Thursday, 8 December 2016

Dreams and gasoline....

Forgive me Blogger for I have sucked, it's been three months since my last blog post! If I have any blog readers left then you'd be forgiven for thinking that I just never came back from the USA after our road trip (and believe me we really didn't want it to ever end!)

Now, as this is an art blog, I'll get the art bit over with first and then if you're interested in a bit of a travelogue on our Route 66 trip then probably best to stick the kettle on and make yourself comfortable - it's a bit of an epic post!


Where Route 66 begins in Chicago, Illinois

So, art... well, other than a Secret Santa gift which I can't even blog about until after Christmas (and which I've just discovered the Post Office have sent to Australia instead of America so I only hope it actually makes it to the correct recipient before Christmas!) I haven't completed a single painting since I got back at the start of October. I have started one but I doubt I'll finish it this side of Christmas! I do have some exciting art news though – remember the last painting I blogged about here?  Well, thanks to everyone who voted for it, it’s been shortlisted for the next round of judging in the Fine Art Seen competition and I’ve been invited to exhibit with Fine Art Seen in London next spring/summer!


The Sky Deck at the Willis Tower, Chicago


I've also just been told this week that one of my paintings (the little one I did of Lily way back here) has been included in Artfinder's The Edit Magazine (one of 105 artists to be included in the magazine out of 8000 on their site which is pretty lovely!) They will be adding a sign up page to their Facebook page for anyone who would like to receive a copy.


American Gothic by Grant Wood

So, that's pretty much all my art related news. In case you're wondering why I've not managed to paint anything in three months, well, I've been working four mornings a week at the animal shelter where I normally volunteer one morning a week. Couple that with my regular part time job where I work two full days a week and I'm finding I don't have as much painting time as normal.  Although I have the afternoons I've found that once I've walked the dogs, had lunch, done some housework/laundry (and let's be honest, gotten lost on social media!) the daylight has gone from the day and yet again my art shed remains ignored at the end of the garden. Still, I'm not complaining as I love working at the shelter and it's only until the end of January when I'll be back to just working two days a week and fully intend to get stuck in to painting (or else I'll have no new pieces for the London exhibition when it happens!)



La Grand Jatte by Georges Seurat


Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then please join me as I relive the best trip of our lives so far.

Night Hawks by Edward Hopper

Although I haven’t been painting any art I was immersed in plenty of art of all different kinds while we drove across Route 66 – the Art Institute of Chicago must surely be the mecca of art if you’re a fan of Monet, Van Gogh, Seurat, Dali, not to mention mid-century American artists like Grant Wood and Edward Hopper – I saw so many incredible paintings that I’ve long been a fan of (I think for art lovers seeing original works of art in the flesh is as exciting as getting a selfie with a celebrity/footballer/whatever other people are into!)

Self Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh

All along the Route I dragged S to as many art museums as we could fit in and sometimes we didn’t even have to go into a museum to see amazing art as there were fantastic murals painted on walls everywhere.


On the Sky Deck at Willis Tower


Chicago, Illinois


Chicago, Illinois


As we drove further west, it was less about the famous artworks that are easily recognisable and more about the history and culture of the indigenous people which was depicted beautifully in many of the historical sites and museums we visited, in New Mexico in particular.



The Bean - Chicago

Chicago was a beautiful city and we made use of the hop on hop off tour bus to see as much of it as we could.  We even went to the actual Firehouse 51 used to film outside scenes in Chicago Fire.  Unfortunately Severide was nowhere to be seen!


Firehouse 51 from Chicago Fire!

As for the trip itself, I don’t even have words to express just how fantastic the whole experience was. Or rather, I do but I doubt anyone wants to read a war and peace length blog post as I wax lyrical over every small town and big city we passed through so I'll try and keep it short but I can't promise as we just saw so much!



Joliet, Illinois

Gemini Giant, Wilmington, Illinois


It was, without doubt, the most amazing experience I’ve ever had in my life so far. We made the absolute most of every single day, with our mantra of ‘when will we ever be back?’ ensuring that we stopped to see and photograph as much as possible (and why it took me a month to sort through all my photos to create a Facebook album of ‘only’ 300 odd out of thousands!)


Braidstone, Illinois

O'Dell, Illinois

Pontiac, Illinois

Nowhere else on earth could I imagine people stopping their cars to take photos of broken signposts and rusted old cars but on Route 66 each one tells a story and they are all part of the history of the highway offering a nostalgic look back at a really fascinating era in American history, when people hit by the great depression and the dustbowl of Oklahoma headed west with all their possessions to find a new life and capture the American dream. 



One of two McLean's we drove through, This one was in Illinois

It’s really quite sad to see how so many towns which were once thriving and making a real living from the people driving through on Route 66, have turned into ghosts of their former selves as the interstate took away pretty much all their potential business. I think that’s why the signs which remain of old gas stations and mom and pop motels and general stores have so much significance and why we wanted to capture each one we passed especially because we discovered that places had closed or been torn down even since the edition of the guidebook we used had been written in 2011 proving that these wonderful historical icons might not be there if we were ever to return.



Another giant this time in Atlanta, Illinois

Lincoln's wagon, Lincoln, Illinois

Making a wish on Lincoln's nose in Springfield, Illinois

Mt.Olive, Illinois

We managed to stay on the original road as much as possible – some parts had been completely replaced by the interstate so we had no choice but to join the massive trucks thundering past on those sections but mostly we enjoyed the landscape passing by on the old historic route with certain sections of actual concrete slabs which made a wonderful ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump as the tyres went over the joins in the concrete!



St.Louis, Missouri


As we were driving to Inverness Airport S surprised me by telling me that we would be taking a detour off the route once we got to St. Louis, driving through Kentucky to Tennessee where we’d spend a night in Nashville and another night in Memphis before driving back up through Arkansas and rejoining Route 66 at St. Louis again. I was so excited as I’m a huge fan of the TV show Nashville and obviously no trip to Memphis is complete without a visit to Graceland (and I was a big Elvis fan when I was little – his was the first vinyl record my dad bought me and my sister when we were about 7 and 9!)



Nashville, Tennessee

The County Music Hall of Fame, Nashville

To make the trip to Nashville even more special, I was able to meet up with a fellow art Blogger, Wednesday Wandered's Carlarey, who I’ve known online for about four years and not only was it fantastic to meet her in ‘real life’, chatting away over a couple of drinks like we hadn’t just met for the first time,  she also turned out to be our fairy godmother when she announced that her husband (who works in the music industry) had only gone and gotten our names added to the guest list of the Bluebird CafĂ©! 



The famous Bluebird Cafe, Nashville


CarlaRey and me 

The Bluebird is a tiny venue where singer songwriters showcase their music and seats are limited and have to be booked in advance so we’d never have gotten in otherwise. It was a surreal experience just sitting there in this little bar I’ve seen so many times on the TV show, watching these incredible singers perform to an intimate little crowd and the icing on the cake was the delicious vegan spicy black bean burger they had on the menu! We’ll be forever grateful to CarlaRey and her husband for making that possible.


Listening to the most amazing singer/songwriters in the Bluebird Cafe

Memphis was another gorgeous city where the squirrels were laid flat out on the pavement to try to cool down and it was really quite a moving experience to see Graceland and visit the Civil Rights Museum which is located where Martin Luther King was assassinated. I have to be honest, there was many parts of this trip where I felt ashamed to be a white person given the history of the United States and how awfully the indigenous people and African Americans were treated(and still are in a lot of cases) and it has sparked a real interest in learning more about American history and we've been devouring documentaries on the History Channel since we got back.



Graceland, Memphis

Memphis is so colourful!

The Civil Rights Museum, Memphis


Every single day was just filled to the brim with sights and experiences and we did our best not to miss a single thing although you start the trip knowing you can’t physically see everything the route has to offer so you do need to decide which attractions appeal most to you.   For example, when we left Memphis and headed back up to join Route 66 in Missouri we decided we’d go to the Endangered Wolf Centre in Eureka, Missouri even though it meant we wouldn’t get to the Meramac Caverns further along the route in time before they closed for the day and we’d have to drive on past them, because that’s what we were more interested in, figuring we’ve seen underground caves before in other places but we may not get the chance to see real live wolves in that environment again. I'm so glad we made that decision as it was amazing to see these magnificent creatures up close even if it is a shame that it's a necessary evil to keep them in captivity for their own safety and to help build up the numbers again so that some can be released back into the wild.


We saw this magnificent bird at the World Bird Sanctuary in Eureka, Missouri

One of our favourite trips was to see the wolves in Eureka, Missouri

The Endangered Wolf Centre

Cuba, Missouri

Fanning, Missouri

We stopped on three occasions to help turtles across the road!

Gay Parita, Missouri

Kansas only constitutes 13 miles of the original Route 66 but it certainly made sure to stake its claim!

13 miles of Route 66 goes through Kansas!

Galena, Kansas

Oklahoma was another gorgeous state, although very hot and humid and I got eaten alive by mosquitoes which it hadn't even occurred to me might happen! This giant blue whale was built by a man for his wife as an anniversary present! As anniversary presents go, it's certainly original!


Catoosa, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Chandler, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City is really lovely. It's really clean and well kept, the buildings are stunning and the Bombing Memorial is a really beautiful tribute to those who lost their lives.  We wanted to see it at night all lit up and honestly walking around there where something so awful happened, there really is the most overwhelming sense of serenity and peace.  It's really hard to explain but there just such an air of calm even though it's in the centre of a city.


The Oklahoma Bombing Memorial Garden - such a beautiful tribute

Oklahoma City

The next state was Texas and we stayed in a little place called Shamrock - home to the fighting Irish, don't you know! I loved how pretty much every person we met was part Irish and nowhere more so than here! They even had a part of the original Blarney Stone in a wee plaza which S kissed, although he's in no need of any additional gift of the gab being already blessed with plenty!


Shamrock, Texas

The Blarney Stone in Shamrock, Texas!

We visited so many museums en route including one dedicated to barbed wire in McLean, Texas. Actually it was a lot more interesting than it sounds!

The barbed wire museum at McLean, Texas

Beetle Ranch, Conway, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

The midway point of the trip at Adrian, Texas 

The iconic Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico

At Pecos Pueblo - we didn't encounter any!

Santa Fe is a stunning mix of nature beauty, indigenous culture and history and Spanish architectural influence with the gorgeous adobe buildings. And the art! Santa Fe is just one giant art display with beautiful sculptures on every corner with vibrant murals on walls and art galleries filled with local artwork everywhere. I definitely felt like I’d found my spiritual home here!



Gorgeous sculptures everywhere in Santa Fe

Santa Fe

The Art Museum, Santa Fe

The oldest house in America, Santa Fe

The courtyard of the Art Museum in Santa Fe

The old town of Albuquerque was also lovely and we took part in a night time walking ghost tour where the guides told us the stories of various ghosts said to haunt the buildings of the old town. I even managed to capture a couple of ‘orbs’ in one of my photos in the exact spot where the bodies of ‘helpful Mary’ and her murderous boyfriend ‘John’ would have lain after he shot her and then shot himself back in the 1980s!


Outside the Museum in Albuquerque 

I absolutely love this painting by Ernest Blumenschein - Star Road and White Sun



Bernard our ghost tour guide and the two orbs over by the tree -
enlarged they very clearly have faces in them!!

It was just fascinating to see the landscape change as we moved across the states away from the mostly flat prairies of Illinois, the plains of Missouri and wide open space of Oklahoma and Texas where the land just disappears off into the distance as far as the eye can see in every direction. New Mexico was definitely my favourite state with Santa Fe being my favourite city. The rugged landscape that looks straight out of a western with the mesas like Acoma Pueblo (Sky City) where the Acoma people still live on top of a 350ft mesa which thankfully we didn't have to walk up (although we did walk down which was quite a feat for someone with a fear of heights!). 


Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Continental Divide,

In Arizona we went to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park. We arrived just before sunset and the photos would have been truly incredible with the sun setting over the painted desert if we hadn't been reprimanded like a couple of naughty school kids for staying out past curfew (park closing time) by a park policeman (and we definitely weren't for getting on the wrong side of any law enforcement officers in America, no sir!) We did go back the next morning to see the Petrified Forest which was stunning. It's amazing how these massive tree trunks have completely crystallised over 250 million years when the continent looked completely different to how it does today.



The Painted Desert, Arizona

More art - this time it's ancient petroglyphs

An old car abandoned when Route 66 ran through the national park

Just before the Park Ranger told us to leave!

The Petrified Forest, Arizona

The crystallised trees in the Petrified Forest are incredible

The Petrified Forest, Arizona

One of the places I was most looking forward to visiting was Winslow, Arizona so that I could stand on the corner that the Eagles made famous in their song 'Take it Easy'.  As sod's law would have it we managed to arrive there slap bang in the middle of a 'Standing on the corner festival' where lots of aging Eagles' fans were all literally standing around on on the corner spoiling each other's photo opportunities! Still, we managed to get our photos taken beside the statue and the new addition of the Glenn Frey statue before heading on our way.

That corner in Winslow, Arizona


The Glenn Frey tribute

All those ageing Eagles' fans ruining our photos!!

At the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Arizona we bumped into Claire and Theo, a couple from the UK who were also driving Route 66. The funny thing was we'd already met them a few days earlier in Missouri and the chances of seeing them again was really quite remote especially given we'd then headed to Tennessee on our detour. We decided the moment warranted a photo for posterity kindly taken by crazy Steve from Kansas who happened to pull up at that moment and offered to share a special 'Colorado cigarette' with us which we respectfully declined!




With Claire and Theo, fellow Route 66 road trippers from the UK

We took another detour off the historic route to visit the Grand Canyon which was genuinely scary for someone who doesn’t like heights (I’m fine with them if I’m inside a tall building but not so much when I’m at the edge of a seriously high cliff with no protective barrier!!) We were told that a couple of people die there each year when they slip from the edge getting their photos taken and I could well believe it – my heart was in my mouth every time S went too close! It was awe inspiring though and on a lot of bucket lists for a very good reason.  It's a very spiritual place for the Huapai people and it's clear why - nature is definitely at its most majestic.



Meteor City, Arizona

Twin Arrows, Arizona


On the Skywalk at the Western rim of the Grand Canyon

Skywalk, Grand Canyon 

Eagle Point, Grand Canyon

I think the Grand Canyon epitomises the word 'awesome'

Guano Point, Grand Canyon 

I’m glad we went to Las Vegas too as it’s another of those places that you feel the need to see. 48 hours was plenty long enough though to enjoy the light show at night and take in the surrounding sights during the day. I was a little uncomfortable with the excess of wealth and poverty side by side there with so many people (a lot on mobility scooters) sitting with glazed eyes in front of slot machines all day long while so many homeless people sat on the ground outside with heart wrenching signs asking for help as people invariably walked on by. I know that sort of thing is everywhere but it just seemed even more pronounced there because of the obscene wealth all around. That aside, it was another place to tick off the list and S did treat me to a Cirque du Soleil show which was fantastic to see.


Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada


Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Seven Magical Mountains - Nevada Desert

Seven Magical Mountains, Nevada Desert

Nevada Desert

We reached California and finally Santa Monica Pier with mixed emotions, excitement as it was yet another place to see for the first time tinged with sadness because this was the last of the States we’d drive through and our trip was therefore nearly at an end.


Black Mountains, Arizona

Wild burros wander around Oatman, Arizona

Somewhere in California

Roy's Motel, Amboy, California

Calico, California

A real life road runner!

Bottle Ranch, California

Mr D's Diner, LaVerne, California 

Santa Monica Pier, the end of the road

Los Angeles traffic is every bit as crazy as everyone says and I’m so glad S did the driving as I’d have had conniptions – some of the roads were 7 lanes wide!  It’s such a massive place we’d have needed much longer to see all of it but we did the hop on hop off bus so we could at least take in the highlights and decided to spend most of the time at Santa Monica where the route officially finishes (now, if not historically). 


Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

We had a couple of days in Los Angeles once we'd reached the end of the road and we spent one of them again making use of the hop on hop off tour bus getting a whistle stop tour of a tiny fraction of the sights of the city before spending the rest of the afternoon back at Santa Monica as it was just so beautiful.


Santa Monica Pier

A sea lion waiting at the end of the Pier for some lunch from the fishermen


The view looking towards Malibu from the ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier

Quite surreal finally seeing such an iconic sign in real life!

Our final day was spent at universal Studios in Hollywood and it was the best last day of a holiday ever! I love white knuckle rides but I love even more that here they were pretty much all 3D simulations so you get the exhilaration of the feel of dropping and falling and swooping and churning safe in the knowledge that you aren’t really hundreds of feet in the air!


We had to get the red carpet shot!


Having a laugh with Donkey!

Harry Potter at Universal studios
We went on all the rides (Harry Pottery twice!) and did the studio tour which was really interesting as you get to see the sets used in various movies like Jaws and the Psycho House and how they’ve incorporated that into more 3D rides along the way.

Universal Studios, Los Angeles 

The weather the whole way was amazing as well. It started in the 70s and got progressively hotter and more humid until New Mexico where it cooled slightly because of the altitude (although it was still really warm) and then it got hotter and hotter as we went through Arizona and California but thankfully a dry heat with none of the mosquitoes that ate me alive in Oklahoma! We only had one day of heavy rain in Missouri, the entire trip and a rather atmospheric thunderstorm during our ghost walk in Albuquerque! We both ended up with rather fetching tee shirt tans and stripy feet from our footwear!

Universal Studios, Los Angeles 

I genuinely can’t recommend this trip enough from kitsch Americana in Illinois and Missouri, to native American history and culture in Oklahoma and New Mexico to the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest in Arizona and the man made excess of Las Vegas right through to the celebrity culture of LA and Universal Studios, it was just an amazing experience made all the better by the various wild animals we saw along the way – turtles we helped cross the road, tarantulas we let get across the road under their own steam, wolves and bald eagles in sanctuaries and a sea lion waiting for the fishermen to feed her off the end of Santa Monica Pier, it was just incredible. We did see coyote and armadillos too but unfortunately without exception it was only because they had been hit by traffic on the highway.


The end of a great day at Universal Studios, Los Angeles

Anyway, I could take about this ad nauseum but hopefully you’ve made it to the end without me boring you too much!

By the way, the title for the blog is the title of a song by a singer called Rob Baird whose CD S picked up in a wee cafe in Amarillo. It seemed like the perfect soundtrack for our trip.  In fact, we listened to country radio stations the whole trip and made a note of the songs we liked and when we got home S downloaded over 40 of them from Itunes to create our very own personalised road trip soundtrack - it's immense!

So even though I don't have any new paintings to share just yet, I just wanted to check in to let you know I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth and will attempt to get back to visiting my fellow art bloggers again when I can get some time.  If I’m not back in blogland before then, let me be the first to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year (egomanic with access to the nuclear code now in charge of a world superpower, notwithstanding!)

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