Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Day 5: Joplin MO - Edmond OK

Sign in the breakfast area: Either you like BACON or you are wrong.
Omnes: So was there BACON 4 brekkers, then?
ML Maire: No. No, there was not!
This more or less set the tone for the entire day.

Things that came in the night: rain, and quite a lot of it.
Things that went in the night: most of the air in the Ratmobile's right rear tyre chiz.

Fortunately there was a "gas" station compressor within a hundred yards so no lengthy periods of driving on a flat to wreck the tyre, though it did relieve me of a fistful of quarters because the instructions were translated from the original Chinese by Google Translate and/or a native Xhosa speaker.  So, to the Goodyear Auto Service place a mile up the road.

Yes, said the man, we can fix that for you.  Pause.  But not until about three this afternoon.  He was, however, kind enough to direct me to Discount Tire over the road.  Discount Tire fixed it for free and gave me a cup of coffee into the bargain.  So hurrah!

A pity it had started to rain again, which it did with a certain gusto all morning.  This did not encourage me to stop anywhere during the thirteen mile passage of Kansas, though I did, in the end, stop to take a picture of a tank.
Tank - Vehicle of Champions.  Hooray tanky tanky!
NE Oklahoma is much the same as SE Kansas, viz. flat and wet, but Miami contains an interesting little motorcycle museum and a nifty old gas station.
Marathon gas station, Miami OK
There's another tastefully restored one down the road in Afton, with this board outside:
And another Tourist Trap awaits just off the route in Foyil, the Totem Pole Park, whose poles range from bijou polettes to this colossus:
The Saturn V of totem poles
As can be seen, it has stopped raining and was on its way to becoming Damned Hot again.  Hereabouts the Route 66 signs are much easier to follow than in certain places, such as Missouri, and they don't keep  directing you into the interstate either.  Which made finding this piece of classic Route 66 tqt quite simple:
Very like a whale
Unimaginatively called the "Blue Whale", this thing lives in a turtle-infested pond in Catoosa and was, I think1, designed by the same bloke who did this one:
That, and many interesting hairyplanes, may be found at the Tulsa Air & Space Museum, which served to pass the time of what had by now become another hot sticky afternoon.  They also have this:
I did the Kansas joke in 2012 and it was crap then
Dog and mode of dress suggest Dorothy, but she looks less like Judy Garland and more like a nerdy kid from a Far Side cartoon.

Once over the Arkansas River the weather started to go all funny - the temperature dropped by ten degrees and the wind picked up to the extent that I started of think of J Steinbeck, W Guthrie and various other weeds who told tales of the Dust Bowl.  Because modern man would not be so stupid as to bugger up the environment for short term profit the wind was not actually blowing away the topsoil, but only because it seems a bit better anchored than it was back in the last century.

Then it began to rain.  Again.  And then some.  Most of the last twenty miles were covered at 25 mph because the rain was so heavy I couldn't make out the centre line more than a few feet in front of the car.  Which did not stop the unlit berk behind from overtaking and shooting off at 50 as soon as the road spouted an extra lane.  I did not enjoy that bit much.

It is still raining now, some six hours later, albeit with rather less verve than it was when I got here, and I may have to swap the Ratmobile for an ark if it carries on.

  1. Lie

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Day 4: Rolla MO - Joplin MO

There were Germans in the pool last night.  I looked this morning for towels, or traces of towels, on the sun loungers but nothing.  Another myth shattered.

First port of call this morning was Stonehenge.
Omnes: O noes! ML Maire haz lost his marbles!
ML Maire: Pish and, moreover, tosh!
No-one knows who they were or what they were doing...
This one is a bit bigger than Spınal Tap's, being a half-size replica and was constructed to demonstrate the cleverness of high pressure water jet cutting.  After which it was time to backtrack about twenty miles east to check out a couple of places that I missed yesterday because the Route 66 road signs erred on the side of non-existence.  First stop:
Cuba si, Yanqui no!
Now when faced with the prospect of something even vaguely akin to the NHS, such as the wossname proposed by Nice Mr Obambi, the average USAnian will retort, usually while dying in agony/penury/both, that "I doan wanna live in Cuba!"  I don't know how the natives of Cuba MO feel about either this or the tyranny of socialised medicine, but that's why1 I'm not Donald Trump.

Then a few miles down the road to Fanning Outpost, which resembles an old-skool heyday-of-Route-66 general store but is:
a) rather more modern, and
b) out of business, and
c) home to this:
A big red rock-eater rocking chair
World's largest, apparently.  Not far from here are also the World's Largest Gift Shop and the World's Largest Outpost Of The Scottish Restaurant2.  I am beginning to see a pattern here, namely that of separating Tourists from their Money.  There's some wik murals too, plus a whole bunch of cats.  Use the link to the pictures for gratuitous cat pics; the murals aren't so good because the lens steamed up and the sun was in the wrong place and ["cont. p94" - Ed.]

Next up, Devil's Elbow.  Which would have been reached a lot sooner had the signs been up to snuff; as it was Emily took me on a scenic twenty-mile loop of mostly gravel roads through the woods before reaching the spot, named for a tight bend in the Big Piney river which caused the devil of log-jams before The Man invented logging trucks.  It has a bridge.
And then to Uranus.
Omnes: He haz! He's really gone teh Bonkers in teh Nut!
ML Maire: Nonse!

The best fudge comes from Uranus...
Uranus also has a BRITISH double-decker bus with an "F" suffix number plate.  No, really.  I have pictures.

I almost missed Gary's Gay Parita, an old gas station and general treasure trove of period tqt3 because the Ratmobile had just issued a message to the effect that the right rear tyre was going soft.  It may be lying4.  Anyway, Gary's is now run by a cheerful South Carolinan named George, on account of Gary and Rita both dying within a few months last year and his being married to their daughter.  Old cars and bicycles and signs and helpful route advice.  Top place.
A literal shedload of tqt
And thus to Joplin, which nestles against the Kansas state line, with frequent trips outside to check the Ratmobile's rubberwear.  Note to self: look up location of local equivalent of Kwik-Fit before packing up Babbage-Engine in the morning.
  1. Lie
  2. Actually a bit further west over in Oklahoma, but I'll be in those parts tomorrow
  3. tqt = top quality tqt
  4. But the evidence suggests otherwise chiz

Monday, 29 August 2016

Day 3: Springfield IL - Rolla MO

Omnes: O hai, ML Maire! We thought u lived in that London, that they have now!
ML Maire: Yes. Yes, I do.
Omnes: O RLY? Then y does ur receipt from last night say "Alaska"?
ML Maire: Babbage-engines FTW!
So, Rolla, eh?  Those with long memories, or too much time on their hands, will recall a Battle Mountain entry from 2010, Miner Details, built by the Penniless Student Oaves of the Missouri University of Science and Technology hereabouts.
Whittney Metcalf in Miner Details, yesterday in 2010
If you're reading this, Whittney:
  • Hi! and
  • Do come back and see us in BM some time
But that is one of those new-fangled distortions of space-time caused by spending quite a lot of today listening to old episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage, in which floppy-haired cleverness dispenser Prof B Cox kept going on about the General Theory of Relativity.  Going back to the beginning, which depends, of course, on your standard frame of reference and anything causing light to bend in unusual ways and

Omnes: Get on with it!

So, first port of call is Chatham, for some Bridgey Goodness:
Sugar Creek covered bridge
To get that photo, I had to negotiate a tree that, if it appeared in a work by S King of Maine, would be guarding the route to the SEEKRIT Indian Burial Ground to prevent Man from encountering That Which Man Was Not Meant To Know:
Thee Tree ov Doom
though judging from the graffiti and empties it's not something that bothers the local teenagers.  From here further avoiding of I-55 led through more splendid small towns, of which Virden was probably the splendidest.  In spite of this:
Battle of Virden memorial
which at first I thought had something to do with massacring Indians but actually commemorates the victims of both sides of a shoot-out between striking coal miners and The Man in 1898.

Then further south to Collinsville, because this:
A water tower, Collinsville IL
This is, allegedly, "The World's Largest Catsup (sic) Bottle" and I can die happy having seen it.  Then a swing to the west brings the route into the territory of further Bridgey Goodness:
That's the stern-wheeler "Spirit of Peoria" passing under the Chain of Rocks Canal bridge, said canal having been built in the late 1940s/early 1950s to bypass a somewhat turbulent and tricky stretch of the Mighty Mississippi a mile or two away.  The Mighty Mississippi has this:
the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge which served as a major crossing of the river from 1929 until 1970, in spite of being two lanes wide and with that odd kink in the middle.  The castle is not, as it might seem, a baroque bridge pillar, nor yet a fort to keep back the Indians if they get uppity, but a water intake for the St Louis waterworks, which are somewhere out of shot.

And so into Missouri, whose Mighty River namesake flows into the Even Mightier Mississippi a few miles away, by way of St Louis (pronounced "Sunt Lewis").  St Louis is the home of the Gateway Arch, which operates on the same kind of timed ticket principle as the London Eye, and is inaccessible by any known road because They are rebuilding everything.  Hence this is what it looks like from the side:
Gateway Arch, and very arch it is too
It commemorates the expansion of USAnia into The West which, apparently, was a Good Thing unless of course you happened to live there already.

It may be possible, with diligence, to follow Route 66 through St Louis and out into the Ozarks but I couldn't find the route on Google Maps before leaving home, never mind on the ground, so set Emily to take me to Times Beach, which is no longer there because of dioxins poisoning the whole place so thoroughly that it had to be evacuated and then demolished.  Unfortunately the bridge that supposedly led to the site has also been rendered incapable i.e. some thoughtless git has taken the bridge deck away.  There is allegedly another entrance but neither Emily nor I could find it.

This rather set the tone for the whole of today's passage of Missouri - tell Emily to take me to point X known to be on Route 66, describe massive near-circle, get fed-up and try the next town on the list, until such time as I gave up and jumped on I-44, because it was getting late.  And so to Rolla.  They have roundabouts here, and also a half-size replica of Stonehenge.

No, really...

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Day 2: Chicago IL - Springfield IL

Omnes1: So, ML Maire, wot iz u doning in Chicago, eh? EH??
ML Maire: This. This is wot I iz doning in Chicago!
A road sign, yesterday
Due to being jetlagged almost, but not quite, utterly to DETH I reached the above road sign well before eight this morning.  It is not actually as far east as you could go on Route 66, as the eastbound version goes a block further before its progress is curtailed by the very large and very very wet Lake Michigan.  Going the other way there is the fairly large and determinedly solid Art Institute of Chicago to get in the way, and even at that time of the morning there were a couple of hundred Kulture Vultures queueueueueing to get in.

Right, I said to Emily, take me to the junction of Adams Street and Ogden Avenue.  Right away, Boss, she said, before:
  • directing me in the opposite direction from Adams Street, and
  • getting totes confused due to the tall buildings infesting that part of the Windy City
Fortunately the Ratmobile's dashboard has a little direction indicator on it so you know at least whether you're heading west.  A grid street pattern helps too.  And so south to Joliet which, as any fule kno, featured quite prominently in the lives of these two gentlemen:
Messrs E & J Blues, yesterday
Around Joliet, in fact, one could be forgiven for thinking that Route 66 comes a poor second to the Blues Brothers with Stuffs like this:
The Reverend Cleophus James, yesterday
and this:
A The Bluesmobile, yesterday
scattered willy-nilly about the place.

But eventually the "serious" Stuffs take over again, or at least you recommence the game called "How Long Can You Resist The Temptation To Ditch The Original Route And Jump On I-55".  You should not do such a terrible thing, as otherwise you might miss some of the sights that make the trip famous, for e.g. this bloke:
The Gemini Giant, yesterday
That's the Gemini Giant, who's in rather better shape than the Launching Pad diner outside which he stands awaiting his turn to go and play on the ISS.  I met a couple of jolly Finns here; they're doing most of Route 66 but cheating by missing out Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma in favour of a plane from St Louis to Amarillo.

And if you stayed on on I-55 you'd miss the absolute gem that is Pontiac, with its Route 66-related museums and murals and things, like this:
Bob Waldmire's "Road Yacht", yesterday
and this:
TV's Dr Susannah Lipscomb2, yesterday
and even this:
A mural, yesterday
No, cruise the back roads at 50 mph and watch what appear to be medieval castles creep over the horizon before turning into medieval castle-sized grain silos.  No to mention the poor saps on the interstate queueueueing for miles because roadworks.  Pointing and laughing is encouraged.

There's tons more photos a mere click away, using the first link in the "Linky SCIENCE" wossname on the right.  I like this one:
No, really, Jacky, I haven't had a drop in more than thirty months!
but will also put up this one on the off chance that Larry Lem is reading this:
Canoodling corn dogs, yesterday
That's outside the Cozy Dog diner here in Springfield where, apparently the corn dog was invented.  I knew the place had to be famous for something...

A Lincoln: Corn dogs, FFS, wot about me, eh? EH?? Freed teh slavez, won teh Civil War, got killed utterly to DETH @ teh theatre? I was born here, u utter git!
ML Maire: Meh!
  1. Well, some of Omnes, anyway
  2. Lie

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Days (n-1)-1: Larrington Towers - Chicago IL

Scene: A second-hand ice cream van, parked just off Copacabana Beach.
C Boardman: O hai! I am TV's C Boardman and I am made ov teh Win!
S Brotherton: O hai! I am TV's S Brotherton and I, also, am made ov teh Win!
Omnes: FFS! U 2 clownz still here? Get tae fck! We want ML Maire 4 teh Funneh!!1!
FX: Big 'splodey Stuffs. Ice cream van, C Boardman and S Brotherton fly in2 teh air, umop-ap!sdn and on fire.
ML Maire: And so perish all enemies of the Queen!
C Boardman: MUNKEH...

Welcome to year eight1 of the Automatic Diary which, as you may have observed, is starting back where it almost started in 2009, viz. Chicago; the very first AD entry having actually been writted a couple of hours up the road in Madison WI. I went to Fort Larrington on Thursday rather than Friday because Bank Holibob traffic and have thus had a couple of days of dignified loafing and cooling-off after the perspiration-drenched Horror that was packing The Luggage in what the perfidious French call a "canicule". I thought that was a BEER chiller.

Omnes:ZOMG!!1! That was teh Terrible, ML Maire! Sum1 defenestrate him, quick!

Mohammed and his Mercedes whisked me to the big shed of impatience that is LHR Terminal 5 with considerable verve and a lot greater comfort than the cranky old grid of a VW people carrier Galaxy Cars afforded me last year. It even has a little light under the front passenger seat so you can check that you haven't left any toes behind in your haste to cram everything into the bulging maw of Luggage 2. Right, off outside for the last fag until Abroad, where the FOREIGNS come from.

Well, that was painless.  Connoisseurs of USAnian airport Tales of Woe might like to know that getting from the very back row of a very full 747 to sparking up the first fag outside Terminal 5 of Chicago-O'Hare took about thirty minutes.  Most of which being waiting for The Luggage to appear.  Natch the pickup area outside is a total bloody shambles, with the only system being "taxis to the right, everyone else to the left".  So the shuttle buses have to mix it with Ubermenschen and divers stray private motons and just stop anywhere they can find 2/3 of a bus-sized space.

Here is Chris.  Chris may look like a well-groomed and personable employee of Avis Car Rental, but this is a facade.  He is an Imp of Stan.  I can tell from the fact that the first sentence he utters contains the words "Corvette" and "convertible".  Mr Larrington is tempted, until he works out that a hundred and fifty dollars a day for twenty-eight days is, er, $BIGNUM.  No, says your author, I will stick with the Mustang.  Chris fights a desperate rearguard action.  Soz, he says, we are all out of convertible Mustangs but can do you a VW Beetle.

Driving a convertible Beetle - in fact any sort of Beetle - will immediately turn you into an estate agent.  Or worse.  I refuse to admit defeat and take the proffered hardtop Mustang instead, which is redder than, say, a red thing or a current F1 Ferrari.  I will try to update the photo at the top of the page in the next day or two, but not now because it is teatime.

Once I am out of the Field of Evil radiated by Chris, Emily the TwatNav wakes up to the fact that she is not in E17 any more and wafts me to tonight's caravanserai with nary a blip.  Unlike last year, when she had to be threatened with replacement by an inferior FOREIGN-bought model.

Fans of the Condensed Tour de France-stylee reportage for e.g. Mrs Pingu might like to know that hand-crufting the HTML tables is way too much like hard work so is unlikely to be a daily occurrence.

Edit: I have just noticed that the motor-car bears the licence plate "RAT 9691"2 so the chances are fairly high that it will hereinafter become known as "The Ratmobile".

Edit 2: Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Dave Minter, aka LittleWheelsandBig, who is currently in hostipal in Bangkok with a b0rked pelvis 
  1. Blimey! Eight already!
  2. Georgia, for some reason