Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 6: Getting our Kicks on Route 66

If you haven't seen my newly posted video, don't miss it!

And now, onto today's highlights of our move from Washington, DC to Monterey, CA.

From Elk City, Oklahoma to Albuquerque, New Mexico today.

Have you ever been a brand new Wal-Mart, like one day old? That was me this morning in Elk City’s sparkling new Jumbo Wal-Mart. The entryway alone was bigger than our last house!

Through the Oklahoma panhandle… “Nothing but horizon ahead,” Eric observed. Yeah, pretty much. Enter Texas. Pretty much the same.

Although there were a few points of interest along the way:

The one place that came up in travel-related conversation at least as often as the Grand Canyon was a restaurant in Amarillo, TX. So naturally we stopped there for lunch today. I’m grateful to say that Eric did not attempt the one-hour 72 oz. steak meal challenge! (You have to eat the entire meal in 60 minutes or less if you want it for free.) That’s what this place is famous for, but after all he is our designated driver for another 1,000 miles or so.

“The Big Texan” – atmosphere is big there – and so is the food and the taxidermy that watches you eat. The music was fun – “Amarillo by Morning,” “Happy Trails,” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” floating through the air during our meal... but then came the real treat – a tall, friendly cowboy came to our table with his guitar and sang to us “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Home, Home on the Range,” and “Buffalo Gals”! It was great entertainment and before long our 5-year old was swinging his cowboy hat around, yelling “YEE-haw!!!” To my knowledge this was his first experience like this, and was sure fun to watch him enjoy it like that.

So I guess we were all so enthralled with our cowboy serenade experience that we forgot to see how we were doing on gas before hopping back on the road. (Luckily this story has a good ending, although for a few miles we weren’t really sure how soon or if it would.)

The terrain began to change again and we entered New Mexico. (We also gained another hour – 2nd time in a week and I could really get used to this as a frequent occurrence!)

About this point, Eric realized how near we were to empty, so we plugged in the GPS to search for the nearest gas station and breathed a cautious sigh of relief that it was within 19 miles. That is, until we realized it was 19 miles behind us. The next one ahead of us that our GPS recognized was 34 miles away. Oh dear. Time to pray! After a few more miles we spotted a hand painted sign for an old Route 66 gas station 1 mile ahead. (Please let it still be open and not closed down twelve years ago!!!) As you’ll see in these pictures it was open and as old school of a gas pump as ever, prepay and all, but boy were we thankful it was there!

At another rest stop:

Unfortunately, we were fresh out of room in the car for steer horn souvenirs. But you can get them - on Route 66!

We stopped for the night in Albuquerque, NM at a neat hotel called Elegante’ and had a delicious New Mexican meal. Caught a beautiful sunset!

Off to Arizona tomorrow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Announcement: My first YouTube video is up!

So here's the big news I've been exited to share for quite some time now! I have a new single available now, "The Star-Spangled Banner" that I recorded for my husband's Air Force promotion ceremony. It's been a huge project because I decided to create a video to go with it, and since I'd never done anything like that before, the learning curve has been pretty sharp. Add in real life and a move across the country, and you'll be able to guess why it's such a big deal to me that I'm finally able to announce this!

I'm sitting here in a hotel in Albuquerque, NM (in the bathroom actually so I have some light to work in while the boys are falling asleep) and I am tired. But I want to share briefly why I've done this and what it means to me now.

I love our country. It's a rare ocassion if I don't choke up while saying the Pledge of Allegiance or while singing patriotic hymns. This arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner is unlike any other I've heard - it is peaceful and reflective and reassuring. I feel like we need that feeling about our country now more than ever, at least during my lifetime. It seems the media is constantly sending us messages that we've lost our footing and the future is dim. If we believe that and give up hope for a better future, then it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I still believe in America and our Constitution and our destiny as a free country and people. This is my effort to have my voice heard that I still believe we can do what it takes.

If you like this video, song, and message, (or even just one of the three!) please feel free to pass this along to others. You are welcome to post it on your blog, Facebook, whatever. Especially just before elections, I hope this will be an inspiration and reminder that it's important to use our freedom to vote, in order to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity".

This single (and my full album, "A Time to Love") are now both available for digital download on several sites. Here are two of them:

So here it is (and I recommend clicking on the link below to see the full screen - still need to figure out how to fix that on my blog!)

This is the link that will take you directly to the video on YouTube:

I'd love to know what you think!

Day 5: Made it to OK…and that’s about how we are

So… “Should we be hysterical? Yes! No! Maybe, but not right now” got used up as a title a little pre-maturely. It fit today even better, unfortunately.

We left Branson, MO and had lunch with friends that we met years ago in Italy. We last saw them when we both had 2-month old boys, but now they are Kindergarteners and it’s shocking how fast the years have gone. We said good-bye, got in the car and about 30 seconds later got hit by the vehicle behind us. Gratefully everyone is okay and our car is still drivable, but it took an extra hour and a half that we hadn’t planned on and now as my husband says, “We look ghetto.”

We entered Oklahoma, and of course the song with the same name has been sung a few times too many. The unexpected theme song for the day, though, has been “Go, My Son.” Seeing all the signs indicating Indian Nation territories has triggered that song multiple times. (Incidentally, Eric is the theme-song guy, not me.)

Have you ever seen the McDonald’s that bridges the freeway? It’s pretty cool - not a drive-thru, though, it’s more like a drive-under.

We stopped for gas in Sapulpa, OK (you know why I’m picturing Star Wars Episode 1 now –that lovely little creature named Sebulba) and this was our first indication that we have entered the West. We saw more cowboy boots than tennis shoes and just as many cool cowboy hats as ball caps.

Made it to Norman, OK just before sunset to take pictures of Eric on the University of Oklahoma campus.

He received his Master’s Degree from OU but had never set foot on the actual campus – I guess that’s the marvelous irony of distance learning.

Finally stopped for the night at Elk City, OK at a Comfort Inn, way past my bedtime! Thank goodness they didn’t give our reservation away since it was a “No Vacancy” night there. If they had, by that point I may have tried to book a one-way flight to Monterey. If we had hopped on a plane back in DC we wouldn’t have gotten that smashed in bumper today. But that first pair of cowboy boots wouldn’t have been nearly so exciting to see on an airplane.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 4: Ten Years in Coming

It’s been ten years since we last saw the Brett Family show in Branson, MO – until today! What a phenomenal show! They have more energy and talent and humor than should be legal in one family, honestly. Our boys loved it and Tom even said a personal good-bye to each of them over the microphone at the end – they felt pretty famous!

The only thing that could have made the event any better was the company we enjoyed it with – my parents and grandmother all drove down to spend the day with us! It was definitely worth three days in the car for a day like this.

Lunch was at a fun little place on the Branson Strip called Chester’s. Check out their burger presentation!

We stopped at the Amish General Store and found a few aisles of our dreams…

My cousin, Brydon, extraordinaire at everything he does, stayed up late to help me finish getting a project up and I’m pretty sure I owe him my next-born for it. Just what is this project? Well…I think I’ll be announcing it in my next post, as long as I have an internet connection!

One last thought that I'd like to pass along from the show - Brydon talked about how every time we turn on the radio, or our iPods, or listen to a song any other way we are casting our vote for that type of music. If we want to keep good, clean, uplifting music and media available for us and our families to enjoy, that is the way we support it or "cast our vote" for it. Well I'm all for the good, uplifting stuff and will probably think about that now each time I choose exactly what I want to listen to. Hope you will, too! Ciao for now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 3: “Should we be hysterical? Maybe, but not right now.”

I think we’ve had a few too many drinks of interesting tasting tap water from a few too many states now. It finally caught up with two out of four of us this morning. Luckily we made it to a gas station bathroom just in time. (Hence, today’s travel title came to us early, courtesy of Toy Story 3.)

So in Illinois I made a new resolve to drink only bottled water for the rest of our trip as much as possible. This moment was not a highlight, so I had to say before I get to my list of highlights. Just keeping it real.

Day 3 highlights:

Drove right past the St. Louis arch! The Gateway to the West. An especially welcome sign since that’s where we’re headed – west.

Crossed the Mississippi River!

Favorite signs along the way:
“Biggest Store in the Universe” (sounds interesting)

“Historic Missouri Byway Route 66” – another good sign that we really are headed in the right direction.

"Shot a deer? Bring it here! Ed’s Meat Market”

Missouri Hick B-B-Q

Vacuum Cleaner Museum

“I think we’re in the Missourah part of Missouri.” – Eric’s observation after passing “Mule Antiques” store on the side of the road.

After driving through very hilly, beautiful Ozark Country, we stopped in Branson, MO (which has even steeper hills!). Spent the night with my cousins, the Brett Family and met the newest little member of the family, 2 month old Ivan the Super Great! Oh, he is precious! Luckily we’ll get to see him again tomorrow for our day of R&R here in Branson.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day Two: “Find Your Way Back to Quiet”

This title is not a commentary on the volume level in the backseat – it’s the motto of the New Harmony Inn where we stopped for the night in Indiana. LOVE that little spot of earth!

Highlights from the second day of our trip across the country, from Charleston WV to New Harmony IN:

- That cute little B&B we stayed at was just steps away from the Capitol Building of West Virginia. The boys thought that was worth writing back to their school classes about!

- Most of our route was along the Purple Heart Trail. Cool.

- In Kentucky, we passed a pickup truck carrying a turkey in a cage in the back.

- Drove through the Daniel Boone National Forest.

- Stopped for lunch with our dear friends who live near Louisville, Kentucky. Learned how to pronounce the city’s name like a local: “LULL-vul”. (Don’t quote me on it but that’s what I got.) This stop proved again just how small the world really is, because these are friends we knew when both of our families lived in Italy ten years ago. Cynthia was my birth attendant when Benjamin was born! And although we have met up with them again since then, this was our first stateside rendezvous.

- Crossed over the Ohio River and saw this cute riverboat and cool network of bridges.

- Drove through Hoosier National Forest, past Santa Claus, Indiana, and entered the Central Time Zone. That gift of an extra hour is one I look forward to receiving again two more times in the next few days!

- Favorite location name on a sign: Pumpkin Run Rd.

- Arrived at the sweetest little historic town, New Harmony, Indiana. Felt like we were truly the only ones in town walking around – pretty much the extreme opposite of Northern VA that we left just two days ago! Behind the Inn was this beautiful area to relax and let the boys explore.

- There was only one place open to get dinner (we know because we walked through the entire town in about 10 minutes. It was a winner – The Red Gardenia. A very nice young couple approached our table before they left, told us they were impressed with how good the boys were (they were the only children in the restaurant), and gave them each a dollar bill ring they had made for them!

That made our night. It was a nice opportunity to point out to the boys that we are an example to others all the time, whether we mean to be or not.

The icing on the cake was a stunning scene we happened upon walking back to the Inn in the dark. A tiny chapel on the other side of the pond was lit up and reflected on the still water. A swan floated by and its silhouette – and reflection – were centered perfectly in that little shaft of light. A magical moment of repose. Yes, we found our way back to quiet! May we take it with us to Missouri tomorrow…

Sunday, October 24, 2010

From Sea to Shining Sea: Day One

That big move that’s been looming ahead of us? Well it’s here and we’re on it. We left the outskirts of Washington, DC yesterday. Destination: Monterey, California. Coast to coast, here we go!

So a few highlights from Day One, Springfield VA to Charleston WV:

- Let’s hear it for the inventor of cruise control! This is some seriously hilly country, and it saved our bacon over and over again. The Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Appalachian Mountains – yes, we held a John Denver “Country Roads” sing-along as a tribute on our way through.

The countryside is absolutely beautiful and we would never have seen all of these fall colors had we hopped on an airplane. (We would also not have made it on time for a flight with the way our day went yesterday!)

- Favorite location names on signs: Dismal Hollow Road
Cowpasture River (“What does that mean?” asked our five year-old. “It means you don’t want to take a drink out of that river!”)

- Passed a car with a vinyl sticker “Phatman” across the back window with a New York license plate. Sorry there's no picture to go with that one. Some funny things are gone almost before they came. I think his cruise control was set a little faster than ours.

- Stumbled upon Greenbrier, a super fancy resort where presidents have stayed, via Hardees drive through in West Virginia. Quite impressive! (Greenbrier, not Hardees.)
- Spent the night at an adorable Bed and Breakfast just down the street from the capitol building in Charlston, West Virginia. The “Brass Pineapple” is a turn of the century home with all the hospitality (the owner called me “my dear” on the phone three times before we’d even met – how did she know if I really was or not?!), charm, and class of any place we’ve ever stayed. Would stay there again in a heartbeat. We were in “Grandmother’s Room” on the 3rd floor and look at this cute plate hanging on the wall!
(My husband has a knack for waxing eloquent when he signs guest books. His entry this morning read “A splendid blend of elegance, propriety, and friendliness…thanks for the memories.”)

As soon as I have an internet connection again at the same time both boy are sleeping (that's a fairly tall order unfortunately!), Day Two’s adventures through Kentucky will be up.