Traveling cross country via roads has little in common with doing the Great Loop.

Well, other than planning the route, planning fuel stops, planning anchorages/campsites, planning provision stops, dodging weather, maintaining equipment, going days without a shower, navigating unknown territory, and avoiding collisions.  Other than that, no similarity.

Our average speed on land is about 10 times that of Endeavor.  On the loop we puttered toward landmarks at 6 miles per hour, with oodles of time to set up photos or aim binoculars.  On the road, it’s more like, to quote Pink Floyd, “I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of my eye”.

Winding through the Smoky Mountains eastbound on I-40 is lovely… for the co-pilot.  The driver misses most of the scenery.  Hundreds of semi-trucks clog the curvy highway, threatening to become intimate with our travel trailer at any moment.  Pulling a 30 foot trailer between a semi truck and concrete median wall at 70 mph leaves little time to gawk at signs or scenery.  A little nerve wracking but not awful.

We also shared the road with a line of trucks delivering double-wide mobile homes.  These monsters take up 1.4 of the 2.0 lanes, so either they hang out over the right shoulder or we don’t pass.  Mostly we don’t pass.

When we stop, the signs make it clear we’re not in Wisconsin any more.  Signs next to our campsite trumpet the feeding of critters…

…and signs at a truck stop trumpet critters for feeding.

(GIF Credit – Nikki)

We spent a delightful 4 days visiting long-time friends Kyle, Leah, Caylie and Issac in Charlotte.  We brought along Monopoly Deal, a fast moving, ruthless card game that Nikki and Nate introduced to us.  This turned our visit into a series of marathon gaming sessions, with everyone becoming rabid capitalists searching for a win.  Jim and Cheryl, Kyle’s parents, coincidently happened to be in town and joined in the shenanigans.

Now that we’re in warmer weather, our goal is a slow down and meander southward, driving less each day and sightseeing more.


Snow Line

After a long, frigid incubation period, we’ve burst from the warm cocoon of our home and run south for the snow line.  The allure of warmer climates is too strong, so we pointed our newest travel experiment, a Grey Wolf 27RR toy hauler pulled by pickup truck, toward the southeast.

Snow cover gave way to brown grass a couple of hours into Iowa. 9 hours of driving brought us near St. Louis, Missouri.  Tom and Tracy Grass, buddies we met on the Loop, had invited us to stay with them and arranged parking for the trailer at their friend’s home.  Thanks Hank and Carol!

Tom and Tracy eager to introduce us to their family, reminisce about the Loop, discuss travel plans, and show us their city.

I heard about the St. Louis City Museum from the crew of Serenity and suggested we try it.  Wikipedia describes the museum as:

“a play house museum, consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building in the Washington Avenue Loft District of St. Louis, Missouri, United States.”

I describe it as the lunatic result of a creative, possibly stoned, group of artists with a scrapyard of random materials, welding equipment, and an unnatural love for chutes and ladders.

As usual, my darling wife was first to tackle the place with gusto, soon discovering these funny spinning tops.

St. Louis Museum Tops video

Boring people can move between the four museum floors by elevator or stairway.

Crazy, aged, Looper types can join the youngsters and crawl through slinky-like aerial tunnels, slide down 1 or 2 story chutes, navigate mazes and generally regress to childhood.

Yes, that aerial slinky tunnel is one path to the airplane.

Old bones creaking with joy.

The roof was, unfortunately closed, so we did not get to explored the bus cantilevered off the building.  The kid in the tunnel behind me said it is a a blast.

The “Museum” portion employed all manner of scrap materials to create art.

This wall is hundreds of baking tins.

Second stop on the St. Louis tour was the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour.  Though not big beer drinkers, the tour was interesting, the Clydesdale horses beautiful and the free beer samples appreciated.

Founded in the 1800’s and in operation since, this is the most ornate manufacturing plant I’ve ever visited.