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Sunday 22nd Oct 2017

As any of you regular readers would know, this column usually appears on Saturday mornings. Sometimes it is a day late, and sometimes I actually do take the week off, though rarely.

For this week, I actually had all my timing planned pretty well.

As I have noted, Diane and I have been driving back across country, where last Saturday we started in Chicago, working our way to St. Louis, Tulsa, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Cortez (in Colorado), then to Bryce Canyon, and then to Death Valley, before stopping at Harris Ranch Resort, in Central California, for the last shot home.

It was a long haul from Bryce on Friday, even though we started early. But, if you know Death Valley, it is not exactly accessible, with pretty much one road leading in from each direction. It is an interesting place, in fact on that day, we started the morning at Bryce looking at the Huddus at 8300 feet, and by the end of the day, had shot down to 190 feet below sea level.

Traveling across our wonderful country, seeing sights and towns and simply soaking in the atmosphere of each, for each state is kind of like a different country, is just a great way to travel. Aside from the breathtaking beauty of Arches, or Zion, or the desolation of Death Valley which is as singularly beautiful as Mesa Verde in its own way, well, there are other things.

Armadillos in Oklahoma. Antelope in Bryce. Killer vegan Thai Curry at Harry's Roadhouse in Santa Fe, that Diane rated among the best meals she ever tasted. Let alone the Church there built in 1610. There was a killer tortas and prawn burritos at a little shack in Baxter, California that we scarfed Saturday morning after spending four hours driving the length of Death Valley and driving 300 miles around the park to get to a highway that led back north, towards home. The ridiculously gaudy Texas Steakhouse (you know, the place they show on the Travel Channel where if you can eat a 72 oz. steak, baked potato, salad, and roll in less than an hour, it is free. Of course, if you cannot, the price tag is $72.).

Even so, we were told during the off season at least one person a day tries, and during the summer, up to three. But, that was not the only adventure in Amarillo (I did knock off my 16 oz. strip steak, by the way) for there were tornado warnings and that golf ball sized hail that was previously rumor, thundered down on us on the Interstate, and that night the local storm sirens went off as we watched Di's Explorer get pelted once again by that crazy hail.

I did all the planning and reservations, including using AAA's great trip planner, but sometimes, as with Mapquest, the directions can be goofy, and the Death Valley reservations I made were at Panamint Springs, where after chasing ashphalt rainbows, we finally arrived at 8:15 on Friday night. About the time I planned on writing this column.

First we ate, though, and I had a great flat iron steak with garlic potatoes and fresh brocolli with cheese, while Di gulped an Asian salad with coconut shrimp, all of which were delicious with a capital D.

However, in this remote spot, though all the rooms were full, there was no TV. Or Internet. My IPhone was equally dead, and that left Di and me having to read our books and talk, and maybe play a little Tetris on our IPhones, but, for about 36 hours, we were pretty much untraceable.

Funny, though, that that funky dusty old resort in Death Valley wound up being our favorite stopover, despite, or maybe because of the lack of their amenitites. Which meant for a little over a day, Diane and I had only ourselves and the spectacular country we were rambling aorund in to keep us entertained.

I do love writing these pieces, even though when I start them, as often as not I have no clue where they are going. Kind of like trying to get out of Death Valley.

Not that I am complaining.

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