Following text is mostly notes taken on the fly, during the trip, supplemented by comments added later, after we had returned from vacation. I have also included some of the pictures we took.

Day 1
7 July 2005

We left the house at 0722 and went to the IHOP on Mountain (near Wal-Mart) for breakfast. After a stop back home for a cell phone charger, we were on the road. Stopped for rest once along I-40, and stopped for lunch at Kingman. That was 293 miles, and we got 15.193 gallons of gas (19.34 mpg). Not bad mileage, since I was driving pretty fast, around 80mph most of the time. We had lunch at the Roadrunner cafe, on 'historic route 66' (Beale St.) in Kingman, just east of the first Kingman exit off I-40. It looked like the majority of customers were locals; you would never know it's there from the highway.

Stopped for the night at Holbrook, ~90 miles east of Flagstaff on I-40. The town is falling apart; all of the 'old' part is closed, or full of failed businesses. But we did find one rock shop open (the Pow Wow Trading Post, I think). Good stuff, and some high-end petrified wood, geodes, & etc. Bought some dinosaur poop for Pam's nephews (and Pam), a ring for Amanda, and some petrified wood. We also stopped by the Holbrook visitor center, bought a book on Navajo Windtalkers, and drove around checking out Old Holbrook.

533 miles to Holbrook, includes a few miles driving around in Holbrook.

Added Comments: I don't think I ever stopped at Holbrook, always continuing to points east, but Pam has been there before. She notes that it seems much more depressed, and I can well believe it. Even one of the local bars had obviously gone out of business (despite the sign out front that declared it to be 'world famous'). It was not all that late when we arrived, but only one rock shop was open. The owner was a pleasantly talkative fellow, who talked about buying & selling houses around his shop for prices like ~$20,000 !

We had dinner in the cafe attached to the El Rancho Motel, which was suggested by one of the staffers at the local historical museum (we were their last visitors of the day). Food was OK, but service was slow, perhaps due to the distraction of a large family group in the 'banquet room'.

The 'historic' part of Holbrook remains undeveloped. We were using a map/guide from the visitor center & historical museum, and tried to find the Bucket of Blood saloon, but were unable to be sure, which building was it. Since Holbrook advertises its history, you would think they could put out just a little sign, or plaque, or something.

The day's drive took us along I-210, to CA-210, to I-15, and the transition to I-40 in Barstow. We stayed on I-40 until we stopped at Holbrook. When we left, the odometer read 10,452 miles. The temperature in Needles was 102 degrees, and it rose to 105 when the sign said we were 2 miles from Lake Havasu City. When we arrived in Kingman, it was 98 degrees, and the odometer read 10,745. We arrived in Holbrook at 3:30 PM, so we had time to look around.

Day 2
8 July 2005

Left Holbrook 0715 (MST), and finally arrived in Oklahoma City at 2223 (CDT). That's when I parked the car at the Country Inn Suites, 3141 N.W. Expressway, 803 driving miles from Holbrook, 1336 driving miles from Duarte! Stopped for lunch & gas in Santa Rosa, New Mexico; ate at the Route 66 Cafe. All along the highway, every town seems to have a route 66 museum, or a route 66 cafe. It's all about Route 66. The Route 66 Cafe in Santa Rosa had the old car thing going, and seemed to have a mix of regulars & travelers.

We lost about 30 minutes wandering around in Elk City, Oklahoma, looking for something to eat. The sign said '40 restaurants' (!!). I saw about a dozen, almost all fast food places, and a lot of them closed. Don't bother with Elk City. We eventually stopped to eat near Clinton, in the restaurant in a Days Inn. The Branding Iron, and the Oakwood Steakhouse. Don't let the name fool you; they were out of filet (which they spelled 'fillet'), and prime rib. I also note that they ran out of Ôto go' containers. Wimpy salad bar, and a buffet with funny looking fried catfish. I had Tilapia, and it was pretty good, with a fair amount of lemon & pepper. But the place was small, and did not amount to much. It seems endemic of this part of the country, it's really hard to just stop along the road somewhere, and find decent food.

No 'weather' yet. Clear, blue skies everywhere. There was a smell of smoke going into Oklahoma City, but no sign of where it may have come from.

Added Comments: As my conversations with cousin Dave Seeger revealed, the small towns of western Oklahoma, along I-40, seem somewhat depressed since the Interstate enhanced the flow of through traffic. This is an effect we saw all over rural America, lots of small businesses are closed & boarded up. Lots of small towns look like they are going out of business entirely. Elk City certainly did not live up to the reputation that the signs along the road declared. And the place where we finally did stop, somewhere near Clinton, was surprisingly 'unprepared'. The 'salad bar' was hardly more than a bowl of lettuce, and they were out of filet & prime rib, despite being a 'steak house' in the middle of beef country! Is this symptomatic of the economic state of rural America?

The day's drive continued on I-40 from Holbrook, across New Mexico & the Texas 'panhandle', and into Oklahoma City. We got lost for a while in Oklahoma City, looking for the hotel. Wound up on the wrong freeway, but I managed to get turned back around and find the right road (partly by accident I think). When we left Holbrook, the odometer read 10,985. We crossed the continental divide at 8:40 AM. We made a rest stop on I-40 near exit #102, at 9:21 AM; the temperature was 90 degrees, and the odometer read 11,157. We left Santa Rosa at 12:32, and the odometer read 11,328. We stopped again to use the restroom & get some gas near Vega, Texas. It was 91 degrees, and Pam makes note of the 'cowboys with hats & horses'. Definitely not Los Angeles.

Day 3
9 July 2005

Will spend today hanging around Oklahoma City visiting with the Seegers. Watching the Weather Channel, I think we will wind up in the remnants of hurricane Dennis (it will be a tropical depression by then). It will likely be wet going across Kentucky & into Virginia.

Bill Seeger had to leave town due to sudden family matters, and David was occupied in the morning. So Pam & I visited the memorial at the Murrah Federal building, blown up by Tim McVeigh in 1995, 10 years ago. It can be a depressing experience to contemplate thoroughly the 168 people killed.

Visited the Seeger family in the afternoon & evening. He lives in the same house on Redmond that the family lived in back in the 'old days'. There were a few generations of Seegers there for a family dinner in the back yard; home barbequed brisket of beef, baked beans, potato salad & etc. David's daughter, Betty, whom we first thought could not be there, did arrive. She's the one into doing a Seeger family genealogy. I have a lot of Thompson & Feldman info that she lacks, but she knows the Seeger & Lindsey (Nadine's family) lines that I don't. Forgot to take the camera, so I don't have any pictures of me with the Seegers!

Added Comments: I haven't seen the Seeger cousins for decades. The two things that stick in my memory from childhood visits to Oklahoma are Aunt Nadine's peculiar small car, and a horse, cousin Bill's, I think. The car was an Iseta, a small blue car, the front door of which was the entire front end of the car! As for the horse, I remember it primarily because I don't think it liked the idea of being around me. I know David lives in the same family house on Redmond that we visited nearly 50 years ago, but I have no clear enough memories to recognize anything. I didn't even notice the absence of the field where the horse had been, across the street. It was a fascinating visit, I'm glad we were able to stop there. I became reacquainted, and acquainted for the first time, with a chunk of my family that I have not seen or communicated with for a very long time. It's not just a big country, it's a big family.

Day 4
10 July 2005

Had breakfast at the Panera bakery restaurant near the hotel, and took off for Missouri. We stopped for lunch at the largest McDonald's in the world (in square feet). It's on the turnpike between Tulsa, Oklahoma & Missouri. It's one of the old 50's era restaurants that actually spans the highway like a bridge, but seems to have only recently been converted to a McDonald's. Over 29,000 square feet (the largest), with seating for 400 customers (but the Moscow McDonald's seats 900!). Met Jim & Virginia at Marshfield to hunt down a replica of the HST on the courthouse lawn (which we found). Hubble's childhood home is somewhere in town, but the location is not made public, as somebody still lives there. That stretch of Interstate 44 is designated 'The Edwin P. Hubble Memorial Highway'.

Followed J&V to their new home in Sunrise Beach, on the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks, in Missouri. After dinner at B&P barbeque, we took a ride around the lake in Jim's small boat. It's quite the scenic place. Still watching Hurricane Dennis, which has made landfall, and now seems poised to move over the Kentucky area when we will be there.

Added comments: The day's drive saw us make the switch to I-44 in Oklahoma City. Turner Turnpike (from Oklahoma City to Tulsa) and Will Rogers Turnpike (from Tulsa to the Missouri border) are both I-44. On I-44 we met Jim & Virginia in Marshfield. After that, we followed I-44 as far as Lebanon, maybe 20 miles past Marshfield, and switched to MO-5, for the trip through Camdenton to Sunrise Beach and Jim & Virginia's home on the lake. We left Oklahoma City at 9:09 AM; it was 81 degrees, and the odometer read 11,823.

Day 5
11 July 2005

First of 2 trips to Cole Camp. Stopped at the local history museum, but there was not much of interest there. Had a great lunch at the Maple St. Cafe & Bakery, shopped around the antique stores. The library, Der Essen Platz and most of the antique shops were closed on Monday. We went from there to Weaver's Market in Mennonite country, passing a horse drawn cart along the way. After shopping we went back to Jim & Virginia's, where Virginia made meat loaf dinner. Stayed up until 2AM watching episode after episode of West Wing.

Despite almost everything being closed on Monday, the Maple St. Bakery was a popular place. We got there early afternoon, but they had already sold out of all pastries, but had a few pies left, and had even sold out of several menu items for lunch. I got their last grilled catfish, which was very good.

Added comments: The drive to Cole Camp follows MO-5 north from Sunrise Beach to Versailles. From there, it's west on MO-52 to Cole Camp. We took special notice of the large home out along the highway, with two(!) yellow Hummers out front!

Day 6
12 July 2005

Virginia had a doctor's appointment, and Jim had a bowling date. Pam & I went back to Cole Camp to do some family research. We struck pay dirt at the library, where we were able to buy one of the few remaining copies of the black book on the history of Cole Camp. I see little about the Feldman families, and the history of the Bahrenburg family does not mention Catherine (who married John Frederick Feldman). But we did discover that Parks Cemetery, where John Fredrick Feldman was buried, is now Cole Camp Cemetery. So we went there, and after some poking around, found & photographed the headstones of John F. Feldman and his brother Louis Feldman. The birth date for Louis does not match the one determined from German records. I believe the latter. The book & headstone discoveries make finding Cole Camp worthwhile.

John Fredrick Feldman

Louis Feldman

We had lunch at Der Essen Platz, which had been closed the previous day. Bratwurst and kielbasa was good, but I think the food at the Maple St. Bakery was better. We brought back two frozen pies, one apple and one cherry. For dinner we went to a restaurant J&V had been thinking about (Trail something), where Jim had intended to order the duck, but quickly changed his mind upon hearing that they had walleye. We had the apple pie for desert, maybe the best apple pie I can remember.

Once again, we stayed up until near 2AM watching West Wing episodes.

Added Comments: Jim & Virginia wound up with a good deal. Their home is very near the Lake of the Ozarks, and they have their own boat slip. They sold Virginia's house in El Monte, and had money left over after getting a house with a boat slip, and a boat to put in it! Of course, it's a fisherman's paradise. We did go out on the lake, and that's a big advantage when it's really hot, and the lake breeze is cool.

Day 7
13 July 2005

Left later than I would have preferred, what with the late night of TV. Maybe about 10:30 AM, and had breakfast at Stewarts in Lake Ozark. Took some pictures of Bagnell Dam, and hit the road. Lunch at a Subway at the last exit from I-64 in Illinois. Eventually came to rest in Winchester, Kentucky in the Holiday Inn Express. Had dinner at the Golden Corral, a buffet restaurant in Winchester.

Added comments: The day's drive saw us cross the lake, and get on US-52, which we followed north to I-70 at Kingdom City. From there, we followed I-70 east to St. Louis, where we switched to I-64 just before the Illinois border. We followed I-64 across southern Illinois & Indiana, and into Kentucky, all the way to Winchester. We stopped for gas, and lunch at a Subway Sandwich shop, at the last exit in Illinois, before the Indiana border. It was overcast and lightly raining, on & off.

Day 8
14 July 2005

Drove from Winchester through Kentucky & West Virginia. Stopped for lunch at a Bob Evans Restaurant in Lewisburg, Kentucky, just before leaving the state. Arrived about 3:30 PM (EST) at Pam's mother's house. Steve & Carolee & the kids were there but could not stay for dinner. Pat made dinner (roast beef) and we retired later that evening.

Added Comments: The day's drive continued along I-64 through the rest of Kentucky, through West Virginia and into Virginia. Just west of Richmond, we switched to VA-288 (a loop highway around Richmond), following it a few miles to Midlothian. Day 9
15 July 2005

Slept in for a change, after two long days on the road. Went to visit Steve & family, where the 10 year old twins Robert & Philip regaled us with their blues song 'school day blues' (or something like that). They are planning to go to the bookstore at midnight(!), when the new Harry Potter book hits the shelves. Amanda can't go; she has a birthday party & sleepover. But we did see her PowerPoint presentation 'Nothing but Darkness' (or something like that).

Added Comments: Steve & family live in Mechanicsville. We get there by taking a convoluted surface street route, which eventually ends up on I-95, all the way to Mechanicsville. We had been planning to make the trip earlier, but were delayed so I could arrange to visit the Seegers. So Steve wound up taking vacation when we expected to get there, not when we actually got there. But I made sure there was a weekend in Virginia, so it was hopefully not disastrous.

Day 10
16 July 2005

Went to Jamestown. The last time we went there was mid-winter, and too cold to see or do much. This time it was mid-summer, and almost too hot & humid to do anything. Pam wore out quickly. I made a point of seeing as much as I could of the historic site, as well as the tourist version, where mock-ups of the original ships were on display. I went aboard the model Susan Constant, much smaller than I would have guessed. The 'tween deck', where colonist passengers were relegated, was hot & humid & stuffy. Months in such conditions is bound to be worse than bad.

Off to Steve & Carolee's for dinner, homemade charcoal grilled hamburgers. We shelved plans to go to Washington, D.C. to visit the WWII memorial. It was way too humid in this heat to think about outdoor activities. We finally settled on the Science Museum of Virginia. Finished up with some papers & talk about the Berry family. Watched a DVD of Amanda's dance performance.

Added Comments: To get to Jamestown, we go back up state 288 to I-64, and head east all the way to Jamestown. This was in all likelihood the most uncomfortable day of the entire vacation, just because of the humidity, which even made it hard to breathe. Heat I can handle; southern California is a desert, and my field work with the ASTER project had taken me even to Death Valley in August! But the humidity is the real enemy, making the heat far worse. But I really wanted to see it this time, and that I did. In the commercial park, along with the ship replicas, they also demonstrated one of the old, 1607 style breech loading small cannons. It was quite a bit of work just to shoot the gun, which was not all that large by our standards (and not as loud as they implied it would be). But back in the old days, and especially for natives who had never seen any kind of gun before, it must have been a real surprise.

Day 11
17 July 2005

Spent the day at the Science museum of Virginia, and went of to Steve & Carolee's for dinner again, this time various quiches, and Amanda's signature ice cream & cookies cake.

Added comments: There were a couple of teenage interns (I guess), taking care of the spiders. They were a tad clumsy trying to feed the Black Widow and freaked out when they thought it might escape. But they managed to keep it in the bottle. They were feeding it some special spider food paste, and undoubtedly used too much. The science museum also has a very nice pair of huge carved stone globes out in front, floating on pressurized water, representing Earth & moon. The Earth's water wasn't working, so we could not turn it. The moon's water was working, but the moon globe unfortunately does not look like the moon.

Day 12
18 July 2005

A 'rest day' found us looking for the Museum of the Confederacy, which includes the southern White House (which is actually the 2nd Southern Whitehouse, the original being in Montgomery, Alabama). But too much construction kept us at bay, and after wandering the back roads of Richmond for a while, we went to the Maymont Nature Center in Richmond. Took Pat to dinner at Milepost 5, a favorite seafood stop (my crab stuffed shrimp was worth the effort).

A view of the grounds at Maymont

Added comments: Richmond was a madhouse of one-way streets, narrow streets, and construction that made it hard to get anywhere. We did find the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, but it was closed (there wasn't any place to park anyway).

Day 13
19 July 2005

Did a bunch of packing & laundry in the morning, in anticipation of leaving tomorrow. Went to visit the Steve & Carolee for lunch; Steve got home for lunch, but went back to work, it was our last visit this trip. Picked up some family tree papers from him for Pam's genealogy (already 12 generations deep!). Dinner at Pat's.

Day 14
20 July 2005

Left Richmond ~8AM EDT, and arrived at the Mammoth Cave Hotel ~6:30 PM CDT. Excellent dinner in the Travertine Restaurant, attached to the hotel (I had grilled Rainbow Trout, and Pam had Southern Fired Chicken, both of which were quite good). Will go on cave tour tomorrow. Took a short walk from our room to the Old Guide Cemetery. Along the trail, sat for a minute to watch the fireflies. More of them than I've seen before, it was 'firefly central', looked almost like a Disneyland lighting effect.

Added comments: A long day's drive, but we arrived at Mammoth caves just about sunset. The drive went back west along I-64 into Kentucky. We got off on the wrong exit #113 (I-64) east of Winchester, and wound up driving a loop of US-60 through Mt. Sterling before it rejoined I-64. We really wanted another exit 113, on the combined interstate I-64/I-75 in Lexington (I-75 exit numbering makes it confusing & we grabbed the wrong exit, with the right number). The correct exit put us on the combined highway US-68/US-27, which meets US-60 at a crossroads in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. We took US-60 a few miles to our local goal, the Bluegrass Parkway. We followed the full length of the Parkway, from Lexington to I-65 near Elizabethtown (we did not visit Schmidt's Coca-Cola Museum). We exited into Mammoth Cave National Park on state highway 70 (the South Entrance Road). After a wrong turn due to outdate instructions in the AAA guide, we found the visitor center & Mammoth Cave Hotel.

Food at the Travertine may be the best on the whole trip, especially the apple spice cake, which is truly unsurpassed. Everything appears to be made 'from scratch' in their own kitchen.

Watching the fireflies (or 'lightning bugs') was a real treat for me. They are a daily thing, for anyone who lives in that part of the country, probably something to which they give little thought. But, aside from my childhood visits to Oklahoma, the trips to Virginia are the only time I've seen them as an adult, and never more effectively than here. The ability to see a fair distance under the trees made it possible to see fireflies both near & far, a lot of them. They look surreal to me.

It was actually 8:38 AM when we left Virginia, and the odometer read 13,425.

Day 15
21 July 2005

Spent the day at Mammoth Caves. Took the Violet City Lantern Tour. No flashlights or cameras; most adults carried a kerosene lantern. The result is a unique tour; the cave is not lit where we go, except by the combined lantern light. A 3.5 hour tour. That evening we took the 7:15 'twilight' scenic tour of the Green River.

Added Comments: I've been down in several caverns before, notable Carlsbad Caverns, Lehman Caves in Nevada, and Sonora Caverns in Texas. Mammoth Caves are by far the driest. There are big rooms, and 365 miles of caverns (so they say at the park). But very little in the way of the usual cave stuff, like stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and various features typical of wet caves. Only one small part of the caverns holds any features like that, and that's where the Frozen Niagara tour goes. In that sense, Mammoth is not as spectacular as other's I've seen, but I like the lantern tour idea. It was worth seeing.

Day 16
22 July 2005

Remained at Mammoth Caves for the morning, and took the Frozen Niagara Tour. Only 3/4 of a mile, but 2 hours. This tour went to the only part of the caves that are really wet, where stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, and various other formations are being made. Lots of stairs (~300) right at the beginning, with very narrow passages and views into deep wells.

After the tour, hit the road for Shiloh. Made it just in time, got to the Shiloh Battlefield Park about 10 minutes before the visitor center closed. Time enough to get a map, and spend an hour or so driving the battlefield tour. There was far more to see than we could handle in such limited time.

Then we hit the road again for Meridian, but had to settle for a stop at Tupelo, Mississippi, where we arrived just before 8PM. Found a Holiday Inn Express, and had dinner at the restaurant nearest the hotel, Vanelli's Greek and Italian restaurant. Surprisingly good, I had pan fried Grouper, very good. The owner was wandering around the restaurant playing a concertina, and introducing himself to the guests. We wound up in a conversation when he wanted to know exactly what an atmosphere was. He even introduced me to a waitress (Charlene) who is in school to become a teacher (she wants to teach social studies or history on an Indian reservation), and to the comedian doing a show tonight. Can't stay for the show, have to get up in the morning.

Added comments: For today's drive, we went back out the South Entrance Road to I-65, and continued south through Bowling Green, Kentucky and into Tennessee. In Nashville we switched to the westbound I-40, and followed it to Parker Crossroads. There we took off south on TN-22 through rural Tennessee to Shiloh National Military Park (we got there just in time before the ranger station closed). After a drive around the battlefield, we were off again, southbound on TN-22. We followed it into Mississippi, where MS-2 took us to US-45. We followed US-45 south until practicality required that we stop for the night in Tupelo. We did not leave Mammoth Cave until 12:03; it was 87 degrees, and the odometer read 14,054. We actually arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Tupelo at 8:09 PM.

The Rangers at Shiloh were most helpful, and seemed to know a lot. We were able to drive around and see (or point out) where the 7th Mississippi was as the battle progressed. The battlefield is full of monuments, to people & units. It reminds me of Gettysburg. It's hard to fathom that thousands of people blazed away at each other, almost face to face, in such a small area.

The owner at Vanelli's was definitely cool. If you ever find yourself in Tupelo (I certainly never expected to be there), it's a good place to eat. Not bad for a randomly chosen place.

Day 17
23 July 2005

Left Tupelo about 9AM and made it to Meridian, Mississippi by about 11:15AM. It took a while, but we were lucky and found Magnolia Memory Gardens before too long. With some help from Pam's brother, Steve, we found the Stuckey family graves. But the florist shop was closed (Meridian seems closed). So we went on our way, and arrived in New Orleans by about 2:30PM. On the way we drove through the most intense downpour of rain I have ever been in, almost too much to drive through. As we passed from Mississippi into Louisiana, the welcome sign right on the side of the road was almost invisible in the rain. I notice that there were no rest stops, in the usual sense, on I-59, in Mississippi. They were all 'parking areas', with trash cans, and nary an outhouse in sight, even the ones labeled 'rest areas'. I also note that in Mississippi, there were more a lot of cars parked along the interstate. Were they in the bushes because there are no real rest stops? Are they just abandoned?

In New Orleans we walked around the French Quarter, and had dinner in a small corner restaurant, the Chartres House. We both had 'A Taste of New Orleans', a sampler with jambalaya, red beans & rice, and gumbo. Good food. It was hot & humid, but not much sun hidden behind the clouds.

Bourbon Street in the French Quarter

Intersection of Royal & Dumaine in the French Quarter

Added comments: Southbound US-45 took us to I-20/I-59, just outside Meridian. When we left Meridian, it was southbound on I-59, which we followed all the way into Louisiana. Shortly after entering Louisiana, I-59 ends in a junction with I-10 & I-12; we followed I-10 into New Orleans. We left Tupelo at 8:58 AM, and the odometer read 14,373 miles. In New Orleans, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Downtown-Superdome. They have complementary shuttles to the French Quarter and the D-Day Museum.

The rainstorm entering Louisiana was really awesome, the heaviest downpour I remember being in. So no sooner do we get back home, and I am off to Apple Valley for an anniversary dedication at the Lewis Center. On the way, in Cajon Pass, we are hit by an equally fierce downpour, this one including mushy hail that sounds like gunfire. I've had enough of those rainstorms.

Also impressive is the very long highway bridge over Lake Ponchartrain. It probably spans the same distance as the Bay Bridge near San Francisco, but this one is right on the water, and not an elevated bridge.

Day 18
24 July 2005

Went to the National D-Day Museum, anticipating that we might hang around a few hours before going to the aquarium. We wound up spending the day. As museums go, this one is very good, I think. There are lots of stations scattered around the museum, where you can push the button and hear a 2-minute recollection from a veteran of the action. And there were a lot more small written, with personal artifacts attached, making the story a personal one.

The museum showcases the Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944; the entire 3rd floor is dedicated to the Normandy invasion. The 2nd floor, however, features the Pacific war, and the many D-Days in the island hopping campaign. But there was no mention that I noticed of the invasions of North Africa, Italy, or southern France. And there was little said about the Normandy follow-up.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Day 19
25 July 2005

Breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and we leave New Orleans at about 10 AM. We made a stop at the Atchafalaya swamp visitor center (the freeway takes many miles to cross the whole basin). Stopped early at the Holiday Inn Express at Natchitoches, the first settlement in the Louisiana area. The historic district of town is not quite as attractive as the tourist brochures suggest, but it there was a nice bookstore and some cute old buildings. But the high point is a small park along the Cane River. We had some ice cream (well, I did, Pam had some weird iced coffee drink). We went back to the motel to get some wash done in the coin laundry in the motel.

Had dinner at Shoney's, next door to the motel. Shoney's is a chain, and we have seen a lot of them along the way (there are none in California). This was the first time we ate in one. It was better than Denny's, and not bad, but standard coffee shop fare.

Added comments: We left New Orleans westbound on I-10 through Baton Rouge. West of Baton Rouge, we stopped to visit the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Reserve Visitor Center. Further west, at Lafayette, we turned north on I-49, through Alexandria to Natchitoches. They even have a cute movie about the swamp. We left New Orleans at 10:15 AM, and the odometer read 14,720.

I guess we visited New Orleans just in time. It will take years for the city to recover from Hurricane Katrina, and it may never be the same as it was. The French Quarter is the highest area of the city, and therefore the least likely to suffer extensive flood damage. Hopefully the French Quarter Folks will be able to return to a relatively intact French Quarter.

Cane River from Roques House in Natchitoches

Day 20
26 July 2005

Another travel day, from Natchitoches to Wichita Falls, Texas. We found a Holiday Inn and Suites that is not in the AAA guide. It looks to me like it used to be a Courtyard by Marriott, but only recently became a Holiday Inn. Had dinner in the hotel restaurant, served by a cute old German (probably) woman who was the ultimate waitress, very nice, but encouraged me to eat my vegetables! I took some pictures of the spacious hotel interior, with 3 pools, a game room, an exercise room, and even an inside miniature golf course. It would be a great place for families.

Added Comments: We left Natchitoches at 10:00 AM; it was 90 degrees, and the odometer read 15,008 miles. We continued northbound on I-49 to Shreveport. There we turned west on I-20 and into Texas. We followed I-20 through East Texas, and along the south rim of the Dallas Ft. Worth megalopolis (I took a wrong turn north on I-35E, but quickly recovered and we got back to I-20). We turned north through Ft. Worth on I-35W. I-35W took us to US-81/US-287, and we eventually followed US-287 into Wichita Falls.

Day 21
27 July 2005

We tried to find the 'falls' of Wichita Falls, but the hotel desk clerk's directions didn't work, so off we went. We arrived in Albuquerque about 6:30 PM, having dropped an hour going from the central time zone to the mountain time zone. We stopped for lunch in Amarillo at the somewhat audacious Big Texan ('Yes, everything is bigger in Texas'). They offer a free 72 ounce (!) steak dinner, the catch being that you have to eat it all in one hour (the whole dinner, not just the steak; baked potato, salad, dinner role and shrimp cocktail). They have a special stage for the diner to sit at while trying to win the free dinner. There was also 'the world's largest rocking chair'. Later along the road we stopped at a tourist trap, the Rocking-C Ranch, which was no ranch but a gift shop, with 'southwest souvenirs'. We might have bought one, but they were all made in India!

In Albuquerque we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, on Alameda just off the I-25 freeway. Farah came by after work and we went to dinner at a Cracker Barrel a couple of exits back south on I-25.

Added Comments: From Wichita Falls we continued along US-287, skirting the Oklahoma Border, until we met I-40 in Amarillo (where we stopped for lunch at the Big Texan). We then followed I-40 to Albuquerque, where a short drive north on I-25 took us to the Holiday Inn Express.

According to the Big Texan website, since 1960 about 37,000 people have tried to earn a free 72-oz steak dinner, and about 6,200 actually did it! And if that's not crazy enough, one guy ate two dinners in the requisite hour! And another guy ate one dinner (a whole dinner, mind you, not just the steak) in 9.5 minutes!! Texas is not just big, it's crazy.

Tim Thompson seated in "the world's largest rocking chair" at the Big Texan

We left Wichita Falls at 9:46 AM. A storm had passed by overnight, and the morning temperature was only 69 degrees, the lowest that we noticed on the trip.

Day 22
28 July 2005

Spent the day visiting with Farah & her mother at their home, followed by a trip up the Sandia Mountains on the tram. The tram from Albuquerque is the longest cable tram in the world, and provided great views of the city. We went up in threatening weather, and lightning in the area caused tram operations to be suspended shortly after we arrived. It rained some, but not much, at the top tram station. We had lunch in the High Finance Restaurant, on top of the mountain, and came back down without incident, great views of rain & weather over the city.

Went from there to Farley's, where we had pizza delivered for dinner, and visited with her & her kids.

Added Comments: I've been through Albuquerque many times, but never had a specific reason to go there as a destination until now. The Sandia Peak Tramway is probably the only thing about Albuquerque that would stop me in there, aside from people to visit. It's the longest cable span in the world, and provides a great view of Albuquerque and the surrounding area. I was a bit nervous about going up in lightning weather, but it turned out not to be an issue. The cable car stops when there is lightning, and did stop as soon as we got to the top. The rain was never hard, and it took some effort to talk Farah in out of the rain, she likes to stand in it. The view from the peak allows us to see the whole rainstorm, in distributed columns of rain, from above and over long distance. It's an unusual & interesting view.

The cable car goes up a long way

The Sandia Mountains go by

Rain falls on Albuquerque

Day 23
29 July 2005

Went down I-25 to I-10 to Tucson, and stayed for the night at the Inn Suites at the St. Mary's exit from I-10. On the way we passed the road to the VLA, and the Trinity atomic bomb test site. But those will have to wait for another trip. More interesting scenery than along I-40, I think, as we travel along the edge of the Rio Grande valley. Met Don for dinner, which we had at the Cafe Pacific, very good Chinese & S.E. Asian food. Spent the evening with Don talking about family tree.

Added comments: Stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Las Cruces. We got off on University Avenue to get gas. I figured there's got to be at least one Mexican restaurant near a university in Las Cruces, so we just went down the road and found one. When we got to Tucson and went to dinner, the owner of Cafe Pacific remembered me, and fairly accurately remembered that I had been there 'about 9 months ago'. He was right, that's about when I had been there for a MIPS instrument team meeting at the University of Arizona. We left Albuquerque at 9:50 AM; it was 77 degrees, and the odometer read 15,962 miles.

Day 24
30 July 2005

Spent most of the day at the Pima Air Museum with Don. Weather was much better than expected, overcast & threatening, but little rain. That kept it relatively cool, and we could wander around in the extensive outside collection. Watched a Miyazaki anime movie, 'Porco Rosso' (quite good, as expected from Miyazaki). Dinner at Mimi's.

The Bumble Bee: world's smallest piloted airplane, at the Pima Air Museum

Pam & Tim at the Pima Air Museum

We decided to cross the desert overnight, considering the extended stretch of temperatures over 110 degrees. Left about 7:40 PM (Arizona does not do daylight saving, so MST = PDT), on the road from Tucson to Phoenix, there was quite a display of lightning in several directions (most spectacular in the direction of I-8). Got some rain on the way to & through south Phoenix, but no rain thereafter, and we left the lightning display behind as we left Phoenix.

Day 25
31 July 2005

At midnight, July 30/31, we were at the Flying-J Truck Stop, just on the Arizona side of the Arizona/California border (it was about 86 degrees). From there we crossed the desert uneventfully, took I-10 to I-15 to CA-210/I-210, Arrived home about 3:10 AM. We traveled a total of 6,535 miles!

Added Comments: There was quite a display of lightning in all directions, between Tucson & Phoenix. But aside from some real rain around the I-10/I-8 interchange, there was not much precipitation. The lightning display towards the direction of I-8 was most impressive, essentially always in the 'on' state. Must have been quite a drive out there. The Flying-J Truck Stop was not really crowded, but there were plenty of people there. The traffic never really thinned out, even along the CA-210 & I-210 near home. The road was busy all night.

Reflections: We have flown to Virginia a couple or few times before, but this is the first time we've gone on the ground. The last time I was on a cross-country drive like this was 1960, and I was 10 years old. It was a family trip to visit the Pfaff cousins in Connecticut. Some of the landmarks I remember, like the restaurant that stretched over the turnpike in Oklahoma. But most of that trip is too remote for me to remember much about it.

The southwestern states feature endless deserts, and roads that vanish to the horizon. In western Canada it was endless trees, and that's the feeling I got, driving through Illinois, Indiana & Kentucky, under constant clouds & light rain. It was warm & humid, but majestic at the same time. The constant greenery is a feature everywhere east of the Mississippi River, but seemed most spectacular a this point.

Here in California, and really all along the coast, you can pull off the highway just about anywhere, into just about any town, and find a really good restaurant. Sometimes it's like the Cafe Maddalena, a well known Italian restaurant in Dunsmuir, or maybe just a local coffee shop somewhere. But once we were out of California, that seemed to go away. It was hard to stop in some random place and find a good eatery. The places we stopped in Holbrook, Santa Rosa, and Oklahoma were not all that good. It seems part of a trend towards 'depression' in the heartland. Maybe we were too close to the Interstate, but small town after small town, all looked the same, with boarded up businesses. It looked like the boom had gone bust.

In Natchitoches we met a man who was worried that his kids would be thought of as less intelligent if they spoke with too much southern accent. In Tupelo we met an eccentric restaurant owner. In Kentucky, at Mammoth Caves we met a great park ranger, leading the Violet City lantern tour. In one motel the manager was anxious for a chance to move to California, and wanted to know all about it. In Holbrook it was a friendly rock hound. All over, wherever we went, people made do the best they could. It's worth seeing first hand how big the country really is.

How much did it cost? Here is a record of what we spent. When we left, gas was $2.479 per gallon at the local station, but had gone up 10 cents by the time we got back. On the road, the most expensive gas was in Kingman, Arizona, and the cheapest gas was in Mississippi. Motels were in general cheaper than I expected. And food, as usual, is quite variable.

Gas Record

Date Miles Gal $/gal $/total Where
07/06/2005 10443 15.915 2.479 39.45 Jay's Shell, Monrovia, CA
07/07/2005 10745 15.153 2.499 37.87 Baker's Chevron, 777 W. Beale St., Kingman, AZ
07/08/2005 ????? 9.683 2.469 23.91 Holbrook Mobil, 1300 Navajo Blvd., Holbrook, AZ
07/08/2005 11320 15.725 2.399 37.72 Shell, I-40 exit 267, Santa Rosa, NM
07/08/2005 11710 12.241 2.259 27.63 Shell, 902 E. Main, Weatherford, OK
07/10/2005 11988 12.985 2.199 28.55 EZ Go #47, Will Rogers Turnpike, Vinita, OK
07/11/2005 12281 13.448 2.199 29.57 Mini Mart 4, Hwy 5 & Clay Road, Versailles, MO
07/13/2005 12536 11.626 2.199 25.57 Shell, I-17 & Wildcat Dr., Wright City, MO
07/13/2005 12719 8.654 2.399 20.76 Grayville Shell Plaza, IL 1 & I-64, Grayville, IL
07/14/2005 13026 13.584 2.359 32.04 Clark's Pump N Stop, 9822 U.S. 60, Rush, KY
07/14/2005 13203 8.673 2.319 20.11 Shell, 543 N. Jefferson St., Lewisburg, WV
07/20/2005 13520 13.741 2.299 31.59 Stop In Food #112, 2030 Rosser Ave., Waynesboro, VA
07/20/2005 13796 13.462 2.249 30.28 Fast Lane #13, 5996 Crider Lane, Catlettsburg, KY
07/22/2005 14071 12.481 2.189 27.45 Phil's Chevron, 624 S. Main, Smith's Grove, KY
07/22/2005 14326 12.363 2.089 25.83 Sprint Mart #27, Hwy 72 west, Corinth, MS
07/23/2005 14477 6.500 2.249 14.62 Hill's Truck Plaza, Hwy 45+16, Scooba, MS
07/25/2005 14751 13.400 2.189 29.33 Shell, 482 Belle Terre Blvd, Laplace, LA
07/26/2005 15008 12.392 2.179 27.00 RaceTrac #688, Natchitoches, LA
07/27/2005 15521 11.728 2.359 26.60 Allsup's #83, Childres, TX
07/26/2005 15720 12.484 2.229 27.83 Tiger Mart #35, 7110 Cockrell Hill, Dallas, TX
07/27/2005 15743 9.975 2.399 23.93 Winner's #102, 2624 S. 1^st St., Tucumcari, NM
07/29/2005 15962 10.586 2.219 23.49 Phillip's, 5501 Alameda Blvd, Albuquerque, NM
07/29/2005 16190 10.464 2.279 23.85 Pan Am Conoco, 1685 E. University Blvd, Las Cruces, NM
07/30/2005 16478 12.489 2.299 28.71 Circle K #0057, 3602 N. Oracle Rd., Tucson, AZ
07/30/2005 16644 8.004 2.479 19.84 Mobil Oil B6H (DLR #7599996), Goodyear, AZ
07/30/2005 16770 4.430 2.379 10.54 Flying J Travel Plaza, I-10 exit 1, Ehrenberg, AZ
08/01/2005 17001 10.739 2.579 27.84 Jay's Shell, Monrovia, CA

The list shows 312.925 gallons, totaling $721.91. The number of gallons we used has to be figured from 2nd line to last line, while the cost should be figured from 1st line to next to last line. The initial & final odometer readings were 10,452 and 16,987, respectively. So we traveled 6,535 miles. 312.925 gallons over 6,549 miles (total mileage from the list) implies 20.982 miles per gallon. But we traveled 14 miles less, or 6,535 miles, so correcting for that we should have used 14/20.982 = 0.669 gallons less, or 312.256 gallons. But the first line does not count, that just establishes a full tank, so 312.256 - 15.915 = 296.341, the correct number of gallons we actually used. 6,535 miles / 296.341 gallons = 22.052 mi/gal average mileage. Subtract $721.91 - $27.84 = $694.07, the amount of money we spent on gas while on vacation.

Lodging expenses

07/07/2005 94.95 Holiday Inn Express, 1308 E. Navajo Blvd., Holbrook AZ
07/09/2005 232.32 Country Inn & Suites, 3141 NW Expressway, Oklahoma City, OK
07/13/2005 79.32 Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 5250 Revilo Rd., Winchester, KY
07/21/2005 154.44 Mammoth Cave Hotel, Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
07/22/2005 86.31 Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, Tupelo, MS
07/24/2005 358.47 Holiday Inn Downtown-Superdome, 330 Loyola Ave., New Orleans, LA
07/25/2005 91.43 Holiday Inn Express, 5131 University Pkwy., Natchitoches, LA
07/26/2005 89.27 Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, 401 Broad St., Wichita Falls, TX
07/28/2005 220.74 Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 5401 Alameda North East, Albuquerque, NM
07/29/2005 67.95 Inn Suites, 475 N. Granada Ave., Tucson, AZ

On 7/10 - 7/12 we stayed with Jim & Virginia Strogen in their Lake of the Ozarks home in Missouri.

On 7/14 - 7/19 we stayed with Pam's mother Patricia, in Midlothian, near Richmond, Virginia.

Total accommodation cost $1,475.20.

Food expenses are incomplete. Some cash transactions might not have receipts that we kept (for snacks, and such). And even where we have receipts, where we paid cash (quite a bit), tips are not included, though we did leave them. So real eating expenses are slightly larger. Some eating expense recorded hare, are also recorded as lodging cost (*), such as two of the New Orleans Holiday Inn meals that we charged to the room.

07/07/2005 13.80 IHOP, Duarte, CA
07/09/2005 18.27 Panera Bread #2816, 3321 NW Expressway, Oklahoma City, OK
07/10/2005 12.84 Panera Bread #2816, 3321 NW Expressway, Oklahoma City, OK
07/10/2005 2.58 Taco Bell #017577, 1390 Spur Dr., Marshfield, MO
07/11/2005 18.84 Weaver's Country Market, 13920 Market Rd., Versailles, MO
07/13/2005 20.73 Golden Corral #630, Winchester, KY
07/16/2005 10.85 Jamestown Settlement Cafe, VA
07/18/2005 91.32 Milepost 5 Seafood & Company, 1300 Sycamore Square, Midlothian, VA
07/22/2005 14.71 Cracker Barrel Store #33, Goodlettsville, TN
07/22/2005 46.44 Vanelli's Restaurant, 1302 N. Gloster St., Tupelo, MS
07/23/2005 9.77 Subway #19204, 905 Chantilly, Laurel, MS
07/23/2005 6.33 La Madeleine, 547 St. Ann St. (French Quarter), New Orleans, LA
07/23/2005 56.53 Chartres House, 681 Chartres St. (French Quarter), New Orleans, LA
07/24/2005 33.18 Street Car Cafe, Holiday Inn Downtown-Superdome, New Orleans, LA (*)
07/24/2005 11.87 PJ's Coffee & Tea, 945 Magazine St. (D-Day Museum), New Orleans, LA
07/24/2005 63.71 Street Car Cafe, Holiday Inn Downtown-Superdome, New Orleans, LA (*)
07/25/2005 33.18 Street Car Cafe, Holiday Inn Downtown-Superdome, New Orleans, LA (*)
07/25/2005 20.45 Cracker Barrel Store #433, Alexandria, LA
07/26/2005 24.39 Cracker Barrel Store #430, Tyler, TX
07/26/2005 54.44 Holiday Inn, 401 Broad St., Wichita Falls, TX (steak dinner not charged to room)
07/27/2005 41.12 Big Texan Steak Ranch, 7701 I-40 East, Amarillo, TX
07/28/2005 44.25 High Finance Restaurant, Sandia Peak, Albuquerque, NM

Total: $649.60

Other receipts, includes souvenirs & etc., or other, unidentified receipts.

07/07/2005 16.95 Unknown (maybe lunch in Kingman?)
07/09/2005 14.00 Oklahoma City National Memorial (2 $7 receipts), Oklahoma City, OK
07/10/2005 3.50 Turner Turnpike, Mainline Plaza, lane 3, OK
07/10/2005 3.50 Will Rogers Turnpike, Mainline Plaza, lane 11, OK
07/16/2005 119.06 Historic Jamestowne Colonial National Park, Jamestown, VA
07/16/2005 29.29 Jamestown-Yorktown Museum Gift Shops, Jamestown Settlement, VA
07/16/2005 26.09 Jamestown-Yorktown Museum Gift Shops, Jamestown Settlement, VA
07/17/2005 39.40 Shop 4 Science, Science Museum of Virginia, 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond, VA
07/21/2005 30.00 Violet City Lantern Tour (2 $15 receipts), Mammoth Caves National Park, KY
07/21/2005 69.43 Mammoth Cave Craft Shop, Mammoth Caves National Park, KY
07/21/2005 23.85 Mammoth Cave Gift Shop, Mammoth Caves National Park, KY
07/21/2005 131.12 Visitor Center, Mammoth Caves National Park, KY
07/22/2005 22.00 Frozen Niagara Tour (2 $11 receipts), Mammoth Caves National Park, KY
07/22/2005 111.19 Visitor Center, Mammoth Caves National Park, KY
07/22/2005 39.31 Shiloh National Military Park, TN
07/24/2005 266.73 D-Day Museum Store, 945 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA
07/24/2005 21.75 D-Day Museum Store, 945 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA
07/24/2005 203.50 ATM withdrawal, Holiday Inn Downtown-Superdome, New Orleans, LA
07/25/2005 18.34 The Book Merchant, 512 Front St., Natchitoches, LA
07/30/2005 75.75 Pima Air & Space Museum Store, 6000 E. Valencia, Tucson, AZ
07/30/2005 102.00 ATM withdrawal, 1264 N. Litchfield, Goodyear, AZ

Total: $1,366.76

Grand total listed is $4185.63, but subtracting double entries for food charged to room gives $4,055.56 as a true account of expenses with receipts. This includes ATM cash withdrawals, but does not include unaccounted tips. And of course there are other incidental expenses for which we just don't have receipts.

Tim Thompson Home Page
31 August 2005