Er… no, I didn’t wreck… let me rephrase: Amarillo is where I happened to be when my car’s odometer rolled over to a routine maintenance milestone.
Good timing, really – Amarillo’s the biggest city I’ve been through since Phoenix; there was a garage open on a Saturday morning, and if I didn’t stop then, I’d have been screwed because tomorrow is Sunday, and Monday is some sort of holiday.
So I didn’t stop to take pictures today. In lieu of original photographs, here are some pix shamelessly stolen from the internet (so they might disappear at any time) that capture the essence of all of the delightful scenery I drove through today:
One final random thought: I passed through a town called Canadian, Texas today. It doesn’t bother me that there is a town in Texas called Canadian. I understand that it’s named after the Canadian River – and it also doesn’t bother me that no one has a good idea as to why a river in Texas and Oklahoma is called the Canadian River. Nope. What I want to know is: What’s the demonym for the residents? You know, like… you call someone from Georgia a Georgian; you call someone from L.A. an Angeleno; you call someone from Indiana a Hoosier for some stupid, gods-forsaken reason… and you call someone from Canada a Canadian, so what in the hot hell do you call someone from Canadian? A Canadianian? A Canoosier? Canadiano?
I’m probably never going back to Canadian, and so far the internet has utterly failed me in this regard, so I’m resigning myself to going to my death without knowing this one essential fact.
Continuing to follow U.S. 60, which becomes the awesomely-named Superstition Highway for a while after leaving the traffic-choked Phoenix area, and winds through some seriously cool mountains and canyons – with nary an RV park in sight.
In New Mexico, Route 60 also runs right through the Very Large Array.This is important because of SCIENCE!. Curiosity led scientists to build this sucker, and they’ve used it to discover information about some of the most fundamental secrets of the universe.
It still can’t prove Russian election hacking, though.
Of course, I told one of my friends about the site and she went, “What’s that?”
So I told her.
Then she’s like, “Cool. You have alien lizard cancer now.”
“Whew,” I said, relieved. “I thought it was an STD.”
On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, “Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.”
-from Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol
Bet you thought the clowns got me, didn’t you? Ha! I survived. And now it’s the Winter Solstice – an auspicious time, I think, to begin the journey home.
For my trip back east, I got it in my head to travel along U.S. 60, from its beginning (or end, depending on your point of view) in western Arizona all the way to Virginia.
As it is now officially winter, though, this will depend upon the weather. Also on my patience, which is wearing thin.
Phoenix wore it even thinner. I’m pretty sure Phoenix is pretty much just traffic. No one here goes anywhere, really, just sits in traffic all day. I’m sure it’s a nice enough place when you’re not on a road… actually, no, I have no idea, because I was on the road. For hours. I wasn’t even in any kind of mood to find a brewery.
So, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll give up and follow an interstate. Maybe I’ll only go as far as the nearest point to my house, then head home. Or maybe I’ll follow it all the way to the end and stop in Virginia Beach to see the Atlantic, since I saw the Pacific from San Francisco this trip.
And since it would feel strange to have a blog post without a picture, here’s a picture of a rampaging T-Rex:
Chucking out the plan again, because roads and services in this part of the country are irregular at best.
I actually don’t have much to say about Delta. It’s flat. Flatter than Kansas. Flatter than some people think the Earth is. On the way here, I started to feel some sympathy for the Flat Earth Society – maybe they’re all from central Utah; that would explain a lot.
Stopped for lunch in Fruita, Colorado. Not only does that small town host two breweries – both excellent – but it has a thing for dinosaurs.
Their dinosaur fetish seems to spring from the important work of palo… pealeo… pello… dinosaur hunters in the area.
Nevertheless, it is apparent to me that every town should have a dinosaur. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Delta’s could be the aFLATosaurus.
I couldn’t do it.
My plan was to make it to my next waypoint, in northwest Kansas. And I did, in good time, because it was a straight shot across the northern part of the state.
And then I decided I just could not spend one more night in a beer desert. So I went on to my next marker, just east of Denver.
Glad I did.The Denver area hosts more breweries than I can count – including a Budweiser factory, which definitely does NOT count. Dry Dock, pictured here, was simply the most convenient for me to get to this time.
Those beers – labeled there for your reading convenience – made the four extra driving hours worthwhile. Otherwise, I might have been stuck in a fleabag motel in northwest Kansas, being able to smell Colorado but not quite cross the border into the Promised Land.
Clearly, I’m going to have to spend more time in this state. But though today’s weather was a pleasant mid-sixties, I’ll have to come back in the summer. I think I’m still frostbitten from my stay in Alamosa all those years ago.
One of the reasons I make these cross-country driving trips is to give myself time for introspection. When I’m driving through places like Missouri and Kansas, there’s little else to do except introspec.
I don’t share many of these insights here. I know when I read others’ introspective musings, I often get bored – and one thing I do not want to be is boring.
Not a lot of choice, though, when I’m writing about Kansas.
So I’ll share one insight. People think places like Missouri and Kansas are boring. And, in a way, they are. They call them “flyover states,” like the people and culture here aren’t worth a closer look than you get from 30,000 feet and 500 mph. But here’s the insight: it’s places like this that grow barley. Barley is used to make malt. Malt is used to make beer. Beer is the sparkling flower of civilization. Consequently, the flyover states are important.
However, here in Hiawatha, there are no craft breweries.
When I asked at the front desk about what there is to see in this town, I got two answers: casinos, and the Davis Memorial.
The casinos exist because this place, as you might have guessed from the name, is surrounded by Native lands.
The Davis Memorial is… a thing.
Turns out the story behind it is a bit weird. There are more pictures of it at that link – my photography was limited by the low sun angle.
And this is another reason I do these trips – discovering weird shit in unexpected places. Kansas may seem boring from the air, but up close, sometimes you hit the jackpot.
Even if you don’t visit the Native casinos.