- Where We Started: Anaheim, Calif.
- Where We Ended: Barstow, Calif.
- Miles Driven: 175 (10,430 total).
- New States: None.
- States So Far: 19 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
The first full day back on the road wasn't particularly active, as our planned journey to Joshua Tree National Park fell victim to Los Angeles's longest-running light show: the brake-light festival that occurs each day on its freeways. While we did adjust and see a few interesting sites, it wasn't a fun-filled day on the FHMA journey. And that's a surprise, considering we started at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, in Yorba Linda, Calif. Because when you think Nixon, you think fun. Right?
This was the fourth presidential library visit of the trip -- the others were the Carter, Clinton and Bush 41 libraries -- but this was the first repeat. Part of the reason I wanted to return is that, since our 2003 visit, the library has gone from being administered by a privately-run foundation to becoming the 12th presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. For a long time, the Nixon Library remained outside government oversight because of a dispute over the release of Nixon's presidential records. Eventually, a deal was struck, and in July 2007, it became part of NARA's portfolio. The process of moving Nixon's presidential records from College Park, Md. to Yorba Linda will begin in 2010.
I was curious whether this change in management had led to any changes at the library, which had a lot of interesting exhibits and material in 2003, but suffered from a serious case of denial. The coup de grace was the Watergate exhibit, which suggested the scandal was the fault of evil subordinates and that Woodward and Bernstein committed crimes in their Watergate reporting that should have been investigated. I have mentioned before that all presidential libraries tend to paint a sympathetic portrait of their subject, but this was the King of All Glossovers.
My 2009 review: The museum is definitely improved. There are a ton of Nixon family artifacts, lots of public records from his days as a congressman, vice president and president. There are major exhibits around his famous "Checkers" speech in 1952, Nixon's pursuit of Alger Hiss and the 1960, 1968 and 1972 presidential campaigns. There was a fair amount of multimedia, as you could watch the "Checkers" speech, eulogies from Nixon's funeral and other key moments. All in all, pretty good.
The key question for me was how Watergate would be handled now that the same government that was once about to throw Nixon out on his keister was now running the museum. So imagine my disappointment when I found that the Watergate exhibit was closed and would reopen in July 2009. Hopefully, the end result of this work will fix the museum's most glaring weakness, and based on this account of Watergate from the library's own Web site, it just might.
One of the cooler parts of the museum is the Hall of Leaders, which features life-size statues of 10 world leaders from the Nixon Era. Nixon himself picked these 10 leaders prior to the library's opening in 1990. He didn't claim all these leaders had changed the world for the better, just that they'd been influential. That explains why Nixon chose four Communists.
Nine of the 10 leaders enshrined in the Hall of Leaders at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. From far left, Leonid Brezhnev, Nikita Khrushchev, Zhou Enlai, Shigeru Yoshida, Anwar Sadat, Golda Meir, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer. Not shown: Mao Zedong, who, for the collective good, had to be sacrificed to get everyone else in the photo. (Photo by Jim)
As I was taking photos, I discovered another person I'd apparently missed.
The Yorba Linda site also includes Nixon's birth home and grave site.
By the time we left the Nixon Library, the crazy heat wave that hit southern California this week had driven the temperature was 103 degrees. The idea of immediately doing anything else outdoors didn't really appeal to us, so we decided to make the two-hour ride to Joshua Tree to give it time to cool down. The plan was to see as much of the park as we could before dark, and then head for Barstow to get ourselves in position for a Death Valley visit on Tuesday. But almost immediately, the plan fell apart, as we hit bad traffic on California 91, and after some futile attempts to make progress on surface streets, it was clear we were in trouble.
After a flanking attempt on I-15 north also failed, we decided there wasn't enough time to see Joshua Tree and chose instead to take a leisurely route to Barstow. That allowed us to get off those mother&@%^#%# roads and onto The Mother Road: historic Route 66. We took Route 66 through Fontana and Rialto and then into San Bernardino, where we sought out another significant American landmark: the site of the first McDonald's, opened by Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1948.
In 1954, Ray Kroc visited this McDonald's and convinced the McDonald brothers to franchise. In 1961, Kroc bought out the brothers for $2.9 million, and the rest is history. In 1962, the original McDonald's restaurant changed its name to "Big M," and it closed for good in 1972. The land where the restaurant sat is now owned by the Juan Pollo restaurant chain, which now administers the historic site. The original McDonald's site is part of a Route 66 Museum that was closed by the time we arrived.
After our drive-thru at McDonald's, we decided to go the only place we could to escape the heat: up. We ascended through Waterman Canyon, climbing to 4,000 feet, and thankfully, saw the temperature drop from 97 degrees down to 79. It made for a far more pleasant drive.
We arrived in Barstow right around 7pm, and had a leisurely night in a terrific hotel. We may not do anything today, as we love the lodgings and, frankly, are still recovering from an exhausting weekend and dealing with brutal heat.
- Sign of the Day:
Now, there are a lot of things you can sell with a guy wearing a sandwich board. Urgent medical care doesn't seem like one of them. It's hardly an impulse buy. If you need urgent medical help, you've probably chosen a path to find it that does not include scanning for sandwich-board holders. At least the Liberty Tax Service guys that we saw dancing on street corners were offering a service that had value as April 15 approached. Not sure I get this one. And would you want to put our faith in an urgent care facility that hires a guy with a sandwich board?
- We went to Quizno's in Anaheim for lunch, and after eating, Joan sought a restroom. Seeing two doors that both said, "Employees Only" on them, she approached one of the employees:
- Joan: "Excuse me, do you not have a restroom?"
- Employee: "Oh, yes, right through that door," pointing to one of the doors clearly labeled "Employees Only."
- Joan: "Yeah, but it says its for employees only."
- Employee: "Oh, yes. Employees and you."
Our assumption was this was a clever way for the restaurant to get fewer people to use its restroom, since they probably assume most people will see the signs and never ask. Like me, who had also wanted to use the bathroom five minutes earlier, saw the signs, and promptly gave up. So kudos to Joan for surfacing this interesting approach to keeping your public restroom clean.
- As were cruising through Victorville, Calif., I saw a Roy Rogers Drive and Dale Evans Parkway. Wondering if they had some connection to that area, I checked the Internets and learned that the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum used to reside there. Unfortunately for Victorville, the museum picked up and moved to Branson, Mo., back in 2003, so it's nice that Victorville has chosen to keep the street names.
- During our ride down historic Route 66 in Rialto, we ran across the Wigwam Hotel, which is exactly what it sounds like: a hotel where you can sleep in makeshift wigwams. It reminded us of a similar hotel we saw in Holbrook, Ariz. on the 2003 trip. Since I'm always desperately in search of useless information, I checked it out, and found out that a developer named Frank Redford built seven wigwam hotels -- or "villages," as he called them -- in the 1930s and 1940s. The creation of the interstate system wreaked havoc on the existing hotels, so there are now only three wigwam hotels in existence: the one we saw on Monday, the one we saw in Holbrook, Ariz., and one in Cave City, Ky. If you're so inclined, you can read about the wigwam hotels here.
- Bad news for those of us who have decided to adopt silly poses at Four Corners. According to the National Geodetic Survey, the spot that now marks Four Corners -- where the state boundaries of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona come together -- is off by 2.5 miles. I have no idea whether anything will be done about the location of the marker, especially since the monument isn't managed by the U.S. government, but by the Navajo Nation. I'm just pissed off that my only pushup of the trip appears to have been for naught. Thanks to the handful of folks who passed this news on to me.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "New World Man," by Rush. I won't go on another long Rush rant again, but I will point out this article in the Chicago Tribune, which states that, after 35 years, it's officially cool to be a Rush fan. Thanks to their appearance on "The Colbert Report," their cameos in "I Love You, Man" and their central role in the plot of the upcoming film "Adventureland," those of us geeks who have been fans can finally hold their heads high. I also discovered from this piece that the boys will soon be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Can the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame be far behind? Oh, no, that's right, I forgot Simple Minds and Haircut 100 aren't in yet. I guess we'll just have to wait. OK, so I guess that was another rant.
- Most-Played Albums: It was an all-Radiohead day in the car, as I realized I'd barely listened to them at all since leaving home. I used to be a massive Radiohead fan, and still consider "The Bends" and "OK Computer" two of the best albums of the past 15 years, and while critics don't necessarily agree, I think their debut album -- "Pablo Honey" -- isn't far behind. But they started to lose me with "Kid A," when they apparently lost the keys to their guitar cases and went heavy on electronica. I actually like electronica, and am a fan of some of what they've done since, but I still miss the old Radiohead. I've heard from others that their latest, "In Rainbows," is a step back toward older Radiohead, and that was part of why I decided to play them all day Monday. But we'd just gotten to the new album when we arrived at the hotel, so I'll need to give it a play Wednesday. My favorite Radiohead songs: "Stop Whispering," "I Can't," "High and Dry," "Fake Plastic Trees," "Let Down," "Karma Police," "No Surprises" and "Everything in Its Right Place."
- Lunch: Quizno's, Anaheim, Calif.: The temperature was 101 when we got in the car at the hotel, and that meant two things: 1) the dogs could not be left in the car, even for a second, and 2) the humans had no interest in eating outside. So we got Quizno's and ate in our cramped Acura dining room. I had a turkey sub, and a bag of chips. Joan had a turkey ranch sandwich. She ordered a medium, but would like to let all of you know that she ate only half. Jim Nutrition Rating: 4 (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5, on the fast-food scale).
- Dinner: Baja Fresh, Barstow, Calif.: I hadn't seen a Baja Fresh for some time, and being that I'm a fan, I pushed Joan to abandon our quest for salads and make a beeline for Baja. She complied, but held herself to a mango chicken salad and refused any of the chips and salsa put before her. I did not, and enjoyed my chicken burrito as well. Jim Nutrition Rating: Uno (out of cinco).
- Comfort Suites Barstow, Barstow, Calif.: Despite the fact this hotel didn't have a door to the outside -- which we like only because it makes unpacking the car much easier -- we decided to stay here, since it was the only Choice Hotel in town that took dogs. Joan did her best to beat down the customer service rep, but still felt the hotel was overpriced. When we arrived, Joan got to chatting with the woman at the front desk, and because our room wasn't ready when we arrived, Joan finagled a free upgrade to a two-bedroom suite. Turns out the hotel is brand new and is rated No. 1 among 24 Barstow hotels on tripadvisor.com. Inside, we found two bedrooms, a sitting area, a bathroom with a Jacuzzi, a very comfortable bed and an unbelievably nice staff. Not only is there a free hot breakfast, but they make cookies for the guests that are available all day in the lobby. We have absolutely no complaints. This place was so comfortable, it was part of the reason we decided not to take on any major tasks today and rest up for a busy remainder of the week. Hotel rating: 5 stars (out of 5).
- Joan was also able, for the first time, to get the price of the room down 20 percent because of our Costco membership. This is the first time that membership has helped us; usually it's Sam's Club that gets you the best deal. And while most hotels never ask for a membership number, it doesn't seem right to take the rate if we aren't Sam's Club members. Yes, Joan now has a new tool at her disposal to get hotel rates down. Look out, hotel bookers of America.
- The Comfort Suites also passed an inadvertent test with me when my hotel room card key still worked, despite my leaving it in my pocket next to my cell phone for an hour. I cannot tell you how many times Joan or I have had to get new keys made for our room because our existing one has stopped working because we've exposed it to a cell phone or BlackBerry. We're a society that has sent men to the moon, built artificial hearts, split atoms and routinely make unbelievable advances in technology, but we still can't figure out how to avoid having a hotel card key cancelled out by a phone? It's time we solved some of this nation's real problems.
- Our original intention Monday was to stay in Baker, Calif., which is an hour closer to Death Valley National Park than Barstow. But there were only a few hotels in Baker, and one of them was called the Bun Boy Motel. Now I try not to work blue too often, but is this really a name that makes you want to stay there? Given the choice of staying at the Bun Boy Motel or the Bates Motel, I'd gladly sign up for the latter and hop in the shower.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO