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Roadtrip! From Colorado to North Carolina and back with a 13-year old

Roadtrip! From Colorado to North Carolina and back with a 13-year old

Old Jul 25th, 2010, 07:55 AM
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Roadtrip! From Colorado to North Carolina and back with a 13-year old

[I duplicated part one in another post, but I'll keep everything on this post from now on. Sorry for the brain burp.]

Part One:

My 13-year old DD and I are off on an Excellent Adventure Roadtrip (akak EAR). We're driving from our home in Colorado to Topsail Beach, North Carolina and back (via two different routes).

While we've just arrived in Topsail, I wanted to post my quasi-trip report from my blog (http://seasweetie.wordpress.com) in order, for those who might be interested in following along.

Here's our first installment, which is really highligts. Several others to follow. Enjoy!

Day One – Boulder, Colorado to Topeka, Kansas

- The Tower Museum in Genoa, Colorado – weird, cool, amazing, bizarre, and only $1!! Don’t let the Psycho-esque dummies in the upper windows scare you off. Jerry the owner is a total hoot and loves to have people stop in. The 13 rooms in this place are packed – literally with anything you can think of. In fact, I believe one of their mottos is, “If it’s not here, it doesn’t exist.” AND you can see 6 states from the top of the tower. You can’t tell where they are or which states you’re seeing, but still….6 STATES!

In Goodland, Kansas, we stopped at the World’s Largest Easel!

I’ve never had such a good time driving through Kansas – it was beautiful! We admired the corn – corn literally as far as the eye could see. Friendly truckers. Lots of churches. The largest windfarm we’ve ever seen. Lots and lots of roadkill.

Arriving in Topeka absolutely exhausted, we discovered that the Topeka Curse was still upon me. There was not a hotel room to be had in Topeka – among other parties filling the beds was a Missionary Conference. I wished we could have stayed for the fashion show the next day – I’m sure it was something.

So we drove an additional half-hour to Lawrence and spent a night at the Holiday Inn. At least we were an extra half hour farther along the next day. The people at the Holiday Inn in Topeka and the Holiday Inn in Lawrence were all exceptionally nice.

Day Two: Lawrence, Kansas to Branson, Missouri (Yes, Branson)

We enjoyed the rolling green hills of Missouri, and were disappointed that we didn’t get to see any Amish people after all the “Share The Road” signs. We pulled into Branson after about 4 hours of driving – not bad compared to our 11 hours the day before.

The Baymont Inn and Suites was off the Strip, which was fine with us. We drove in and visited the Titanic Museum which was a very powerful experience, then tried to find dinner, but apparently there’s only one place left to eat on a Sunday in Branson after 7:30. But eat we did – a good steak, with the music and long wait being made tolerable by two margaritas and two Dr. Peppers. Kelsea was fascinated by the obesity problem. Branson is a bizarre quasi-Las Vegas, Southern Style.

Today – Branson, Missouri to Nashville, Tennessee

Another long driving day – Kelsea slept for part of it. We visited the World’s Smallest Cathedral (which is for sale). We tried to visit the Fire (and Soda Bottle) Museum in Willow Springs, but it was closed, so we wandered around outside looking at the classic fire trucks. The fire chief, who looks a little like an old surfer-hippie, happened to drive up and told us that the museum was now just the fire house, but he invited us in and gave Kelsea some ideas about how to accelerate her EMT training, which was very helpful.

We relaunched onto the highway going back the way we came, instead of forward, so I drove over the grassy median to get headed in the right direction. Hey, sometimes it just has to be done. And toodling along, we saw……AMISH PEOPLE!! I was so excited. I know they’re not a tourist attraction, but still!!

We stopped at Lambert’s Restaurant, home of the Throwed Rolls, for lunch and ate our bodyweight in catfish and chicken. Kelsea caught a roll and the roll-tosser was a cute teenage boy, so she was way happy.

We crossed the Mississippi and the Ohio River and headed into Kentucky. Kentucky makes me smile. It feels like home. It’s lush and green and gentle, and we spent too little time there before we crossed the Tennessee border.

They drive really fast in Tennessee. Really fast. But not as fast as Montana.

We have been laughing and laughing. We’ve been listening to our iPods, trading off on whose iPod day it is. Kelsea has been our scribe – when we see something particularly entertaining, she makes note of it in our notebook. I’ll pull from that for more writing once we get to the beach.

Tomorrow it’s Nashville to Asheville, where we’ll spend two nights. It’ll be nice to have a short driving day, and two nights in the same place.
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 07:58 AM
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Part Two:

We have spent the last night and day (and now night) in Asheville, North Carolina.

Our trip from Nashville to here was great. We took one intentional detour to see the statue of the Giant Pink Elephant in A Bikini (with Sunglasses) – totally worthwhile.

And one accidental detour in Knoxville, in our quest for the World’s Largest Rubik’s Cube, which we couldn’t find. I suspect it was hidden in a Holiday Inn. As we were trying to find our way back onto the highway, we instead found ourselves in the pouring rain under the highway next to the Rescue Mission/Soup Kitchen. Locked the doors and felt glad to have our trusty companion, “Jimmy” close to hand.

Daniel, our GPS, kept wanting us to get back on the interstate, while I had decided to take Hwy. 441 South. We finally had to shut Daniel off. He can be very helpful, but he can be very stubborn when he has his little GPS brain set on a particular route.

Hwy. 441 South took us through Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood. No, we didn’t stop there, but we did stop at the Hillbilly Village and picked up several politically incorrect items and took a gander at their collection of old stills that were in the backyard.

Pigeon Forge is like a more Southern version of Branson, but with fewer shows and more mini-golf courses and rides that turn you upside-down until you projectile vomit onto passersby on the sidewalks below.

Gatlinburg came on the heels of Pigeon Forge – again, lots of age-appropriate amusements and shopping, but much smaller and more intimate than the previous town. It reminded me a little of Estes Park, Colorado, with a twang. Immediately after Gatlinburg, we entered into the Great Smokey Mountains. I’d never been there. My gods, how magical this place is.

Primeval forests, mist-licked valleys, hills and mountains in descending shades of blues and deepening shades of greens. It was Kelsea’s iPod day and so we played the music to “Oblivion” repeatedly, as it matched the mood of the trees, moss, randoming river and hints of sunlight.

As we drove out of the hills, there was a huge stag grazing near the side of the road. And Kelsea saw her first turkey taking a ramble along the edge of a clearing.

We suddenly emerged into Cherokee, which is actually the Cherokee Indian Reservation. The first things we saw was a portly Cherokee gentleman in full yellow-and-red feathered regalia, chatting with someone at a car window.

While the Reservation has lots and lots of Christian churches and one casino, which is currently expanding, it also has the giant Indian Man Statue and street signs that are all written in both English and the native Cherokee language. The street signs were, I think, the most respectful and only acknowledgement of the native culture.

It would be best to forget the signs for Santa’s Playland (or something like that) featuring an inebriated-looking Mr. Claus with a scary twinkle/scar on one eye; the Playland itself, as seen from the roadside, hosted a forlorn-looking albino reindeer and a few other animals that, quite frankly, looked like nothing on earth.

Back down from the hills, we saw many classic signs and closed stores that were photo-worthy, but we needed to get to the next place and it was too dangerous to continually veer off the busy mountain road to try to take pictures. We may swing back in that direction tomorrow – there was a junkyard with a full suit of armor outside that we feel the need to check out. And I know we can get on the Blue Ridge Parkway from there.

Our hotel, the Brookstone Lodge, is new, just fine, convenient to I-40, to Biltmore, and to downtown Asheville. We had a delightful dinner at the Mellow Mushroom, where they had San Pellegrino by the bottle (!!!!!!!!).

This morning, on heading to the car, we discovered we had a hitchhiker – an orange and tan moth that was about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide that looked like nothing we’d ever seen before. He stuck with us as we drove to Biltmore – I even asked one of the security guards who was standing by my car door if he knew what it was. He took a big step back and said he’d never seen anything like it. Honestly, it looked like it was eating the car. To make peace with it, I named him Norman.

The Biltmore Estate is as beautiful as ever. We spent almost 6 hours there, between the house and the gardens. There are many more rooms open to the public since my last visit 30-some years ago, but there are also many, many, many more people. The experience was slightly soiled by having to inch through the house in a huge line, but we still loved it.

The gardens and conservatory were stunning.

I don’t think I’d ever been here in summer, only at Easter and in the Fall. Kelsea’s still-persistent cough was making her feel a little puny, so we skipped the Bass Pond, but we really did get the full Biltmore experience. Norman had taken refuge under our parked truck, and I made sure not to run him over as we left. The road out led us past a mile of corn edged by sunflowers.

We dined in Asheville at Jack of the Wood, a Celtic pub that served an amazing grilled salmon with mustard sauce, and what Kelsea deemed the best french fries she’d ever eaten. Tomorrow, it’s off to Durham, my old hometown, via the Blue Ridge Parkway, for two days of reminiscing, and then onto the beach.
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 08:40 AM
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Great trip report . . keep it comming!!

I could not get the link to your blog to work
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 12:22 PM
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Let me re-try my blog link: http://seasweetie.wordpress.com

It's got pictures!
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 01:48 PM
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What a fun trip report! Sounds like you made extensive use of Roadside America in your planning.

Lee Ann
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 01:53 PM
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Loving your report. Especially love your stops
Giant Pink Elephant in A Bikini (with Sunglasses)
That had to be a hoot!
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 06:26 PM
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Enjoying your report! How fun to travel with DD!
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 08:23 PM
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ElendilPickle - Yes, Roadside American is a fun planning assistant!

Starrs - the Giant Pink Elephant is especially special when you hear your GPS say it in the British accent mode - we played it over and over.

Kansasmom - Glad you're enjoying the report - we really enjoyed your state.
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 09:27 PM
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Enjoyed your report. Especially loved all your stops. fun!!
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 06:27 AM
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Part Three:

We moved from Asheville to Durham yesterday via the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me, going back to Durham, as I hadn’t been here since my Mother’s funeral. And I haven’t been on the Blue Ridge Parkway since my childhood, which is a rollercoaster road itself.

So I was weepy, full of self-doubt, feeling all ages, having that sense of tiredness of spirit that has been so familiar off and on since the loss of my parents, my best friend, my marriage. Feeling like I have everything ahead of me, and like I am not the same person I was two years ago, feeling like I’ve lost my confidence in my self, like I apologize for living, like I take responsibility for everything, regardless of whether or not its my fault. And my not-so-little girl held my hand and just quietly let me feel what I needed to feel.

We stopped at a couple of beautiful scenic overlooks – at one, there were so many butterflies that they simply flew into our faces. In fact, the Blue Ridge Parkway has very little roadkill, except for the suicidal butterflies. We took a quick hike up to Linville Falls.

Kelsea had the rare opportunity stand in a tree and sit on a tree on the same hike.

Otherwise, our trip through the mountains to the Piedmont was uneventful, with the exception of the car in front of us running off the road onto the grassy median doing 75 mph – I was sure he was going to flip, as he was fishtailing and spitting dirt, but he regained control and stopped.

Arriving at the King’s Daughter’s Inn in Durham was a dream come true for me.

I’d always wanted to live there when I retired (it used to be
a home for little old ladies). The innkeepers have turned it into a lovely retreat, and have made a point of keeping a lot of the original character of the house. The solarium is a soothing haven of green.

The kitchen is separated from the breakfast room by heavy green velvet poitiers, and the bathroom door had a lock on it like the one in my bathroom growing up. And funny thing, I discovered I could still lock myself in and have great difficulty getting out. I almost had to call Kelsea on her cell phone to come open the bathroom door.

We walked around East Campus at Duke University last night, and I told her tales of growing up there; we sat on one of the fraternity benches watching some ultimate players until the biting flies drove us half mad.

We took a sunset drive downtown for more tale-telling about my restaurant days, and headed back to the Inn to snuggle up in our cushy bed.

This morning after breakfast, we said goodbye to the King’s Daughters Inn and her stressed-out owners, who were preparing for a house full of wedding party guests. With a day to devote to Durham, we started out by finding the house I lived in the summer before I moved to Colorado – a very faded blue two-story on Lynch Street that we who lived there named the “L.O.P.S.I.D.E.D. P.E.N.G.U.I.N.”. I can’t remember what it stood for, but I’m sure it’s buried in a journal from those days.

We then circled around Northgate (I described the luxurious experience of buying shoes in the early 1960s in great detail), and parked by the house I grew up in. I was only a little weepy looking around the backyard and the front yard. Kelsea was amazed at how much I could tell her about our neighbors from 40 years ago.

We went by my old friend Harriet’s house at 6 Sylvan Place, and I told her about what that great friendship was like. We then headed onto West Campus and spent some time in Duke Chapel, meditating, remembering. I left a single tear behind.

Our next stop was the Divinity School Library and where we said hello to the librarian who took my Dad’s place, and wandered around the stacks looking at old books that my Dad acquired during his almost-50 years there. So much had changed, but a few things were still the same, and that made me feel loved.

And there’s still a fainting couch in the downstairs ladies restroom.

We walked down to the Biology building to say hello to the petrified wood. The big green hill that was perfect for rolling down, and the huge willow tree are gone, replaced by a building (as were some streets that I used to drive through). But there is the delightful addition of the Man and Camel Statue.

Having restocked on sweatshirts and water in the Student Union, we drove off for a tour of my lower/middle school campus at Durham Academy, which was also remarkably unchanged, a drive-by of my friend Martha’s house in Hope Valley, and then back to my old High School campus. Kelsea was delighted by the tale of Mrs. Schuster driving the school van through the wall of the gymnasium.

We felt a bit out of place checking into the Washington Duke – we’re much more like the doorman than the other guests. But we’ll survive the interesting combination of posh and preppie. Starving, we went on a foodquest.

Ninth Street in Durham has been revitalized since I was little, and is now a happening street full of shops and restaurants – we had dinner at Dain’s Diner, which was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”‘s Durham episode, then bought a couple of presents at my favorite store ever, Vaguely Reminiscent, and the ever-popular Regulator Bookstore.

We are now embedded in the Washington Duke again – and by the way, the beds are made up as tight as straightjackets. Kelsea had to unmake hers prior to getting in.

Tomorrow, we end Cycle 1 of the EAR by finally making it to Topsail – 10 days in the Beach House will be bliss before we hit the road again. We have alternated between never wanting our EAR to end and being ready to stop driving for a little while.

The past two days have left me contemplative. You can’t go home again, but then again, the part of you that called a place home can discover that it has never truly left, and that the place has not truly changed. It’s amazing how many memories are stored in your head, how many emotions. As I have said before, I believe that in your spirit, you are still every age you have ever been. Today, the touch of a window latch, the sight of a cardinal in flight, the cool of the trees enveloping us as we drove the old route to school, just confirmed it.

For pictures, see http://seasweetie.wordpress.com
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