The Atlanta Saga – Part 7

April 12

Throughout this ordeal, I’ve had a long list of people who have been giving me suggestions as to how to solve the issue. In addition to all my running around yesterday, a Denver friend posted my dilemma on LotusTalk seeking answers. I appreciate that so many people have tried to help. It’s tough, though, given my ignorance, ineptitude, and lack of tools. This morning I followed a few of their suggestions but still no joy.

The original plan for this trip had me making some side trips for sightseeing, but my time has been consumed and I’m not really willing to rely on the car for unnecessary excursions. I was going to check out Andersonville (a notorious Civil War POW camp) and the Jimmy Carter presidential library while in Atlanta, but I’ve sidelined these. So it goes.

After lunch, Jayne suggested we take a short hike. I thought it a great idea, so we piled into her Jeep and she drove us to Sawnee Mountain where we hiked up to Indian Seats, an overlook that provides views of the distant rolling ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains. describes the view as “breathtaking”. It’s a nice view but I’m not sure it reaches breathtaking status.

The “breathtaking” view of the distant Blue Ridge Mountains.

After the short but welcome hike, Jayne and Dan treated me to a nice dinner at the local brew pub. I had the Go Bleu! burger with a pint of Cherry Limeade, a sour Berliner Weisse. Good stuff.

April 13

I asked Jayne what she had going on today and when she said “nothing”, I suggested we go visit the Jimmy Carter Museum and Library. She was up for it, so off we went. It was rainy and a bit dreary, but that’s not a bad sort of day to wander through a museum. At least I get to hit one of my Atlanta targets.

This is the third presidential museum I’ve visited. This one was a different experience for me for a few reasons. Both Hoover and Truman were before my time, and I’ve read whole-life biographies of both of them. I haven’t gotten to read a Carter bio yet, but even if I wasn’t quite an adult when he was elected, I remember most of the events that are chronicled by the exhibits while I don’t have much of an idea about Carter’s life before the presidency.

The Hoover Museum lacks a reproduction of the oval office. Both Truman and Carter do have that room in their museums and I was a bit surprised at how different they are. Aside from the shape of the room and the fireplace, there was nothing that was the same.

The grounds of the museum and library are beautiful. It may have been a nice sort of day to wander a museum, but I’d have liked to have taken a walk outside. Oh, and that’s one more difference between this museum and the other two: Carter is still alive as I write this and so he isn’t buried here (and I don’t know whether he will be buried here in the end or not).

Tonight I had dinner with a few local Lotus folks. I had the pleasure of meeting Doug, Mick, and Bob. I had no idea when I suggested getting together for dinner that I’d be visiting with a couple of Lotus Ltd bigwigs! We shared a number of war stories. There was also a bit of discussion of this year’s LOG in Knoxville. It sounded almost as if Doug was trying to talk me into making another trip this way in September.

I had the filet mignon with a loaded baked potato, a side salad, and a large Sam Adams beer. The rest of the trip will be more Subway and Wendy’s than brew pubs and steakhouses.

I reached out to the folks at Chin Track Days to cancel my entry at Barber and also canceled my reservation at the motel near the track. After checking out the weather report for the next few days, I’ve decided to leave here Saturday morning for a two-day Rule #1 violation and skedaddle on home.

Not knowing what’s causing the fuse to blow, I’m a bit concerned that I might possibly be doing some damage to the motor. My other obvious choices are to leave the car here at the Lotus dealer for them to fix (necessitating a round-trip flight), have the car shipped home, or rent a U-Haul to tow it home. I made a half-hearted search for someone to ship it but didn’t find anybody that went from here to there. I’m not at all enamored with the U-Haul option, and, frankly, I’d rather have the work done by someone who has worked on my car before and who is local to me.

Tomorrow I should stop by an auto parts store and get some more spare fuses.

April 14

Today was pretty much a “zero” day. I went nowhere, did nothing. Well, I did make it to the auto parts store for spare fuses. I did a little planning for the trip home: where to spend the night, whether to try to shoehorn in a visit to the Eisenhower Museum or not. Oh, and Jayne and Dan and I went out to eat at a Mexican place. I had some enchiladas and a beer at the CT Cantina & Taqueria. The enchiladas were quite tasty.

Working on the assumption that I would, indeed, make it home sometime on Sunday, I made an appointment to get the car fixed. My man Ryan says he’s “excited to look at it and hopefully, it will be a quick turnaround!” I love his confidence! I gather that he’s booked up until June and he’s doing me a big solid by squeezing me in. He says he’s going to work evenings. I have no idea what I’ve done to deserve the special treatment, but it’s much appreciated.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 2

April 7

I was hoping to get out of the hotel by 7:45 with the idea I’d be at the Truman Library when they open. As it was, nature and technology threw up some roadblocks and I didn’t hit the road until a bit after 8.

Because I charge the phone all day while driving, I didn’t bother to plug it in overnight. When I got to the car, it was down to about 17%. When I fired up the car, I plugged both the phone and the iPod into the charger. The iPod told me it was charging, but the phone didn’t. The cigarette lighter port is a bit janky. Someone on Lotus Talk replaced the cigarette lighter with a dual USB charger. It looks like a simple mod that would mean I would no longer need to fiddle with the stock one, and I’d not have to worry about it not charging when I assume it is. So, naturally, I at first thought I just needed to “jiggle the handle”. But there was no joy.

By the time I arrived at the Truman Library, we were down to 8 or 9%. I grabbed the plug-in adapter and went inside looking for an electrical outlet. The guard pointed me to one in the corner near his station and I plugged in there. Still no joy. Now I was wondering if it was the phone or the cable. Everything worked fine yesterday. Why does it fail now? What have I done to anger the godz?

I often complain about the fragility of our technological times. This is a perfect case. I have very little battery in an unfamiliar city. What do I do with a dead battery? It’s a sort of range anxiety. Drive around randomly looking for a Verizon store? Sheesh.

The Truman Library

The Truman Library was the first of the presidential libraries. This is the second presidential library I’ve visited. Hoover’s was first. They’re very similar: a museum that covers the man’s entire life and is open to the public, and a library that is used by researchers that the public doesn’t get to see. And, naturally, there’s a gift shop as well. As with the Hoover library, Truman’s also includes the grave site.

I made my way through the place a bit more quickly than I anticipated. I’d allowed as much as three hours (cut a few minutes short by my late start) but was done in about half the time. I didn’t spend a lot of time reading about Truman’s history as I’ve read quite a bit about him already. Rather than reading all the material, I concentrated on viewing the various artifacts.

I think it’s a very nice museum. Anybody who doesn’t already know his story can learn all the important bits. There are quite a few videos to watch and a large number of text-heavy exhibits. There is quite a bit more in Truman’s museum than in Hoover’s. Here, there’s a reproduction Oval Office in the basement. Hoover didn’t have one.

The Cable

After enjoying the museum and the garden, I went back to the car and dug through my “bag of tricks”, a heavy-duty quart-sized ziplock bag full of cords and adapters. I sadly neglected to bring another phone cable, but I was pleasantly surprised that the cable for the GoPro Max fits. Plugged it in and it started to charge.

However, the GoPro cable is much too short for me to have the phone charging when it’s mounted on my dash. That’s just not going to work. I need a longer cable. I went to a Verizon store where I knew for sure I could get something that would work but also knew I’d spend two or three times what I’d pay at a Best Buy or equivalent. I am now the proud owner of a new 6’ cable that cost $25. The whole cable thing stressed me out more than it should have.

By now it was lunchtime, so I stopped and grabbed a sandwich for the road.

The Drive

I’ve gone on about the options Google gives us for navigation. For these cross-country trips, I always check the boxes for “No Tolls” and “No Highways”. “No Tolls” is pretty straightforward and unambiguous. “No Highways”, on the other hand, isn’t so simple. In Colorado and points west, it is my experience that “No Highways” is functionally equivalent to “No Interstates”, which is actually what I’m after. Google’s idea of “No Highways” isn’t very clear to me. It could mean that it avoids any multi-lane road with limited access, but I think it’s rather more restrictive than that.

In any event, knowing I’d be directed on roads often smaller than strictly necessary, I kept the “No Highways” option on and set out. I also knew that the drive time difference between highways and no highways would be significantly greater than it was yesterday. But I didn’t have far to go, so I wasn’t in any particular hurry. I’m much happier getting away from the big trucks and the traffic, getting off the beaten path, and getting (I think) a much better view of the countryside.

Using “No Highways” in Kansas still allowed me to use national highways (primarily US 36). On these roads, you pass through all the little towns between where you start and where you end. In Missouri and Arkansas, though, using “No Highways” tends to take you around all the little towns. Which also means you don’t drive past any gas stations.

I had a little “fun” trying to find a gas station. I pulled over and searched for gas stations, but none were on my route. The nearest, Google said, involved backtracking 17 miles. The best would be the one not far off my route 32 miles away. I was a bit surprised that there are no gas stations for 50 miles. Truly, these are the back roads.

About 10 miles later I spotted a Casey’s General Store a bit down a crossroad. Does Google not recognize Casey’s as being gas stations? I admit they’re not my first choice, as they don’t sell premium, but I figure low octane is better than no octane, so I filled up anyway. I’ll burn all the low-octane fuel off before lunch tomorrow.

The Geography

The first few miles of road after leaving Atchison follow the Missouri River. Signs along the road identify it as part of the Lewis and Clark Trail. On my Oregon trip a decade ago (!), I followed a significant portion of their travels. Today, it was just a few miles.

Once I got a short distance east of the river, my route was made up of an alphabet soup of backroads: Highway A, Highway H, Highway W, and so on. All of these letter routes were nice pavement (albeit so narrow they don’t have shoulders), 55 mph speed limits, and almost zero traffic.

Much of my route was on the western edge of a plateau. I’d traverse a few miles of flat agricultural land on an arrow-straight road, then drop off the plateau into a valley or ravine. In these ravines, the road becomes a Lotus road: twisting and turning, rising and falling. At times the ups and downs were like bunny hops on a roller coaster. I was tempted to add a little speed in these places, but there were far too many blind crests. There were a number of signs warning me to share the road with the horse-and-buggy set. I’d have hated to crest a hill with a steep descent only to find a buggy.

These bottom lands held other potential issues as well. Not actual issues now, but they probably were when I passed through Missouri a few years ago. These letter routes feature almost no cut and fill. That is, they’re pretty much at grade level. Grade level in the bottoms means “potentially flooded”. More than a dozen times I saw signs warning that the road may be impassable. These are permanent signs, not temporary ones that I’ve often seen when some side roads are actually flooded. In addition to the warning signs well in advance of the potential danger, they had a number of amber-colored signs that would show how deep the water is in the case that it’s actually flooded. All these signs could indicate depths of as much as 5 feet. I wonder how often the signs are totally submerged.

This up-and-down, on the plateau and in the bottoms, continued until nearly the Arkansas border, where the plateau seemed to end. Coincidentally, that’s when even these back roads started to see traffic. I was nearing Bentonville.

I’m not a farmer, and I’m unable to identify most of the crops I drive past, particularly this early in the season. Like any second grader, I can spot corn and wheat but anything else is a mystery to me.

A fair amount of land was devoted to livestock rather than crops. In Kansas, the cattle were all in the typical industrial feedlots, cattle shoulder to shoulder at the trough and manure piled ten or more feet high. Here in this part of Missouri, there are a lot of cattle, but they’re all grass-fed. Not nearly as many cattle per acre, but probably making for better beef.

I don’t know much about chicken farming. I’ve seen some documentaries about it, and how the three or four giant chicken companies have transformed the industry. I think I saw a few of these modern chicken farms. Each had between four and ten long, low buildings with ventilation fans on each end, and all the driveways and buildings festooned with “No Trespassing” signs.

Most of the roadside billboards in Kansas were selling Jesus and advocating against abortion. In Missouri, it’s Trump instead of Jesus and unborn babies. In this part of Missouri, you can’t go more than a few rural miles without seeing Trump flags. It seems no Trump supporter in these parts is satisfied with a single flag. It’s four or five or six at a time: “Trump 2020”, “Make America Great Again”, “Let’s Go Brandon”.

Everywhere I stopped, people were friendly and curious.

Mid-Ohio Trip – Naperville to Denver

Day 8 – Saturday, June 1

Slightly late start to the day. On weekends the hotel starts breakfast at 7 instead of 6. My plan was to have the car loaded before 7 so I could be out as early as possible without skipping breakfast but my route planning took a bit longer than expected.

First leg of the trip was to Clinton, Iowa, where I wanted to take a short break at a park by the Mississippi River. I took two lane roads almost the entire way; very easy driving. The park in Clinton was a hive of activity with some softball games going on. I walked maybe a half mile down the river, then back. US 30 crosses the river on a suspension bridge and the rail bridge is almost at the water line. It’s one of those bridges that has a center-pivot to let river traffic go by. I didn’t see this one in operation, but later when I crossed the Missouri I saw a rail bridge pivoted and open to river traffic.

Riverview Park, Clinton, IA

From the satellite photos, this little lighthouse is generally 70 or 80 feet from the water and there are four or five more light posts that are submerged. Clearly, the levees here are high enough to handle a lot more water. But if this were to be breached, the major part of this little town would be submerged.

US 30 bridge, railroad bridge, at Clinton

The next leg of my trip was from Clinton to West Branch for a quick visit to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Again, two lane roads, this time almost all state routes rather than US highways. I don’t think I had to pass anybody the whole way from Naperville, other than in the towns. I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record when I say how much more I prefer the small roads to the interstates.

I didn’t spend a lot of time at the library. I watched the film that they show hourly and toured the exhibits in the museum. And, of course, the gift shop. For some reason, they have a bunch of trinkets related to ancient Egypt. I don’t recall Hoover having any connections, but I could be forgetting. In the museum was a hunk of the Berlin wall. Again, I’m pretty sure he had no specific connection to the Berlin wall, but it was cool to see it. In general, I don’t go around touching museum exhibits, but I couldn’t resist this time.

Most of the building is off-limits to the public, so I had to ask: If I were to be writing a book about, say, Belgian relief, could I get access to the library? The answer was that all I’d need to do is get a research license, which is about as hard to obtain as a library card. In the mean time, I was free to ask any of the staff researchers questions and they’d do their best to respond. Interesting. Not that I’m planning on writing about Hoover. Or anybody else, for that matter.

Hoover grave site

The Hoover library is only a few hundred yards from I-80. I’ve driven by here many times and never bothered to stop. Or even notice how close it was. Add this to the long list of places I ignored because I was in too big of a hurry on the Interstate. The more I avoid those roads, the happier I am.

Third leg of the day was from West Branch southwest to join US 36 somewhere in Missouri, then as far west as I could get. I had the endpoint tentatively at Bethany, Missouri. I reached Bethany before 6:00pm; clearly too early to stop. In my first iteration of the plan, weeks ago, I was looking at St. Joseph. As it turns out, I made it to Hiawatha, Kansas, about forty miles farther.

One of the reasons I don’t drive after dark is the danger of animals. This was illustrated perfectly just a few miles before Hiawatha. I came upon what I thought was debris in my lane. It wasn’t obvious to me at first what it was. Then I saw it was moving. Slowly. It was a good sized turtle, moving from left to right and about where my drivers side tires belonged. I avoided it, and the smaller turtle a few yards past it, which had almost reached the shoulder. I sure hope they both made it. Frankly, I’m a bit amazed they didn’t get clobbered by the clump of traffic about a quarter mile ahead of me: two semis, two tour buses, a motorhome, and two cars. I have no idea how they all managed to miss both turtles.

My minor irritations with technology continued. As soon as I pulled up to the hotel, my phone decided it didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had no cell service and no GPS. At first I thought it was just the cell service that was lacking. But I saw other people yakking on their phones and spotted a cell tower a short distance away. All was good after rebooting the phone. I guess the day wouldn’t have been complete without some sort of technical glitch.

One of the key events of Herbert Hoover’s tenure as Secretary of Commerce was his relief work in the aftermath of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. This was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States. Twenty seven thousand square miles of land was inundated and 630,000 people were displaced from their homes. To try to prevent future floods, the federal government created the world’s longest system of levees and floodways.

Yesterday, one of these levees failed in the West Quincy area, and other levees were breached along the Arkansas river as well. Luckily, I was in neither of those places and saw nothing so dramatic. However, I did drive by a huge amount of acreage that was under water. Not being from the area, I can’t look at a river and tell if it’s high compared to other severe flooding years, but every river I saw looked very high. At Clinton, all the access stairs leading down to the river were closed, and lampposts on the river side of the levee were under water.

In Missouri, just east of the Mississippi, there’s the Platte River. This is not the same one that flows through Denver an on through Nebraska. I didn’t know there was another one. This one is sometimes called the Little Platte River. This Platte was well out of its banks, flooding perhaps a half mile on each side of the river. Most of Iowa and Missouri that I traversed through the day was rolling terrain, so there wasn’t much flooding to see. But quite a bit of land on the Kansas side of the Missouri is flooded as well as large areas of Illinois that I drove through. Of course, I also mentioned flooding last weekend through the section of Illinois that I went through farther south.

We aren’t in need of someone to do what Hoover did 90 years ago (feed and house more than half a million people), although there are still quite a few people affected by the high water. But I think I can say that the levee system did what it was intended to do (regardless of other good or bad side-effects). In 2011, the Mississippi rose a foot higher than back in 1927. And the flooding along the Missouri this year is worse than it was in 2011. But the damage and displacement of people is far, far less than back then.

Today’s miles: 525 road Total miles: 2,254 road, 407 track

Day 9 – Sunday, June 2

A fairly straight-forward and uneventful drive through Kansas and eastern Colorado. I well remember last year’s range anxiety on this same road. Today I filled up in Smith Center, Kansas, three hundred miles to Byers. I’d been getting a bit over 33mpg and figured I could make it easily. Just the same, I topped off the tank at my lunch stop in St. Francis, at the last working gas pump before HPR.

Today’s miles: 524 road Total miles: 2,778 road, 407 track

Total trip miles: 3,185