Routes

Riding the Tail of the Dragon

Dragon #3

I do not own any of the images used in this post.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about the lovely Tapoco Lodge and I purposely left out the information about how I got there.  Today, I will explain about the Tail of the Dragon (also known as US 129)

The Tail of the Dragon is a 11-mile stretch of paved road between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest.  It is, unbeknownst to me the first time I drove it, a coveted road for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts.  I have read that there are no intersections or driveways to interfere with the drive.  To be honest, I never even noticed that and I have driven it three times now.  When you ride the dragon, you keep your eyes on the road and that is it, end of story.

You see it is not just a scenic little drive through the mountains-although it is that–there are actually 318 curves, twists, and switchbacks on that 11 mile strip of road.  318!!!!  Did I mention the sheer drops, no berms and the possibility of animals crossing the road?  And there is always the chance of rock slides and fallen trees in the road.

Dragon #1

The first time I drove it I was totally ignorant of the dragon.  I had never heard of it.  In fact, it was my third time driving it that I even realized what was going on.  Then it all made sense.  Until then I thought it was just some poorly executed road through the mountains.  My first drive on the dragon was at night and during a rainstorm.  The absolute terror I felt has basically wiped most of the memories away of that night.  I thought I was in some bad horror movie.  The dark (very dark) road went on and on for what seemed like hours.  I had motorcycles and sports cars passing me at high speeds and there was no where to turn off or turn around.  There is very little phone reception due to the mountains.  I was sure that somewhere along the road was going to be my final resting place.

I made it to my destination about an hour late, then I had the great pleasure of driving it again to get back to where I was staying.  Luckily, the GPS found a different route back but it was still a challenge especially at night.

The second time I drove it was during the day and I just took my time.  Again, motorcycles and sports cars passed me with a vengeance.  It had to look funny seeing this middle-aged woman driving this four-door SUV on this road.  I was still clueless as to what was going on.  Again, I made it to my destination.  This time I stayed a while and did not give the dragon another thought.

It was when I booked the room at the Tapoco Lodge (I had stopped there on one of  my trips looking for directions–that is when I decided I wanted to stay there) that I started to read about the Tail of the Dragon and learned just how many curves there actually are. 318!!  Sitting on the porch of my cabin at the Tapoco Lodge I watched dozens of motorcycles, Corvettes, Porsches and other sports cars zoom past on their way to quite an adventurous drive.  That was in December, I cannot imagine how crowded the road can get in the summer.

Dragon #2

Riding the Tail of the Dragon (not once, but three times) was never on my plan when I started this trip.  But it actually has turned out to be one of my proudest achievements.  I am not sure how many SUVs make the trip, but Devi rose to the challenge, hugged that road and kept going.  She is an amazing vehicle!  The things I have put her through!

There are many accidents along this road.  I have read that it can take an hour or longer to get emergency personnel to an accident scene due to the remoteness.  This road is to be respected and not thought of lightly.  People have lost their lives here.  So if you ever find yourself on the tail, tread lightly but have fun.  It is quite a road and the scenery is breathtaking if you get a chance to see it.

dragon #4

 

 

 

California: Harsh Yet Beautiful

Lush green groves.

Lush green groves.

I had mixed feelings about California.  The Pacific Coast was stunning, the traffic was horrible, the drought was (and still is) devastating and the scenery was amazing.  The California that I remembered from my youth was not the California I saw on this trip.  But nothing stays the same, everything changes.  Plus memories tend to soften over time.  I was surprised at California, but I enjoyed my time there also.  It was sad, beautiful and a wonder all in one.

Devastating effect of the drought.

Devastating effect of the drought.

Devastating effect of "man" on the land.

Devastating effect of “man” on the land.

Rain is needed badly.

Rain is needed badly.

The California landscape may be stark in places, but there is still a lot of beauty.

The California landscape may be stark in places, but there is still a lot of beauty.

It definitely was temperature HOT!!!!!

It definitely was temperature HOT!!!!!

California:  Harsh and Beautiful

California: Harsh and Beautiful

Look at that temperature!!  WOW!!!

Look at that temperature!! WOW!!!

Picked up Route 66 while in California.

Picked up Route 66 while in California.

California, yes it is amazing.

California, yes it is amazing.

Post shout out:  I pray for all the brave men and women who are fighting the fires in the West (not just California).  We did not see a fire, but drove through the smoke created by one and it was amazingly thick and made it hard to breathe.  I cannot imagine fighting one of these fires up close.  I pray for the safety and that this drought might end soon.

Day 13 – Clinton, Oklahoma to North Little Rock, Arkansas

An Epic Journey

We started the day off by stopping at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma.  I figured it would be a tourist trap that was designed to only suck your money away.  I was wrong.  It was an adorable, yet small, museum dedicated to preserving the history of Route 66.  The displays included quite a few authentic photographs, props and even cars of the time.  I am really glad we stopped as it was informative and fun.

I love the history of Route 66!!  It is true Americana! I love the history of Route 66!! It is true Americana!

While driving in the west, one cannot help but notice all the casinos along the way.  I totally understand that those casinos bring tourist dollars into the community, provide decent wages to local people and they allow people to better themselves.  I get it, I really do.  But when you look around and you see big, bright and shiny casinos surrounded by…

View original post 741 more words

Day 13 – Clinton, Oklahoma to North Little Rock, Arkansas

We started the day off by stopping at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma.  I figured it would be a tourist trap that was designed to only suck your money away.  I was wrong.  It was an adorable, yet small, museum dedicated to preserving the history of Route 66.  The displays included quite a few authentic photographs, props and even cars of the time.  I am really glad we stopped as it was informative and fun.

I love the history of Route 66!!  It is true Americana!

I love the history of Route 66!! It is true Americana!

While driving in the west, one cannot help but notice all the casinos along the way.  I totally understand that those casinos bring tourist dollars into the community, provide decent wages to local people and they allow people to better themselves.  I get it, I really do.  But when you look around and you see big, bright and shiny casinos surrounded by broken down cars, trailers in desperate need of repair and other obvious signs of economic blight, it becomes hard not to look at the casino as, at least, a partial reason for the problems.

We stopped in one, since I have only been in a casino once in Niagara Falls. I decided to try my luck at the penny slots.  I took a seat by a slot machine that showed brightly colored cupcakes (how bad could it be…they were cupcakes and party hats) and tried my luck. I was up to $40 from my original $20 and feeling pretty good, when Lady Luck decided to leave the room.  In no time, all the money was gone and I was left with nothing.  As I looked around the room, I saw the same look I had on many of the faces there and I hoped they had not come here looking to make enough money to pay the rent or buy groceries.  It may happen for a few, but for the majority winning is not a option.

I have been so down that I have resorted to playing the Lottery in hopes of getting some relieve.  I understand the concept, but never once have I won.  You only end up losing what little you had to begin with.  Everyone knows that the casinos are in business to make money, but human nature, no matter how down and out, still has that one glimmer of hope that says today will be the day.  It just hardly ever is that day.  I am not sure what point I wanted to make other than I saw the sadness and hope that I can help somehow, someday.  I am not anti-casino, in fact for the most part I never give them a thought, but the “lure of easy money has a very strong appeal.” (words by Glenn Frey)

I do not know how I keep getting off on these negative notes.  I do not mean to, but you cannot close your eyes to the lives around you.  This trip is about self-awareness and awareness in general, so I guess it is only right that these things stand out to me.  It is making me realize that the world is truly much bigger than what I see in my everyday life and that many people are hurting (some of it is self-induced, I get that too).

(Removing myself from the soapbox again.) On a lighter note, I have learned a few lessons so far from this trip and I thought I would share them:

  1. I have gone two weeks without any television and I have not died!  I cannot believe how freeing it is not to be hooked to the television.  I may be a little out of touch with news and such, but it feels good to have cut that cord a bit.
  2. I can shower in a public shower as long as there is a door.  Never in a million years would I have guessed that I could ever do that.  You get to a point and have no choice and you do what you have to do.
  3. No matter how much I try (and I have), I am just not an outdoorsy-kinda gal.  I can appreciate nature and its beauty from inside the air conditioned car.  I still rather sit inside with a good book and an iced tea.  I tried….I really did!
  4. Seems most Western drivers like to go really fast.  I am a slow poke driver who has to work at keeping up with the speed limits out here.  Cruise control, on the open road not in town, is my friend.
  5. Diner food is the absolutely best!  I love the atmosphere and the food.  We need more diners!!
  6. I can exist on one meal day (and a few snacks).  I was eating way too much and that is not necessarily a good thing.
  7. I can sleep in a tent.  Yes, I can.  I may not be particularly fond of the notion, but I can now do it and am even somewhat helpful in the putting up and taking down of it.  NEVER in a million years!
A cute picture of an old ice cream / soda fountain.

A cute picture of an old ice cream / soda fountain.

I know it is not a terribly noteworthy list, but I am getting there.  I am doing things I never dreamed I could do.  Thank you for listening.  I appreciate all of you out “there.”

Day 12 – Grants, New Mexico to Clinton, Oklahoma

I did not have Wi-Fi yesterday so I could not post, sorry about that!! So today I will do a couple of posts.  First of all, yesterday we had an unremarkable day — which is good when the temps are over 100 and you worry about the car — traveling out of New Mexico, through a small bit of Texas and into Oklahoma.  We traveled on Rt. 40 which runs close to the old Route 66.

There were a lot of remnants of Route 66.  Many ghost towns, closed businesses, cars and trucks just parked and rusting and a very sad view of a life that was once vibrant and new.  Seems to me, and I could be way off base here, that my parents generation started off with roads like Rt. 66 (obviously after the dust bowl which is what facilitated the Mother Road) as a way to see the country in their new and shiny cars.  The heyday was amazing with post-war families driving out west to see the Pacific Ocean and all the other sights along the way.

Then the Interstate idea hit and now you could not only get out west but you could do it faster.  It seems to me that was the demise of important roads like Route 66.  I remember a couple of trips with my folks and it was always on interstate highways, never on “back roads.”

But our generation seems to be looking back to those simpler times when you could ride the Route and have a great dinner at a diner, and reserve a room at a motel (with conditioned air and color TV!).  You could see all matter of weird and interesting sights as you drove.

The resurgence of the Route is hopeful, in fact, many businesses never left they just seemed to wait it out. I am so happy to see that people are interested in the Route again. Interstate highways have their place, but Routes like 66 and 20 have American history attached to them.  People drove those roads to find better lives and we need to preserve that.  It is a piece of us and we cannot afford to just throw it away.  (Sorry, I am off my soapbox).

Last night, after a long day of driving, we got to our KOA cabin and I melted down.  It is amazing how lack of quality sleep and overwhelming heat can cloud your mind.  I just sat on the edge of the bed and cried.  Not for any particular reason, just for all of it.  But I broke out my Kindle and I read a short story from “Christmas in Absaroka” by Craig Johnson.  Between Craig and Mike, I calmed down and forgot about the scorpions and rattlesnakes (did I mention they live where in the same state as I was sleeping!).

I am not a bug person, I totally understand their purpose in life other than to bite me.  I understand food chains and such, but I am not a fan.  There are so many bugs alive and dead in the southern part of the states — many more than I am used to.  But I have decided to embrace my inner bug lover and get over myself.  I still slept partially awake looking for scorpions, but luckily they stayed away.

I do have a bug repellent tip:  Repel Lemon and Eucalyptus (DEET Free) is amazing.  It keeps bugs way away.  Most people too.  DO NOT BREATHE IT IN!!  It is harsh and strong, but it works.  You get used to the smell after a few days and then you can tolerate it better.  Good grief though, it is powerful.

I am going to shower since it has been a few days in 100 degree heat, then do some laundry (again it has been a few days) and then I will come back and tell you about today.  I also have lots of pictures, I just have to go through them.  Hope you are enjoying the posts.  More fun to come!!

Rattlesnakes and scorpions live here...oh my!!

Rattlesnakes and scorpions live here…oh my!!

What do the Numbers 9,726 and 28 Have in Common?

The route is not to scale, but it gives a general description of what the trip should look like.

The route is not to scale, but it gives a general description of what the trip should look like.

Yesterday, Mike figured out that my upcoming trip will cover approximately (give or take a side trip or two) 9,726 miles and will cover 28 different states.  I am a person who is easily overwhelmed and this to me is overwhelming.  How am I going to do this alone?  What was I thinking?  Am I crazy for taking this on for my first solo trip?

Then I realized I have a lot of people behind me, who want me to succeed.  I have my faith that God will provide and I know deep (really deep) inside I have the strength do this.  I am probably a little crazy for taking this on, but nothing worth doing is ever going to be easy.

I have spent most of my life not stepping out and trying anything different.  I have stayed on the safe course while longing for the strength to try something new.  When I did try something new, I always quickly reverted back to my safe shell.  Years pass and you realize that there are more check marks in the failure column than the success column.  I am tired of living afraid and I plan that this trip will be my “defining moment” where I stop being afraid, women up and do something scary and cool at the same time.

I have said this many times, but I could not do this without the support of friends, family and people I have not met.  The support I have received is overwhelming and I am going to do my best to add this trip to my success column.  Fear is only fear if I continue to let it be.  That is not to say that I will not keep a healthy dose of it just to stay safe, but I am talking about the unhealthy fear that makes you stop moving, tightens your chest and causes you to not breathe.  I am saying goodbye to unhealthy fear and hello to a new and improved me.

9,726 miles and 28 states….here I come!!

Thank you again for your support and love!!  I truly need it and appreciate it more than you will ever know!!

Meeting with President of The Historic US Route 20 Association

It was only fitting to meet with Bryan Farr, President of The Historic US Route 20 Association, in the historic building which now houses the Willoughby Brewing Company (4057 Erie Street). Since I will be taking historic Route 20 from Cleveland all the way to Newport, Oregon, and then from Boston back to Cleveland, it only made sense to make a connection with Bryan.

IMG_5017

Bryan and me outside of the Willoughby Brewing Company.

He is working tirelessly to achieve the Association mission:

“The mission of the Historic US Route 20 Association is to identify & preserve the cultural importance of, and to promote the economic development of inner cities, small towns and rural communities along all 3,365 miles and former alignments of US Route 20.” Source: http://www.historicus20.com

Bryan was only in our neck of the woods for a short time, so being able to sit down and talk with him for almost three hours was unbelievable. He explained to Mike and me how he got started with this dream, and where he sees it going. He also offered me much-needed advice on how to car travel in a frugal and safe way. His tips were great and I will be sharing them in future posts.

Route 20 has always had significance to me due to where I lived as a child. Many of you know I grew up in a very rural location where things to do just did not exist. But if you could find a ride to Route 20 in Mentor, Willoughby or Painesville, then you could find something to do, enjoy great places to eat, do some shopping, see a movie and so much more than my little town offered. Route 20 was like going to the “Big City” for me. When I learned that I could drive all the way across the country on it, there was no hesitation to make that a big part of my trip.

Our time with Bryan was extremely enlightening, but I think the most pivotal part for me was when I asked if travel changes you as a person. This incredible smile lit up his face and he said it was true and he guaranteed that I would be a different person when I got back. He explained how seeing nature and not just from the window of a speeding car, but actually seeing a mountain or a redwood or an ocean effects something inside you as a person. The beauty leaves its mark on your soul. All I can say is…I cannot wait to experience that and all the other unexpected things that will happen along the way.

Today’s Post Shout Out:  A quick thank you to Kyle, our server at Willoughby Brewing Company. He treated us wonderfully and allowed us to stay for so long as we talked. Oh, I almost forgot my hamburger quest. Really great burgers at Willoughby Brewing Company!

The building is more than 100 years old and used to house the repair depot for the Cleveland Ashtabula Interurban Rail Line.

The building is more than 100 years old and used to house the repair depot for the Cleveland Ashtabula Interurban Rail Line.

Next door to the brewing company is the old power plant which used to generate electricity for the streetcar system.
Next door to the brewing company is the old power plant which used to generate electricity for the streetcar system.

I’m Sorry

I’m sorry I have not posted more this week.  There are LOTS of exciting things happening involving my trip.  But I had a long week at work and my creative juices were non-existent.  So if you don’t mind, I will try to post a few things this weekend to keep everyone one up to speed.  Thank you for your patience!!

P.S.  It is now less than two months until my “Launch” date!!

Excitement Coming Soon and a Word About Fear

Thank you to everyone who has looked at my blog.  I truly appreciate it and love you for it!!  Please remember that starting on July 25, the actual travel posts will begin.  Right now, I am still in the planning and executing stages of the trip.  Not as exciting as the trip itself, but I hope to keep you interested enough to keep following so that when the trip starts we can see the country together.

I have been visiting great blogs about women who travel solo.  These women are amazing.  I study where they have gone and what they have done and I am in awe.  I know women who have traveled solo for work and I am in awe.  I know women who have traveled the world in the military and I am in awe.  Meeting and reading about these women is inspiring me to be better and I hope that my small trip (compared to some!) will be interesting to you.  I do have a feeling it will change me and I hope it inspires you to fulfill a dream, whatever it may be.

I have always wanted to travel, but I spent most of my life afraid.  I would think of all things that could happen and I would be paralyzed with fear.  That fear barely let me leave the house for a couple of years. Embracing the fear made me feel better, I thought it actually kept me safe when in reality it just kept me prisoner.  I overcame some of it, but fear still has its grips on me..even today.  But thanks to my brave friends and new friends I am meeting locally and via the Internet, I am casting my fears away, casting them onto the Lord where they belong.

This trip has no political agenda, no hidden meanings or undercurrents, it is strictly about a shy and fearful woman waking from her self-induced small world view and doing something totally out of character with the hopes of being better.  I want to be better on all levels: a better person, a better wife, a better sister, a better friend and a better citizen of the world.  I cannot do that with the blinders I have on.

Thank you again for taking this journey with me.  I think it is going to be a wild ride!Coming Soon