THE ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP – 1973 Beeper Tribute BLOG Pt 2 Day 11-20


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A journey of 8,000 miles continues with:

Day 11:

St Louis, Mo. A full day to enjoy the city of St. Louis. The arch, a riverboat cruise, and the Old Courthouse (where the Dred Scott case was tried) were all on our list and we did it all! We hope that the pictures tell it all.

Constructed in the 1960’s out of the “high tech material” of the day: Stainless steel. Commemorating our westward expansion, it stands 630 and is the tallest man made monument in the United States. Grand and magnificent.

The view from the top of the arch. Small capsules built for 5 non claustrophobic persons transport us up the side to reach these heights.

On the Mississippi Riverboat – the crane is suspending someone’s boat (possibly to avoid theft while away for the weekend).

A family fishing along the river – life on the Mississippi…..

The Old St. Louis Courthouse………………

……..where a freed man tried to sue in order to buy freedom from slavery for his wife……….but initially failed to do so (The Dred Scott Decision) So much rich American and human history in this city. It was a shame to only have stayed this one day.
Since it was 92 degrees outside, I was worried about my nitrous bottles soaking up too much heat and thus bringing the pressure to possibly “pop off valve” pressures. This attendant gave us his own cooler and protected spot by the parking lot entrance and looked after the car as if it were his own during our daylong visit. He remarked: “I can’t tell you how many people inquired about the car and took pictures.” A very nice guy!

Day 12:

St. Louis to Memphis (284 miles of divided interstate freeway). Again, the most dominate feature of this drive was the number of highway construction zones where projects to repair our infrastructure were prevalent. Still we made good travel time and arrived in time to get a sample of Beale Street. Loaded with music venue nightclubs (including BB King’s), it is touted to be the 2nd most visited street in the U.S. (Bourbon Street is first). Overwhelming at first – all of the clubs blast their sound into the street, and the opposing sound waves collide like a train wreck in the center of the street.

Vicki experiencing the “train wreck” of opposing music on Beale St. However, each individual venue was unique and enjoyable.

lots of regional food favorites…..

…….including great Barbeque!

Nightime on Beale St.

Beale Street eatery

The police invite us to park in the blocked off intersection…….

…..and we become another “roadside attraction.”

On the way back, we stopped for gas, and the night manager ran out with her camera and ask if she could take a picture of it, and then she graciously returned the favor.

Day 13:

A full day in Memphis

Not being a diehard Elvis fan like my wife, I lacked the enthusiasm of going to Graceland, but soon found it to be far beyond my expectations! I had no idea that his career spanned so many years and yielded so many Gold records. Nor did I fully realize how much of a contribution he made to our culture and especially youth culture. We spent the entire morning and noontime taking in Graceland.

Just a small portion of the gold records that he had been awarded.

But it was more than the records, it was the fact that he brought into the mainstream – music from the South that most audiences have never heard. A representative for the youth of America in the ’50s and ’60s, and the bringing into the mainstream a taste of rhythm and blues. Rock and Roll – Hot Rods – The spirit of our youth!

I had no idea that he named his mansion (small by today’s standards) “Graceland” because the previous owner had called it that. He thought that it was a nice sounding name, and so he kept it. It told me a lot about his character. But his car collection also captivated us. I became an Elvis fan for life!
Our next stop was the the “Underground Railroad Museum” on the other side of Memphis where we had a guided tour through a
“safe house” where runaway slaves could take refuge on their journey North to freedom. The previous owner of this house/Estate, was an immigrant from Germany, who left his homeland to escape poverty and injustice, and could not turn his back on it when he found it here. The museum guide and personnel were passionate and knowledgeable, as well as friendly and welcoming. One of the most informative museum tours we had ever encountered.

Our next stop was at the “National Civil Rights Museum” – and we came on the only day that it was closed, Tuesday. But we got a real “feel” for the area since it was built adjacent to the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Closed, but we vowed to make it back here again someday. This was one of the most enlightening and emotional days of our trip!

The balcony where Dr. King was shot. Seen in front are the cars (identical to the originals) that were to be used to drive him to his next destination that day.

Day 14:

Memphis, TN to New Orleans, LA (395 miles).

A beautiful drive with a brief highway segment of Mississippi road near Jackson. Coming from Seattle (Boeing country), we’re used to seeing large manufacturing plants, but the one near Jackson was as massive as any I’ve seen. It was the Nissan plant! But our nostalgic spirits were uplifted as a carload of young people passed us, gave us thumbs up, and took picture of our classic Mopar muscle car with their cell phones. To see a Northbound look at this plant, check out this YouTube contribution taken by another driver: As we approached New Orleans and drove over the 18 mile stretch of elevated Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway, we were anxious to enjoy 4 days in one place.
More road reconstruction project on the freeway leading to New Orleans.

The Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway.

Entering New Orleans just before evening…….

…and headed for Bourbon Street

and saw the mixture of music venues……


….and freak show.

Day 15:

The first of the 3 full days that we planned to spend in New Orleans. And first……

Yep, we had to do it. The traditional swamp tour.

The gators did not fail to provide the entertainment.

And as the tour guide promised, we got to see an alligator on board (this one was of course a baby – but still had it’s mouth taped shut.

Quaint, but parking for the Mopar could be a problem.

That night we finally found some more indigenous New Orleans music
amongst the numerous electric blues venues.
Zydeco in the French Quarter! (sorry for the focus, but you get the idea).

Day 16:

Our second full day in New Orleans:

We felt we owed it to the residents of the 9th Ward that we visit the area that seemed to bare the brunt of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Our tour guide/bus driver, did not hold back her disappointment and frustration with what she felt were the causes of the most the damages (subcontractors for the Army Corps of Engineers), and the slowness of response from the Federal Government. She spent quite a bit of time driving around the 9th Ward and gave us glimpses of the negative as well as the positive aspects of it’s present state. A slow recovery compared to French Quarter.

The 9th Ward, still rebuilding. Although 60% of the residences were fully paid for, many residents did not return.

One of Brad Pitt’s 15 “Make it Right” green homes (foreground) that he funded for the reconstruction. Note the above the ground elevation.
Fats Domino’s 9th Ward home.
After the 3 hours tour, we headed back to the French Quarter and were able to catch for street performers – catching the flavor of a rejuvenating New Orleans.

Although I had not used a drop of oil, I figured that after 3,500 miles of driving that I should change oil. My longtime sponsors, Bardahl, had supplied me with extra bottles of their special blended 5W 40 full synthetic XST motor oil. Dropping in at a 15 minute oil change shop I was asked to stay in the car and that they were going to do the rest (this was my first experience with this “quick” lube process). But after I told them that they should all go down into the pit and examine Dick Ross’ suspension (tubular upper control arms, 1-1/8″ front sway bar, 11/16″ tie rods, etc..), they were totally impressed, we bonded as car freaks, and we had a great time talking cars.

Day 17:

Last full day in New Orleans (3 of 3)

This last day in New Orleans was completely occupied with our visit to the National World War II museum.

As far as it’s size, contents, and the story that it had to tell, this is one of the “have to see” museums in this country!

The 6 hours that we spent there felt like a 1/2 hour.

Not just for the displays……..
….but for the individual stories of sacrifice and bravery. Emotionally draining, but ultimately satisfying.

That night I had Cajun red beans and rice that was suspiciously too pasty…….and around midnight until morning, I agonized more than a dozen times in the motel bathroom.

Day 18:

New Orleans to Houston, TX (348 miles),

Despite not sleeping more than a couple hours, I was too excited to be concerned about my severe case of the “runs,” lack of appetite, and slight fever, so we loaded up the Roadrunner and hit the road early. This entire trip has exceeded all expectations for enjoyment and therefore refused to let myself be distracted by anything – including digestive system problems. As expected, the interstate between New Orleans and Houston was an easy drive……until the cloudburst about 75 miles from Houston. It was the first rain that we had experienced in 17 days, but it so severe that we had to pull over and park at a gas station/convenience store/casino until it passed. The traffic on the freeway was crawling at a still dangerous 35 mph. It passed over us in about 15 minutes and we caught the lighter side of the downpour for the next hour. But it was the first rain that that part of Texas had seen in a month.

Our arrival in Texas just before the downpour.

First rain in 18 days, and a bit much for us (despite coming from the “Rain City: Seattle”).

We stopped at a rest area and discovered that
Louisiana was not the only place for “gators.”

Spend the night near Houston with my cousin Calvin (who I grew up with) and his wife Dorothy. Because of the 3000 miles separating us, it had been 10 years since we had seen each other. A wonderful reunion.

Digestive problems persist, but I ignore them. Looking forward to the San Antonio “Riverwalk.”

Day 19:

Houston to San Antonio (200 miles)

At this point in our travels, a 200 mile drive is almost like a commute. And who can go to Texas without visiting the Alamo!

A mission/fortress with a story to tell.

The Texas Rangers were like approachable Buckingham Palace Guards.

The river walk in San Antonio is now the main attraction of the city. It was one of the most civilized and well kept tourist and restaurant locations we have ever been to.

And even more stunning in the evening.

Day 20:

San Antonio to Amarillo (511 miles): “Miles and miles of Texas….” The song says it all. Lots of range area, cactus, and some very scorched areas from the wildfires this Summer. Very hot (95 degrees), but dry weather. The A/C was cranked way up, but did it’s job perfectly. I’m still having intestinal problems, but as I’ve said before – having too much fun to let it slow me down.

Miles and miles of Texas!

The dry grass in this rest area

More miles of Texas

and still more…

Remains of trees after this Summer’s wildfires in this drought visited region

A roadside attraction

Another, more famous roadside attraction

Despite my stomach condition, we had to go in and eat here.

Just our good luck! There was an event going on. 3 firefighters from the UK were touring the country in a classic 1980’s fire truck raising awareness and funds for the families of the 9-11 firefighters. They challenged two local Amarillo firefighters to each eat the 72 oz steak and all of the trimmings in one hour or less.

This was indeed a daunting task as this courageous firefighter was surveying his challenge after 10 minutes. We left before the allotted 1 hour was up, but not one of the firefighters from either country was close to finishing.

The fire truck that they had driven from NY, stopping here in Amarillo on the way to LA via Route 66. They bought the fire truck in NY and planned to donate it to a town in Nicaragua when they completed their cross-country trek.

On To Day 21

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