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Posts Tagged ‘road trip!’


Those taking a more northwesterly route home on I-94 from Alumapalooza won’t visit Hastings, but they might Airstream through “The Buffalo City”—Jamestown, North Dakota.

One could fall asleep at the wheel slogging the width of North Dakota. It’s 340 miles with no attractions (unless you count the peculiar Enchanted Highway and world’s largest plastic cow). Jamestown appears like a magical oasis halfway between Bismarck and Fargo when dad needs to crack his back, the kids need a corn dog, and mom needs a pee break.

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Are you returning home from Alumapalooza westbound on I-80? After 13 hours on the road you’ll need a break. Take the half hour detour to Hastings, Nebraska, home of Kool-Aid.

Deep within the bowels of the Hastings Museum, past the antique cars and taxidermied coyotes, remains every possible relic from the Kool-Aid years, circa 1927 to the present. You’ll learn about nerdy young Edwin Perkins, who began his snack drink empire in his mother’s Nebraska kitchen.

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The Manzanar War Relocation Center, where we briefly stopped during our southwest road trip. At the base of a starkly beautiful range of hills stand two of the grim barracks, out of the former hundreds, reconstructed for historical reflection.

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the ethnic markets of reno

I’ve been to Reno many times and I’m always surprised to see how it morphs. Suddenly there’s a mega mall where an empty lot just was (and vice versa), and long-standing businesses fade away. One particular megacasino has changed hands six times since 1974. And always opening and closing are an assortment of ethnic markets.

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Why would one visit an area infested with so many mosquitos that the town holds an annual Mosquito Festival?

Because heading south, Paisley—a modest oasis of civilization in the Oregon Outback—is on the way to California liquor stores in Alturas, and beyond that, Reno. And beyond that, during that magical time of year, Burning Man.

It’s basically an agreeable bend in Highway 31; a nice quiet place with wide streets to pull your Airstream over and use the public restroom.

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grand canyon (nee dinosaur) caverns

I listed 27 dinosaur and fossil attractions in the “Dig This!” article featured in the Winter 14 issue of Airstream Life, but I’m sad to say that Dinosaur Caverns—renamed “Grand Canyon” Caverns in 1962—didn’t make the cut.

While I loved every minute of my visit there, the dinosaurs were just too…plastic.

The veneer of fifties kitsch still clings to the historic site on Route 66, where gigantic, green, cheesy cartoon dinos greet visitors.

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the gift of gabbs, nevada

My quest to research the lesser-known fossil sites of the far west led me to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park, in The Middle of Nowhere, Nevada.

“So this is where it ends,” I said to myself when I pulled up to the entrance. When, after fifty minutes I passed no one on godforsaken, rural highway 361—and then observed that I was the only visitor at the desolate campground—I fully expected to be ax murdered shortly after nightfall.

Imagine my relief to be greeted by jocular Ranger Robin.

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bicycle museum of america

Pee Wee Herman’s bike isn’t in the basement of the Alamo.

Equally unlikely: it’s in New Bremen, Ohio.

I obtained this knowledge in a roundabout way. On my highway journey to Alumapalooza, a speeding semi-trailer in an adjacent lane kicked up a rock which shot under my Airstream and took out various appararti in the undercarriage and shredded the banana wrap.

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of steinbeck and salinas

You know you’re in for an underwhelming museum experience when the docent at the entrance greets you with “We don’t have a lot of exhibits right now.”

There’s a lot to read and very little to see at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, where Nobel Prize-winning novelist John Steinbeck…I dunno. Was born? Grew up? Went to school? I was unable to differentiate, assimilate and process what I wanted from the barrage of words and pictures and plastic dioramas that make up the permanent collection, all competing for attention.

Since the exhibit hall is essentially set up for children to enjoy, this should be easier.

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the thing

I had a choice to make upon leaving the Alumafiesta Airstream event in Tucson. Drive north an hour to the Biosphere research facility and educate myself about Earth systems planning and policy? Or slog east toward El Paso on the I-10 to Dragoon, Arizona?

No contest. I went to see The Thing.

Every driver passing through the Southwest has seen the garish yellow billboards that command you to go to The Thing. As you near fabled Exit 322, they come fast and furious, dominating the scenery. “Mystery of the Desert” the signs proclaim. “Have You Seen It?” they tantalize.

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