Friday, May 28, 2010

One more overnight on the road!

We're in Wytheville, Virginia, now--making our way to Fairfax to see our sister Stacie. Yesterday we meandered through Smokey Mountain National Park. It's beautiful!

As always, my sister Lori made some new friends.

Then it was on to Asheville, North Carolina, for only a brief stop. What a cool city! Look at the architecture.

And evidently it's home to the world's biggest iron.

We were lucky to find a rooftop bar with this view.

I wish we had more time to stay--Asheville is definitely a place I'd like to visit again.

This trip has been absolutely incredible, but after 11 days on the road, I'm ready to wind things down. Look at the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.

Granny's on her way, kids!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pictures of Graceland (and a REALLY funny video)

We've had an amazing couple of days; I won't be able to tell all the details in one post. Right now I'm writing this from a Microtel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I'm not sure we're going to make Dollywood since we're running out of time and still have a couple of stops to make before we arrive in NY.

On Tuesday we toured Graceland and even if you're not a huge Elvis fan, it's really quite interesting and worth the trip. We opted for the deluxe tour, which included an exhibit of his cars and access to his planes. With our AAA discount, it was only $31 each. They give you headphones when the tour starts and the exhibits are very well done.

Here's the outside of Graceland Mansion. Nowadays, with all the McMansions that have sprung up everywhere, the size of Elvis' house wasn't striking at all.

Here's the living room.

And the dining room.

This is where Elvis made his peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Here's the piano Elvis played the day he died.

The mansion wasn't the only thing that was smaller than I imagined. Here are some outfits from the Fat Elvis days--they don't look big at all! Even Fat Elvis was no James Gandolfini.

I hope I didn't ruin it for you before when I told you he died.
(Or did he...)

By the end I was kind of Elvis-ed out, and there were times I was wishing there was such thing as the Warren Zevon equivalent of Graceland, but I think anyone would find it interesting and the 70s decor is a kick. I remember my friends telling me years ago after their visit that it just goes to show you really can spend a million dollars at K-Mart.

If you can believe it, yesterday we went to someplace even BETTER than Graceland: we took a detour down to Tuscumbia, Alabama, to see Helen Keller's birthplace and the house she grew up in. Helen Freakin' Keller! Lori and I loved to read about her when we were kids, so this is one place we weren't going to miss, even though it was about 140 miles out of our way. We even wore dresses out of respect for our hero.

I'll save the details of that visit for another post, but I can't wait to show you these videos. The first one is of our approach to the estate. We're all like, [sound of angels] "Ahhhh..." and then Lori sees a bust of Helen Keller in the garden. You can't hear it on the video, but instead of saying, "There's Helen Keller's bust," she says, "There's Helen Keller's breast." So much for solomn reverence.

Last night stuck in a traffic jam, we were still laughing about it.

We are lunatics. More to come...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taking a little detour

Writing this from a great Best Western in Franklin, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. Too busy to do a proper post today; we have to get on the road ASAP because we're heading to Alabama. I know--that's not exactly on the way to New York, is it? But we're going someplace REALLY special, so stay tuned.

Yesterday was a full day. We dipped into Mississippi a bit and then came back up to Memphis and toured Graceland. I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook; you can check them out here, but I'll give you the full rundown soon.

Gotta go--the road is calling!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reporting from Memphis

Rolled into Memphis at about 6:30 last night. We got a room at the Doubletree just a block from Beale St. through Priceline for only $63. Only what they don't tell you when you book through Priceline--or maybe they do, it's just in a 4-point font--is that you also have to pay $20 to park at the damn place. That's five beers, or three cute blouses at Ross. Just saying.

The good news is, the room is very nice...

... once you get past the musty old building odor. But it does have a lovely view of the Greyhound station.

Beale Street reminds us of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, except it's not as long and instead of zydeco music, it's all blues.

As much as I love zydeco and the blues, neither Bourbon St. nor Beale St. is really my scene--too frenetic and touristy. I'd rather go somewhere out of the way, like a Mississippi juke joint maybe.

Tomorrow we check out Graceland and then it's on to Nashville. I'm looking forward to visiting my favorite bar there, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. It'll be interesting to see if it's as fun as I remember.

It's old here. And the weather is overcast and dreary. I hate to say it, but I miss the sunny West already. It's very pretty, very pretty... as you can see in this short video with my crazy sister.

Yep, I figured out how to record and upload videos. Consider yourself warned.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Texas pan handle and OK City

Last night we made it as far as Russellville, Arkansas, about 80 miles west of Little Rock. As you can see, we demand only the best accommodations.

I swear, we don't drive more than 30 miles before we stop for something--usually a Harley shop, biker bar, casino, or other roadside attraction. As one of our new friends on the road said, we're about as fast as a pack of turtles.

So after our stop at the weigh station, as described in yesterday's post, we rode through the Texas pan handle. Somebody told me it would be a boring as hell ride, but I must say, Au contraire, mon frere. I'm glad we didn't drive through at night; there was so much to see, so many stops to make.

We had to take our picture at the midway point between Chicago and Los Angeles on Route 66.

And don't think we would pass by Cadillac Ranch, just east of Amarillo.

Who could blow through Amarillo and not stop at this classy joint?

We kind of landed there by accident, but ended up having the greatest time with our new friend, Bob.

He was really nice, except for when he accidentally singed my leg with his cigarette. "I'm gonna kick your ass!" I shrieked.

He just shook his head and calmly said, "That's something I don't need this time of day."

We arrived there mid-afternoon and could have stayed all night, but we had to get back on the road. But then we had to stop at the largest cross in the northern hemisphere...

...conveniently located near this dining spot.

Evidently Jesus lives in New Mexico and drives a Hyundai--who knew?

We had such a blast in Texas! I liked bragging to people that I was born in El Paso. You can't tell by the way I tawk, though. My father was in the army at the time; we're really multi-generation Yankees. Duh.

From there we went on to Oklahoma City, where we had a blast at a roadhouse near our motel. The band was fun...

... and we met this swell guy, Don.

Yesterday before leaving town we checked out the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum. This was a beautiful place, and so well done. It's just incomprehensible that such a thing could happen, in America's heartland of all places. Very, very sad.

Don't think we don't know just how lucky we are. Live each day to the fullest. Enjoy every minute!

Today we're heading to Little Rock, and we should even make it as far as Memphis. But who knows...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

We always do what we're told

9:00 p.m. eastern Oklahoma

Writing this from the lobby of a Day's Inn in eastern Oklahoma. Yes, we finally made it out of New Mexico! I have a lot to tell you about our drive through the Texas pan handle and our stop in Oklahoma City, but we have to get back on the road--we're hoping to make it to Little Rock tonight.

So yesterday we passed this sign as we were driving along.

Good thing we had our scales in the car.

I wasn't too happy with what I saw.

Of course, the weigh stations are intended for truckers, so Lori waved them over.

They were totally into it! When Lori told the first guy he had to get weighed, he said, "You want me to put my truck on those scales?"

Why are we traveling with scales, you ask? Because I'm neurotic about my weight. My thought process was, I always gain weight when I'm in Albany and I don't want to balloon up this summer, so if I have my scales with me, I can stay on top of the situation. I know.

Anything for a laugh. Stay tuned...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Midnight update: still in New Mexico

Yup, this is our fourth night in this state. Right now I'm writing this from my bed at the swanky Historic Route 66 Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Lori and I pulled into town about an hour ago, and everything was so eerie and dark, we fully expected Rod Serling to appear in front of us. I'm not kidding--when we got off the exit from I-40, the street lights along Route 66 were out and none of the business' signs were lit. I still don't know if there was a power outage from the wind or what. The place looked like a ghost town except for this one motel, which appeared to be practically full, so we decided to stay here.

The town is creepy as hell--at night, anyway--though this motel is actually very clean. The owner, who checked us in, is from Pennsylvania, which for some reason I find comforting. Anyway, you can tell by the sign that it doesn't quite match up to the Santa Fe accommodations we've been spoiled with the past two nights, to say the least. My friend Joan is an amazing hostess!

Here she is walking her dog, Jake, in the 'hood.

Here's the outside of her gorgeous house.

We finally made it to downtown Santa Fe today, and it's just a beautiful city. It's exactly like you'd imagine--blue sky, lots of art and culture, incredible architecture, and a paradise for shoppers. This is a fantastic place for a girls' trip!

We walked around the plaza area and then took a ride around town in this.

Joan took this picture of me and Lori with the poor rickshaw girl, who had to pedal the three of us around town. We felt so bad for her, and guilty about the big-ass breakfast we enjoyed just beforehand. As she struggled to get us up Canyon Drive, I thought about how I once hired a rickshaw to take me and my grandson, Connor, to our car at the Saratoga Racetrack. Unhappy with the speed of our ride, Connor whispered to me, "I wish I had a whip!"

Afterward we had drinks on the roof of a hotel I wish I could remember the name of.

But I sure as hell remember the name of my beer!

Tomorrow we're getting an early start and hope to make it all the way to Oklahoma City. We'll be passing through Amarillo, Texas, and you know us--if it's a fun time, we're takin' our time!

Still in Santa Fe and haven't been into town yet

That's right. Yesterday we hit Santa Fe Harley Davidson (oh, Lori!) and then took a ride up to Taos, which is about 70 miles north of Santa Fe. Beautiful scenery along the way!

That's the Rio Grande River.

Here's the shopping plaza...

... and a street in Taos.

After some shopping, we stopped and had a beer at a cafe. Here's the Harley girl, smiling as usual.

On the way home, Lori made friends with this guy at a red light. (Oh, Lori!)

But we weren't able to take the best pictures of the day. On the way to Taos there was a giant mailbox with a sign next to it that said, "MAILBOX ON STEROIDS." And just as we were pulling into town, Lori and I saw something white falling from the sky in front of our car. We were like, "What was that?" and concluded that we just missed getting hit by a HUGE glob of bird shit. It was pretty cool, in a gross kind of way. You see bird shit after it's landed all the time, but you never actually see it flying through the air. But if that actually hit me, it definitely would NOT have been so cool. Definitely not.

The best picture we couldn't catch in time was outside the New Mexico School for the Deaf as we got back into Santa Fe. It was a sign advertising their production of "Chicago: The Musical." I'm still wondering how that works.

Today I'm pretty sure we'll make it into Santa Fe, and then we'll be back on the highway. Yep, at this rate, we'll be rolling into Albany just in time for Hazey's kindergarten graduation.