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Kim's Excellent Adventure (Click on any photo to enlarge)

In March 2001, I drove from Massachusetts to California and back (with five dogs) to attend the ASSA National Specialty show. I like to drive -- probably a good thing -- but even so, I expected the trip to be rather tiring and difficult. In fact, it was a blast! I hope to make a similar trip in the future when I have more time (and fewer dogs along for the ride). I managed to see a lot of sights during my trip, but for every stop I made, there were 20 other places I know I missed. But here is some of what I saw and did:

Dayton, Ohio: I spent a couple of hours at the US Air Force Museum. It was really amazing to see so many enormous planes all in one place, and indoors! It was fun being able to go inside some of the aircraft, including several Air Force One jets used by previous administrations.

The presentation of the warplanes was very elaborate. Many of the displays featured life-size dioramas with human figures representing soldiers. I especially liked the WWII-era aircraft like "Dream Girl" (left; click to enlarge photo).

Yukon, Oklahoma: Following my MapQuest-generated directions off the main street in Yukon, past several grain elevators, and across a railroad crossing unsullied by as much as signal light, I found it hard to believe I would find the "Pets & People Dog Park" at the end of this ride. But, suddenly, there it was -- and well worth the trip. The dogs and I spent an enjoyable hour and a half at this incredible park, which I'd found through an Internet search. It featured more than three securely fenced acres, with a pond for dogs that like to swim, and a separate fenced area for agility. The park is maintained by, and is adjacent to, the local humane society. (Click on either photo to enlarge.)

McLean, Texas: This Phillips 66 gas station dates from the earliest days of old Route 66, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year (click on photo to enlarge).

I passed through McLean early on a Saturday morning -- too early to stop and visit the Devil's Rope (barbed wire) Museum, which didn't open until 10 a.m. In 1990, on my way to the Sheltie National in Denver, I missed visiting the nation's only other barbed wire museum in LaCrosse, Kansas, because we got there too late in the day. I hope that my timing will improve on some future trip. A visit to a barbed wire museum seems like the sort of thing one should do at least once in a lifetime.

Holbrook, Arizona: Unfortunately, there was no vacancy at the Wigwam Motel on Route 66 (click on photo to enlarge), where each of the concrete teepees contains a normal-sized, albeit 10-sided, motel room. Actually, I'd planned to stay in Gallup, New Mexico, that Saturday night, but I hadn't figured on the complete lack of grass in this part of the Southwest -- and grass is something of a necessity when traveling with five dogs. So I'd pushed on, stopping only to exercise the dogs on the lawn at the Arizona Welcome Center. I still hadn't found grass by the time I hit Holbrook, but the teepees were surrounded by gravel and mulch, which would have worked just as well.

And the dogs would have been welcome, owner Clifton Lewis told me. Just a few weeks ago, they'd had a guest who was traveling with three Scottish Terriers, he said. Clifton is the son -- one of eight children actually -- of Chester E. Lewis, who built the place in the late1940s. In 1974, after Route 40 bypassed Route 66 in Holbrook, the motel closed and sat idle for 14 years. But the property was never sold, and in 1988, Chester's children re-opened it, just as baby-boomers were becoming nostalgic for the roadside motels of their childhood vacations. Clifton shared his scrapbooks with me -- photos and descriptions of his family's motel have appeared in hundreds of magazines all over the world -- but, sadly, he couldn't offer me a room, and I had to move on. I ended up at a Red Roof Inn in Flagstaff. It was much less interesting, but there was plenty of grass.

Seligman to Kingbrook, Arizona on Route 66: The photo on the right (click on photo to enlarge) shows the view through the windshield of the Montero just outside Seligman, Arizona. Isn't that sky amazing? There were no other cars around, so there was nobody to object when I stopped in the middle of the road to take a photo. This stretch of old Route 66 provided glorious vistas but few other humans. In the next 125 miles, I probably saw 20 other cars, mostly in the vicinity of a few small Indian reservations.

The Hackberry General Store (left; click on photo to enlarge) sold a variety of useful items. I bought some earrings, a book, and a root beer.

Anaheim, California: Yeah, I admit it. We blew off the dog show one day and went to Disneyland. I got in using the free pass I'd won in 1985 as part of a prize giveaway at Disneyland's 30th anniversary celebration. It was a $48 value 16 years later! Can you believe I still had it? The woman at the entrance turnstile couldn't believe it, nor did she know quite what to do with it at first.

In the picture at right, Nola Chock waits for her car at Disney's Autopia (click on photo to enlarge). I'm in the background wearing a maroon jacket. I loved the newer rides like Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain but was disappointed to find Pirates of the Caribbean closed for repairs.

West and east of Oatman, Arizona: After leaving California, headed back home to Massachusetts, I couldn't resist the chance to leave the main highway and head out on old Rte. 66 one last time. I decided to take a 35-mile "short-cut" that would avoid a portion of Rte.40 I'd already seen while headed west a week earlier. It had been a relatively wet spring here, and the desert was in bloom with rich and fascinating vegetation (photo at far left; click to enlarge). It was a beautiful landscape, and so different from the east coast.

This route took me through the little town of Oatman, where traffic halted as wild burros wandered into the street. On the other side of town, a sign alerted me to "winding roads" for the next nine miles. They weren't kidding! I never knew the meaning of "hairpin turn" until that day. The winding road took me to the top of a mountain pass, where I stopped to take the photo on the right (click on photo to enlarge), thinking I'd already survived the worst of the drive.

As it turned out, I was wrong. Coming down the other side of the pass was twice as harrowing as my climb to the top had been -- try hairpin turns on a narrow, poorly maintained road with sheer drops of hundreds of feet to one side. Guard rails? Ha! We don't need no stinkin' guardrails! As you can imagine, this road was especially exciting in the fully loaded Montero, complete with (top-heavy) roof pod. It had looked so straightforward on the map! Truly, I would not have taken this route had I known what it would be like, but I must admit to feeling some pride in having survived it.

Grand Canyon, Arizona: I spent the night in a Rodeway Inn just outside the park, but I was up early and on the canyon's rim at sunrise (right; click on photo to enlarge). It was an overcast morning -- not the most spectacular sunrise ever -- but the early morning light on the rocks was very pretty.

By 7 a.m., I was sitting down to breakfast in the dining room of the elegant El Tovar Hotel (opened in 1905), right on the rim of the canyon. I had one of the best breakfasts I have ever had -- a quesedilla with cheese, egg, sausage, grilled peppers, and jalapenos, and topped with a green-chile cheese sauce. I was glad the waitress recommended asking for a half order; it was very filling, and I would have cried if I'd had to leave any on the plate.

By the time I was done eating and browsing the El Tovar's two gift shops, the clouds had lifted and the canyon was visible in all its glory (see photo at left; click to enlarge). It turned out to be an exceptionally clear day. In fact, I caught a tour guide at the rim pointing out mountains on the horizon that were 90 miles away in Nevada.

Utah: I traveled several undivided highways between the Grand Canyon and Moab, Utah, through wide-open spaces punctuated with Indian reservations and the occasional ranch. The landscapes were like nothing I'd ever seen before -- grasslands, high-desert mesas, monolithic rock formations, and snowcapped mountains, all visible from a single vantage point. The photo at left was taken from the side of the road along Route 191 in Utah. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see cattle grazing in the foreground. Signs along the highways warned about "free-range cattle" and, in fact, I had to stop a few times as animals wandered across the road.

The photo at right (click to enlarge) was taken at Arches National Park near Moah, Utah. The park is full of these delicate and beautiful sandstone rock formations. The formation to the left in the photo is known as "Balancing Rock." This was a nice time of year to visit the area, because it was relatively cool. It can be brutally hot during the summer months.

I spent the night at the Kokopelli Lodge (eight units) on a quiet back street in Moab. I highly recommend this little motel and its friendly innkeepers. I took their advice and had dinner a few blocks away at Eddie McStiff's Brew Pub, "Moab's oldest legal brewery." Both the food and the beer were great!

Western Colorado: The stretch of Route 70 in the western part of the state, which follows the Colorado river, is very scenic, although, at times, I had the unsettling sense of being in a Coors Beer commercial. One can park at any of the four rest areas in this canyon and have access to miles of pedestrian/bicycle paths along the river, like the one pictured at left (click on photo to enlarge). This was a nice break for the dogs and for me. It was a cool-but-comfortable 50 degrees, perfect weather for a nice long walk.

I couldn't have imagined that I would be driving through white-out conditions a few hours later while crossing Vail Pass (10,666 ft.). Living in the northeast, I'm used to snow, but the high winds, curving highway, and steep road grades of Route 70 made me more than a little nervous. The worst part of the whole trip came after I stopped to get gas in Copper Mountain, and then, with snow sticking to the highway signs and my usually good sense of direction having abandoned me, ended up getting back on the highway headed west instead of east. Before I realized my mistake, I was climbing Vail Pass again and couldn't turn around for 25 miles -- not until I'd gone up and over again. So, I ended up driving over the pass three times! Of course, by the time I got to Loveland Pass (11,990 ft.), I was an old hand at driving in these conditions, and it didn't seem quite so bad.

Amana, Iowa: After a wonderful visit with Jeannette and Amy Zoss (Kell Shelties) in Des Moines, I headed east early on a Thursday morning. I got to Amana just in time for breakfast. I'd visited the Amana Colonies after the Sheltie National in 1992 and had fond memories of a wonderful dinner and some terrific local beer (Millstream Brewery). I was hungry, and I figured the town to be a good bet for a big breakfast. I was right: order the "family-style" meal at the Old Colony Inn, and the waitress won't stop bringing food until you stop eating.

This meal also turned out to be the occasion of a food-related epiphany. The breakfast started with coffee, juice, and a bowl of fruit. Then there was a giant pancake, slightly bigger than a dinner plate, very thin, and wonderfully crispy around the edges. Too tasty to drown with syrup. Then two delicious, fresh fried eggs, smoky bacon and sausage (each of the Amana Colony villages has its own smokehouse and meat shop), and the BEST fried potatoes I've ever had. Really! I'd never had such good potatoes. When I asked the waitress about them, she replied, "They're just potatoes. Nothing special. We just slice them and fry them." When I said again that they were the best I'd ever had, she asked where I was from. When I told her, she said, "Ah.... well, in Massachusetts, you probably don't fry your potatoes in lard."

Lard! So that's what my diet has been missing! How could I have lived this long and never discovered the wonders of lard? I wonder if the supermarkets around here sell it.

After breakfast, I stopped by Millstream and picked up a couple cases of wheat beer to bring home. Is it illegal to transport liquor across state lines? Well, I've been home a few weeks now, and we're almost done destroying the evidence....

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