BloggingAcrossAmerica: Page 1
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The upstate New York version of the South Bronx, otherwise known as Newburgh, has been featured here in the past.
Can you imagine some really bad porno music? You know, the kind with the rhythm guitars or the saxophones, preferably from the 70s or 80s? OK. Now, read this report from the LAT: "We're Not in G-Rated Kansas Anymore" ABILENE, Kan. - Outside, the prairie lies dark and still. In the windowless gray building by the Interstate 70 offramp, a clerk with a tired face rings up sex toys.
Last year, while driving across Kansas, I stopped at a store selling gothic/fetish clothing. Now, someone is camped out on the roof of a different store that sells porno: Written on a white sheet tacked to the front of Behind Closed Doors, 768 N.
People frequently ask me, "What was the key lesson learned on the Blogging Across America tour?" And, I tell them in all seriousness, the key lesson learned - the one bit of info I find most perplexing - is this: there are no Chinese steam table restaurants outside California.
As I was getting ready to leave Lordsburg, I was still debating where I was going to travel next and what I was going to do. West or North? Forsake L.A. and spend some quality time in Denver? I briefly considered visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Tent camping there was free, but it was also about 20 degrees at night and it was (supposedly) a tough 2 hour drive from the monument to the next "big" town, Silver City.
On my way out of El Paso, I made a bit of a mistake. Namely, I should have spent the night in Las Cruces. It's New Mexico's second largest city (OK, that's not saying much, but anyway...) and it seems to have some of the things that El Paso lacks. For instance, I took a spin through the La Messilla area and I saw some Christmas carollers in the square there singing away for a crowd of about 100 people.
After my hike at Hueco Tanks on December 5, I drove out of El Paso along the Trans-Mountain Highway. I already posted some of my thoughts on El Paso here, and I hereby promise you a more complete treatment at a later date. On the way out of town, I paid a visit to the El Paso Archaeological Society's museum. It's rather small but it's somewhat informative. Unlike me, the lady there thinks Kennewick Man is an Asian. To each his own. The mannequins there are almost nekkid.
I spent the night of December 4th in the campground at Hueco Tanks State Park outside El Paso. The temperature was above freezing, and initially I hadn't set up the rain fly. However, around 10pm suddenly the wind came in with a vengeance, making it quite cold and most likely in the 20s with the wind chill.
On the way to Carlsbad Caverns, you drive through White's City. It's a small tourist trap with a motel, gas station, museum, etc. I didn't visit the "Million Dollar Museum" as it's already been done. The above shot was taken on the way to the city of Carlsbad, not to the caverns. Specifically, just over the New Mexico state line north of Orla. To get to the caverns from Carlsbad I took a different route.
Driving from Fort Stockton, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico with his tape recorder in his hand, blogging superstar "Lonewacko" tries to write the Great American Road Novel.
A couple weeks ago I drove to Carlsbad, NM starting from Fort Stockton, TX. Fort Stockton is a dumpy, disheveled hole which isn't that bad a place to spend a night, except it doesn't have a Wendy's nor a Hardee's/Carl's Jr.
Lonewacko and Lonewacko Jr. recently visited El Paso as part of their Blogging Across America tour. I interviewed the junior member of the team in a cheap motel at an undisclosed location a day's drive from their home base in Los Angeles. Lonewacko Jr. entered the room dressed in a white sweatshirt, and we began the interview... Robert Hilburn: There was much expectation and ensuing speculation regarding your recent visit to El Paso. Que pasa? Lonewacko Jr.: When Lonewacko first told me we were going to El Paso, I was quite, er, excited.
No jokes now, they actually look pretty interesting. They're on BLM land next to the White Sands Missile Range. I spent a bit of time and fuel driving off the highway six miles to the campground in search of information and perhaps a short hike. The only two described hikes were too long to do that late and there was no one else around except an older camper. So, I continued on. Las Cruces looks slightly interesting, and might warrant a future visit.
A shot from the White Sands Missile Range museum. The plaque says "This spacecraft was a section of the Voyager Balloon System which was launched near Roswell, NM and landed on WSMR... These bright, shiny aeroshells projected an illusion of flying saucers." What is it they want us to believe? That all those UFO sightings were actually caused by either this thing or one of those "weather balloons?" Or, is something more subtle at play here?
[Post summary: Stay away from Alamogordo, NM. Just drive right through it. Don't stop. Don't buy anything. If you can find a way to make them spend money instead of the other way around, do it.] "Say, do you have any demographic, er, musings on Alamogordo?" "No" "I mean, where did those people come from?
Like Guadalupe Peak (see the previous entry), I'd wanted to visit the Caverns for a few years. I read up on them and seen the pictures, and I was ready for my first trip underground. Since I'd done the Caverns of Sonora a few days earlier, it wasn't an entirely new experience. However, the sheer size of the Carlsbad Caverns was quite different from those in Sonora. I visited them twice. The first day I took the Natural Entrance and then took the loop around the Big Room.
I hiked up Guadalupe Peak - the highest point in Texas at 8749' - on Thanksgiving day. In keeping with the Lonewacko ethos, it was a solo hike. I felt very good about getting to the top of this peak. I've wanted to come here for about three years, but one thing or another would keep me away. I'd book a flight, then cancel it a week later.
Alpine is a somewhat interesting small town pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Or, at least 60 miles from the I10, and about 100 miles from the real middle of nowhere, Big Bend National Park. Unfortunately, I never made it to Big Bend, but I did spend some time in Alpine. I'll save my description of the town for a later post, but for now: I stayed one night at the Pecan Grove RV Park. It's right in Alpine, which is a lot more convenient than the next tent camping area at the Davis Mountains State Park, twenty or so miles from any services.
When I first drove into Alpine, I noticed a quite impressive pyramid-shaped peak rising out of the desert. It was visible starting a few miles from Alpine along 67. On my way to visit Davis Mountain State Park (see the previous entry. Confusing, eh?), about 10 miles outside of Alpine, I turned onto Mitre Peak Road which seemed like it would lead to the base of the peak. Indeed it did. However, the presence of barbed wire fences indicated that this wasn't public land.
On November 21, I drove through Alpine, Texas (of which more later), bound for Davis Mountain State Park. The park didn't seem that very interesting, but then again I didn't do anything other than stop at the visitor's center.
On the way to Fort Stockton, I decided to stop at Fort Lancaster State Park, which houses a fort used to defend against Comanche raids and protect travelers from San Antonio to El Paso. That's located on a 20 or so mile bypass highway that runs from the 10, through the dumpy town of Sheffield, and back to the 10. Before Sheffield, I rounded a bend and saw my first glimpse of how this part of Texas is not in anyway like the areas around Dallas, Austin or San Antonio. There in front of me was a gully a few hundred feet high.
On November 19 I found myself driving through Sonora Texas, and I decided to take a tour of the Caverns of Sonora. I'd never been in a cave before. I was under an overhang in Missouri, but that's not the same thing. I've wanted to climb Guadalupe Peak - TX's highest point - for a few years, and in preparation I'd read up on the nearby Carlsbad Caverns. They seemed quite interesting, but at the same time I was worried about claustrophobia.
After S.A., I was going to go to Enchanted Rock State Park, which is located in Texas' "Hill" Country north of Fredericksburg. The greatest elevation hike there is 400' to the top of the rock, and that appears to be the most difficult hike within hours of Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio.
[I visited San Antonio on November 17, this entry is just catching up.] I had trouble finding anyone who'd say anything bad about San Antonio. They'd say bad things about Houston or Dallas or Hobbs, NM, but not about S.A. And to a fairly good extent that's justified. It's a bit sleepy, and it's basically a small town surrounded by a humungous suburban ring and some Army and Air Force bases. However, it has its own charms and attractions. The city of S.A.
caption: "Latin American Woman" A typical European While considering a trip to Houston, I began asking myself, "Is Houston truly a multicultural city?
[I visited the former Branch Davidian compound outside Waco on November 11, this entry is just catching up.] I posted another photo from the compound
[I visited Waco on November 11, this entry is just catching up.] After my bike ride, I went to the Cameron Park Zoo, which, for a smaller town, is much better than the zoo in Indy.
[I visited Waco on November 11, this entry is just catching up.] Mention "Waco," and you know what everyone thinks of. This is despite the fact that the Branch Davidian compound was actually located about a dozen miles outside Waco in Mount Carmel. If not for the regrettable incident that took place there so long ago, Waco would just be a small, sleepy farm city with Kansas-style wide, open streets. It makes a convenient highway stop as it's midway between Dallas and Austin.
[I visited Dallas around November 10; the shot above shows the Grassy Knoll.] A couple blocks from Dealey Plaza is the Conspiracy Museum. Flyers for it are available at the visitor's center, which is almost unmarked. The museum has exhibits on JFK, as well as a UFO display in the basement. The guy there was taciturn and unfriendly.
[I visited Dallas around November 10, this entry is just catching up.] I rode the streetcar a bit through The Historic Uptown Section of Dallas. Apparently, this used to be a rundown section of the city until a group of civic-minded folks (no doubt including real estate developers) decided to revive the streetcars.
[I visited Dallas around November 10, this entry is just catching up.] There are nice people in Dallas, and there are also assholes. Just like any other big city. Some of the assholes here however have a particular talent for soul-sucking. One would wish to pay actual money not to have run into these people. Unlike the assholes in Indy, who weren't quite adept, the assholes of the Big D seem to have the knack. As if Dallas was a Mecca for soul-sucking assholes. So, anyway, on a completely different topic, I went in search of some place in Dallas where there's some elevation gain.
[I visited Dallas around November 10; the shot above shows the Grassy Knoll.] It's not like Dallas sprung up out of nowhere, it just feels that way to a very great extent. Everything you need to know about Dallas you probably already know: Dealey Plaza, J.R. Ewing, and the Dallas Cowboys.
I am in Carlsbad. Carlsbad is a city in New Mexico. I like this town! Twenty thousand people live here. That is a lot. That is more than three times the number of people in Fort Stockton in Texas. Fort Stockton had an AOL access number. There is no computer access here. "Cahm-pyoo-ter?" Do you have a phone jack I can use? What kind of phone jack are you looking for? What kind of phone? Just a regular phone. (Yeah, that's it, just a regular phone. No sense confusing the issue. Give them something they can understand.
After Austin, I was hoping to find something to cleanse my palate. Providence and I met on the way to San Antonio when I saw the sign for the Snake Farm in New Braunfels. Unfortunately, it was closed. San Antonio is a larger city than Austin, and there were a few people milling about its downtown area.
Lest you dismiss Austin as just a small city that's home to a cow college, let me rectify your misconceptions: Austin is truly a cultural mecca. Whether you're searching for a delicious repast or a world-class art gallery, Austin has it all. Plus, it's the "Live Music Capital of the World." And, it has a bunch of bloggers, none of whom responded to my request for assistance, save for David Nunez.
I'm currently at a Boingo WiFi access point at Guadalupe and 41st. However, there's no foot traffic here, so I'm leaving in search of another place. Check back at around 2pm Central Time. UPDATE: I'm now at Mojos Daily Grind at 2714 Guadalupe St. I'll be here until about 3:30pm or so. UPDATE 2: There's not enough foot traffic here; I'm going to make my last attempt to do this at Quacks at 411 East 43rd Street. I'll update when I'm there. UPDATE 3: Quacks, like the other places, is dead.
A shot from the former Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas. There's a plaque memorializing each of the people killed during the siege in 1993 under each of the trees shown above. Most of the trees aren't shown. I'm getting a bit ahead of myself; I need to post about Dallas, the Waco Zoo, and Cameron Park in Waco. I'll do that and post another Waco picture or two later.
I recently drove from L.A. to Maine, blogging all the way. Now I'm going back, and I'll be passing through Austin in a day or two. I'd like to meet other bloggers and do interesting things. Despite driving thousands of miles through about 20 states, I haven't had much luck meeting other bloggers so far. A few have responded, but they were usually not on my route, or they didn't respond to follow-up emails. Maybe Austin bloggers will be different, but, based on past experience I'm not going to hold my breath. Contact me at abuse at tolstoy dot com.
Hope, Arkansas is a sleepy, slightly run-down community that has the standard assortment of fast food restaurants and gas stations, along with a small downtown section still awaiting redevelopment. There's very little Clinton-related stuff here: two of Clinton's boyhood homes, an eponymous middle school, and a boulevard named in his honor. One of the homes is now a museum, the other is in private hands. They used to have souvenir shops in the town selling Clinton-related merchandise, but they've since gone out of business.
I paid a brief visit to Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro AR. It was a bit of a waste of time and money; I went there on the state highways and if I'd just gone from Hot Springs south along the interstate I could have saved myself at least an hour. The park is basically just a big field that looks like it's been plowed. As in fact it has, by thousands of visitors who come here looking for diamonds. For just the $5 entrance fee, you can go in and dig to your heart's content. You can even sluice the soil if you wish.