Wow, it's really taken me a long time to finish this blog. Especially considering that I started it in May. Anyhoo, here's the story of our cross-country journey back to the land of sushi, recycling, and bloatedly expensive real estate.
Once again, Ben and I have embarked upon a wondrous journey. During the month of May, we graduated from law school, packed up our household, and drove across the country, eventually ending up in Portland, Oregon. We’ve spent the summer preparing for the Bar exam, and now, well, we’ll see. Anyhoo, here’s the story.
We graduated on May 3rd, and for once, we actually attended our graduation ceremony. It involved shaking hands with Senator Lugar. Exciting! We also got to wear really swank robes with awesome hoods. In fact, we got to get hooded on stage in what my friend Melissa called an (unholy) pagan Druidic ceremony. It was fabulous. Also, I wore really awesome shoes. Afterwards, Ben’s folks and grandparents and MY parents and sister all trouped back to our very tiny house for a barbeque. It was a sufficiently successful affair. And the next day, Ben and I had lots of free labor to help us get a jumpstart on packing up the house!
After much debate, we ended up getting a Pod. It was more expensive than just getting a moving truck, but makes a lot more sense, since we still aren’t sure where we’ll end up moving. Plus, we procrastinated between getting a quote and actually ordering it, which prompted the Pod People to call us and offer a substantial discount. Woo hoo! So in the end, a strapping young fellow named Todd delivered our Pod, to my great delight (“When can we expect Todd with the Pod?” or “Hey, here’s Todd with the Pod!” or “Could you please ask Todd with the Pod not to drive on the sod?”).
Packing stuff in to the Pod was less fun. Over three years, we’ve accumulated lots and lots of things, things that wanted desperately to drag us down in to a pit of despair. I really, really wanted to drag a bunch of those things out into the yard and buuuuurn them all down…mwa ha ha ha!! But, Ben steadfastedly kept packing and masterfully tying things into place in the Pod, and eventually, we had almost everything in place. (Note that I say “almost” – and getting that last 5% of stuff packed takes forever.)
Once we had all the stuff cleared out of the bedroom and Ben’s office, we were able to start painting them. And miracles of miracles, our friend Brandi came over to help us and managed to paint the walls in both rooms in like 3 hours. She was a painting machine. After the bar, Brandi will be moving to Washington D.C. to work in an awesome, prestigious job for the Department of Homeland Security, and, you know, it’s not everyone who can have a member of the Federal Government come over and paint their house for them. These are the kind of connections that only law school can forge for a person.
Brandi’s awesomeness was further exemplified by the fact that she let Ben, Pix E, and me move into her spare bedroom for the last days before we left, since we no longer had any furniture in our house. She also totally cooked fancy gourmet turkey burgers for us with fancy pear chutney sauce – they were delicious! We played Scrabble and watched the Lion King, which was fun and relaxing after packing. We also spent a glorious procrastination day rowing around on Griffy Lake in a tiny row boat which was technically not quite large enough for my butt. Also, when I say that “we” rowed, I secretly mean that Ben rowed while Brandi and I lounged luxuriously in the freezing cold wind. It was awesome.
However, Brandi’s greatest gift to us was convincing me to abandon some of our extra stuff before we set off across the country. I had gathered together all of our candles into a big box so that they could ride in the cab with us to avoid melting. But because we were short on space, we were abandoning some furniture and other sundries. Brandi pointed out to me that perhaps my priorities were askew – I was packing a snake, a rat, and a bunch of candles into the cab of the truck but was leaving things like bookshelves and clothes behind. I eventually saw the error of my ways and parted ways with the candles – though the rat AND the snake came along with us (Ben insisted).
Finally, we had everything arranged, the house was empty, and we signed the final papers. It was time to hit the road! You loyal readers may recall from my prior blogging that last time we drove across the country, we went via the boring, middle-of-the-country route through the immense corn wastes of America. This time, we decided to have more fun, or at least get some kicks, on Route 66! We were especially excited to see the Grand Canyon and to stay in Las Vegas for a few days. Woo hoo!
Day One: Our drop dead date for getting out of town was May 19th, and we technically made the deadline. And by technically, I mean that we literally drove out of our driveway and down our road at 11:59 PM. Our plan was to drive all night and trade off to get sleep. However, after about 2 ½ hours, I was exhausted and Ben was asleep. (To stay awake while driving, I played over and over the soundtrack from Juno. Ben developed a violent hatred of it – he claims he still has nightmares of teenagers muttering to twangy guitar music.) We pulled over in a little town called Effingham, IL, and found a Holiday Inn.
Day Two: We set out again the next morning refreshed and ready to go! We had a small errand to run at the post office, and finding the Effingham post office turned out to be quite the time-waster. After accidentally touring Effingham’s fading railroad depots, we arrived at the post office, where I received very friendly service from a man wearing rainbow suspenders who called me “darling.” (Ah, Midwestern charm) We were able to drop off our mail and then we decided to get the Effingham out of there. On our way out of Illinois, Ben spotted a sign for the Cahokia Mounds, which he remembered from undergrad archeology classes (how does he recall these things??) and so we decided to stop to see them. The Cahokia Mounds are the largest earth structures in North America and were built by the Mississippians, who are no longer around. What happened to them is apparently something of a mystery. Anyway, the mounds are enormous, and one can only imagine what it would have taken to move that much dirt without a handy backhoe or steam shovel.
If you are interested, here’s the official Web site: http://www.cahokiamounds.com/cahokia.html. We wanted to visit the impressive visitor’s center, but it was closed for the week for renovations. So instead, Ben, Pix, and I climbed up to the top to get a better view. From here, we were able to determine that yes, St. Louis is in fact the city with the arch.
We then crossed into Missouri via St. Louis. We drove past the arch, but we weren’t quite ready to battle the massive traffic impaction to find a parking space, so we just took some pictures from the car.
However, we did finally succumb to the urge for sandwiches and so had lunch at a place next to a grocery store called “Shnucks,” which I thought was so funny that I took a picture.
One thing I will note about St. Louis, though, is that you can actually see this thing called urban decay that folks are always taking about. It was pretty creepy to see whole blocks of buildings abandoned, just a mile or so from the city center. We decided to hightail it out of town.
While continuing to cross Missouri, we came to a stretch of highway where we saw a succession of signs that went something like this: “Come pan for gold in the Meramec Caverns!” “Meramec Caverns – Hideout of Jesse James and his gang!” “It’s always a cool 68 degrees in Meramec Caverns!” “Come have some of Auntie’s Famous Fudge at Meramec Caverns!” “Ice Cream and Souvenirs at Meramec Caverns,” etc, etc. Ad nauseum. I swear, there must have been literally fifty signs. And, as Ben put it, who were we to resist? We pulled off onto a surprisingly long and gravelly road and followed it quite a ways to what is apparently a quite impressive system of caves. However, we wouldn’t know for sure, because when we peeked in the entrance, we saw that the cave was paved with a fancy tile floor and there were neon signs illuminating exciting features. Also, it was $17 a head to get in. It all seemed a little too touristy and cheeseworthy, so we decided to get back on the freeway. Here’s the Web site, if you’re interested: http://www.americascave.com/history.php. We did see a creepy reptile farm along the way. (Pay $5 and see reptiles!) I was really tempted to stop in and see if they wanted a new ball python, but Ben refused to stop. Soon we were back on Route 66.
One more note about Missouri: there were a lot of adult entertainment establishments along the freeway – I mean a LOT. (Almost as many as there were signs for the Meramec Caverns.) I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of Missouri as the sort of place to shun those sort of activities as, you know, sinful or something. Anyway, I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt and am assuming that maybe it’s just along the interstate and that Missouri isn’t really filled with crazed sex addicts.
Finally, we passed into Oklahoma. The highways there were all toll-based because of all the out-of-state trucks that drive through, so the intersections were really weird. Basically, whenever you pulled over, you had to pay a toll based on how long you’d driven since the last toll booth, but sometimes you didn’t have to pay anything and just got a stamp on your ticket. We never quite figured out the system though we only really pulled over once, in Sapulpa, OK, to gas up. Sapulpa is the beating heart of route 66, according to the one lone sign in town. The only other thing in Sapulpa of note was a gas station called (and I am not making this up) the Kum and Go, prompting me to wonder whether the Internet has, in fact, made it out to Oklahoma. I really should have taken a photo of the gas station, but I was too dazed to think of it. Anyway, we finally got to Weatherford, OK and stayed the night in a horrible little hotel called the Scottish Inn.
Day Three: We ate breakfast in a tiny diner, where I got a real honest-to-goodness Route 66 milkshake. It was ridiculously delicious. Also, breakfast for the two of us cost around $6 total. Awesome!
Our goal was to reach Flagstaff, AZ by the end of the day, so we had to get moving. We hightailed it out of Oklahoma, passing by the largest cross in North America on the way.
(Actually, I’m not entirely sure where this was on our route.) We soon passed into northern Texas. Alas, it was my turn to drive, and thus, right as we passed over the border, I murdered a large pigeon. (Some of you may have heard of my horrible propensity to kill birds while driving. I swear it’s not intentional! It all started when this duck flew out of a bush and slammed itself into my car…but that’s another story. Anyway, to my horror, and Ben’s great amusement, another bird perished at my hands, or windshield, that day.)
Now, the great thing about northern Texas is that it’s flat and the roads are wide and straight, so you can drive through it at about 95 mph. It’s really, really fun. Ben was asleep for most of the trip and so didn’t see the speedometer, which was a good thing. During this time, the whole polygamy/FLDS raid was going on, so I kept my eyes peeled for any people in long dresses, funny hats, etc. but we didn’t see any. Ah well. We did, however, stop at the largest saddle store in the universe! (Ben says this was in Amarillo, TX) They had zillions of saddles, all western of course. I got a stuffed armadillo for my sister, the smallest and most tasteful belt buckle in all of Texas for my father (the size of my palm) and a pair of jingly pink studded spurs for my mom. The grizzled cowboy-type man who rung me up clearly thought that I was a tourist of the highest caliber, so I tried to subtly comment in how my mother needed the spurs for her new 3-year-old gelding, but I don’t think it worked. Ah well.
After noon, we crossed into New Mexico. Here, the driving got a little more difficult because, as the road sign stated, “Gusty winds may exist.” (After spending days and days cooped up in the car, we thought that was hilarious.) Unfortunately, the winds really DID exist, so our progress was slower than expected. We finally stopped for dinner in Albuquerque at a really cool tiny Mexican food restaurant with excellent guacamole. I bought a table runner as a souvenir at a touristy store. (It turned out to have been made in India.) Eventually, we made it into Arizona and stopped at Flagstaff at like 1:30 AM. (Unfortunately, we drove through a large part of Arizona in the dark. It’s supposed to be really beautiful, though. I guess we’ll have to catch it next time.)
Day Four: Grand Canyon Day! We blasted out of Flagstaff and drove north to the Grand Canyon. Now, I foolishly figured that it would be really hot at the Grand Canyon, especially since the news had said that the southwest had been in the grips of a huge heat wave. What I hadn’t figured on was that the Grand Canyon is at a really high elevation (around 8000 ft, I think). It actually started raining on our way there. We lucked out, though, because it cleared up when we got there, but it was still cold. So it was under a grim and fretful sky that we approached the grandest canyon EVER.
To complete the weird weather phenomenon, on our way back to civilization, it started hailing and then snowing. It stopped just as we decided to stop at a tiny diner for lunch, and it abruptly heated up, causing the streets to fill with steam – a very strange and ominous effect!
The diner had red vinyl booths and the largest collection of route 66 memorabilia ever, which I perused for more souvenirs while Ben waited patiently for lunch. I also got another milkshake – totally awesome.
We left and made our way to Las Vegas after driving through the Hoover Dam, which is not that interesting. I mean, I know it’s an amazing work of engineering, but somehow, I can’t get that excited about it. Anyway, here are pictures.
One interesting aspect of the Hoover Dam was that before we could drive across it, our car was searched by the Feds. The back of the truck was packed electronics and computer stuff and large mysterious boxes packed with wires, etc., and since I figured that I looked less suspicious than Ben (you know, the goatee and all), I hopped out to open it up for the inspector. He eyeballed all the equipment, prodded some of the boxes, and said, in a concerned voice, “Hey, what’s all this stuff?” So I mustered up the most innocent smile I could and told him that it was my husband’s computer stuff – his keyboard or motherboard or something. Some sort of board, at any rate! (giggle) And would you believe it? They let us through without a search. Apparently, ignorance as to your car’s contents is the way to go!
Finally, we arrived in Las Vegas, where we checked into the Westin hotel, mainly because it took dogs. Luckily, it was right off the strip, so we were in easy reach of everything. I had never been to Las Vegas before, and despite the fact that it sounds like exactly the sort of place that I would hate, it was really fun. It really is just like a huge amusement park, and it was neat just to walk around the strip at night and see all the lights and action. That night, we went sightseeing at the MGM hotel and casino and saw one of the official MGM lions. We also had some very so-so Chinese food in the New York, NY casino before collapsing in bed.
Day Five: We only planned on staying in Las Vegas for two nights, so we decided to pack in as much fun as possible. So early that morning, we set off to find the Gun Store. The Gun Store is an off-the-strip establishment, but still, I highly recommend it as a very educational experience. For example, upon seeing and, more importantly, hearing, them fire an AK-47, I learned that I was not interested in shooting such a weapon. Ben, however, was, and he got to go in with an instructor and shoot several fully automatic rifles while I took pictures.
He had a choice of targets, which included pictures of Osama bin Laden and various other generic terrorists, but he went with the less creepy bull’s eye model. The funniest aspect of the whole experience was that as I was taking these pictures, l looked down the hallway and realized that the whole shooting gallery was filled with guys getting to shoot guns under the auspices of their instructors and wives/girlfriends taking pictures, sort of like moms taking pictures of their kids going for pony rides at the fair. (But of course, it goes without saying that my husband was the best shot.)
Later that day, we saw the Bodies Exhibit at the Tropicana Hotel, which was incredible. It was made up of preserved human bodies, carefully dissected to show all the various parts, which I realize sounds horrible, but was really, really amazing. There are exhibitions of the collection all over the place – if you ever get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. We also saw the Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, which was so-so. Then again, Monterey Bay may have spoiled us for all other aquariums.
But the best part of the day was later that evening, when we saw the Tournament of Kings show at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. It had knights and jousting and a really beautiful horse (ridden by the evil knight – the prince had to ride a fat grey gelding. Lame!). Each section of the audience was a different “country” (we were Russia) and was represented by a different knight. Dinner was roast chicken and breads and was served without utensils, so we ate with our fingers and cheered lustily for our knight. There were lots of leaping and sword clashing and some special effects. The whole show was really neat, and I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with the sword-fighting and javelin throwing from horseback. Afterwards, we toured the strip and went to the M&M store, where we saw the largest collection of M&M crap available in the world. Finally, we went gambling and lost some money, but on the plus side, I got to wear my slinky black dress and awesome shoes.
Day Six: We left Las Vegas in the morning and started the last leg of our epic journey through the waste lands of Nevada, finally parting ways with Route 66, which continues all the way to L.A. All I can say is that Nevada is surprisingly large and empty. And dry. We actually passed through real ghost towns! We saw abandoned mines! We were also forced to pay outrageous gas prices. Ben bought some truly heinous beef jerky from a teeny little store (think closet-size).
The only significant town we came across was Hawthorne, NV, home of the Hawthorne Naval Base (http://www.nevadaweb.com/cnt/pio/hawth/
). Now, clearly something is afoot in Hawthorne, and I don’t just say this because it suddenly appears out of nowhere in the middle of the desert with its own McDonalds and everything. As we drove into town, there were about a gazillion weird bunkers dug into the ground covered with large dirt mounds. Also, the Hawthorne Navel Base is, I can’t help but notice, a naval base located in a place where there IS NO WATER (all right, except for nearby Walker Lake). Other suspicious evidence was that there were brightly colored windmills constructed out of old bomb shells. (I’m not kidding.) So I’m thinking, what, maybe dead alien storage facility? I really wish we’d gotten some pictures, but our little troupe was pooped by then and in no mood for investigative journalism.
Finally, we passed through Reno (boring!) and over the Sierras (exciting, but it was too misty to see anything), arriving late at Ben’s grandparents’ house in Lincoln, CA.
Day Seven: We left Lincoln and made our way north on I-5 to my folks’ house in Applegate. This was basically the end of the official trip, but we only stayed for about a day and a half before blasting up to Portland, OR, where we lived in the horrible Tigard Regency Inn for about 5 days. After some desperate apartment hunting, we found a place in Tualatin (about 15 min south of Portland) and got settled. Hurray!
More Recent News:
We spent June and July studying like crazy for the Bar exam, which we then took on July 29th and 30th. All I can say about the bar is that I hope like hell that I don’t have to take it again, because it blew chunks. Also, I got thoroughly sick on the second day with a fever and all, which I really, really hope wasn’t psychosomatic. Afterwards, Ben and I hopped on a plane down to the Bay Area to see our good friend Teresa get married! (She was so super gorgeous!) At the reception, Ben convinced the slightly intoxicated group at our table to stand up and sing Old Man River for Dane (Teresa’s husband), since he, Dane, apparently sang it at OUR wedding two years ago. I have no memory of this, nor does anyone else I ask, but Ben has apparently nursed a grudge ever since. It was mostly successful, although I think Dane may have been confused. We also got to spend a few days snugging our new niece, Elizabeth!