On February 14, 2007 I celebrated Diesel's fourth year of earthly existence by establishing this web location for his travel logs. I must confess that as revised it is now not completely about the dog, and has become somewhat of a virtual museum for my travels. While these travels began in 1977, I blame an English teacher named Fred Smith for introducing me to the writings of John Steinbeck when I was attending high school in Canton, Pennsylvania back in 1960. He had quickly seen that while I had mastered the mechanics of reading as a source of information, I did still not know the real thrill of being entranced by a writer. He loaned me his copy of Grapes of Wrath and I have been forever embarrassed by the state of the book when I returned it to him. In ruining the book I learned that in the hands of a writer likeSteinbeck, the members of a fictional family like the Joads could be more real than many of the flesh and blood people that I knew and that I could vicariously experience their sometimes tortured lives. Soonafter I was going to California in my mind through the pages of East of Eden, Cannery Row, The Red Pony, and Of Mice and Men. When I got to Travels with Charley, Steinbeck led me out through the fictional curtain and into the musings of a real man, with a real dog, driving a real house-on-wheels to wherever he wanted to go in America.
My laptop arrived in the mail and we made our getaway at 10:00 AM on May 22, 2007. We arrived at a KOA just north of
We had not yet figured out where we were going to stop for our second night out but a person at our previous night’s campsite had given a high hoot value to the KOA campsite in Pigeon Forge,TN near Knoxville which serves as a gateway to the exotic pleasures of Dollywood. In turn, the presence of Dollywood had lured the attention of every kitsch architect from the western world to present their gaudy masterpieces along what had once probably been a pretty little mountain road to a
5/25/07 The next morning we researched our evening campsite possibilities and decided to skip Nashville for a future visit so that we could go on to Memphis for a two day layover to mess around in Elvis town and read our manuals enough to reset the clock on the radio for having arrived in the central time zone and to figure out why we were not getting DC power to our hot water heater and to our refrigerator when we were not hooked up to our AC umbilical at the campsites. With much embarrassment we had not yet figured out where the fill point was for our fresh water tank so that we were still reliant upon roadside rest stops for our excretion requirements between hookups.
5/26/07 We had a much appreciated breakfast of scrambled eggs and venison sausage as the guests of Jasper and Marie from the adjacent campsite and then traveled south on I-55 and TN-51 a few miles to the Graceland parking lot in
At the entrance we donned our little earphones to listen to the recorded commentary as we walked through the first floor rooms past the staircase to the upstairs sanctum sanctorum, and then made our way down the much mirrored stairway to the basement quarters of the Memphis Mafia. The boys had a pretty amazing play area down there with many opportunities for boob tube watching or a bit of billiards. Then back up another set of much carpeted stairs past the Jungle Room and kitchen to the backyard carport, Vernon's office, and the huge 'trophy area' and finally to the meditation garden where lie the remains of this amazing family from Tupelo.
5/27/07 Next came a short traveling day to the
5/28/07 Today was an example of how even with the relative intimacy of an RV perspective on the countryside, it is still just a windshield projected road show documentary thing until a mechanical failure gets you down within handshaking distance of the real inhabitants of this country. We started out early from Morrilton, AR in the hope of visiting a couple of interesting places in the
After the oiling up we drove about a mile further only to receive another dashboard warning and a rapidly rising engine temperature gauge. I pulled into the first available area, got out the owner's manual and began a more serious study of the coolant system. While I was studying the manual and reviewing the contents of the engine compartment, a local man named Jimmy Bates approached and gracefully offered his help. He reviewed the symptoms with a careful mechanic's turn of mind and began to present a logical set of possibilities. He deduced a failing thermostat and when I asked where the thermostat was located and whether it was possible to remove it and continue on without it until I could find a better situation for replacing it, he offered to take it out for me and to take me to a place where we might find a replacement. He then set about his work in a very precise way including the removal of a skid plate and a overflow reservoir that blocked his access to the thermostat. Hot dirty work from under the front of the truck was soon accomplished, and he then used his cell phone to find the only auto parts place that was open on Memorial Day and drove me there where we purchased some anti-freeze, but could not get a thermostat replacement. After a total of about three hours of his effort everything was working fine, and for the last hour or so we met Jimmy's wife Hazel and his two daughters Angel and Tamika. The two girls played a vigorous game of 'stick' and a few rounds of 'tire' with Diesel before he became exhausted from playing in the hot sun and began to hallucinate that his toy tire had grown to be bigger than he was. At our best we humans are so amazingly helpful to each other and it is such a shame that the media has followed the interests of our lowest common denominator in over-presenting our very worst aspects.
We were then running much to late to do anything except to follow the extreme undulations of AR-9 to the Ozark Folk Center near Mountain View, AR where we ate a late lunch before continuing east on AR-66 to its intersection with AR-65 in Leslie. From Leslie we raced along AR-65 across the Missouri border to Branson and checked into our KOA at about 7:00 PM.
5/29/07 We were majorly tired by the previous day's mechanical traumas so on the first day in Branson we slept late and then had a $4.99 all-you-can-eat breakfast at the KOA restaurant/gift shop. Linda then busied herself with household restoration duties while I rode off into Branson on my bicycle to retrieve asparagus and chardonnay for our planned evening dinner with slow cooked turkey. I also took the camera along in an attempt to visually capture this phenomenal place.
Like Pigeon Forge, Branson is much filled with odd things like the Ripley Museum appearing to barely have survived some sort of mid-contenent earthquake. As I peddled west to east on the main drag I first encountered what must have been almost a full scale replica of the Titanic complete with the iceberg that did her in. I deduced that the ship served as some sort of theater/convention center but quickly moved along the street to the next attraction which was sort of a movie set for a 1950's coming of age film complete with various mid-fifties dream cars, a burgers and shakes restaurant, and a little theater showing bobbysoxer acts of some sort.
Across the street from this Happy Days scene was a kind of 1/10 scale Mt. Rushmore-like collection of filmdom faces that announces the Hollywood Wax Museum. Hardly an intellectual gasp down the street I found a shop with a fine assortment of dulcimers. There were, of course endless opportunities in indulge in the national pastime of overeating. Then I quickly took a look at the Grand Palace Theater where we were scheduled to see the Oak Ridge Boys on the following evening before walking around the grounds of the Andy Williams' Moon River Theater where he was appearing in a double billing with Glenn Campbell. I wandered for a while through an odd Ozark miniature golf course before crossing the street to try and get a handle on some tourist transportation devices that were called ducks. These concepts apparently transport there excited passengers through the streets of Branson and then dip into a nearby lake as a cruise vehicle.
5/30/07 We had intermittent rain and continuously threatening skies all day today so we were not able to pull off our planned tour of old Branson town. By middle afternoon I finally launched a bike trip to secure some broccoli and bottled water. On my return from the store, my rear tire went flat and after a long push over many hills, I temporarily abandoned the 24 bottles of water for a next day's retrieval with the RV and pushed on back to the campsite. The longer than planned return gave me only a little time to shower and select a 'cute little outfit' for the KOA shuttle ride to the Grand Palace to attend the evening's Oak Ridge Boys performance. Linda had attended Frankford High School with Joe Bonsall of the Oakies so I took her picture with his cardboard likeness in the lobby before we went to our seats for what turned out to be a really great concert.
Images of Greece 1989