Good to GO!
Jim working to prevent further damage
Slap those Conga's Jim!
Picnic in St. Louis w/Robin and friends
The obligatory stop in St. Louis!
Chubb Trail outside of St. Louis
Driving in Missouri
Driving on Arkansas State Hwy 123
View from Pedestal Rock Hike
Arch on Pedestal Rock Hike
Hot Spring Cascade
The other Hot Springs
On the road again! See ya in Colorado!
I've made one interesting addition to the rig which has made
living in the rig much more pleasurable. These are the simple, but extremely
effective, wind deflectors over the windows. These Ventshade brand Ventvisor
deflectors allow me to leave the windows down in horrible weather and still get great
ventilation through the vehicle. Not only that, but they block sun, reduce glare,
and allow me to drive with the windows down without the need for a hearing test
And now for some BIG news... I've made offers to my friends about joining
me on my excursion for a period of time. Well, check the picture on the left and you
might notice an extra bike on top of my vehicle. That bike belongs to my friend
Cathy who will be joining me on the trip about a month from the start of the trip (June
17). We should be travelling for the rest of the trip together.
May 12th - In a blind fury, I loaded my car and hit the road by 4pm to
head for Nashville. However, by packing so quickly, I royally screwed myself by
forgetting a number of items including my bicycle pump, headphones, my slick tires for
road cycling, solar shower, and dromedary bag. Can we say STUPID!?? Oh well.
I'll be picking them up in Boulder at my friend's house. I had a very short drive...
just up to Nashville. The drive was mainly uneventful. I arrived at Jim's
around 7pm. Jim and I decided to hit the town that night and check out some of the
If Nashville has one thing going for it, it's probably the music. We
stopped at one bar and listened to some rockabilly outside the door. We decided that
wasn't really our thing so we moved on to the world famous Station Inn to listen to some
bluegrass. The Station Inn is a really cool little place. VERY small place,
single microphone on stage, and about 4-5 great bluegrass musicians gathered around it for
some hoop hollering' music. The Japanese door man actually got up there and played
banjo with them for a bit... and he was amazing. Yep you read it right... a Japanese
banjo player. I guess bluegrass has appeal to all nationalities.
May 13th - This was definitely a lazy day. Jim lives right next to
Radnor Lake State Natural Area, so we did a beautiful morning hike (no need to drive).
I spent the rest of the day getting my trip itinerary finalized while Jim worked
for the day. We ended the evening with a trip out to a great sushi restaurant.
Jim is a musician/producer. His forte is in percussion, but it is a
melodic style of percussion. Very unique, but wonderful stuff! It was
fascinating to see him work on some of the music. He's got some wonderful music and
a fantastic album that you can purchase. Check out his website at www.ancienthand.com for details. Jim also got
hit by the Nashville tornadoes. You can see "he-man" Jim holding up the
tree to prevent further damage. You might have a long wait there Jim! The
damage was fairly minimal, but his roommate (a world famous bass player) ended up with the
short end of the stick. His room got hit with some water damage. Thank
goodness nothing too valuable got damaged.
May 14th - I woke up and started thinking about my trip ahead. I
realized that Moab, UT was somewhere on my list. Moab is quite possibly the mountain
biking capital of the world. I then realized that I had better get my butt into
mountain biking (MTB) shape if I was to have any fun at Moab. It wasn't but a short
few weeks ago when me and my buddy Ken went mountain biking in North Georgia. After
a bunch of huffing and puffing and some sloppy riding, Ken and I decided that we would not
return to North Georgia until we were both in better MTB shape. Well Ken, the time
has come! I can't let Moab down! I hit the Nashville streets with a fury and
rode for at least an hour. Actually, it was a very nice place to bike.
I got back to Jim's place and started to pack. After I was packed up and
watched Jim and his engineer do some recording on an upcoming album. GREAT STUFF. After watching for a short while,
it was off to St. Louis to visit my long lost friend and ex-roommate from college, Robin.
I lived in St. Louis for four years while attending Washington
The St. Louis arch symbolizes a gateway... a portal to other realms... most
notably, the great Western United States. However, driving past the arch really
symbolized the beginning of this excursion. I should have driven up on the lawn,
right under the arch and snapped a photo! Even if I did have the gusto to do that,
the picture would have looked black because it was too dark.
St. Louis is a strange town. Where else in the US can you find a town
with a handle attached to it? Or grocery stores called Schnuck's and department
stores called Famous Barr... If it's a BAR shouldn't it have drinks, and if it's
famous shouldn't it have really good drinks?! Actually, St. Louis isn't that
bad. It's a fairly quiet town (compared to, say, Chicago and many of the East Coast
towns). I find the lack of traffic and ongoing development a nice break from
Oh well... I arrived at Robin's place around 8:30pm and Robin and I went
out to eat at one of my favorite eateries in St. Louis, Ramon's Jalapeno. I still
have yet to figure out why Atlanta hasn't figured out this culinary concept yet! The
style is Southwest, but I like to think of it as Mexican with a southwest flare and a very
nice presentation. They use blue corn, red corn, to make things look interesting and
the food is fantastic. The St. Louis Bread Company stormed Atlanta soon after I
moved back (Thank God!), but Atlanta has yet to figure out the southwest thing. Nava
in Buckhead is as close as it gets, but the prices are crazy there! (In case you
can't tell, I like eating out!)
May 15th - Another lazy day. Robin, Chris (Robin's boyfriend), and
I went to a Delta Sigma Pi (coed business frat) Alum Picnic and it rained on us.
When we got back, I beat Robin at a couple of games on her Nintendo 64. We ended the
day with a nice dinner at KC Masterpiece and hung out with some of Chris's friends from
school (Washington University) who were still in St. Louis.
May 16th - Robin and I headed off to Grant's Farm (owned by Ulysses S.
Grant), only to find that it was mobbed with people. With the nice weather who could blame
them! We opted for the less busy and much smaller Grant's Farm National Historic
Site across the way. We spent about 30 minutes there checking out the plantation
lifestyle of Ulysses S. Grant. Our next and final stop in St. Louis was Ted
Drewes. If you ever go to Saint Louis, Ted Drewes is a must. The best frozen
custard in the US. Dairy Queen tries to copy them with their Blizzards, but they
don't even come close! After returning to Robin's place and hanging out a little bit
with Chris, I thanked them and bid them farewell and headed out west to the Lone Elk
Outdoor enthusiasts may mock Missouri as being boring, but I beg to differ.
Some forget that Arkansas is a stone's throw away and both states hold some of
the oldest mountains in the US, the Ozarks. Now back east (or better yet, out west),
these little guys, at about 1700 feet in elevation (2700 feet in Arkansas), could hardly
qualify as mountains. However, these mountains are beautiful! (There is also
some fantastic caving in Missouri). Due to various reasons, my first few pictures in
the Missouri mountains didn't come out very well. My first stop in the Missouri
outdoors was the Chubb Trail (out of Lone Elk County Park).
Lone Elk park itself is pretty much a drive through park. They have
buffalo and Elk contained within the park. Unbeknownst to most of the visitors to
Lone Elk, beyond the imprisoned elk, lies one of the most heinous technical mountain
biking trails I've ever been on, the Chubb Trail. This trail is possessed.
Every time I've ridden this trail, something has gone wrong... the problem never occurs
with my bike, but with my friends' bikes. By some miracle, my bike always escapes
unscathed, but my friends have had deraileurs snap right off or bend into odd shapes,
pedals break, tires slashed, you name it! It's rocky/hilly for half and muddy and
flat for half. There are technical hills which would challenge any biker. I
hit the trail around 5:30 and rode for about two hours and did not complete the
trail. I think it is about 7 miles one way. If you are ever in Missouri, hit
it. It's a gnarly ride. After trying to bathe in a spigot, and after a near
run in with an elk, I was off to the Bell Mountain wilderness.
The Bell Mountain Wilderness lies right next to Belleview, Missouri.
Imagine that! I spent many a weekend here in my college day. Bell Mountain
itself is beautiful... flat but rocky top with 360 degree views and very few people.
I drove in and found a pull off and parked for the night.
May 17th - The next day, I headed out to the Lindsay Mountain trailhead.
I had yet to hike this trail in the Bell Mountain wilderness and I am always up for
something different. Little did I know what lay ahead! This was kind of a
disastrous hike. First of all, I lost the trail. Fortunately, by that point, I
was at the foot of Lindsay mountain and could simply find the highest point.
Second, although advertised in the brochure, there were no views from the top of
Lindsay. Third, I couldn't find the trail on the hike back. Finally, it
started to rain! As weather worn as the Missouri mountains are, I'm lucky there was
enough relief in the terrain to help me find my way via the topo map. I eventually
found the trail as God started to bawl, and I RAN all the way back to my car. As I
like to say, "incompetence leads to adventure!!" When I got to my car, I
took advantage of the rain storm. I actually soaped up right there and took a
quickie shower! Ah, nature is great!
May 18th - Off to Hercules Glade. Backpacker Magazine has a section called Weekend
Wilderness which recommends weekend hikes. I've followed their advice a few times
and generally haven't been disappointed. Hercules Glade Wilderness was no exception.
As I drove into the hills near Hercules Glade, I knew I was in for something
special so I decided to do a one night, ten mile backpack there.
I headed down the trail into the valley below with a backpack on my back.
Everything seemed like a typical Midwestern forest until I hit one of the glades.
Absolutely beautiful... the tall grasses, wildflowers, and wonderful views
make you feel like you are in an alpine meadow far from the Midwest! The glades
create a really strange, yet beautiful ecosystem. Through the glades, you have
desert-like flora and fauna, including prickly pear cactus and tons of lizards. I
hit Long Creek at the bottom of the "mountain," found all of the trails I needed
to orient myself. Then I went in search of the 12 foot waterfall backpacker magazine
had talked about. No such luck. The 12 foot waterfall was no where to be
found. Cascade, perhaps... but no falls. Finally, I found a beautiful campsite for
the night right near the creek. After skinny dip and dinner I was ready for bed.
May 19th - I awoke to another perfect day and hiked out of the valley
into some of the wonderful glades and back up to the car to complete the loop. Then
it was off to Branson, Missouri.
Branson is the home to a couple of country music retirees and has been called
the "Nashville of the MidWest". I decided to drive through to see exactly
how cheesy the town was. A few minutes in the town was all I needed to determine the
cheeze factor. Actually it wasn't that bad, but not exactly fun for a nature lovin'
freak like me, so it was off to the Arkansas Ozarks.
I was pleasantly surprised by the mountains in Arkansas. They were both
stunning and fairly impressive in size. I was not expecting to find mountains this
big in Arkansas. Although they only rise to about 2700 feet above sea level, they
must be fairly large base-to-summit. As I was driving through, my route took me down
Arkansas State "Highway" 123. This "highway" actually turned to
DIRT a few miles in! I actually got stopped by the construction crew. They
were putting in a drainage pipe and were placing layers of dirt down over it to level the
road. After a layer was set down, they let me through. About 10 miles later, I
found a free campsite in the National Forest at the Fairview Recreation Area (which I had
all to myself that night).
May 20th - I awoke just as the sun was rising and was soon off to the
Pedestal Rocks scenic area in the Ozark. I hit the 2.5 mile loop trail and was
rewarded some incredible views of the Arkansas Ozark Mountain range as well as some
interesting rock formations.
Finally it was off to Hot Springs National Park. I thought this place was
going to be something spectacular, but I was sorely disappointed. It turns out that
Hot Springs National Park is really nothing more than a city with a small National Park...
actually the smallest National Park in the entire system. As you can see from the
pictures, only one of the springs was uncovered and made to look natural by the park
service. All other springs were capped and pumped into various bath houses in the
town of Hot Springs. After doing a couple of short hikes in the mountains, I was
reminded of the Chatahoochee National Recreation Area in Atlanta. In both areas, the
views you had were quite nice, but included views of various buildings in the city.
It must be fantastic for the residents of Hot Springs, but fairly unimpressive for the
travelling me. My emotions were getting to me at this point... seeing little to stir
the soul, and having little to do in the town was bringing me down. But, I'm a man
of action and I decided... "When in Rome... do as the Romans." "When
in Hot Springs, take a bath!"
I dropped 20 bucks for a pampering dip in the Hot Springs water. This was
something I had sorely needed at the time. It was about a 1.5 hour long affair.
I baked for an hour in various forms of torture, starting with a pleasurable 20
minute hot bath in mineral water from the springs, then a VERY hot steam room for 3-5
minutes, and then I baked in towels for about 30 minutes sweating my brains out... (I lost
6 pounds in water). Finally, it ended with a shower and a cool off. By the
end, I nearly fainted. Shouldn't have eaten chips and salsa before going in. Big
mistake. But I should have done something like this (sauna/steam room) before I even
started the trip. Good to cleanse the system a bit. I really needed it.
I ended by camping in the Hickory Nut Recreation Area in the Ouachita National
Forest. Again, had it all to my self.
May 21st - Lots of driving ahead. I wanted to be in Colorado
Springs in two days. I calculated that I had 18 hours of driving left and I still
had one more stop I wanted to make: Oklahoma and the Beaver Bend Resort State
Park. It was a pretty nice place, but I didn't have too much time to spend
there. I did get a quick hike in with some nice views of the river below. I
hit the road after a shower, and drove all day. Spent night in Kansas Truck Stop off
May 22nd - Truck stops are great places to sleep for the night.
First of all, they are fairly safe (compared to rest areas)... especially if you pick a
busy one. Second of all, many have CHEAP and clean $3 showers! What a
bargain! After a shower, I was off to Colorado. I don't feel like I missed
much in Kansas and northern Oklahoma. It seems like both areas consisted of one big
endless farm field with the exception of OK City and Wichita. Although the prairies
were nice, I was quite content to see it by car.
Reading and Listening
- The Way of the Peaceful Warrior on tape read by the author, Dan
Millman. A fantastic book if you are into self-help or spirituality. I plan on
listening to it again at some point on the trip. Thanks mom for the tapes! And
thanks Dan Millman for the inspiration. After hearing this story, I was inspired to
improve my diet on the trip... and try to enjoy the moment... live in the present as much
- Dances With Wolves Soundtrack while driving the prairies of Kansas.
- Shiek Yerbouti by Frank Zappa. I laughed out loud listening to
this. With lyrics like "ram it up your poop shoot" and "I can handle
an hour on the tower of power, just as long as I gets my golden shower" you know you
are in for some entertainment! Sick, yes, but incredibly funny! Too bad he's
gone now. This is one concert I really wish I had the opportunity to see in the
flesh. Thanks letting me borrow the CD Jim!