Notes from the Road

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Thursday Nov. 1
Perag arrived at Orange County/Santa Ana/John Wayne Airport (forever more to be known as "The Duke"). We then ventured to Kevin's old office to say one final goodbye to his coworkers. At the office, Kevin's friend Keri told us about something called Phooning. Apparently there is a Web site devoted to doing this strange pose in front of landmarks and other things. We plan to incorporate it into our trip. Eventually we hooked up with Jason, and went on down to Santa Monica to check out the beach. It was cold! So we wasted time in an arcade at the pier. The evening was spent at a local bar Jay affeccionately calls "The Lobo," (after the bar from the show "Roseanne," and he was dead on) although the real name of the place is the Lost and Found. In the Lobo, we were startled to find that you were permitted to smoke inside. Imagine that in LA! We were also introduced to Kevin's Swan Stroke. We were playing video golf and there is a roller that you need to spin in order to hit the ball, well, Kevin displayed his true ballet talent and fluid form while playing this game (he came in last).

Friday Nov. 2
Woke up late, and briefly wondered why our heads hurt so much, and then recalled the night before. Didn't do much today. We did watch "Jane White Is Sick And Twisted." This is a movie that Jason did lighting and some electrical work on. The movie lives up to its billing: definitely sick and twisted. We both agree, though, that it is a good movie. The evening was spent hanging out at Jason's friends' (Poullia and David) apartment in Westwood. There we were treated to a video documenting Poullia (Sorry, dude. We know we spelled this horribly wrong) dancing as Michael Jackson. If you have ever seen him do this in Westwood live, you would understand how cool this is. Then back to Jason's place in order to get ready for the ride... Ready....Set....Go!

Saturday, Nov. 3
Before we left Perag taped an American Flag to the car's antenna. We left Los Angeles right on schedule: 3 a.m. That's right. We left in the pre-dawn hours. It's the only way to drive in LA and not have to worry about traffic. Seriously. Around dawn we stopped to see the World's Largest Thermometer in Baker, Calif. (photos) Then it was on to the Hoover Dam. We were a bit disappointed with that, though. For security reasons, you can't stop on the dam any more (Damn terrorists!). And we were there so early, we couldn't stop at the Visitors Center either. When we stopped to stretch our legs and look at the Dam (photos), we found that our flag was no longer with us, but had joined "The Lost Souls of Miscellaneous Things That Fall Off of or Out of Cars" (which includes, but is not limited to miles and miles of audio tape). But the Dam was an impressive sight. There were also some great sites when we stopped a few miles up the road (photos). Of course, few things could compare to the next stop: The Grand Canyon. For those of you who have never been there, you need to go. The pictures and video (both of which we have plenty of) you've seen of the Canyon just don't do it justice. It is truly an incredible thing. We made good time getting there, so we spent five hours checking out different vantage points. Each one was almost more impressive than the one before it. After the Canyon we headed South to Scottsdale, where we stayed with Kevin's aunt, uncle and cousin and had our first good night's sleep in a couple of days. Before arriving at Kevin's family's place, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Flagstaff for a quick dinner. If you have never been to a Cracker Barrel, you definitely need to go. Very rustic! This one was great, In fact there was a guy who looked exactly like Jerry Garcia sitting in a rocking chair out front. The guy was wearing overalls with a long sleeve blue shirt with a little peace symbol pendant hanging over it. Very cool.

Day 1 Mileage: 805.0

Sunday, Nov. 4
After the exhaustion that was nearly 18 hours of travel and tourism, we slept in until about 9:15 Sunday morning. A good 10 hours or so of sleep. We watched "Shrek" with Kevin's cousin Eric. Then we headed a few minutes South to Tempe for the Eagles-Cardinals game at Sun Devil Stadium. This was an interesting experience, as there were almost as many Philadelphia fans as there were Arizona fans in the half-empty stadium. In the parking lot, we saw more Eagles fans than Cardinal fans (but we hear they do really exist). There was a guy with no shirt on painted Incredible Hulk Green! There was a group of fans carrying around a "Coach Reid's Cheesesteak Brigade" sign. In the corner they had written in "Go Schill" for fomer-Phillie Curt Schilling, who was pitching game seven of the World Series for the Diamondbacks a few miles away that night. When we got to our seats, we were surrounded by Arizona Fans, so before kickoff we moved across the stadium to sit with our brothers from the City of Brotherly Love. Brian Mitchell returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the Eagles never looked back, though there were some tense moments as Jake Plummer tried to engineer yet another comeback against our Eagles in the last five minutes of the game. But it was a beautiful day for a game in the desert. Clouds kept the sun from baking us too much, and a strong breeze all day kept it nice and cool (photos). Coming out of the game, there were guys selling Arizona Diamondbacks National League Champions shirts, so of course Perag felt compelled to buy one. After the game we headed South again to Green Valley to stay with Perag's friends Paul, Grayce and, of course, Misty. We had a bit of unseasonal rain on the way through the desert. And despite some bad traffic due to an accident, we got to Green Valley in time to see the end of the World Series and the great come-back win for the Diamondbacks.

Day 2 Mileage: 161.3
Trip Total: 966.3

Monday, Nov. 5
After a wonderful breakfast with beautiful scenery at Paul and Grayce's, what was supposed to be the longest day of driving began. Hey what can we say, driving is pretty dull business to talk/write about. We saw some spectacular scenary. Arizona and New Mexico are beautiful states to drive through (photos). During the first leg of this drive, Kevin pulled out the sewing kit and played Betsy Ross and sewed the tear in his American flag. We stopped in a town called Hatch, NM, which is the Chilli Pepper Capital of the World, so of course Perag had to get some X-tra hot for his dad. Leaving Hatch, we found that the car needed gas, so we found a town called Truth or Consequences. Kevin put the flag onto the back left window. About 40 miles north of Truth or Consequences on I-25, we heard a sound that we couldn't place. We figured it was just road noise. At 50 miles, around 2:30 p.m., we heard a thud and Kevin saw part of the tire tread go flying by his window (he was driving). So we immediately pulled off the road. The tread was nearly pulled off the tire, as a result, the flailing rubber and steel belt had ripped apart the entire housing around the wheel well, including a critical wire harness. Lucky for us none of the wires were severed. We popped the hood, because that seemed like the appropriate course of action. We were greeted by the sight of radiator fluid flowing out of the overflow, and the sounds of perculating emanating from various points of the engine. Kevin pulled out his handy dandy AAA card and called for a tow. While waiting for the tow truck, we took in the view. Some fully-armed fighter jets flew over head up and back. The tow truck guy was very nice and friendly. He got us to the garage by 4:30. There we found that the tire Kevin had purchased a few months back on the front passenger side was no good and had to be replaced. Also the two back tires both had rips in them, the back drivers side tire had the steel belt sticking out in one point. Let's just say it was time for the tires to be replaced (In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Wuzzardo Tire Fund, c/o Kevin Wuzzardo). In retrospect, we were lucky it wasn't worse (photos). So off we were once again, leaving Socorro, NM, at 5:45 p.m. We lost 3.5 hours of time. We gained four new tires, and a make-shift harness for the wires. The harness is some metal wire and a zip tie. We are sure we will be checking this throughout the ride, but so far, so good (knock on wood). Once the work was done, we headed North and took a right turn at Albuquerque (sorry, Bugs) and then headed East. Around 9:30 we stopped in Tucumcari for dinner at a burger place called Blake's Lotaburger. There was NO ONE in the place. We can't think of a time we've actually seen a place so empty. There were three employees and the two of us. But they made a decent burger and great fries, so we were content. After dinner we kept pushing East into the panhandle of Texas and the Central Time Zone. We stopped for the night in Amarillo.

Day 3 Mileage (excluding towing): 725.4
Trip Total: 1691.7

Tuesday, Nov. 6
Amarillo smells like cow manure. Nothing against the fine people of Amarillo. It's simply a fact. One big redeeming quality of the town, though, is that you can get gas for as little as 99 cents a gallon. We paid $1.019 after passing by some more expensive places. We slept in a little longer than we originally planned, but we needed it. We left Amarillo around 8:30 and continued East on I-40. FYI: This road is apparently part of Historic Route 66. Among the towns along the way is Groom. Groom has 631 people and one big cross. In fact, the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere (19 stories high, 11 stories wide, 1,250 tons). We'd also venture to say it's the largest cross anywhere made out of aluminum siding (though the information they gave us said it's steel siding) (photos). It was kind of an interesting place. Around the cross were the Stations of the Cross. There was also a recreation of the crucifixion of Christ. The whole thing was also a pro-life statement, as characterized by the tombstone featuring a pair of hands holding an aborted fetus. In front of the tombstone was a kneeling Jesus also holding an aborted fetus. Also on the grounds was a building with a replica of the Shroud of Turin. We never thought there were so many fundamentalist Catholics in Texas.

After a brief interlude on Historic Route 66, we made it to Oklahoma City. We visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial located at 5th and Harvey streets downtown (the site of the Murrah Federal Building). This is another place that everyone needs to visit. The memorial is breathtaking and very well done. When you enter the memorial site, you are overcome by the silence and solemness of the place. The museum is awe inspiring. It is very moving. You really get a sense of what those people went through
at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995. The quote you are greeted with when you enter sums the memorial up properly: "Those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence." The entire time in the museum, you can not help but relive the events of Sept. 11. The suddenness of the attacks and the immediate community response are almost identical. Both tragic and inspiring in the same breath. Outside the memorial there is a chainlink fence that is decorated with various items left at the bombing site since the event. On that fence there was a sign that read, "Smile. You are in the USA." Indeed, we smiled. (photos)

Heading out of town, we stopped and capitalized on the gas for just 99 cents a gallon. We stopped at another Cracker Barrel (just as rustic and identical to the last one, minus Jerry Garcia) for a quick lunch. Then we headed Northeast through Tulsa and eventually into Missouri. In Springfield, we got gas for 95 cents a gallon. Neither of us thought we'd ever see such a price again. But there it was. It's been a long time since either of us had more gas than money spent. We got into St. Louis at about 11 p.m. We stayed with Perag's friend Chris Ogilve. When we got to Chris' place, we decided to go out. We went across the street to a place called Hammerstones on 9th and Russell. It was definitely a local bar, with a local, three-man jazz band playing. Pretty cool and relaxing. We all called it a night early, because Chris needed to get to work early the next morning, and we had a full day ahead of us.

Day 4 Mileage: 745.8
Trip Total: 2437.5

Wednesday, Nov 7
Woke up around 8:30 and got moving. The first stop was the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, home of the Gateway Arch. It was nice, but compared to the Grand Canyon and the Oklahoma City Memorial, it is not as impressive as we should give it credit. We took the tram ride to the top of the arch. The tram compartments looked like and were the size of space-aged escape pods in a sci-fi movie. The entryway into each compartment was only four feet high by about 2.5 feet wide. Inside was not much better or bigger. We both felt like we were in an Apollo space capsule getting launched into space! The view from the top, though, is spectacular. From the observation area at the top, you can see the Old Courthouse (site of the Dred Scott case), Busch Stadium (where the Cardinals play), the TWA Dome (home of the NFL's Rams) and most of the city clearly. We got some took pictures and videos up there. (photos) But Perag dropped his camera by the car and the film compartment opened and was closed quickly. Because the camera was in its case when it fell, we are hoping that the film wasn't ruined. From St. Louis we headed North up I-55 toward Chicago for a visit with our respective family (Kevin's in Joliet, Perag's in Des Plaines) and a break from each other. On the road, while Kevin was driving, we were almost run off the road by a tanker truck switching lanes into the left lane. Kevin hit the horn and the brakes vigorously. This trucker was driving incredibly slow, and as a result other trucks and cars were passing on the right. So Kevin got into the right lane and started to pass. Sure enough the trucker started moving into the right lane and almost pushed us off the road again! Again, Kevin laid on the horn and hit the brakes. We were worried the huge tractor trailer behind us was gonna slam us because we were stopping so quickly, but all was OK. Perag seems to have misplaced one roll of used film. This roll had sunset pictures from the Canyon, Kevin's family in Arizona, the Eagles game and our temporarily disabled car on it. We really hope that the roll is somewhere buried in the car (as we are sure it is).

Day 5 Mileage: 297.5
Trip Total: 2735.0

Thursday, Nov. 8
After some home-cooked meals, some quality family time and a good night's rest, we met back up in Joliet around 10:30 a.m. (a bit later than we had originally planned) and headed East for Cleveland, Ohio. Today was much different from the others during the trip. The main difference was the weather. When we arrived in Chicago on Wednesday, it was pretty mild. But a cold front moved in overnight. Along with the chilly temperatures, there's also been some rain. About midway through Indiana, we decided to stop and see Notre Dame, specifically "Touchdown Jesus." We parked outside of Notre Dame Stadium, put on our jackets and started walking around the stadium toward the mural. As we crossed the street in front of the stadium, a student walking by stopped and pointed at Kevin. It was a guy named Dan Probst, who had graduated from Kevin's high school a couple years after Kevin did. They were also in Key Club together at Irmo and went to the same church. Kevin couldn't believe Dan remembered him, let alone recognized him in such a completely random setting like Notre Dame, especially considering it's been years since they'd seen each other. And even when they were in school together, they hardly ever, if at all, spoke to each other. It was really weird. Both us said that earlier in the trip we had a feeling we'd see someone along the way we weren't expecting to see. And sure enough, it happened at Notre Dame. Dan walked and talked with us for a few minutes. Then we parted ways and we kept on to "Touchdown Jesus," the basketball arena and then back to the car and out of the cold. Perag called one of his managers at work who is a Notre Dame alum. He told Perag that were now in the Eastern Time Zone. We had no idea. So we lost the hour a little sooner than we expected, not that it mattered much. We grabbed some lunch and some 97-cent gas before leaving town and continuing on to Cleveland. We got to Kevin's sister's place and then met up with Sean downtown. We went to dinner at a place called the Winking Lizard. After dinner, Sean took us on a tour of Cleveland's nightlife, with a wide selection of bars. Despite the popular sentiment, Cleveland's a pretty cool place. Finally around 1:30 or so, we decided to call it a night. Kevin and his sister Kelly went back to her place. Sean had booked a hotel room for the night across from his office, so Perag decided to stay there. In the hotel there was a game room so Perag and Sean ended up playing pool, air hockey and arcade games well into the morning hours.

Day 6 Mileage: 421.9
Trip Total: 3156.9

Friday, Nov. 9
We met up and got moving around 9:30. After a quick breakfast at a local food court, we headed over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. This place was excellent. There was a John Lennon exhibit that documented all of John's art work and music. It was interesting. There were lots of cool things to look at in the museum: guitars, outfits, albums, song lyrics, tickets, passes, etc. There were lots of videos and mutimedia exhibits. There was a Jimi Hendrix exhibit that included a separate room where they had a video from a 1970 concert. We were treated to "All Along the Watchtower," "Sand Castle Magic," a bit of the "Star Spangled Banner" and an interview with Dick Cavet. The room was set up to give the best sound possible. It sounded great! There was also a case with things from Jim Morrison's (of the Doors) life. In the case were things like his first grade report card, Scout pictures, etc. Pretty interesting to see his varsity letter for swimming and comments from teachers in high school. We took a break from the museum and met up with Sean and his brother Conor for lunch, and then went back to the museum. The Hall itself was impressive in it's simplicity. It was a black wall with the names of the bands and their members with their signatures on it, lit from behind. It took us a few hours longer than expected to go through the entire place, so instead of leaving around 1 p.m. as planned, we ended up leaving Cleveland around 3 p.m. From there we went to Hermitage, Pa., where our friends (the newly engaged) Shannon and Shelley live. FYI: Shannon's a guy. We went to a restaurant called the Hot Rod. It was pretty interesting. Everything is automotive themed, and there are actual cars hanging from the ceiling. A couple of Shannon and Shelley's friends met up with us. It was a fun evening of food and drink. We also celebrated Shelley's birthday, which is Saturday.

Day 7 Mileage: 103.8
Trip Total: 3260.7

Saturday, Nov. 10
The final day of our journey. After the decadence of Friday night, we started a little later than planned. Of course, it seems we do that every day. Shannon has an old Atari with some of the classic games, so of course we had to partake in that for a while before we left. But we were on the road by 10:30 a.m., heading East on I-80. We stopped off in State College to see the new monument outside Beaver Stadium at Penn State honoring Joe Paterno's record for most Division I-A college football wins. We also had lunch and hung out for a bit with Perag's friend Mike and his roommate Becky. The visit was a nice break before the final leg of the trip. We went to Perag's parents' house in King of Prussia so he could get his car. Then, after about 3,600 miles, we went our separate ways for good. Perag headed home to Center City Philadelphia. Kevin went on to his cousin's apartment in Bensalem, where he'll be staying. But that was a brief stop. He had to make it to New Brunswick, N.J., to his friend Emad's place. That's where the movers are delivering all the stuff from his apartment. By 9:30 p.m. the trip was FINALLY finished.

Day 8 Mileage: 432.8
Trip Total: 3693.5

Sunday, Nov. 11
After a late night out with Emad and some other friends, Kevin was up early getting Emad's garage ready for the delivery of his stuff. The driver got lost, so Emad and Kevin had to drive around New Brunswick to find him and lead him back to the house. But by 9:30 a.m., everything was unloaded.