2007 Road Trip

Day 1 – June 29


Reno, NV to Salt Lake City, UT

Miles traveled: 571
Local Music: The Boogie Monsters, Reno based blues-funk band. Good stuff.



Q: What do you get when you mix concrete with crazy people?
A: Thunder Mountain Park.This site, right off of Hwy 80 in Imlay is the creation of the eccentric Frank Van Zant, aka “Chief Thunder Mountain”. In the 70’s & 80’s, he built this house, and all of the various art around the property, out of a lot of concrete and whatever he could stick into it. The place is in a pretty bad state of decay now (having been subject of vandalism, and having been poorly constructed out of junk in the first place) but believe it or not, it has been named a state historical site and is in the process of being restored.
I’m particularly amused by this piece of “art” found off on a corner of the property away from the main building. Evidence of a cargo cult in north central Nevada?!


starNext stop, the Hotel Star Family-Style Basque Restaurant in Elko. (Thanks Loren for the suggestion.) Not much to look at from the outside, but the food made up for it. Actually, all of the sides were pretty lackluster, but the filet mignon was simply outstanding. Not only delicious, but huge. It would have been four servings at an upscale steakhouse in Reno.
The folks in the picture are Earlene and Frank, with whom I shared a table. We swapped life stories over an incredible amount of food. Earlene and Frank were out celebrating their 17th anniversary, so I picked up their tab. They say “Hi” to everyone reading this. Happy anniversary guys!






















It happened by pure chance that today was also the first day of the annual Basque festival in Elko. So I decided to stick around and watch the running of the bulls, which wasn’t supposed to happen until 7. This is a shot of the crowd waiting for it to begin. Sorry, no shot of the actual running, turns out the bull delivery never made it to town. No bulls, no running of the bulls. They didn’t inform the crowd of this until about 8. People weren’t happy. Any everyone tried to leave at once. The traffic getting out of town was horrific!
I guess that’s what happens when you put all your Basque in one exit.


On the plus side, it left me with an extra hour or so to explore town. Discovering White King in one of the local casinos in the process. This stuffed polar bear is an absolute monster at 10+ feet tall. Most are between eight and nine. This is supposed to be the world’s largest.
He must have once been a significant drawing force, as he is reproduced in an even more giant form as the sign above the front door.
Apparently, they would give away free postcards of him back in the day, but not any more. Shame – the postcard photo give you a much better idea of just how huge he was than my picture does.
Once it became clear that there would be no bulls tonight. I took off towards Salt Lake City, pulling in at about midnight.

Day 2 – June 30


Salt Lake City, UT to Little America, WY

Miles traveled: 237
Local Music: SuperSoFar, SLC based classicish rock. Should be named SortaOkay.

My first stop on Saturday was the lake itself. Antelope Island State Park. I’d been looking forward to swimming in the ultra-salty water for a while. The salinity varies from place to place in the lake, all the way up to 25%. That’s 8 times as salty as the ocean. The water at the swimming area was at 5 times ocean salinity today, which means that I, at 5ft 9 inches tall was unable to touch bottom in 4-and-a-half foot deep water. Because standing up straight, people will float with their head and shoulders out of the water.As neat as this experience was, I think the best way to enjoy the lake is from a distance. For one thing, salt isn’t the only mineral in the lake, there’s also a bit of sulphur. The smell isn’t as bad as say the hot springs in Nevada, but is still off-putting. For another thing, there is an unbelievable number of brine flies. At least they don’t bite..

And finally, the salt water, the Utah heat, and the fact that I was too wound up to sleep well on Friday night really did a number on me. I wound up having to pound back about a gallon of water to fight back dehydration and then taking an unavoidable nap in my car in the beach parking lot.


mtemp mtab
Once hydrated and awake, I swung by Temple Square. The Temple is what people come so see, but I was more impressed with the tabernacle. The acoustics demo that they do in there is amazing. I also went through the museum. About half of which was interesting to me, i.e. the bit about how they constructed the temple and the tabernacle. The engineering involved was quite impressive.   


My last stop in SLC was the Mayan Adventure Restaurant (below). Imagine a cross between a Chile’s and the Jungle Cruise ride at Disney and you’ll have a pretty good idea what this place is like.



I’d originally planned to make it all the way to Cheyenne tonight, but the nap kinda messed up my schedule. Rather than arrive in the middle of the night, I elected to stop at Little America, WY.

A stuffed penguin (to go along with the stuffed polar bear from yesterday) lives in the lobby of the hotel.
(That’s not why I stopped here. I stopped here because it was the last hotel before Rawlins, which would have been another 2 hrs. and I needed a good nights sleep.)

Little America was named after Admiral Byrd’s base camp on his expedition to the South Pole. The penguin was given to the hotel by a member of this expedition. Originally it was meant to be a live mascot for the hotel, but it didn’t survive the trip, so they stuffed it and put it on display.

2007 Road Trip Day 3

Day 3 – July 1


Little America, WY to Rapid City, SD

Miles traveled: 662Local Music:
Mormon Tabernacle Chior, Gotta here a little of this in SLC, but I didn’t want to actually buy a CD. Fortunately I was able to come across it on a local AM radio station. Not really my style of music, but I can definitely appreciate the tight harmonies here. Still, after about a song and a half I put in a CD.
Amy & Annie, Wyoming chick-pop. I was expecting something on the Sheryl Crow – Shania Twain spectrum and wound up with a lot closer to Vanessa Carlton. Two thumbs down
Rich Cloud, Rockin’ Blues from middle of nowhere Wyoming. Definitely a keeper.
Simply Jane, Imagine Melissa Etheridge jamming with AC/DC.

A Tribute to Carhenge, by the Auto Body Experience, This was a surprise winner. I bought this CD sound-unheard just based on the title, and expected it to just be corny badly performed novelty songs. Instead, it’s good, well performed novelty songs. I particularly like track 2: Who took your pipe Mr. Potato Head.


You’ve no doubt noticed a lot more new music listed today than previously. That’s because there’s nothing all that special to see in Wyoming. So I spent a lot of time driving and listening. I used the day to catch back up to schedule. Sure, I could have stopped in Rawlins for the Frontier Prison Museum, or made the side trip out to Medicine Bow for the house made out of dinosaur bones. But there were more important attractions up ahead…


Scientist are still puzzled be how the ancient Nebraskans were able to get these cars all the way from their source in Detroit and errect them into place.
And, of course, by why they would.
For anyone who hasn’t guessed already, Carhenge is a replica of stone henge built out of cars. One can only stand in slack-jawed awe at the complete randomness of this place. I mean WHY?
Turns out that this was built in 1987 as “something to do” at a family reunion.


From Carhenge, it’s only another couple of hours up to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I got in about 8:30pm (back on schedule) and went right to the Crazy Horse monument.  

The reason I wanted to make it out here before dark was the laser show. The side of the unfinished monument becomes the world’s largest screen, on which they tell the story of Crazy Horse, and of the monument’s history and future all set to music that’s heavy on the inspirational power chords. It was an impressive show, but not as impressive as the monument itself. I really hope it’s finished (or at least close) in my lifetime. It’ll be amazing.


It’s hard to believe the scale of this project. Just Crazy Horse’s eye is as tall as a man. The entire sculpture at Mt. Rushmore would fit just in his headdress! They’ve been at this for over 50 years and when pressed for an answer the guy at the info table will tell you that it’ll be finished in between 50 and 100 years from now.

2007 Road Trip Day 4

Day 4 – July 2


Little America, WY to Rapid City, SD to Mitchell, SD

Miles traveled: 364Local Music:
David Anthony, Instrumental honky-tonk piano. Makes for great background music, which is exactly what I needed for the first half of today, since the trips from location to location were short and the GPS kept blurting out directions.

The Weather Machines, I guess you would call these guys “power-pop”. Couldn’t really get into it. On a scale of Chevy Chase to Johnny Carson, I’d give them an Arsenio Hall.


OK, first things first. This is what I came up here to see after all. Wow it’s impressive! As already mentioned, it’s a lot smaller than Crazy Horse, but it seems bigger. Probably since you can get so much closer.



And it was also educational. I learned, for example that it was never actually finished. The plan had originally been to carve the presidents down to about the waist, as seen in the artists model here.



OK, now I had to check out some of the other stuff that sprung up around Rushmore to leech off of the tourists it brought in.
Flintstone Bedrock City Theme Park. Apparently, this is a walk-through diorama, depicting the cartoon town. You have to be wary when a one-day ticket comes with a complimentary season pass. Suspicions were confirmed, by a couple of exiting tourists who told me “don’t bother”. So I skipped the park, and just did a quick run through the gift shop and snapped a picture of the Bronto Ribs stand. I think I got the full experience.


The back hills maze. Pretty self-explanitory.


Reptile Gardens. Excellent attraction. Incredible number of animals all of which appear happy and healthy. It also allows a lot of interaction between the people and the animals. And it’s obvious how much kids love this place. You wind up watching them as much as you do the animals.maniac
The first of Reptile Gardens two headliners. Maniac is a 16 ft 1250 lb saltwater croc. The biggest guy they have here and apparently one of the biggest in captivity.


And the second. Methuselah is a giant tortoise 126 years old, having been at Reptile Gardens for about the last 50. The little girl in the picture was visiting with her grandmother who had come to see Methuselah when she was that age! And according to the guide, she’ll be able to bring her own grandkids back to see him!


I headed next for Thunderhead Underground Falls. Because it sounded cool, literally. It must have been well over 100 degrees outside, and the idea of a waterfall burried deep inside a cave sounded really refreshing.



The Chapel in the Hills, an exact duplicate of the 850 year old Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. I only stopped here because it was on the way back from the underground falls, but I’m glad I did. Beatiful building. ANd it’s cool to see that they did the whole thing using the same period building techniques that were used on the original.



It had been my intention to swing up to Deadwood next. Fortunately I turned on the radio first. Deadwood was experiencing nickle-sized hail. And that system was headed for the Rapid City area. So instead I headed west…
Wall Drugs. This place started out as a drug store way back in the day. But the owner started to advertise with reckless abandon. He also started to add stuff. Animatronics, fountains, Photo opps, anything really. The impression I’m left with of this place is that of the 9-year-old brat who’s desperate for attention. “Hey look at me! Over here! Are you looking! Wait, let me do it again!”. Fitting, since that’s the type of kid who seems to be filling every nook an cranny of this place.
Some of these twerps just might be the same kids I had enjoyed watching so much at the Reptile Gardens. It’s so much more pleasant when a kid says “Ooo.. look at that.” than when they scream “Hey look at me.” ANyway, I’m rambling. Here are some more shots of Wall Drug.



Left Wall, heading west. Right off the left side of the highway, about 20 miles later, there is an inexplicable sculpture of a skeleton out taking his pet dinosaur skeleton for a walk.


Day 5 – July 3


Mitchell, SD to Bloomington, MN

Miles traveled: 422  

Local Music: Kenny McMahon, Two parts Jimmy Buffet One part Willie Nelson.


Not many attractions today, it was more about driving.




Mitchell’s world famous Corn Palace. AKA the worlds largest Bird feeder. It’s in a state of assembly for this years corn palace festival in August, but thankfully, most of the corn mosaics were complete and they were basically just hanging fringe. Oddly, there was a dirth of corn based food here, and nobody had any fresh corn-on-the-cob. Local corn wasn’t ready yet apparently. The third place I tried had sweet corn pancakes on the menu (made with frozen corn I guess) and I had that. Quite good.









North to Roslyn SD, and the Vinegar museum. Roslyn had a significant unswing in population recently, when I drove into town. This place is small. According to my tour guide Ethel, pictured here, the owner of the museum is a food scientist who works as a professional vinegar consultant. He watched the town shrinking as the kids grew up, moved away, and didn’t come back. So, to get the place back on the map, he started up the museum, and more importantly the annual vinegar festival, which brings people from all over the country for a few days a year increases town population by over 1000%. This got them listed in the AAA guide books, and literally, put back on the AAA map.

Speaking of AAA, let me just report that joining before this trip was the smartest thing I could have done. I haven’t needed any roadside assistance or anything, but having a AAA card gets your discounts practically everywhere. It’s easily paid for itself twice over already.

Anyway, Ethel suggested I swing by the local ice cream shop on the way out and try one of the Tequila Lime Vinegar Milkshakes. It was actually quite good, tasted like a liquid key-lime pie.













Day 6 – July 4 – Independence Day


Bloomington, MN to Wisconsin Dells, WI

Miles traveled: 410Local Music:
Kubla Kahn, MN based upbeat rock-pop group with a good horn section.

Victoria Vox and her Jumping Flea, 10 bonus points to everyone who knew that the phrase “jumping flea” is the literal translation of the Hawaiian word “ukelele”. Dad would love this one, one of the tracks even has a kazoo solo.



The Mall of America. It’s hard to describe and a little surreal to be in a mall large enought to contain it’s own theme park, and it’s own aquarium. (And probably it’s own ecosystems.) I browsed for a while. Spent a good bit of time at the Lego store and the NPR store, but eventually all I bought was Mall of America postcards from the MOA gift shop, and some Wisconsin cheddar and a cheese-head hat at one of the specialty shops.Now, if I can only remember where I parked…


spam spam1


The SPAM museum is an amazing place. It it you can learn about how SPAM was responsible for the US winning WWII, about how the Hormel SPAM Girls were the premier musical group of the 40’s, and even about the famous Monty Python “Spam spam spam vikings and spam” sketch. Oddly, there was no mention anywhere in the museum about junk email.



Crossed the Mississippi for the first time on my way over to the Wisconsin Dells. It’s still clean enough this far north to go in for a swim, and since it was so hot that my car’s AC was struggling, and since I spotted what looked to be a public beach when I was crossing the bridge, I stopped for a dip. And I wound up staying for over an hour.





Got to Wisconsin Dells with just enough time to find a hotel, get checked in, and get out to the middle of town for the fireworks.

Day 7 – July 5









Bloomington, MN to Wisconsin Dells, WI to Riverside, IA


Miles traveled: 408Local Music:


The Treats, Rock & roll trio from Madison, WI. It’s the kind of music that you’d swear you already know, but just can’t quite remember. Catchy.



Hold for Swank, From Iowa. They sound a lot like Weezer, which in myu optinion is a good thing. It’s a keeper.
















Wisconsin Dells turns out to be essentially a giant boardwalk. The arcades, the salt water taffy stands, go cart tracks, haunted houses, Believe-it-or-Not Museums, etc. are all right off of the boardwalk in Long Branch, NJ when I was a kid. It’s just that Dells takes it beyond any reasonable limit. It’s like an entire town made out of nothing but boardwalk businesses.


I do need to specifically mention one place here though. Wizard Quest, the last picture above, was fantastic. It’s a cross between the Quest SCA event and Giggleberry Fair. I realize that most of you won’t understand either of these references, but for those of you who do. Doesn’t that sound AWESOME!



















The House on the Rock. Wow!










OK, so Alex Jordan Jr. (Frank Lloyd Wright’s evil twin) starts building a house (on a rock) in the middle of nowhere. Odd-ball architecture, most notably the infinity room, a long room, more of a hallway to nowhere really, that hangs out over the forest, and which when viewed from the entrance appears to go on forever. There’s also some quirky decor, heavy on the stained glass.





People start coming to see it. So he starts charging, and starts building more buildings in the surrounding lands and filling them with stuff for people to see. Stuff like robot orchestras, a juke box that plays wax cylinder records, the world’s largest carousel, a full sized in-door reproduction of an entire Victorian down-town, room sized music boxes, a working Rube Goldberg machine, a football field sized sculpture of a whale-monster fighting a giant squid, and a cannon so large that it had to be put in place first and the building built around it. Very little explanation (if any at all) is provided, and the displays are often not well lit, and the larger displays are often situated in such a way that you can’t see (much less photograph) the whole thing at once. The visitor is left trying make sense of all this, and takes away a real sense of surreality.



Two thumbs way up!

























I had just about recovered from the House on the Rock when I made it to the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. The museum, was just what you would expect. The best part was the shop, they had a couple of hundred different varieties (some totally off the wall) and were willing to let you try any of them. I must have tried two dozen or so including a Merlot and Chocolate mustard, a watermelon mustard, vanilla mustard, peanut mustard, and several more normal varieties. The museum and the tasting was free, but I wanted to support these folks and the fine job they were doing, so I wound up buying a Morocan spiced mustard and a balsamic maple mustard. Both of which, I am happy to report, go well with the Wisconsin cheddar.





















Next stop, the Forevertron.
Remember Thunder Mountain from Day 1? Well if that guy had been working in scrap metal instead of concrete, what you would get is the Forevertron. I get there just as it is closing, so I just do a very quick walk through and snap a picture, then it’s off to Iowa.


Day 8 – July 6


Riverside, IA to Memphis, TN

Miles traveled: 599Local Music:
40 IRREPRESSIBLE BANDS FROM COLUMBIA, MISSOURI, USA vol 1&2, A kinda of Whitman’s Sampler of the Missouri music scene. Some good, some bad.

Riverside, Iowa bills itself as the future birthplace of Capt. James Kirk. The writers of Star Trek never said where Kirk was born, but in Star Trek IV (the one with the whales) he says “I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space.”     

The good folks of Riverside decided that it was going to happen in the backyard of an antiques shop on Hwy 218, and put up a marker. They also hold an annual Trek festival to celebrate, this was about 2 weeks ago. What they don’t do apparently is print postcards stating it or hang on to leftover festival souvenirs to sell to passing road-trippers.
I’m afraid I just can’t support the position that this is where Kirk will be born without a little more proof. These people have got to realize that if they’re going to make claims like this, they’ve got to be prepared to back them up with postcards!

(2009 update – In the latest Trek movie, they have Kirk being born in space. C’mon Paramount! Would it have been so hard to throw the Riverside folks a bone?)



Yep, it’s the Elvis is Alive Museum. Owner and curator Bill Beeny (he’s the one on the bottom) is all too happy to tell you about how Elvis faked his death after getting dozens of death threats when his cover as a secret agent was blown. He’ll tell you all about how he (Bill) was able to secure safe reliable samples of tissue from Elvis’s liver biopsy and from the autopsy of the corpse they they government tried to pass of as his. And how the DNA from these samples proved IRREFUTABLY that Elvis is still alive and in the witness protection program. Just take my advice and don’t bring up anything controversial, like flouridation.


The St. Louis Gateway Arch.
This is simply unbelievable when you see it up close. You know it stays up, you might even know enough about physics or architecture to say how it stays up, but your eyes keep telling you it’s impossible.
I wanted to take the ride up to the top, but there was a two hour wait, so I skipped it.

As seen on the Food Network.
Excellent frozen custard. I got a fudge, raspberry, and macadamia nut “concrete”. Definitely worth the drive.

Day 9 – July 7


Memphis, TN to Branson, MO

Miles traveled: 439Local Music:

Elvis Presley of course.



The best part about Graceland, for me, was the costume museum. The car museum was also pretty cool. These are the things they’ve set up for you to do while you’re waiting your turn to go to the mansion.


Once you get to the mansion, they pack you in like sardines, and you patiently shuffle forward while listening to the folks around you say things like. “I just don’t believe it! It’s all so beautiful! To think the he touched this very doorknob that I’m touching…” as so on. Eventually you get to see a room and generally they’re OK, if a little bit showy. But if there’s one thing you definitely take away from your tour it’s this;


Elvis had an ugly kitchen.



Graceland shot all morning and a bit of the afternoon. I spent the rest of the afternoon, waiting for an oil change (I’d put a lot of miles on since last friday, and it was time again.)I also hit the local grocery stores, and was able to find some GooGoo Clusters. For those of you who don’t know, one of the things I wanted to do on this trip was get my hands on all the regional candy bars mentioned in Candy Freak that I hadn’t had yet. With GooGoo clusters out of the way, and Val-o-milk being based in Kansas City and an easy pick-up later in the trip, the only one I’ll be missing is 5-star bars from New England. 

OK, I’m rambling here, but the point is, I didn’t hit any other Memphis attractions.


(2009 update – I was able to get 5-star bars locally in Reno. The whole foods carried them for about the first three months that they were open, but have stopped doing so now for some reason. Pity, they were very good.)











Day 10 – July 8

Branson, MO

Miles traveled: 11
Local Music: SIX, a pretty good close harmony vocal group. Mostly doing acapella arrangements of oldies. Kinda trying to be what Rockapella was in the mid 90’s. I had wanted to go and see their show, but it doesn’t play on Sundays.

Didn’t do any traveling at all today, just explored Branson. None of what I saw was over-the-top exciting, but it was nice to have a day in which I didn’t spend hours in the car. So here’s what I did instead.   


’57 Heaven is an odd sort of a car museum. Unlike the car museum we’ve got in Reno, in which you can see the entire history of the automobile, ’57 Heaven only has models from the year 1957. It’s got scores of different makes and models, but all from that year.



And the dinosaur museum. No big deal with either of them. At this point I was more of less just killing time before my dinner show.
Went to see two shows while in Branson, the first was “Amazing pets”, which was as you might have guessed, all about trained animals. They had a comedian/magician capuchin monkey and some trained birds and dogs. But the main attraction was the trained housecats. Jumping hoops, walking tight ropes, doing high dives. Unfortunately, no pictures of this allowed.

The second was Dolly Parton’s Dixieland Stampede. The show was basically the same as Medieval Times, but instead of a battle between opposing medieval knights, it’s a contest between the North and the South to “settle the rivalry once and for all”. I guess they never heard. There’s a series of trick-riding and or jousting style competitions between two teams, and goofy contests, like chicken chasing and toilet-seat horseshoes (this is the Ozarks after all) between audience volunteers all interspersed with variety shows sketches and musical numbers. It left me ready to leave Branson.


Went to the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans museum. Yes, they really did stuff and mount Trigger when he died and also Trigger Jr., Buttercup, and even Bullet the wonder dog. They claim, however, that Roy is just a wax figure.

The Titanic. They built a half scale replica of the front half of the ship, put in a collection of recovered artifacts from the ship, and built recreations of some of the rooms. It would have been much better if the movie had never happened. It seemed like there were as many references to the film as there were to history. It was also disappointing in that it did not allow pictures inside.

Hollywood wax museum.








Day 11 – July 9


Branson, MO to Kansas City, KS

Miles traveled: 243Local Music:
The Sluggos, I guess you’d call this “power-pop”. Very catchy, but I don’t thing it’s destined to become a favorite.

Slept in late, and thus didn’t actually make it too far today. Just two stops, neither of which will probably be interesting to anyone reading this, so just go ahead and skip to the next day now.

Leila’s Hair Museum is dedicated primarily to the Victorian art form “hair work” which is like a combination of weaving and macramé done with hair. Most of the displays are of either jewelry or horseshoe shaped “mourning wreathes”. All very delicate and artistically impressive. There are also a few celebrity hair samples, including Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Abe Lincoln, and Aaron Burr.Again, photos were not allowed inside, so I have no good pictures to post here. (if you’re really interested, Google “victorian hairwork”.)The thing that really frustrates me about being told “no pictures” is when they don’t offer any other form of souvenir either. They didn’t even have postcards. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say that this museum was cool. 


UPDATE – Found a picture of the interior of the museum online. The picture above is just a small sample of the hair wreathes in the museum.

When the teacher at your cooking school recommends a BBQ joint for your road trip, it behooves you to give it a try. And I must say that Gates BBQ in Kansas City was very very good. But I am happy to report that it is not the best I ever had, it’s still beaten out by Womack’s, which is much more conveniently located in South Lake Tahoe.


Day 12 – July 10


Kansas City, KS to Middle-of-Nowhere, KS

Miles traveled: 311Local Music:
Stuck on Broadway, Sounds a lot like Green Day.


Kansans seem to have a real thing for the Wizard of Oz. Several towns had Oz museums in them and several more advertized Oz-fests. I stopped at this one arbitrarily. It was a collection of memorabelia, and wax figures of the characters from the movie. Very skippable, but it wasn’t out of my way, and it gave me an opportunity to stretch my legs and meets a few of the locals. 
…And their little dog Toto too!





 The marker at the geographical center of the lower 48 states, is also the exact middle of nowhere (as evidenced by the road you have to travel to get to it… ) 


Not far from the middle of nowhere is Cawker City, KS, and another, even bigger twine ball that the one in Minnesota. The MN twine ball claims to be the largest such ball wound by one man, and is sealed behind glass to preserve it exactly as it was when that man stopped. But here in Cawker City, the twine ball is still growing, and visitors are encouraged to add a few yards of twine to it themselves. The lady in the second picture (whose name I have forgotten) is the owner of the little shop across the street from the ball which sells souvenirs, Christmas ornaments, t-shirts, postcards, etc. (none of which were to be had in MN) She’s also the one who breaks out a spool of twine for tourists and snaps their picture winding. That’s her thumb in the picture of me. Great lady, awesome sense of humor.


And not far from the twine ball, in Lucas KS, you can find the Garden of Eden, another example of concretia dementia like Thunder Mountain (see day 1).

 and also in Lucas, The World’s Largest Collection of The World’s Smallest Versions of The World’s Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attractions and Museum. The guy who owns this converted school bus, has found dozens of roadside attractions of the “World’s Largest ——–” variety. He sticks a normal sized whatever it is in the window of his bus and labels it. For example, there is a ball of twine about the size of a baseball in the window labeled “World’s Largest Ball of Twine, Cawker City, KS.” This is by far the most pointless attraction I’ve seen yet, and I wouldn’t have bothered if I weren’t passing close by Lucas on the way back to the interstate after visiting the real largest twine ball.


Day 13 – July 11


Middle-of-Nowhere, KS to Denver, CO

Miles traveled: 416Local Music:
The Jill Watkins Band. If you imagine Humphrey Bogart walking into a smoke filled gin joint while some canary in a slinky red dress is belting out bluesy jazz vocals backed by a full big band, you’ve got the idea.

Prarie Dog Town is just a glorified petting zoo. I stopped anyway, there really wasn’t much to do today except driving. And in Kansas you take any chance you can get to break up the drive. Man it’s boring!

The Wonder Tower was at one point (1934) the highest point between New York and Denver, situated in just the right place so that you can see six different states from the top. It’s no longer the only place this is possible, it’s shorted even than the water tower less than a mile away. At one point it was a gas station, a restaurant and a dance hall. Now it is all mostly filled by a collection of stuff, some “curiousities” that are actually intersting but mostly just the accumulated stuff that built up over the years. It’s kinda like going to see a museum of what was once a very popular roadside stop. The only thing that kept it from being completely depressing is current owner Jerry Chubbuck, who says he’s owner the place for the past 40 years and is all too happy to point out the interesting stuff, tell you stories about the place, or just tell you corny jokes. I’m glad I stopped here once, but should I ever drive this strip of highway again, I don’t see any reason to go back.

   casabonita cbdecorbbhdnl
Casa Bonita. You know, some places just aren’t as cool as they seem on TV. In case anyone doesn’t know, Casa Bonita is a mexican restaurant in Denver, which bills itself as the world’s most exciting restaurant. It offers cliff diving shows, puppet shows, a haunted house, arcade games, etc. It was similar to the Mayan that I went to in Salt Lake City, and though it offered more things to do, I think it was overall less well done.


Day 14 – July 12


Denver, CO to Monte Vista , CO

Miles traveled: 218Local Music:
The Rail Benders. Boot stompin’, rowdy honky-tonk. Trucker music.

Pike’s Peak.
Lt. Zebulon Pike, for whom the peak is named once said that no one would ever reach the top, and now so many people have done so that they built a gift shop up here! In fact, they only thing that they don’t have up here is Oxygen. Both me and my car had a bit of a problem working well up here, so I didn’t stay too long.I think they missed an opportunity with the name though. “Zebulon’s Peak” would have been much cooler.Down at the base of the mountain is a little town named Manitou Springs. A quirky little town full of art galleries, odd specialty shops, and at least one good restaurant (I only got to try one). But most unique is that the town actually has springs. There are seven natural mineral water springs scattered through the downtown area, each built into a unique fountain. Tourists are enouraged to get a map of the spring locations, and sample the water from each of them – kinda like the wine walk that they have here in reno, but with spring water and running 24-7-365.


As I explored the town, it started to rain. I found out later that at the summit it was snowing! Glad I did the peak first. Anyway, because of the rain, I skipped the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, a museum of sorts based on indian cliff dwellings once native to the area. But it’s an outdoor attraction, and it was raining.

The American Numismatic Association runs the Museum of Money in Colorado Springs. It’s fascinating, but contains mostly displays of ancient coins from the various birthplaces of civilization. Unfortunately coin-sized object behind glass cases are very difficult to photograph well, at least with my camera. Above is one of the few photos that came out well. I find it really cool that Israel put Einstein on their 5 Lirot note.

The Movie Manor Motor Inn in Monte Vista, CO. Take a motel, put large picture windows in every room facing a drive-in theater and pipe the sound into the room. It’s a great idea and an experience that no roadtrip would be complete without. They were showing “Evan Almightly” which was certainly not the best movie I’d ever seen, but was OK.




Day 15 – July 13


Denver, CO to Monte Vista, CO to Moab, UT

Miles traveled: 404On the CD Player:

Anansi Boys. Audio Book by Neil Gaiman – OK, so it’s not local music, but there was a lot of driving today, and not much else. An audio book was perfect. 

four One of the nations most pointless photo-ops. Here I am at four corners national monument. Sitting in Colorado and Utah with my hands just reaching into Arizona and New Mexico.Surrounding the monument itself is an Indian (OK “Native-American”) flea market. The spot happens to be in the middle of the Navajo nation. In addition to all of the turquoise jewelry, t-shirts, bumper stickers and snow globes, is the best indian fry-bread you’re ever likely to get. I had two before I left.

Day 16 – July 14


Moab, UT to Ely, NV

Miles traveled: 406Local Music:

The Arches National Park Audio Tour CD


 This place is remarkably neat. The landscape is like something from another planet. You feel like you’re in a cheesy 50’s Sci-Fi B-movie. You expect to turn around and find Kirk fighting the Gorn on one of the cliffs. Or maybe that’s just heat exhaustion.What I didn’t know before I came here was that the arches for which the park is names are all a mile or more away from the nearest parking areas. A mile of hiking trails that look like something out of Indian Jones. Baren shadeless expanses of rock, mountain ledges only a yard wide, etc. I made the hike out to what is probably the most famous arch here, “Delicate Arch”. Look closely in the picture and you can see me.
I also snapped a photo of some petroglyphs along the way. 




I wish I had packed a lunch, and had more time to stay here, but I only had about a half a day and about a gallon of water, so I had to move on.

The Hole in the Rock. Back in the 1940’s, the owner of the rock started blasting out the hole. 12 years later, he moved in, having carved himself a nice ranch-style home. When uranium was discovered nearby, the front room was converted into a diner to serve the miners. The kitchen was painted sea-foam green (because health regulations required a washable surface) but everything else was kept “sandstone”. The kitchen in this place is really amazing, the hardware (oven, deep fryer, etc) is all carved right into the walls. Same with the bathroom plumbing. Anyway, when the miners moved on and the original owners passed on, the place was opened up as a roadside attraction. Definitely worth a stop if you’re in Moab.

Fossil hunting in Delta, UT. On the west side of Utah, you find this place. Where you can pay by the hour for to look for dead bugs. Bugs that have been dead for a really long time. You can buy time anywhere from a couple of hours up to all-day. I arrived late in the afternoon and only had a couple of hours before it would start getting dark. But I still managed to get a five-gallon-bucket full of specimens. Mostly prints, and partial or broken trilobites, but a few good samples.


Day 17 – July 15 – LAST DAY


Ely, NV to Reno, NV

Miles traveled: 332Local Music:

The Kimberly Trip. They sound like Garbage. In a good way.




A AAA spokesperson once described the State Highway 50 route through Nevada thusly; “It’s totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they’re confident of their survival skills.” This may be a slight exaggeration, but it is possible to drive for over an hour without seeing another car (or place to turn, or roadsign, or anything else.) hwy50 



To combat this reputation, the White Pine County Chamber of Commerce in Ely suggested calling highway 50 “The loneliest road in America.” and the Nevada State Tourism Commission developed the now popular “Route 50 Survival Kit.” Get it stamped in each of the five small towns you pass through on your way to civilization, and you can send it in to the state dept of tourist for free Hwy 50 swag. Can’t wait to see what I get.  (2009 Update – what I got was a keychain and an “I survived the Loneliest Road in America” certificate.)

 sodaI do want to mention one thing that I saw along Hwy 50 though. In Ely in the Economony Drug Store is a real, old-fashioned Pharmacy sode fountain. Like the re-creations they had in the ‘57 museum in Branson, but real. This soda shop has been in operation for over 50 years and the pharmacist who works in the drug store here is third generation, in the same store. I didn;t think places like this existed any more. 










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