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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hell-Hound across America -- or: A Winter's Tail

I should save this non-political post for the weekend, but for various reasons, I must publish now.

This photo-essay documents how a family of economic refugees (two adults and one Hell-Hound) crossed the United States of America in the dead of winter. We packed all of our possessions into a seriously over-burdened minivan purchased from the post office for well under $1000. Despite our lack of license plates, the constabulary of fourteen states never assailed us.

The protagonist of our story is Bella, the fearsome Hell-Hound who functions as mascot to this blog. Here she is in sunny California, snoozing contentedly, unaware that she is about to undergo the adventure of a lifetime. She is eleven years old.

We named our minivan the Hippo because we got it for Christmas. Bella, now fully awake, sits in the belly of a fully-packed hippo. That seat will be her domain for the next week.

Riverside, California. This is what the San Bernardino mountains looked like on the day we left.

We crossed the San Bernadinos and made our way toward the California desert.

The Hippo, parked in front of our motel room in Flagstaff , Arizona. (The shooting in Tucson was still some days away.) This was the morning when Bella first discovered snow. She agreed with Carl Reiner's assessment: "A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water."

We weren't the only ones doing the "Ma and Pa Joad in reverse" trip.

In New Mexico, Bella met Native Americans.

A friend to this blog graciously offered to buy us dinner when we got into Albuquerque. Alas, we entered that town far too late; our deepest apologies. The next morning, we had blue corn enchiladas at a place called Joseph's in Santa Rosa. Man, were they good!

Texas. We liked everyone we met there. Even so, we would prefer that they never give us another president.

Oklahoma. Bella knows she belongs to the land. And the land she belongs to is grand. However, she did not say "Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!" while pooping.

Both Oklahoma and Texas are big on massive roadside crosses.

The splendor that is Mulhall, Oklahoma. We stopped here when we realized that we had wandered onto the wrong highway. Fortunately, righting our course took us through the town of Stillwater, which may be the nicest small town in all of America.

In magnificent East St. Louis, Bella posed with the famous arch. Having heard that East St. Louis can be a tough burg, she tried her best to look intimidating.

The small town of Trenton, Illinois. Bella had a grand time romping through these fields. We stayed with my ladyfriend's aunt, a former free spirit from Seattle who -- oddly enough -- knew Mia Zapata rather well. In fact, she had been out drinking with Mia on the night she mysteriously disappeared.

In Trenton, our dining companions included a female liberal and a male conservative. They both agreed that no-one should ever trust a politician from Chicago, regardless of party affiliation.

Indiana. I have nothing to say about Indiana except that it was beautiful and frozen.

Bella inspects a visitor's center in Kentucky, located between -- I kid you not -- Simpsonville and Shelbyville.

On the Ohio side of the Ohio river (where the temp had dropped to two degrees the night before!), Bella directs our attention to the Silver Memorial Bridge, which crosses into West Virginia. This bridge replaced the one which fell in December of 1967. And that brings us to...

Mothman! Now we are on the other side of the river, in the lovely town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. According to local lore, the wave of Mothman sightings in 1966 and 1967 heralded the bridge disaster. I've long been a big fan of the Mothman legend.

Intrigued by the Mothman mystery, Bella goes undercover to conduct further investigation.

We're still in Point Pleasant, WV, which is now the site of a major art project. The new Silver Bridge, in the background, bypassed the town, harming local business. The old Silver Bridge came directly into Point Pleasant -- at the spot marked by these snow-covered steps.

The Mothman statue (barely visible behind the Hippo) looks through this gate toward the steps pictured in the image above. In other words, Mothman continues to haunt the spot of the great tragedy. On either side of the gate is a massive wall which faces the Ohio river -- and on this wall will be the largest mural in the United States.

Some sections of the mural are already completed -- and as you can see, the work is not bad at all. In fact, it's awe-inspiring. The paintings depict scenes from local history, including one of the great evils committed during the Revolutionary War period: Chief Cornstalk, having come to the British under color of truce, was taken captive and then slaughtered.

More of the mural. The artist is Robert Dafford, of Louisiana.

Bella inspects Dafford's work.

Bella, having finally reached her destination, explores her new home -- Baltimore. As you can see, she has made a new friend.

In Baltimore, the houses are mostly up-and-down affairs, designed for use by Peter Parker and no-one else. People in this city quickly get used to dealing with stairs. Lots of stairs. Narrow, twisty stairs without handrails. In fact, they're more like ladders than stairways. Getting to our attic pad is a bit like mounting an expedition to the summit of K2.

The yuppies in Canton take a perverse pride in the narrowness of their domiciles: "My house is only fifteen feet wide." "Fifteen? Pheh! Our home is twelve feet wide!"

As I write, Bella is taking a well-deserved rest.

She informs me that I am supposed to end this chronicle with the words "Go Ravens!" -- a phrase which apparently refers to some local sporting fraternity. Since I don't usually keep up with such things, I can only express the hope that the wittily-named Ravens will continue to do well whatever it is that they do.

Many thanks to the Cannonfire readers who made this adventure possible.
It looks like a wonderful journey and Bella is such a star! I am glad you all got there safely!

I think I stayed at that same Flagstaff Motel before. I was coming back from Oklahoma after my dad's funeral.

Glad to see you guys made it in one piece. Best of luck in your new home.
I went to middle school many moons ago in Stillwater Ok. and I agree it is a great town. It looks like you had a grand adventure. Thanks for sharing.
You did not mention that you would you would be driving thru KY. That rest stop is 25 miles from my house, I would have totally stood you for dinner, and could not passed an opportunity to meet the infamous Hell Hound.

Glad you made it safely.

And I'm sure you noticed, "Ville"s are very popular in KY.

Louisville (pronounced Lou-Uh-Vul to the uninitiated)

We were settled by the French, what can I say. Louisville's also commonly known as "The Ville" and is home to several bands such as the Ville-ians and the Ville-billies.
Wikipedia tells me that of the 416 cities in KY, 59 end in "ville"
It's true--Bella is a star! I already knew that, but it's nice to see her in a feature-length photo essay. Lovely photos--you did indeed make Indiana look quite beautiful, and I'm glad to hear you liked all the people you met in Texas. And I can't believe I'd never heard of of Mothman. The legend is even featured in a Richard Gere movie, and yet somehow I missed it! I promise to redress my ignorance.
Thanks for that wonderful photo essay! Bella is a true star.

Inky, thanks for your comment on the other post--my Baltimore bro (or sis).

Joe, welcome to Balmer! Re: the wittily named Ravens, when we got our team my best friend and I joked that none of the fans would get the reference to the name. Oh well! You gotta love a team whose mascot is named Poe!
Enjoy Baltimore! If you need anything, let us know. Brad has lots of friends there who do interesting things.

Glad you made it. Loved the photos. I hope your lady friend is staying warm.
Loved the Hell-Hound Tour photo essay and good luck in your new digs. Baltimore is a great town and I hope it treats you well.

And I'm thrilled that you're back. I love your blog and it's such a pleasure to read. Many thanks for returning!

Glad you made it out to this end of the country safely! I was born in Ohio but have spent most of my life in central Pennsylvania. Though I did spend a few years in southern California. Which, I have to admit, felt like an alien world to me (I lived in Van Nuys and Simi Valley).

Also, great to have you back blogging again. You were very much missed.
mmmmm, Old sure to raise a crab claw toast to your new residence.
Glad you made it safely to your new digs Joe! It's too bad you didn't spend more time in Chicago. Would have loved to have had you stop by for dinner!

Good luck!
btw, I'm stunned you made it across country with no plates! Please be aware that on the east coast the revenue-grubbing state troopers will not be so lax.
Great trip! Now you;ve given me a second good reason to go to Point Pleasant.(the mural)
Mission accomplished, a safe trip for all. Thanks for the charming pictures of Bella, she reminds me of my older sister. I was the first human my parents had but not the first child! Good thing too for that cute black nose otherwise she would be in full camouflage for her new scenery.
You definitely killed any nostalgia I ever had for snow ...

Glad you made it safely!
Apology accepted, though I'm not sure I believe your excuse (looks like that picture of Bella in the snow in broad daylight was taken in the Gallup area--the red rocks are the giveaway--and Gallup is only a couple of hours west of Burque) but I just bought meself a BluRay player with built-in WiFi with the $$ I would have spent on din-din, so there!

And the first thing I'm gonna download from Netflix when I get it set up? Homicide: Life on the Streets, the best damn TV series EVAH in my not-so-humble opinion. And, as I'm sure you know, it's set in Barry Levinson's hometown and your new town. Have a crab cake on me.

PS: I was only angling to meet the Hell Hound anyway--getting to meet you and your lady would have been just the icing on the cake... ;)
What great pictures and a terrific read. Glad you made it safely - Bella is just adorable!
Glad you three made it safely to your new home. Bella is a STAR and I can see her having her own book, 'Bella's Adventures'.

The Mothman as I recall, has a long history in the Native community and children are often told about the Mothman (Moth Spirit) bring death. The death part always made me cringe and I never could figure out why there was such fear associated with the night moths.

Thanks for all the photos and the story of your journey across the country.
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