Home at Last

10 June, 2010 4 comments

17 days. 20 states. 7,321 miles. 3 online friends met in real life.

But it’s good to be home, too.

We came up the Oregon coast in a mix of blustery wind, grey clouds, and occasional rain, perfect weather to welcome us back home, but not so hot for trying yet again to capture the essence of that rugged stretch of terrain.

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Directly below us on this bluff, so far away they looked exactly like the ubiquitous slugs of the northwest, a group of sea lions lounged on an inhospitable stretch of rocks, slipping in and out of the surging ocean as though… well, as though it was home to them. One cantankerous old cow was watching twenty or so babies while their mothers hunted, and three huge bulls, each with his harem of doting lovelies, roared belligerently at each other. One bull was clearly larger and older than the other two, his harem bigger, his attendants no doubt more comely. Oddly, he was the quietest of the three.

I’ve had a lot of fun on this trip, and I’m glad you could come along vicariously, from the comfort of your own computers. I leave you with this final picture, the map on which Lacey tracked our meandering and yet strangely purposeful way:

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The shortest distance between you and the trip of your life is seldom a straight line.

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Last day! Almost home!

Now if only the weather would cooperate.

For our last day on the road, we’ve cut across the hills to US 101 along the Oregon coast, which is some of the most beautiful country on Earth. Unfortunately, the weather is wet and grey, and there’s very little chance of it clearing up in time for any decent pictures.

We stopped for a late breakfast/lunch/brunchy sort of a meal in Winchester Bay, Oregon, which bills itself as “Oregon’s best-kept secret.” Well, I’ve discovered Winchester Bay’s best-kept secret: the King Neptune Diner, which has been in the current owner’s family for over thirty years.

I’ve lived in most of the states in the United States. I’ve eaten fish and chips in every state on both coasts. I’ve eaten chain-restaurant fish and chips that would make you drool and “homemade” stuff that you wouldn’t finish. The only rule I have is you don’t order fish and chips when you’re more than half an hour from salt water. Well, I assure you, the finest fish and chips in the United States is at King Neptune’s Diner in Winchester Bay, Oregon.

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Above: King Neptune himself and his queen, AKA Jeff and Debbie Pearson, owners and proprietors. Jeff’s mother owned the diner for many years before him, and no doubt taught him all her cooking secrets. I only know one of them: “He’s really picky about his oil,” Debbie says, leaning in and lowering her voice. The deeper secrets will have to remain hidden.

Below: Debbie Pearson and Kim Church.

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They said word of mouth was their only advertizing, and I figured “Well, I’ve got a really big mouth – I should put it to use.”

Edward R. Murrow said “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.” Actually, that’s a very common paraphrase. Point is, we might not be any wiser, but we can certainly be heard farther, and I want everyone within reach of my voice to go to Winchester Bay and visit King Neptune’s Diner.

Tell ‘em Levi sent you

–Levi

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Grand Canyon 0 – Lacey 1

The heat was miserable, the lighting was terrible, and we were starting to want to be home,

but we took a look at the Grand Canyon. As we approached the South Rim on Arizona’s State Route 64, the ground all around us seemed to be flat and endless. The first hint we were approaching a hole in the ground was a sign saying “Scenic View, Next Right.” When we got there, though, we discovered we would be charged to enter a parking lot whose main purpose was to sell us stuff. So we skipped that.

Then we came to this:

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Doesn’t look very grand from here, does it? It does get a lot better as you go on, even though I really need a good wide lens for things like this:

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Also, the way to do this would be to stick around and wait for that hour of perfect light around sunset (and then to wait for the perfect hour in the morning, and then to wait…), but we were eager to get home.

Lacey did feel a need to top all that, though:

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Lacey for the win!

One last shot, and we’re out of here:

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We’re going to make a long fast dash for the south end of the Oregon coast, then cut over to US 101 and take all day tomorrow being slow and lazy among all those rocks and cliffs.

We’ll be home by tomorrow night! Yay! This has been the trip of a lifetime, and possibly my last chance to spend some serious time with a young lady who’s out to live her own life and conquer her own world, and I’m very glad to have had the chance, but I’m really eager to get home, too.

–Levi

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Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Is it just ten old Caddies stuck in the ground, or is it art?

Don’t ask me. Actually, I do have an opinion, but it doesn’t matter – tagging these Caddies was a lot of fun.

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Lacey wanted to be sure the world knew her next posting:

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Of course, we wanted to plug the blog a little:

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And then there was this bloodthirsty little guy, hiding under one of the Caddies and waiting for his chance:

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We spent part of the day today backtracking. Again.

Lacey spotted a sign saying Clines Corner, in New Mexico, had a certain brand of moccasin that she would apparently lay down her life for, so of course, we had to stop. Whereupon she discovered she’d lost her credit card.

She remembered having it at a rest stop 35 minutes back down the road, so off we went, but it wasn’t there. So at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon, she calls her bank, gets a live human on the line, and gets it all straightened out. Old card cancelled, new card ordered, funds moved, backup situation activated, and off we go. Thank you, Navy Fed!

There’s been yet another change in plan, though.

Due mostly to my intolerance for eighty degrees, spotty overcast, no wind and no sign of rain, we’re cutting the Grand Canyon to a couple of hours of scenic overlooks instead of the whole burro-trip-to-the-bottom experience. Then 101 up the coast and home sweet home!

–Levi

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Buffalo, Wyoming

5 June, 2010 1 comment

Had to look at the motel’s information card to figure that out.

In my defense, I didn’t get us here last night. I was driving, and Lacey was talking about the different animals she’d seen that she’d never seen before. I guess I said something about “wild green fences,” and she made me pull over and let her drive. Wild green fences. Ho-kay.

Finally figured out why all my pictures for two days have been useless, but unfortunately, I didn’t figure it out in time for Mt Rushmore. Oh well. And by the way, if anyone tries to tell you that Crazy Horse is done enough now to go look at, just don’t. Forty years ago, I went and looked at Crazy Horse. Yesterday, I looked again. Exactly the same. We literally decided between turning off the road and reaching the gate that it wasn’t going to be worth either the time or the money, and we turned around.

We’ve decided to pick up the pace a bit. No more antique shops and prairie dog towns. We’re both eager to get home, so we’re driving all day today and tomorrow, with just a quick stop at Amarillo to paint our names on the Cadillacs. We’ll spend a day at the Grand Canyon, and then head north.

Although I really miss my home and my wife, this really is the trip of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t have missed it for all the tea in Omaha. If I were rich and famous, this is how I’d live. Get me a ginormous motor home and an equally huge trailer for a garage, and just drive.

–Levi

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Hey, look! I’m online! (finally)

4 June, 2010 1 comment

Tried for an hour or more last night,

but I couldn’t get a good enough connection, and it kept dropping off. I use my cell phone for a modem, and I kept dropping calls from home, too, so I guess the cell phone towers in the Badlands are few and far between.

I took a boatload of pictures yesterday, although I knew the overcast was too heavy, and the light was no good, and sure enough, they came out useless. I got a couple more today that should be ok, but I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet.

We spent the night at a campground where the water was so sulfurous that it smelled like rotten eggs. I braved the shower (skipped my hair), but Lacey wouldn’t even go in the bathroom, so she was all grumpy all morning ‘cause “my hair’s all greasy, and I look terrible, and I’m such a girl, and yadda yadda yadda!” No, she wasn’t that bad, but she’s looking forward to a better place tonight.

Off to those guys on that mountain. Later.

–Levi

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Still in Minnesota

We spent the night at a campground in a county park.

It probably has a name, but I have no idea what it is. This was by far our most successful night out of a motel yet. The first time we tried to save the cost of a motel, we tried to sleep in the back of the Jeep, which turned out not to even be possible. Lacey’s quite the backpacker/camper grrl, though, so she decided we needed a tent (hers is about 10% larger all around than a sleeping bag). The first night we tried to use it was a nearly total disaster, while the second time wasn’t much better, partly because the tent (used once) smelled like mildew. It had aired out by the time we put it away in the morning, though, and it was fine this time. We also got here in time to set it up in daylight. Turns out it’s a lot easier that way.

However… At two o’clock in the morning, I was awakened by something crawling on my leg. “Something” turned out to be a small, flat bug, as big around as the shaft of a pencil and equipped with eight legs and a face almost as ugly as mine. Look, as far as I’m concerned, camping is what you do at night when you’re traveling and you want to save money. For Lacey, hiking is what you do so you can go camping. So I figured she’d seen a million small, flat, ugly, eight-legged bugs. So I woke her up to ID this thing for me. Turns out she’d never seen one. Also turns out she’s squeamish. And a bit of a squealer. Good thing this place is empty.

Anyway, said critter seems to be a common wood tick, if my googling hasn’t led me astray. Lacey, swearing she’d never sleep again, was snoring in ten minutes. I, who had said “Oh shut up and go back to sleep!” have been sitting here at the picnic table, catching up on Google Reader and email in total darkness, accompanied only by the thousands of little ugly bugs who so distinctly aren’t crawling up and down my legs.

Fun times.

Also, I’ve been asked to post the pictures from the overpass in Iowa, which seemed to me to be pretty pointless, because they’re as exciting as a common wood tick’s view from the center of a tennis court. But here they are. If you cared enough, you could take these and stitch them together into a nearly complete circle, broken only when I realized the cop who’d passed me was talking to Lacey.

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I don’t have access to most of my photos, which are sitting on a hard drive in my office at home, but for comparison, here’s one of the header images from my website. See the mountains on the horizon, that you can barely see in all the mist? That’s what it’s supposed to look like.

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