Hittin’ the road

We are on our way home. We are getting on the Indiana Toll Road as I type on my cell phone. It’s been a gln a gl

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Centrally Speaking.

As Earl and I have toured around the midwest, I can’t help but notice that I am better suited for the Central Time Zone. I know that’s somewhat of a crazy statement, as time is just a perception, but I seem to function must better under CDT.

The network television shows start at 7:00 instead of 8:00. That’s cool. Now I know that I don’t have any interest in the crap that’s on earlier in the evening, so I have plenty of time to find something else to do.

Leno and Letterman are on at 10:35. I haven’t watched Leno or Letterman in YEARS. They’re on way too friggin’ late in the Eastern Time Zone. You know, they might be onto something with that interviewing schtick they’ve got going on.

Breakfast just tastes better at 8:00 Central Time. Don’t ask me why, it just does.

We’ve stopped for the night in South Bend, Indiana. Just a few miles to the north time is an hour ahead of us in Michigan. And tomorrow, we’ll be crossing back into Eastern Daylight Time at the Ohio border. Am I sad because our vacation is coming to an end tomorrow? Not really, as I feel totally refreshed from the trip and feel like I can take on the world again. I’m sad because we’re going to be back in the Eastern Time Zone. The pace will be faster, I won’t see Letterman or Leno and I’ll settle for the crap on television because it’ll be too late to find something else to do.

Des Moines, Ia.

After lots and lots of driving, we have arrived at this evening’s destination, downtown Des Moines, Iowa. It seems that there’s a pork convention in town this weekend (which brings strange images to the imaginative mind), so it took a bit of begging to get a hotel room. At the second hotel we stopped at (which was just full of pork apparently), the desk clerk pretended to be Mrs. Cochran and called eight hotels demanding a room for us; so we finally settled in at the Savery Hotel. It’s a tiny room, but it’s adequate for the night.

We haven’t seen any serious storms today, but they’re promising some fun for tomorrow. Earl has agreed to “hover” in Central Iowa and western Illinois to watch for the storms they’re predicting for tomorrow. We’ll probably only get as far as Joliet, but we’ll still be home by Saturday night.

Today we hit quite a few states – Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and then back into Iowa. We didn’t really need to go into Nebraska, but because we were skirting the border along Interstate 29, we took the extra 20 minutes and drove through Omaha. Yay! Another state for the map. I’ve added my last new state (Nebraska) for this trip, and Earl did the same with Iowa.

Kansas City was a bit hectic… I wish my cousin Becky still lived there so we could have visited with her. We haven’t seen her in a long time.

Now we’re going to settle in for the night… room service just arrived. Time to get the tummy full!

Here We Go.

Looks like it’s going to fun ride home tonight and tomorrow!

From the National Weather Center…

THERE IS A RISK OF SIGNIFICANT SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS FRIDAY. THE MAIN

THREAT FROM THE STORMS WILL BE TORNADOES…TWO INCH HAIL…AND

STRAIGHT LINE WIND GUSTS AROUND 80 MPH. AT THIS TIME THERE REMAINS

SOME UNCERTAINTY IN THE TIMING AND PLACEMENT OF THE GREATEST RISK

AREA. INDICATIONS ARE THAT THE MAIN THREAT FOR SEVERE STORMS WILL BE

ALL AREAS NORTH OF HIGHWAY 34 LOCATED IN SOUTHERN IOWA. THERE IS A

LOW RISK OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS BEFORE NOON OVER AREAS NORTH OF

INTERSTATE 80. THUNDERSTORM CHANCES WILL INCREASE DURING THE

AFTERNOON OVER ALL AREAS WITH THE HIGHEST RISK FOR SEVERE

THUNDERSTORMS…INCLUDING TORNADOES…FROM 3 PM TO 10 PM. EMERGENCY

MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL ARE ADVISED TO MONITOR LATER FORECASTS FOR

UPDATES ON THIS POTENTIAL SEVERE WEATHER EPISODE. ADDITIONAL

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS ARE POSSIBLE SATURDAY NIGHT AND EARLY SUNDAY

OVER SOUTHWEST IOWA…SOUTH OF A LINE FROM DENISON TO OTTUMWA. THE

MAIN THREAT FROM THESE STORMS WILL BE DAMAGING STRAIGHT LINE

WINDS.

The adventure continues.

Before I get started with my latest witty dialog, I thought I’d share this with you…

create your own personalized map of the USA

or write about it on the open travel guide

The red states are the states we have been in. To qualify, we have to actually drive in the state, airport lay-overs don’t count.

Anyways, we got up this morning, skipped breakfast and hit the long, flat road. We followed one of the road trips in our “Great Plains” travel guide (no home should be without one) and enjoyed the sites of Central Kansas. Granted, it was raining but the countryside was still beautiful.

We stopped at an old, late 1800s type restaurant in Council Grove called “The Hays House” and had a wonderful lunch. Complete with dessert – Earl had a peach dumpling and I had strawberry pie on homemade crust. Out of this world. I asked Earl how to make a crust for a pie, since I’ve promised that I’m going to cook much more when I get home, and he said to pick up the crust at the grocery store. If I’m going to cook more, I’m doing it from scratch. He rolled his eyes. He won’t be rolling his eyes when I make a homemade pie complete with homemade crust!

But I digress.

After Council Grove we continued north to Junction City, toured around the downtown a bit before hitting the interstates (70 and then 135) and heading back to Wichita. The rain had slowed down to a drizzle, but not enough for us to walk around Wichita, so we opted for a movie instead. We went and saw the third Harry Potter movie (which was quite good) at a local theatre chain called Warren Theatres. This theatre was the best theatre I have been in my adult life. First of all, it wasn’t expensive ($7.00/person – vs $8.50 at home), refreshments were cheap ($14.00 for both us, usually its $22) and the theatres were beautiful. Art deco design, carpeted, NO COMMERCIALS and just a typically friendly midwest atmosphere. There’s even a sitting room complete with fireplace, theatres with a balcony that are for adults only, and theatres with “crying rooms” where moms can take their unhappy kids and still watch the movie while not disturbing the rest of the crowd. There’s even a diner in the theatre. Two thumbs up for Warren Theatres.

After the movie we went to a local diner for some meatloaf and mashed potatoes. We had a very chatty waitress who seemed like she wanted to be our best friend.

Tomorrow morning we are going to hit the road and start heading east. I think we’re going to take the round-about way on the way home. We haven’t decided if we’re going up to Iowa and over I-80 or to Kansas City and by way of St. Louis and Indianapolis on I-70. Maybe we’ll flip a coin when we leave to decide.

Wichita, Kansas

Earl and I left Oklahoma City this morning and headed for our next destination on our Americana Tour, Wichita, Kansas.

After another great buffet breakfast at Embassy Suites, we hit the road, opting for two-lane U.S. highways instead of the interstates. We headed northeast from Oklahoma City to U.S. 81, where we turned north and drove through the plains and lots of lots of fields of wheat. We stopped in Medford, Okla. for gas and a potty break – we thought about buying some subs for lunch, but the entire gas station/diner came to a grinding halt when we walked in, as everyone looked at us like we just parallel parked a flying saucer. I think the N.Y. tags scare people as they automatically assume that we are from the city of New York. Of course, we live nowhere near NYC, but people think “New York” means “New York City”, so there you are. I feel like telling them, no we are not going to mug you, and no we did not see the airplanes hit the World Trade Towers on September 11.

So then we continued onto Wellington, Kansas and opted for Sonic. We love Sonic. I dare say that Sonic has pulled ahead of Chick-Fil-A as my favorite fast food establishment.

Earl seemed to be getting bored with the prairie and the wheat, so I jumped on the Kansas Turnpike and finished the drive to Wichita, arriving at our hotel at 3 p.m. The area here is kind of weird. All the residential areas around the hotel seem to be behind these brick walls. Everything is a gated community. Honestly, it initially struck me as somewhat snobby. We’ll have to do a little more investigating.

For supper we headed to Old Town Wichita and ate at the Larkspur. Very tasty. Highly recommended. Old Town seemed a little downtrodden on a Tuesday night, so we walked around a bit and then headed back to the hotel.

Tomorrow were debating on going on a road tour of Central Kansas or changing plans completely and heading off to another destination. I love the adventure!

O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A Oklahoma!

Earl and I spent a wonderful day in the beautiful city of Oklahoma City today.

To start of the morning, we had a light breakfast (waffles, french toast, double order of bacon) courtesy of Embassy Suites. If it’s within your budget and at your destination, I highly recommend Embassy Suites for your lodging of choice while on vacation. Earl and I stay at Embassy Suites whenever we get the chance, and we are never disappointed.

After breakfast we headed to the Oklahoma City Memorial Site… where the bombing took place on April 19, 1995. The memorial is beautiful and to visit there is an emotional experience. It is a tasteful, respectful and insightful memorial, and if you’re in the area, I highly recommend that you visit the site.

After the Memorial, we headed to the Myriad Gardens. I have to admit that we were both disappointed with the Myriad Gardens. It’s basically a park with lots of flowers, walkways, fountains and waterfalls. While portions of it were quite nice, it had a general air of disrepair about it. We had the feeling that the gardens had seen better times.

We then went to Quizno’s for lunch. Wow! Quizno’s toasts their subs and spanks Subway any day.

We then headed south of OKC and drove through the prairie to see some of the more rural areas of Oklahoma. We drove through several small towns. Looking for a simpler life, I was quick to appreciate the lifestyle we observed… everyone was friendly and seemed to be looking out for each other. There was a definite sense of community.

After the drive, Earl needed to touch base with work (yay! for e-mail) and then we freshened up for supper. We decided on a local restaurant called Cattleman’s Café which is famous for it’s steak. One of the appetizers and entreés listed was “Lamb Fries”. Neither of us were familiar with Lamb Fries, so Earl asked what they were. The waitress replied “Rocky Mountain Oysters”. I instantly knew what they were, having ‘experienced’ Rocky Mountain Oysters a number of years ago. But Earl was not familiar with the dish, so he pressed her for more information. She replied, quite simply “Lamb Balls”. I wish I had the camera on when he found out what Lamb Fries were. Needless to say, he wasn’t about to give them a try.

The steak and sides, delivered by a handsome man with wonderful sideburns (I’m always a fanatic for great facial hair), was out of this world. I had a T-bone, Earl had the Blue Ribbon 14 oz. Ribeye. Absolutely delicious. Best steak I’ve ever had. Any thoughts of my previous vegetarianism are completely out the window. We highly recommend the Cattleman Cafe in the Stockyards on Agnew.

Earl and I both love Oklahoma City. We’ve always thought that we would move to the desert when we retired, but after this trip we’re rethinking that line of thought. We’re really liking this area… the fact that there is a definite change of seasons I(but not too extreme) and the friendly, sense of community.

Tomorrow we head to Wichita to continue our Americana Adventure. I’m really looking forward to the drive.

Destination Oklahoma City.

Earl and I have are at the first destination on our vacation. We arrived in Oklahoma City about an hour ago.

We left Friday afternoon around 1:00 — and after some serious navigation study, using the science of Earl’s knuckle as a measuring stick (hair and all), we decided to head south to Hagertown, Md. then west through West Virginia – spending our first night in Charleston, W. Va. It rained like crazy through the western Maryland mountains, but that just added to the fun.

Saturday morning we headed out bright and early and headed down through the Appalachain Mountains towards Kentucky. Plowed through Kentucky, stopping for lunch in Lexington, and then turned south and headed down to Nashville, where we picked up I-40. Between Lexington and Nashville we put the top down on the Jeep and enjoyed the bright sunshine and warm breeze. It was great. It started looking cloudy a little west of Nashville, so we got the top up and made it to Memphis with just clouds – no rain. Called it a night when we got to Memphis.

This morning we hit the road again and headed across Arkansas and Oklahoma. Like my previous experience with the heartland, everyone is so friendly. There doesn’t seem to be the frenetic pace of the Northeast. The front desk attendant at our hotel in Memphis thought we were crazy for driving half way across the country in a Jeep – especially from “beautiful New York”. She’s right, we’re crazy, and we’re lovin’ it.

Earl caught up on work when we arrived (thank goodness for the laptop!), I’m posting my blog entry and then we’re heading out for supper and excitement.

This vacation is just what the doctor ordered!

Biggest. Geek. Ever.

Earl and I began our packing and such for our trip to the Midwest this evening. The first order of business was to take Tom up to my dad’s so he could stay with “Grandpa” and his cousins. My sister saddled my dad with two cats a couple of years ago. He won’t admit it to your face, but I think he and his girlfriend like having the cats around.

Anyways, while I was up there, Karen, my dad’s girlfriend gave me a couple of things she found when clean up my old bedroom – including a couple of little journal notebooks and some other things.

First of all, I’m glad that I consider Karen to be family, or I would be mighty embarassed by the things she found. Thank God I had the sense to get rid of my meager collection of porn when I left for college — just kidding — I was never much of a porn collector back then.

The journal notebooks were from a trip our family made to Dearborn, Michigan in 1982. My mother, being the excellent mother that she is and was, encouraged us to write our trip experience in a journal so we could stretch our creative chops. A 1980s blog, if you will.

Being the huge geek that I am, I wrote all about the roads and road signs. You may have seen that this obsession lives with me to this day, with my UpstateNYroads web site. Among other things, I remarked that the motel we stayed at in Parry Sound, Ontario was “the best motel I had ever seen in my life!” (I think it was the third motel I had ever been in – the previous two were the two nights prior), and I also made a comment about how much I loved supper at A&W (that part is still true). But my entries also got me to thinking about how much of a geek I’ve always been. My geekness hasn’t always been limited to roads…

– My first geek obsession that I can remember was with powerlines. The high tension wires fascinated me for some reason, and to this day, I can instantly tell anyone around me when we’ve crossed from Niagara Mohawk’s territory in to NYSEG’s territory here in Upstate N.Y. Why one would need this knowledge, I don’t have the slightest idea, but I can tell you just in case. Call me the life of any party.

– Powerlines were quickly followed by the beginnings of my road geek obsession. As a kid I laid out a map of the woods behind our house and made all sorts of paths, with bridges made out of pallets (complete with re-rod arches) and road signs printed out neatly (mounted on overhead posts made out of scrap wood). I probably should have followed my gut and became a traffic engineer, as to this day, when I get bored when Earl is out of town, I still design road signs (to federal specs), but now I use a freebie AutoCAD program.

– I was always fascinated with clocks, especially those found in school, as evidenced by my other web site. Last night I just finished a project installing synchronized clocks at the radio station I work for. I pity the people that buy my father’s house some day and wonder why “Simplex” and “Standard Electric” is written on the inside of the sheetrock and under the floorboards throughout the house, leading the way to wiring for a clock system that doesn’t exist.

– Then came my computer, more specifically, database obsession. This was spurred by the cash registers at our local Ames store, because they kept track of inventory using three-digit department numbers, with all the information stored on IBM punch tape and I just thought that was just way too cool for words. Did you know that those old mechanical registers made an IBM punch tape? Didn’t think so! I still lean towards databases for just about everything I need to keep track of these days and if I ever settled down to just one aspect of information management, it would be in relational database technology.

As I look at the list above, the one thing that sticks out is that my geek obsessions all have one thing in common… I’m interested in all things _connected_. I could get all existential and say that’s why I have a moderate obsession with metaphysical stuff and new age spirituality, because I believe that everyone is connected and my geek hobbies are just a material manifestation of these beliefs.

But it’s probably better to write it off to something else… I’m just one big geek.

The Simple Life.

As Earl and I prepare for our trip to the Midwest on Friday, I can’t help but notice that I am continuting to try to make life simpler. No, we’re not looking for a Paris and Nicole experience while we’re in the nation’s heartland, but rather, we’re just looking for something a little less frantic than the hyper Northeast pace that we’ve become used to.

Back in April, I had the opportunity to travel to northwest Iowa for software training for work. The company is situated in the village of Emmetsburg, a “two stop light town” that is devoid of Wal*Mart, Target and even McDonalds. They did have fast food – a Pizza Hut and the always welcome classic A&W. Natives of Emmetsburg claim that they had four tourist attractions… soybeans on the left and corn on the right, corn on the left and beans on the right, beans on the left and beans on the right and corn on the left and corn on the right. I only spent three days in Emmetsburg, but every single person I crossed paths with was so friendly. People smiled. There was a “howdy neighbor” atmosphere going on, and they even made this boy from Upstate N.Y. feel welcome.

As I’ve been going on in my blog for the past couple of weeks, I need a little bit simpler approach to life. As of late I’ve accepted Wal*Mart back into my shopping experiences. I’m using MSN 9 for my e-mail and my internet browser. (It’s just easier to use software that is packaged neatly together. I’m sick of fighting with my operating system to browse the internet. I want something that just works. I know, I should get an iMac, but that’s not in the budget right now, so I’m doing the best I can with what I have.) Earl and I shun the “sit-down fast food” (TGIFridays/Applebees/et al) and go for the Mom and Pop diner with the opportunity presents itself.

I’ve given up my fancy gel pens at work and have switched to the tried and true Bic ball-point pens. I don’t take the time for “pretty penmanship”. I write functionally, but not pretty.

I’ve stopped trying to fit everyone and anything into categories of my own design. I let the pieces fall where they may fall. I allow myself to see people as they want to be seen, not as I want to see them.

I’ve disabled my webcams for a while. I’ll still videochat with others on MSN Messenger, but I’ve received one too many ‘requests’ of what I should do under my desk while I’m doing my work, so for now, I’ve decided to shut down the cam streams.

And I’m trying to stop living life as “what it could have been” and start living “as it is.” A stop and smell the roses sort of attitude. It’s not so bad after all.

I’m really looking forward to the Jeep ride to Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska (and back). I want to see flat lands, big farms, small towns, large cities and blue sky. I don’t want a soda, I want a POP.

I’ve been on an internal emotional roller coaster the past couple of weeks. But the turbulent ride has come to an end. And I really like the looks of this stop.