My Trips in 2015

I took two trips in 2015, one short and one long.

2015 map

The long trip, looped through 19 states.

The short trip was to Raleigh & Chapel Hill, NC.

These are my stories:

  1. South of the Border: the Quintessential Roadside Attraction
  2. Augusta Georgia: Golfers, Cookies, Grits
  3. Alabama the Jewel of North America
  4. Jackson Mississippi
  5. New Orleans in 3 Hours
  6. Exhausted in Little Rock
  7. Elvis Presley’s Jets
  8. Land Between the Lakes, part 1
  9. Land Between the Lakes, part 2
  10. Kuttawa Kentucky Huddle House
  11. Fort Massac Illinois Rest Area
  12. Big John: Metropolis’ Other Hero
  13. The Superman Museum in Metropolis Illinois
  14. The World’s Largest Statue of Superman
  15. Jungle Jim’s: the Greatest Supermarket in the America
  1. Welcome to North Carolina
  2. Chapel Hill and Snack Cakes
  3. Raleigh North Carolina
  4. I-95 is Atrocious

Raleigh, North Carolina

Crepe Myrtles

It is impossible to write about Raleigh, North Carolina without mentioning the Crepe Myrtles.

Crepe Myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) are flowering trees imported from Asia. They seem to average about 10 feet in height, come in pink, red, purple & white, and are literally everywhere in the Raleigh area.

C to the R to the E to the P to the E

The sheer number of crepe myrtles is shocking. Now you’re thinking that I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m not. If you live in the area, you’re probably numb to it: “the sky is blue, the grass is green, and everything along the sides is pink.” But for an outsider driving into North Carolina, the experience is sort of like the “star gate” scene in 2001, a Space Odyssey, but instead of stream of colored lights, it is a stream of flowering trees.

If that reference is to obscure, just imagine driving through a pink tunnel made of flowers.

Gardiner, NC, Suburb of Raleigh

I stayed at a Best Western in Garner, NC. The hotel was fine: pool, “lobby breakfast”, quiet, comfortable rooms, and plenty of parking. Garner, NC, the city, is essentially a highway encrusted with strip malls and big box stores, surrounded by a web of winding, hilly forrest roads. That is my perception of it. I visited the local Walmart to check out the locals. While the Walmart did not have the bins of fireworks that I was hoping for, they did have isles of snack cakes, beer (which let to this), and the hair brush & computer mouse I needed.

An UTZ truck in the parking lot of the Walmart: UTZ truck

Raleigh Museum of Natural Sciences

The primary place I visited while in Raleigh was the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. As museums of Natural Science/History go, I would put it somewhere between the American Museum of Natural History and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science; all are good, but the North Carolina one falls in the middle.

The first thing you notice when approaching the museum is the massive planet Earth/globe. It is massive enough to be mentioned in Roadside America:

North Carolina Museum of Natural Science Globe

Inside the Museum you’ll find four floors of Natural Science exhibits, most if not all, focused on North Carolina fauna, flora and geology. The massive whale skeletons, and arthropod zoo, were most impressive.

Blue Whale Skeleton at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh NC

Whale Skeleton in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The arthropod zoo in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Arthropod Zoo Bees

Other than that I also was impressed by:

  • The hummingbird exhibit
  • The live snake and amphibian exhibits
  • The massive sea shore and forrest replica/reproductions
  • Graphics that explained the different areas & layers of North Carolina geology
  • The large assortment of taxidermied animals
  • The gift shop was solid. I bought a squid replica, and admired an electric fan shaped like a fox.

Fox squirrels are massive — almost size of a house cat — I did not know that.

Fox Squirrel in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Rambling Around Town

When visiting a city, I like to walk around the town without a plan or compass, with the goal of stumbling upon some interesting sights and experiences. I like to visit the stores & restaurants locals frequent; sit on park benches and observe the local vibe like a local would; try to see the city through a local’s eyes.

During my three hour ramble around Raleigh, I discovered a giant acorn, a sand castle 200 miles away from the ocean, and world-famous Clyde Cooper’s BBQ. Clyde Cooper’s BBQ had pork skins, which I get for my sister’s chihuahua from time to time. The chihuahua is passionate about eating parts of other animals.

Giant Acorn in Raleigh NC

Sand Castle in Raleigh NC

Clyder Coopers in Raleigh NC

Worth Mentioning

It is worth mentioning that I visited Raleigh right after all Confederate flags and memorabilia were removed from State/Government buildings, including museums. Had I visited weeks earlier, I may have had a different experience.

POWER VACATION!

In late May 2015 I went on a POWER VACATION! What is a POWER VACATION, you ask. Let me tell you.

These are the rules of POWER VACATION!

  1. You must visit more than one state or provence per day. I visited 16 states in 8 days.
  2. You should have a pre-planned itinerary before departing, but you must deviate from your plans at least once.
  3. Never pre-book lodging. Use your cunning and the internet to find reasonably priced, and interesting lodging along the way.
  4. Take photos of the things you might never see again: roadside attractions, the sun setting over your hotel, a strange bug, the Doubletree warm-cookie van.
  5. You must pump your own gas. Except in New Jersey!
  6. Make massive mix tapes! Listen to an entire iPod of music. Fill a Flash thumb drive with 32GB of music, and listen to it all.
  7. Talk to strangers. Treat everyone you meet as a friend, even though you might never see them again in your life.
  8. Sample unique, local foods. This might mean a strange candy or confection at a truck stop grocery store.

Tips!

  1. Bring some Energy Drinks and 5 Hour Energy bottles. After driving for 9 hours in a row, you will need them. This kid has reviews of energy drinks.
  2. If you get sleepy while driving, pull over ASAP. Don’t put people’s lives at risk.
  3. Make sure your vehicle is road-worthy. If it’s your car, get it serviced before you depart. Make sure the spare tire is inflated.
  4. Make sure you have an assortment of things to listen to. Fast music for driving fast. Slow music, podcasts and audio books for slow traffic.
  5. Keep your car clean. Don’t let energy drink cans and gum wrappers accumulate. Throw them out along the way.
  6. Stay alert to weather changes, and take precautions.

I’ll probably add to these lists, but you get the idea.