Sandi Wheaton's photographic journey from Chicago to LA with a Jeep, an Aliner trailer and a bunch of cameras

half way there and in hot water

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

I'm glad the rattlesnakes warned me off the other building when I was in Glenrio - this one I entered instead turned out to be way cool inside

I'm glad the rattlesnakes warned me off the other building in Glenrio - this other one turned out to be way cool inside

Seriously.  Do not take plumbing for granted.  Believe me, if you had spent 99% of the last month driving in a Jeep, sitting in front of a computer on a thin foam pad and sleeping on an air mattress, you would know what it means to have a hot bath.

My back and neck are as hard as the good old Portland concrete they paved this road with, and I have been dying for a soak.  When I pulled into the Enchanted Trails RV Park (Crocodile-Lile-recommended), I was so happy to see they have a pool and hot tub.  I was also extremely disappointed when I learned they just closed them for the season this past Monday!  Fortunately there is a bathtub to be used here, and after doing my laundry tonight (yay!), I actually got to take a BATH.  In really hot water.  And – miracles of frikken miracles – there was a stack of my favorite bath-time brain candy in the lobby: People magazine.  (Reading People in the bathtub is like this vice I don’t like to share… it’s like the “Secret Single Behavior” they talk about on Sex and the City – which is the other brain candy vice of mine.)  I was in heaven.

A couple of nights ago I had another great stop.  I overnighted in my first State Park, and got to understand why people go camping.  (I know: some would say that pulling up in a trailer and plugging in hardly constitutes “camping”- but for me, yeah, this is camping!!)  Imagine spending your nights parked at a noisy WalMart, or an even noisier truck stop, where huge lights bear down 24/7 and even ear plugs don’t allow you the peace of sleep.  Then imagine hearing nothing but the quiet chirps of crickets, and looking up in the so-dark-you-think-you’re-in-a-Blair-Witch-movie blackness to see the Milky Way spread across the sky in its full glory.  It’s worth the $14 for the beauty and stillness – and, for the shower (remember, $14 is only $4 more than a shower costs at a truck stop)!

campsite at Santa Rosa State Park - well worth $14

campsite at Santa Rosa State Park - well worth $14

Here’s a tip: let the water run for awhile.  I know, it seems obvious.  But as I pressed the little button on the campground shower wall and had a powerful 10-second blast of cold water shock me (there were no shower controls, just the button), it occurred to me that I was in a state park campground.  Water is clearly valuable – why else the 10-second shower duration? –  and we are out here roughing it, after all… I thought: aha!  Now I know why it’s only $14 – no hot showers!  How urban of me to think otherwise.  So I braved (right) the cold 10-second blasts as I washed my hair quicker than ever before – and noticed the temperature slowly change from freezing to tepid to… warm?  It didn’t even occur to me to do the simplest thing and let the water run with 7 or 8 of those short blasts.  Duh.  Try it next time you’re taking a 10-second shower in the middle of nowhere.  There might just be hot water.

So… I finally figured out what the smell was.  For a couple of days, the distinct stench of rotting food was growing in my Jeep.  (You thought I was going to say me, didn’t you?)  I figured it must be some yogurt container I threw away or something.  I checked the garbage, nope.  Then I thought it must be the cooler – you know how coolers can get rank sometimes.  Nope.  High and low I looked, and getting so frustrated because I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out and it was getting worse by the hour.  Suddenly it hit me: the mustard greens!!  A couple of weeks back, Richard at the Lazy J RV Park had given me a big bag of mustard greens from his garden to take with me.  Since I rarely have water hookups, cooking the greens was something I never got to – and I eventually forgot about them in the tiny back “trunk” of the Jeep.  That was three states ago!  You know what happens in your crisper when your cucumbers turn to smelly yellow-green water… you can imagine the state of these greens after sitting in the Jeep for a couple of weeks.  Major ew.

welcoming sign at Route 66's mid point

welcoming sign at Route 66's mid point

In more significant news, a few days ago I passed a major milestone – or major mile marker.  Adrian, Texas is the half-way point of Route 66: 1,139 miles to Chicago and 1,139 miles to LA.  The Midpoint Café in Adrian is therefore an important stop, and it has history.  It was opened back in the 30s by Zella Crim, a waitress from Oklahoma who had a dream of owning her own café.  Originally it was a one-room café with a dirt floor.  It’s expanded and changed hands a few times over the years, and is now a successful – and somewhat famous – business run by the friendly “Fran H”.  The Midpoint Café and its “Ugly Crust Pie” were recently featured in The Great American Road Trip.  I’m not much of a pie person, but I had heard enough about this pie to make me try some.  I went for the Chocolate Chip, the same they use for their special pie, where they smother it with hot fudge sauce, ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry.

Midpont Cafe's Tommy - an Adrian lifer, gravious server and local historian

Midpont Cafe's Tommy - an Adrian lifer, gracious server and local historian

The place is great and the pie is great and Tommy behind the counter is a great rare gem: he has been in this small Route 66 town all of his almost-62 years.  His parents owned the Bent Door just a few buildings east, and he grew up back when they were busy enough to be open 24 hours a day and didn’t bother putting locks on the door.  Tommy was there, too, when the interstate bypassed Route 66, and business slowed to a stop.  Now he gets to see the road slowly come back to life.  I asked if my impression was correct, that there seemed to be a resurgence of interest in Route 66 over the past couple of years.

the Bent Door Cafe - doors and windows came from a military base that closed nearby

the Bent Door Cafe - the bent door and windows came from a military base that closed nearby

Yes, both he and Fran agreed: people’s interest and the number of visitors are increasing.  But why?

You know, I had no clue that the movie Cars was such a big deal.  Since I don’t make a point to watch animated films and I don’t have kids, I haven’t even seen the movie yet (something else I hate to share publicly, given the look of shock and horror on faces here when I admit this).   Apparently Cars is huge, and the impact it’s having on Route 66 is also pretty huge.  I have heard this so often during this trip: Cars is really helping the road’s popularity.   “People want to come out and see Radiator Springs” says Fran, spreading her arms in welcome: “here it is!”  Fran herself was apparently the inspiration for Flo of “Flo’s V8 Café” in the movie.  The display case under the cash register contains various Cars paraphernalia, including photos of the film crew with Fran and Tommy, thank you cards from the directors, etc.  They enthusiastically told me how the production of Cars II is underway, and how there’s going to be a Cars theme park soon, and how Disney is going to use the Cars look in their stores – all of which will surely bring more customers to the Route.  I really do have to see this movie.

truck signed by the myriad of visitors at the old station next to the Midpoint Cafe

(speaking of cars...) truck signed by the myriad of visitors at the old station next to the Midpoint Cafe

In closing: don’t underestimate the power of a movie, the wonders of hot water, or the potential permeating toxicity of a bag of mustard greens.


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