scribbles tagged ‘on the road’

The other side

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Wendy Will it take about an hour to drive to Duluth?

3Sisters landlady: Depends if you go on our side or the other side

Wendy: the other side?

3Sisters landlady: You can drive in Wisconsin, or the other side  

Wendy: oh, Wisconsin, it’s so pretty here 

And I did, because it was…

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SatNav desertion

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

SR 70 WISt Paul’s, Minneapolis, Duluth, the bigger cities of Minnesota, appear deserted during the spring weekends.

This Memorial holiday weekend I decided to drive ‘Up North’, a local spring tradition, in search of the populous. The Interstate out of Minneapolis was full of pick-up trucks loaded with, or trailing, ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles). The smaller, State Routes, had signs for ATC crossings with mud tracks leading to and from them.

I left Minneapolis after work, with a B&B booked about 2.5 hour’s drive away, according to the land lady and my SatNav. I should get there before sundown. Traffic, and having to slow down to avoid hitting the deer who jump out from the forest to wander across the road meant the journey took longer than planned.  I learned that many ‘Roads’ in the wilds, of Minnesota and Wisconsin, are not ‘paved’, ‘tarmaced’. They’re mud and gravelled. They look like roads on the SatNav, but really they’re ‘tracks’. I guess keeping them in decent condition isn’t worth the expense for the local city. Those ATVs are useful.

As darkness fell my SatNav announced that it would no longer give turn by turn guidance.


It bailed on me, in the dark.

I have no map of the wilds of Wisconsin.  I panic’d, pulled over into a soft verge and reached for my cell phone. No reception. Bugger.

ThreeSisters B&BI grabbed my Surface 1. It still showed the Bing-delivered route directions that I’d checked before leaving. Phew. I worked out where I was, memorised the distances, road names and turns then drove on.

A pleasant surprise to find my pre-SatNav skill of memorising maps and directions was still in good working order. I pulled up at the Three Sisters B&B just before the tavern opposite, Gliders, stopped serving it’s hunger quenching pizza. Just in the nick of time. Pizza to the sounds of ABBA and a host of frisky frogs. Cheerfully surreal.

The landlady joined me for Pizza and told stories of her life, those of her 2 husbands & 4 children. Awesome, such a friendly and open hearted place.

1 wonderful musing »

testing, testing, 1, 2…

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 | tags: ,  |

You know how much I LOVE driving. I bought myself that road trip, Route 66, in a red convertible as a 50th birthday present.

State law requires people to secure a local driving licence within 60 days of arriving. I booked myself a local driving exam, how long is the wait-time? First ‘behind-the-wheel’ test on February 9th. Online knowledge test, walk right in anytime. I passed the online  test in December without any studying.

The results of the ‘behind-the-wheel’ test. Were a little more surprising.

How do you think you did?” asked the examiner when we pulled up at the end of the test.

I could have stopped nearer to the curb, only just got within the 12″ and I had to make a significant adjustment when reversing around the 90° corner, other than that, I’m not aware of what I did badly

“Placement in the road, moving between lanes, you’ve failed, you need to practice moving between lanes and choosing the right lane to be in. Minimum of 1 week of practice before your next test

FAILED?!  “but am I allowed to keep driving here without a local license, there’s a 2 month wait list for another test?”

“It’s up to the discretion of the police officer

I weighed up the risks. I’ve never been in a car accident and I’ve driven in the USA for over 8 years in total. The reason that police officer will be talking to me is because of some other idiot, so I’ll probably get their discretion. Especially given the advantage of my English accent and a little humility and respect thrown into the mix. These people carry guns, that lures my humility and respect front to the fore.

Lexus. CarA perfect reverse parallel park, a perfect reverse into a tight 90° turn (pseudo parking space) showed my ‘handling skills’ were good. I realised that the mock road system I’d been driving on was supposed to all be dual carriageway. The lanes weren’t marked. I’d driven as-if it was an ordinary single lane in each direction. That meant I was never in the right lane and never indicating to move between lanes. Doh! No wonder I failed.

I didn’t argue with the instructor about the fidelity of the road markings, or ask to do the test again – there and then-  because I hadn’t heard the examiner tell me this feature of the road set up at the start. Examiners probably have to deal with lots of weird people being obnoxious when they’re failed. Plus:

  • I don’t like being uppity
  • Retest should be a doddle.
  • I don’t get charged extra for a retest – flat fee of $25 – Bargain

Though, the embarrassment of telling everyone I’d failed my test was pretty high.  Because I knew the driving course and why I’d failed, and I can drive, the result of the 2nd test, March 23rd, wasn’t a surprise

‘massive improvement. Passed’

My main shortcoming was not looking over my shoulder enough before changing lanes. But I was the only car o the circuit! It’s so easy to forget that you are pretending to be on a real road with real traffic when the is no traffic, NONE at all. I know there’s nothing behind me. Looking in the mirror is habit, looking over my should is to check for traffic,  I do it a lot when changing lanes on real roads. I didn’t’ say anything. I was happy to have passed.

Now, when I go on my holiday to France this September I can choose to take either my British or American driving license… choices…I’ve never driven a stick-shift on that side of the road…

3 bits of fabulous banter »

Amstar Damn nearly missed my flight

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 | tags:  |

My real life eye colour doesn’t appear to closely match the eye colour in my passport photo. The Dutch border control officials conducted a thorough investigation.

This hasn’t been picked up by any border control officials in 7 years of travelling. But then, I haven’t been through Schipol Airport in that time.

They checked my drivers licence photo, whether I was wearing contact lenses and several other documents I wisely had available.  I complimented the senior security staff, leading the two suspicious border control guards, on their thoroughness.

“We are good” she said.

They were.

I just managed to catch my connecting flight

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Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Red StagWithout any studying I passed my ‘knowledge’ test for a Minnesota driving licence. I also passed the eye test, which SUPRISED me because I was squinting and the text was fuzzy. Not good. Now I’ve booked a proper eye test with an optician to get some more up to date lenses. No squinting allowed when driving, working or watching films on my surface.

It feels like everything I do is a test, can I get a new phone service, can I find a good optician, can I pick how to invest for my 401k (pension), can I find a place to park downtown, can I follow my GPS (Satnav) directions? There’s a lot more concentration and thinking needed when you move countries (jobs, homes) than when you stay in the same place.

All these tests get the adrenaline flowing, they make me feel alive.

So far I’ve been passing most of the tests… just….

The world looks a bit like this fuzzy photo, even when I’m wearing last year’s prescription glasses. Evidently that’s good enough to drive here.

I’ve booked myself in at an opticians. The next test will lead to a new pair of spectacles… and lenses.

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There’s a brake pedal here somewhere

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Lexus“I only just bought this car today. I know there’s a brake here somewhere because I set it when I parked the car”

“I can’t believe that you just got here, and bought a Lexus”

“but I can’t find the brake pedal (waves foot around in footwell) that’s not good for your confidence in my driving”

“We’re not driving yet”

3 bits of fabulous banter »

con dense sation

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

MinneapolisIt takes a few minutes, or more, for a street parked car to warm up when it’s so cold outside that the Mississippi is frozen-over.

On days like these I leave 15 minutes earlier for work. I scrape the ice or snow from the front, side and rear windows. Some cars come with heated wing mirrors, steering wheels and seats.  Not the VW Bug I’ve been given as a rental car.

This evening I drove into a mall parking garage. As I drove into the warm, underground parking my windscreen fogged. Out of habit I turned the in-car warm air blowers to the windscreen. The fogging appeared to increase. In a random effort to clear my view I turned on the windscreen wipers. Voilà! The condensation was on the outside of the cold car windows, not the inside.

A local told me that I should open the windows before I park outside at night to let-out all the damp warm air from within. To make sure the insides of the windows don’t ice-up as well as the outside.

Oh. I’m learning….

3 bits of fabulous banter »

lanes bounded by ancient tall hedgerows

Monday, March 31st, 2014 | tags: ,  |

lane - lane car width (just!)Why I love England #21: Lanes bounded by ancient tall hedgerows

Those lanes that are only wide enough for one car.

Driving slowly towards a corner because ‘oncoming traffic’ is in the middle of the road. There’s no sign to tell you this, its obvious.

Having to reverse until you find the entrance to a field, pulling into the mud to let an oncoming car pass.

I’m not well travelled, but this experience seems quintessentially English to me. It’s heart warming. It’s time consuming and poor usability, but something special that I treasure.

My mother lives further down this lane.

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Monday, February 24th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

The sky reflected in the bonnet. Cruising at 20mph. Not a car, or person, in sight. Look at the quality of that road, beautifully surfaced. This is a drivers paradise.

route 66, Texas grasslands

1 wonderful musing »

mystically beautiful flatlands

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

The beauty of the flat Texan grasslands was awe Inspiring. A mystical beauty. I stopped the car and stood in the wind watching the clouds gently roll around the huge canvas above. The peace in such a place is invigorating. To be able to walk and live with these skies must make it easier to feel close to a god. It’s the sort of place I close my eyes and think of when I’m seeking peace and sleep after a crowded day in a busy world. Slow down, smell the grass, feel the breeze, see the clouds. I had some unexpectedly wonderful times alone on the road. This photograph captures one of them.

grassland in Texas

3 bits of fabulous banter »

county road k – somewhere over there…

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

route 66 isnt actually a road in this part of Texas - according to GarminI’m still on the road, but my Satnav doesn’t think so. Where am I going, will I find a place to stay, and eat, before sundown?

My worry levels were slowly, but surely, rising. Maybe I should get back on the Interstate, the nearby I40? No, I’m here for Route 66 and I’m going to drive it with, or without my Satnav’s road recognition.

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no inn at the grain store

Saturday, February 8th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

This is a Texas town in the panhandle. I’d seen a couple of ghost towns so this is positively thriving with its new fangled grain store technology and a couple of big cars. But no motel. No café. I was beginning to learn that Texas towns marked on the map could be ghost towns,  a couple of shacks with no facilities for travellers, no cafés, no gas stations, no corner stores. Seems like a shack would qualify for a name on the map.

grai. store in Texas

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Roses’ cafe – closed tonight

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

typical cafe and motel - that are still openThe Office to this motel was open, doors to rooms were open, guests’ SUVs showed the place had life. I was still suffering from Texas chainsaw film hangover and I was hungry but Rosie wasn’t around to fill me up for the night. Plenty more nearby towns on the map. I’ll try their facilities. I didn’t know it yet, but I was in for a long night and would soon regret not taking hospitality from this motel…

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not the Bagdad cafe

Friday, January 31st, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

typical cafe motel - unclear if it's still open...On my drive through the Texas panhandle, I hadn’t booked a place to stay in advance. As dusk began to fall I started pulling into the forecourt of roadside motels. This sign attracted me. As I drove closer it was difficult to tell if this place was open or not. I drove a long slow loop around it and left without getting out. I shouldn’t have watched the “Texas chainsaw massacre” it’s skewed my perception of run down, isolated places in Texas

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midgets, geese, guns and cycles

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Day 6: October 26th

mgmidgetDSCN1002 (2) 1) Classic cars, an MG midget rattles around in the SUV sized road lanes.

2) Laid-back wildlife, a flock of Canadian geese wander around a suburban road (I’d lost the route again)

DSCN1014 (2)3) My guns bigger than yours, a big black SUV demonstrates the owners gun-toting capabilities with a big gun box.

Sapulpa (12)4) Cycling families, bicycles on board the carry-all car

The drive through Oklahoma was mainly overcast, threatening rain. The weather reminded me lf British summertime, comfortably familiar.


2 bits of fabulous banter »

nice ride

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

Day 7: October 27th

Friendly Americans on the street, and the owners of places I stayed, spontaneously enthused ‘nice ride’. They meant my hire-car, a soft-top Chevy Camaro.

The ride is all show and no punch; a fairly average drive. I did like the impression it had on the public, I imagined it was like driving a Ford Capri in the UK in the 1970’s. I felt like a big kid driving it. I loved it.

My first choice for a car had been a classic 1968 Ford Mustang. How much?!!!!! The price for that, or a classic Cadillac, had been in a different galaxy from my budget. The Camaro rocked it, more than fine.

Texas (10)

1 wonderful musing »


Saturday, January 4th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 6: October 26th

Ghost town near Texas border

One of several ghost towns on route 66. This one on the Oklahoma, Texas, State border. So many questions are raised, who lived here? How did they live? Why did they leave? Why did no one else move onto their property? Were all the derelict homes left at once or was it a gradual desertion? The ghost towns are peaceful yet sad places. I would take a break from driving to walk around and feel the place that had once housed families, heard laughter and crying.

ghost town, Texas

4 bits of fabulous banter »

state lapse photography

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

I took 100s of photographs on my Route 66 tour by balancing my camera on the top of the steering wheel without looking at the viewfinder. Point and click.

The sense of ‘space’ and ‘freedom’ with so few obstructions like traffic jams, traffic lights, people crossing the road was striking compared to the crowded mainland island of Britain. One photograph from each State might help you see this and the variation in the atmosphere created by the varied climate, vegetation and landscape

Route 66 by state

Route 66 by State


1 wonderful musing »

ghost road

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 6: October 26th

Route 66 Oklahoma, rinning next to the new road

Much of route 66 has been replaced by a newer road  Often the newer road is directly next to the old road. The original road is left to nature, gradually becoming impassable. I quite fancied trying this old road out, but I would need a car with higher clearance than my sporty little Camero to really do it justice.

Learning for next time: Hire a white pick-up truck that’s suitable for ‘off roading’ and carrying stuff picked up in antique stores

what do you think of that »


Thursday, December 19th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Sayre, by the train stationDay 6: October 26th

The small town of Sayre has many of the qualities of the small towns on the route:

  • A small railway station used by local businesses to transport their products across the USA. Often the equipment is antique, working but gradually decaying
  • An impressive and well maintained courthouse. Some places had old and new courthouses. The law has a prominent place here in city buildings
  • A very wide main street where cars can park bonnet pointing at the curb on both sides of the street still leaving room for about 4 lanes. The majority of ‘cars’ parked on the street are pick-up trucks (mostly white)
  • A secure looking brick-built ‘National Bank’ at the corner of a main downtown street
  • At least one antique store and often several thrift stores. Guns are available in the antique store. This one in Sayre appeared to have an unusual variation on a gun decorating the sidewalk
  • A local newspaper, often called ‘The County Record’ 

Sayre bankSayre, outside an antiques mall
Sayre record - local newaperIt reminds me of the old western films – a bank, the law, the train, guns, and newspapers.

2 bits of fabulous banter »

cowboys and indians

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

DSCN1027Day 6: October 26th

Leaving Oklahoma city, driving west, I start seeing signs of cowboys (large trucks for transporting horses) and Indians (gift stores). These Indians were Cherokees.

The lack of tourists during October is painfully obvious in empty car parks and stores. I’m often the only potential customer and I failed to buy anything in any gift stores. I’m a pathetic gift shopper. I was tempted by many colourful cowboy boots and moccasins, the head-dresses, jewellery and pottery bowls didn’t capture my attention.

DSCN1020 (2) Other local industries appear to include some sort of mining, is this ‘fracking’? It certainly looked like some form of gas or oil drilling.

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don’t start

Sunday, December 15th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

Road Crossing InstructionsUsing a pedestrian crossing in the USA is a complicated process that requires the pedestrian to be English literate. I suspect I’ve been doing something wrong because I’m prone to not reading instructions until after something has gone wrong….

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Sapulpa Oklahoma closes around 2pm

Friday, December 13th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Sapulpa (4)Day 5: October 25th

I stopped looking for an all day breakfast. All the food places close at 2pm, reminiscent of Britain in the 1980s. Instead of a late lunch I browsed the local antiques mall and walked up to the drive-in ATM (UK = cash machine).

USA small town antiques malls are fascinating glimpses of everyday life in days gone by.

Learnings for next time:

  • Eat lunch before 2pm
  • Hire a car with a big boot to carry purchases of strange thing’s found in antiques malls
  • Buy an extra suitcase while travelling to carry all the antique mall purchases

Sapulpa (6)

2 bits of fabulous banter »

roundabout convention

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

RoundaboutDay 5: October 25th

Within a 5 mile stretch of road

While on one of many unintentional detours off route 66

I encountered 3 roundabouts.

That’s all the roundabouts that I saw on my journey, all together.

3 bits of fabulous banter »

Chelsea, Oklahoma

Monday, December 9th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Oklahoma (5)

Day 5: October 25th

Blue skies with no airplane trails. this was the way across most of the trip. The silence and ‘size’ of the skies were awe inspiring and made me remember how noisy, grey, crowded and obscured the skies are in England. Take a deep breath. It feels good.

Oklahoma (7)I don’t seem to have gotten far in my 5 days on the road. This Chelsea sign doesn’t mention Kansas, understandable, I guess Dorothy found her own way home to the farm.

Oklahoma (6)Chelsea is quiet.

I guess everyone is indoors cleaning their guns and stuffing things

Oklahoma (8)

3 bits of fabulous banter »

more cyclists than motorcyclists

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

It was in Kansas that I realised that I’d seen more cyclists on the route than Motorcyclists. This trend continued for the whole of the route, with the one exception of the village of Oatman in Arizona. These cyclists often appeared to be going somewhere, rather than ‘just’ exercising, with backpacks or paniers. Route 66 is often cyclist-friendly because of the lack of cars, large patched shoulders, and directness of route between towns.

The cyclist below is crossing Kansas where farming appears to be a major industry:
Oklahoma (3)

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lost the route

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Kansas (16)Day 5: October 25th

During the journey I lost Route 66 on multiple occasions. Illinois and Missouri provided well placed, easy to read and understand signs. Things started going wrong in Kansas where I would get to a road junction that had no sign for route 66 so I’d choose to keep going in my current direction.

This proved to be a poor strategy. In this photo you see the view a couple of miles after a junction. I could be on an unsurfaced part of route 66 or I could be off track. Your guess is as good as mine. I was using a hire-car provided Satnav (GPS) who was later named ‘Francine’. Francine only wanted me to use Interstates to get between towns, even nearby towns. I tended to program a route through towns and then ignore her until I got lost. I was also using a set of essential maps which numbered the interstate exits where route 66 crossed the interstate. I used these junctions to rediscover the route.

Different States label the route on different ways. Kansas was my first, not last, experience of poor signage.

In Illinois I learned that the route often forked, taking different roads during different time periods. Often I’d have to choose between different roads based on when they were officially route 66.

Learning for next time: find an App or SatNav service which has been designed to enable traveller to follow the many route options for route 66

2 bits of fabulous banter »

water towers as cultural icon

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Towns and small cities proudly display their name on their local water tower. 3 examples from 3 States:

Cuba, Missouri

Missouri Hicks BBQ Cuba MO (13)

Commerce, Kansas Kansas (19)

Norman, Oklahoma

Norman (2)

3 bits of fabulous banter »

a quickie in Kansas

Sunday, December 1st, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Day 5: October 25th

The Kansas leg of route 66 is very short, cutting a corner between Missouri and Oklahoma. I stopped in a small town called ‘Commerce’ to enjoy some of the well maintained services for travellers, before I lost the routeKansas (20)

2 bits of fabulous banter »

Carterville cafe

Friday, November 29th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Day 5: October 25th

Driving in to Carterville I’m looking for a BIG breakfast, I found one in the Carterville cafe where the staff are cheerfully friendly and even gave me an extra t, on the bill:
Carterville (7)Carterville (8)

The Carterville website is worth a visit to see photographs of the old town and hear how the township sees itself. Here’s an extract copied from their website describing the town’s history:

Visitor’s from  the U.S. and overseas seem to be especially interested in the older and smaller towns that reflect the values of America’s Main Street and Route 66, and Carterville, Missouri is just such a place.

    Having celebrated it’s 125th. Anniversary, Carterville’s colorful history was born in the early 1870’s and later prospered during the lead and zinc mining boom of the turn-of-the-century. In those days, the town’s population soared to over 5000.  Two trolly tracks ran down the middle of Main street, and business thrived. Overcrowding and wealth, full employment, social clubs and the rowdy miners were common in those days, but the city did not diversify and depended on the mining industry for it’s survival.  By 1920 the boom turned to bust, and Carterville’s miners moved on, leaving a dwindling population to deal with closing businesses and fewer income opportunities.  The Great Depression  would have finished the town off, except for one thing,  a new federal road known then as Highway 66.
    Carterville’s Main Street bustled once again with automobile and truck traffic.  In spite of losing over half of it’s population, the town now had ten filling stations in operation.  Old buildings that once housed department stores, newspaper offices and banks were converted in hotels, auto service garages and cafes.  Even though the town suffered another set-back when Route 66 was decommissioned in the mid 1980’s, Carterville had evolved into a quiet, friendly community…and seemed to be content.   It can also be said today that Carterville owes it’s very survival to the Mother Road, Route 66.
    Today, interest in this most famous of all  American highways is surging, and Carterville wants to show it’s pride in, and respect of, Route 66. Local residents display the symbol of Route 66 on their homes, businessmen have placed Route 66 banners on Main Street poles and painted the shield on the pavement for all to see.  A Route 66 flag flies beneath Old Glory and events are held in the Fall to celebrate being a part of America’s Main Street.
    Carterville is now home to “Superman on 66”, a Superman memorbelia museum and ice cream parlor.  The first Route 66 Visitors Welcome Center in southwest Missouri opened it’s doors this year in a 1937 era filling station, and several other old buildings have been purchased for  a Route 66 themed Bed and Breakfast and restaurant.  Plans are also underway to purchase a city block for use as a Route 66 Festival site to attract more regional visitors, and other Route-themed activities are being considered by the new “Festival Committee”.
    Everyone seems to be jumping on the Route 66 bandwagon, including the town’s police officers whose uniform shoulder patches sport the Route 66 emblem.  Could it be that Carterville has the same spirit as the fictional town residents of “Radiator Springs” in the Pixar movie “CARS” had? 

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