Thursday, October 13, 2011

Road trip 1 - Who Shot JR

from: Dallas, TX, USA

Back in May, I told you I had something special coming up. This is it. I got to take a trip around the country with my dad and favorite nephew. Somehow we avoided killing each other or getting too much on each others' nerves, and got to see a lot of great stuff.

For my nephew it was all new; he'd never been west of the Mississippi. Everything was new for him, everything a sight unseen, a sight to remember.

For my dad, it was reliving an experience he'd had when he was about 6. Back when he was a little kid, before the interstates existed, his grandparents took him and his older sister out west to Yellowstone. It was a trip he's been itching to repeat for almost 60 years. Additionally, about 12 years ago, just before I got out of the navy, he took a trip out to San Diego, where I had been stationed a year or two before, to visit an aunt of his he hadn't seen in a long time. On his way back, he visited the Grand Canyon. (Then a few days after he got home, his aunt passed away.)

And for me, I've been driving a truck long enough that I've driven past a lot of very interesting things, but for one reason or another couldn't stop at all of them. I wanted to get a closer look at a lot of things I was forced to drive past.

You, dear reader, get to come along for the ride!

I live in Daytona Beach, Florida. Our first order of business, once my dad and I were in the same car, was to go to Jackson, Mississippi, to attend my nephew's high school graduation. Sam survived Brandon High School, which has grown considerably since I spent a year there in 1987-88. The graduating class was so large that they had to rent out the Coliseum in Jackson, where they have the flea market on the weekends. The place was filled nearly to capacity with friends and family. The ceremony went as quickly as it could, but there were a few hundred students whose names had to be announced and cheered, so it lasted the better part of three hours.

Two days later, on a Friday morning at oh-dark-30, we headed out across I-20 toward Vicksburg. Dad likes to help the roosters wake up when he goes on trips, and lately I've preferred to get my walking done before the day gets really hot, and Sam napped.

At the time we left, the Mississippi river was flooding. It had been making a lot of news upstream the preceding weeks, tearing up Illinois and Missouri, and I wondered if we'd make it across the bridge at Vicksburg. I'd heard the night before that Vicksburg was starting to get flooded. Would our trip be over before it had even begun? Would we have to drive down US-61 looking for a probably overcrowded bridge to get us across the mighty Mississip'?

But crossing the Mississippi bridge there at Vicksburg proved uneventful, and we waved in the direction of McRaven House as we passed. Well, I did, anyway.

The drive across northern Louisiana is a desolate sea of green. There's pretty much nothing between Vicksburg and Dallas except swamp and forest. Not even rest areas; Louisiana closed all of them and tore them up. I thought those were federally funded, but I guess not. But since we wanted to get to Dallas in time for lunch, and it's a 6 hour drive, Louisiana wasn't in much danger of getting any of our tourist dollars.

After a quick stop at the Texas welcome center, where we found an interesting sign posted, we got into Dallas in time for lunch. I called up my cousin Patti and we met at a Genghis Grill we were driving past. It's a Mongolian restaurant chain which has thoroughly invaded the Dallas area and a large swath of the rest of Texas, and they've got a few branches in other states. Hopefully they'll bring one to Daytona Beach before too long. (Feel free to get on their Facebook page and clamor for it for me!)

It was all kinds of a good thing that we met up with Patti that day. She'd been out west recently with her husband and parents, and they had spent some time in the Colorado Springs area! We found out there was a lot more to do there than simply drive up Pike's Peak. I'll tell you about that when our story gets there.

This was Sam's first experience with Mongolian BBQ, or Mongolian Grill as most such places are calling it now. How can anyone NOT like Mongolian BBQ, I don't know, and I didn't find out from Sam, because he loved it too. I could probably spend all day telling you how fantastic Mongolian BBQ is, and how much I wish they'd open a place in Daytona Beach, but I'm going to save that for another day.

Downtown OKC

This is a good place to stop before telling you all about Oklahoma City, which was far more interesting than I ever thought it would be. So tune in again next week!


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