s/y Nine of Cups
American Odyssey - Part III: Boston to Las Vegas
Cross-country land cruising - July-August 2012
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More National Parks and Monuments?

American Odyssey - Part I?
(Las Vegas to Denver)

Denver - the Mile High City?

American Odyssey - Part II?
(Denver to Boston)

Roadside Americana?

Birds of North America?

Wildflowers of North America?
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Leaving New England was bittersweet. As
much as we like to be on the go and as
much as we were looking forward to the
new adventures Odyssey Part III offered,
Marcie always has a hard time saying
goodbye to her sister, Lin. Once on our
way, all was fine. First stop...Pennsylvania.
We camped at Promised Land State Park our first night out. The distances between
states in the eastern US isn't far and it was an easy day's trip despite several stops.
The weather was cool and dry and the nearby lake was pleasant enough though no
birds were in sight when we visited the bird blind near sunset.
One stop en route was Grey
Towers National Historic Site.
Visit with us if you will.
This part of Pennsylvania is about coal mining. The towns are named Coaldale, Fracksville and
Minersville. The main streets are tired, worn and run-down... holes left where once thriving
businesses are now gone. Folks here heat with coal, too, so it permeates every part of the their
We stopped at the Henniger Farm
Covered Bridge for a morning break.
We love these old covered bridges.
Legend has it, a kiss shared in the middle
of the bridge brings good luck to a
couple. How could we resist?
Ferries have been crossing the mile wide, shallow Susquehanna River at Millersburg, PA since at least the early 19th century. We saw the
sign...why not? It was an act of faith to drive the car across the rickety wooden ramp onto the ferry. The Millersburg Ferry is the last operating
ferry on the Susquehanna River and is believed to be the last "wooden double stern-wheel paddle boat" to be operating in the United States.
The Susquehana is the longest river on the American east coast that drains into the Atlantic Ocean, and with its watershed, it is the US's 16th
largest river. It's also the longest river non-navigable river in the continental US.
Scenic and romantic,
numerous covered bridges
still link Pennsylvania to its
past. At one point, the
Keystone state had at least
1,500 covered bridges, but
today only 200 have stood
the test of time. More
covered bridges exist in
Pennsylvania than in any
other state - highlighting its
designation as 'Covered
Bridge Capital of the World.'
This was a revelation to us
after visiting the Bridges of
Madison County, Iowa.
We headed from Pennsylvania to Maryland for a visit with our
old cruising friends, the Grimms. They own a gentleman's
estate... a lovely house, a barn, lots of acreage with gardens,
horses and chickens. We love visiting ... it's easy, comfortable
... just like home. We wandered in the fields and the gardens,
picking ripe veggies as we went. David and Doug collected
eggs in the evening. We chatted with horses. We took pictures
of swallowtail butterflies which favored the flowers in Fay's
English garden. Birds sang. Hummingbirds whizzed by. It was
pretty idyllic.
Doug has Mennonite friends in Harrisonburg, Virgiinia and after seeking permission from their elders, invited us to visit with them. What an opportunity! It was a highlight of our trip east.
We cannot begin to comprehend  their religion and beliefs, but we found, as always, that despite any differences, people are people. We drove through their community, avoiding their
black horse-drawn buggies on the narrow country roads. We stopped at their plain white church and counted over a hundred hitching posts for tying up on Sunday mornings. These are
the "plain people" as they call themselves. They are plain in dress, manner and speech, but oh so innovative, imaginative and industrious. Fay played on a child's articulated shovel. We
toured a workshop and machine shop and saw their gardens. They shun modern conveniences and electronics and thus, photographs of people were not allowed. We were invited to
their house for a tour and some conversation. It was all in all, a fascinating experience. They asked as many questions of us as we did of them and the exchange was outstanding.
They've invited us back and this is one invitation we'll surely take advantage of in the future.
Doug found us another covered bridge -
the Meems Bottom Bridge Mount
Jackson, VA.
Small towns in this historic area preserve their heritage and buildings in grand style. In
nearby Sharpsburg, Nutter's Ice Cream is everyone's favorite on a hot summer's night.
Wasn't hard to talk us into a stop there...consider it a part of the adventure!
Check out our visit to the
Manassas Battlefield
in Virginia.
We traveled from Maryland through
Virginia to Washington, DC where our
oldest son, Brennan and his wife,
Hannah, live. It was wonderful to
spend some time with them. While
they worked, we spent time
downtown D.C.
We brought back a Fijian sulu for Brennan which he was only too happy to
model for us. What??? our son cooks?? Evidently, he does and it was great!
Hannah & Brennan found the tin man behind their old house in North Carolina and he's been traveling with them ever since. Not sure if that
makes him a grand-tin or not, but we figured he was part of the family now. We visited Hannah's parents in Charlottesville, VA and went to a
Sunday polo match at the King's Family Winery. The game was great, but it was so hot, the only respite was heading to the tasting rooms.
We reluctantly left Brennan,
Hannah and Washington, DC and
headed to
Shenandoah National
Park entering the park through the
pretty little town of Front Royal.
Buck dancing and flat footing
are traditional Appalachian
solo dances. Both buck and
flatfoot dancers dance in a
small area of their own, even
though there can be several
people dancing at once. They
bring their own dance floor ...
a piece of plywood. No one
worries about dancing the
same as everyone else. They
all dance to the rhythm of the
music in their own way.  
A friend in Boston had told us about Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, Virginia...a full-scale replica of Stonehenge, but in styrofoam. It
wasn't far off our route. Couldn't miss this. According to Wikipedia, the structure was created by Mark Cline of Enchanted Castle
Studio in 2004, with the pieces in astronomically correct positions. Cline has described Foamhenge as his greatest achievement. It
was pretty cool in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere.
A few unusual sights caught our attention along the way. Like a turkey vulture in a
field spreading his wings to dry much the same way as a cormorant does. And then,
of course, the herd of ostrich made us do a double-take.
We stopped at a Visitor Center along the Blue Ridge Parkway and found a tiny 2-color
brochure advertising the Old Time Fiddler's Convention in Galax and before you know
it...we were in Galax, in the heart of Appalachia and old time mountain music.
The little town of Galax, Virginia was alive and bubbling with excitement. A street fair was going on in town as we walked to the park for the competition. We stopped in Barr's
Fiddle Shop along the way to see what was on offer. It was a beautiful evening, music wafting on the light breeze. The atmosphere was carnival-like with a midway set up for
buying food...all things deep-fried were available from pickles, hush puppies and green beans to Oreos. This evening's competition included fiddlers, dobros and mandolins.
Autoharp, dulcimer, guitar and banjo players competed other nights along with Old Time Bands and Bluegrass Bands. Folk singing and dancing rounded out the agenda.
We only had one night to spend, but oh what a night. From left, a dobro (resonator guitar) player competes. A man does flat foot dancing in time to the music. The best part of the
entire evening, however, was an unassociated group of musicians who just started jamming in the middle of the parking lot. Fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars, bass all  joined in for a
spontaneous explosion of wonderful bluegrass and old time mountain music. Musicians wandered in and then left, replaced by others who picked up the tune without a hitch. People
danced and clapped and sang. For nearly two hours, we stood, watched and listened. This was country music at the heart of the country.
From Virginia, we moved on to Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National
Park. The road to Gatlinburg, TN, gateway to the park, was quite the surprise. Sevierville,
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg were so commercial, it was hard to figure that we were in
Tennessee at all. From Hollywood to Dollywood, the place was crazy.
Away from the madding crowd, boiled peanuts, pork rinds and 'maters (tomatoes) were offered at the local farm stands. The weather
was hot and humid. We passed through Nashville where billboards proclaimed "Learn the Music Business" in big bold letters. We
followed back country roads to little towns like Trenton and then finally, we headed west to Memphis. We couldn't pass through
without a visit to Graceland, but the $30-70 prices on the tour tix seemed a bit extravagant. We learned we could visit the memorial
garden at the Graceland Mansion for free each morning between 7:30-8:30. Above from left, the Nashville skyline as we whizzed
through; Elvis memorabilia; the Graceland Mansion; Elvis' grave.
The gates opened promptly at 0730 and we were there with lots of others. Many carried
flowers or more elaborate tributes to the king. The wall outside the mansion is covered
with inscriptions from Elvis fans.
If there is any way to capitalize on a
man's death, I'm sure it's been
employed by the Elvis folks. From the
Heartbreak Hotel, to his planes, his
home, his private life and his family,
it's all here and for a mere $70 you
can probably see it all.
From Memphis, TN, it was a quick hop over the Mississippi River and we were in Arkansas. We took advantage of fresh farm stands and ate lots of juicy, just-picked
peaches and plums. Trumpet creepers and Savannah mallow (shown above) grew wild in the ditches along the roadsides. On Arkansas's western state border, we stopped
Fort Smith National Historic Site for a few hours.
Time became an issue. We had
received word that David's Aunt
Edna had died and within a few
days we would  take David's
mum from Las Vegas to her
sister's memorial service in

We determined the daily mileage
required to get back to Vegas
and allowed ourselves stops when
the daily mileage requirement was
met or when we just couldn't
Route 66
Across the Arkansas River and we were in O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A. Marcie was singing show tunes immediately. Oklahoma Territory
was originally the depository for all the displaced Indian tribes that the government moved at its druthers. Appropriately, the Visitor's
Welcome Center had teepee-like picnic areas.
An Oklahoma sunrise
portended a hot, hot day.
The sky was afire.
We spent a night in
Henryetta. The movie
Footloose was
supposedly based on
this little Oklahoma
town where dancing
was illegal. In
actuality, the
no-dancing law is still
on the books, we're
told. God knows
what dancing might
lead to.
Only oil well pumps break up the
flatness of the prairie. At right, a
restored iconic Route 66 Conoco gas
station sits in the middle of
Shamrock, TX.
Check out our
travels on Route 66.
We crossed the border into the Lone Star State ... Texas. We were in the panhandle headed west towards
Amarillo and beyond, still on US 40/66. This area of Texas is flat, flat, flat prairie lands. Cattle and oil for miles.
A flintknapping
demonstration at
Flint Quarries.
...and then we were in New Mexico ... Land
of Enchantment, we're told. It is, without a
doubt, a beautiful state.
New Mexico vistas are breathtaking especially at sunrise and sunset. Sunlight and clouds play with the rich colors of the mesas and buttes. The winds seems to blow all the
time...can you tell which way the wind usually blows? The Spanish call these arboles banderas (tree flags). US 40 runs parallel to Rte 66, the highway a stone's throw away
from the 2-lane "Mother Road"beside it. The number of billboard advertisements along this stretch is incredible ... definitely eyesores.
Williams is Gateway to the Grand
Canyon, named after mountain man and
local legend, Bill Williams.
Having bought a car that was
not considered economical nor
green, we were very pleased
when we determined that our
MPG was pretty outstanding.
A golden field of flowers
viewed from the highway as
we left Flagstaff.
Roadside blooms in NM included Apache plume and silverleaf nightshade.
We followed the parallel route of US40
and Rte 60 across the state and got our
kicks on 66 for sure. We picked up our
Arizona "passport".  See more on
Roadside Route 66.
Crossing the Arizona border, you're hit with
more touristy stuff and souvenir opps. Like a
chance to have 1/2 pound free petrified wood.
This stretch of the highway winds right through the center of Petrified Forest
National Park. We had stopped here in 2010 when we came through so didn't
stop again, but the petrified wood shop was pretty bizarre.
Holbrook had a handsome
County Courthouse and Jail
which was now a Visitor's Center
and museum.
Long, curving highway winding its way through dun-colored hills. Endless scrub and sagebrush punctuated by an occasional joshua tree and
dust devils. This is western Arizona.  

There's lots more to see on Route 66. Take a look.
We drove through lots of little
towns whose only claim to
fame was their location along
Route 66. Each town did their
best to capitalize on the
Mother Road's reputation.
Iconic signs and buildings had
been preserved and restored.
1940-50-60's cars dotted the
parking lots and red Corvettes
were plentiful. This is also
Navajo Nation land and they,
too, took advantage of their
location to entice tourists to
And then, we saw the shores of Lake
Mead, we crossed the Colorado River
at Hoover Dam and we were back in
Las Vegas. 15,113 miles in 4 months
and we were back to "GO".
But wait, there's more. We still need to bring Becky to California to say
goodbye to Aunt Edna. It's an Addendum to the American
Odyssey...even farewells can entail a little adventure. Will you come along?
Reflections on our American Odyssey 2012:
Amazing, outstanding, terrific, left us wanting more; gave us
so many ideas of parts of the country we want to explore
more fully or explore for the first time. So much to do, so
many places to see, so little time.