Monday, December 29, 2014

Grumpy Bulldog Did America (Again)

I decided it would be a really cool idea to go home to Michigan for XMas.  And that it would be an awesome surprise to just walk through the door on December 25th.  It would have been an awesome surprise if they hadn't changed the lock on the front door so my key didn't work.  The best I could do was sit in the driveway until they woke up.  A little anticlimactic as far as that goes.

When I left Arizona December 3rd I didn't Tweet or blog about it or do any check-ins on Facebook or anything.  That way it would be a secret.

It took about 8 days to go from Arizona to Michigan.  I could have done it in less time if I'd pushed it a little more.  For instance the first day I only went from Phoenix to Flagstaff, which took about 2 1/2 hours.  So after lunch at the Sizzler, I had about an hour to just drive around.  It seemed most every house I passed had a fenced area for horses.

The next day it rained all the way from Flagstaff to Albuquerque.  Literally it never stopped.  At some points it was heavier than others, but otherwise it was 300 fucking miles of driving through rain.  Ugh.  At least it had passed by the next morning.

While looking for a Smith's gas station and breakfast I inadvertently found the car wash from Breaking Bad!  There's a vacant lot next to it, so I stopped to get a couple of pictures:

It was a pretty easy drive across New Mexico and then into Texas to Amarillo.  I got screwed by Hotwire again, which I knew as soon as it came up with a Knight's Inn.  They call it two stars, which apparently means motels with broken windows that are boarded up and have mattresses leaning against the door.  The place was by the airport, where I got a good view of a couple of F/A-18 Hornet fighters landing.  I'm not sure why military planes were landing at a civilian airport.

The weather in Texas was OK the next morning but pretty much when I crossed the border into Oklahoma it got really foggy.  By the time I reached OKC visibility was maybe a half-mile.  So while I was in Oklahoma City I didn't really SEE much of it.  And I got another crappy motel room.  None of the ice machines in the building worked and someone had been doing long division on the bathroom counter--in ink.  Who does that?

It was a little less foggy the next day when I went to Arkansas, though still some fog.  Arkansas seemed like driving through northern Michigan, just trees and hills.  I stayed in Morillton, which is north of Little Rock, at a pretty nice Super 8.  Again I got there too early, so I picked up a pizza from the Pizza Hut and ate some of it in a local park.

The next morning, this was the appropriate song:

I got to Memphis at 11am but my tour wasn't until noon, so I went to McDonald's to hang out.  The King's house doesn't seem to be in a very good neighborhood anymore.

Graceland is pretty interesting.  It's kind of disappointing that you can only see the first floor and the basement.  And it's a little sad that the house is frozen in the 70s with shag carpeting and big console TVs and all that.  Since it was December the place was all decorated for XMas, which was pretty neat.  If you ever go, the archive room is a big waste of time.  Since you couldn't touch anything the plane tour of two of Elvis' private jets wasn't all that great either.  And if you get lunch don't order the fried catfish sandwich.  It is seriously a fillet of catfish with a bun.  You have to put your own tartar sauce on it.  If you've never been, here are my pictures of Graceland.  Imagine John Stamos talking in your ear about each room to replicate the tour:

By the time I finished there my feet were really tired so I didn't feel like going to Beale Street or anything else referenced in "Walking in Memphis":

I had inadvertently picked a motel about 80 miles away in Jackson.  It was a pretty modern Howard Johnson that I saved like $20 on by getting it from Hotwire--I guess they decided to make up for screwing me in Amarillo.  It ended up being a good thing it was in Jackson because the next day I had to go across Tennessee to Knoxville.  After I got lunch at a Red Robin outside Nashville, the traffic was awful and it was raining again.  Because of that I didn't get into Knoxville until after 6pm, or else maybe I'd have gone to look Rusty up.

It's too bad I left Knoxville on Wednesday because if I'd stayed until Saturday I could have met Butler Blue III (aka Trip) since Butler was playing Tennessee in basketball that night.  Instead I drove up to Dayton.  I could have gone to the original KFC in Kentucky, but it was too early for lunch, so I stopped at a different KFC in Richmond, KY I think it was.  Once I got to Cincinnati there was construction and crap to make it annoying.

The construction continued the next day when I went to Michigan.  There were lane shifts and closures pretty much all the way to the Michigan border.  Ohio blows.  By about 11am on 12/11/14 I was back in Michigan!  It took another hour or so to get to the Detroit area.  I stayed in Roseville by where I used to live.  In large part because I wanted to visit my storage unit.  I'd accidentally left a bunch of DVDs behind like Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, the Bourne Identity, and Prometheus.  I got my Blu-Ray player out and eventually found my Blu-Ray of A Christmas Story I'd bought last year but never watched.  And I got my Charlie Brown XMas tree out too.

Saturday I went across the state to Kalamazoo to this extended stay motel called Value Place that's like half the price of Extended Stay America but for some reason only has Michigan locations in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids.  K-zoo was the cheaper of the two.  It's not bad, except it'd be nice if they gave you more than two towels and a hand towel.  If I'd known what the room was like I'd have brought some things from my storage unit, but instead I bought a cheap towel and hand towel from Wal-Mart and a pot to cook hot dogs in from Big Lots.

I went to the big tourist attraction here:  the Air Zoo.  It's not as big as the airplane museum in Dayton, but it has an SR-71 Blackbird, which is pretty awesome.  If you don't know what that is, it's the plane they use in X-Men First Class.

I left K-Zoo on XMas Eve to drive to Saginaw.  It was of course rainy and shitty the whole freaking drive there.  Seriously it seemed to be rainy and gloomy for like 90% of my drive back from Arizona.  Makes me miss the valley of the sun and all that.

I got an awesome double olive burger from Hot n Now in Bay City and just generally pissed away the day until the next morning when I pulled off my great surprise.

For at least a couple of weeks I'm in Michigan.  I filed for unemployment, so before I run off to any other states, I want to make sure I can get that going.  There seems to be more hassle with it than the last time I filed for unemployment back in 2001.  It's probably the stupid Republicans.  Living in a red state sucks.

Anyway, here are some miscellaneous pictures along the way:

Flagstaff A-frame-type house

Forest park in Flagstaff

Rain finally stopped in Albuquerque--the next morning

Beaver's lumber yard. Huh-huh, beaver.

Largest cross in the hemisphere!

Are these windmills bigger than the cross?  Probably.

Hustler store across from my motel in OKC

Morillton, AR

Wal-Mart kills another downtown

It's the Mighty Mississippi! (Somewhere)

Good thing he was in the right lane already.

Outlet mall sign in Jackson

Dentist office sign in Jackson

Karate Kid balloon in Richmond, KY



Space museum in Ohio

I have a lot of dead relatives here

Mosque near Toledo

Back in Michigan!

Deee-troit, basketball!

Back to Detroit!

Madison, WI A&W

Friendly's in Rochester, MN

Fish tacos!

Stunning view from my window in Tigard, OR

Penguins in Salt Lake aquarium

Offutt knows whose dog this is

Vegas, baby!

Absinthe show in Vegas


Upside-down Scottsdale

Santa Fe catalog

Tony Laplume's favorite restaurant in Colorado Springs

I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

Stunning view from Tucumcari Days Inn

Offutt's friend knows what this is.

My epic birthday cake.

Graceland archives

Air Zoo

Fried catfish sandwich in Graceland

Epic olive burger from Bagger Dave's of Ann Arbor

My XMas tree.


  1. As a person who loves food, I appreciate the food pics!

  2. Welcome back? So are you staying forever down in the southwest after this? I keep feeling I've missed an episode.

    You're right: Ohio sucks. I think the only reason for it being a state is so that the country can contain all that boringness in one state instead of having to divvy it up.

    Reading your travels I realized how terrible at geography I am. I kept thinking "why's he going all the way to Kentucky and Ohio," so I went and looked at a map and WOW I don't really know America at all.

    And that kid's version of "Graceland" is pretty awesome.

  3. I'm sure your family was surprised even though you were in the driveway.

  4. Stinks that you had to hang out on the driveway! I think it was pretty cold up there in Michigan too. My company is based in Kalamazoo...that city doesn't have much going on. When I was there, they had turned the downtown area into Christmas Wonderland a full week before Thanksgiving.

    Happy New Year, man!

  5. I can say that we were all quite surprised. It was a great present to have the entire family together for Christmas. :) I think even Juno and Annika were excited to see Uncle Pat. And hey Annika likes you better than Santa! LOL And I explained why we had to change the locks. Had you not been gallivanting around the country we would have given you one of the new keys. :-p

    And yes driving in OH sucks. It always has. I thought you knew that. I wish I had known you were going past Findlay. You could have stopped and done some research at the library there. I have a bunch of Obits I need from there.

  6. The airplanes are cool.
    And I really like the upside down sunset pics. Those are neat.

  7. That SR-71 Blackbird is amazing and another whirlwind tour!



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