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Posts Tagged ‘drives’

It Is Finished (Day 129)

November 26th, 2009 4 comments

There aren’t a whole lot of interesting, good, or even somewhat pleasant things to say about the ride down the 15 from Provo to SoCal. It gets particularly annoying after you enter Nevada and are in quasi-California traffic from Vegas on into the megalopolis. Sort of an anti-climactic final ten hours of the trip. For the sake of color, though, here’s a picture:

provo-streetIt was either this or the one of the gas station in Vegas.

For the sake of continued triteness, here are some numbers:

  • Miles: 22,245
  • Photos Taken: ca. 12,000
  • Gallons of Gas: ca. 1,350
  • Blog Posts: 224
  • Days: 129(-ish)
  • States: 48
  • Waterfalls: 37
  • National Parks: 19
  • Lighthouses: 15
  • Grad School Apps Worked On: 9
  • Great Lakes Visited: 5
  • Caves Explored: 4
  • Bears Seen: 3
  • Fish Caught: 3
  • Times Snowed On: 2
  • Transmissions Blown: 1
  • Countries Visited: 1

Thanks for following along — it’s been fun.

bkd

Categories: southwest Tags: , , ,

Highway 12 (Day 127, Part 2)

November 23rd, 2009 No comments

The weird part is that when I went to college in Utah, I never really thought the place was all that pretty. And I even went to some places in Southern Utah back then. Bah.

The driving from Four Corners all the way to Escalante was fantastic. The scenery kept changing (from one type of red rock outcropping to another, sure, but still) and was constantly interesting. To me. YMMV.

highway-12 1

And, IMHO, aspens rawk.

highway-12 2The foreground makes all the difference…

highway-12 3Because I’ve never seen snow before.

The pass tops out at 9,600 feet elevation. Kind of interesting to consider how wild 6,000 feet seemed in New Hampshire and then how mild that is in western-US terms. Anyway. Once I got to Escalante, I had a late lunch and found a place to stay, then headed out onto the Hole-in-the-Wall road. I was sort of hoping I could get to the hole before sundown, but about halfway there realized I wasn’t gonna make it.

hole-in-the-rock-road 1But I *did* get to see these rocks.

hole-in-the-rock-road 2And take a hero-shot of my truck. Boy *that’s* gonna look good on Craigslist one day.

hole-in-the-rock-road 3Then I took the obligatory battery of sunset photos.

And then I went to the hotel and ate pre-packaged cheese-and-crackers.

bkd

Categories: southwest Tags: , , ,

Doesn’t “Moki Dugway” Play Outfield for Cleveland? (Day 126, Part 2)

November 23rd, 2009 2 comments

Seems like he should if he doesn’t.

At the end of Valley of the Gods, the road dumps you off on Utah Highway 261, which you then follow if you’re trying to get yourself on to Lake Powell and Capitol Reef. The speed limit changes almost immediately from 55 to 35 and then to 15 and then the highway becomes gravel and good luck to you from there.

Road goes up quickly. Photos didn’t turn out that great, but it was an amazing stretch of road. I have no incentive to lie to you about this, therefore I *MUST* be a reliable source of information in this matter.

This drive, btw, is called “Moki Dugway”. Named after the outfielder. It made a Forbes list of America’s scariest highways.

moki-dugway 1

moki-dugway 2

moki-dugway 3

moki-dugway 4

moki-dugway

moki-dugway (1)

At the top of it you get a view back over the Valley of the Gods, where my truck no longer is. Way cool drive, although the funnest part was being on one of the switchbacks and trying to figure out how where the road was actually going, cuz you sure can’t see how there’s going to be another ledge onto which it can switch back.

Lessee. Then I stopped by Natural Bridges National Monument and drove around their scenic loop. It was getting pretty late in the afternoon to try and take pictures, but oh well.

natural-bridges 1

natural-bridges 2

These bridges also had names. There were a couple others there as well. Would probably be a fun place to visit in the actual day-time so you could run out on the trails and check out the bridges from a vantage point other than the overlook on the road. Tja.

Then I got to Lake Powell.

lake-powell

The, uh, bridge goes over the lake. Camped about a mile away from here — last camping night on the trip! — at Dirty Devil River. Nice campground, $6, but fetchin’ cold.

All in all, a big day.

bkd

Big Bend National Park Zone 2: The Desert (Day 121)

November 16th, 2009 No comments

121 seems like a big number, doesn’t it? Anyway:

First thing I did when I got to the park was go to the Visitors Center to figure out what I’m going to do. I tell him that I’ve been to California, Arizona, and Utah plenty, so what I want to see is how this place (Big Bend) is different from those places. He proceeds to tell me that since none of those places are the Chihuahua Desert and that therefore I haven’t seen anything that’s at all like Big Bend.

Ahem. Deserts:

  1. They’re all dry.
  2. They’re all very hot.
  3. Except at night, when they’re all very fetchin’ cold.
  4. They all have tough, ugly, leathery plants.
  5. They all have a narrow assortment of small, crunchy animals.
  6. There are usually some barren, rocky hills around.
  7. There’s often sand.

Whereas the Mojave Desert has mule deer, we have Chihuahuan White Tail Deer!

Wow, that *is* big. If only I were a zoologist.

Whereas their rocks are between 100 and 450 million years old, ours are between 50 and 400 million years old!

Or a geologist.

We don’t have saguaro cactus like in the Sonora Desert, but we have the highest concentration of ocotillo in North America!

For one thing, lack of saguaro and glut of ocotillo aren’t exactly selling points. For another, I’m not a botanist either.

Plus, we’re the only national park with its own mountain range!

Listen:

  1. If a mountain range can be completely contained within a national park, it’s not much of a mountain range.
  2. Olympic National Park *is* a mountain range, so that doesn’t make you special anyway.

The more park rangers I interact with, the more I think that one lady ranger at Acadia in Maine deserves a medal for outstanding competence. Half a day? Good. Drive this loop, stop here and here, then you’ll have time to hike the second-best trail in the park. Write down these trail names. Now go! Go! They need more like her. A lot more. I should’ve got her name.

Oh well. Desert, and not very different from the Mojave or Sonoran deserts.

big-bend_desert-drive

big-bend_desert-trail

big-bend_desert-trail-2

big-bend_desert-hill

big-bend_dirt-road

Definitely no saguaros.

bkd

Natchez Trace Route: Still No Sign of Bandits (Day 107)

November 4th, 2009 1 comment

I’m getting close to as behind on blog posts as I’ve been all trip. Woot!

More photos from the Natchez Trace Parkway. It continued to be a road with stuff to see on either side of it. Day 107 wasn’t rainy. We had peanut butter and jam samiches for lunch. What else is there to tell, really? I know, you’re just here for the photos. Punks.

natchez-trace_tishomingo-lillypadsTishomingo lily pads.

natchez-trace_tishomingo-bridgeThe nearly-invisible swinging bridge.

natchez-trace_trace-sunI can’t tell if this photo is interesting, unsettling, or just bad. I guess none of those are mutually exclusive from any of the others.

natchez-trace_meriwether (1)Meriwether Lewis died here.

natchez-trace_fall-hollow (1)Fall Hollow Falls.

natchez-trace_jackson-fallsJackson Falls.

natchez-trace_tenn-farmsTennessee countryside.

I should probably do some sort of study about blog post quality and previous-night sleep. It was about 35 degrees last night, but mostly both my hips are sore from — I dunno. Lying on the ground without enough padding, I guess, and that’s apparently my personal COG.

Wishing you a safe, lucrative Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow,

bkd

Natchez Trace, Part One (Day 106, Part 2)

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

How much do you want me to explain about the Natchez Trace? I’m guessing *this* much:

The Natchez Trace is a trail that runs from Natchez, Miss. to Nashville, Tenn., about 450 miles. It was used most famously by late 18th- and early 19th-century traders from Tennessee and points north, who would ship their wares down the Mississippi river to Natchez or New Orleans, sell them there, then sell the barge for scrap and walk home.

About right, right?

Then they built this parkway that follows the course of the Trace, which is what we were driving on. It features the trace itself (it’s just a trail) as well as some sights.

natchez-trace_burial-moundThis Indian burial mound, for instance.

natchez-trace_windshieldBTW, it rained all day — usually hard.

natchez-trace_mt-locust-innMt. Locust Stand — $0.25/night just 180 years ago.

natchez-trace_rocky-springs-churchRocky Springs, population 0 (not counting the 999 ghosts).

natchez-trace_windsor-pillarsWindsor Ruins — survived the war, but not the fire.

natchez-trace_swamp-surfaceThe swamp walk was the best part of the day.

natchez-trace_swamp-treesAlthough we didn’t see any alligators.

natchez-trace_swamp-bridgeYes, that’s what color the water is.

Ended up staying the night in Starkville. It was a Friday night, but fortunately, Mississippi State was on the road, so hotel rooms were plentiful enough. And Sonic was better than I remembered it.

bkd

Natchez: City of a Dozen Mansions (Day 106)

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

Some of these were taken on the evening of Day 105. Most of them, actually. Because it wasn’t raining on the evening of Day 105. Which may cause you to wonder why this is labeled Day 106. Life is full of many mysteries.

Natchez is in Mississippi. It’s where the Natchez Trace starts. The Natchez Trace is a trail that runs from Natchez to Nashville. I’m not sure why it’s not the Nashville Trace.

natchez_rundown-houseA run-down house with river view.

natchez_magnoliaThe Magnolia House.

natchez_stantonThe Stanton House.

natchez_rosalie-exteriorThe Rosalie House. We visited this one on Day 106. That’s why.

natchez_rosalie-interiorInterior of the Rosalie House. No one important lived there.

natchez_rosalie-pianoMy mom making the tour guide happy.

Natchez was kind of a cool little city, actually. Every other house was on the historic places registry. Sort of like New Orleans, but without the trash and only 80-percent humidity. Nah, actually the houses are more traditional southern than New Orleans — fewer wrought iron railings, more neo-classical columns. Supposedly, at one time in the early 19th century, like a third of all American millionaires lived there. It’s less than that now.

Also, you can’t easily find the start of the Natchez Trace Parkway when you’re there. It’s not like they have signs telling you where to go. As such, we started at Mile Post 8 (more to come!).

bkd

Forest, Beach, and a Hundred Miles of Strip Malls (Day 102)

October 28th, 2009 2 comments

Panama City is the worst place this side of Gatlinburg.

Here are pictures of trees, though:

apalachicola_t-intersectionI took the road more-traveled. It went back to the highway.

apalachicola_treesThis is what trees look like in Florida (some of them).

So I hadn’t seen the area around my campground prior to waking up, given that I’d pulled in way after dark. And that was what it looked like. There was a lake by my campground too, as it turned out, with fish in it. I saw one fish jump out of the water about four feet, fly sideways for a bit, then go back in — and then it kept doing it until it had made a complete circle in the lake. Fish don’t do that where I’m from.

And if they try? We stop them.

Went to some fort near the campground also (Fort Gadsden — named after the Purchase guy, not the Flag guy). There wasn’t much of a fort there, but the site caretaker’s dog ended up being a stalwart tour guide. Hopefully she found her way home once I lost her in the cemetery. And hopefully she’s not a digger.

Then I went to the beach. Pretty much all southern beaches look something like this one on St. George Island:

st-george-island_duneThey always have dunes like this.

st-george-island_grassAnd grass like this to keep the dunes in place (picking a blade of grass results in a $500 fine!).

st-george-island_stairsAnd boardwalks and stairs to get you over the dunes and grass.

Went swimming this time. It’s colder than it looks, but warmer than the Pacific on OC beaches in August (not that that’s saying much).

After the beach, I turned the truck toward Pensacola — 120 miles from the beach, IIRC, which was about as far as it was from Tallahassee, even though I’d driven 150 miles somewhat west-ish since  Tallahassee. I checked Google Maps when I was still 100 miles away from Pensacola and it told me it would take over 2.5 hours to travel those 100 miles. Because the rest of the highway was littered with strip malls and suburbs-without-cities. Que triste! I’m so pitiable. Anyway: they should probably build a new highway from Panama City to Pensacola, an interstate maybe even. And develop a logo so that we know how brilliant the current government is for paying for it.

And there were an unreal number of Air Force bases along the way. I guess they need to give the hurricanes something to aim at.

bkd

Cherokee People, Cherokee Tribe(, Snowy Parkway) (Day 93)

October 20th, 2009 3 comments

So proud to live, so proud to die.

Eh.

Started the day off by going to the Cherokee Museum in Cherokee, North Carolina. It was kind of interesting. A lot of arrowheads and pottery, not so much beadwork. The story wasn’t bitter and I learned that the Cherokee used to catch fish in shallow rivers by sprinkling powdered walnut bark into the river, which would stun the fish, allowing them to pick up the biggest ones and allowing the smaller fry to recover and swim away to grow fatter.

There were only 60,000 Cherokee when they were forced from their lands. Half died. Now there are 300,000 per Wikipedia, of which only 13,000 live in North Carolina. I had to get the numbers from Wikipedia, they weren’t in the museum. And the Cherokee high school girls basketball team won the state championship in 1998 (that one I learned from a sign next to the road).

After the museum, we went to the Cherokee village, a “living history museum”. It was like Williamsburg, except not really at all.

cherokee_council-chamberWherein were taught the ways of the ancients relatively less moderns.

cherokee_wild-potatoIndeed.

cherokee_cabinCherokees did not live in teepees.

The best part was listening to all the Native Americans talking in North Carolina accents. I don’t know what else I expected, but — yeah, not that I guess.

Then we headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’d seen it in Virginia, but this was the North Carolina part. Very different (no, seriously).

blue-ridge_snowThe snow line.

blue-ridge_snow-on-leavesFall color + winter blanching.

blue-ridge_leaf-pathThe yellow-leaf road.

blue-ridge_leaf-path-portraitLeaves, snow, trees.

I can now no longer honestly claim that I’ve never been snowed on in October in North Carolina.

bkd

Travels through Hillbilly Nation: Blue Ridge Parkway (Day 83)

October 10th, 2009 No comments

Ways in which Blue Ridge Parkway is different from Shenandoah National Park:

  • It’s not a national park. It’s a road with protected lands on either side of it that is administrated by the National Park Service.
  • It’s hills are 40% steeper than Shenandoah’s.
  • It has lakes and rivers alongside the roadway.
  • It’s further south.
  • There are remnants of a lost civilization along the route.
  • The locals have a much stronger accent.
  • Way-cooler place names (“Peaks of Otter”? You can’t beat that.)
  • It’s 4.5x as long.
  • Better campsites.
  • Lower visitor density.

Camped at the Beaver Creek Campground (so nicely creek-situated and wooded I’d have thought it was administered by the Forest Service) and went to the camp restaurant for food in the morning. Walked inside and the place is almost full with what appear to be locals. The six at the bar are engaged in a vigorous discussion over “red-eye gravy” and their drawls do not seem ironic. And with that, I realize that I’m in The South. Never been to The South before.

Blue Ridge Parkway, IMHO, > Shenandoah National Park by a good ways. The hills are more pronounced and interesting, the running water is a plus and gives you something to take a picture of if you have to, the abandoned hillbilly structures are kind of cool, and, like I said, there are fewer people. I only drove the Virginia part of it, though. I’m saving the state of North Carolina for another day (Day 88 actually).

blue-ridge_otter-lakeDon’t remember the name of it and it’s not on the map, so there.

blue-ridge_peak-of-otterSharp Top, one of the two Peaks of Otter. It’s near Bearwallow Gap. Man. And there was, in fact, an otter in the lake (which is not called Lake of Otter, sadly). (It would make the otter insufferable thinking it had been named for him.)

blue-ridge_abbott-lakeI think it’s called Abbott Lake.

blue-ridge_parkway-curveDismayed by yet another photo of a road with trees on it, the crows flee.

blue-ridge_valley-belowThe valley below — this goes on for 460 miles or whatever.

blue-ridge_fence-roadWhat with the fence and all, it could pass for a Civil War battlefield.

blue-ridge_hillsideAh, fair Appalachia, long may your hills yet roll!

blue-ridge_mabry-millMabry Mill, a “functioning” water mill (it functions in that water turns the wheel).

blue-ridge_flumeIf a flume leaks in the woods and no one’s around, does it actually get anything wet?

Another day down. Blue Ridge Parkway has most of the same problems as Shenandoah — or at least, the one big problem: there’s nothing to do there but look at stuff. The Appalachian Trail runs through both of them, but apparently the AT is just a walk in the woods for not apparent reason — at least until it turns serious up in New Hampshire, I guess.

Based on perceived scenery, the PCT hasta be about 100x the trail the AT is.

Ah, well. I also remind myself frequently that the alternative is sitting in a gray-walled cube, at which point time spent in 2,000-foot mountain ranges without anything to do but drive and look start looking better. OTOH, what about the *opportunity cost*?! I should’ve spent another couple days in New England. Now I’m stuck taking that bitter failure to the grave. Eh — have to take something, I guess.

bkd



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