Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn"

Sunday, 8/31/08 and Monday, 9/1/08

It was about a five hour shot from the mountains to Brooklyn. However, the two environments could not have been more different. The experience of trying to get into the Holland Tunnel was the polar opposite of our most recent experience of sitting at the lake at dawn. How funny and immediately frustrating! After about an hour, we were through the tunnel to the other side…New York City. We passed Ground Zero and saw the big hole in the ground, surrounded by cranes that still seemed unsure of what to build. We entered the Brooklyn Tunnel and popped out on the other side in just as much traffic as there was going into the Holland Tunnel. Apparently, there were a lot of festivals going on since it was Labor Day weekend.

Our next task was to find a good place to park…in Brooklyn. The streets were lined with metered spots, all covered with the sign “No Parking Sunday or Monday” for the festival. Yet, we knew that we had made it all this way and we just prayed for God to show us the space He already had for us. And He did…about 10 paces away from the gate to Doug’s apartment building, and there was literally nothing else anywhere. This never ceases to amaze us.

We had not yet visited Doug since he moved from Chicago to Brooklyn about nine months ago, so we were very pleased to make it the last stop on our great adventure. He greeted us on the street, then showed us the way to his apartment where we nearly clogged his shower drain by washing off the last three days of camping. We love camping, but civilization has its perks, and hot water is high on the list.

There was a Rockabilly Festival in Coney Island, and Doug was eager to take us there. We also had the privilege of meeting his friend Sarah, who had gone to college in New York and decided to stay. Coney Island is like a never ending carnival, with rides, games, side shows, and of course, Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Before checking out the music though, Dan couldn't resist the opportunity to “Shoot the Freak”, where for five dollars you get to shoot fifteen paint balls at a young man wearing bug eye goggles and a helmet, carrying a shield. One shot was wide right, the other fourteen were brilliant.

While the music at the Rockabilly Festival was average, the “Side Show” act between sets was the farthest thing from average we had seen in some time, though not abnormal for Coney Island. We cringed as we watched a man pick up a sixteen pound bowling ball fastened by chains to his earrings and swing it around in circles. If that was not enough, he picked up a fifty pound anvil the same way and swung it side to side. We wondered how he discovered this talent, and what he might do for a living. The latter question was soon answered when we saw him walking around letting people staple money to him with a staple gun. When we finally made it home, we were touched by the fact that Doug had put fresh linens on his bed and offered it to us. This was a beautiful gesture and we were very thankful for it.

We slept in on Monday, but we didn't miss breakfast. Just down the street from Doug’s place is Kennedy’s Fried Chicken and Donut, and they serve breakfast all day. We ate what were quite possibly the best bagel sandwiches ever created, and home fries made with as much butter as potatoes. We walked it all off though, as Doug took us through Prospect Park, and then on to the Caribbean West Indian Festival that takes place every year in his neighborhood. It was a beautiful display of color and song, with people representing all of the islands in their traditional dress and dance. We could have spent the whole day there, but alas, it was time to point The Egg home. We said our goodbyes, and this time, plugged our own address into Gladys and let her route our last leg of the journey.

The ride home was bittersweet, and we rejoiced and reflected on all that we had done. And it was good. We couldn't believe we had actually done it, and we had loved every mile and every minute. When we crossed the line into Virginia, we rolled our windows down and took a big whiff of our hometown air, somewhat of a tradition in Melody’s family. We quickly rolled them back up though, since our exhaust was roaring in front of the broken Catalytic Converter, and that sweet smelling hometown air was undoubtedly full of hydrocarbons spewing out of The Egg because of it. We got in Monday night, September 1st, 2008, after 32 days on the road and 9286 miles behind us. It had been a dream, and now it was a reality, and it was worth far more than it had ever, or would ever cost us.

Thank you all for coming along for the ride. We hope in some small way that you have been blessed by our stories, and that you are encouraged to not only chase your dreams, but to grab them, hold on tight, and make them happen. All of your comments were a tremendous encouragement to us, and we eagerly checked the blog for new ones everywhere we stopped. It is hard to bring the egg roll to and end, but it must be so. We love you all more than you could know, and we are grateful to have you all in our lives.
Stay tuned for one last entry, as we gather our thoughts and share our reflections from the road, and of our journey across this magnificent country.
Love Dan and Melody.

Cadillac Camping

Thursday, 8/28/08 through Sunday, 8/31/08

By noon, we were on our way to our next destination, Farmington, NewYork. We were going to camp in the Adirondack Mountains with Melody’s high school friend, Michelle. Somewhere around Erie, PA., we heard a sudden increase in the exhaust volume, and knew something had broken free under the egg. At the next pit stop, Dan investigated its source and found that the catalytic converter had broken loose where it connects to the down pipe. It had broken clean at the weld and could not be reattached. There would be no five dollar fix this time. The exhaust system was still supported and was not in any danger of falling off, so we settled in for a very loud push into Upstate New York.

It was another long day of driving, but we were rewarded with a familiar hug on the other side of the door when we finally reached our destination. Michelle refreshed us with ice cream and we headed to bed in eager anticipation of the next day’s journey. After a restful night’s sleep, Michelle gave us a tour of Historic Canandaigua while we bought Dan a New York fishing license. Michelle had made all the necessary preparations, and we headed out with cars loaded, looking forward to our weekend in the woods.

We had reservations at Eighth Lake Campground, just north of Inlet. Although it was Labor Day weekend, it did not seem crowded. The camp site included a fire pit, a picnic table, ample parking for both vehicles, and the mansion tent that Michelle brought for our comfort. We set up camp and settled right in to “outdoor living” as Michelle calls it. She had everything planned, even the delicious meals. What a gift it was for us.

On Saturday, after lingering around the campfire for breakfast and conversation, Dan rented a canoe and took it out on the lake to fish while the girls went to Inlet for a little shopping (and ice cream). None of us could believe how quickly the time went by! Before we knew it, we were sitting around the warm campfire after dinner once again, talking, laughing, and reminiscing about our adventures of the day. After a game of Checkers (that Michelle dominated), it was time to turn in for the night.

On Sunday, we woke up early enough to take a hot cup of coffee down to the lake and watch the steam lift off the water as the sun rose into the sky. It was so quiet and so serene…like those parts in the movie when the music hasn’t even started yet. You are simply captivated by the silent movement of creation. The ducks were pretty entertaining too-- walking right up, ready to eat right from your hand. We returned to camp to eat, put stickers on the Egg, pack up, and head out. Again, it was hard to leave. However, we were blessed by the extended time that we did have with Michelle.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Horton Hears A Hoosier

Wednesday, 8/27/08

This morning, we woke up early with building excitement. In just a few hours, we would be in Indianapolis with Melody’s sister, Heather, her husband Josh, and their 4 kids. We were eager to get packed and on the road to maximize our time with everyone. We aimed to be there a little before 2:30 pm so that Aunt Melody and Uncle Dan could surprise the 2 older boys, Isaac and Elijah, by picking them up at school. When we were about an hour away, Melody called just to make sure what time school let out. Heather said that she had just gotten home with the boys. Immediately, we realized that we had not accounted for the time zone change, and we had been running an hour behind all along. Oh, man! However, Heather had not told the kids exactly what time we were coming, so they were surprised when they opened the door and saw us. They were very excited, giving hugs, each wanting to be picked up, and sharing favorite songs, toys, and games.

As Micah continued to nap, Melody helped Heather with dinner while Uncle Dan took Isaac, Elijah and Ashlynn out to play in the backyard. When Melody came out to play, she found that Dan was being held prisoner by 2 Roman centurions (the boys). He was handcuffed to a lawn chair, but would run for it occasionally and ultimately be chased, beaten, and handcuffed again. As his wife, by default, Melody was found guilty and handcuffed as well. After a delicious dinner, Josh took us out with the kids to hunt for stickers. Returning home successful, we helped the kids to bed, and the adults sat up for a few more hours of conversation and laughter.

After a big breakfast on Thursday, the kids put their stickers on the Egg and we all went out to take the boys to school. We walked, hand in hand, up to the front and waited until the doors were opened, the classes were called, and the kids all started to file through the doors. Once inside, we walked the boys to class and met their teachers. The school reminded Melody of her beloved Cub Run. How strange and yet exciting to be on this side of the school day-- dropping kids off and saying goodbye instead of being the teacher that greets parents and incoming students. It is a different season of life.

We said our goodbyes, and Josh headed off to work. The rest of us headed to Starbucks where Melody and Heather could chat and laugh (and cry) over good coffee while Dan steadily worked on updating the blog over the free WiFi. Ashlynn and Micah were easily entertained, and the cause of many customer smiles. Alas, it was time for the Egg to roll on. We never like to say goodbye, but we always look forward to the next visit.

Scrambled Egg

Tuesday, 8/26/08

We awoke this morning and took our tickets for free breakfast down to the kitchen. Here, you actually order your choice of eggs, a choice of meat, and 2 choices of bread, all included. And they are fast! We packed up quickly and went down to the parking lot where Dan began working on our own Cracked Egg.

An auto parts store was conveniently located next to the hotel, and after 2 trips, we had the right sized bolts to match the right sized nuts, which would be a good replacement for the one lost somewhere in California. We were delighted and thankful to find that the rattle was not from the catalytic converter, but rather from a separated exhaust flange where the broken bolt had once been.

Dan pulled the car up onto a parking tie, as a makeshift jack, to gain the necessary clearance in order to crawl underneath the Egg and make the repair. Melody crouched nearby on her knees, watching and encouraging Dan from the side. In a few minutes, the bolt was replaced, and for 5 dollars, the rattle was gone.

Outside of Bismarck, North Dakota, we were pleased to meet a very interesting couple from New York. The man immediately spotted us as fellow road trippers when we pulled into the rest stop. “Not many of us out here this summer” he said. John and Iris were very friendly and experienced, with an extensive history of road trips all over the country. Their longest ride to date was a trip to Alaska and back with their sons, totaling over 11,000 miles. “You really learn a lot about yourself out here,” John said, “but the trip can take on a mind of its own and ultimately you must follow where it leads you.” Steinbeck would agree.

We continued our journey on a sunny, albeit windy, day as we drove across Minnesota, through Wisconsin and eventually into Illinois. By early evening, we had located a Starbucks within a Target and decided to take a break from the road and catch up on the blogs. It was here that we met Alethia and Jody, our baristas.
The girls were very friendly and curious about our cross country travels. As Alethia prepared our wake up drinks, Melody told her about the travel blog and gave her the address to keep in touch. As we steadily worked and reminisced, Alethia would check on us with a big smile and offer us samples. Through our conversation, we found out that she has dreams of her own to travel to Amsterdam with her husband and young son…maybe next year. We encouraged her to follow through and make it happen in spite of the challenges ahead. A dream realized is worth far more than what it costs to get there. Incidentally, tomorrow, 8/27, is her 3rd wedding anniversary. Keep going, guys, it just gets sweeter with time!

After crossing 4 states, we checked into a hotel in Rockford, Illinois, just west of Chicago, completing Day 2 of our marathon dash back east.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Bison And The Badlands

Monday 8/25/08

We stopped for breakfast at McDonalds outside of Yellowstone and reaffirmed our original plan to avoid national parks because of summer tourist crowds and the inevitable slowing of time to get back east. Many vehicles dotted the edge of the road as fishermen took to the streams alongside. In Bozeman, Montana, we stopped in to visit Fins and Feathers, a well known fly shop who just happens to be the only Orvis dealer in the town.

The road stretched out before us with farms on either side, irrigation equipment watering the crops, and bales of hay rolled in perfectly golden fields.

Just before sunset, we stopped at a scenic overlook of The Painted Canyon in the Badlands. Large rock formations stretched out before us as far as the eye could see. Every once in a while, we could focus enough to see the bison feeding below. Apparently it is common for these large beasts to roam the rest area and scenic overlook as well, evidenced by warning notices of their presence and the occasional bison pie left in the grass.

As the sun disappeared over the horizon, it washed the canyon walls in a symphony of color and shadow too beautiful to describe. As we continued east through dark, broad countryside, absent of any city lights, the stars emerged and put on a display that rivaled any we had ever seen. It reminded us of the view from Paardeberg Mountain in South Africa, on the other side of the world.

We pulled in to the Days Inn for the night, and met a couple who had been curiously inspecting our little car as we went in to make reservations. They were originally from Norway and the Netherlands, but had been living in Vienna, Virginia for the last 4 years as the man worked for the Embassy in D.C. Small world! They, too, were on a road trip to explore the U.S., but would be heading back to Europe by the end of this year. As we parked the Egg for the night, we noticed that the noise had gotten louder, and we knew that we’d have to check it out tomorrow before leaving town.

When You Come To The Fork In The River, Take It

Saturday 8/23 and Sunday 8/24/08

We had a very restful nights sleep at a Courtyard Marriot Hotel in Boise Idaho, where we plotted our course to the next major fishing destination, Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. This section of the Snake River winds its way through Last Chance, Idaho, a tiny little town where it seems there are more fly shops and guides per capita than in any other place. It is a Mecca for the trout fisherman, known to contain some of the most difficult and technical water in the world. As a result, the trout grow large and strong, feeding in the myriad of micro currents on an incredibly rich and diverse selection of aquatic insect life.

We stopped in at Henry’s Fork Angler, one of the aforementioned fly shops, where Alex filled us in on current hatch information while he printed up our licenses. It was going on dusk, so we got right to the river to catch the evening caddis hatch. Much like in the tail waters in Colorado, these fish required extra long leaders and a downstream presentation. Unlike Colorado, these fish only give you one shot. If the drift isn’t absolutely perfect, the fish spot the leader when it passes by and they are down, indefinitely. Mosquitos made their evening appearance as well, and joyfully dined on us as Dan tried to coax a rising trout. There was only one take, and though the hook pulled free, Dan was pleased to have tricked a Henry’s Fork Rainbow. We had dinner beside the river at The Trout Hunter, a fly shop/restaurant/lodge/guide service, and the only place to eat in town. After the meal, we checked in late at World Cast Angler, just across the street, where we would spend the next two evenings.

Our accommodations were perfect, a small cabin right in the middle of all the best fishing. The next morning we stopped at the tiny local grocery store (also a fly shop), to gather provisions for a long fishing day. Melody donned Grandpap’s waders and we made the mile hike into Harrimen State Park at the famous Railroad Ranch section of the river.

It was here that Dan, as long promised, began teaching Melody to Fly Fish. Though she is well versed in other forms of fishing, this is the milestone they had both longed to reach, and it was extra special that it took place on this most famous of rivers.

As with most things, she was a quick study. At one point while practicing a drag free drift with a hopper pattern, a broad shouldered rainbow of nearly two feet long rose to inspect the fly, and nearly took it before seeing us and fleeing upstream in a colorful flash.

Through the rest of the day, we fished several sections of the river, including a very swift canyon section, where Dan landed the only fish of the stay, a feisty little rainbow, on a heavy streamer swung deep in the current. We rode our bikes back to the ranch section for the evening rise, where Dan had two more takes, the last one the biggest of course. This fish took a caddis pattern just as darkness set in, and snapped the 7x tippet in a large swirl. It was maddening and satisfying, and it is always the big fish we don’t catch that makes us vow to return someday.

We talked to the couple that ran Worldcast Angler for a while the next morning before heading Northeast through Montana on route to Bismarck, North Dakota.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Great U-Turn

Friday, 8/22/08

The first order of business was to drive the Egg over to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. This was a first for us and the Egg since Dan typically does maintenance on the car at home. Also, we had noticed a peculiar rattle under the car and a small exhaust leak. The rattle had become increasingly noticeable in San Fransisco, and Dan thought it might be the catalytic converter coming apart inside. He asked if the guys at Jiffy Lube could verify its origin. They suspected it was a loose bracket, but they did not have a definite answer. We would have to wait until Dan could lift the car himself to be sure.

We headed east through the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and drank in the beauty of the Lake Tahoe region. Tall pines grew along rocky cliffs and high peaks sheltered cool alpine lakes, undoubtedly loaded with trout. As we crossed into Nevada, we found the northern region of this state of a different quality than its southern counterpart. It consisted of vast rolling hills covered in golden grasses in a more temperate climate than the desert below.

We crossed into Oregon on a lonely stretch of highway far from the interstate. We were surrounded by vast plains and rolling hills, bracketed by mountain peaks in the distance. As we followed the curve in the road to the left, Melody spotted a coyote standing in the field off to the right. He turned briefly to watch us pass, and then scampered off across the field. Later, we pulled off to watch another sunset and were awed by the deep red, purple and pink hues cast by the lowering sun against the big western sky.

We nearly ran out of gas on our way to Jordan Valley, our closest destination for a refill. The husband and wife who ran the place came out to pump our gas. In response to our confused look, the man said, “It’s full service.” We asked about the other side of the pumps; “Is that full service?” The reply came, “It’s all full service. It’s Oregon. All our gas pumps are full service across the entire state.”

The women’s restroom was not in order, but Melody was given a key to Room 103 of the Sahara Motel located behind the station. Cautiously, she opened the door and found that the light switch didn’t work. Upon crossing the room to turn on a lamp, the door swung shut. Melody pushed back the panic to continue her pursuit for light, a locked door, and ultimately a bathroom. At last, it all worked out and she thankfully rejoined Dan back at the car for the trip into Boise, Idaho for the night.