Firsts….

Days on the Road: 90

Miles Driven: 12,964

Blogger: Danny

Before I left to begin this journey, I had never…

-Seen the Pacific Ocean

-Eaten Rocky Mountain Oysters

-Seen a manatee in the wild

-Traveled for 14 hours in one day

-Taken a double shot

-Visited a national park

-Seen a crocodile in the wild

-Known who William Barrett Travis was

-Played a mixed game in a casino

-Seen a Great Lake

-Paid money to watch a sunset

-Been choked by the smell of dead fish

-Cooled my feet in a running stream

-Seen a naturally developed geological arch

-Blogged about anything interesting

-Seen someone pack 50 books for a vacation

-Wanted to punch a best friend

-Been within 100 miles of Cuba

-Looked over a cliff and fell in love

-Seen a black bear in the wild

-Been to the Rockies

-Bought anything with an alien on it

-Had to use Pacific Standard Time

-Eaten Korean BBQ

-Lost so much money in Las Vegas

-Been on Route 66

-Driven until my ankle was sore

-Eaten at a Waffle House

-Had an argument with Cait in front of a friend

-Seen a $300M, privately owned yacht

-Missed my family so much

-Been yelled at by so many Brits

-Seen a wolf in the wild

-Seen a friend 90 days in a row

-Eaten Thanksgiving Dinner at a diner

-Made a friend so uncomfortable they preferred to sit alone in a laundromat

-Seen an alligator in the wild

-Driven in an avalanche zone

-Played with a squirrel

-Had such high expectations of myself

-Hated an inanimate object so deeply

-Been away from home for more than two weeks consecutively

-Seen caribou in the wild

-Discussed trucking with a trucker

-Had a friendship change so drastically and remain intact

-Been so sure that the people in my life are proud of me

-Loved life so much

The first lizard is a brown anole.  We saw several of these little guys, but none with their neck flap exposed like in the picture at this link.  The bird below that is an anhinga.  Anhingas are cool birds that swim underwater (for relatively long periods of time) as they hunt down little swimmers, minnows and such.  When they snag one, they bring them above the water, flip them into the air, catch them, and swallow them whole.  Below the anhinga photo are some of American alligators.  We saw some crocodiles, too, but those pictures are below.  Here is a link to some of the differences between gators and crocs—the basic difference is that crocs are bigger, meaner, toothier, and cooler.  We also have a photo of a great blue heron and what I believe is a Florida chicken turtle, and a snake—this one I’m least sure about, but after some research I think I’ve narrowed it down to either a Florida brown snake or a brown water snake.

The abundance of wildlife in the everglades was truly amazing.  We saw such a small fraction of it, and that small bit was still more than at any other individual park.  It was among the best places we’ve visited on our trip.

We took these pictures in a different order than they are being posted, but that’s no matter—you didn’t know that.  Up top are some vultures, circling above the park.  With all the wildlife that flourishes there, I reckon they will find a dead something in no time.  The lizard is called a green anole.  The manatees were swimming in a marina.  One of the pictures shows a manatee that has visible propeller scars, but, really, all but the calves had scars—and lots of them.  It’s evident that propeller cuts don’t happen as rarely as I had thought.  The bird is a purple gallinule, and I don’t know much about it.  The other pictures explain everything that I know.

These pictures are from the end of our stay at Everglades National Park.  The crocodile at the top was the the last thing we saw, but it was definitely the best.  We were approaching the channel, watching the other side where we were told the crocodiles would most likely be.  We began walking down the long boat ramp when Cait shouted “Oh my God, there’s one right there!!”  Excitedly, Rich and I crept in for a closer look while Cait backed up, remarked that “this is not what I signed up for,” and retreated to the car.  Shortly after our time with the crocodile, the three of us hopped in the car and left the park.  Best Destination of 2011?  Maybe, but even if it’s not, it’s incredible, inspiring, and unforgettable.

After our long drive (discussed below) we stayed two nights in Miami.  The first hotel we went to was totally awful, and so we got a refund (which we’re still waiting on) and went to the Day’s Inn right along the beach.  The room wasn’t the best we’ve had but they were running a pretty good deal and it was a huge step up from where we would have been.  We spent one day at the beach and that evening at Espanola Way.  Dinner there was great.  Everything was outdoors and the hosts and hostesses all wait out on the street and talk with the potential customers.  We ate our meal on the sidewalk and enjoyed the night.  After Miami, we went to Everglades Nat’l Park, Orlando, and are now in Charleston, South Carolina.  Those pictures will be up soon enough—we’re doing the best we can to catch up!

Leaving New Orleans, we decided to make one long drive all the way down into Miami, FL.  The drive was over 800 miles and last nearly all of the predicted 14 hours.  Usually we’re able to cut down on the predicted time pretty significantly, however on this long leg, not much was to be done.  There were a few instances of scenic beauty, but none that we were able to catch on the camera.

New Orleans was a pretty cool town.  It had a lot of character, which was refreshing. “Who Dat" t-shirts were everywhere, and when LSU was playing the SEC Championship, it seems as if all the locals were sporting purple (The LSU Tigers spanked the Georgia Bulldogs, 42-10).  The music was awesome, though we didn’t get to experience as much as I would have liked.  Bourbon Street was a trip.  We went there one night and checked out a few no-cover bars, but I was surprised how many strip clubs and things of that nature were there.  True, I know about how raunchy Mardi Gras can get, but I didn’t know that all that was a steady fixture there.  We only walked a few blocks on Bourbon, as it seemed to get perpetually dirtier (in more senses than one) and you could sort of sense the powderkeg atmosphere of the place.  All the booze sort of put the place on the edge of craziness.

Frenchmen Street, where we went on a separate night, to listen to “classier” music was really something special.  Those bars had cover charges, but the music that was played inside was more unique—it felt more like old blues and jazz, rather than the rock bands and hip-hop dj’s that were booming the speakers down in the Bourbon area.

Fat Sally, The Silver Bullet

Days on the Road: 85

Miles Driven: 12,110

Blogger: Danny

Richie’s 2004 Ford Focus Wagon has been our road trip vehicle since the beginning of our trip, when we drove our first mile on September 12.  Twice we’ve given The Silver Bullet, as she has been called, oil changes, excluding the one that we gave her immediately before departure.

For much of the trip we’ve been pleased with her performance, having little-to-no difficulties getting where we need to be.  Recently, however, we’ve been plagued with a little bit of trouble.

As we drove through Utah we experienced our first glitch.  I reported this issue in a post titled “Our First Car Scare.”  The car locked up as we coasted along between 10-15 MPH in an area of road work where the cars were lined up and then led through the work zone by a pilot car which looped back every 15 minutes or so.  When this happened, several lights flashed on, including an ! and the check engine light.  After a short break, we started the car back up and it drove fine.

Several days later, while driving at standard highway speeds it jarred strongly, the !-light illuminating.  The feeling was as if there was difficulty in switching gears, for a second, before resuming it went back to normal.  Richie and I looked at each other with concern in our eyes, before realizing that we’re young, invincible men, and doing what we knew we ought to do…we ignored the problem.

Meanwhile, the front driver’s side tire had slowly been leaking air.  One day, while in Corpus Christi, Texas, we came out of the hotel to find our tire completely flat.  We filled it up and went on with our day.  The next day it was out of air again.  Today we went to the air machine and the quarter slot was jammed full of quarters because some imbecile doesn’t know how vending slots work.  We managed to get the car to Discount Tire Company, and bought a new tire…one problem solved and one new nickname applied.  The trouble that the Focus had been causing us has driven us—and Cait especially—to give the Silver Bullet a new, and far less flattering alias—“Fat Sally.”

Before we could make the long drive to New Orleans, our bigger issue reared it’s ugly head once more.  Sporadically, for the two weeks or so since the first car scare post, we’ve had to deal with increasingly frequent high-speed, highway sputterings of increasing strength.  Additionally, the dashboard alerts were becoming more alarming, as now the flasher lights automatically came on, the !-light flashed, and the engine thermometer jumped to the highest possible reading.  When the car stuttered, stalled, and died near a Ford Dealership in Baytown, TX (outside of Houston) we decided that God, fate, or fortune had dropped us in a good place.  We stayed two nights and had the car fixed, for a cost of nearly $450, but it’s been running just fine since, which is great because today we had to make THIS drive….


View Larger Map

Roswell, NM is the town commonly associated with the alleged crash of a UFO in 1947.  As it turns out the UFO crash site which is reportedly 75 miles, or so, outside of Roswell.  Nonetheless, we had hoped for an ultra-kitsch downtown with a ton of photo opportunities.  We managed to find some, though less than we hoped, and the town turned out to be enjoyable…a road trip must.

From Mesa Verde we went to Four Corners.  As I explained in the lengthy post a few days ago, we were quite upset about that.  We took a decent number of pictures of us outside the gate with the sign that announced its Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s closed dates.  The first shot of this update are the three shots which capture our truest emotions.

That night (Thanksgiving) we arrived in Santa Fe.  Friday we went into the downtown area and walked around, ate food, and shopped.  There are several photos of us in this area, above.

Santa Fe was quite an artsy little city.  I was somewhat surprised how artsy the southwest was, having not spent much time there.  My impression of the southwest was one that leaned towards the conservative and the practical, not the artistic.  It made our visit more rewarding.

In the center of the downtown square, there was a monument to white soldiers who fought in several skirmishes against the natives.  The vandalized monument used to read “savage” before the word was scratched out.  The monument had a nearby plaque which explained that the sentiments which existed during the time in which the monument was erected.