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Travels with Grama

Eastern & Southern USA

Road Trip -2003

This was our third road trip. Other than to visit my mother in Hanover, Ontario, and Doreen wanting to see Niagara Falls again, we had no real destination. Our tentative plan was to get to Nova Scotia and south into the New England States. It was a pretty big undertaking to head entirely across the continent but we had booked extra time off this year to make the trip.

If I were to describe this year's trip I could sum it up in one word - LOST. Maybe "lost" is a bit melodramatic. We always knew where we were, we could just couldn't find the right road to get out. From doing laundry to viewing the White House, we were constantly going in circles.

Due to work commitments, I was unable to leave on the weekend so I flew from Calgary to Winnipeg on the Monday morning and Doreen met me there. She left Saturday and drove into the states, went to see the "International Peace Gardens" and then continued into Manitoba to pick me up at the airport about noon.

2003 Eastern & Southern USA Photo Album

Richer, Manitoba
We were barely half an hour east of Winnipeg on the #1 highway, when we came upon a unique roadside store full of wood carvings, lawn furniture and cement statues that came in every size and price range. Once again the best laid plans for speed and urgency went out the window and we just had to stop.

I was really trying to figure out how to fit patio furniture in the trunk of the car and ended up buying a toilet paper holder - carved like a toilet of all things, instead.

Of course, there's always time for a snack - ice cream cones were just perfect. Then we were on our way.

Kenora, Ontario
Our first stop was at an old but perfectly charming log cabin motel right on the shore of Lake of the Woods.  I had brought a crib board along and tried desperately to get Doreen to play cards - not likely. This, by the way, was the last time I packed cards. We spent a relaxing night wandering around the docks and sitting on our deck.

Bad River

We crossed into the states at International Falls. The border patrol asked us (what we thought was a strange question) "Where did you two meet?"  Our answer was "playing pool in Calgary". It wasn't until later that we figured out his question was because Doreen had been traveling alone from Calgary, into the States, back into Canada at International Peace Gardens, then mysteriously, at International Falls, she had a passenger.

We continued south on highway 53 through Duluth and then turned east on highway 2 and spent the night at Bad River Casino Resort in Ashland, Wisconsin. We gambled until our $20.00 was gone and got ourselves off to bed.

The next day we headed east and crossed back into Canada at The Soo/Sault Ste. Marie. We had some time to make up, so we were pushing it a bit. We needed to get as close as possible to catch the South Baymouth Ferry from Manitoulin Island to Tobermory so we stayed at Espanola and caught the Chi-chiman ferry early in the morning.

Hanover, Ontario

From Tobermory, we traveled south to surprise my sister, Sherry, at their Dreamaker Campground just east of Southhampton. I had Sherry phone my mother to find out where she would be later, since she had no idea we were coming and I wanted to surprise her, too.

After a brief visit with Sherry and her husband Jim, we took off on a quick tour of Sauble Beach and French Bay Road, where I had spent most of my summers at our cottage, from the age of 8 to 18 (oh so many years ago).

Dreamaker Campground, Southampton
Jim - Owner and Brother-in-Law

We continued south again to Hanover, ON where mom lives - and headed straight for the Legion where we found her relaxing and sipping a beer after serving over 300 people at a banquet. Needless to say the surprise was effective and the expletive was heard throughout the room. As you can see from the picture - she was caught unawares but she was still happy to see us.

We spent a couple of days visiting with mom, touring the town and showing Doreen my teenage haunts and telling tales. (She still threatens to rat me out for a price.)

St. Jacobs, Ontario

Our next destination was Niagara Falls but along the way we "shopped" at the villages of Neustadt for antiques and St. Jacobs for Mennonite wares.

St. Jacobs is the home community of many old order Mennonites, who come to town via horse and buggy. The Mennonite culture is also reflected in many of the craft and gift items for sale in the shops.  There is an interpretive centre "The Mennonite Story" at the Visitor Centre.

Hamel Brooms

The village is filled with shops of all kinds. The Quilt Gallery showcases exciting examples of quilting excellence. This region has become known as "the quilt capital of Canada.

We toured all the unique shops on main street and visited Hamel Brooms where they still make hand-made corn brooms. This being the age of "Harry Potter", I bought 3 kid-sized brooms for my younger grandchildren. Doreen bought two antique oil lamps - one for herself and one for her mom and maple syrup gifts for everyone back home.&

It was 4 in the afternoon before we hit the road. We had a hard time leaving this quaint little town behind but we still had to make it to Niagara Falls before night.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

The only thing we really wanted to do at Niagara was ride the "Maid of the Mist". Although both of us had been there before, neither of us had ever taken the ride.

The first night we just drove around town and toured main street. At breakfast the first morning we booked an all inclusive tour for the Maid of the Mist, Botanical Garden, Butterfly Conservatory, Whirlpools, dinner in the Tower, and Journey Behind the Falls. It was well worth the price.

We met two other ladies from California on the tour who were traveling somewhat like we do, so we had a good time exchanging stories. They were heading to the Smoky Mountains and Graceland.  At this point, we were still heading for Nova Scotia, so we bid them farewell at the end of the day.  We have always regretted not getting their contact information so we could visit them again on our travels.

Late that afternoon it had started to rain and continued throughout the night. We were in the middle of two storms - one heading east from the midwest tornados and the second a storm coming up the eastern seaboard. Eastern Canada and the New England States touring wasn't looking too promising weatherwise.

In the morning we did a walking tour of the downtown area, wandered through the shops, and lunched at the Rainforest before heading out of town - or should I say - attempted to head out of town. No, we weren't lost, but we sure didn't want to be were we ended up.

Why getting Health Insurance causes undue stress!!

Being very clever, we crossed into the States at the less busy border crossing, the Whirlpool Bridge, fully expecting that there would be a duty free shop where I could buy travel health insurance, (like I do at our Alberta border crossing). We were half-way over the bridge before we realized - no duty free shop. Past the point of no return, we had to explain to the (nice) customs officer that we were sorry, but we had to do a u-turn and go back to Canada. Wrong. There was no place to turn around. We would have to drive 5 miles down the road to the Rainbow Bridge crossing (remember - the busy one we tried to avoid) and the (not so nice) customs officer interrogated us because we had only been in the states 10 minutes. Our explanation about having to return to get travel insurance was, for some reason - suspicious to him? He must have finally believed us (no one would deliberately make up a dumb story like ours if they were doing something illegal) so he let us back into Canada and gave us directions on how to get onto the Duty-Free Shop road. This road by the way is a one-way only and we were NOT currently going in that direction.

We finally got to the Duty-Free shop, parked and went inside to get insurance. Wrong again Lizard Lips. They don't sell it. The only place we could get travel insurance would be at AAA on the other side of town. At this point I was saying "forget it" but Doreen insisted I was not going into the states without insurance. Did I mention that the only exit road from the duty free shop is back into the states? After considerable explanation about why we couldn't do that, the (sweet) parking attendant lifted the gate and stood on the spikes so we could drive OUT the IN ramp without ripping our tires to shreds and off to AAA we went. Niagara Falls Website

Finally, two hours later, with insurance in hand we headed into New York State over the Whirlpool Bridge again, hoping to show the nice customs man we were legit, but shifts had changed and he was gone.

Old Fort Niagara, New York

Standing on a bluff above Lake Ontario not far from Niagara Falls, Old Fort Niagara has dominated the entrance to the Niagara River since 1726. The colorful history of the site began even earlier, and continues to the present day. The weather wasn't being very co-operative so we basically did a vehicle tour and continued on. Old Fort Niagara

We took Hwy 18, which parallels Lake Ontario and came upon an old cemetery that caught my eye because of all the flowers and red, white and blue ribbons from the recent American Decoration Day. The weather had cleared a bit so we stopped and for a brief while, wandered amongst the headstones, some of which dated back to the early 1700's. This is another unusual commonality Doreen and I share - we like to walk through cemeteries and read the writings and epitaphs. There is an amazing amount of history on grave markers, not to mention - humour. My favourite quote on a tombstone is " I told you I was sick."

Canandaigua, New York

We stayed on Hwy 18 most of the way to Rochester and then turned south and stopped at Canandaigua for the night. While watching the weather report, we realized if we continued with our original plan to go to Nova Scotia, we would be heading right into the storm coming up the east coast. Nova Scotia in the rain wouldn't be much fun. It was at this point we decided to reroute and visit Graceland in Tennessee, but with a short jaunt towards Atlantic coast, so we could at least say we made it.

We were up early the next morning - heading south now instead of east and ran smack dab into a Wal-Mart. The car went out of control and pulled into the parking lot - all by itself.

A couple hours of shopping for summer clothes was just what we needed to kick the rainy day blues. After some inventive repacking and organizing we found room for all the outfits - somewhere between the corn brooms and maple syrup - and we were off again.

New Cumberland, PA
What do Police Cars & Laundry have in Common?
New Cumberland, a borough in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, was incorporated on March 21, 1831.  It is noted for it's yearly Apple Festival. For us, it is also noted for having great cops that will assist old ladies in distress.
My mother always told me if I was in trouble to ask a policeman for help.  I'm sure that asking for directions to a laundromat wasn't what she had in mind, nevertheless, we needed assistance.

Our clean "undies" supply was getting low so we inquired from the motel clerk where the nearest laundromat was.  He gave us some wild directions that took us completely out of the area we were in, through a wooded non-residential road that brought us into the back end of another small town or sub-division that had it's own little main street.  However, the laundromat was not on that street. 

After driving up and down it a few times, we spotted a policeman parked at a closed gas station, obviously waiting for speeders.  We pulled up alongside him, rolled down the window and I asked him if he knew where this particular laundromat was. He looked at us rather strangely and asked us "why we wanted to go there?" - which was an unusual question - why else would one go to a laundromat ???

Regardless, he proceeded to give us directions. "Turn right from the parking lot, through this intersection turn left - the road jogs - take the right side - go through two intersections because the first dead ends - cut through.....oh, never mind - follow me". 

With that he pulled out of the lot, flipped on his flashing lights and took us where we needed to go. (which was the other end of main drag and 1 block off)   I'm sure he could hear us laughing the whole way.  As he left, he gave a whoop of the siren and waved goodbye.

Later, inside the laundromat it became apparent why the officer had questioned why we wanted to use this particular place.  There were several "couples" doing laundry and they were all "male" - not a female to be seen.  But, they probably just figured we were gay, too.  Then, while we waited, we went next door to a pizza joint and had our first "strombolini".  Just as we were finishing, the cruiser passed by to check on us and waved again.

Now it was dark and Doreen and I could not agree on which turn took us back to the motel.  Oops, lost again!!  After much backtracking, we finally located someone in a convenience store to assist us and found our way home safely again, with another story to tell.

Lancaster, PA
We are always searching out different routes away from the interstates that take us through communities and farmlands most people don't travel.
Somewhere in Lancaster County we took a short cut into Amish country where we found an old cemetery, church and schoolhouse. It turned out this shortcut was a never ending road, that continually crisscrossed and circled. The map didn't even show the small intersecting roads.  When we crossed a small bridge for the second time or possibly the third, it was clear - we were lost.
We asked one motorist (a local) how to get to the highway and even he didn't know. I think we were almost to the point of having visions of the movie "Wrong Turn" when suddenly, a UPS truck came up over the hill towards us. Doreen flagged him down and asked "Do you know where we are and how the heck do we get out of here?"

With a chuckle, he gave us explicit instructions (we kept missing a turn because we thought it was into someone's driveway) and we were unlost and on our way. Another parcel safely delivered.

Somewhere along the way, we stumbled into a small town where the entire main street had been turned into gift shops - even the Churches. They were all packed full of unique homemade crafts. We spent a delightful hour wandering through these shops. At some point we realized that most of the shops didn't even have staff and the same lady was looking after several of them. It was like stepping back in time.

We also toured several cemeteries. Of special interest to us was the war memorials dating back to the 1700's. Decoration Day having just past, the cemeteries were beautifully decorated with flowers. Many of the homes along the route had wreaths and yellow ribbons on their doors and in their yards - something we just don't see at home.

Washington, D.C.

The Three H's - Hell, Hate, Horrible

On the road map where we mark our route, I had marked 3 H's around Washington and made a note at the bottom of the map that said "City from Hell - Hate this City - Horrible".

In our travels, there is only one place we truly did not enjoy as tourists and that is Washington, DC. We found it cold, unfriendly and difficult to navigate. Signage was poor and drivers impatient and rude. We even had truckers honking from behind and we were stopped at a red light.

Perhaps, if the weather had been better, we might have taken a tour but even that was uncooperative. It was a totally disappointing excursion.

Typically, in unknown territory or large cities, we find a nice motel along the route and then book onto a tour to take us around to the local sights.

We had stopped at a golf course north of Washington to make a purchase and in conversation, told the young clerk where we were headed. Mistake #1. Our 2nd mistake was actually listening to his instructions and the 3rd mistake was to follow them.

First of all he sent us through a district we had no business being in. We aren't frightened easily but this neighbourhood was scary. We found our way out of that mess and still following his instructions, landed in downtown Washington during 5 o'clock rush hour. It was nearly impossible to match the street signs with the road map because we were too busy avoiding drivers with road rage and traffic circles where no one yielded. We had come in on Hwy 50 which becomes New York Ave. and next thing I know we are heading northwest up Massachusetts Avenue, otherwise known as "Embassy Row". It seemed there was a limo every other mansion blocking the road while they waited to pick up their dignitaries.

Residential development along Massachusetts Avenue began in earnest in the 1870s, mostly around the circles west of 9th Street NW. These brick and brownstone structures reflected the Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, and Château styles in vogue at the time. Later, luxurious Georgian revival and Beaux-Arts mansions inhabited by wealthy and influential Washingtonians sprouted along the boulevard. The section between Sheridan Circle and Scott Circle became known as "Millionaires' Row."

The Great Depression forced many to relinquish their homes on Millionaires' Row. After World War II, Massachusetts Avenue was seen as less fashionable than newer areas such as upper 16th Street. Many residences were sold and demolished to make way for office building construction, particularly around Dupont Circle and to its east. Many others, however, survived as embassies and society houses; the former Millionaires' Row is today well-known as Embassy Row.

In all the travel time we have spent together, this is the one and only time Doreen lost it in traffic. I spotted a motel and yelled at her to PULL IN AND STOP RIGHT NOW !!! Not that we intended to stay there but I sure didn't want her to continue driving till she had calmed down.

We went in to see what was available and were told that because of conventions, there was likely no room anywhere in this area of Washington and our best bet was to head northwest to edge of city or over to Arlington. Lovely !!!

We spent a few quiet minutes in the car getting familiar with the road map and set off again, taking a right turn off Massachusetts onto Wisconsin Avenue and a few short blocks later this massive church appeared in front of us. It looked like it was open to the public so Doreen said "Let's go in."    Who was I to argue with fate for sending us in this direction? 

We soon discovered we had stumbled upon one of the most famous churches in the United States. Washington National Cathedral

The relaxing, self-directed tour took us through the history of the Church, intertwined with American history. I doubt if I will ever see architecture of this magnitude and intricate detail again in my lifetime. It took 83 years to complete this structure. It began in 1907 and was completed in 1990.

We finally had to pull ourselves away to go in search of a place to sleep and headed back out into the real world again.

We continued north then west across the Pontomac River and followed the George Washington Parkway south and back into Arlington. We found a motel, threw the luggage in the room and headed out to find Arlington Cemetery before dark.

Well, we found it, as they were putting the "Sorry, We're Closed" sign up.

Then we couldn't get out of the place. We were truly going in circles and kept passing some statue again and again. We picked up on the tail of a tour bus thinking it would lead us out. Wrong. He entered a "buses only" road and we were left on the one way roads going nowhere again.

Frustration was setting in like the black cloud that was hanging over the city.

Finally, another car showed up and we followed it and were able to negotiate our way back towards the motel. It dawned on us about then, that we hadn't eaten since morning so we went in search of a restaurant. And then the sky opened up and a torrent of rain fell so hard we were forced to the edge of the road because visibility went to zero. Praying no one would slam into us from behind, we inched along the freeway until we were able to see a side street that miraculously took us directly into a parking lot in front of an Oriental restaurant. Divine intervention again, we wondered ??

We had a lovely meal, the rain stopped and about 11 PM we dragged our sorry carcasses into the room and our beds.

We determined we had two choices: 1) find a tour bus, or 2) get the hell out of Dodge! It took us about two seconds flat to decide. We'd seen the White House (from a distance), a complete tour of Embassy Row and several statues, (from the car) Arlington Cemetery (from the gate) and a magnificent cathedral (up close and personal). What more did we want to see? The answer was .....nothing.

The next morning we packed up the car and headed southwest out of the rain and into glorious sunshine and open highway.

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

The Smoky Mountains are 95% forest and named for the smoke like blue-mist haze that surrounds them. The further west we got, the better the weather became. By the time we got to Tennessee, we had left the storms and memories of Washington behind. It was definitely more relaxing and we started to enjoy ourselves again.


Just before Knoxville, We decided to take a small side trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. Dollywood is like a small town made up of amusement rides and attractions; it's theme - music. Doreen and I walked the main strip that night and wandered through the boutiques and gift shops. I was itching to get on the roller coaster, but Doreen was having nothing to do with it.

The park first opened in 1961 as a small tourist attraction named "Rebel Railroad", featuring a steam train, general store, blacksmith shop, and saloon. In 1966, Rebel Railroad was renamed "Goldrush Junction" and in 1970, the Cleveland Browns football team purchased the attraction.

In 1976, Jack and Pete Herschend bought Goldrush Junction, and in 1977, renamed it "Silver Dollar City Tennessee" as a sister park to their original Silver Dollar City, near Branson, Missouri. In 1986, Dolly Parton became a co-owner, and the park was renamed "Dollywood". Dollywood Website

Nashville, Tennessee

We arrived in Nashville late in the afternoon and found our way to the Grand Ole Opry rather easily.  I was surprised (and a little disappointed) as it wasn't until we got there that I realized the Grand Old Opry wasn't at the Ryman Auditorium anymore. We were too late for any tours but the attendant did allow us to peek inside the auditorium just to be able to say we saw it.

The Opry Entertainment Complex consists of four unique entertainment venues: the Grand Ole Opry House, the Acuff Theatre, the Opry Museum, and the Opry Plaza. The courtyard is absolutely beautiful.  The magnolias were in full bloom while we were there and we marveled at these beautiful trees - something neither one of us had seen before.

We debated staying the night in Nashville so we could do the tours and take in a show but finally opted to leave and headed out to Memphis.  Nashville is definitely on our plans for another year.  Although our stay in Nashville was very short, just seeing the Grand Ole Opry was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.

The Grand Ole Opry began in 1925, a broadcast from the radio station WSM. A month after going on air, one of the nation's most popular announcers, George D. Hay, was hired as WSM's first program director. Hay's weekly broadcasts proved enormously popular. In 1927 he renamed the show the Grand Ole Opry.
Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl
The Opry went through a number of homes in several parts of Nashville before settling, On June 5, 1943, at the Ryman Auditorium, a former religious meeting house built in 1892. The Opry stayed at the Ryman for nearly 31 years. The Ryman was home to the Opry until March 16, 1974, when the show moved to the Grand Ole Opry House located nine miles to the east of downtown Nashville.

On October 2, 1954, a teenage Elvis Presley made his first (and only) performance there. Although the public reacted politely to his revolutionary brand of rockabilly music, after the show he was told by one of the organizers (Opry manager Jim Denny) that he ought to return to Memphis to resume his truck-driving career.

The original six-foot circle of dark, oak wood was cut from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium ensuring that future Opry stars will one day take their place inside that famed round piece of stage. They will enter the circle that remains unbroken, and they will feel the presence of the hundreds who have come before.  Opry Website

Memphis, Tennessee

Graceland is the name of the 13.8 acre estate and large white-columned mansion that belonged to Elvis Presley.  At the age of 22, on March 26th, 1957, he purchased the home located at 3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee, for $100,000.00. Opened to the public in 1982, it currently serves as a museum.

Graceland was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991 and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006.

By the time we arrived in Memphis, we'd gone from freezing in the icy rain to melting in the heat and humidity. We stayed in a hotel across the street from Graceland and booked the tour for the next day.

In the lineups, huge air conditioners were set up to blow cool air so people didn't pass out while waiting. They bussed us across the street and up the winding driveway to the mansion.

The Hall of Gold is an 80 foot long room lined with gold and platinum albums and singles. There are many display cases of trophies, Grammy awards, posters, memorabilia, guitars, clothing, and jewelry.

As we proceeded into the home, headsets were handed out which would give explicit details of the rooms, furnishings and personal data of each area. These were a fantastic idea as you could always hear what was said and not miss what a guide might be saying.

The second floor containing Elvis' private bedroom, wardrobe room, bath and office are not part of the tour.

Elvis changed the color schemes in the living/music room through the years and redecorated and remodeled the kitchen several times. The kitchen was not added to the tour until his Aunt Delta passed away in 1993. Today, it remains as Elvis last decorated it in the mid-1970's, complete with harvest gold and avocado colored appliances.

The pool room was draped from ceiling to floor with 400 yards of fabric. The decor mixes European, Asian, and American styles of various eras.

The Meditation Garden was built in the mid-1960's as a place of refuge and peace. Elvis loved his home and the Meditation Garden was a special part of it. It is fitting that this Garden became his final resting place.

The back yard is a tranquil place with horses still kept in the paddock. His palomino, Rising Sun, died in 1986. The golden palomino, Sun's Reflection, now at Graceland, is a distant relative to Rising Sun.

Elvis Aaron Presley

Elvis was born in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8th, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon, was stillborn. His first guitar, purchased at the Tupelo Hardware Company, cost $12.95. He and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948, and Elvis graduated from Humes High School on June 3rd, 1953.

In 1954, he began his singing career with Sun Records in Memphis. He starred in 33 movies, won 3 Grammys and, globally, sold over one billion records.

Elvis Website - Biography

On September 9, 1956, Elvis made his first appearance Ed Sullivan Show drawing an unprecedented 80% of the National Viewing Audience - the highest ratings ever for any television variety show.

His talent, good looks, sensuality, charisma, and good humor endeared him to millions, as did the humility and human kindness he demonstrated throughout his life. Elvis died at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977.

It's hard to describe the feelings Doreen and I had in Graceland. We both grew up in the 50's and 60's and knew first hand the Elvis history and how we felt about him and his music during those years. I don't think there is anyone our age that doesn't have some memories that are triggered when an Elvis recording is played.

I remember seeing him on the Ed Sullivan show, the Steve Allen show and especially watching his first movie "Love Me Tender". My girlfriend got a school binder, with his picture on it and I was sooo envious.

I also remember the incredible sadness and disbelief I felt when I heard he had died. He left a legacy of music and memories that touched us all and in the hearts of every baby boomer, Elvis will live forever.

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas

We left Memphis right after the Graceland tour and headed west on I-40 into Arkansas. The countryside was beautiful, so thick and lush and we had a chuckle or two over the "creek" names. "Daddy's Creek" in one area, Momma's Creek" in another - we said if "Bubba's Creek" comes up - we are not stopping.

We spent the night just outside Fort Smith, AR did our laundry and the next morning, continued on bright and early. We'd done quite a bit of sight-seeing in the past couple of weeks and were now pressed for time so the trip through Oklahoma and Texas was pretty much a blur.  Except for one site!!

Signs for the Cadillac Ranch were popping up and suddenly there it was. Imagine our surprise when we found out this tourist attraction was a bunch of cadillacs buried nose-deep in the ground and not a "house of ill-repute". I think we were linking it with the Mustang Ranch in Nevada. In any case, we had a good laugh at our stupidity and booted it for New Mexico.

Tucumcari, New Mexico

We stopped at a little town called Tucumcari, NM for the night.  I don't know why this little hamlet in the middle of nowhere stuck in Doreen's head but it did. She had been reading the local history brochures and found it quite interesting so when we got home, she surfed the net to find out more.

Tucumcari was once nicknamed “Six-Shooter Siding,” because it was rough railway camp complete with saloons and outlaws. It began in 1901 when the Rock Island Railroad was being built. There wasn't much at Tucumcari but it used to be a flourishing town in the Route 66 days - a halfway point between Amarillo and Albuquerque - the gateway to New Mexico - THE place to stay along the way.

Old U.S. Route 66 still runs through the heart of Tucumcari. Numerous businesses, including gasoline service stations, restaurants and motels, were constructed to accommodate tourists as they traveled through on the Mother Road. Many are still operating today.

More skeptical and less romantic historians believe the word Tucumcari is a derivation from the Comanche word tukanukaru, which means to lie in wait for something. There's historical veracity to this explanation, since the mountain (actually a mesa) was known to be a Comanche lookout many years ago. I like the folklore version better.

The Legend of Tucumcari
Legend has it that Apache Chief Wautonomah was nearing the end of his time on earth and was troubled by the question of who would succeed him as ruler of the tribe. In a classic portrait of love and competition, his two finest braves, Tonopah and Tocom, were not only rivals and sworn enemies of one another, but were both vying for the hand of Kari, Chief Wantonomah's daughter. Kari knew her heart belonged to Tocom.

Chief Wautonomah beckoned Tonopah and Tocom to his side and announced, "Soon I must die and one of you must succeed me as chief. Tonight you must take your long knives and meet in combat to settle the matter between you. He who survives shall be the Chief and have for his squaw, Kari, my daughter."

As ordered, the two braves met, with knives outstretched, in mortal combat. Unknown to either brave was the fact that Kari was hiding nearby. When Tonopah's knife found the heart of Tocom, the young squaw rushed from her hiding place and used a knife to take Tonopah's life, as well as her own.

When Chief Wautonomah was shown this tragic scene, heartbreak enveloped him and he buried his daughter's knife deep into his own heart, crying out in agony, "Tocom-Kari"!

A slight variation of the Chief's dying words live on today as Tucumcari, and the mountain which bares this name stands as a stark reminder of unfulfilled love.

Kayenta, Arizona

We continued pushing west on I-40 to Gallup, NM, then cut north to connect with Utah Hwy 191 and onto Hwy 160 into Kayenta, AZ. We had stayed in Kayenta in 2001, shopped at the native "flea" market and wanted to visit it again. When we stopped at Many Farms to gas up, we noticed a nice paved road heading west that didn't show on our map. Upon inquiry, were told it was a brand new Navaho road and would take us to Kayenta and cut off considerable distance. Other than a bit of roadwork equipment, we literally had the road to ourselves and it was a beautiful drive.

We arrived in Kayenta late afternoon, got settled into the hotel - did some shopping in a small boutique in the hotel - then the fun started.

We were changing to go to the pool and hot tub when I started to get severe abdominal pains. I laid down, thinking it would pass and was soon doubled over and knew this wasn't normal. After an hour or more, I told Doreen I was going to have to get checked out. She inquired at the desk for the location of an emergency clinic and was told the only place in town was the Kayenta Health Centre / Navaho Hospital and was given directions. I should mention I rarely visit a doctor's office and probably hadn't been to one in 10 years. I am not a good patient. Nevertheless, this far from home, I was not about to push my luck.

Doreen helped me into the car and we headed to the clinic shortly after 7 o'clock. The waiting room wasn't very full but it seemed we were there forever and the pain just wasn't subsiding.

Finally, about 8:30 the admitting nurse came out and apologized for the delay. They were dealing with a multiple injury/fatality traffic accident. Apparently, illegals entering from Mexico, were involved in a head-on collision with a car full of local natives. She said it could be 3 or 4 hours before I would get to see a doctor.

Since the motel room was more comfortable and it's washroom was closer - we opted to return there and wait. The pain had not subsided so at 11:30 PM we went back to the clinic and the male nurse/orderly proceeded to admit me right away. By the time they actually took me into the emergency room, the clinic had long since closed, all reception staff gone, and Doreen and I were the only ones in the waiting room.

The doctors and nurses were quite sombre and sad - this was one of the worst accidents they'd ever had to deal with. They did a multitude of tests and x-rays and gave me something to ease the pain and then tried to figure out what was causing it.

While all this was going on, Doreen and I were regaling the staff with stories of our trip and once the painkillers kicked in, I became quite jovial and had the staff laughing right along with us. While I was being taken for tests, Doreen had been chatting with the admitting orderly and she connivingly convinced him to let her exit the building, since it was all locked down for the night, move her car into the compound and sneak her camera back into the hospital. Nasty woman !!

I was too doped up to do anything about her taking pictures. I could barely sit up, let alone chase her, tackle her, and wrestle the camera away. I do remember being able to curse.

Finally, they determined that I was not having a heart attack, appendicitis or anything fatal.  Likely cause - gall bladder having an adverse reaction to the bag of pistachio nuts I had eaten on the drive that afternoon.  I was so bloated up that Doreen swore if I ever let go I would whiz around the room like a balloon deflating. They gave me some medicine to take for the next day or so and wishing us safe journey, discharged me about 2:30 AM.

We left the emergency room through the huge double doors and about halfway down the hall to the exit, the same doors burst open and our friendly orderly came running after us. He grabbed our hands, gave us each a huge hug and said he wanted us to know how much they appreciated the laughter we gave them. He was grateful he didn't have to go home with the events of the earlier tragedy being the last thing on his mind.

His words make me think about how easily one can connect with a stranger and even for an unintentional moment, make their world a little happier. A funny line by Dolly Parton from "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" popped into my head - "If you see a stranger without a smile - give him one of yours!".

Monument Valley
The Mittens

We still have it on our agenda to take the time to tour the Monument Valley, but not this year. We stopped briefly at Goulding Lodge to eat and wander around. I was still not feeling 100% but the meal was good. We toured through the museum and gift shop where Doreen bought the video "The Duke and The General", a 1971 documentary tribute to John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Then we were off to Valley of the Gods and Hwy 261.

Mileage to Monument Valley
Cameron, Arizona 134 Page, Arizona
Chinle, Arizona 150 Phoenix, Arizona
Farmington, New Mexico 169 Shiprock, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona 187 Tuba City, Arizona
Gallup, New Mexico 233 Tucson, Arizona
Kayenta, Arizona 23 Window Rock, Arizona

Highway 261 Utah

We reached Valley of the Gods from the west side, but didn't have time do the whole route. So we only drove in a short way, turned around and headed for the base of Hwy 261.

This year, we had made sure our travels brought us to the bottom of Hwy 261 so we could drive "up" it. It was just as much a thrill as the drive down - except the "straight down 1100 foot cliff" was now on Doreen's side of the car. Thanks goodness, we were hugging the mountain side. The expression on her face was priceless and I'm sure she was grateful she had a change of underwear in her suitcase. (that would be that fear of heights thing again)

At the top, we met a group of five touring bikers and stopped to chat for a few minutes. They were businessmen on a road trip - not unlike us. So we took pictures of the group with their cameras and forgot to take one with our own camera. Bidding them farewell and safe journey, we continued north to Hwy 95, then east back onto Hwy 191 north to Moab.

Highway 128 and Moab, Utah

Hwy 128 - we finally saw it.

We spent the night in Moab so that in the morning, we could head north on Hwy 128 and see it in daylight. We were pretty excited as we had tried the year before and missed it.

Much to our surprise the road wasn't entirely at the top of a cliff as we had imagined, but ran along the valley floor beside the Colorado River and then climbed to the area that had scared hell out of us. Oh well, the story of the "great abyss" was good while it lasted.

The huge red cliffs rising high above the valley and river are absolutely breathtaking.  There are several dude ranches and campgrounds along the route and we decided that this was an area we were definitely coming back to explore further.

We connected to I-70 and then Hwy 6 to Provo, to I-15 and home. It seems once we leave red rock country, it feels like the vacation is already over and we're impatient to get home. We traveled as far as Brigham then on to Calgary the next day. In 18 days, we had put on 14,000 kilometers (8400 miles) but it never did feel like we were pushed - and once again, before we were even home, we started planning our next trip.

Next - 2005 West Coast & Redwood Forest