YES, very cool. Thanks for the report.
YES, very cool. Thanks for the report.
With one exception, no miles were put on the van this week, with my uncle taking us everywhere. When we weren't going somewhere it was a time to relax, catch up on life and reminisce about the good 'ol days.
On Tuesday, I had a chance to visit several cousins in Huntsville, AL with an early dinner at one of their homes.
On Wednesday, we took a drive to Hazel Green, AL where my late grandparents and uncle used to live (all places I remembered as a kid), including a visit to the cemeteries where they are interred.
On Thursday, I took the minivan to complete a solo mission to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. Although I've been there several times in my younger days, the last time was in the 1990s so I thought to check out what's changed. Without having to compensate for my folks' walking abilities, I was able to do the whole enchilada in 6.5 hours: all main exhibits, the Davidson Center housing the Saturn V and Apollo 16 vehicles, the rocket yards, one of the IMAX dome movies, and a bus tour to the Marshall Space Flight Center, primarily featuring their current communications with the International Space Shuttle (ISS). A nice little encore to the space theme happening this week.
We originally planned to head out today (Friday) to Nashville, but only being 80 miles away, it was decided to stick around with family one more day for a final splash and go up early Saturday instead. We went over to Huntsville, AL once more for visiting additional cousins, in between going out for breakfast and an early dinner. I've spent the rest of the day prepping luggage and the minivan for the final 48 hours of our road trip.
Wrapping up soon!
We bade a hearty farewell to my Alabama uncle and departed at 8:00am CDT, using US 72 to connect with I-65 and head north into Tennessee. Two hours later we reach our first stop of the day on the outskirts of Nashville, TN: the Grand Ole Opry.
As mentioned before, I'm not much of a country music fan. But as a performing musician myself, I can appreciate some of the great legacies that were born here. We all opted for the 10:30am backstage tour and took a gander behind the stage, in the dressing rooms, the green room and even got to go on stage and stand on "the circle" (where all performers stand) with tourist's picture being taken. (Of course we paid extra for a set of that picture, another clever tourist operation.)
Next was downtown. We headed to Capitol Hill and found the final state capitol for this trip, although it was covered in scaffolding so pictures weren't great, and we didn't have time for any tours today. Moving on, we tracked down Broadway and 5th street. The security guy from the Opry told us to take a look at the original Opry house (aka Ryman Auditorium) located here. I would have been happy with just pictures of it, but dang, we unwittingly drove into the heart of what makes Nashville tick, a row of venues with massive crowds of people. Oh yes, this is a Saturday during the lunch hour. My timing is impeccable! We drove on with nary a click of the camera.
I-24 helped out with our escape northwest. I was thinking to try fitting in one more thing. I detoured through Clarksville, TN and found US 79 to take us directly west to some federal parks. We just happened upon Fort Donelson National Battlefield, one of the important civil war sites. We did a quick loop but as it took a while to get here, kept this visit brief.
Farther down the road was "The Trace" highway that took us into Land Between the Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area, nestled snugly in between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. This park is more for the hikers, bikers, campers, and boaters. We were just driving through to see what could be seen. Other than a few bison fields, it wasn't much for viewing. The Visitor Center had a cool planetarium dome but we didn't have time for any shows, and had to impatiently wait 30 minutes for the gift shop to switch to their evening shift before we could buy anything. We also paid $5.00 to enter an exclusive Bison & Elk viewing area, but the buffalo were keeping their distance and the elk were a no-show. Yeah, I could have skipped this place haha.
We cut out of there using US 68 and found our I-24 friend again. We exited off US 60 and continued to the extreme western tip of Kentucky. This part was more interesting. We turned to US 51 in Wickliffe, KY which took us over two major bridges, the first over the Ohio River and into the extreme southern tip of Illinois, and a minute later the second bridge over the Mississippi River and into Missouri. This is right where the two rivers converge, and were it not for lack of time would have liked to stick around here more.
We raced to our final destination of Sikeston, MO, checking in at almost 8:00pm, and crossing the street to a Ruby Tuesday for dinner (which we don't have on the west coast).
The end is nigh.
WHAT? You didn't go to Lambert's when you were in Sikeston, MO? To heck with the Ruby Tuesday, that's everywhere (except here in CA). But Lambert's only has 3 or 4 locations, period, with the mother cafe' being in Sikeston (the original).
Mostly uneventful, but I have to close this out proper.
We moseyed on out of the hotel around 9:00am CDT, making sure our luggage and other gear were in order. We did stop for 2nd breakfast at a Fried Pie Shop we found down the road the night before. I've had these stuffed fruit pies in Texas/Oklahoma and they're oh so good, wish they had those shops in CA. Dad bought 5 of them to take home on the flight.
It was time for I-55 north, with smooth sailing the whole way through, save for one rest stop where we unpacked the flex cooler and threw out what couldn't be taken on the plane. Reaching St. Louis, MO we circled around using I-270, ramping off a few exits early to find gas, and then cut up to Alamo car rental using US 67. We were a little behind schedule but a 20-minute delayed flight proved most valuable. We shuttled to STL with all our luggage, found the gate, and boarded the flight, wheels up at 2:40pm CDT, officially ending elapsed time. Landed at 3:55pm PDT, shuttled to the garage and made parole with long term parking, arriving at my folk's home (San Juan Capistrano, CA) just over an hour later.
Final post on its way...
Another doozie of a roadtrip has completed. This has been the longest one (duration-wise) with my folks to date. Obviously such a feat is easier to achieve when half the time is staying/visiting with friends and family. Got to see a plethora of cousins, some of which I never knew I had, and also received a crash course lesson in the whole paternal family history. All other goals set for this trip were easily completed, especially the primary one on 08/21/2017 @ 2:31:36pm EDT. :)
Overall the weather greatly cooperated during our rounds. Usually mid- to late- August is brutal for the Central Eastern states, but a nice cold front led the charge prior to our arrival and lingered perfectly. Despite a few pockets of hot'n'humid, and a couple early morning cloudbursts, it ended up clearer and cooler than expected, making the outdoors rather pleasant for those days we needed it.
Thanks to reward points, we completely rode free on fuel for the rental car, as well as most of our foodstuffs/supplies. In addition to the free nights with friends/family, our last night in a hotel was also complementary with accrued points. Airfare and the rental ate up most of the budget, but it was definitely one of our cheaper trips, at least for this extended length of traveling.
Favorite Places: I don’t know about “places” per se, but I can definitely tell you what my favorite event was, haha. (See Day 10 if you can’t figure it out.) Spring City, TN welcomed its eclipse guests with open arms and made sure that everyone felt welcome, so in that sense it became one of my favorite “places” for the trip. I also found the Gateway Arch in St. Louis another worthy contender in my book. Yeah, it’s a little touristy and there’s still a lot of construction in the area, but it’s the highlight of the many things you could do in downtown. An honorable mention would be the bridges flying over the conjoining Ohio/Mississippi Rivers where the MO/IL/KY tri-state point is. Oh, if only I had more time to go back there…
Least Desirables: Hmm, I have to think about this one. There wasn’t any place in particular that disgusted me. Our Danville, IL hotel was pretty old and not in the best condition, but I’m more tolerant than Mom is. Of course there was also Land Between the Lakes NRA, which I’m sure is great for the recreationists but didn’t really offer much to casual travelers like us. Even the buffalo ranges were disappointing. Our time could have been better spent elsewhere.
What’s next? I’m afraid that future large trips like this one may have to be shelved for my folks due to their age, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have smaller plans in the works. For Spring 2018 I’m contemplating another sub-roadtrip to Arizona/Utah, driving to Lake Powell in Glen Canyon NRA and renting a houseboat for up to a week. I remember steering through that place on the Utah trip (RT03) and always wanted to go back. Another potential for Fall 2018 would be to return to my brother/sister in Plano, TX with a 2-3 day mini trip over to Shreveport, LA. (That would complete another state for both parents.) Neither of these are definite, but I’ll try and keep that roadtrip bug buzzing for as long as is feasible.
Total Miles: 2,347
Total Stops: 24
Total Elapsed Time: 16 days, 5 minutes (wheels down to wheels up at St. Louis Airport [STL])
Total U.S. States: 9
Total U.S. Capitols: 5
Total National Parks/Monuments: 0 (not counting Historic Sites, Battlefields or Recreation Areas)
Type of Rental Vehicle: 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan
Gallons of Fuel: 105.257 (22.3 MPG)
Total Cost of Trip: $1,800 (includes my share of airfare, parking, car rental, lodging, food, souvenirs, and park/tour fees)
I must be getting lazy with my old age, or maybe just pickier. I only managed 586 clicks, and after deleting bad ones and separating out the eclipse-specific automated shots, whittled it down to 370 keepers. (Mom had better luck taking over 1400 pictures, so I “borrowed” a few of hers for the album.) These 80 photos should give you the rundown of all we seen and done. To keep consistent with past albums, I’ve excluded family photos/visits in order to keep focus on the roadtrip theme. Head to one of the following:
1) The RTA PhotoShare Galleries
2) Facebook (no account necessary)
3) Flickr (slideshow-friendly with the occasional ad in between)
You may notice past road trip albums in the vicinity. Feel free to take a gander.
See you next year(?)
No more tripping for 2017. Gotta replenish funds and all that lovely stuff. Thanks for reading, see you next time!
Thanks for the wrap-up and the photos.
Thanks for the detailed report.