Eric's Cross-Country Drive

If you only have time for the short version of my report, here is how my cross-country drive went:
Orlando, Florida, Georgia, Atlanta, Chevron gas, Sandi, Henriette, Sandi, Shell gas, Alabama, Natural Bridge of Alabama, Mississippi, Oxford, Amoco gas, Alex, Tennessee, Arkansas, Phillips 66 gas, Oklahoma, Texaco gas, Texas, New Mexico, Conoco gas, Albuquerque, Tucanos Brazilian Grill, Theobroma, Pilot gas, Arizona, Meteor Crater, Canyon Gas, Grand Canyon, Nevada, Hoover Dam, Mobil gas, Las Vegas, California, Cupertino, Arco gas.
I did not repeat any gas station brand.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I planned to leave Wednesday, but the movers finished loading the truck before 1 p.m. So I made some phone calls, thought about it, threw my final things into bags and other containers, told the apartment management I was vacating, and started for Atlanta. I left Maitland at 2:45 and reached Atlanta at 10:06, driving 465 miles in 7 hours and 21 minutes, averaging 63.3 miles per hour. That includes one stop for gas in Georgia, where some tiny flying insects invaded my car.

I went to Atlanta to visit my friend Sandi and my cousins Victoria, Jonathan, and Catherine, and their mom, Henriette.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Light-brown tabby cat and white cat
Bonnie (back right) and Clyde (front left).
Sandra Ham
Sandi's cats are Bonnie and Clyde.

Sandi went to work in the morning, and Henriette was at work too, so I did some quick sightseeing and shopping and met Sandi for lunch.

After lunch, I went to CNN, which is in downtown Atlanta, and took the studio tour.

Lots of televisions Tour guide standing in front of a blue screen while monitors show her in front of a weather map
Mock-up of control booth monitors. Tour guide demonstrates blue screen.
The studio tour begins with an eight-story escalator, followed by a stop in the monitor room at the far left, where you can see the same image in various stages of processing—the plain image from cameras, the image with some identifying graphics overlaid, and the image as it is being broadcast with real-time graphics.

Then there is a room where they demonstrate teleprompters and how blue screens are used to merge camera views with background graphics like weather maps.

After that, the tour goes by some studios where they are broadcasting news programs live.

Victoria and Henriette, Catherine and Jonathan
Victoria and Henriette Spielberg above, Catherine and Jonathan below.
In the afternoon, Henriette came home, and I visited for a while. Jonathan was there, Victoria arrived after a bit, and we went to pick up Catherine and then went to dinner.

Jonathan's birthday is August 20, so I gave him his present a couple of days early.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

In the morning, I set course for Oxford, Mississippi, where my brother Alex recently moved to be Technical Director at the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Mississippi.

There is a sign at the Alabama border announcing you are entering the Central time zone. I think that is the first time I have driven across a time zone border.

An arch of rock An arch of rock
Natural Bridge of Alabama.
Around lunchtime, I passed a sign for the Natural Bridge of Alabama, and I figured that was as good a place to eat as any. (I had some food with me.) The bridge is a vein of iron ore that was left behind as sandstone eroded away 200 million years ago. There is still water dripping around the bridge, so it will not be there forever.

A sign says this is the longest rock arch east of the Rockies. The reverse of the sign announces that Winston county's representatives voted against secession in 1862, making them unpopular in the area.

I continued to Alex's and arrived at 4:00. We did a quick tour through town and visited the university, including the theaters where Alex is working.

House under some trees Alex Alex
Alex's home. Alex.

Grove University buildings
Not the Grove. Buildings.
I forgot to bring my camera, so these photographs are from the next day.
People outside the student union Another building More buildings
People outside the student union. Another building. More buildings.

Buildings with columns and walkways or balconies City hall and some stores
Buildings around courthouse square.
We finished in town and looked for a restaurant. Our first choice was closed for a private party, but Old Venice was open and turned out to be pretty good.

Red telephone box
British telephone booth.
For some reason, a British telephone box is installed in the square, next to city hall. This reminded me of my recent travels, such as the red telephone booth in EPCOT's World Showcase. This 1930 box was originally installed in Oxfordshire, England.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Friday, I just drove 727 miles in 12 hours and 1 minute, with one stop for food and gas and another just for gas. Reception of public radio stations was pretty good while passing through Arkansas.

When I merged onto I-40 from 240, my GPS directed me to drive 889 miles, then exit right.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Saturday was also a long driving day (681 miles), except that I stopped in Albuquerque for lunch and chocolate and had time for a quick visit to Petrified Forest National Park.

Amtrak train in front of city Restaurant on an Albuquerque street
Amtrak in Albuquerque. Tucanos Brazilian Grill.
In Albuquerque, I happened upon Tucanos Brazilian Grill. Grills are not generally good places for vegetarians, but Tucanos has an excellent salad bar was very good and included several good non-salad dishes. Their main meal is the Churassco, which includes assorted breads, fried bananas, unlimited salad bar, and grilled items that servers bring around to the tables and slice for you. Most of the selections are various cuts of beef, poultry, pork, and seafood, but they also have Legumes (vegetables), Feijoada (Black Bean Stew), and Abacaxi (grilled pineapple). I quite enjoyed the meal and recommend the restaurant (101 Central Avenue SW, 1-505-246-9900).

Train on plain
Train on plain.
The staff also directed me to Theobroma Chocolatier.

Upon crossing into Arizona, I gained two hours on the clock, because Arizona stays at Universal Time Coordinate minus seven hours. (I think technically Arizona might switch between Mountain Standard Time and Pacific Daylight Savings Time, which are both UTC-7 but satisfy federal regulations about observing Daylight Savings Time.) So I arrived at Petrified Forest National Park relatively early, at 4:40 p.m.

I saw lots of trains in New Mexico and Arizona. There is one going by to the right.

Painted desert Multicolored hills Log-shaped rock
Painted Desert. Tepees. Petrified log. The stone is extremely heavy. I hefted a small piece, maybe as large as two fists, and it was very heavy.
Many short log-shaped rocks Two long broken log-shaped rocks One long broken log-shaped rocks
Petrified trees.
The park also contains some petroglyphs, ancient drawings on some of the stones that have been glazed by natural processes, but tourists are not allowed close enough to get good pictures with typical cameras. There is also some information about why layers of very different geologic ages are next to each other—intermediate layers may have formed but been washed away.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Hole in the ground Center of hole in the ground
Meteor Crater. Created in ten seconds by one rock hitting the Earth.
In the morning, I visited Meteor Crater. This crater was formed around 50,000 years ago when a 150-foot meteorite weighing several hundred thousand pounds struck the earth at about 30,000 miles per hour.

The crater is huge. The appearance is deceptive, even when you are there, because the hole is generally symmetric, unlike natural features that usually give you clues to scale. The hole is 4000 feet across and 700 feet deep. In the second image, I have drawn a red rectangle that encloses a 6' tall cardboard astronaut and a 5'-by-3' US flag. (NASA trained astronauts here to recognize geologic features in preparation for recovering rocks from the moon.) Two million people could be seated around the crater.

Hundreds of meteorites strike Earth every year, and another one this size could hit anytime, and even bigger ones will hit someday. The blast from this meteorite created the crater in ten seconds.

This land is privately owned. Their museum is fairly decent.

Next, I drove to a bigger hole in the ground in the Kaibab National Forest, the Grand Canyon. It is bigger, ten miles across, almost a mile deep, and 277 miles long. However, it has taken six million years to carve. So Meteor Crater was dug a trillion times faster.

Between the river and the rim, the temperature may change about 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

I walked a few miles in the park and took lots of pictures for you. I only had time to walk along the rim. However, if you plan a trip to the Grand Canyon, I recommend you descend to the river—hike, take a tour, maybe fly through it.

Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Metal marker in stone
Boston Museum of Science marker.
Switchback path down cliffs to Grand Canyon Tree in the Grand Canyon Railroad near the Grand Canyon
Switchback path to bottom. Lonely tree. Railroad tracks.

At this point, I was still a day ahead of schedule, since I had started a day early and driven a lot Friday and Saturday. So I added Las Vegas to my itinerary. This took me over the Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam.
There was some unexplained police roadblock about ten miles before the dam. I was just waived through without question, but I wonder what they were looking for.

I arrived in Las Vegas around 7:00 p.m. and tried to find a hotel near the strip. There are cheap hotels begging for customers elsewhere in town, but I wanted to walk around in the morning without moving the car. However, Vegas has changed since I was there 15 years ago or so. It is over the top now. There is a castle, an Eiffel Tower, a roller coaster, pyramids, and more.

After driving around a bit, I parked to seek information, and one of the fancier hotels was kind enough to direct me to a budget hotel. I got a room there and went to sleep while Las Vegas partied.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Faux skyscrapers and Statue of Liberty with real roller coaster
New York.
In the morning, I looked around a bit, found breakfast, and looked around some more. The New York hotel is shown to the right. Inside, it does not evoke New York much at all, except for Nathan's and its game room and maybe Coney Island and the roller coaster. I looked for breakfast but did not find any bagels with schmeers. Maybe the pizza would have been New-York-style, but none was being served in the morning.

There is a small zoo in the Grand and, in the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, works by Monet from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. I did not see what the other hotels had.

Faux Eiffel Tower
The Paris hotel feels a tiny bit more like Paris than the New York hotel feels like New York. For starters, Lenôtre has a store there. The crêperie is reportedly good, and I also saw a boulangerie and pâtisserie. The hotel also reminded me of Paris because my chocolate suffered from the heat, although it fared better this time, and the walk to the train station reminded me of the trek in Stalingrad.

That train is Las Vegas' new monorail. My primary motivation for coming to Las Vegas was to visit Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, which is a bit removed from the other hotels. The monorail seems a bit slow and ungainly; it is not what you want to make tourists feel like they are in the pace of the city.

Star Trek: The Experience entrance.
I arrived at the Hilton before 10 a.m., and Star Trek: The Experience does not open until 11, so I had time to kill. I wandered a bit and played blackjack for a while. I ended up exactly even, which is good for not having refreshed my memory on basic strategy before playing.

Tube with glowing lights
I was pleased with the attraction, especially Klingon Encounter. Klingon Encounter has some clever scripting, and the audience was amused by the plausibility of the scenario within the Star Trek universe. I cannot tell you what happens, because that might change the future. However, I can say that the story included trips on a transporter, a starship, a turbolift, and a shuttlecraft, which is a lot to do in 22 minutes, and I thought the effects were effective. The audience laughed at the ending too, because it also fits and brings you back to Las Vegas in a "credible" way.

Star Trek costumes and props Early twentieth century electrical apparatus
Costumes and props. Spock's juryrigged tricorder repair.
The Borg show is not as good, but it is okay. The entire attraction also includes Quark's bar, costumed characters (including Borg, Klingon, and Ferengi), and some interesting merchandise. I ended up with a Borg teddy bear. Other merchandise includes Klingon blood wine, props from the show, models, DVDs, greeting cards (like a get-well card showing the Enterprise sick bay), and t-shirts ("Talk to the hand" depicting the Vulcan finger-spread greeting). If you are really into it, you can act a few lines in front of a blue-screen and be inserted into footage of the show.

Ethel M chocolate factory.
In the afternoon, I visited the nearby Ethel M factory. and then drove 300 miles and got a hotel room for my last night on the road. The drive went up and down several mountains, with noticeable changes in air pressure. I think this is the segment on which I passed Zzyzx Road.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The final leg of my cross-country drive was 250 miles to Cupertino, California. I arrived near 12:30 and got into my temporary apartment without event.

Final statistics:

Start life in California ⇒

© Copyright 2004 by Eric Postpischil.