Saturday, May 31, 2008

Day 5 Evanston,Illinois to Cleveland, Ohio

What a day! What a country! It started with me waking up at 5am getting packed and going with my host Kim to THE BEST bagel place in ....ALL THE WORLD!!!! Bagels and Bialys and breadsticks baked to absolute perfection! in Evanston Illinois. And the owner had a real attitude. what a combination!! Listen I am a native New Yorker and I used to drive a cab in NY City so I know!!! This place has it. what a start to the day. if interested comment me and I'll get the name of the place.

I said goodbye to my hosts and their little kids (who are completely off the wall and darling) and split. 5 hours through Indiana and Ohio. Big beautiful farmland accompanied me on the freeway. I love the barns and the farmland. Lots of driving today- 400 some odd miles. Traffic moving as I expected on a Saturday free and clear, but wait, right in the middle of Indiana in the middle of nowhere a humongous traffic jam! About 15 mins of stop and go only to witness the wreckage of a terrible traffic accident. An SUV and an RV. It looked bad, I only hope no one was seriously injured. I drive always with great care, these kinds of things are reminders-don't drive too fast and PAY ATTENTION ALWAYS, and never get angry, (saw a beautiful sculpture of Ghandi in Evanston, Kim reminded me of his quote, 'An eye for eye will make the world go blind." That is too true on the roadways.

Anyway, I decided to go a little ‘off route’ and go to Cleveland, Ohio instead of pushing on to Pennsylvania, which was my plan. I’ve never been to Cleveland and have a curiousity about the place because of two art works. That is the comic book art of Harvey Pekar-American Splendor magazine and the film by Jim Jarmusch, Stranger Than Paradise. So I detoured it to Cleveland, I didn’t know where I was going to stay and it was getting late so I had to scramble. Thought though I’d use the opportunity of ‘scrambling’ for my benefit and did a little sightseeing and talking to people. Very interesting looking city, bridges and ball parks downtown a big stunning sculpture downtown with soldiers in the main plaza. Nice little theatre district, lots of restaurants, old style Mid western city. Sort of fell in love with it. It was a beautiful day today and the sculptures and bridges and the Lake were stunning. I get a good vibe from this town. Found a place recommended to me from a young woman working at the local Starbucks downtown. She recommended I go into the Lakewood district. Its a little safer and less expensive than a downtown hotel that also has no parking. Plus there are lots of restaurants and places to go. The TravelLodge is not exactly deluxe accomodations but hey, I want to keep on budget. Its fine, quiet and a little dark but that’s Cleveland right. The houses here are amazing! Old brick and turn of the century houses, big and beautiful, mile after mile of them. I’ve never seen anything like it. Huge apartment buildings all in tasteful style. Big brick structures. I can’t imagine the views offered by those apartments of Lake Erie. It must be a magnificent place to live. Went into a restaurant and decided to sit down and have a non alcoholic beer as I don't like to drink when I'm driving a new Prius. Got into a conversation with some folks and it was fun, they seemed quite happy in Cleveland. and they recommended a restaurant to me a Chinese place. Pearls. Delicious food and as my desire, I like to sit at the bar and eat when I’m alone. I got into a little conversation from a real friendly bartender, Marcia who has a son my age. Great town. I’d like to spend some more time here, there are lots of discoveries here I am sure. I'll get up early tomorrow and get out of this hotel and take some video of these houses and the shore and bridges.

Tomorrow I am hoping to reach my final destination of this first part of my double cross country adventure, Cold Spring, NY. 405 miles to go and I’m home!

Day 4 Omaha, Nebraska to Chicago, Illinois

Not much to tell today. I take that back, I can always find something that went on going down the road.Lets see...? Led Zeppelin is great music to hear when you’re driving down the road through the less ‘interesting’ places like parts of Iowa that I careened through today. I felt like a Hunter S.Thompson without drugs. Now if only I could write like him! But I like the idea of careening through America with a head full of ideas. The music stoked me, and propelled me on, around 465 miles of propulsion is what I needed, Led Zeppelin, Lester Young, some chill music, Fela Kuti, Bernard Hermmans Taxi Driver soundtrack and Bob Dylans’ Maggies Farm did the trick.

"oh i aint’ gonna work on Maggies Farm no more..
it’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floors,
no I ain’t gonna work on Maggies Farm no more!"

Zipping through farm country, I saw a buy local sign today a la the old Bermuda Shave signs, where there is a series of signs, you know what i’m talking about, right? ‘Buy Local ..To Keep Our Wealth...In Our Communities.” Yes indeed! Wondered what crops they grew around here besides corn, but just didn’t have the time to stop to ask. That sign was good to see that people here have an independent spirit and not to be fooled by the con men.
the big manufacturing food concerns make their 'food' without nutritional value and all those chemicals. Listening to one of those religious radio am stations , the talk was about the obesity problems in the communities and the growing trend of diabetes and other diseases that seem so prevalent these days. The food stinks and is concocted to make money not to nourish us. Eat and shop local whenever possible. Just like that sign said in Iowa.

It looks like its spring planting season on those farms, not a sign of a cornstalk, just acres upon acres of plowed ground probably with corn seed in it.

I crossed the Mississippi River today into Illinois from Iowa, I had my camera rolling at the time and unexpectedly the Mississippi showed up, nice of it to give me the photo-op. We’ll be seeing a lot more of the Mississippi on the way back. But it looked beautiful, big and wide. I immediately thought of Mark Twain and Huckelberry Finn (of course).

A few more hours and I was in the Chicago area. Darned if doesn’t look like LA from the road point of view. Huge factories and faceless buildings without windows along the freeway. what were these? warehouses? acres of them. the traffic and the intensity of the roadway was remarkable. People rushing in their cars (including yours truly, only I try and take it easy) going so darned fast this Friday around rush hour. Well, going fast when they could, there were so many of us that there were a number of slow ups. I felt so inconsequential in this fevered madhouse compared to how I felt on that Wyoming lake. Just one of many. I felt stripped of my real nature, just part of the machinery. I’m privelaged enough to be driving a Hybrid vehicle though. Man i’ve only seen in 4 days of travelling like 5 of them! Where I come from, the East Bay of California there are literally hundreds of 'em. the rest of the country will catch up in a year or two I am sure, but for now, I’m sort of unique on the roads. Talked to a couple of bikers at a rest area, who have those big cruising bikes, they get about the same mileage as me, 45 mpg on the highway.

Arrived in Evanston Illinois to stay with friends. What a great place they live in, and they fed me well. Loved spending time with ‘em and their kids, even though I was really tired. Tomorrow it’s on to,Pennsylvania,I think.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Day 3 Saratoga,Wyoming to Omaha, Nebraska

I woke up in the morning in my tent looking at a lake before sunrise with little ducklings beginning their day. There was a little light beginning to show in the sky above the mountains in the distance. It was 5:15 am in the morning and the air was fresh and clean. My first Wyoming morning and it was dazzling. I got out my stove and boiled my water for coffee and turned around and three white pelicans were close by looking at me. I believe they are curious about us humans as we are of them. I relished every moment of that morning watching the sunrise and the plethora of birds beginning their day. After coffee and packing up my gear I got into the Prius and I hit the road. The back road that is route 130 up over the mountain through Medicine Bow National Park to Laramie, Wyoming where I would meet up with the interstate once again. What a drive! Beginning with the beautiful ranches that line the road, dotted with cattle and gorgeous horses and then up into the snow covered mountains. It was about 42 degrees up there and beautiful cliffs, snow and gorgeous views were there for me to take in. After a couple of stops, getting out of my car to breath in the mountain air and to take in some some of the scenery not from a moving car, I took some video and headed down to Laramie. As I descended the snowy moutains the vistas opened up ever wider and greener. Wyoming is really beautiful and this isn’t the Tetons but the southern part.

I arrived in Laramie Wyoming by the Interstate put in at a Mcdonalds which I never eat at but only use them for bathrooms and parking lots and took out my friend Steve’s generous loan of a GPS system. Wow what a gift it turned out to be! I needed breakfast bad so I clicked on the menu and clicked on the food thing and bingo I clicked on the first coffee house I could and voila! it turned out to be a great place! I arrived in the old part of Laramie at my coffee house and on the door it said “only misfits and revolutionaries welcome! I thought Wyoming was Cheney country, hell if it isn't dotted with Liberuls and free thinkers and conservationists!! “Great breakfast and great coffee in the part of Laramie that you would have a hard time finding if it weren’t for this modern technology or if you read guidebooks which I did not do for Laramie. Turns out the old part of Laramie still has a lot of its western character. it was fun sitting out eating my great egg sandwich and watching the world go by near the train tracks.

Time to go and go I did. Today was travel day and it had the State Nebraska seal written all over it. This is flyover country or is it drive through country? Naw this is not flyover country,Nebraska has its own brand of beauty and interest I discovered, and thats only viewed from my car careening down the highway at 75 mph on the interstate. Flat farms seem endless. But i like it. I imagined being off the interstate would be a great adventure someday. Today was not for sightseeing, its for blistering across the midwest. I traveled over 640 miles this day as it turns out. I was going to go to a hot springs up in a town called Broken Bow where i was going to camp out but decided against it as there were reports of really bad weather bearing down on us. In fact there were severe thunderstorms and tornadoes right behind me! Little did I know but a town that I had gotten gas at was hit by a tornado only hours after I had split.

I arrived at my destination in Lincoln Nebraska under muggy dark skies, improvving where I was going to stay, using Steve’s gPS sytem to find me a hotel and to tell you the truth I didn’t like the feel of Lincoln. It felt a little seedy and dangerous, now I didn’t see all of Lincoln but my instincts told me to get out. And I did. I headed up the road 50 miles to Omaha and found a nice hotel to shelter me from the storm and lightning and ordered a great chinese meal, delivered and fell asleep pronto to the reports of tornado watches in Omaha on the telly.
650 miles and I’m almost out of Nebraska. Next stop I believe will be ...Chicago!!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day 2 Elko, Nevada to Saratoga, Wyoming

well i’m writing this from a small town called Saratoga Wyoming on the Platte river. It is a terrific little town! restaurants and inns and small and really beautiful. it has a mineral hot springs and its free. and man is it ever hot!! people look like lobsters when they get out. i needed it after driving all day. the springs are open 24/7 so i’ll go again tomorrow in the am. I’m camping out tonight on Lake Saratoga. really beautiful and not crowded. I’m eating now and writing this. I can’t believe this li’l town has internet connectivity all over the place!! I got to write fast because it is getting dark and i got to set up my tent. it was too windy before to be able to do it.

I drove over 500 miles today. through Nevada and a little bit of Utah and a lot of Wyoming. Salt Lake city is beautiful. stopped in for a while and got out. drove through to Wyoming. it is really beautiful. wide open west. I took video of the trip of the clouds and the road. and the side of the road. and the trains and the beautiful light. American is such a magnificent country. saw antelope eating grasses on the desert, saw some nice birds and saw a couple of white pelicans on the lake by my campsite.

tomorrow its on to Laramie and then into Nebraska. will give you more details of this day some time soon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 1 Bay Area to Elko, Nevada

First day on the road, no more theoretical map and internet planning, this is the real world baby! Invigorated by the start of my adventure I clocked in 500 miles and cruised into Elko, Nevada fresh as a daisy. I could have easily driven another 2 hours but decided to pace myself. I am armed with lots of music and audio books, a few thoughts making this a modern cross across America. It is a big wide country and it changes at every turn (I probably won’t say that about Iowa and Nebraska) but this first leg was visually beautiful.
Left the Bay Area at 6:30 am and arrived in Elko, Nevada at 3:30 Moving at a leisurly pace, the Prius zipping at 42 mpg through Sacramento, the Tahoe National wilderness area, Reno, lunch at a casino in Sparks Nevada, the desert and into Elko for the night. Heavy rainfall at times dark skies made for a some drama but nothing too bad. The light was beautiful with deeply foreboding dark skies making the video I shot from the car dramatic. A surreal feeling came over me. Was I doing this? A once in a lifetime journey. How amazing humans are, in a vehicle moving at 70mph over the land. Truly supernatural creatures we are. Sometimes. A coyote crossed my path as it loped across I-80. A small truck flipped into a total wreck maybe half hour before I drove by. The cops surveying the scene. Must’ve lost control in the heavy downpour. Going too fast.

Arrived at my motel that I had my internet reservation in. Trouble with the internet is it isn’t real. I arrived at the Rodeway Inn and had a bad feeling immediately. I thought of Bob Dylans song,’Trust Yourself’ as the motel looked a little raspy and on a main drag. I cancelled that reservation and found a much nicer safer place for less money. Elko has lots of hotel and motel space. There are Casinos and fast food places galore. Later as I cruised the town after dinner I whizzed by the cancelled motel where I noticed the parking lot was FILLED with heavy choppers. phew. One needs street sense and clarity when “On The Road.”

Heard about the Basque food here so I walked into a basque restaurant for dinner. All i had was the side dishes (6 of them-salad, potatoes, soup, beans, string beans) and it was quite sufficient for cheap. It’s family style and I had ‘dinner’ with an interesting couple. one lives in Elko and is going to Tikrit, Iraq next week. He works for KBR and was quick to point out the new casino in town. He also suggested I try out the cat houses while I was here.Prostitution is legal here. . To each his own, not for me.. Highlight of the day- the Nevada desert,the light.
Tomorrow, its on to wyoming, hopefully Saratoga Hot Springs. 469 miles.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Left Coast to Right Coast Plan

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I have only made two reservations at hotels-the first night in Elko Nevada and the 4th night in Davenport, Iowa (this I might cancel in favor of an RV Campsite). I have plotted RV campsites off the main Interstate all along the way. Stopping in Saratoga, Wyoming-which has a free hot springs and a 'city' lakeside campsite and onto Victoria Springs in Broken Bow, Nebraska for more hot springs.