Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August 19th 2008

Sorry this is longer than usual but, like we have, it covers a lot of ground.

Last update though, as today we are driving home. We didn't plan it this way but it turns out we left on May 19th and are returning exactly 3 months later.

It will be nice to be back before Jordan and Heather leave for England, and we also timed it quite nicely with the start of the footie season.

Our last update was leaving Miami and we've been to quite a few places since then as the pictures show.

New Orleans was first where we stayed in a really cool hostel - the India House - and we did the usual stuff. Ate beignets at Cafe du Monde, walked around the French quarter. The food there was great. We didn't stay long as we had to get to Oklahoma City to visit Jenn's Uncle Dennis.

That was a two day drive.

We stopped at Oak Alley, a beautiful old Mansion house with ancient oaks and sugar cane fields, part of Plantation Alley which lines the Mississippi in Northern Louisiana. Another example of how most of the great achievements of the human race have been made at the price of slavery or exploitation. I suppose the greatest exception to that we've seen on our trip is the space program.

Up the Mississippi on the Natchez Trace - a scenic byway tracing the route of what was first a Native American trade route, then a pioneer trail. Loggers, craftsmen and traders from the north would build barges and float their goods down the Mississippi to New Orleans but there was no way to get back up the river so they dismantled and sold off the boats and hiked back, about a month's journey. Inns sprung up on the trace and highwaymen lurked in the trees to rob the travellers of their pockets full of gold. That is to steal the gold not the pockets although I dare say that did happen too. We visited one of the inns, Locust Hill, the only remaining one. It was probably the quietest National Park in the country. There were two other cars in the lot and the same number of rangers, so we were given plenty of attention and a full guided tour.

We stayed a night in Memphis and went downtown for some food, it was late but they serve food late on Beale St. That's where all the Elvis impersonaters and other blues musicians play. We watched some street performers (just school kids really) tumbling down the middle of Beale
St too.

In Memphis they have a scale model of the Mississippi built on an island out in the river - finishing with a swimming pool sized Carribbean.

We stayed two nights in Oklahoma with Dennis and Bev and their family. We stayed up until the wee hours got all grown up debating life, the universe and everything, with Bev and her sister Donna. They said I was too quiet, and egged me on, and I needed a good fun argument.

We left for Roswell which felt a bit ironic after I'd spent the previous night arguing the skeptical side against all paranormal, pseudo scientific claims - but it's not that I believe in aliens or owt, I just want to. We drove through the night through yet another of the biggest thunderstorms I've ever seen -we were trapped by a big one at Kennedy Space Center, so I'd done the research and knew we'd be alright in a car - this one lasted hours though and was a bit scary. It didn't even occur to me but Jenn pointed out afterwards that during our god debate the night before I had asked to be struck down by lightning as proof that god existed - or more as proof of the contrary. Hardly a scientific test but a funny coincidence.

Roswell was a joke. The most pathetic museum I have ever seen. Exhibit 1: framed newspaper reports about the crashed weather balloon. (actually that was about 200 exhibits) Exhibit 201: some X-files posters... No, seriously! X-files posters. The best part of the museum was this true believer girl who literally dragged (and I mean literally, she was pretty aggressive) her boyfriend around the excuse- for-an-exhibit shouting at him that this is such bull$@*#, the government has so much to hide, we need to get to a motel so we can get on google earth and spy on area 51 - like it's a live spy satellite! Like google zooms their camera in every time you tap your keyboard. She was a lot of fun to just follow around the museum, pretending like we were just reading the stuff next to her. It was so stupid.

We've also been to Tombstone, AZ. All historic towns should be done like Tombstone, the locals wear costume, they had a great reenactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral, with a very good Doc Holliday who stole the show. It was glamourised but it wasn't told in the one-sided good-guys/bad-guys Hollywood style. The actors hang out in the saloons when the aren't fighting, they have stage coaches an cowboys riding around town and all at one cheap price. It was out of the way but well worth the trip.

That's it. Grand Canyon's a big hole in the ground (that some people insist was formed by Noah's flood- course it was, so were the stalagmites (from the ground cause it has a g) and stalactites (from the ceiling cause it has a c) that we saw at Carlsbad Caverns- if there was ever anything that proves just by looking at it the world is millions of years old these caverns were it. Hoover Dam is one big rubbernecking traffic jam, but another spectacular human achievement. As is Vegas. I did the stratosphere rides. The scariest rides going. Imagine a waltzer that hangs off the edge of a 1000ft high tower. I was surprised at how much we liked Vegas. Only problem is they have this no bank scam going, where you can only withdraw cash from the casino ATMs at a $12 fee. So we spent $2 on gambling which was all the cash we had. Word of advice: take your own cash with you. The highlight of Vegas was the Penn & Teller show which was just incredible.

So in summary: Zion National Park, Kennedy Space Centre, Key West, Tombstone, Penn & Teller. They are the places I'd like to take you all to.

Monday, August 18, 2008