The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘road trip’

Let’s hear it for the west

Posted by keithosaunders on August 11, 2011

I’ve driven across the country three times.  The first time, in 1989, took me across on I 70, which meant, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and on into Nevada and California.  Contrary to what most people had to say, I loved the rolling hills of Eastern Kansas, followed by the stark, pancake-flat western half of the state.  Eastern Colorado was impressive, not for its scenery, but for the fact that you could make out the Rockie mountains from hundreds of miles away. 

Last year we took a northern route — I 90.  This saw us through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota (the Badlands!), and Wyoming.  We turned south through a corner of Idaho and came down I 15 in northern Nevada, picking up 80 into Cali at Reno.

This year has me splitting the difference, taking I 80.  Contrary to last year, when we took our time and spent a few days sight-seeing, this year we’re trying to get home in a reasonable amount of time.  80 goes from the George Washington Bridge to within a mile of my house in Albany, California, so it is a direct route.

In regards to I 80, the country does not begin to get interesting until you cross the Mississippi River.  Sure, Pennsylvania is a pretty state, but it’s long, and there is so much country ahead of you that you’re mostly concentrating on getting your sea legs for the trip.  Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, at least the parts that can be viewed from I 80, are bland and chock full of fast food restaurants and factory farms.  Also, the fact that you are tolled every ten miles puts you in a surly mood, negating any beauty you may happen to encounter.

But once you cross the Mississip — BAM — it’s as if the country emerges, Wizard of Oz-like,  from black and white into Technicolor.  The most striking thing is the sky, and how much of it you can see.  It’s as if a giant blue dome has been lowered. 

I love the old Plain States towns — beat up, way-gone, and bursting with character.  You can tell that they were once great places to live.  People built homes and buildings with loving care, and there is still a whiff of that feeling, even in their ghostly modern state. 

Chappell, Nebraska

 

Kimball, Nebraska

 Wyoming…is there a more beautiful state in the union than Wyoming?  Last year we were in Grand Teton, which was a mountain paradise.  This year we are in the southern portion of the state, but it is no less striking.  We pulled off the road at Medicine Bow national forest at a park called Turtle Rock.  We spent an hour among gorgeous rock formations, which we hiked up. 

On the way west there was a thunder-storm which we could see in the distance for miles in advance.  The storm was to the north of us, but we were able to make out a small tornado.

We are currently staying at a hotel in the Rockie Mountains in Rawlings, Wyoming.  Tomorrow we have 250 more miles of Wyoming before we turn south-west into Utah.  We plan on stopping off in Salt Lake City for a respite to view some Mormons before continuing into Nevada.  

This is the life!

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On the road again

Posted by keithosaunders on August 7, 2011

Almost one year to the day that I moved out of New York, I have left on a cross-country road trip; my second in as many years.  Living at my friend’s house in the Bronx for two months while my kids went to camp was great.  I played several gigs, reconnected with old friends, and confirmed that, yes, New York is the greatest city in the world. 

We crossed the George Washington Bridge at 1 PM and eased onto intersate 80.  There we will remain for another 2,800 miles until we hit Buchanon St in Albany, California. 

I am writing this from a Motel 6 in humid Youngstown, Ohio.  I played at the college here twice.  Once with a quartet led by a drummer — Fred Lite — that featured Youngstown St alum, Ralph Lalama on tenor.  The other time I played here was with my band, the NY HardBop Quintet. 

Earlier this evening I was able to pick up staticy radio broadcasts of the Pittsburgh/San Diego game.  The poor Pirates:  After charming the baseball world with their unexpected great first half of the season, they now seem doomed to continue their streak of sub .500 seasons.  I had hopped onto their bandwagon bigtime, but now it seems I will be getting off at the next stop.  I hope they are able to recover, at least enough to be able to end their losing season streak.  At the very least it seems like better times are ahead for this once proud franchise.

I’m driving with my two younger children.  My oldest boy is still at camp where he is a counselor.  Next stop:  Palatine, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, where we will spend two nights and one day at my brother’s house.

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After three months

Posted by keithosaunders on November 15, 2010

This year should have been known to me as the year I turned 50.  Instead I’ll always remember 2010 as the year I moved from New York City to San Francisco.  The first half of the year was filled with stress and tension.  In January we knew there was a good chance we were going to have to move and by the middle of March it was definite.  The remaining four months in New York were spent vainly attempting to rent and sell our apartment, packing up, and most gut-wrenchingly of all, saying goodbye to our friends.

Finally August 7th arrived and we were off on our cross-country trip.  That trip was one of my great experiences and it was well documented on this blog.  (all done on my iphone from different motels across the country)  For me it was like an enormous load off of my shoulders to have the buildup and the goodbyes over with and life on the road felt light and carefree. 

Now that I’ve been in the Bay Area for a quarter of a year and have my sea legs I have to admit that I’m enjoying life here.  It’s a beautiful part of the country — we’ve got hills all around us with plenty of places to hike, and San Francisco is a 20 minute drive or BART trip away.  I have begun to gig and am meeting more musicians each week.  I’m enjoying the newness of it.  Unlike the first half of the year when almost everything I did was for the last time, now I do things for the first time. 

Finally I have some use for all of the years of dues paying in New York City.  They seasoned me and toughened me and the result is that I am not intimidated easily.  I am still, by nature, shy and introverted, but never when I’m playing.  It’s a lot different than when I first moved to New York at which time I was unsure of myself and filled with anxiety.   

So far so good.

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The eagle has landed

Posted by keithosaunders on August 19, 2010

After 3,653 miles, 10 states, 2 countries, and countless fillerups, we have at last alit on Key Route blvd in Albany, California. We are very happy to be reunited with our son Jake, who is sporting a new hair style and now has a pierced ear – a new look for a new town.

Our new house is charming and spacious, and unfortunately lacking any furniture at all, save for two queen-sized air mattresses which were purchased today at Target. The movers say that they will call us the day before they deliver our furniture. Using this formula I have deduced that the soonest they will arrive will be Friday. We are faced with the very real possibility of not having furniture until Monday. That’s a lot of meals out. Where’s an automat when you need one?

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The big push

Posted by keithosaunders on August 18, 2010

We started the day in Jackson,Wyoming. Sixteen hours and 800 miles later, we find ourselves in Rosedale, less than two hours away from our new home in Albany, Ca. Let me tell you folks something: When it comes to driving, I am an animal.

I was one more cup of coffee away from being able to make the entire trip, but what for? There is no furniture in our new home. This, of course, begs the question, where are we going to sleep tomorrow night?! We know that the movers are somewhere in California, but even assuming they have made it all the way to the Bay Area, what are the chances they will be amenable to scheduling an impromptu delivery? I’d say there are two chances: Slim and none.

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. (not the Bay Bridge,silly, the movers bridge!)

In the meantime, here is your August 16th road trip marathon happy recap:

We drove west from Wyoming into Idaho, then down into northern Nevada. We had dinner in a pretty good Mexican restaurant in Elko, after which I drove practically 400 miles to our current destination.

There was a 3/4 moon staring directly into my windshield and it was fun watching it gradually set into the western sky. After it set I pulled off the road, just past Lake Tahoe and spent five minutes star-gazing.

Tomorrow our trip ends, and so begins our new life as Californians. You can have your airplanes – there is nothing like the road!

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Wyoming Day 3. Search for wildlife: This time it’s serious.

Posted by keithosaunders on August 17, 2010

“I won the rock, paper, scissors.”

“No you didn’t.”

“I won the laughing contest.”

“No you didn’t, it was a do-over.”

“I won the straight-face.”

“No you didn’t!”

Would you believe that this exchange, which took place in the back seat of our car between Lee, our 13 year old, and Lucy, our 9 year old, went on for close to a half hour? The kicker was that the stakes were for the right to say that Layla, our dog was either cute, or not cute. It didn’t matter, since neither would admit defeat, so Layla, at least in my mind, remains a cute dog. Fortunately we reached our destination, thus rendering the discussion moot. Part of me admires their grit and tenacity. Neither will say die, and both are committed to the cause, whatever that may be.

We had an action packed day of horseback riding and white water rafting. I enjoyed both, particularly the rafting, but now I can live out my days without having to do either again. Cross ’em off the bucket list. Next up: running with scissors.

As I alluded to in yesterdays post, everyone here talks about the wild life. This one saw a moose, that one played pinochole with a grizzly. On and on it goes. We had been here 48 hours and the wildest thing we had seen was a chipmunk.

Tonight we were determined to see something. I just wanted to see a moose. Yesterday we were told that our hike was a sure fire spot to see wildlife. What did we get? Chipmunks. Horseback riding? Nothing. Rafting? Well, OK, we did see a bald eagle, but still…moose!

So on the way home we took a recommended road: MOOSE CREEK ROAD. The fucking road wasn’t even paved. Nothing. Not even a chipmunk.

We were beginning to give up hope when we noticed several cars pulled over and people with cameras looking at a field of sagebrush. Moose!

Nope. It was a large deer-like creature which we couldn’t even identify. It could have been an elk, but don’t they have antlers? I asked a gentlemen what he thought they were and he responded that they could be muledeer. Muledeer? Get out of here. He made that up.

Tomorrow we’re going to attempt a 12 hour drive to put us in California. Wish us luck.

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Wyoming day 2: The goring of Keitho

Posted by keithosaunders on August 16, 2010

The first thing we were told upon entering Grand Tetons is that there is a lot of wildlife to be seen. Moose, elk,bears, and bald eagles, to name a few — each one more treacherous than the last. I’m not exactly sure how treacherous the bald eagle is, but I understand he/she can be pretty crafty when he sets his mind to it. Even the chipmunks, so I’m told, are mean!

The point being, watch yourself. Trouble is that I’m a New Yorker, soon to be second-time Californian. My mug-dar is fine tuned. Looking out for wild animals…not so much. To top it off I just saw a YouTube video in which some putz tried to get a close up shot of a bison and ended up getting a one way ticket to goresville. Not cool!

All of this was top of mind when we took a hike up to some beautiful waterfalls, and a great scenic vista called Inspiration Point. (Wasn’t that where the gang from Happy Days went to make out? Heyyyyy.)

So I’m walking up the mountain Fred Sanford style, the slightest sound causing me to pivot sharply and brace myself for an Olympic record 50 yard dash. All of a sudden I’m face to face with a bison the size of Maspeth. I began to tremble like Don Knotts as the bison arched his back and growled. In desperation I whipped out my iPod and hit play. As the sounds of Bud Powell playing Ornithology wafted out into woods the Bison turned up his nose and walked away. He said he just couldn’t gore to that kind of music. Once again the unpopularity of be-bop saves the day!

Of course this didn’t really happen. Had this been a real goring you would have been instructed as to which hospital or funeral home to send flowers.

We still have one more day in the Titons, I mean, uh Tetons, and let me tell you, it will be action packed. Stay tuned for possible maimings.

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Wyoming and me

Posted by keithosaunders on August 15, 2010

We’re in Wyoming in the part of the Rockie mountains known as the Grand Tetons. I’m straining against every fiber of my being not to make the obvious pun, but I’m fighting a losing battle. Who am I kidding? I’m a guy and therefore must leave no fart joke or titty reference unsaid. If you have problem you can always take it up with my lawyer, Fred Lite.

The drive through the Little Big Horn pass was spectacular. I like everything about this part of the country. Except for the politics.

Lee and Lucy got into one of their arguing jags halfway through the drive. It’s good sport for them. Nobody wins. Like a soccer match, or a baseball All Star game where the manager manages to burn through his entire 87 man roster in 8 innings. My older boy, Jake, who is not on the trip, suggested chloroform.

We’re going to hunker down here for the next few days before the final leg of the trip. We expect to arrive in California on Wednesday. Hopefully our furniture will be there to meet us since we’ll have run out of country by then.

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Born to be mild

Posted by keithosaunders on August 14, 2010

As we were driving across the beautiful state of South Dakota I couldn’t help but extol the virtues of driving on the open road– the wonderous scenery, the freedom to stop and explore your surroundings, and the feeling of movement. Point A to point B. I couldn’t help but break into an a Capella Born to be Wild. This is, however, extremely difficult to pull off while driving with your wife, kids, and dog in a brand new minivan. Also, real rebels don’t ask the wife, “is it OK if we listen to the ‘Nanny Diaries’ on books on tape now?”

But what a day! We drove through the Badlands which were breathtaking and otherworldly. The entire state is a feast for the eyes but the Badlands, with their craggy rocks and stark beauty are something else.

There is a motorcycle convention going on somewhere in the state which has brought tens of thousands of bikers. They’re all over the place. I pulled off one exit and was immediately engulfed by dozens of them. I’ve never seen so many spread out over such a wide area.

I have to say, though, they are very good drivers. None of them speed and they are extremely attentive on the road- no swerving in and put of traffic, or drag racing for them.

Although I didn’t go drinking with them tonight, they seem like a fairly benign bunch. Most of them are middle-aged and a few are seniors. I noticed that a couple of the women took off their t-shirts and rode around the Badlands in their bras, but that was the wildest they got.

We ate dinner in a pretty little town nestled between mountains called Spearfish. A man sitting at a table at an outdoor cafe struck up a conversation with me about our dog. He was sitting with the owner and they ended up inviting us to eat with them.

Richard and Frenchy had great anecdotes about South Dakota and were well versed in its history. Not only were they interesting, but they were extremely friendly and open. It’s not often that you are able to make such a quick connection, but when it happens it is not only heart warming, but life-affirming.

Yet another reason to travel by car!

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My long national nightmare continues: in Palatine, Illinois

Posted by keithosaunders on August 12, 2010

Apparently the fact that I no longer live in New York city has done little to lessen the sting of a Yankee comeback victory. Through the miracle of ESPN I was able to watch them put the finishing touches on a 6-1 comeback victory on the road against Cliff Lee of the 1st place Texas Rangers. I am nauseous just typing that.

The Yankees earn so much money,between their cable network, gate receipts, and merchandising revenue, that if they wanted to they could add another 50 million in payroll without blinking. There is no reason, barring a rash of freak injuries, that they should miss the playoffs. Ever.

After an easy five-hour drive from Eastern Michigan to Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, we spent a beautiful day and overnight with my brother and his family. We had a refreshing swim in his pool, which with the 90 degree humid weather, was much appreciated, and we made a run to Lowes where a bought a plastic, rain-resistant tarp for our canvas car-roof bag.

After dinner they surprised me with a 50th birthday cake. My birthday is in two weeks, but being that I will spend it in my new city it was great to celebrate it with family. The cake was in the shape of a hamburger, the significance of which I could only surmise was that this is the type of food that i’d best not over- indulge in lest my arteries go the way of downtown Detroit.

Next on the trip we will probably be calling an audible. We had intended to drive north to South Dakota and go through the Badlands, but we may have to arrive in Cali a few days earlier, necessitating a more direct route. This would mean that a trip through Nebraska is looming. Bring it.

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