I just wanted to post a quick update and let everyone know I made it safely into Tucson this afternoon. In total, it was just a few miles over 2,000. I saw someone in New Mexico with North Dakota plates and thought, "Now they've come a REALLY long way," but google maps tells me that chances are they didn't drive any longer than I did. So there North Dakota!
I hit my first bad weather just south of town when it started to rain. Otherwise the weather was clear but windy. Sir Ranulph even had a run in with a giant tumbleweed. This is what was left of it when I stopped for gas.
So here's a view of my final destination. I'll post some updates later. In the meantime I hope everyone has a happy holidays.
If the Cincinnati band, 500 Miles to Memphis wanted to change their name, I might suggest 1500 Miles to Albuquerque. It's harder to spell, but also true. Today was all about getting some miles done. Tippy and I did 700 of them. I drove and he slept as is our agreement. How's Tippy today? Let's check:
See, he looks much better. He's getting to be an old hand at this.
As I was leaving Oklahoma I saw my first signs of T. Boone Pickens in the form of a bunch of giant windmills. They were oddly beautiful. Now we just need about five billion more of those things to make us energy independent.
My first stop of the day came after four hours of driving. All across I-40 the interstate is littered with signs advertising a free 72 ounce steak. The tiny writing you can't see as you blow by at 80 miles an hour is that it's only free if you eat it all (along with the sides) and you only have an hour. That's the rule that took Tippy out of the running.
Where does this beefy miracle exist? It's at Amarillo's own Big Texan Steak Ranch. I made sure to stop there for lunch for my own (much smaller) steak and to soak up the pure cheesiness of the place. Let's look at some photos:
It's just as crazy on the inside, too, with the obligatory animal heads mounted around the dining room. Alas, no one was going for the 72 ounce challenge so I had to content myself with just my meal and my very friendly server. It wasn't the best steak ever, but you don't really come here for the food. It's all about the big Texas spectacle. Look how they decorated for the holidays:
The rest of the day was just a bunch of driving through some very brown and very flat land. I suddenly remebered why I named the brown hamster I had as a kid, Texas. My only impression of the state as a child was of a vast expanse of browness, just as it looked today.
So after hours and hours of driving we made it south of Albuquerque to the wonderfully named Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (if you want to know how they got the name, read this). That leaves just a few more hours of driving tomorrow to get to Tucson. It's been a fun trip, but I'm ready to put my feet up for a couple days.
Whew! After more than 950 miles of driving, I made it to Oklahoma City. I spent last night in St. Louis with my aunt and uncle and headed west again this morning. By late afternoon I had made it to Tulsa and made a short stop to visit with my friend Brandi and her husband Mike (and their cute daughters). As the evening wore on Tippy made it clear that he was tired and it was time to stop (though he never once offered to drive) so I found a hotel in Oklahoma City.
I do have a few shot from the trip so far to share with you. In case you were wondering how Tippy was doing, this is his usual look while in the car:
He'll survive, though. He acts like he doesn't enjoy an adventure, but he does.
On my way to St. Louis, I swung by Collinsville, Illinois to see the World's Largest Catsup Bottle! I don't agree with calling it catsup, but it has always been my favorite condiment and therefore deserving of a special side trip. When I stopped to take a photo I even got a visit from Collinville's finest. I guess the police aren't used to tourists actually visiting their tourism sites. Bask in its glory!
As I crossed into Oklahoma, I was greeted with a welcome sight. You don't see these signs just anywhere:
Why yes, that is a 75 mph speed limit. It almost makes driving through Oklahoma worth it.
I'll be up and early tomorrow so I can make it to Amarillo in time for lunch at a very special place. Can you eat a 72 ounce steak? I know I can't, but I hope someone tomorrow thinks they can.
Loving journalism is a little like having a pet tiger. Sure it's different and exciting, but in the back of your head you know it's only a matter of time until that sucker bites your arm off. Often it's when you least expect it.
Well, last week I finally got my arm bitten off.
A little more than a month ago, the paper that I've worked at for more than five years announced it was having layoffs. As the weeks passed, names started to come out. I didn't feel entirely safe, but as the deadline got closer I was heartened by the fact that I hadn't heard my name bandied about. Then Tuesday it happened. A call into an office, a few minutes of discussion, a few hugs and a zombie-like drive home. The worst part is I didn't see it coming.
I've spent the last few days taking tons of calls from friends and meeting others for drinks and dinner. It's been nice having such support from my friends and family, but I don't think it's truly sunk in yet. It still feels like I'm just on vacation.
I know I'm not alone in getting laid off. Hundreds of thousands were unemplyed last month and more than 34,000 were laid off along with me last week. Newspapers have been hit particularly hard. There aren't many jobs out there for newspaper photo editors anymore. So it looks like I'm faced with not just finding a new job, but a new career.
I will admit that I find all of this a little exciting (just a little). I've always known that I'd probably have to leave journalism someday. I just didn't think it would be so soon or so sudden. Now I have a little time to figure out what else I can do. Who knows what the future holds?
In the short term, the future holds a road trip. I'm leaving late next week to drive down to see my parents in Tucson for the holidays. It'll be me and Tippy and the open road. I think it's just what I need to clear my head and start figuring out my future. I plan to post updates from the road so check back here to see how the trip is going. In the meantime, drop me a note if you have a job for me!
There's a reason it's free, too, which I'll get to another day. For the meantime, I wanted to spread some holiday cheer. In the past couple weeks I've stumbled upon some fun Christmas music that you can download for free. Did I mention, free?
Anyway, head over to the awesome Swedesplease blog for their Swedish Christmas Mix. There's a link to download the songs in the comments section. If nothing else, get it for the great song "A Christmas Duel" with The Hives and Cyndi Lauper. The mix as a whole is full of melancholy Swedes wishing they were at the beach, but it's a nice change of pace from the regular Christmas tunes.
Speaking of changes of pace, I found this set of holiday songs while trying to find out what song was playing during the new Palm Centro commercials. It turns out Palm is just giving it to everyone, plus a few other tunes. It, too, is free.
So dig that funky Christmas jam and if you feel chatty, let me know what your favorite holiday tune is.