US Southeast: Round Trip New Jersey to Texas



08/16/13 New Jersey to Manassas Virginia: National Cryptography Museum

08/17/13 Manassas, VA to Asheville, NC

08/18/13 Asheville, NC to Chattanooga, TN: University of Tennessee campus

08/19/13 Chattanooga TN to Huntsville AL: US Space and Rocket Center

08/20/13 Huntsville AL to Montgomery AL: Selma to Montgomery

08/21/13 Montgomery AL to New Orleans LA

08/22/13 New Orleans LA: The French Quarter

08/23/13 New Orleans, LA: National WWII Museum

08/24/13 New Orleans LA to Fort Worth TX

08/25/13 Fort Worth TX

08/26/13 Fort Worth TX: The Robert E Howard Museum

08/27/13 Fort Worth TX Stockyards, Kimball museum

08/28/13 Fort Worth TX to San Antonio TX

09/02/13 San Antonio, TX: The Alamo

09/03/13 San Antonio TX to Little Rock AR

09/04/13 Little Rock AR: The William Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

09/05/13 Little Rock AR to Nashville TN: The Battle of Parker's Crossroads

09/06/13 Nashville TN

09/07/13 Nashville TN to Lexington KY

09/08/13 Lexington KY: Frazier Museum

09/09/13 Lexington KY to Roanoke VA

09/10/13 Roanoke VA to New Jersey



08/16/13 New Jersey to Manassas Virginia: National Cryptography Museum


Well, it has been a while since we have done a road trip.  We like the South.  When San Antonio was chosen as the site of a World Science Fiction Convention (or Worldcon) we thought we could make it a road trip, see some country and eat some different cuisine.  Evelyn thinks we will be traveling 5000 or so miles in our 1998 Toyota.  Toyota makes a really good car and we have had very minimal trouble with the car on previous trips.  Still a 15-year-old car is pushing our luck just a bit.


Somehow the weather, which has been very hot, is just becoming pleasant.  I don't know if it will stay pleasant the whole trip.  It is likely to warm up again and we will be in the Deep South.  The 17-year cicadas have come out this year.  The hot air and incessant hissing of the cicadas reminds me of my days in Ohio.


We are headed for the National Crypto logical Museum in Annapolis, Maryland.


Somehow on these road trips we like to play film music from westerns and particularly spaghetti westerns.  This time I found a compilation on YouTube that was four hours long.  I just recorded it on audiotape.


The day is beautiful.  Just enough clouds to be cheerful.  There are graceful turkey vultures patrolling overhead, looking for road kill to clear away.


Our big event of the day is the National Cryptography Museum.  Cryptography is the heavily mathematical study of secret codes.  It looks at how to make them so only the intended person can decode them.  Or taking coded messages and decoding them when you are not the intended person.  Cryptography played a major role in winning in World War II.  Breaking (or partially breaking) the Japanese codes alerted the US to the Japanese plan to attack Midway.  That battle did major damage to the Japanese fleet and was the turning point in the Pacific war.


Even more difficult was breaking the German Enigma code.  This was a huge mathematical problem because of the complexity of the code machine.  However it was used to communicate with what was probably the Germans' most effective and dangerous weapon, the U-boats.


The problem was partially solved by Polish mathematicians who handed their results to the British.  A team of largely mathematical experts was set up in Bletchley Park.  They built what was the first electronic computer.  A major contributor was Alan Turing.


Appropriately enough getting into the museum is sort of difficult in itself.  The GPS could not figure out the route.  It kept telling us to go in roads that had no civilian admittance.


We stopped at what was called a farmer's market in a mall parking lot.  It was mostly food venders.  After seeing all they had we shared a sandwich to tide us over.  Then we returned to searching for a way into the museum.


The museum covers the history of Cryptography with exhibits on Revolutionary War, Civil War, the WWII-Pacific, the Enigma, and so forth to modern times.  They have many different types of cipher machines.  It is a small museum refashioned from a motel.


They had several very nice booklets on the subject, your tax dollar going to try to interest young folk in going into government cryptography.  We took four:


Solving the Enigma

Cryptography in the American Revolution

The Cryptographic Mathematics of Enigma

Listening to the Rumrunners


As of this writing I have read only the third.  It actually is a mathematical paper republished.  Some of it used a notation I did not recognize, but it is fairly interesting.


We continued on to Manassas.  The loop around Washington moved at a snail's pace.


Eventually we did make it to the motel.


Quality INN of Manassas, VA


+ Tea and cookies out in lobby (few cookies)

+ Both microwave and fridge (though very tiny freezer in fridge

+ Iron and ironing board


. Free continental breakfast--not much in the way of protein, eggs in rubbery disks

. Room appointments standard

. Wi-Fi in room--good for a page or two at a time, Download speed is about 0.1 Mbps

. Cable but no TCM


- Room is cramped.  If someone is sitting in the desk chair you cannot squeeze between the chair and the bed.  Cannot open or close the bathroom door without squeezing around it



For dinner we went to Guapo's Manassas.  Guapo's is a Washington DC area chain of restaurants.  The food is Tex-Mex and a lot is fried.  Tacos are crunchy not soft.  A meal has a big payload of fat.  Perhaps their Rotisserie Chicken is a little healthier.  But it is tasty.  Evelyn and I ordered and shared a burrito platter and a half chicken.  It cost about what a meal for us usually costs.  Both dishes were $7.95.  Both


Driving anywhere in this town seem to

Traffic is just terrible.


We read our email when we got back to the room.



08/17/13 Manassas, VA to Asheville, NC


Breakfast was not great.  For protein they had bacon and eggs fried into a rubbery disk with whites and yokes about the same texture.  They had mini-doughnuts, white bread, and English muffins.  Also there was oatmeal.


From there we were on the road to Asheville, NC.


We passed a truck that had the message that its company had ISO 9000 certification.  Evelyn asked me if people still worried about ISO 9000.  I said I don't.


Evelyn saw a hand painted sign in a field reminding people to vote June 12.  She said that the sign was for an election three months ago.  They were slow taking it down.  I did a quick calculation.  That was a Wednesday this year.  Elections are usually on a Tuesday.  That sign was probably for an election 15 months ago.


Well the most interesting sight today is the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We did not go a long distance on it, but it threads its way over the top of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains.  They go over 6000 feet high.  There were yellow wildflowers by the side of the road.  Probably Black Eyed Susans.


There were turnouts where we stopped for lunch.  The cuisine was whatever we had at home that looked like it could survive the trip.  Protein came from peanut butter.  We had crackers and popped rice chips.


But with the exception of that stop it was driving the whole time.  Our beautiful skies have been replaced by overcast.


We start seeing trees shrouded in kudzu.  They look like trees hiding under green bed sheets.


We got into Asheville a bit after six. 

Quality INN of Asheville, NC


+ Both microwave and fridge (though no freezer in fridge

+ Nice free breakfast: DIY waffles, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, etc.

+ Fair sized bathroom

+ Easy to use interface on AC/heater


. Appointments standard

. Wi-Fi in room, good for a page or two at a time, download speed is ultra-slow, below 0.1 Mbps


- Refrigerator has very noticeable hum



We went to the room and set up the computer.  There is Wi-Fi but the connection to the Internet is very slow.


We had picked out the beat restaurants in the area with a price of $ or $$.  We were a little afraid they would be crowded on a Saturday night.  We picked a place called Corner Kitchen.  But it looked a little fancy for the price-range.  It turned out to be a fancy price also.  Dishes were like $17 or $23.  They must have raised their prices.  We decided we were a little travel weary to appreciate such a fancy place.  There was a Hardees's nearby.  Even it looked gentrified in the fancy neighborhood, but the prices were reasonable and we probably enjoyed that just as much.


At the room we worked on logs, watched a double-episode of "Foyle's War," and enjoyed each other's company.



08/18/13 Asheville, NC to Chattanooga, TN: University of Tennessee campus


Ugly morning!  Heavily overcast and cloudy.


I woke up about 4:30 and listened to my iPod and dozed for about an hour.


Spent time on computer until Evelyn got up.  The Wi-Fi was really slow.


Breakfast was much better here than it was yesterday (as I say above).


But our luck and the nice weather gave out.  Most of our day was supposed to be in the Great Smoky Mountain Park where we would see trees and scenic overlooks.  But the day is rainy and misty and the scenic overlooks are only views of mist.  We can see the trees, but we will spend less time in the park and go to a couple of museums in Knoxville.


It seems wherever we go in the mountains we see a lot of (well behaved) motorcycle gangs.  There may be some sort of an event going on.  I cannot believe this many motorcycles would be around just by chance.  I have been told that The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the most visitors of any of the National Parks.  That may be because there are not that many scenic parks in the eastern states.  Yosemite has a lot of competition in the West.  Smoky Mountains has much less competition.


After a rather disappointing drive with occasional bits of views we left the park and drove through Pigeon Forge, perhaps the kitschiest and crass tourist city I can remember seeing.  It is like Las Vegas with less taste.  It is full of places like water parks and the Jurassic Jungle Ride.  Then there is the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show.  Here is also Dollywood, a sort of Disneyland celebrating Dolly Parton rather than Walt Disney.  Feh!


As soon as we got out of the park the sky started clearing.  Oh well.


The Frank H. McClung Natural History and Archeology Museum is a small but nice museum on the campus of the University of Tennessee.  It is not comprehensive so I am not sure how they chose the exhibits.  Among the exhibits were:


-- Bird art

-- Ancient Egypt

-- Native American archeology

-- Evolution

-- Artifacts from the battle of Fort Sanders


It certainly was worth the time.  When we were done we decided to look around campus.  We couldn't get in any buildings or see that much in walking distance, but it was an excuse for exercise.  I told Evelyn I would get her an ice cream if we passed a place. This is Welcome Back Day on campus.  We saw a lot of young people getting ready to return to the regimen of studying and having fun.


We had skipped lunch so Evelyn said she could eat if we found a decent restaurant.  We went to the edge of the campus and found some places to eat.  Most seemed to be chains.  I was unimpressed.  We picked Ephesus Mediterranean.  Evelyn had a lamb platter and I had Gyros and salad.  Pretty good.


We discussed would we like to change places with the incoming freshmen.  I think we pretty much decided no.  It certainly would be nice to have my youth back.  And there are things I would do differently.  But overall I have been fairly lucky and probably would not be as lucky again.  When Evelyn and I were the age of the freshmen we were just meeting each other.  And we each liked what we saw in the other.  It would be nice to have that experience again.


While we were eating and after we finished we talked to the server about Turkey, travel in general, the economy, and whatever.  I guess we had been to Turkey and though she was half Turkish she had not been there.


From there we drove to Chattanooga.  We checked in at Econolodge.


Econolodge of Chattanooga, TN


+ Both microwave and fridge (though very tiny freezer in fridge

+ Wi-Fi in room, good for a page or two at a time, download speed is about 12 Mbps, Very good speed

+ AC/heater with easy to use interface

+ Full cable with TCM

+ Room price very reasonable

+ Sink outside the bathroom

+ Hot water tap has hot water


. Room appointments standard

. Free continental breakfast, but little beyond carbohydrates and juice.  Bagels, mini doughnuts, cereal


We set up the computer.  It went surprisingly fast due to a good Wi-Fi connection.


After we settled in we went out.  I had offered to get Evelyn an ice cream back on campus.  We decided to do it then.  But the best we could find was a Wal-Mart.  We got a pint of chocolate and took it back to the room.  It was not very good.  I will have to do better later.



08/19/13 Chattanooga TN to Huntsville AL: US Space and Rocket Center


Today it is rainy.  Breakfast was not much comfort.  We are going to drive to Huntsville for the Rocket and Space Center.


At then end of WWII Werner Von Braun could have gone into hiding, surrendered to the Soviets or surrendered to the Americans.  Surrendering to the Americans he decided were his best prospects.  Sure enough the Americans wanted his knowledge and cooperation.  He and in the hundreds of rocket scientists were resettled in Huntsville Alabama.  I have heard that this was to them like the end of the world, but there were recently abandoned development facilities they could take and build into rocket construction facilities.  Here they could develop rockets and space exploration.


The US Space and Rocket Center is really the visitor center blown up into a large museum.  It has to be large for one of the two buildings to house an entire Saturn V rocket suspended horizontally.  Mostly you have exhibits on the history and science space travel.  At the time we went there was lots of army recruitment exhibit.  Some of this was about drones and remote controlled or autonomous robotic devices.  Also there was a robotic fish for stealth spying underwater.  It looked like something out of James Bond.


There was a temporary traveling exhibit on black holes.  I am not sure where it goes when it travels, but it was here and had video exhibits with a heavy science fiction tone that took the viewer into a black hole.


A large fraction of exhibits, particularly the ones with science fiction appeal were broken.  They obviously appeal to young kids who think that if a little bit of movement causes something interesting to happen on the screen, you can get proportionally more effect by knocking the exhibits with all their muscle.  For some of these kids there is a climbing wall.  Maybe that would wear them out.


We frequently found poor signage so that it was not clear what to do on several of the exhibits.


They did have an exhibit of Von Braun's office.  I pointed out to Evelyn that on his desk there was a Hugo.  Evelyn said it could not possibly be a real Hugo award.  Apparently the timing was wrong.  She had her Kindle and the museum had Wi-Fi so she looked up Von Braun and Hugo.  It turned out to be a retro-Hugo for on of his books.


The other building had a V2 rocket and exhibits on food, a quarantine facility, and the Apollo 16 capsule.  There was an interesting exhibit on the Apollo 12 problem when it was struck by lightning.  Curiously they did not seem to have exhibits on Apollo 11's lunar landing problems or Apollo 13's well-known problems.


We took an optional tour to the Marshall Space Flight Center.  Here you get to see some real work being done.  The highlight is a control center with a big wall display with frames including live video from the International Space Station.  The video was not too exciting since one astronaut flashed by the camera.


Our guide was telling us that entrepreneur Dennis Tito wants to send older married couple around Mars on a mission that would last 523 days.  I had thought it took two years just to get to Mars.  He wants to send an older married couple because they know how to work together and have worked out their personality differences.


The guide claimed that the Saturn 5 blast off was the second loudest sound in history.  The first was the atomic bomb.  This is of course wrong.  There were several nuclear detonations and then there were natural disaster at Thera and Krakatau.  It was probably the largest non-nuclear man-made sound.


After that we went to dinner at Taqueria El Cazador.  It was fairly authentic Mexican and most of the customers seemed Mexican.  Evelyn and I shared a Shrimp in Spicy Sauce platter and an order of three Tamales.  Evelyn found the sauce spicier than she wanted.


From there we drove to the motel.


Quality Inn of Huntsville, AL

Well below average for Quality Inn


+ Both microwave and fridge (though very tiny freezer in fridge)

+ Iron and ironing board

+ Free continental breakfast, small but includes DIY waffles and biscuits and gravy

+ Complete cable including TCM

+ Sink outside bathroom


. Wi-Fi in room, good for a page or two at a time, download speed is about 0.12 Mbps; seems to lose connection to pages


- Water knob in shower slips and it is impossible to turn on the water for the shower

- Clerk at front desk seemed distinctly unfriendly when we first arrived (morning staff was better)

- Cigarette burns in the bedspread

- TV interface with cable box is unclear and there are no instructions, pressed wrong button and could not use (same thing happened to another guest

- Dirt and grunge on sink faucet, needs a good cleaning

- Hair drier is full of lint

- Towel stuffed on top of the curtain from previous guest

- Alarm left on and went off at 12:30 AM

- Electrical outlet by sink held together by duct tape

- Need more electrical outlets


We spent time on the PC, worked on logs, and went to bed.



08/20/13 Huntsville AL to Montgomery AL: Selma to Montgomery


I have been sleeping poorly, but we also have a time change and I have been more or less awake since about 2:30.  I have been waking up about 3:30 the last few days, so perhaps I woke up about the same time.  I have not been feeling drowsy during day, however.


Breakfast was standard.  Better than we get in the Northeast.  There were the now standard do-it-yourself waffles.  And I had some of a favorite I never get unless I travel, biscuits and gravy.


Our plan for the day is to drive the route of the freedom walks from Selma to Montgomery Alabama.


Road to Selma: I remember getting stopped for roadwork, but it was much like our other drives.  The weather was cloudy but just a few incident of rain.  The road for the last stretch narrows to two lanes.  We were looking for a TripAdvisor-recommended BBQ place for lunch, but we passed another and it looked good.  It was R&B Barbecue.  The parking lot was pretty full so we decided it must be good.  It was about 12:30 and the place closes for the day at 2 PM during the week, so we had time.  They seem to get a lot of people just for lunch.  The food was decent.  It was not a big meal, but that is a good thing.  I had fries and beans on the side.  Evelyn had onion rings and potato salad.  They came around and gave everybody who wanted them free cupcakes.


On the road we listened to Wikipedia on the Selma to Montgomery March.  In Alabama we drove to Selma.  There is a sort of Southern architecture that does not look like buildings in the north.  They have covered walkways to protect from the direct heat of the sun.  You can just tell looking at Selma that it has that Southern Architecture.


The walk started at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  And near the bridge today is the Selma to Montgomery Interpretive Center.  There are two interpretive centers, one where the march started and one along the way to Montgomery.  There is not much to the museum.  It is mostly a few photos and a film explaining the march and showing people's reactions.


The issue was that the white middle and upper class in Alabama wanted to control the politics in the state.  They employed several strategies to deny the right to vote to blacks.  They would set the hours to register as very short and inconvenient.  They instituted a poll tax to make voting too expensive for most of the blacks.  To protest the disenfranchisement the local blacks, led by Martin Luther King, decided to march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery.  The beginning of the march would be March 7, 1965, and would be at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  The march was turned back violently by state and local police.  It had to be attempted three times before the protesters could overcome resistance.  The third march began March 16.  Members of the Alabama National Guard and the US Army protected the protestors.  It was a five-day march and the original 300 and many more who joined the march along the way.  They got to Montgomery and Governor George Wallace refused to see them.  When it was clear they would not go, Wallace's secretary met with the leaders of the march and agreed to take the list of their grievances to Wallace.  George Wallace did absolutely nothing.  Nobody expected him to.  When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door the leaders of the church did not take them down and say, "You know.  He's right?"  The whole country was watching the march in their living rooms and it definitely had a strong influence on election reforms.


While we were there James Perkins Jr. came in and we talked to him for a while.  He was the first black mayor of Selma and he served for two terms.  He is a very well spoken man.


After that we attempted to follow the rout of the march.  Along the way there is a second and bigger interpretive center for the march.  We saw it and spent about an hour there.


We continued on to Montgomery.  Somehow the signage was bad and we lost the route toward the end.


We drove directly to the motel.


Comfort Inn of Montgomery AL


+ Cookies out in lobby (a few)

+ Both microwave and fridge (though no freezer in fridge

+ Free continental breakfast

+ Room appointments nice

+ Wi-Fi in room, good response, and Download speed is about 7.1 Mbps

+ Easy interface on AC/heater

+ Room feels clean and well maintained

+ Free PC in lobby


. Cable but no TCM





08/21/13 Montgomery AL to New Orleans LA


This is a travel day so I will not have a lot to say.


OK breakfast, but not up to the quality of the rest of the hotel.


Next came our drive to Mississippi.


I notice ads for a smoke-free casino.  Apparently now there are more gamblers who dislike cigarette smoke than ones who like it.  If they want new gamblers from the general population there are more of them that are non-smokers than there are smokers.  I suspect that has been true for a while, but there may have been more smoking among the big gamblers.  Now there are more dollars coming from the non-smokers.


We stopped for lunch at Snapper's Seafood on the beach in Biloxi.  We shared orders of fried catfish and fried crawfish.  There is a nice view of the Gulf of Mexico.  The food was nicely fried, but the crawfish were a lot like fried clams.


Then it was a few more hours over the Louisiana border to New Orleans where we were greeted with spectacular storm cloud over the city complete with lightning.  It did not rain, but looked terrific.


We were staying in New Orleans suburb Marrero.


Comfort Inn of Marrero LA


+ Both microwave and fridge

+ Free continental breakfast

+ Easy interface on AC/heater

+ Free PC in lobby


. Wi-Fi in room, OK response, Download speed is about 1.04 Mbps (not the claimed "high-speed"

. Cable but no TCM

. Room appointments standard


- No listing of cable stations in room.  Front desk did not have either.  Went to look for one but did not find

- Toilet hard to coax to flush

- Furniture a little tattered

- Walls are thin.  Could here TV and even snoring through the walls.

- Lamp on the worktable lost the lamp bolt that keeps the shade on.  The shade stays on but swings back and forth doing funny things to the light





In the evening we set up the disk player and watch Gore Vidal's LINCOLN.



08/22/13 New Orleans LA: The French Quarter


Breakfast: DIY Waffles, eggs, sausage


Today we took the French Quarter walking tour that Triple-A provided.  It is extremely hot so we get quite thirsty.  Wrought iron and pillars are the soul of the French Quarter.  Buildings in the French Quarter have building-wide balconies fenced in with wrought iron.  It is used on balconies.  On the ground floor there are no gratings but generally there are pillars holding up the balconies on the upper floors.


We read a lot of the history of the Quarter.  I won't try to repeat it.  I feel sorry for the horses who have to stand in the sun and pull carriages with fat tourists.


It takes us about 90 minutes to walk the tour and though our parking costs the same for up to four hours, the hot sun is taking it out of the both of us.


From there we drove through the Lower 9th Ward.  This was made famous as having gotten the worst of Hurricane Katrina.  It turned out where we drove was not the part of the ward that got it the worst of it.  Still we saw a lot of houses that had some damage.


That was on the way to Chalmette battlefield, which commemorates the battle of New Orleans.  We talked to the park officials in the visitor center and watched the film telling the story of the battle.  Several ethnic groups fought on the US side.  But much of the thanks for the victory really goes to the British General Pakinham whose side was beset with bad luck and lack of organization.  There were roughly 100 British casualties for every US casualty.  Pakinham who had a good record from his command in the Napoleonic wars had just about everything go wrong that could.  But he did not feel bad for long as he was himself killed.


We drove around the battlefield where crane-like birds stole attention from the cannons and the description boards.


The visitor center had a brochure listing the best restaurants of the area.  It was lunchtime so we went.


At Charlie's Evelyn had a Po Boy sandwich and I had fried crab.  We shared a gumbo with a lot of sausage and rice.


Out remaining activity was to drive around the Garden District.  This is the fancy part of town where celebrities live.  I guess the houses look nice and as the name implies they are decorated with nice gardens.  But some of the roads are just three times the width of a car.  With cars parking on both sides, what is left does not accommodate two-way traffic.  It is like driving the back roads of Scotland.  If two cars meet head on, one has to back up.


In the room while working on logs we watched two films set in New Orleans, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and CAT PEOPLE.



08/23/13 New Orleans, LA: National WWII Museum


Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast.  The TV was talking about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights march on Washington led by Martin Luther King.  Very timely as they are doing biographical sketches of MLK.


National WWII Museum

This museum is the seventh best museum in the country.  Not the city, but the country.  Apparently it used to be a D-Day museum.  They decided to extend it to the whole war.  And it shows in the museum as it stands today.  It divides the war between the European and the Pacific War.  The European part has a lot on D-Day, what led up to it and the aftermath.  I would say the European theater has an awful lot about D-Day and it give way too little on the rest of the European theater, they have surprisingly little about the Battle of the Bulge.  They have, some but it is not the detailed coverage they give to D-Day.  Further any Allied invasion they call "a D-Day."  The US invasion of the Solomon Islands they call a D-Day.  They cover what they call a D-Day Saipan.


Right now they have what I think is a special exhibit on Bob Hope.  He is considered a part of WWII because he entertained the troops.  I would have thought that the space could have been used for something more integral to the war, but it is only temporary.


We took a museum tour and that was a pretty good overview of the European part of the museum.  I don't remember if it got to the Pacific material.


Something I had not realized: Apparently the US came out of the First World War isolationist.  We neither had nor thought we needed a big army.  There were two oceans that insulated us from major conflicts.  We had, in fact, only the 18th largest army in the world.  Only if we were attacked would we even need an army.  Romania had a bigger army.    Only if we were attacked would we even need an army.  Most Americans think of the war as starting December 7, 1941 after hostilities in Europe, many who think better of it say it was 1939.  Evelyn thinks that is very Eurocentric.  The real start of hostilities was the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931.

Even Romania had bigger army.


The museum covers how we were drawn into war and our mobilization.  I won't go through the whole history of the war.  There is a big subsection on wooden boats like PT Boats and landing craft.  It just happens that the company that made those boats, Higgins Industries, is in New Orleans and it made major contributions to the museum in return for the positive publicity.


One of the best features of the museum is the eyewitness accounts by actual participants.  There are frequent panels with four accounts each that give you a choice by pushbutton of the accounts you want to hear.


When the war gets to D-Day they have many rooms full of D-Day explanation with eyewitnesses telling what it was like to be in England before the invasion--the American point of view and the English point of view.  Then there was the decision to invade June 6 and the jockeying for the best date.  We learn what it was like in the landing boats and the gliders.  What it was like to land in gunfire.  What it was like to be on the beach, etc.  Once they get past the week after the invasion.


They had a little more material on the Battle of the Bulge.  They quickly get to the surrender of Germany.


On the Pacific side one of the most interesting features is a collection of each side's cartoon racially dehumanizing the other side.  The Japanese are shown with little spherical heads and big buckteeth.  FDR is drawn as a Japanese demon.


There is another area to visit across the street where they have a few airplanes suspended and military vehicles on the floor.  They also have some sophisticated computer displays where you can see battles explained.


Dinner was at Pho Tau Bay, a Vietnamese Pho shop in Gretna.  The GPS had real trouble directing us to that or our second choice restaurant.  Evelyn was driving and got very frustrated.  We did find it at last.  We each got soup and it was pretty good.




08/24/13 New Orleans LA to Fort Worth TX


This is a travel day.  I won't go into a great deal of detail.


We are finding that our car needs oil quite frequently.  Toyota claimed that it is just that older cars need oil more often.  And we are certainly doing a lot of driving.  I checked the oil today and it almost did not show on the stick.  I put in two quarts and we have a third in the trunk.


We are having an interesting problem.  I carry a thermos with ice water.  I like no have ice water to drink during the day.  I have filled it with too much ice I think.  I wanted it to last a couple of days.  I sealed it and the ice caused the air inside to collapse, creating a partial vacuum inside.  This creates a suck on the lid and it would suck even more to unscrew it.  It just won't unscrew.  The lid has sort of welded itself shut.  It leaks cold only very slowly, but until the inside warms somewhat it will be impossible to unscrew the lid.


We stopped for lunch in Shreveport.  We had picked Crawdaddy's from TripAdvisor as a good place to have lunch.  We had Crayfish Ettoufe, meat pie, and crawfish pie.  I won't say Creole is my favorite cuisine but this was tasty enough.


Late afternoon we got to our motel the Best Western of Fort Worth


Best Western of Fort Worth Texas


+ Both microwave and fridge

+ Free continental breakfast--biscuits and gravy thin

+ Room appointments nice

+ Room feels clean and well maintained

+ Room has ironing board and iron

+ Lots of electrical outlets

+ Sink outside bathroom


. Wi-Fi in room, poor response, Download speed is about 1.44 Mbps.  As low as 0.1 and high as 3.  And this with only 10 rooms occupied.

. Cable but no TCM

. Some of the TV interface is hard to figure out

. OK interface on AC/heater, but not easy to get to comfortable temperature

. At breakfast more labeling is needed.  What are in the coffee dispensers?  One is decaffeinated, what are the rest.  The gravy for biscuits is soup thin.

. Bible on open table; opens to Song of Solomon.  Also an Indian booklet on self-realization.


- Thin walls, heard neighbors having sex and banging on wall



They put a Bible right on a table, open to Song of Solomon.  An Indian tract holds that place: Simple and Effective Science for Self Realization by Gnan Vidhi.


In the evening we watched CONAN THE BARBARIAN as preparation for our visit to the Robert E. Howard Museum.  




08/25/13 Fort Worth TX


In the morning we did laundry.


One woman was walking in public areas and wearing just a towel around body and one around hair; was told firmly this was NOT THAT KIND of hotel.


Amon Carter created the Amon Carter Museum of American Art a very successful newspaper publisher.  After being born in a log cabin and starting work at a lowly newspaper job he worked his way up until he owned the newspaper.  He made friends with Will Rogers.  Rogers told him that the way of life in the West was changing fast and suggested that Carter invest in Indian art.  Carter, who knew little about art, started collecting Fredric Remington and Charles M. Russell western paintings.  They are very popular art.  Carter left in his will the funds to build a museum to exhibit what was then a very impressive collection.


Artists represented in the museum include Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, William Harnett, Thomas Moran, Alfred Stieglitz, and Georgia O'Keeffe.  There are many impressionists of lesser name of whom I was less familiar.  There is an Alexander Calder mobile and an Andy Warhol portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe.


We arrived at the museum ten minutes before it opened and saw pretty much the whole museum on our own and at 2 PM got a tour of the museum.  I don't remember what comments we made and questions we asked, but the guide seemed to be impressed with our knowledge of art.  I guess part was that we already knew all about Eadweard Muybridge, who at the behest of Leland Stanford got a photo of a galloping horse with all four hooves off the ground.  By taking photographs in rapid succession he basically invented the motion picture.


When the tour ended the guide suggested we join another tour that just started.  That one had only two people and they quickly decided they were not interested.  So we got a personal tour.  Again we got a comment that we knew a lot more than the people the guide usually got on the tours.  That is odd since I certainly did not grow up with much interest in art.  But Evelyn and I like going to art museums and found little enthusiasms for impressionists and classical art and certain artists.  We picked up knowledge along the way.


We ended up with better than two hours of tour.


For dinner we looked at what was recommended in the area.  We picked Asadero, a Mexican restaurant in a very Mexican neighborhood.  I had beefsteak encebolada and Evelyn had chicken in Mole sauce.  Best meal this trip and not very expensive.


Back at the room we watched CONAN THE DESTROYER and THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.  The former based on a Robert E Howard character and the second about Howard's relationship with his girlfriend.


Tomorrow we go see the Robert E. Howard Museum.



08/26/13 Fort Worth TX: The Robert E Howard Museum


This morning I tried the gravy on the waffle.  It was OK.  The motels we have stayed in all have exactly the same waffle maker.  This motel has a different one.  It makes waffles the shape of Texas.  But it still has a few bugs that the popular one has fixed.  The batter is a lot thicker and that makes transferring it more difficult.


We don't have to leave until about 10 AM.  Howard lived in the West Texas town of Cross Plains.  I doubt there is much there.  We will take portable foods in case there is nowhere good to eat there.  It seems like a nice nearly cloudless day.  Good day for a drive.  We put a Conan story on the car's sound system.


I guess I cannot say I am a big fan of Howard's Conan stories.  Most plots are resolved by brute force against evil.  And Conan has undefeatable brute force.  Conan hates authority, which reflects Howard's own attitudes.


Today may not be representative of Cross Plains, because today the plains seem reasonably affable.


We arrived in Cross Plains a little before noon.  That gave us more than an hour before we were to go to the museum.


We had brought some meager picnic lunch: granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, and soda.  They have a nice picnic area next to a small stream.


We went to a Dollar Plus looking for a data cable, but they did not have it.


We drove to the house of Robert E. Howard.  This was where Howard lived for all but the first 13 years of his life.  This is where he did his writing.  He wrote the adventures of Solomon Kane, Kull, and especially those of Conan the Cimmerian.


Arlene Stephenson was our guide and I think the only guide people get.  By today's standards the house is tiny.  There are only five rooms.  Actually a sixth was added after Howard died, but that room has not been restored and is the gift shop.  Arlene was a few minutes late, but later gave us about two and a half hours of her time so I can't blame her.


A lot of what we saw in the house is more meaningful for people who saw the film THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD or at least know something about the life of Robert E. Howard.


We first went to his parents' bedroom where his tubercular mother governed the house.  The quilt was made by friends who each made a square in a pattern agreed upon before they started and then the squares were sewn together to make a quilt made by a large number of friends.  Each square is personalized in some way so really the quilt is a remembrance of a friend.  But really the room is just showing what things were like when Howard lived here.


The main attraction of the living room was the collection of books that were originally in the Howard house.  Included was a several-volume history of the world.  Howard's earlier sorties were set in real history locations and times.  His problem was that he could not effectively research the time and keep the stories accurate.  He discovered it was much easier to set his stories in fictional lost civilizations where he could invent more freely.  But there were few themes in Howard's writings that did not seem connected to the contents of the living room.


I also noticed some books between two bookends decorated with the front and back half of a pirate ship model.  Pirates also showed up a lot in Howard's stories.


The dining room and kitchen were typical of the period and bore no real connection to Robert's writing.  However the tour ended with his room.  Just behind the parents' bedroom is Howard's bedroom which could not have been bigger than 8 feet by about 14.


It is a very small room and they have the same model of typewriter that Howard used when he wrote his stories set in vast forgotten countries.  He barely had room to tip his chair back.  This is where he would speak his prose as he wrote it.


The house has been restored by a local organization of residents keeping Cross Plains alive, Project Pride.  It is what I guess are mostly women in their 70s keeping the town on the map.  And the big attraction that brings people from all over the world is to Cross Plains is the Robert E. Howard house.  Howard wrote what might be called adolescent male fantasies with lots of action and frequent nude or nearly nude women.  And people like Arlene have made themselves extremely knowledgeable about him and his writing.  I asked Arlene if she herself liked Howard?  She admitted she did not really and I told her I was not actually a fan myself.  But it is ironic that the people keeping the town focussed on Howard are about as far from the expected audience of Howard stories as you can get.  But it seems like the right thing to for Cross Plains.


The Robert E. Howard house has been placed on the National Register off Historic Places.  An unusual tribute for a fantasy pulp writer.


We stopped by the town library that has its own collection of books by the town's most famous son.  Everybody is very friendly.


After that was the long ride back to Fort Worth.  Dinner was at I Thai restaurant we found recommended called Happy Bowl.  It was just a short distance from our hotel.  The food was delicious though a little oily.  I had Gai Pad Ped (curried chicken) spiciness 5/5.  Evelyn had Ginger Chicken spiciness 3/5.


Back at the room we put on a movie and made plans for what to do the following day.



08/27/13 Fort Worth TX Stockyards, Kimball museum


Today we have been married 41 years.  Happy Anniversary to us.


For breakfast I combined the two best items.  I had yogurt on waffle.


The Stockyards Nation Historic District was once just what it claims to be.  It still is a stockyard but more for tourism than for meat production.  It has a lot of historic-style architecture, but now it is mostly high-priced shops, art galleries, and restaurants.  Every day they have a cattle drive down the main street.  But in fact the cattle are just move around a block.  It is really more a theme park.  I found something of a cognitive dissonance seeing two cowboys on horses, dressed like they just came back from the trail.  I saw one furtively pass something to the other.  I suspected it was a cigarette but when I could see it turned out to be a cell phone.


A woman I heard talking sounded a lot like Frances McDormond in RAISING ARIZONA.


We saw the cattle drive at 11:30.  It was only about 30 head.  They were longhorns and they were longer from side to side than they were from front to back.


From there I offered to get Evelyn ice cream.  We stopped in a shop but they had defrosted last night and would not have ice cream until the afternoon.  There was not much of interest in the shops.  We returned to the car.


As I said on the 24th our thermos became unusable because we put too much ice and water in it and the air pocket at the top contracted leaving a partial vacuum.  The lid would not unscrew.  Evelyn was convinced that there must have been something gluing the lid in place.  I said that it might work to leave the thermos in a hot car.  Well that was what we tried this morning.  Returning to the car I gave the thermos one more try.  The lid twisted and unscrewed.  The water inside was cool but not really cold.  There was nothing on the lid that had stuck it shut.  It was all the power of the partial vacuum that made the lid impossible to twist off.


On the way to the next site we stopped and shared an ice cream sundae.  Happy Anniversary to us.


The Kimbell Art Museum is really very small for an art museum.  I don't remember even seeing two paintings by the same artist.  So why do I consider this a great art museum.  First it is free.  Like the Amon Carter the admission is free to the public.  There are not many decent art museums left in the world.  But this museum has one each of all the classic grand masters of art.  I saw

-- Lucas Cranach the Elder

-- Michelangelo (Torment of St. Anthony)

-- El Greco

-- Velazquez

-- Caravaggio: (The Card Sharps)

-- Peter Paul Rubens

-- Rembrandt van Rijn (Bust of a Young Jew)

-- Manet (Portrait of Georges Clemenceau)

-- Edward Munch (Girls on the Pier)

-- James Ensor (Skeletons Warming Themselves)

-- Paul Gauguin (Self Portrait)

-- Van Gogh (Street in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer)

-- Cezanne (Maison Maris and Man in Blue Smock -- Ok, there were two CŽzannes)

-- Claude Monet (Weeping Willow)

-- Joan Miro (Heriberto Casany)

-- Pablo Picasso (Nude Combing Her Hair)

-- Henri Matisse (Asia)


Lunch was at the Railhead BBQ, recommended in TripAdvisor.  We got BBQ brisket and ribs.  The meat was cooked really tender.  It fell right off the bone on the ribs.  I guess that is really good.


I don't like it really good.  I want ribs that give me some work to do chewing off all the meat.  There is something primal about chewing meat from a bone.  My own BBQ sauce tastes better to me than theirs.  Theirs is a vinegary sauce; I like a sweet BBQ sauce.


To be honest my own sauce I like a lot.  And what makes it more surprising is I just threw three ingredients together as an experiment and the first time I tried I decided that would be my recipe from then on.  I mixed ketchup, honey, and Srirachi Sauce.  Other sauces have been as good.  None better.  It is sweet and tangy.  I don't know the amounts.  Add what seems right.


Back at the room we spent some Anniversary quality time together, packed, and watched THE ALAMO.



08/28/13 Fort Worth TX to San Antonio TX


I was having some trouble with the calendar on my palmtop.  The last day or so the calendar would not come up.  That spells serious trouble.  A couple of times I got it to work.  But I am afraid I would be in serious trouble if I cannot get it to be reliable.


Breakfast was waffle and oatmeal.  At 9 we were on the road for San Antonio.


Lunch was at Asther's Ethiopian Restaurant in Austin.  I like Ethiopian, but I am not sure most people would.  Most people at the restaurant were sort of ignoring the injera bread that is really the heart of Ethiopian.  Injera is spongy, gray bread that is the eating utensil, much like Indian food.


They say you can tell a lot about a restaurant by visiting the restrooms.  In this case there was a 2-inch cockroach.  Apparently it caused something of a stir since it went to the women's bathroom and a woman ahead of Evelyn in line refused to use the room until it was killed.


It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive to San Antonio.


Now I am at the Worldcon Convention my main concentration will be the convention so I probably will not write much in this log.


We are staying at the Marriott Riverwalk of San Antonio


Marriott Riverwalk of San Antonio Texas


+ Coffee maker in room

+ Room seems well cared for

+ Real glasses

+ Toilet has two flush levels

+ Iron and board

+ Rooms made up promptly


. Free Wi-Fi in lobby ~0.3 Mbps


- Big swings in room temperature, gets very hot then blasts with cold air

- Cable TV but poor selection of stations

- No grab bar in shower

- Friend put in three rooms before he found one in which the plumbing was not broken

- Wi-Fi $15/day in rooms

- No fridge

- No microwave

- Small cramped rooms

- Very little drawer space

- Thin walls, voices from other rooms surprisingly loud in room

- Note says earplugs in drawer but none

- Skimpy coffee fixings

- Neighbor taking shower sounds like in your bathroom

- No breakfast

- Prices very high





09/02/13 San Antonio, TX: The Alamo


About 3PM our convention ended.  We went back to the room to repack.  With some time on our hands we thought we would visit the Alamo.  It is not longer a religious building but is now a shrine treated religiously.  You cannot take pictures in the buildings and in the main building you cannot even wear a hat.  There is a great deal of controversy about the site and just what was happening.  Apparently the Americans and their sympathizers wanted freedom and the protection of their property.  Their property here appears to have been their slaves.


The claim is that what these men have done has "transcended the pages of history."  I think that means that the legend of what they did is different from the truth.


Dinner was a visit to Casa Rio, a Mexican restaurant on the Riverwalk.  We had been there once before.  It is Tex-Mex, but well done.


After we returned to our hotel we took the computer to the lobby.  We were sitting near a group that included George R R Martin, the author of Game of Thrones.  A group of people came over to Martin and said they had come here to meet Martin.  They were individually taking their pictures with him and I offered to take a picture of the group for them.  They let me.


One piece of bad news.  One of the great science fiction authors died today.  Frederic Pohl was one of the first science fiction writers I read.  He had a collection called "Alternating Currents."  I remember few non-juvenile authors I had read prior to Pohl.  (Certainly Sheckley and probably Matheson).


We went to the room after and packed up while we watched CRIMES AND MISDEMENORS.



09/03/13 San Antonio TX to Little Rock AR


We ate breakfast in the room from our picnic supplies.  Then we moved all our luggage to the lobby and brought the car around and loaded.


It is an incredible thing that we must have gone 40 miles and every foot the road was under construction or being worked on.  I think they set up the barriers and the cones on the blacktop and then they go looking for people to do the roadwork.


This is a travel day.  The high point will be lunch, I hope.  We drove for about four hours.  We stopped for lunch at Salt Creek Steak House in Mesquite.  The food was all very enjoyable but very much like what we have gotten at home.


Our stay tonight and tomorrow night is at:


Quality Inn and Suites of Little Rock AR

(Note, upgraded to a suite at no extra charge--did not even mention were doing it.)


+ Both microwave and fridge (though very tiny freezer in fridge)

+ Free continental breakfasts: DIY waffles, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, muffins

+ Room appointments nice, room well cared for

+ Wi-Fi in room, Download speed is about 6.0 Mbps

+ Two TVs (in suite)

+ Grab bar in shower


. Cable but no TCM

. A little short on drawer space





09/04/13 Little Rock AR: The William Clinton Presidential Library and Museum


Breakfast was good with waffles and a muffin.  Probably not healthy, but good.  I hope I do not gain too much weight this trip.


The motel is walking distance from the William J Clinton Presidential Library.  When we got there we saw sound trucks from NBC and ABC.  Inside there was a mob of people.  It turns out that Bill Clinton there and was making a speech on Affordable Healthcare.  We did not see him, but we were there the same day.


We had 21 months earlier been to the Reagan library.  And some years back we where to other presidential libraries like the Lyndon Johnson and the Richard Nixon.  As museums for presidential libraries go this is not a very big one.  Also it is located in very much the ugly part of town.  That was where the city donated the real estate but it also seems to have symbolic meaning.  It makes the point that Clinton intended to be a President for the people.  But the land had to be replaced to 16 feet down to clean it up and make it safe.  Part of the insides was made from recycled aluminum cans and other materials made from old tires.  The building gets about 400,000 visits each year.


There art three small floors to the museum.  The first floor has entrance and temporary exhibits.  The current one was about the Civil rights struggle and especially the march on Washington for jobs and freedom on August 28. 1963.  This was the one where Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream" speech.  This kept us occupied until the morning tour started.


Jinkie Redden was our guide.  We first saw the limo (one of three limos the Secret Service maintained for Clinton).


The second floor has a recreation of the West Wing office with the table where Clinton met with his cabinet.


Then you enter a room that looks a lot like the Long Room at the library of Trinity College in Dublin.  It gives the effect of towering shelves of books.  The actual library has 10 million pieces of paper for each year Clinton was in office.  It is all stored year by year.


As you walk down the middle of this floor you have a history of the Clinton presidency.  On the two sides you see displays on the issues of his administration.


These are welfare and healthcare, education, racial harmony, science and technology, ideology battles, impeachment battle, etc.


At the end of the aisle is the medal struck for the Little Rock 9.  Today, incidentally is the 56th anniversary of the Little Rock 9 being admitted to Little Rock Central High School over the efforts to avoid integration.  I will say more about this later.


There is also a display on the work of Hillary Rodham Clinton.


On the upper floor is a display of gifts to Clinton by foreign dignitaries.  The President is not allowed to accept gifts to himself so he always makes clear it will be considered a gift from the people of the other country to the people of the United States.


There is a twenty-minute tape of Bill Clinton's humor.  There is a display of White House decoration including decoration for holidays.  Further on there is an Oval Office reproduction.  There is also on in the Reagan Library.


We returned to the room.  Picked a place for dinner and headed out for Little Rock Central High School.  This school received national attention in 1957 when the Federal law said that it had to for the first time be racially integrated.  Nine students were assigned to Central High School.  Locals and state forces commanded by Governor Orval Faubus blocked their way, refusing to let black students enroll in what was considered to be a white school.  President Eisenhower sent in an army airborne division to open the way and to protect the students.  When we visited Little Rock in 1997 they had not yet but were planning a visitor center to commemorate and inform about the events.  We wanted to see it, but it is gone.  Now it is a national historic site with a Federal visitor center.  There was a flood of high schoolers commemorating the day, 56 years before, when the students were barred.


Dinner was at the Whole Hog Cafe, a sort of low-rent BBQ restaurant that offered six kinds of BBQ sauce.  Evelyn and I shared a whole slab of ribs.  Very tasty.


Back at the room we packed and watched a documentary about the Civil War and a spaghetti Western.



09/05/13 Little Rock AR to Nashville TN: The Battle of Parker's Crossroads


Up and at breakfast at 8 AM.  Waffle and sausage.


It is a fair sized drive today.  I don't have a lot to say about the day.  Originally we planned to stay the night in Memphis, just about two hours away.  But part of the idea was to see the Memphis Belle, but we found out Memphis was not taking care of the plane so it is being moved to Wright-Patterson in Dayton, Ohio to be displayed there at the National Museum of the US Air Force.


It makes more sense to go to Nashville instead.


Along the way we will be going near a Civil War battle I had never heard of (or at least thought not).  It is the Battle of Parker's Crossing.  This battle was fought the last day of 1862.


Confederate General John Pemberton knew that Grant was mounting an attack on Vicksberg and wanted to preempt it by attacking Grants supply source.  Nathan Bedford Forrest was also in the area trying to disrupt Grant's telegraph communications.  Union General Jeremiah Sullivan was trying to find Forrest to stop him.  The key would be the crossroads where Forrest would have to pass.


Union Col. Cyrus Dunning fortified the crossroads waiting.  Forrest attacked with artillery pushing them back.  Dunham's men turned around but were by then surrounded by Forrest's men.  Dunham met with Forrest and agreed on terms of surrender.  But then Union troops from the Ohio Brigade arrived and they and Dunham could attack Forrest from two sides.  Forrest yelled for his men to "Charge them both ways."  Both Union Brigades were started by the sudden ferocity and Forrest's men escaped.


There is a combination of driving and walking tours.  We took the whole driving tour and some of the walking tour.


Then it was on to Nashville.  We checked into the Red Roof.


Red Roof Inn Nashville Airport


+ Sink outside bathroom

+ Flat screen TV

+ Grab bar in shower


. Wi-Fi in room but download is only about 3 Mbps

. Limited cable but no TCM

. Room clean but somewhat run down

. Noise from parking lot, seems to be a gathering place

. Coffee at front desk


- No fridge

- No microwave

- No coffee maker in room

- No closet

- No breakfast

- Heater/AC has a difficult interface

- Too few cups, not replaced the second day


Dinner was at a place with seemingly no name just a few blocks from our hotel.  We asked Google for restaurants near our hotel.  We chose a place called QUAC.  It was very much a mix and match sort of place.  You independently chose the meat, the sauce, etc.  Anyway we went and there was nobody eating there at the dinner hour.  Just a few feet away was a restaurant with a lot of people eating.  It seems to have no name and only says "Kebab" on the window.  But they served large pieces of freshly cut gyros and salad with things like tubule.  We both ate well for under $20.  (Oh, I asked and the name is Kebab Gyros.)


By this point it was late and there was only time for us both to use the computer to catch up with the world.



09/06/13 Nashville TN


We had breakfast in the room, eating our picnic food.


We wanted to see the Tennessee State Museum.  It is supposed to be a free attraction, but it is in the center of urban Nashville and parking turned out to be very difficult or expensive.  We eventually decided that we were less interested than we thought and decided to skip this attraction.


McKay Books is one of the largest used bookstores I have ever seen.  It has bookshelves over acres of space.  They also have DVDs and CDs.  It is a huge selection.  While we were looking at the bargain DVDs there was a guy getting perhaps 100 DVDs in his cart.  He had a special reason, apparently.  He was convinced that Blu-Ray players are all connected to the Internet and to satellites.  Each time you play a Blu-ray the Government tracks what you are watching and stores the data in a mountain.  In this mountain there is a room for every American citizen and that is where they store all the data about that person.  Now people are converting from DVDs to Blu-ray disks, but in ten years everyone will be terrified of government spying.  People will want to go back to DVDs and then his store of DVDs will be really valuable.  You can watch a DVD without the government knowing.


We had made arrangements for when we would meet, but Evelyn would keep extending it.  We did not buy a whole lot but there were some very good prices we could not pass up.


After that we went to Costco to get some dried fruit for the car and to do some comparing to our Costco at home.


Lunch was at Cracker Barrel where I had fried cod and Evelyn had catfish.  I rather like their food, but there are none where we live.


From previous road trips I have really liked the food we had gotten.  Of late we have used TripAdvisor to choose restaurants.  I think we are getting food as good as we got before, but I think it competes with better restaurants that we have at home.  At least this time we are not so impressed with the food.


We were still unwinding so after lunch we went to see ELYSIUM.  Even with a senior admission it was $8.50.  I had heard some good things about the film, but it was in large part diatribe or violence.


From there it was back to the room to pack and to work on logs, etc.



09/07/13 Nashville TN to Lexington KY


We checked out and had breakfast at McDonalds.


This was a travel day.  The roads have been getting greener since we left Texas and gotten further north.


To break up the trip we stopped in Bowling Green for the Lost River Boat Trip.  This is a short boat ride into the mouth of a cave.  This area has been known to be troublesome because of the sinkholes that the underground river fills.  The water is very clear and is a sort of blue-green.  There are stories of people having been lost swimming in the sinkholes back around the time of the Civil War.  One story of that vintage tells of a whole horse and wagon that fell into a sinkhole and all that was ever found was the driver's hat.  Three soldiers went swimming in the Civil War and went to dive down and they also were never seen again.  The cave is dark and the ceiling is very low so those on the boat had to really duck their heads.


There are also trails to walk and a butterfly garden.


We picnicked with the food we had brought.


We got in to Lexington Kentucky something like 6 PM and immediately went to dinner at a place that was recommended called Gumbo Ya Ya.  You basically get a dish of either rice or pasta covered with a sauce that has sausage and crawfish.  I had a sauce I could not say and certainly do not remember.  Evelyn had gumbo.  It is high rated but a lot of carbs.


From there we went to the motel, a La Quinta.


La Quinta of Lexington Kentucky


+ sink outside bathroom

+ flat screen TV

+ coffee maker in room

+ nice continental breakfast

+ plenty of drawer space


. Wi-Fi in room but download is only about 0.6 Mbps

. limited cable but no TCM


- no fridge

- no microwave

- too few cups, housekeeper did not put new ones out

- no grab bar in shower

- rusty hinges on bathroom door

- Bathroom door needs planning, sticks when closing

- Toilet handle must be held down


In the evening we watched HOLLYWOODLAND and a commentary track for BROOKLYN RULES.  I spent the time loading dates and to-dos into my calendar.


I have not been reporting it in my log because I had hoped the problem would go away.  My appointment book application has gotten corrupted.  It has been causing a lot of trouble in the trip.  Yesterday I decided to bite the bullet.  I took an empty calendar and am typing the entries in one at a tike by hand.  There is probably something like 600 or 700 entries to be typed in by hand.  I spent about four hours on it last night and I suspect I am only about half done.  It had me so keyed up I could not sleep afterward and was up past 1 AM.



09/08/13 Lexington KY: Frazier Museum


Nice breakfast.  I had waffle with yogurt.


Today we are seeing The Frazier Museum in Louisville.  They also had packaged muffins, near-bagels, oatmeal, and some other selections.


This museum has two permanent collections, one from Britain's Royal Armouries and one from the Frazier Collection.  Nothing they show (in the permanent collection) is far removed from weapons.  The top floor has a rather nice history of English warfare and weapons from medieval times to the present supplied by the Royal Armouries.  Things are well explained and there is a definite path to follow.  They start by showing how chainmail is made and there is chainmail armor there that you can pick up and feel the weight.  You see swords, armor, daggers, cannons, shields, guns, etc.


The second floor does much the same for the US, but there are not the older weapons obviously.  This exhibit does not have a single planned path through it.


Next we saw a curator dressed as a Viking woman telling the stories of Viking folklore.  She was very good with her dramatic telling.  I thought I had in interest in such things, but what I learned was probably more than I even knew.  She explained the Viking cosmology with Yggdrasil the giant tree that is the Viking's world.


From there we went to the special exhibit on Mythical Creatures.  It was worth the extra cost since we are both interested in fantasy.  It was basically a reintroduction to giant sea monsters, mermaids, unknown ape creatures, little demons like the chupacabra, dragons--good Chinese and evil European--earthbound and flying.  It was a nicely put together exhibit and very colorful.  They had a beautiful mockup of a giant squid in several pieces as if you are seeing it emerging from water.  There was a piece on a Japanese demon called a kappa that seems friendly but drowns children.  John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) claimed he saw a mermaid "by no means unattractive."  They also had a piece on Sedna, an Innuit monster.


After that we saw the American exhibit.  Again lots of guns.  They did have a nice short film on Western movies.


After that we rushed back to Lexington to have dinner with Nic Brown and his wife Fiona.  We knew him through hearing him on a podcast and occasionally trading email.  We ate at a pizza place called Squashed Tomato.  We must have talked for two and a half hours.


Then back to the room to pack.



09/09/13 Lexington KY to Roanoke VA


Travel day.  Breakfast was Raisin Bran, a banana and a bagel.


This was actually as scenic a day as we had on this trip.  As you drive north the trees get thicker.  You see occasional kudzu.  The road gets twisty as you get higher in the mountains.  Frequently you drive between giant towering layered walls where they have blasted a slot right through a solid stone hill and you can see hundreds of layers of rock.  The road winds from Eastern Kentucky to West Virginia.


In the hills of West Virginia we pass a turnoff for Matewan.  A small war broke out in Matewan over workers rights versus the power of the owners of the coal companies.  The mineworkers went on strike because of miserable corporate policies that kept the miners in debt and in virtual slavery.  The company was evicting miners who were striking.  They sent for some thugs to evict the miners from the company-built homes.  That was when unpleasantness broke out.  Things have changed a bit, but even today there are few happy, contented people involved with the coal industry.


The famous feud of the Hatfields versus the McCoys all took place ten miles or less from Matewan.


Matewan was one West Virginia town made famous by the movies, i.e. MATEWAN by John Sayles.  Another is Coalwood.  Coalwood is the town where Homer Hickum was a high school student.  Boys in Coalwood had only two possible careers.  One was to get out on a football scholarship to a college and one was to work at the mine.  The first was beyond his talents and the second would lead him to a horrible life he dreaded.  Then on October 5, 1957 the USSR launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite.  In spite of pressure from his father Homer got interested in making rockets and launching them.  He became the leader of four boys who systematically honed their skills at building and launching rockets.  All four went to college and got good careers.  Homer had a career at NASA.  He wrote about his days of amateur rocketry in ROCKET BOYS.  The book was adapted into the film OCTOBER SKY.


There is not a lot to see in Coalwood.  When you come into town the sign declares it is the home of the Rocket Boys.  In the town about all there is to see other than background for the story is the machine shop that plays an important part in the story.


There is a path leading off to where the rockets were launched.  Evelyn started to drive up the path with my full support.  We went for a little way up the side of a hill, but I started to get a bit nervous.  The road was just a path covered with small stones.  It was a narrow strip going up to the right and down to the left.  There were big holes to drive over.  That path was designed for an ATV and we were driving a 15-year-old STV.  I told Evelyn this was really not smart.  She decided I was right, particularly since the story says the launch site was miles away.  This is one heck of a good car, but there are limits.


Backing down would be very dangerous.  Then Evelyn tried to turn the car around.  That was when we realized it was going to be impossible to turn around.  It was an uh-oh moment.


A little further up there was a foot or so widening in the road.  Perhaps.  We got the car turned--well, Evelyn did.  And we left town.


Continuing on we go through little villages with one main road.  In North fork we ended up behind a school buss dropping kids off.  The bad news was that of course were had to go very slowly and keep stopping.  The good news is the town was not very long.  We were not in the predicament for long.  The town was short.  We have a hill on our right side frequently next to the road.  There is a lot of greenery.  Frequently the trees are shrouded in kudzu.


At a little after 6 we got to our motel:


Coolidge of Roanoke VA


+ Free Wi-Fi in evening 6.48 Mbps in morning 12.16 Mbps--very good for a motel

+ Both microwave and fridge (though very tiny freezer in fridge)

+ Sink outside bathroom


. Firm mattress

. Manager very talkative spontaneously recommends restaurants, etc

. Appointments plain, acceptable but old and worn

. Free but very limited continental breakfast, bagel-like roll, sweet roll, no fruit but juice, no protein, mediocre coffee


- Limited number of TV stations, claims to get HBO on channel card, even gives an HBO guide but does not get HBO, certainly not TCM

- Bathroom hinges rusty, painted over, paint chipping

- Cigarette burn on chair



We went looking for dinner but I think we were both too tired to go someplace nice.  After looking for a good meal cheaply we went to a McDonalds.


At the motel we enjoyed unusually good download time with the Wi-Fi.  The motel was nearly deserted so we did not have much competition.



09/10/13 Roanoke VA to New Jersey


Breakfast at the motel was not very good.  Lots of carbs but little protein and no fruit but fruit juice.  Well, we got to stay free because of points from other stays.


Not much to say about the drive we have seen this part of the country many times before.  I was taken aback by how much Reston had been developed.  I seem to remember it as a sleepy little place where we would go to take classes.  Maybe I am thinking of Tyson's Corners.  But now they have some tall buildings.


We stopped on the campus of the University of Delaware to have lunch.  Home Grown Cafe was recommended in TripAdvisor.  At first it did not look like the kind of place I like.  But they had fondue on the menu.  I like fondue and rarely get it.  They had one for $10.  That seemed reasonable.  It came with a little soup bowl.  I thought you needed a fondue pot with long forks.  I might try making fondue at home if this is all it takes.


We went straight to the post office to pick up our mail and arrived there at about 4:45 PM.  I have to say I really did get the effect that the neighborhood looked greener than I remembered it as being.