August 30, 2011 The Adventures of Clark and Lewis – Prescott, AZ

I didn’t write an actual adventure from Prescott, AZ but we certainly had a good time with our friends, Eileen and Jim. Clark and Lewis did too! They’ve asked me to post a few pictures from our stop there.

Clark and Lewis meet Eileen and Jim

Clark and Lewis pining for their old pond

At the Smoki Museum in Prescott, AZ

Enjoying the view from Eileen and Jim's deck

Naughty duck and frog! Too much partying!

August 28, 2011 Flagstaff, AZ to Prescott, AZ

We are rounding the final bend in our vacation. But there’s still one more important stop, Prescott, AZ. Way back in the 1980’s, John and I moved to Hopkinton, MA. In our little cul-de-sac, there were four houses and all of us in them were about the same age and had kids all about the same age. We became fast friends and the time we spent there was idyllic (and often pretty wild.) Sadly one by one each of us moved away. But I think we all agree that it was some of the best years of our lives. We’ve already been to visit Sophie and Al in North Carolina and today we are off to see Eileen and Jim in Prescott, AZ.

But first a stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument. At the visitor’s center we see a short film about the native people who used to live in the canyon. They hunted and gathered and did some limited farming. Their houses were built into the overhangs in the canyon walls. Their existence reminds us somewhat of the way the ancient people in Font de Gaume, France lived 35,000 years ago.

Dwellings of the Sinagua in the canyon overhangs

We arrive at Eileen and Jim’s around 2 PM. We are so happy to see them.

Eileen and Jim with Clark and Lewis

There are hugs all around.

On Eileen's windy back deck
Jim and John

Jim, who is an expert guitarist, entertains us with some of his greatest hits. His songs are a wry commentary on life in general and politics in the U.S. I would say that he probably wouldn’t be a hit on Fox News. But we enjoy his sense of humor.

Jim playing his latest and greatest

And, of course, under the heading of “Will we ever learn….” we manage to put away a vast quantity of wine. Not our record number of bottles but still quite a few. We vow to not have wine tonight. We’ve decided on margaritas instead!

Cute picture of Eileen and John

August 27, 2011 Flagstaff, AZ

It always seems to happen at the end of a trip. My enthusiasm for compiling the day’s events in my blog starts to wane. Also there is the problem that we haven’t done much since arriving in Flagstaff. That’s probably another indication of vacation burn-out. But we are not done yet and tomorrow we are going to visit our dear friends, Eileen and Jim, in Prescott, AZ. We have had a lot of fun and wild times with them in the past and it always seems like I sign their guestbook with, “Will we ever learn….”

I just finished my last chapter, chapter 33, in the Adventures of Clark and Lewis. It seems rather sad to retire the guys. I think I’ll take them along to Utah at the end of September and then maybe to Italy later this year. Hah, and you thought I was burnt out from vacationing! If I know me, I’ll be hankering to be off somewhere in about three weeks. Might as well do all our traveling while we are still able.

Here in Flagstaff we have taken the opportunity to cook some diet-friendly meals, play some tennis, and do a lot of laundry. We’ve bought some kitchen essentials such as a plastic cutting board, a silicone spatula and wooden spoons that we plan on bequeathing to the condo owners. Luckily we have our knives, knife sharpener and instant probe thermometer with us. So far we’ve made turkey chili and shrimp creole. Tonight is some sort of lentil and turkey sausage concoction. I am afraid that the four pounds that I lost in the first four weeks of the vacation have made a reappearance. I suppose if I maintain my weight loss through seven weeks of vacation that will be a victory.

On to Prescott tomorrow and then home!

Mary with Clark and Lewis in Flagstaff, AZ
John, Clark and Lewis

August 24, 2011 Dallas, TX to Tucumcari, NM

We are up early today. We have about 7 1/2 driving hours to get to Tucumcari. Since we want to beat the rush hour traffic, we manage to get ourselves together and out by 7:15 a.m. The temperature is already 90 degrees. It hasn’t cooled off hardly at all over night.

There’s not much to report. We get in the car and drive. John does most of the driving because of my inability to drive over high places and my desire to nod off after lunch. Most of the places we go through are pretty depressed. A lot of Texas has seemed quite prosperous. The roads are in good shape and there’s lots of new construction around Dallas. But out in the panhandle it’s all kind of sad. Maybe they didn’t vote for G.W.

We get to Tucumcari earlier than expected due to the change to Mountain Time. We are excited to see mesas and buttes again. We love to look at the sky and see the weather for miles.

It's raining somewhere near Tucumcari, NM

I take a picture of a the sky as it might look in an apocalyptic painting. One can imagine the hand of God reaching out of the clouds.

Sky over Tucumcari, NM

We have dinner at the Rockin’ Y’s Roadhouse. It seems the best of a bad lot when we read the reviews. But it actually turns out to be really good. They serve American and Mexican fare. We have tacos and enchiladas and it’s not what I like to call congealed food or “glop.” You know the kind, Mexican food smothered in a melted cheese. The ingredients are fresh and tasty. What a pleasant surprise.

Afterwards we go out seeking good places to take pictures of Clark and Lewis along historic Route 66. Then off to hotel to write the blog and get a good night’s sleep before the long drive tomorrow to Flagstaff.

Clark and Lewis as Tod Stiles and Buz Murdock in "Route 66"
John, Clark and Lewis pose with a mural of "La Bamba"

August 22 & 23, 2011 Dallas, TX

We are up bright and early with plans to go to the Dallas Art Museum and the Nasher Sculpture Center. We go down to the concierge and find out that they are both closed on Monday. Bummer. Okay, we decide to switch our Tuesday plans to Monday and ask her to find us some indoor tennis courts. This is not an easy task. She suggests we go eat lunch while she works on it. In the Conservatory, I have a really good lunch of seared tuna, greens, edamame and daikon radish. I can see that John covets it. Back out to the concierge and, hurrah, she has found indoor tennis at the Four Seasons resort north of the city. We book a court for 3 PM, take our ibuprofen and make our way through Dallas to the resort.

It is really nice. Probably the nicest place we have ever played tennis. If we are ever planning on being in Dallas again when it’s between 105-108 degrees outside, we will definitely stay here. Gotta say I am pretty awesome today tennis-wise. It is a lot of fun. We decide to scrap the museums tomorrow and book a court for Tuesday as well.

John at the Four Seasons, climate controlled indoor courts

We get back to the hotel and get ready for our dinner at Ocean Prime. I am hoping for luscious scallops. But of course someone needs to do more than put a little salt on them and sear them. These come coated with cayenne pepper. I can’t even taste the scallops. John has blackened red fish. He says it is okay. I am sorry to be so picky but when you are paying big bucks for food, it ought to be right.

John at Ocean Prime with Clark peeking

On Wednesday, August 23, we spend the morning hanging around the room. I am supposed to be writing my blog and an adventure of Clark and Lewis but I do neither. Sometimes it’s good just to be lazy. We go back to the Conservatory for lunch where we both get the tuna. Then it is off to the courts where we seem to be different people from yesterday. We both play really badly. Oh well, it is still fun.

Watching tennis is thirsty business!

After coming back to the hotel and cleaning up, we meet our nephew, Andy, and his wife, Valerie, at the Capital Grille. It is great to see them and find out what is happening in their lives. It has been almost three years since we saw them at their wedding. Valerie is a Dallas police officer who is about to start juggling her job and going back to school. Andy works for Texas Instruments. John and he talk about stuff that I have no idea about. It is a marvelous dinner and a great evening.

Having dinner with Andy and Valerie

On Wednesday we are off to Tucumcari, NM on our way to Flagstaff to escape the heat. We have two long driving days but our reward is three days in the same place.

August 21, 2011 Vicksburg, MS to Dallas, TX

Having made the decision to change our itinerary, we get up early to make our way to Dallas. And when I say early, I mean really early. One of the things that I forget to do was to change my PDA’s time zone from Eastern to Central time. So we are greeted with its cheery reveille at 5 a.m.

But first a word about yesterday’s visit to the Lowndes County Interpretive Center. In the spring 0f 1965, African-Americans from Selma were denied the right to march to Montgomery to air their grievances. They were being denied (among other things) the right to vote. Many roadblocks had been put up to keep them from registering. The Selma African-Americans with the support of national black groups and the National Guard finally were able to bring their plight to national attention with the 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery. The Lowndes County Interpretive Center depicts their struggle. John and I both felt that the movie and exhibits were very moving.

Clark and Lewis at Lowndes County Interpretive Center

Hitting the Selma Library, we change our plans. Libraries, what a resource.

Clark and Lewis at the Selma Library

After a brief stop over night in Vicksburg, MS, we hit the road for Dallas. Motoring across the little piece of Mississippi we have left and across all of Louisiana, we arrive at the Texas welcome center before lunch.

John, Clark, Lewis and Texas

The rest of the day is spent getting to our hotel in Dallas, the Rosewood Crescent, taking a nap, and having dinner at Nobu. We get dressed up (at least for vacation) and go down to the lobby bar for a glass of wine.

Mary at the Crescent Hotel lounge

John, Clark and Lewis enjoy a glass of wine and some snacks

I wish I could say that we enjoy dinner but with the exception of a couple of dishes, it is an ill-conceived way to serve delicate seafood. Too much ponzu, too much salt, too much money. The atmosphere is kind of like a techno tapas bar. The music is blaring and the service is frenetic. Our waiter is relieved of his duties midway through our meal due to a runny nose that he keeps wiping with his hand. Gross. Hopefully our other culinary adventures will be better.

Clark and Lewis watch the sushi chef

Our plans for the rest of the time here in Dallas include art museums, hopefully some indoor tennis and a dinner at the Capital Grille with our nephew, Andy, and his wife, Valerie.

August 20, 2011 Fairburn, GA to Vicksburg, MS

ALERT!!! VACATION UNDER CONSTRUCTION!!!! This song is prompted by spending too many single nights in hotels. I ask all my talented friends (especially you, Jim) to put this to music.

Lord, how many days?
How many days must I stay
Just one night in a hotel?

I am weary
Yes, so weary of the schlepping
Of computers to my room.

Oh, lord, how many days?
How many days must I stay
Just one night in a hotel?

Give me a sign
Please give me a sign that eating
Just shrimp and salad
Has come to an end.

Lord, lord, how many days?
How many days must I stay
Just one night in a hotel?

And then, I had a vision
Yes, a vision of perhaps three days
To rest my head.

And I said, yes, we can do it
If we drive throughout the day
To our goal.

There is a plan
Truly a plan to which we have committed
To lay my burden down.

Lord, how many days?
How many days must I stay just one day
In a hotel?

Our plan now is to jettison Meridian, MS, stay one night in Vicksburg, MS, axe Shreveport, LA and stay three nights in Dallas. Then we will dash across Texas and New Mexico in two days and stay three nights in Flagstaff. Hopefully this is a better plan.

August 19, 2011 (Happy Birthday, Peggy!) Cullowhee, NC to Fairburn, GA

John: This morning we say thank you and goodbye to Sophie, Al, Melissa and Tyler. We have had a wonderful two days but now it’s time to move on to our next destination near Atlanta GA. Al tells us our first few maneuvers and off we go down the other side of the (exceptionally beautiful) mountain. It is very good that Al has done this for us. Missy, our GPS, is in a snit for my having taken her to task in the previous post. She takes her sweet time acquiring her satellites; we are nearly beyond Al’s routing before she decides to share her deliberations with us. Fortunately, we appear all to be on the same page.

Mary: It’s good we have Clark, Lewis and Missy to talk to when we get tired of talking to each other. They’ve all taken on distinct personalities.

Stone Mountain

John: Voila, we are in Georgia. We head down US-23 passing through towns such as Tallulah, which we discover is a Cherokee word. Our destination is Stone Mountain just east of Atlanta. Jonathan has told us about it and encouraged us to see it. For some reason, Missy, who must still plotting revenge, takes us on surface streets from I-85 to Stone Mountain, despite what is obvious from the map is a superior route involving freeways. But we do find the west entrance to the park, pay our $10 for parking, and plan our afternoon. First problem, it’s 98 degrees. And second problem, we are quite sore from having played tennis on a clay court for the first time in a couple of years. So climbing an 800 foot granite dome or traipsing around an amusement park is out of the question.

John at the bottom of the trail not taken

Mary: Like typical Westerners we spend the last 10 miles before reaching Stone Mountain trying to find it. Where’s the mountain? Stupid trees, we can’t see anything. We are practically at the entrance gate before we see it.

John: But wait! We find a visitor center that shows films: one about the role of Atlanta and Georgia during the Civil War, concentrating on Sherman’s March to the Sea and another that describes the on-again off-again design and carving of the Stone Mountain memorial relief of three heroes of the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson.

Carving exhibit in the museum

John: The films are quite good. But the star of the show, in our eyes, is the geology and ecology exhibit across the hall that describes how the granite dome that we know as Stone Mountain today was formed. We have been to many geological displays before. The one in Denver on this trip was really good. But this one at Stone Mountain is the best we’ve ever seen. Simple enough for kids to grok while packed with enough detail and useful cross-reference to satisfy picky amateur geology buffs (such as ourselves– we’re all about the plate tectonics, you know.)

Clark and Lewis enjoy the hands-on exhibits

Next we go to the Skyride for a short but exciting ride up a cable gondola to the top of Stone Mountain. On the way we get a closer view of the carved relief on the mountainside. It’s big. Three giant figures. What can I say, it’s big.

Mary: This is about the same reaction we had when we saw Mount Rushmore. Kind of like, huh, big, giant heads.

A bad job by Mary trying to get John to look like he is falling off Stone Mountain.

We’ve enjoyed our visit to Stone Mountain and make our way to our hotel south of Atlanta. Tomorrow, we’ll get an early start on our trek through Selma, AL to Meridian, MS…

August 18, 2011 Statesville, NC to Cullowhee, NC

John: We have only good things to say about Statesville, NC based on our brief stay here. This morning we find a public tennis center with 6 hard courts and 4 clay courts, all lighted, that are in pretty good shape. We play on one of the hard court starting at 7am. Only when the staff show up at 8am do we realize we have jumped the gun on starting hours. (Perhaps this is the result of a budget cutback. If you can’t pay staff to supervise until closing time, then you have to leave the courts open. But it’s refreshing to see a good public tennis facility these days– we’ve seen so many that have been in sad shape.)

City Hall, Statesville, NC

We get on the road at 10am, pretty late for us. We are going to see our dear friends Sophie and Al in the North Carolina mountains. We have known them since 1983, when we were all newbies moving in to Hopkinton, MA (where the Boston Marathon starts). Our route today is supposed to take us west on I-40 to Asheville NC, then a lot of twisty federal and state highways to get to there place in Cullowhee (what a great name for a town!). “Supposed” is the operative word in the preceding sentence.

We get to Asheville, do a little shopping, and then try to find lunch. We fail miserably due to every place we consider has a lack of parking or lack of being open. Grumpily we ask Missy our GPS to route us towards our destination, trusting that we will locate some fast food along the way. We had thought that our general direction would be west. But Missy sends us on a road that says it’s eastbound. Nevertheless, we trust her since we don’t really know the roads in this part of the country. After a few miles, we see signs for food, pull off the road, and have lunch.

Stock photo - of course our chicken sandwich was "hold the cheese and mayo" and only eat half the bun

After lunch, we crank up Missy again and get going. But wait! She is now taking us back the way we came! Uh-oh, time for the map. Sure enough, Missy had led us astray earlier. She appears to have changed her mind over lunch. Perhaps she was initially attempting to take us via a different route, which is plausible. But why she should change her mind in this way is puzzling, to say the least. (But then again, this is not the first time Missy has been, shall we say, playful. The first time was four summers ago with what we call the Montpelier Maneuver: after having visited James Madison’s home, Missy had us take a right turn by first turning left, then going 1/4 mile, and finishing with a U-turn.)

Having made up her mind, Missy guides us on the path of righteousness to Cullowhee NC, home of Western Carolina University. We arrive at Sophie and Al’s around 3pm after driving through some beautiful country.

Mary: I am so happy to see my dear friend, Sophie. It’s been two years since we’ve been together and, as you can see from the picture, we are all smiles.

Mary and Sophie

We are also glad to see their daughter, Melissa, who was Sarah’s best friend when we lived in Massachusetts. She has an adorable baby boy, Tyler, who is very sweet and smily.

We spend the evening drinking wine and talking over old times, new times, and plans for the future.

August 16, 2011 Suffolk, VA to Statesville, NC

Mary: Oh, the nostalgia! Today John and I head into North Carolina and back to where we spent almost nine years in the late 70’s and 80’s. They were such good years and as I see the rolling hills of the Piedmont, I am carried back to an earlier time.

But first things first. John and I get up early in Suffolk and find the tennis center which has 10 very nice courts. We are the only ones out at 7 AM. We’ve decided to try to play every morning before we start off for the day. It helps with the diet and is a good addition to sitting in the car all day.

Then on to North Carolina. Our first stop is at Duke University’s Nasher Museum. It’s fairly small which gives us a chance to spend more time looking at art that we often bypass. For instance, we look at the Greek pottery, the red pottery with black figures. The ones they have are from the fourth century B.C.E. and I am taken by the detail in the designs. These are everyday objects and yet these ancient people cared enough to decorate them elaborately. We also see modern works by Picasso and others.

Picasso portrait of a woman

It’s pretty much a jumble of things. There’s also an exhibition called the Body of Christ, some gory, some poignant. And a photography display of African people as they have become dispersed around the world. In a more prosaic vein, I buy an especially cute purse at the gift shop.
From the Body of Christ exhibit, a sculpture by Javier Perez. Is it man becoming a tree or a tree becoming a man?

John: After the art museum, we visit my old stomping ground, the EMC (originally Data General) R&D center in Research Triangle Park, NC. We moved to North Carolina from Massachusetts to be one of the founders of that facility in 1977, and did another tour there in the early 1990s. Many of my former colleagues are still working there. It’s great to see them. It has been nearly 9 years since our last visit in 2002.

John out front of EMC

L to R: Dennis Duprey, Andy Huber, John Pilat, Tom Sheffield and Dan Oldman

We head west on I-40, past Chapel Hill, past Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and arrive in Statesville NC just after 6pm. In planning dinner, we decide to be brave and find some local Italian restaurant. We are craving red. Mary and John do not live by shrimp alone! We decide to try Mezzaluna II downtown.

It appears as if Statesville is getting a downtown makeover. We think it will be very nice when it’s done. There are some great old buildings in multiple styles, just the kind of urban landscape we enjoy. But we cannot tarry; we are hungry!

In short, dinner is great. We start with a sauteed mushroom and spinach appetizer, and have chicken arrabiata for entrees. It’s all good, fresh ingredients, nicely cooked. Even the spinach salad is spot-on. We choose a red wine from Puglia that’s a blend of Nero Amaro, Primitivo and Cabernet grapes. It goes beautifully with everything. Happiness reigns, especially given some of our less-than-perfect experiments on this trip. Clark and Lewis concur.

Clark and Lewis consider licking the plate

As we’re getting ready to leave, we compliment the chef/owner on the dinner. He asks us if we’re from Statesville. We say no, we’re from California. He beams and remarks: “You know food.” Gotta confess, we feel smug.

Tomorrow we hope to play some more tennis early and then see our dear friends Sophie and Al in the North Carolina mountains.