27 March 2009

Roadtrip '09, DAY 8: More globetrotting!

Tal & Sera's Big 2009 RoadtripDAY EIGHT - Friday, 27 February.
Destination: Sikeston, Missouri -- Pear Tree Inn.
Miles traveled: 185.4


Morning in our Harrah's "Veranda" hotel room! It was around 8:30 when we awakened, and the weather was much improved from earlier, the storms having already moved east out of the area. According to WMC-TV 5, we had a nice - if cool - day ahead of us, but the weather would again start going downhill this evening, with a good chance of snow -- especially toward the north! (We also realized just how ugly the weather was in Memphis, as Channel 5 had a news story about a church fire, ignited by lightning hitting its steeple)

We got ourselves showered nice and clean to seize the day before us. Last night, I told Bolivar that I'd give him a call after we woke up, to set a time to meet both him and J-Lo for breakfast. Our agenda had us then going northward to Sikeston, Missouri and eating lunch at Lambert's Cafe. We'd probably make a quick journey to and from Cape Girardeau before having supper at a place called La Villetta with an old friend (okay: old flame), Lynda and her significant other, Mike.

[Now, you might be wondering why we didn't instead go to Sikeston from Cave City, Ky. and then southward to Tunica. After all, that would have been a shorter route. Ahhh, but there was the matter of the cost of hotel rooms in Tunica. Weekend rate at Harrah's (and most of the other casinos in the area) run well into the hundreds, $180 being par. However, the Sunday-Thursday rate at the Tunica casinos are the real bargain: $40-50! So, we did a 'fishtail' path and chose to drive an extra 150 miles instead of spending an extra 150 dollars. I mean, gas isn't $4.00 these days, it was less than two bucks.]

I called Bolivar and thought that 10:30 would be an ideal time for us to meet for breakfast. There was a McDonald's near I-55 in Southaven, and that looked to be roughly 45 minutes from our hotel.

Seraphim bought some Harrah-tastic coffee before checking out. Instead of enlisting the bellhops, we analyzed our luggage situation and determined we could do this ourselves with 1-1/2 trips (2 trips for me, one for Sera). So we loaded ourselves and made it down to the lobby and breezeway, where Sera waited as I went to get Rupert. Driving him under the breezeway, we loaded him up, and then went back to the room to retrieve the remaining stuff -- and my "bonus" Diet Mountain Dew from last night.

South-heaven

It was 9:45 when we left Harrah's and made our way northward to US-61 and over to I-69, then north on I-55. Today was going to be yet another day of world travel, too. Yesterday, as you know, we experienced not just "France" (Paris, Tenn.) and "Italy" (Milan, Tenn.), but also "Egypt" (Memphis, Tenn.). We'll have an encore tour of Egypt, and today we'll see "The Netherlands", and "Spain."

I turned on KXJK-AM 950 out of Forrest City, Ark., still doing a classic hits format and sounding as good as ever. Some of you know I have a fetish for well-engineered AM stations still playing hit music (one might be able to count the whole of them on one hand today). It's good to be able to hear those kinds of stations in 2009. I used to listen to KXJK in the '80s, especially while still in Pine Bluff, always wondering the same thing: Why can't OUR station sound as good as that??? They sound so good, so clean, so tight, that one would logically think they were listening to a Memphis station. Nope, this station comes from St. Francis County, Arkansas, a fairly depressed area economically.

We got to the Mickey D's at around 10:25 and waited for B&J. Ahhh, but what's this next door?? DANVER'S?? Hmmmm, and it IS pushing 10:30. Egg McMuffins be damned, I want me some roast beef!! Sera (who understands her husband's addiction to Danver's roast beef sammiches) agreed that it would be better than yet another meal under the Arches.

It was pushing 11:00 when our friends got there, and they too liked the idea of a change of venue. Sooooooo, Danver's it was.
The great Bolivar and J-Lo, in person.

Hard to believe we go back nearly 23 years. What a long, strange trip it's been.

The best-laid plans of mice and Glecks happily go astray

I knew this wouldn't be a quick visit, and didn't want it to be. And quick it wasn't. We stayed at our table and talked it up until realizing that the day wasn't getting any longer. Goodbyes were said at 1:30 (!), and we zipped through Mempho without any delays or traffic congestion. Plans had to be reconfigured -- we'd be doing well to hit Sikeston by 3:30-4:00, certainly too late to partake of Lambert's and leave enough room for Italian food. A decision had to be made, and it was to forego the Italian for now -- neither of us wanted to pass up the (rare) opportunity for catching Lambert's famous "throwed rolls." I'd call Lynda when we got up there, and lay our reasons on the table, hoping they'd understand and go for Lambert's instead.

You see, things in Sikeston have changed since the days when Lambert's was a simple local cafe with a famous gimmick. Lynda no longer feels enthused about the place, and her sentiment appears to be shared by many of her fellow Sikestonians ... it's a sentiment those of us in Savannah understand with The Lady & Sons. When we first moved there, TL&S was a popular hole-in-the wall restaurant in City Market. Paula Deen was a local celebrity, and that was it. Then came Food Network and national fame, followed by a new location of TL&S and the long lines. It's now a 'tourist place', shunned by the majority of the locals.

And so has become Lambert's in the hearts and minds of Sikeston, Missouri. Lambert's is big and now goes for those traveling through on I-55 and 57. As we figured it, though, "We're tourists, and how often can we get those luscious yeast rolls??"

Highway 61 INTERSTATE 55 Revisited (or: "It's Flat-tastic!")

Leaving Memphis, we crossed Old Man River into Arkansas on the I-55 "old bridge" (the one that parallels the two railroad bridges ... it's the one Orlando Bloom crosses on his road trip in Elizabethtown).
"BUCKLE UP FOR SAFETY" sure beats hell out of what used to
be at the bottom of this sign: "HOME OF PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON"

Ahhhhh, Arkansas. I-55 doesn't make but a 72-mile trip through the state, every square inch of her concrete and asphalt flat as a pancake, except for the few "mountainous" areas - in the form of artificial hills for overpasses. I was impressed with the now-completed improved US-63 interchange (Exit 23). The road to Jonesboro is being upgraded to freeway status, and when finished, my college home will have itself an interstate connection: I-555.
The signage at Exit 23 never fails to warm my heart.
...even if it's in the new-style "clearview" font.

I love the terrain of east Arkansas nearly as much as the mountains. Seraphim made the remark that it looked like somebody had Photoshopped the mountains out. It did feel a bit strange driving the delta after many days spent in the rugged terrain of Appalachia. I-55 through Arkansas and the Missouri bootheel is a complete study in the whole of Delta culture, from the Mississippi flavor (Greenville, Helena, Tunica, West Memphis, Marion) to the 'northern' half (Jonesboro, Marked Tree, Blytheville, Caruthersville, Sikeston). Both halves seem a world apart. You have to experience it to understand.

As for the terrain in this area ... you have to see it to believe:
Toto, something tells me we're not in West Virginia anymore.....

This is as flat as it gets! However, people who travel between the Midwest and the South via Interstate 55 might get the impression that all of Arkansas is this flat. Nope. Less than 100 miles to the west of this freeway, the terrain makes a dramatic change, and one enters the high foothills of the Ozark Mountains.

Arkansas, like West Virginia, offers some amazing mountain views, especially along US-62/412 traversing the top portion of the state. We traveled that highway early in 2006 during our weeklong Arkansas getaway, including visits to Eureka Springs and Hot Springs.

This ain't mountains, though. But .... what's that in front of us? Holy crap! A hill!
"My word, I can see clear up to Cape Girardeau from atop this mound!"

I've always loved the way high-voltage power lines in the Delta form an awesome perspective in the distance:
The 'power' to mesmerize.


"Show Me" the world!
"Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me.
I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." - Willard D. Vandiver

Just north of Blytheville, we bid fond adieu to Arkansas as I-55 enters Missouri. The interstate crossing isn't much to see ... it's too bad they didn't find a way to re-create for I-55 travelers the state line on 'the old highway', US-61. An archway, built in 1924, portals the Arkansas/Missouri line on 61. It's seen below: (photo credit)
This is on the Arkansas side, looking toward Missouri. Inscribed at the top of the arch is "ENTERING MISSOURI" This is yet another example of what people miss by not exploring the old highways. I first discovered this archway one Sunday in 1987 while driving with Lynda back to Jonesboro from Sikeston, and taking a 'different way' (or, as Mom would say, "Dawdling!"). Back then my roadgeek self might've been 'in remission', but my heart still skipped beats when it appeared before me.

So we are now in the area of Missouri called 'the bootheel', a world of its own - rather detached culturally from 'upstate' parts. It's more kindred with Tennessee than even Arkansas ... or especially Cape Girardeau.

Side note: At college, I learned very quickly when meeting fellow students from the bootheel -- attending under Arkansas State's "75-mile rule", allowing those in other states within that range to pay in-state tuition -- NOT to include as an icebreaker that I used to live in Cape. Most in the bootheel feel about Cape Girardeau the way most rural Georgians feel about Atlanta. Long story, much of it political. We'll leave it at that.

Shortly after crossing into Missouri, we saw the first billboard for Lambert's:

Get yer catcher's mitts ready: just 66 more miles to go!

Ice, ice baby - redux
As terrible as the trees looked in middle Kentucky from the ice storm in January, things were ten times worse in the bootheel of Missouri. I was amazed to see any treetops left at all! Yes, it was that bad. Tree limbs were piled everywhere -- in front of houses, all over the two rest areas in the bootheel, and even along the interstate itself. I was told the area was buried under as many as three inches of solid ice!

One of the first towns in Missouri along 55/61 is our first world stop. We're now tilting at the "windmills" of Holland, Mo.
This image Sera captured, with the disfigured tree, is a sad one. It's looking from the interstate toward the village of Holland. The exit on 55 carries another nearby town name, Cooter:
Yeah, Cooter. Dunno if they have a road named after Ben Jones, though.

Road geek note: "E" is indeed the designation for that roadway. Missouri has a network of minor-grade 'trunk roads' marked with letters instead of the usual numbers. It's usually a single or double-letter arrangement ... and, yes, there are some Route PPs or Route TTs. In Sikeston, Routes AA and H intersect, making for an amusing sign assembly: one direction it's "AA"/"H" and the other "H"/"AA."

Speaking of which, anyone want to 'take on me' in a game of highway Scrabble?

What was that name again??

Anyway, our next town was Hayti (pronounced "hay-tye"). While passing through here, a restaurant was brought to mind from long ago. I could not remember the name of it to save my life. I think it might've been the on-premises restaurant from Drury Inn's earliest days ... "Papa D's" comes to mind, but I'm not sure that was the name. At any rate, "Papa D's" (?) was a Denny's-like family restaurant in the region.

[edit: Very close. It was called Papa D Family Restaurant].

This is where Lynda and I always ate with her parents in Hayti on those weekends in college she 'went home.' Lynda didn't have a car at the time, so I'd meet her folks in Hayti - about halfway between Jonesboro and Sikeston - and they'd always treat me to dinner at this restaurant both the Friday night I brought her, and Sunday afternoon when I picked her up. They graciously did this as 'appreciation' for saving them the trip all the way to Jonesboro ... but I was glad to do it, not just to "be the good boyfriend", but -- yeaaaah, okay -- there were a couple of ulterior motives in the mix: 1) Missouri had lottery and cheaper gas (average of 59.9¢ a gallon in 1986-87, versus 74.9-ish in much of Arkansas), and - most importantly - 2) I was in range of listening to a very cool AM station: KYMO-AM 1080 out of East Prairie, Mo.

Was that a gasp of shock I heard from you, the reader? Talmadge Gleck, drawn to radio stations? Yeah, perish the thought. But it was true. KYMO was a favorite of mine while living in Cape Girardeau, and I've referred to it a few times in this space. Imagine a small town of barely 3,000 people, with a 500-watt daytime only AM station. Typically, such operations are country, with a very 'hick'-sounding presentation. But not KYMO -- big-ticket JAM "Priority One" jingles, '60s-style "wall-of-sound" audio with reverb in the chain, and a hard-leaning top-40 format, at times bordering on pure album rock. It still amazes me today how such a big sound could come from a one-lung station in such a tiny town. Yeah. What's more, KYMO held out with a live rock format until 1991. Since then, when KYMO-FM signed on, they've been satellite oldies. Oh well.....

As I pondered the restaurant's name, I changed the radio from KXJK - beginning to show signs of fading by now - over to AM 1080, which today simulcasts the FM (105.3). While it lacks the uber-compressed 'bite' from its old-school days, KYMO still throws out very clean audio. Great sound for an AM station. And, gawd love 'em, those same great JAM jingles.

The Marston, Mo. exit along I-55 had a Pilot station, and we figured to give the coffee another try. Certainly this couldn't be as bad as back in Tennessee. We stopped and filled up to the tune of $1.75/9. I got me a DMD, Sera got a Pilot-tastic Trucker's Coffee, and both got a one-dollar scratch-off. I busted, but Sera copped two bucks.

The weather was a shade on the nippy side in Southaven. Missouri, though, was another story. A brisk wind was rolling through the bootheel, and it was very, very c-o-l-d. The kind of weather foretelling one mean snowfall in its future.

It's New Madrid's fault!

From Marston, our next world stop was sunny "Spain" -- New Madrid (pronounced "MAD-rid") has notoriety as being the epicenter of one of the most destructive series of earthquakes ever to hit the U.S. in 1811-12. There's a museum in town, with a working seismograph. The "New Madrid Seismic Zone" is highly active, and depending on who you talk to, the area is way overdue for a major quake.

And when it happens this time (as opposed to 1811, when the population was sparse), it's going to be nasty. Unlike California, with its mostly rocky terrain, the bootheel is nothing but soft ground. Ever hear of liquifaction? Yup, if and when The Big One hits again, much of this area is going to literally turn to quicksand.

It's a sobering thought: This entire region sits on nothing less than a geological timebomb.

'Miner' change of plans.....


We pulled into the breezeway at Pear Tree Inn (originally the Drury Inn - built in 1973, first location of the entire chain) in Sikeston at just after 4:00. Well, not really Sikeston -- technically, the area of US-62 and I-55 is in the small community of Miner. ANYhoo, our 'freebie' room was on the third floor, with no elevator. It being zero dollars, I couldn't complain; Seraphim, on the other hand, was feeling a sore knee. Aye yi yi. So we kept her trips up and down at a minimum. I unloaded much of Rupert, and we got ourselves settled into our room.

And, wouldn't you know it, FREE WI-FI in their rooms. Woo hoo! This is Drury-tastic!

Due to our modified schedule, a quick run to and from Cape Girardeau wasn't going to be happening. We'll save that for next time.

I called Lynda, and explained our change in plans (hey, Bolivar and J-Lo were very much worth it, right?). Lynda and Mike had no desire to eat at Lambert's, although she understood where we were coming from. They were going to eat at La Villetta, and after we finished up at Lambert's, we'd meet them all at 7:00 at Villetta for drinks and conversation.

Both of us figured it prudent to go ahead and beat the long lines at Lambert's by hightailing it over there. The restaurant is just down US-62 (E. Malone St.) from the motel, and we got there about 5:15, and a wait time of practically nada.

Tree limbs aside, Sikeston looked good as ever. It's a down-to-earth small city of 17,000-ish in population. Plus - to my knowledge - it's the only city to have three U.S. highways with consecutive numbers: US-60, 61 and 62!

Think fast! Here comes another!

Lambert's food was good and Lambert-tastic as always. The yeast rolls .... they're evil and must be wiped out of our lives and memories. Probably more Points™ than Weight Watchers can even count. But -- say it with me -- "We're on vacation, dammit!" We're going to partake, by gawd.

A little background, for those who are curious. Lambert's Cafe was the epitome of a small town mom-and-pop eatery ... your basic meat-and-three affair. Their specialty were the giant yeast-rolls, served with dinner and sometimes given out to folks waiting in line for a seat, as the original Lambert's location had a very small seating capacity.

One Sunday - late '70s, maybe? - the line queue was longer than usual, and some folks were standing around talking, keeping the guy with the roll cart from getting to those toward the end of the line. One hungry gentleman yelled at the guy, "Just throw me the damned thing!" Which he did. Another in line said, "Throw me one, too." A third said the same thing.

A tradition was born. The employees - all dressed in blue oxford shirts with red suspenders - come around with those two heavenly words: "HOT ROLLS!!" You make eye contact with one of them, and they'll toss one your way. Another blue-shirt usually isn't far behind with a rolling tub of sorghum molasses, but personally I like mine with butter ... which they have in abundance on your table:
Hucares? I do.

Lambert's is still a family-run business, and have since expanded to Ozark, Mo. (outside of Springfield) and Foley, Alabama - north of Gulf Shores. And Seraphim and I have eaten at all three, thank you (Foley = 2001; Ozark = 2006; Sikeston = 1998, 2006, 2009). What I miss is the presence of patriarch Norm Lambert. He also threw rolls and got into the whole game with the rest of the employees. "Ol' Norm" passed away in 1996. He was a true independent spirit ... and I remember eating there in 1992, during the presidential race. Norm made his political leanings clear for all to see:
If only Ross had won.....

I love how that guy thought. I miss him ... but I can always say I caught some rolls from Norm himself. Lambert's is a great legacy from my days with Lynda: my first weekend up there in 1986 - the proverbial "bringing home to meet the parents" - her parents took us out to eat, and Lambert's was the place. From that night forward, I was hooked.

After our meal, Seraphim bought a lime-green Lambert's T-shirt, and I a "Throwed rolls" cap and a 'stress ball' in the shape of a yeast roll. Then we drove west down Malone to where La Villetta sits. It was about 6:30, and we thought to see if they had arrived early. Lynda and Mike were just going inside when we drove in.

A most surreal evening

It was the first time I'd seen Lynda since October 1992. She looked fantastic, and in good spirits (not just the alcohol kind, either!). Yes, Lynda is indeed an "old girlfriend." She was my longest relationship while at ASU, we were together from Fall 1986 until I made the ghastly mistake of 'dumping her' for someone else in May of '88. Again, those close to me know the story and how Old Bitch Karma took up for Lynda's broken heart and soon dealt me my comeuppance, but that's neither here nor there.....

Lynda and I reconnected much the same way Seraphim did with her 'first love' "Jimmy." You see, there's a spooky parallel involving Lynda and Seraphim: Both were unceremoniously ditched in favor of supposedly newer and shinier "trophies." Only difference: in Jimmy's case, Sera got dumped for ... another MAN. Yup, Jimmy crossed the field to play for the American League.

Unlike my own dating years (an earthquake is smooth by comparison), Lynda and Sera never had much of a history ... Jimmy was Sera's first, and I came along a decade later. And I was Lynda's "Jimmy."

ANYhoo, a couple years back Jimmy wrote Sera an e-mail apologizing for what he did to her years ago, and the two 'reconnected' and are now fair-weather friends. Jimmy's now living in Kansas City (want more 'spooky'? The woman I dumped Lynda for ALSO lives in KC!), and has a happy life 'playing for his team.'

It led me to thinking about Lynda, and how I've always carried a heavy burden of guilt for how I did her dirty. I wrote her, apologizing ... and she wrote back, telling me about her new love, and how happy she is today. I'm glad for her.

I told her about my own crazy life since 1988 (and especially 1991-1997!!), about Seraphim and how I wanted 'another chance' at someone with Lynda's qualities. I didn't appreciate what I had when I had it. Of course in Sera I found those qualities, and then some. Lesson learned.

Sitting at the table with Lynda and Sera ... wow. In my line of vision were the two best women I'd ever been romantically involved with. Two bookends separating a bunch of largely unpleasant literature in my life.

Both women got along famously, and Mike was putting 'em away ... making toast after toast after toast. Lynda's boyfriend was getting plenty sloshed (thankfully SHE was going to take him back home!!). We all had good conversation. I even had one (1) beer. The first drop of alcohol I'd had in at least a year. (ref. "We're on vacation, dammit!") All told, this evening was a fun, if highly weeeeird stretch of time.

We left La Villetta about 10:30 to a very cold rain. The temperature was hovering at 33 degrees, and the forecast called for snow by morning. Snow, in fact, would be following us all the way to Georgia, if the folks at the National Weather Service called it right.

After we got in the car, my wife said something which cracks me up just thinking about it now. She poked me in the shoulder as she said, "I like Lynda a lot .... WHY DID YOU DUMP HER??!!"

After we got back to the motel, Sera went to bed and before I did the same, I booted up the laptop and caught up on some e-mail and various Facebook capers.

Tomorrow was going to be a long day of driving. We must be rested up. G'night, all.

To be continued.......

BY THE NUMBERS
:

Dead skunks spotted and/or smelled: 0

Bob Evans restaurants passed: 0 (had we gone to Cape, that number would have been "1")
Diet Mountain Dews consumed: 2 (it was a light day!)Beers uncharacterally consumed by Talmadge: 1
Great-sounding AM stations listened to today: 2Countries "visited": 4 (Mississippi, Egypt, Netherlands, Spain)
Rolls caught and consumed at Lambert's: 3
Trees still fully intact after the ice storm: 4, maybe?

25 March 2009

Three letters.......

W T F ? ? ! !

I cannot even fathom this puppy. My activity quotient does lack, although it's better than in past weeks. I drank plenty of liquids. I stayed within points, except trying out a system where I 'reset' daily points at suppertime (allowing for any curve-balls at night, figuring it's easier for myself to reconfigure lunch plans the next day, ya know?).

The scale said I went up +2.8. Yowzah, that's not a good prize. Cume resets to -56.6

Ate one (1) Egg McMuffin this morning, with a stop through Chick-Fil-A for a large diet lemonade ... and one (1) can of tuna, and nursing a liter bottle of diet lemonade (forget the brand name; can only find it at Fred's, of all places ... really good, almost as good as CFA's). Last night it was a Subway pepperoni pizza with a DMD.

Dunno. Maybe this'll straighten itself out next week. One thing I do know: I've got to find another night to go to a WW meeting. I have officially had my fill of this leader. First, she was jockeying as receptionist, and her "that's good, that's good", and on top of that getting the math wrong (3 POUNDS ... that's fuzzier than what's-his-W!). I cannot talk to her. She does not listen to a (BLEEP)damned word I say. She's just like my maternal grandmother -- saying "uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" as a continuous loop while I'm talking ... when a person does that, they're not listening. They couldn't care less what you're saying.

We're skipping meetings because, frankly, I have no desire to take part in the Richard-Simmons-on-speed uber-cheerleading. "Better living through chemistry" about covers it.

I'm debating the merits of a Thursday evening out in the wilds of Bloomingdale. What say you, Seraphim?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "At least I'm still over 55" Gleck

PS - The rest of the travelogue is coming down the pipe. Give me a few more days.....

19 March 2009

Roadtrip '09, DAY 7: The Globetrotting Glecks

Tal & Sera's Big 2009 RoadtripDAY SEVEN - Thursday, 26 February.
Destination: Tunica, Mississippi -- Harrah's Casino.
Miles traveled: 345.1


Sunrise in our Indian teepee. With the full-size beds, we took the retro factor an extra step, and slept in separate beds - just like married couples did in 1955 (at least if one judges by television).

As previously mentioned, the appointments in the wigwam - the radiator, desk and bedframes, among most bathroom fixtures - are the genuine circa-1937 articles. I slept okay, considering the mattress left much to be desired. I joked that the mattress was probably just as old.

The shower had incredibly good water pressure. That's the good news. The bad? The water heater capacity was smaller than a 2-liter soda.

WIDE AWAKE, we got dressed (and wore short-sleeves without a jacket for the first time in many days), packed our stuff back into Rupert, then I went out to take more pictures in better daylight. The motel's owner opened the old office teepee and let us look around in there, and he even gave us a couple of the old '70s-era postcards.The "big teepee" used to have a restaurant on the main floor, with a full basement that served as the gift shop and the kitchen. The mini-teepees on each side were the restrooms.

The restaurant closed soon after I-65 opened in the mid '60s, causing US-31W to lose its mojo. The gift shop was then moved upstairs. I'm sure he would've let me look around downstairs, were it not time to get going.


Then we received a very nasty surprise.

Seems the water heater isn't the only thing with reduced capacity...

"DECLINED??!!" Seems the credit card we used for the motel was rejected. Ummmmm, that's not good. Ain't no way I'm within shouting distance of the card's limit. This was a card which we kept as a 'zero balance', and put into use for the motel and gas purchases which I'd pay in full from the tax refund (what finances these yearly junkets). The card had a $7,000 limit on it, and the balance was no more than $500. W? T? F?


I used another card for the room, it went through, and we set out. Our next stop was going to be breakfast at Denny's in Bowling Green. Well, that is now our second stop -- the first is the nearest pay phone. I'm calling the card issuer to get some answers.

And boy, did I get an answer.

The card was over the limit. Suddenly my $7,000 credit card morphed itself into one with a $400 credit limit, meaning I was now $100 and change over the top. The charge for gas yesterday in Kentucky went through, as did the cabin in Mt. Nebo. But they weren't about to approve the wampum for the wigwam.

You see, the day we left on the trip, HSBC massacred many of its cardholders. And I was one of them.

I got a supervisor, and explained that we had no way of knowing this went down ... and, I admit, I did make it appear as if we were 'stranded' (we weren't, really), which was good for their raising the limit back.

Back to a whopping $1,100. Bless them.

Well, ain't this a fine and craptastic top-of-the-morning. I am thankful for any blissful ignorance until after we left West Virginia ... any way you look at it, this was a sour start to our day.

Sera and I then hop onto I-65 southbound, destined for Bowling Green and trying to drown our "financial sorrows" with a good, nutritious Denny's Grand Slam breakfast.

Wi-Fi? Do-WHAAAAA???, Part I

Recently, Denny's rolled out internet access at most all of its restaurants. Even in the swamps of the South Carolina Lowcountry one can plug into the 'net at one of their locations.

But not in Bowling Green. There was nothing at this exit except (protected) signals from motels. (At this point, you're just waiting for me to say "craptastic", aren't you?) Other than that, the breakfast was good, the service very pleasant.

Next stop: "Talmadge"-ville

From Bowling Green - home of the GM plant where Corvettes are made - we left the interstate to take four-lane US-68 westward toward Russellville. We were listening to their local AM station (WRUS), which had live announcers and a midday agriculture report and even obituaries (!), truly a quaint idea in this day and age. I hope Russellvillians realize how blessed and fortunate they are ... true live and local "community" radio stations are getting rarer by the year.

We found the WRUS studio building south of town, hoping for a good photo-op (A picture of myself in front of the "WRUS" sign, to go with a pic of Seraphim - real name Amy - standing outside the building of WAMY in Amory, Miss). WRUS' building looked nice and unassuming, but no call letters on the building and just a concrete base out front from which a sign once rested. The only evidence of this being a radio station were the satellite dishes on the premises and the mast in the back with a microwave studio-transmitter link dish.

Well, poot. So much for that opportunity. I thought about going in and looking at their facility -- and I really, really wanted to -- however I wanted us to get to Tunica at a decent hour and to avoid Memphis' rush hour, something we wouldn't be doing with our thumbs up our collective asses in Kentucky. Let's get moving again.

But first, Rupert was fed some Shell petroleum at a station outside downtown Russellville for $1.72/9. We figure that should get us on into Mississippi without trouble. A $1.00 Kentucky scratch-off for each of us yielded a royal bust.

Buhbye, Wildcat Blue ... Hello, Big Orange

From Russellville, four lanes became two as we started out southwest at the eastern terminus of U.S. Highway 79 for the remaining few miles left in Kentucky. The next stop: Clarksville, Tennessee. We figured Krystal - another chain with wi-fi pretty much everywhere - would have a presence in this military town. Or somewhere else, most certainly adjacent to I-24. I recall from our last trip down that highway (December 2006), the US-79/I-24 interchange was a big watering hole.

Indeed, there are plenty of dining options at this intersection. We saw Krystal, and half a block down it was a Starbuck's. Sera was jonesin' for a Star-tastic latte, and Starbuck's also has wi-fi pretty much SOP at its zillions of locations.

Wi-Fi? Do-WHAAAAA???, Part II

And so began a comedy on so many ridiculous levels.

Starbuck's: "Wi-Fi? We don't have that ... I think Krystal has it, though .... "

Sorry, then, no coffee sale.

*sigh* We then double back down to Krystal.

Krystal: "Wi-Fi? Do-WHAAAAAAAA?????"

Good. Gawd.
We were just past lunchtime, and needed a wi-fi connection in order that we may e-mail Bolivar again to let him know that we were going to be in his and J-Lo's neighborhood. We didn't have his phone number handy, so we had to go for e-mail.

On the other side of this highway-o-heartburn was a shopping mall, complete with a Borders. Bookstores have wi-fi, don't they?

Uhhhhh, yes. If it works.

Border's: "It's done by T-mobile and I think it's broke."

I didn't see any open laptops in the coffee shop, so she might be on the level. In any event, even if it weren't "broke", it was a pay-for-play, and that's not an option.

At this point, these Clarksville, Tennessee inbreds were beginning to rub me the wrong way. So much for the Deep South being backwards, eh? I'm serious -- Savannah just swarms with free wi-fi hotspots at gawd knows how many stores. Ditto for many places in Alabama. Even golldurned TROY. These Clarksville people oughta be ashamed.

Thinking about how laughably easy it is to find hot spots -- even here in Rincon -- I was getting very pissed off. I needed an internet connection. This is not 2002, people, so get with the program!!!

I saw a sign pointing toward Clarksville's library. For one thing, we'd already blown through 45 minutes of valuable time; for another, I didn't feel like a wild goose chase to find this city's library; and most of all, using these galoots as a yardstick, I'd probably get the following response from the librarian: "Wi-fi? My granddaddy had one of them things. You stacked them long-playing records on that tall pole and they plopped down and played."

US-79 continued, skirting downtown Clarksville (sound effect: banjo strum) and I knew when we started seeing sleazy "we-tote-the-note" used car lots and title-pawn shops that we must be getting near the entrance of a military installation ... in this case Fort Campbell.

I feel sorry for any military family transferred to this gawd-forsaken place. I hope they bring a wireless card for their laptop. That's assuming they have cellphone service in Clarksville. I don't know. My cellphone was off for this duration.

But I did find something really cool in the middle of all this wasteland:

What a gorgeous thing of beauty! It resembles the old 1952-82 Holiday Inn signage, except for parts of it being turned around.

A postcard I found online has this sign pictured, and it had a postmark of 1965. My question is just how Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn's founder and creator/namer of the "Great Sign") felt about this tweak of a trademark. Below are both, side to side. You be the judge:

"One of these things is not like the other"

I can think of a lot of places I'd love to have a "vacation", and it sure the hell ain't here. "Wi-fi? My momma had an Admiral - had a lid on it, too, and the radio dial glowed this green color when we turned it on to hear The Grand Old Opry on WSM. We listened to Daddy's Flatt & Scruggs records on it, too. No, we ain't got no Wi-fi, but we do got black and white Motorola Quasars in every room. They even tune UHF stations, whatever in tarnation them are. No color TV, sorry, except for here in the lobby, but it only gits Channel 5 and not too good."

Every woman deserves a romantic trip to the Eiffel Tower ... even my wife

The next item on our travel agenda found us in the environs of Paris. Do not let it be said that I never took my wife to Paris.
Paris, Tennessee is a pleasant little city, and it marked my second visit to this place. The first time, oddly enough, was 15 years ago this month: February 1994. There's a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris' Memorial Park, built there in 1992. A picture of me was taken by my "practice wife", the illustrious Whatzername. I thought it would be an interesting A/B pair:

1994 ... and 2009 (I think I look happier in the right picture, don't you?)

Now wasn't that sweet and idyllic?

Next stop: Italy!

From Paris, we resumed our southwesterly jog down US-79 until we came upon the city of Milan. And that's not pronounced as they do in Italy, in Tennessee it's MI-lun.

Since breakfast was had rather late, we opted to go with a very light 'late lunch', and no better place than a Wendy's in Milan which -- part the clouds, sound the trumpets, cue the chorus of angels -- HAD FREE WI-FI INSIDE. And, wonder of wonders, the woman behind the counter knew what it was.

We sat down with our food, and each had our turn with the laptop. I sent an e-mail to Bolivar, with the subject line in all caps - "URGENT!!!" I left our cellphone numbers and hoped he would see it by tonight.

Nice dogg-----BAD DOG!!!

From Milan, we took US-45E into Jackson and right onto I-40 westbound for the leg into Memphis. It was looking as if we'd just miss the worst of rush hour, yet get into Tunica before it was too late to partake of Paula Deen's buffet at Harrah's, where we had a room waiting. Another consideration was the possibility of severe weather this evening -- we wanted to get settled in before any of that occurred.

The next stop proved an adventure, and not of the good kind. It would go on to be the craptastic pitstop to end all craptastia. The Pilot station showing its signage to us at Exit #42 on I-40 near Stanton, Tenn. lured us off the super slab for gasoline, "truckers' coffee" and - maybe - a DFD, as most Pilots had.

Sera went on inside to prepare her coffee while I put some gasoline into Rupert's 16.5-gallon gastric chamber. They were asking $1.69/9 for the privilege, which turned out to be the cheapest price paid for this entire trip. It was ... shall we say ... Pilotastic.

And that was the only good thing about this stop.

There was a black guy walking his dog - a reddish-colored mutt of medium size. The dog saw me and came toward me. I extended my hand in my usual 'I come in peace' fashion, he sniffed it and I started petting him as I made small talk with the gentleman. I made no quick moves (not a good idea with a dog who doesn't know you), but for whatever reason, this dog turned on me. He snapped and shit near bit my hand clear off. I credit whatever blazin'-fast reflexes on my part at keeping just that from happening.

The guy pulled back on the dog's leash, and started a lame apology, then asked if I smoked. "Ummm, no." "He doesn't like smokers." "Well, I've never smoked and I have never been near a burning cigarette today." Hadn't been since our last Pilot visit (Grayson, Ky.) the day before. I meant to say something about that on the last day's travelogue -- that whole Pilot station smelled like a golldurned ashtray. That's Kentucky for you. They lurve their tobacco.

Well, he took a quick powder from the scene, because he could see I was a bit perticked.

It didn't get any better, either. Inside, the bathrooms were n-a-s-t-y, there was no Diet Fountain Dew -- just Coke products -- and Sera said the coffee here looked gross. I got a DMD bottle, and the guy behind the counter made me abundantly aware that I was in the rimshot of metro Memphis, Tennessee. The man had an attitude which made the bathroom so clean you could eat off the floor.

Let's just say that there are certain people in Memphis who are nothing short of hateful and rude toward certain other folks, and leave it at that. I went to college 70 miles from there, and made frequent trips to Mempho, so I know of what I speak. It hasn't changed.

And evidently, the same goes for some of the dogs. Truly and verily, we were a long way from West Virginia and sweet black dogs inside rural convenience stores.

If you think that was the end of our fun, there's just one more thing. It was past dusk, and I didn't see the dark car coming toward me -- without its lights on!! -- as I turned left to the onramp. I came all too close to hitting it.

Okay, I'm getting the hell back onto this interstate. Note to self (and others): never, EVER stop at the Stanton exit (#42) on I-40. Eschew that part of Tennessee entirely.

After a couple of miles, I got my heart jumpstarted and at this point we were done with pitstops and both ready for some Paula-tastic southern food in Tunica!

Long distance information....

Memphis was uneventful, and the interstates all moving at a good clip. I-40 joined up with I-240, and we took it west around the southern rim of Memphis proper, picking up I-55 south to enter Mississippi. What we also didn't know at the time was that the Bob Evans we passed east of Mempho was the last one we'd see for this entire trip. :-(

And you know, after the craptastic time we had through a lot of Tennessee, I almost rejoiced when I saw the sign reading "Enter DeSoto County Mississippi." I never thought I'd ever find Missi-damn-sippi to be a happy sight.

Our last visit to Tunica was in February 2006, and a link from I-55 to US-61 at the casinos was still being constructed. It was finished now, and carries the designation of Interstate 69 (cue Beavis & Butt-Head laughing). I-69 has long been an interstate going from Indianapolis to the Canadian border at Port Huron, Mich., but is now being expanded into Texas, and given the lovely nickname "NAFTA Freeway", as it will connect Mexico with Canada.

How loverly.

For some reason, Mississippi has signed the little casino spur as I-69. And it took us quickly and easily to US-61, and less than mile from the turnoff to the casinos. We missed the clutter and stop-and-go of Highway 61 out of Memphis, with the countless billboards for the Tunica casinos, all reading like a who's-who of washed-up pop acts. Tunica seems to be reveling in its role as a pop music Branson, where stars of yesterday go to rot away.

LOVERBOY ... EVERY DAY IN APRIL AT GOLD STRIKE!

NOW APPEARING AT GRAND CASINO TUNICA: DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS!

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT AT HARRAH'S: PABLO CRUISE!!

Paulafood!

It was roughly 7:45 when we pulled up at Harrah's to check in, only to be told that our room was at the other Harrah's building, about mile away from this one (and there's yet another adjacent, too!). A shuttle goes regularly between the hotels and this one, with the casino and restaurant. Ohhhh fine.

We go back to the other building (the Veranda), get checked in, and - whoops, we have a mandatory bellhop. They don't allow the rolling carts out of their sight (what, are they afraid we'll steal 'em and get the gold plating hocked for more gambling money??). Fine. Whatever. Just get us and our stuff the hell into our room, so we can hop the shuttle and get our damned food. We're starving.

The lady at the desk said the shuttle ran every five minutes. My ass. We just missed the one as we walked outside, and I counted 20 minutes before the next van pulled up.

I'd say it was about 8:20 before we got into the Paula Deen buffet, and they closed up at 9:00. It gave us enough time to get all full of catfish, fried chicken, rice and good tea.

Anyone who lives around Savannah knows what has become of Deen's restaurant The Lady & Sons. You have to get in line tomorrow to get a table in July. It's so long that we can walk outside into our front yard in Rincon, and take our place in line.

In other words, we had to go all the way to cotton-pickin' Tunica, Mississippi just to be able to eat Paula Deen's food!!!

Gamblin' time.....

Filled with Paula-tastic home cookin', it was time for the serious matter at hand: the wagering of our dinero in the various slot machinage on the massive floor of Harrah's Tunica.

We stuck mainly to the 25¢ slots ... and just as I sat down to start blowing my wad of cash, my cellphone (which I turned on after we left Milan) vibrated. It was Bolivar, and I quickly ducked into the bathroom so I could hear myself talk.

He and I spoke for a few minutes, and gave me an update on what's been going down in his life (I'll let him tell it). He had the day pretty much free tomorrow, so we decided to meet up for a late breakfast at McDonald's in Southaven, Miss. (the city immediately south of the Tennessee line, an extended suburb of Memphis). There was no way, if possible, I was going to miss out on at least a meal with the Bolivar Lifeform. Yeah, and Her J-Lo'ness, too.

That arranged, I got back to the slots. First, I went searching for Seraphim to relay to her our plans with Bol and J-Lo, and tell her the news in his life.

I was sidetracked by her machine having spasms. Yeah, she hit a nice payoff, nearly tripling her seed money. Sweet.

Me, I blew it all. It took over two hours to do it, but I eventually ran dry. Which was all for the better, because my right ankle was beginning another round of gout attacks. The (literally) stabbing pain was getting worse.

It was 11:40 or so when we walked -- or SERA walked, and I limped -- out of the casino and out front to grab the shuttle back to our hotel.

Seraphim had roughly double her original money (we had $60 each to gamble with), and I had nada. So this evening of gambling fun was virtually free of charge. Can't bitch.....

Wild Dew Chases and More Wi-Fi Follies

Once back in our fifth-floor Veranda room, Sera got ready for bed while I was going to stay up a little later. I wanted to get me a Diet Mountain Dew (and pop one of my Indocin pills for the gout pain), fire up the trusty laptop and, maybe, upload some webpages to the Birmingham site -- the ones I put together earlier back in Mount Nebo.

First matter was the procuring of the DMD. I limped myself to the vending nook on our floor, only to find a "damn ice machine." Well, crap. Elevator down to Floor #4 -- yes! A Pepsi machine with DMD. Cue losing horns ... the machine was out of order. Shit.

Figuring I'd deciphered the Harrah's 'code' - soda machines every other floor alternating with damn ice machines - I got back into the Otis to go down to the second floor. And, true to theory, there was a Pepsi machine waiting. The sodas were $1.50 for the 20-oz. bottles, which seemed on par with most convenience stores nowadays. I put in the money, and pushed the button corresponding with the object of my carbonated affection.

This MUST be a casino, because I doubled my winnings. Not one, but two (2) Diet Mountain Dews came out of the machine. Woo hoo!

Back in the room, I unpacked the laptop and booted her up. I tapped into the wi-fi signal from Harrah's, only to find out that they charge for the internet. What??

The charge? $11.95 a night. To quote John Belushi when told by Dan Ackroyd that he was going to visit 'The Penguin': "No. F**king. Way." Not when it's 12:30 in the morning, the weather going downhill, and the sandman is gaining on me.

Screw this. I wrote some more text for the travelogues, as I was hearing sheets of rain hitting the building, and some loud thunder. The TV was on the NBC station in Memphis, WMC-TV 5 (cue riverboat whistle), and there were severe thunderstorm watch boxes for much of northwest Mississippi and parts of east Arkansas. Even a TS Warning for Shelby County (Memphis). It was supposed to blow through and clear up by tomorrow. Let's hope.

It was about 1:00 (CST) when I shut everything down and went to sleep.

G'night.

To be continued.............

BY THE NUMBERS:
Dead skunks spotted and/or smelled: 2

Bob Evans restaurants passed: 2
Diet Mountain Dews consumed: 4Number of surnames in Clarksville, Tenn.: 3
Kisses exchanged in front of the "Eiffel Tower": 2
Brutal auto collisions narrowly avoided: 1
Dollars Talmadge lost gambling: 60
Dollars Seraphim lost gambling: 0
Dollars Seraphim gained gambling: 125
Dollars of available credit vanished: 5,900
Poxes wished on HSBC: 5,900

17 March 2009

Roadtrip '09, DAY 6: Travel the Wigwam Way

Tal & Sera's Big 2009 Roadtrip
DAY SIX - Wednesday, 25 February.
Destination: Cave City, Kentucky -- Wigwam Village #2.
Miles traveled: 409.5


Our last morning in the Wild and Wonderful. The plan was to leave by 9:00, and away we went like a herd of turtles at 9:15. Not too bad.

The first stops this morning were our usual spots: the Hawk's Nest overlook outside of Ansted, and then the "old bridge" at New River Gorge, a/k/a "The Grand Canyon of the East", which offers a breathtaking view of the arch bridge. The West Virginia quarter, many of you know, features a view of the New River Gorge bridge, from the vantage point of the old bridge.
Gleck Greetings from West Virginia - 2009!

And the "old route" rejoins the current-day US-19 at the outskirts of Fayetteville, and one tantalizing block from a West Virginia institution, Tudor's Biscuit World. Breakfast time!!

"One of the coolest small towns in America", huh? I looked that up, and it seems to be an honor doled out by a website called Budget Travel.com. I can't judge yay or nay, as I haven't ventured off the main beaten path of Highway 19 into town. Personally, though, Fayetteville meets my standards as a "cool town" for one reason. It has one of THESE:
Rupert (shown parked to the right) pouts outside while his drivers enjoy the good stuff.

Enough said. And breakfast was, shall we say, delightful. Tudor-tastic, baby! If your travels ever bring you through West Virginia, I highly recommend at least one stop at Tudor's. Suspend any 'diet' or 'program' and indulge. God gave us West Virginia, and West Virginians gave us Tudor's Biscuit World. "Start your day the homemade way."

(Where's my check? Just kidding. I think.)

'Till next year (and you KNOW we'll be back)

Full of such Tudor-tastic biscuitude, it was time to hit the road and get ourselves into Kentucky and our wigwam for the night. We had just one more stop to make in West Virginia, and it was the Morton Travel Plaza, just south of Charleston on the West Virginia Turnpike, for some drinks 'n' drainage. Sera got a Starbucks-tastic latte, and I a bottle of DMD.

The pain of seeing West Virginia's welcome sign in the rear view mirror was tempered by what lay ahead. Wigwam Village ... Tunica ... lots of stuff in front of us.

A few miles down I-64 we had to stop for gas, and it being well past noon, a bite of lunch. There was a Pilot at Exit #172, with a Wendy's on-premises. A Wendy's that offered a 10% discount on food if one bought 8 or more gallons of gas. Dude, we're there.

Gas in Kentucky was far cheaper than West Virginia, but a bit steep by Kentucky standards: $1.75/9. I didn't gripe and filled 'er up. And filled us up at Wendy's.

And, tummies full of a Dave-tastic lunch, we then got back on the interstate.

Craptastic highways!

Our path of travel called for us to get on the Blue Grass Parkway west of Lexington, and at Elizabethtown pick up I-65 south for the 45-ish remaining miles into Cave City.

Simple enough, yes, but for a small hurdle: Lexington, Kentucky. That city has the most seriously retarded highway infrastructure I've ever seen, and I live in Savannah, Georgia - so I know my retarded highway layouts. Here's a snapshot of a Google Maps image of Lexington:
If there's a reason for this joke, I have yet to hear it.
Maybe Kentuckians like it. Perhaps they were drunk on Ale-8-One
while planning all this deranged splendor. Or they lacked basic horse sense.

Horse. Lexington. Good gawd on a combo bet, I amuse myself sometimes.


As you can see above, there is no interstate 'spur' route into Lexington, proper. Both interstate highways -- 64 and 75 -- skirt the city at a distance. Now I-95 does pretty much the same thing in Savannah, but at least there's I-16 which puts a freeway-grade road straight into the heart of downtown.

Lexington doesn't have even that, just what appears to be a part-freeway loop (orange lines are the limited-access "freeway" roads, and yellow lines indicate regular surface-level roadways). And that really isn't a complete expressway, either. From where we got off I-64/75 until we were well out of the congested part of Lexington on US-60 toward Blue Grass Parkway, it was non-stop traffic lights, clutter and sprawl that shames Abercorn Street here in Savannah!

There, simply, is no easy and quick route from I-64 and 75 to the Blue Grass Parkway, a direct link to points west, i.e. Elizabethtown, Paducah, Nashville, Memphis, et al.

The only redeeming factor were the horse farms we saw along US-60 west of town. And this castle-like thing my wife spotted from the highway:
It's called the Martin Castle, and supposedly it's incomplete. The story goes, a man who invested in and did well with the coal boom married this woman, and on their honeymoon to Europe she became enamored with castles. Rich hubby set out to build her a replica of one of those castles. Unfortunately, they divorced during its construction, and the castle was never finished. Decades later it sits, unsold. Read more here.

Just before the entrance to Blue Grass Parkway is a Chevron station. It was time for more drinks and drainage. They had Diet Fountain Dew, and - since there wasn't Coke Zero - the missus had to settle for Diet Coke instead.

While in there, I spotted a cooler decked out with the insignia of Kentucky's Soft Drink (or so they say):
Ale-8-One ("A late one", get it?) is a ginger-ale like soda sold only in parts of Kentucky. Sera and I both tried one the last time we were in east Kentucky (our Fall 2006 trip to Pittsburgh), and found it to be a very weak beverage, tasting like watered down Canada Dry. Oh well, to each their own. Kentuckians can keep it. They can sip on one while navigating their mongoloidal highways.

Ice ice, baby.

Once on the "BG Parkway" (which used to be a toll roadway until the construction bonds were paid off and the tolls lifted), we began encountering sights which became commonplace over the next several days we were in this region: heavily damaged trees, broken tops, and beaucoups piles of tree limbs. I'd heard of the terrible ice storm which ravaged parts of Missouri and Arkansas back in January, yet had no idea it extended this far east. Yikes. I feel for those people.

Damn.......

Going back in time, in more ways than one

At Hart County, we crossed into the Central Time Zone, giving us an extra hour. Whoopie. Joy. Rapture.

At Horse Caves we spotted the cheapest gasoline for the entire trip: $1.59/9. At this point, we started scouting out possible candidates for supper. We didn't think Cave City, being small and relatively close to a larger city (Bowling Green), would have much beyond the usual Mickey D's and Krystal suspects. And by now, the last thing either of us wanted was another golldurned hamburger ... nor to have to drive an additional 25 miles into Bowling Green for 'real' food, even if it were to be Bob Evans.

Then we saw the billboard. Cracker Barrel, next exit at Cave City. Hot bediggety damn, talk about hitting the spot dead-on.

It was just before 5:00 p.m. CST when we got off I-65. Yup, there was the Cracker Barrel in all her full Lebanon glory. But behind it was an abandoned location of what used to be a popular regional chain in these parts, Jerry's Restaurant. Love that sign. Love it, I tell you.
If that place were open, that would've been our eating choice. The Gleck Cardinal Rule of Travel Dining goes thus: "Whenever possible, always opt for those eateries - chain, or otherwise - which one cannot get at home."

Although a dead chain, Jerry's has a legacy in the restaurant world: in the late 1960s, they began a spin-off group of 'fast seafood' restaurants which they named ... Long John Silver's.

Golly, such trivia. Just remember who you're dealing with. When it comes to trivia, I'm full of it.

ANYway ... we drove through downtown Cave City toward US-31W (one of several paths of the old Dixie Highway) north of town, where our teepee for the night was waiting. We got there, and let me tell you, it was ever the sight for roadside-sore eyes.

Wigwam Village was a chain of motels started by Frank A. Redford. The first 'village' opened in nearby Horse Caves, on the other route of 31, US-31E. This is Wigwam Village #2. There were a total of 7 in its heyday ... #5 was near Birmingham, Ala. and in operation from 1940 through 1964. It's long gone. Today, only three remain: Cave City, Holbrook, Ariz., and Rialto, Calif.

The big teepee - which used to serve as the restaurant, office and gift shop - was closed, and guests were to check in at the adjacent "normal"-looking house, which served as the innkeepers' residence.

The Wigwam Village was recently sold, and now a family of Indians own the property. How appropriate, right? Well, not really. A motel with an "Indian" (i.e. Native-American) motif was being run by the other "Indians" (i.e. Asian-Americans). Or, as a friend of mine put it, "Casino Indians versus Convenience Store Indians."

The irony of the whole thing had me laughing.

I checked us in, and were given the key to Wigwam number 6.

As we said to one another, as a reminder: "Low expectations." We didn't want to have our hopes up, just in case it turns out to be a nasty place, where we'd have to sleep standing up. Here's hoping.

The idea wasn't to cop a cozy, luxurious Hampton Inn room, but instead to be able to say we spent the night at a genuine roadside original from the early days of automobile travel, the last remaining Wigwam Village east of the Mississippi. I mean, in this economic meltdown, who knows how long this place will stay in business (and, going by the fact that we were the only ones here that week.....). In any event, here was our once-in-a-lifetime chance. We had to do it. And we are.

We drove the little roadway behind the teepees, and parked next to our tent for the night. With fingers crossed, we opened the 'flap'......

Holding the key to our pointy-roofed concrete bunker.

"Hmmmm, this works."

The rooms are amazingly spacious, considering how tiny they look from the outside. Plenty of room for two fullsize beds, with a shower large enough for two consenting adults.

The desk and bedframes all are from day one. All 1937 vintage. It's a very clean and well-kept room. A pleasant surprise. We're happy.

Photo Pow-Wow

While I still had some daylight, I went out to take pictures. I had to get a good shot of the main signage, which dates back to the motel's opening. As I was doing this, I noticed a young boy, maybe 10 or 11-ish, riding a bicycle approaching the backlit (and faded) Coca-Cola sign in the distance. This was the owners' son. He reached down to a power box and threw a switch, turning it on for the night. He then rode over to the base of the main Wigwam sign, and did the same thing.

And with a loud buzz and flicker, her neon came to life! I damn near wet my pants ... it looked beautiful when it all 'warmed up' and cast its roadside siren call, just as it first did 72 years ago.

May God bless the inert noble gas Ne!

Once my wife mopped up all the yellow puddles, we unloaded Rupert and then left to get ourselves some of that goooood Cracker Barrel food. Though not before trying to find another wi-fi location. After a short period of wardriving, we found a spot across from Cracker Barrel, nearby a motel with an unprotected signal (shame on them, heh heh).

Supper, as we'd hoped, was Cracker-tastic. A stop by a convenience store on 31W yielded Sera a Coke Zero, and I a Diet Fountain Dew ... and then it was back to our merry teepee for some television, and a good night's rest.

Our only concern was that we were the only ones here that night. It's a good thing Cave City looked very clean (I love the name -- it even sounds retro!).

Here are a buttload of pictures we took of this place:


And the best part about Wigwam Village?
That's right ... it has a damn ice machine!! (private joke ... just ask if you're curious)

To be continued............

BY THE NUMBERS:
Dead skunks spotted and/or smelled: 2

Bob Evans restaurants passed: 4
Diet Mountain Dews consumed: 5
Number of Ale-8-Ones consumed: NADA!!!!!!!!!
Traffic lights along our route in Lexington, Ky.: 9
Red lights hit in Lexington, Kentucky: 7
Times I cursed Lexington, Kentucky: 7
Times I changed my underwear in Cave City: 4


15 March 2009

Roadtrip '09, DAY 5: Chillin' in the cabin

Tal & Sera's Big 2009 Roadtrip
DAY FIVE - Tuesday, 24 February.
At Rustic Retreats cabins in Mount Nebo, West Virginia.
Miles traveled: 0.0


Today we planned on staying in the cabin and not going anywhere.

Honest.

The problem is, we had plans on our last two West Virginia trips to have a day of hanging out in the cabin, where the car stayed parked.

2007 = didn't happen. We just had to drive around and explore the landscape after a freak late-season snowstorm we experienced.

2008 = We went into Summersville to have a craptastic Pizza Hut lunch buffet, and poke around in the Salvation Army store downtown.

2009 = We did it. Rupert had his well-earned day of rest, and so did we.

At 10:00, I awakened to ... surprise, surprise ... the sounds of Little House on the Prairie. That opening theme means two things: 1) It's a weekday; 2) My wife is not working, and is instead in front of a television within earshot of my person.

Breakfast - such as it was - consisted of a couple of Pop Tarts, and as Sera watched the first of two LHOTP eps, I pulled out the laptop and got to work on putting together the March update for a website I run on the side, and then upload at a point when I find a good wi-fi connection (read: anywhere but here!). I resized the scanned adverts and arranged them into my various templates (1949, 1959, 1969 and 1979). I wanted to get those finished so I wouldn't have to worry about doing those after we got back home, and committing "Pookatude" - the uber-cardinal sin of being more than 24 hours late with getting the update online. Long story. "Mr. Pooka" is a big pest, and we'll leave it at that.

My awesome wife had chicken & rice ready just in time for finishing up the project. I had that while Sera had her Bob Evans leftovers from last night.

When I finished up that chickeneyrice-tastic lunch, I took a short nap. And my wife had the camera ready.

The massive amounts of caffeine in Diet Mountain Dew are no match for Talmadge.

After Sera finished watching the afternoon batch of Little House (ohhhh what a shock), it was her turn; she went into the bedroom for a nap. While she did just that, I went outside to do a little bit of walking.

First, though, was some unfinished business. Last year, we had pictures taken of us outside. One was of the two of us, and another was of each of us individually. What I've wanted to do since going on Weight Watchers last May is take another picture from the same vantage point. The trouble was, Sera was already into her nap, and it was going to be dark before too much longer. Solution? Use the timer on the camera. That's what we did for the picture of both of us. Since there was too much snow on the rock where I sat last year, I winged it.

And here ya go. I'm even wearing the same sweatshirt, too:
What a difference 60 pounds makes.

It's profoundly disturbing, that's for damn sure. That left picture, much as I wish it to be, is not a sideways distorted image. Good gawd on a snowy mountaintop, was I ever that big? Apparently so.

That picture now out of the way, I went on my walk, where I drank, gulped, and otherwise chug-a-lugged my surroundings, hyperventilating and trying to cram 51 weeks of West Virginia beauty into the space of 51 minutes.

Looking down from the road toward our cabin, and Rupert.

A few scenes of nature from our sweet and peaceful hollow.

I would not have traded the time with our friends eastward for anything. Still, it was now I wished we could stay here for a few more days and just sacrifice the rest of our vacation plans. Two days is not long enough here. I already miss it, and we haven't left yet!

I love West Virginia, and while we still have lots of fun yet to come, I'm going to be very sad to leave the state. That woman at the shop in Helvetia is right — West Virginia has such a richness in spirit. I feel it in abundance. I am soberly in love with this place. And I so want to retire here someday.


Sera woke up about 7:30, and got started on supper. And it was steak-tastic ... she cooked us some New York strips, with a baked potato and corn on the cob. Then it was a soak in the hot tub for dessert (insert Eddie Murphy as James Brown here), and then we called it a day at about midnight. Tomorrow is a long day of driving. Rupert is rested up, so too we should.

To be continued.........

BY THE NUMBERS
:

Dead skunks spotted and/or smelled: 0
Bob Evans restaurants passed: 0 (we didn't go anywhere, remember?)
Diet Mountain Dews consumed: 3
Minutes spent taking a walk: 51
Minutes spent in the hot tub: 45
Time spent on website updates: 162