Cross-Country Road Trip, Week 1.

Day One: Huntington Beach, CA. to Scottsdale, AZ.

It was an exhausting morning getting out of Huntington Beach. I had to switch rental cars, which ended up taking longer than I had planned, and I had to thoroughly clean my rental apartment before leaving – which in retrospect, I shouldn’t have done, seeing as I am still only getting half of my cleaning deposit back. Ah, well. I got on the road around 10:30am, and it took a while to get out of Orange County. I couldn’t wait to get out of the city and onto an open stretch of highway. Luckily I eventually did pass through Indio and on through Joshua Tree towards Arizona. It was funny to see the saguaro cacti again – very deja vu. Wasn’t I just here? I reached Scottsdale in the late afternoon and after a dinner at Claim Jumper, settled in for the night.

Arizona, we meet again!

Arizona, we meet again!

Day 2: Scottsdale, AZ. to Las Cruces, NM.

Another fairly easy drive – I left Scottsdale around 10am and headed east. Before too long I was back in Tucson, where I just was three weeks ago! As I drove through the city, I decided to pull over and get some gas, and in the distance I could see the Aircraft Boneyard. Ryan and I had driven by the Boneyard on our last day in Tucson three weeks before, and didn’t have time to stop. The sight of all those thousands and thousands of old planes just sitting there on acres and acres of land was quite stunning, and I really wanted to get a few photos. I decided to drive by quickly and try to get a few snaps. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any good place to pull over and get out of the car, so I had to make do with some shots through the car window. One day I will get back to Tucson and properly walk through the Boneyard!

Parts of the afternoon drive were quite stunning. New Mexico is just so beautiful. In the early afternoon, big puffy clouds filled the blue skies, but as the day went on, the clouds got bigger and darker and lower, and later in the afternoon I found myself driving through some pretty spectacular thunderstorms. It would have been kind of beautiful if I hadn’t been so freaked out that I was going to get struck by lightning! I made it safely to the hotel, though, around 6pm, and lucked out by being given a two-bedroom apartment at the Towne Place Suites as I am a platinum Marriott member. Woohoo!

Airplane carcasses at the Aircraft Boneyard in Tucson

Airplane carcasses at the Aircraft Boneyard in Tucson

Day 3: Las Cruces, NM. to San Antonio, TX.

A long, long drive this day across I-10, which was surprisingly beautiful. I thought it would be barren and dusty, but it was actually quite green with some beautiful rock formations. I was thrilled to see that the speed limit along that stretch of I-10 was 80 mph! Yes! I made really good time in part because of that, and in part because I didn’t see a single highway patrol car all day. In Arizona, the highway patrol were everywhere, and if not a live cop, then a parked car with a camera. I must have seen at least 20 highway patrol cars the day before, so it was nice not seeing ANY once I passed into Texas.

It rained most of the afternoon, but the driving was fine, and no scary lightning! I reached San Antonio around 7pm, having passed through a whole time zone that day! My hotel was on the Riverwalk, but I was too tired to venture out.  I ordered in food and settled in for the evening.

A dreary day in Texas

A dreary day in Texas

Day 4: San Antonio, TX. to Houston, TX.

A nice sleep in and an easy drive to Houston from San Antonio. There was even time to stop at a yarn store before heading to the hotel 🙂 I checked into the Hyatt downtown and had a nice afternoon and evening in, relaxing. That night I met up with my dear friends Fran and Tanya for drinks at the hotel bar. They are both working on the “Mary Poppins” tour which is playing the Hobby Center in Houston. Fran toured with me on “Spamalot” in 2007 and Tanya and I have known each other since our early twenties when we were both working as stage managers in the Bay Area. I love both those girls to death.

Houston skyline, as seen from my hotel room window

Houston skyline, as seen from my hotel room window

Day 5: Houston

A lovely day off with no driving! I slept in and then met up with Fran and Tanya for lunch and some thrift shopping. We had a great afternoon, catching up, laughing and making some good purchases. I scored a handful of vintage dress patterns at an antique store for a dollar apiece! That night I went to see “Mary Poppins” (which was really good!) and then went to the opening night party with Fran and Tanya. They both came and hung out with me after the party in my hotel room while I packed. It was hard saying goodbye to them both – I love them both so much!

Fran

Fran

Tanya

Tanya

Day 6: Houston, TX. to Wichita, KS.

Probably my hardest day of driving so far – it was a long day, 600 miles of driving, and I was tired from staying up late. Now I was headed north from Texas. I pulled over at one point to take a cat nap at a rest stop and felt much better. It was frustrating driving in Texas – there was lots of traffic and numerous road closures – I was very happy to see the “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign! I was also relieved to be off the hugely massive wide Texas freeways and onto the smaller midwestern highways. It was a really pretty drive through Oklahoma and Kansas – the sunset was especially beautiful that night. I got to the Candlewood in Wichita close to 8pm and tumbled into bed early – time to catch up on some much-needed sleep!

A long, long day of driving

A long, long day of driving

Day 7: Wichita, KS. to Saint Paul, MN.

Another long drive – another 600 miles. I began listening to the new Dan Brown novel “The Lost Symbol” and became totally engrossed in the story, which made the day pass fairly quickly. As I drove through Iowa and into Minnesota, the temperatures kept dropping, and the leaves on the trees changed into all varieties of bright autumnal colors – finally, fall! I had to laugh when I recognized a shopping center outside Kansas City with a Cracker Barrel and Walmart that we had stopped at for a dinner break during a tour bus ride from Fayetteville to Des Moines last year with “Spamalot”.  That says something about how much traveling I have done on the country’s highways when I recognize specific Cracker Barrels!

I arrived in Saint Paul around 6:30pm, and had a quick dinner at Chili’s before heading back to the hotel for a restful evening.

Signs of approaching winter in Minnesota

Signs of approaching winter in Minnesota

Tomorrow, a shorter drive to Wisconsin, to Ryan’s, where I will be until Friday! Almost 3000 miles of driving under my belt in one week – whew! I’m ready for a few days off!

A Week in the Desert

This past Monday was the final official travel day for the “Spamalot” tour! Because we have a lay-off coming up next week everyone will be coming in to Costa Mesa from different places, so the travel to Tucson was the last time we were all (for the most part) traveling together. It was sort of bittersweet, actually, as much as I hate the air travel and airports and the hassle of travel day. You couldn’t ask for a better-natured group of people to travel with. We always have a lot of fun, even in the most tedious of travel days.

Vanessa Sonon at the airport

Vanessa Sonon at the airport

We arrived in Tucson late in the afternoon on Monday – I picked up my rental car and headed downtown to my rental apartment in the Armory District. It is an old apartment building – built in 1903 when everything in that area was military housing. It is charmingly decorated and bright and cheery. I have been very happy there this week – so much better than staying in a hotel! Tallulah has slowly been getting used to not having her LA patio. She has been very happy lounging in the sun room and has not been crying at the front door (like she did in San Diego).

Tucson living room

Tucson living room

Tucson bedroom

Tucson bedroom

I really didn’t do anything on Monday evening except go to the grocery store. I was so tired after the travel day that I crashed early. Tuesday was load-in. The theater, the Tucson Music Hall, is part of the big convention center, which is conveniently located only a couple of blocks from my apartment. The theater is spacious enough, although the dressing room space is quite cramped. There’s not much theatrical work in Tucson so our local crew has been quite a mixed bag. There were a few melt-downs during the opening night performance, and our two local prop guys still have not learned their cues (as I type this on the day of our closing performance), but otherwise the shows have been smooth and uneventful. This marks Christopher Gurr’s final week as King Arthur (he has been filling in for John O’Hurley who has been on hiatus from us for the past three weeks. He rejoins the show in Costa Mesa) – Christopher has played Bedevere since the tour started and has been covering the King all that time as well. We are extremely lucky to have had such a strong, dependable cover who has stepped in for many a vacationing or ailing King.

We had a little opening night party next door at the Hotel Arizona. The flyer for the party reported that there would be “heavy hors d’oeuvres”, so you can imagine the surprise and delight when we discovered that full-on turkey legs were provided. It was hilarious watching everyone gnaw the meat off the bones – all decorum just went right out the window.

On Wednesday I walked around downtown for a bit and took some photos. I love the Southwestern architecture, especially against the blue, blue desert skies. I followed the Turquoise trail for a while, which runs by many of the landmarks downtown. I saw the St. Augustine Cathedral and the Presidio – then I headed over to 4th Avenue, which is just south of the University of Arizona campus and is filled with funky shops and restaurants. I had lunch at a little cafe, and then went over to the college campus to the Center for Creative Photography, to see a Robert Mapplethorpe portrait exhibit (which was very good).

St. Augustine Cathedral

St. Augustine Cathedral

The Presidio

The Presidio

On Thursday I got up early and drove out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which was kind of a mix between a botanical garden and a zoo. I was pretty awestruck as I drove out of the city into the hills, at the shear number of Saguaro cacti everywhere. They are so alien! And they are just everywhere – hundreds and hundreds of them. I enjoyed walking around the Desert Museum, seeing all the animals and plants, and just taking in the very different and unique environment. After that, I drove south to the San Xavier Reservation and visited the San Xavier del Bac Mission. The mission is such a beautiful, beautiful building – and the whiteness of it against the blue sky made for some very dramatic photographs.

Saguaro cacti at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Saguaro cacti at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Flowers at the Desert Museum

Flowers at the Desert Museum

Saguaros

Saguaros

San Xavier del Bac Mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission

Chapel

Chapel

In the chapel at San Xavier del Bac Misson

In the chapel at San Xavier del Bac Misson

On Friday I picked up Suzanne at 8am and we drove out to Saguaro National Monument for some hiking before it got too hot (Ha! It was still 90 degrees!). We did a five mile round trip hike to Bridal Falls, which were, of course, dried up – but it was still a beautiful hike and we saw some jack rabbits and deer.

Taking a break with Suzanne at the base of dried up Bridal Falls

Taking a break with Suzanne at the base of dried up Bridal Falls

That afternoon we met up with all the girls on the tour for a goodbye lunch for Jen Mathie, one of our ensemble ladies who is leaving at the end of the week to go to India to study yoga. It was so nice to spend the afternoon with such an amazing group of women – I will miss them all when the tour is over.

Jen's goodbye lunch

Jen's goodbye lunch

On Saturday between shows I drove to the airport and picked up Ryan who flew in to hang out with me for our lay-off next week. We went out to dinner and then Ryan came and joined me after the evening show for Shot Night. He is off today on a rental Harley-Davidson to explore the area. We leave Monday for Sedona, where we are spending two nights, then we meet up with Suzanne on Wednesday at the Grand Canyon for a few days. Then we go to Las Vegas for the weekend. Should be fun! Its my last “vacation” before the tour is over and I have to tighten up on the spending 🙂

It was a great week here in Tucson – I looked at the calendar last week and realized that this is my first “new” city in four months (and my last of the tour) – all the places we have been since Spokane have been familiar to me. It was so nice to get back to a new place and feel the excitement of getting to explore again. It sounds weird, but Tucson reminded me a lot of Anchorage in a way – except of course it is the desert as opposed to tundra. It is a city in the middle of the frontier though, and you don’t have to drive very far to get to the wilderness. I think the heat would kill me if I lived here, but it is definitely beautiful country and I really enjoyed my week here.

So, onto my lay-off adventures, and then my final city of the “Spamalot” tour – Costa Mesa! I can’t believe after three years that it is all ending. I wonder what my next adventure will be?