There is an adjustment to coming home from a vacation, but none more so than when you go on a road trip. On a normal trip you just fly to your destination, do some activity, rest up before dinner, have a night time activity and call it a day. But on a road trip you wake up, drive for hours on end. You stop at places that seem interesting in the middle of nowhere. Eventually you check into a motel at night and go to sleep.
It’s a life of mobility and freedom.
Back in 1994 my cousin Aaron, his brother Terry, our Uncle Alex and his wife Jill and I went on a road trip all through the Southwest. To Vegas, an unexpected stop in Kingman, AZ because of a busted air conditioner in the car, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Dinosaur Monument in Colorado, Reno, San Francisco and back home. It was a great trip, and Aaron and I had fond memories of that trip.
It was an easy sell when I told Aaron back in Thanksgiving that I wanted to visit my father’s grave since I hadn’t been back there since my mom and I buried him in 1997. He agreed immediately.
There were some constraints in the trip. I wanted to get to Baton Rouge as quickly as possible without having to drive nonstop. I wanted to stay in Baton Rouge for several days and then New Orleans for several days more. Then after that it would be a free-for-all in trying to get back to Los Angeles.
Here were the highlights:
- Buc-Ee’s. There are not enough words about this place. With locations all over Texas, Buc-Ee’s has a great hilarious billboard campaign. “Top two reasons to stop at Buc-Ee’s: #1 and #2.” See? It’s part truck stop, gas station, convenience store, jerky maker, barbeque restaurant, tchotchke vendor. It’s just a huge monstrosity of a place that only Texas can pull off. It’s impressive really even though everything in my faggoty liberal being wants to rebel against it.
- The Toy & Action Figure Museum. Also thanks to billboards Aaron and I stopped by this place of awesome awesomeness. It’s in a little town named Pauls Valley in Oklahoma. You would think a place like this would be in a bigger city. Hell we have a Museum of Death here in Los Angeles. But no, this place is in small town Oklahoma. You can see pictures of this in my Flickr photoset.
- Natural Bridge Caverns. Also a billboard attraction. Outside of New Braunfels, Texas here are these caverns. It’s room temperature yet humid as all hell down there making you sweat like a greased hog at a county fair. It’s still pretty amazing to be in these holes in the ground. The guides are these young kids, nothing like the Louisiana swamp tour guide who was in his 60s and made a living in the bayous as a trapper among other things. In the caverns it was all textbook. But it didn’t really matter since the formations down there were pretty amazing.
- Louisiana Food. Holy motherfucking shit. Fried gator. Catfish. Double stuffed shrimp. Fried chicken. Gumbo. Crawfish etoufee. Beignets. Jambalaya. Boudin balls. I didn’t even get the muffaletta that I wanted. But it was all right. I had damn near everything else. Holy motherfucking shit.
- Hilton Baton Rouge. Located in the Capitol District, they made you feel like royalty. Now, this isn’t big city luxury or anything. But for a city the size of Baton Rouge, it’s the best it will get. Good wi-fi strength, friendly folks behind the desks, good drinks in the bar. It’s right across the street from the Mississippi River. It’s near the convention center, new art museum, the old Capitol building. I loved it there.
There was a big lowlight though.
The plan in Norman, OK was to spend the night and head west on the I-40 to New Mexico. The plan was to walk on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos before heading to the Four Corners. Unfortunately a blizzard was blanketing the Midwest cloing the I-40 between Albuquerque and Amarillo. So instead of just cutting across the Texas panhandle, we had to go back down the I-35 to the I-20 which meets the I-10 and come up the I-25 from Las Cruces. And because of the timing we decided to make that drive nonstop. So 26 hours of driving we went from Norman, OK to Flagstaff, AZ.
That hurt. I probably got 2 hours of sleep while Aaron probably got 1 or 2 at best. We got to a Motel 6 in Flagstaff at around 2 p.m. We ordered pizza, showered and crashed. I woke up around 7 p.m., watched some sports and crashed again at 11 p.m.
I will never EVER drive nonstop like that again.
Also one regret: I never got a photo of the old US Highway 666 sign. It is now US Highway 491, but some of the old signage remains. Unfortuately I was trying to concentrate on not falling asleep which I failed several times.
So here are the states I have visited:
So who wants to do a road trip to the north? Anyone?