Tourist First

Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

U.S.A. Road Trip: From the Chesapeake Bay to San Diego Bay in Eight Days

      Jane and I had several big things on our minds in the summer of 2017.  One was the impending birth of a grandchild; one was waiting for our house on Tilghman Island, Maryland, to sell; and another was an ambitious autumn road trip that would take us, among other places, to Milwaukee, Glacier National Park, Seattle, San Diego and Denver. Then events took over.
We relied on our phones' GPS apps
to get from place to place, but the
map was a big help in chosing
the overall route.

      First to happen was our granddaughter's birth in San Diego on July 13. Then we accepted an offer for our house. Moving quickly, we flew to San Diego, met the newborn, and arranged to rent an apartment three blocks from the waterfront. We returned to Tilghman and started getting ready for the move. Our furniture and other belongings were  loaded onto a United Van Lines truck on September 18 and within a couple of hours we were on the road, racing to get to San Diego before the truck. Plans for the original road trip were scrapped -- our furniture would be delivered on Sept. 27 -- but we still wanted at least a night in Milwaukee to see son Kyle and his wife, Meg. And we wanted to go through Denver to see nephew David and his wife, Beth.  And between Tilghman and Milwaukee, we figured we could stop in Columbus, Ohio, to see friends from New York who now masquerade as Buckeyes.
     Some of the driving days were longer than others, and in some places we seemed to be almost the only vehicle that was not a Kenworth, a Freightliner or a Peterbilt. It's amazing how close these behemoths get when they're tailgating or cutting in front of a relatively small car like our Chevy Equinox. We drove 33,385 miles or 53,727 kilometers, almost all of it on mind-numbing Interstate highways. Here's how the trip worked out.
     We left Tilghman at mid-afternoon on Sept. 18 and were pleased that we made it well into Pennsylvania for our first night on the road. Jane was online in the car looking for places to stay and eat in Breezewood, which is basically a truck-stop town of fast-food outlets. We opted to continue west to Somerset where we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and escaped fast-food by dining at the rustic Pine Grill.
     The drive to Columbus turned out to be one of our shortest driving days, which was fortunate because we had a document to print out, have notorized and sent overnight for the closing on our house, which was happening back in Maryland the next day. Easily done at a UPS store. At our friends' suggestion, we stayed at the downtown Hotel Leveque and met them for dinner a short walk away at the Guild House on High Street. I went to graduate school at Ohio State but we didn't go up High Street far enough to see the campus or what's become of the neighborhood where I lived in the 1970s.
     From Columbus, it was another fairly easy drive to Milwaukee. We stayed at a downtown Hilton Garden Inn, where we had stayed on a previous trip, and dined at Pizza Man, a large and busy pizzeria near my son's apartment. I'm always impressed with what a pleasant city Milwaukee is, or maybe it's that Kyle and Meg have excellent taste in choosing their neighborhoods. On our original itinerary, the next stop would have been to visit a friend in Minneapolis, but we had to head southwest, not northwest.

Interstate 80 in Nebraska shows the need for self-driving cars. Human
drivers are likely to find the drive a bit boring. 
   On Thursday, September 27, we made it from Milwaukee to Lincoln, Nebraska, passing through the heart of flyover country. Lincoln, both a state capital and a university town, has loads of cool-looking restaurants and bars. We stayed at a downtown Hyatt Place and had a lovely dinner a few blocks away at Dish.  Temperatures there were in the 90s, unseasonably hot even in the early evening.
     From Lincoln, we drove to Denver, having to forego a visit with friends in Fort Collins, Colorado, due to the press of time.  We stayed at a downtown Hyatt; had drinks at Ophelia's, a kitschy bar next to a marijuana store; and had Friday night dinner with our nephew and his wife at Solitaire, a restaurant near their home in a close-in neighborhood of nearly century-old arts-and-crafts homes.
 
This 1938 Ford Woodie belonged to another guest at the La Quinta
in Kingman, Arizona. He said it was all original -- or at least the
wood was.  He said he had installed a Chevy engine, Chevy transmission, air
conditioning and power steering. Oh, and the orange rims were not
original, either. Still, a cool vehicle for traveling Route 66.
  Next stop, on Saturday, was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we stayed at the Inn on the Alameda, a few blocks from the square. We had drinks at the lively Coyote Cafe and then a totally unremarkable dinner at La Fonda. Without reservations on a Saturday night, we couldn't get into the places we would have preferred.
     On Sunday, we made it to  Kingman, Arizona, one of the gateway towns to the Grand Canyon's southern rim and a popular stop for people tracing U.S. Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. We met one such couple who were keeping track of licence plates. Ours was only the second Maryland car they had spotted. We stayed at a perfectly pleasant La Quinta and had honest-to-Shiva Indian food at India Spice.

The pool and bar at the Orbit In in Palm Springs.
  Monday found us arriving in Palm Springs, California, where we stayed for a second time  at the Orbit In, a recycled and restored Mid-Century Modern motel. Drinks were nearby at the iconic Spencers and dinner was at Rooster and the Pig, a packed Vietnamese eatery in a nearby storefront. We were last in Palm Springs a decade ago and found it little changed despite the reported influx of "new Hollywood" weekenders.
    The next day, Tuesday, Sept. 26, we arrived in San Diego via winding and extremely scenic state roads and spent the night at our new granddaughter's house. The next day we arrived at our Little Italy building to find that the truck driver who loaded us in Maryland had been waiting at the curb since 6:30 a.m.  "I wanted to get a spot," he said, referring to his 80-foot-long tractor-trailer rig.
    For the present, we've found our spot, too, though our travels will continue. The San Diego airport is literally within walking distance.
Halfway through moving-in day. The dining table legs awaited the top. Eventually boxes were stacked six feet high.