G. M. Baker - Author

Series: Grand Tour Page 1 of 2

Grand Tour 1: The Road Trip as a Form of Quest

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

The post was originally published on my other blog Every Page is Page One. The series our our Grand Tour will continue here.

Sunday, April 29, 2018 Chicago to Bloomington.

This is the beginning of the diary of the Grand Tour that my wife and I took in the spring of 2018. The tour consisted of doing the whole of Route 66, then following the Pacific Coast Highway north as far as the Columbia Gorge before heading back east through Yellowstone and the Badlands.

Grand Tour 2: The Lincoln Museum as Shrine and Reliquary

This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One. The series on our Grand Tour will continue here.

Monday, April 30, 2018, Bloomington to Springfield, Il.

The second day of our Grand Tour, Monday, April 30, 2018, covered only 100 km from Bloomington to Springfield Illinois. The day was really about all things Lincoln.

The route here is simple enough. The old road runs parallel to the Interstate, going through towns rather than around them. Actually, at some point in its history, Route 66 was given a semi-circular bypass around some of the towns, some of which have since expanded around the bypass, so on the map you can see both the old and new bypass routes, one wrapped around the other. This also means that there is a choice of Route 66 routes through these towns, one going through downtown and one on the old bypass route. The landscape is mostly farmland, pleasant but unremarkable. Given the early hour and the fact that the Interstate attracts all the through traffic, the road is quiet.

Grand Tour 3: The Road as a Museum to Ordinary Eccentricity

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Monday, April 30, 2018 Springfield to St Louis

I resume the long-delayed transcribing of my Grand Tour travel diary in the midst of a pandemic which has meant, among other inconveniences, that I am at home on my laptop instead of somewhere in Utah, as originally planned for this October. Some say that the purpose of travel is to accumulate memories. If so, revisiting these diaries ought to be better than actually travelling. In some sense it is. Memory leaves out the tedious bits, the inconveniences, the frustrations and delays. Hopefully this account leaves them out too. Still, I’d rather be on the road right now. But here I sit and reminisce.

Route Map Springfield to St. Louis

On this day, May 1, 2018, we take a fairly short drive from Springfield to St. Louis, leaving time for various detours and bits of sight seeing.

While Route 66 is a 2500 mile open air museum, a Beamish Museum / Upper Canada Village / Colonial Williamsburg, right down to the original section of red brick pavement or the concrete section with the turkey tracks, both of which we drive today, it is less “authentic” than those sites in the sense that the old bits are scattered among all the new bits.

Grand Tour 4: Memorializing Corporals, not Generals

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

May 2, 2018. St. Louis to Springfield MO

We head out of St. Louis toward Springfield, Missouri on a route that takes us through the Ozarks.  Themes for the  day: thousands of tiny attractions, bridges that memorialize corporals rather than generals, and wonky navigation units. St. Louis to Springfield MO

The Garmin, which served us so well in Chicago, decides to ignore all my painstakingly set shaping points for leaving St Louis by the old road and dumps us onto the freeway. The freeways of St. Louis are a particularly unpleasant place to be at 7 am on a weekday. We pass one Route 66 historic byway sign, but far too late to jump across lanes to the exit. We eventually get off and find a parking lot where it takes me 20 minutes to beat the Garmin into submission. Then five more minutes to persuade it that we don’t want to go back downtown and start over.

Grand Tour 5: A Thousand Tiny Attractions

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

May 3, 2018. Springfield Missouri to Tulsa Oklahoma

Themes of the day are ugly English tourists, underwhelming attractions, and decent ice cream.

Springfield MO to Tulsa OK

A storm system passes overnight and it continues raining for most of the morning. The day’s planned route is not terribly long so we make a leisurely morning and hope for the weather to clear.

There are three loud Englishmen at breakfast in the motel’s breakfast room. Apparently they are doing Route 66 west to east. As a Canadian born in England, who has experienced the ugly American tourist in Europe, it is nice to see roles reversed and the ugly English tourist being obnoxious in America.

Grand Tour 6: Pride in Service is Not Militarism

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

May 4, 2018, Tulsa to Oklahoma City

Today we continue westward through Oklahoma. The themes are not so different from yesterday in Missouri: pride in service, helpful locals, and frustrating navigation units. Also, a small transgression and some disappointing trees.

Grand Tour 7: The Best Museum on Route 66 is About Barbed Wire

This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

May 5, 2018 Oklahoma City to Amarillo

Themes for the day: into the West, barbed wire, weak beer, parking meters, and killer slip roads.

Oklahoma City to Amarillo

The landscape changes quickly west of Oklahoma City. Now you feel like you are in the West. Now you can imagine a dustbowl happening. (Later we see a map of the dust bowl at the Devil’s Rope museum that confirms that this is indeed where it happened.) The land still rolls, but it seems like larger waves, and greens give way to browns more and more with every mile. Trees are few and far between, but jagged and dramatic where they do occur, usually singly or in pairs. It is interesting how often a solitary pair of trees will face each other across the road, one often leaning across the tarmac toward the other as if yearning for companionship. Alas we did not seem to take any pictures of such yearning pairs. A lot of the landscape looked like this:

Road and fields

Grand Tour 8: A Church Should Look Like a Church

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Sunday, May 6, 2018, Amarillo

Today is a rest day. I go to Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle church and find the building not to my liking. It is a typical modern auditorium-style church with padded pews. The floor slopes down to the altar like the floor of a movie theatre. It is all about making sure that everyone has a good view. If in the pre-Vatican II days we said that we went to hear Mass, now we go to see Mass.

Grand Tour 9: Of Tacky Artwork and Enchanting Overpasses

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Sunday, May 7, 2018, Amarillo to Las Vegas, New Mexico

Today’s theme ranges from the tackiness of a deliberate art installation to the truly enchanting highway overpasses of New Mexico. In New Mexico, it seems, it matters what things look like. In Texas, not so much.

Grand Tour 10: The Stunning Similarities of Ancient Sites

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series Grand Tour

Tuesday, May 8, 2018, Las Vegas NM to Santa Fe NM 

Today our Grand Tour takes us to the Pecos National Historical Park where we notice the stunning similarities between the ruins here and the stone circles, Roman, and Medieval ruins of Britain. We also note just how much it matters what things look like in New Mexico, and how different the scenery of the mountains makes you feel from the scenery of the prairies.

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