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Plucky 2007

About The Trip

Day 1
Los Angeles to Bettendorf

Day 2
Bettendorf to Cedar Rapids

Day 3
Cedar Rapids to Peoria

Day 4
Peoria to St. Louis

Day 5
St. Louis to Kansas City

Day 6
Kansas City to Council Bluffs

Day 7
Council Bluffs to Mason City

Day 8
Mason City to La Crosse

Day 9
La Crosse to Chicago

Day 10
Chicago to LA

    September 9, 2007

    Do we really have to go back to work and school tomorrow? REALLY?! Okay, fine, but first be sure to read our final Plucky Survivors 2 update for Day 10.

    Now that Plucky Survivors 2 is officially over, we will not be updating this portion of the site on a daily basis, however we will do so periodically so check back every now and then or sign up for the RSS feed. We're already thinking about where to go for Plucky Survivors 3!

    Read the Daily Journal for September 8, 2007

    September 8, 2007

    Plucky Survivors has officially drawn to a close as we have managed to get back to Los Angeles in one piece, which is more than we can say for Plucky Mobile but that story, a recap of our last day in Chicago, and a general wrap-up of the trip will be posted sometime tomorrow, September 9. Thanks to everyone who read along!

    September 7, 2007

    The last big day of driving takes us on a journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape of alien life forms and a death-themed mini-golf course. That's our kind of day!

    Read the Daily Journal for September 7, 2007

    September 6, 2007

    Our second to last day on the road involves Spam, a dragon and a stegosaurus, donuts (of course), and a dead cat in a box. That was a new one even for us. Read all about it.

    Read the Daily Journal for September 6, 2007

    September 5, 2007

    An adventure filled day as we eat ice cream, meet a presidential candidate, eat more ice cream, meet a Hobo Queen, and then sleep in a place where a president slept. Just a typical Plucky day.

    Read the Daily Journal for September 5, 2007

    September 4, 2007

    Another adventure filled day is under our ever expanding belts and we horked down MORE barbecue, saw a couple of great museums, and went a little insane.

    Read the Daily Journal for September 4, 2007

    September 3, 2007

    On Rick's birthday we started with donuts and we ended with barbecue. Oh and there was some other stuff in between. Mark Twain and Kansas City, but really... donuts and barbecue.

    Read the Daily Journal for September 3, 2007

    September 2, 2007

    A jam packed Day 4 features the Plucky Pair getting their kicks on Route 66, honoring honest Abe, and developing a mad crush on a giant piece of steel and concrete. Who knew?

    Read the Daily Journal for September 2, 2007

    September 1, 2007

    We have completed Day 3 of our journey and we really only have one thing to say about it: HOG FEST!! Actually, we have a lot more to say so...

    Read the Daily Journal for September 1, 2007

    August 31, 2007

    An adventurous Day 2 has been completed and it featured dead jazz musicians, very much alive small-town America, something that approaches what might resemble the outer edges of the concept of "too much sugar," and an interesting new rule for Cow!

    Read the Daily Journal for August 31, 2007

    August 30, 2007

    We have arrived, have a new Plucky Mobile, and have seen corn. Lots of it. We're calling Day 1 the warm-up day for Plucky Survivors, but you can read the short recap and see a few pictures of our first day.

    Read the Daily Journal for August 30, 2007

    August 29, 2007

    The bags are packed, repacked, unpacked, packed again, and then packed a final time (unless we wake up at 3 in the morning in a blind panic).

    The Bigger Book o'Fun has been printed, reprinted, thrown away, started over, and printed again and now contains all of our maps, itineraries, hotel confirmations, phone numbers, road games, scavenger hunt lists, and more.

    Weather forecasts have been checked, rechecked, and checked again and, so far, it looks like we're in for nothing but sunshine and moderate temperatures. Saying that has probably just cursed us to hail the size of goats. And locusts.

    The laptop and the digital camera and the webcam and the cell phones and the blackberry devices and all of their respective power cords and peripherals have been gathered and formatted and sorted and crammed into a bag that makes us feel as though we are spies embarking on an espionage mission to some former Slavic republic.

    And so finally, after all of this, we are ready to embark on Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Midwest Express!

    For the newbies in the crowd, here's how this will work... every evening before we go to bed at our destintation for that day, we will write up what we saw, download all of the photos of what we saw, and post it all on the site in the respective daily journal pages, which you can access in the left nav. This page and the RSS feed will be updated every day as well with a brief overview of what we did. In between it all, we may... and we stress MAY... be doing some webcam reports if we see something that makes us go "oooo, I wish I had a video camera."

    All of this is predicated on the theory that we will actually have something interesting to write about (pretty safe bet) and not be too tired to actually write it and post it (not taking bets). But at the very least if either of those things happen, we'll tell you about it and post the next day.

    The next time you hear from us we'll be in Bettendorf, Iowa. See you on the road.... Plucky Survivors starts TOMORROW!!

    August 28, 2007

    It occurs to us that in these updates we tend to focus on the "See America" part of Plucky Survivors See America and not much on the Plucky Survivors aspect. That's in part because it's all part of the pluck, you understand, not to whinge about our health issues, and partly because Mary actually writes about all her biologically disgusting matters in vivid and unwelcome detail on

    But we thought we might briefly discuss it now, if only because our situations have changed a bit from last year. Well, not Mary's precisely, in that last year she was in chemo treatment for metastasized breast cancer and this year she's in chemo treatment for metastasized breast cancer, because that window of remission was much too short.

    But the difference is that while last year, PSSA took place during her chemo off week, this year part of it takes place while she's doing chemo, because her latest treatment is a series of twice a day pills. So this means making sure she has a full stomach twice a day, not to mention some noshing for stomach issues--so not hard on PSSA, but a little more challenging because while she is all sorts of kinds of eater, she's not a big breakfast fan. Look for boxes of the appropriately named Life cereal to ride along in Plucky Mobile. And look for Rick saying things like "please keep that away from me" because these days, with his own medical dramas to deal with, he and food are not on speaking terms much before noon.

    To add real drama -- because finding food for Mary to eat and avoiding food entirely for Rick isn't what Plucky Survivors consider a "problem" -- Mary's meds cause something called Hand-Foot Syndrome, and that makes walking sometimes a challenge. All the more so because she needed to have a toenail removed today, less than 48 hours from departure. "Eh," said Rick, as she apologized for her diminished mobility, "the toenail was plucked! It's thematic!" Also, road trips take place in cars and drive-thrus exist for a reason.

    As for Rick, he won't "whinge" about his health problems primarily because he doesn't know what that means. "Mary is the smart one," says Rick, "Which by all rights should make me the pretty one."

    Just play along, people. It's easier that way.

    But Rick's situation has changed since Plucky Survivors 1 in that he now has a bunch of stuff wrong with him as opposed to just the one he was dealing with last year, because he's competitive that way. Several hospital visits and way too many tubes down his throat have made 2007 less than entertaining, although he did get good drugs on many occasions -- something Mary can attest to since she had entire conversations with him that he has absolutely no recollection of. She swears she didn't make him sign anything.

    Anywho, the medications he has to take to keep him Plucky-ing along are causing some pre-trip concern since... well, we'll spare you the gory details but let's just say we will be eying road maps to ensure that we are never too far from a bathroom. Of course Rick has suggested we turn that into a Plucky project by comparing the cleanliness of gas station bathrooms across the midwest and then award some sort of prize by the end of the trip. A golden plunger, perhaps. Or we might add something to the scavenger hunt list - toilet paper rolls with words like CITGO or SHELL on them. We'll think about it.

    And if there are no bathrooms nearby? "Eh," Rick says. "It's Iowa. If it comes to it, we just go bang on someone's door. People there are so nice they'll not only let us use the facilities, they'll probably bake us a pie by the time we're done."

    We promise this is, knock wood and also pork, the only time you will hear much in the way of this kind of chat on this blog. It's much more fun to write about barbeque. Besides, we just heard tale of a friend of a friend (and now honorary Plucky Survivor) who may be reading this who recently finished chemo for colon cancer and compared to that, our stuff is just a bunch of whining. Or whinging. Take your pick.

    Two days!

    August 27, 2007

    Somebody asked Rick earlier today what was his favorite moment of the first Plucky Survivors trip and while there were many and it is very hard to narrow down to a single favorite, the moment that keeps popping to mind in the story retelling happened on his birthday as we were looking for Dinosaur World. It went a little something like this:

      So we drive and we drive, and we can’t really find Dinosaur World, and we wonder why there aren’t any signs for it when there are signs welcoming us to the friendly and perhaps poorly named Beaver, Arkansas, and we reorient ourselves on the map and we try again, and we finally find the place…and it’s closed. Very, very closed. As in, it doesn’t look like anyone’s been around in, oh, a month of Sundays, give or take a couple of years. Grass is growing over the gravel you take into the place, pieces of the kangaroo statue (no, we don’t know why) near the entrance are falling off, and the whole place is reeking with the stench of neglect.

      Remember that scene in the Chevy Chase museum “Vacation” where they travel halfway across the country in the Family Truckster to visit Wally World and it’s closed? We’re pretty sure that the expression on their faces is similar to the expression on ours when we saw abandoned Dinosaur World. Only ours was accompanied by an “Oh, hell no!” as we affirmed that we had come all this way to see crappy concrete dinosaur bliss and damn it we’re going to see crappy concrete dinosaur bliss!

      And we weren’t going to let a little thing like a chain across the road and the camera ready staging for a new version of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” stop us.

      So we look around for guys with shotguns and then slip under the chain and hike in.

      There’s a couple of concrete cavemen looking not at all inviting, a big King Kong (nope, still don’t know why) and there, waaay off in the distance, is what looks like a T Rex. Problem is, to get there, we have to cross one of those swaying rope bridges like on Tom Sawyer’s island or pretty much every “Indiana Jones” movie. It crosses an actual (okay, small, but actual) creek gorge and did we mention it sways when you walk across it and that Rick doesn’t like heights?

      Parenthetically, Rick is suddenly realizing that he is coming off as a fussy, whiny crybaby in some of these stories and insists that those who know him will say that most of the time he isn’t like that. Much.

      Rick almost chickened out but wound up going first across the stupid thing without embarrassing himself too much by screaming like a nine-year-old girl, but that was only because he didn’t want to further draw attention to the whole trespassing thing. We had no idea if the thing would hold or not, though we did feel better when we realized it was held up by steel cables not rope

      Anyway, note the photo of Rick with the T-Rex. We risked life and limb and our record of no misdemeanor trespassing citations to get it, so enjoy it.

    Rick has decided that every year on his birthday from now on he wants to break some minor law. We'll see what happens this year.

    You can go back read our entire 2006 journey by clicking on the Plucky Survivors 2006 link in the left nav at any time.

    Meanwhile, Plucky Survivors 2007 starts in THREE DAYS!! How did that happen?

    August 26, 2007

    Preparations for Plucky Survivors continue as Rick puts the final touches on the Bigger Book o'Fun and makes a bunch of new CDs to listen to in the car. Although he wasn't as ambitious as he was last year when he made 40 CDs all with wacky themes like "Before Disco Came Along and Ruined Everything" (songs from the '60s and '70s), "Chicks Who Could Kick Your A@#" (music from female artists who could, well, you know), and "Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Angst (think Nirvana and Live), he still managed to burn off another dozen new CDs for this year including:

    • Road Songs - "Mustang Sally" by Wilson Pickett; "Running on Empty" by Jackson Browne, "Slow Ride" by Foghat and more.
    • Route 66 - An entire CD of different versions of Route 66 for the day we drive it including cuts by Nat "King" Cole, John Mayer, Sammy Davis Jr., Nancy Sinatra, Chuck Berry, Buckwheat Zydeco, and The Rolling Stones among others.
    • Chicks Who Could Kick Your A@# Volume 2 - Just because.
    • Idolatry - Music from people who have been contestants on American Idol
    • Red, White, and Chicago Blues - a bunch of great blues music from artists like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy mixed in with modern and classic American "protest" songs like "Wake Up, Everybody" from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.
    • Blender - a CD full of mash-ups
    • And three full CDs of Prince music because we will be in Minnesota and that's a good enough reason for Rick.
    Now, Mary's husband Steve was going to burn some CDs but thus far hasn't. Rick has decided we shouldn't talk about that right now because there may be a trial and he'd be called to testify against Mary and it'll all be downhill from there.

    In other random news, Rick found out that the same cemetery that Bix Biederbecke is buried in is where a bunch of his relatives are interred. So in addition to looking for a dead jazz musician, we will also be looking for Rick's great grandmother whom he never met (that he remembers) but we figure now is as good a time as any.

    Four Days!!

    August 25, 2007

    The 10th and final itinerary has been posted where you can read all about our mad dash around Chicago, our mad dash to the airport, and our mad dash home to watch television. It's a long story, read all about it by clicking on the Day 10 link to the left or by clicking here.

    So at five days and counting we start to shift into panic mode as we eye the stacks of things we were supposed to do before we left that we haven't gotten done yet because we were having too much fun thinking about Plucky Survivors. You know, things like work and school and packing. Well, Mary has packed already ("supposedly" Rick said with an arched eyebrow) but Rick hasn't even checked to see if he still owns a suitcase, which tells you a lot about how often he travels.

    So if you hear screams of panic coming from the general Los Angeles area, don't worry, it's just us. Either that or Lindsey got behind the wheel of a car again.

    Are we eating Chicago dogs yet?

    August 23, 2007

    One week and counting... hard to believe we're so close to Plucky Survivors 2. We can almost taste that Chicago Dog already - it's going to taste like freedom, you know.

    We still have one more intinerary day to post; that'll be happening over the weekend probably and will include all of the things we're going to attempt to cram into 20 hours or so in Chicago before we have to get back on a plane and fly home.

    In the meantime, we are putting the final touches on our already existing routes, making a few modifications here and there as people send us notes about things we have to see. For instance in Davenport, Iowa on Day 2 we'll be visiting the gravesite and memorial for Bix Biederbecke, a jazz cornet player who hailed from the town and is one of Mary's favorites. She even named one of her dogs after the man, so you know it's serious. We haven't included that on the formal route plan listed on the site so if you think you know everything we're going to do just because you have reviewed the itineraries, you're going to be one sad Plucky Fan if you don't read along to hear about the things we left off our announcements.

    The Bigger Book o' Fun is also nearing completion. This is a binder full of routes, maps, car games, lists of music, and more that we took with us everywhere during Plucky Survivors 1. Rick recognizes that a hundred pages or so of things like "US34 to SR14, turn left" are the very defintion of OCD, but he is determined that there will not be another incident like last year where we were sucked into a vortex near Branson, Missouri in which roads and towns bore suddenly no resemblance to what they were supposed to be according to his carefully plotted routes.

    One of the more fun items in the book will be our official Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Midwest Express Scavenger Hunt items. Our beloved friends including Steve (Plucky Husband of Mary), Nettie, Dave, Diana, Wesly, Chuck, another Steve (not the husband but Plucky nevertheless), and Audrey have supplied us with a list of things we need to be on the lookout for. Here is just a sampling:

    • Photo of an award for best barbecued ribs, 5 point
    • Any item with a pig, hog, bacon, or pork logo or theme, 5 points
    • Menu from a restaurant with the word pig in its name, 10 points
    • Any wearable item with a pig, hog, bacon or pork logo or theme, 25 points
    • Photos with life size replicas of real animals or people, 25 points
    • Handi-wipe packs with a company logo, 25 points each
    • Any food item with image of an American president from the state you’re in (ie, Truman chocolate bars purchased in Missouri ; Lincoln mints in Illinois ), 25 points
    • Photo of Mary and Rick posing with pitchfork a la American Gothic, 25 points
    • Photo of Mary and Rick wearing Wisconsin 'cheeseheads,’ 25 points
    • Photos with oversize replicas of real animals or people, 50 points
    • Hat or other headgear with oversized ear(s) of corn, 50 points
    • Photos of vehicles with a giant roof ornament, 50 points (50 point bonus if it’s a cheese wedge, cob of corn, or pig)
    • Photos with any size replicas of extinct or fictional animals, 75 points
    • Photo touching any barnyard animal, 75 points
    • Photo with World's Largest Anything, 100 points
    • Snow globe featuring a local that doesn’t get snow, 100 points
    • Floatie pen featuring a pig or hog as the moving element, 100 points
    • Floatie pen featuring bacon as the moving element, 200 points
    • Speeding ticket, 500 points
    • Photo with cop issuing ticket, 1,500 points
    • Velvet painting of any famous living person, 1,000 points
    • Velvet painting of any famous dead person, 2,500 points
    • Velvet painting of any famous person, living or deceased, and Jesus, 10,000 points

    August 22, 2007

    Some of you who are new to the Plucky Experience may be wondering what this "Cow" thing is all about. No, for once it has nothing to do with our desire to find and consume meat products. Instead Cow is, dare we say it, the best roadtrip game ever. Rick found it on line before PSSA 1, and we thought it a keen way to kill a few minutes here and there. Little did we know that Cow consumes you and that Cow can not just kill a few minutes, but whole hours and even long lasting friendships. Cow is not for sissies. At least not the way we--or anyone else, we suspect--plays it.

    Cow is simple enough--or so it seems. Passenger and driver count cows on their side of the road. The one with the most cows wins. Easy, right? Except for the spoiler. Pass a cemetery on your side and you lose all your cows. We are here to tell you there are not just a lot of cows on the highways and byways (well, mostly byways) of America, but also a lot of cemeteries. And sometimes, your cow total is greater than the number of graves. But it doesn't matter. Cow has no mercy.

    Neither do participants. We had to make up a few extra rules to cover contingencies and practicalities. For example, cows have to be counted out loud. You can't just guess at a number (52!), you have to count from one to fifty-two, and if you didn't get all your cows in your count, too bad. A practical variation on this allows the driver to count by twos or even threes (as long as they really see three cows at a glance), so that his/her attention isn't taken away from the road for too long. Another practical one states that if we are driving the same stretch of road (a return trip back to main route, for example) where cows and cemeteries had already been counted, Cow was suspended until a new piece of road. Cow also gets suspended during Mary's car naps, which seems unfair to Rick, but he's been saved many a time by a graveyard that went by uncounted. For that matter, if cows aren't spotted by the person who could count them, well, too bad for you. The other occupant isn't obligated to help your score. Conversely, anyone who sees the graveyard can call it. Keeping quiet about your graveyard is one way to cheat at Cow, as you hope the other passenger doesn't see it. Another cheat, not that Mary is accusing anyone of anything, consists of speeding up the car when you are the driver and the cows aren't on your side, and slowing down when they are to allow for greater ease of counting. There are some (Rick) who wouldn't call this cheating, but strategy.

    See how complicated it is already? Cow is not for the faint hearted.

    But it took one of our all time favorite Plucky Readers, Beth, to open our eyes to the true possibilities of Cow.

      I read about Cow online thru Frommers' links while we were in Lake Louise or someplace, and we thought "what a Great Invention, but it needs more."

      Here is how we played Cow. It has kept us busy for many hours, in Alberta, BC, and more recently down in California when Dennis had to go to San Diego for training for a week, and we scooted off for a long weekend in the deserts.

        (1) Count the cows on your side of the road.

        (2) A cemetery on your side takes your count to zero.

        (3) A donut shop on your side means you acquire your opponent's cows. All of them. (see below)

        (4) If you see a Hummer first, your opponent's cows turn pink. Or, you can "de-pink" YOUR cows.

        (5) If you see a vanity plate, your cows get gold collars.

        (6) When the car goes UNDER a railroad track, the driver's cows go negative. Over the railroad, and the passenger's cows go negative. (Second time for either event, the effect reverses.) Argue about whether additional cows are additive, or merely in a separate class.

        (7) If you see a car carrying a... kayak, one of your cows learns to talk. Argue about whether a canoe counts.

        (8) Argue about whether a sign with a cow on it counts as a cow. Argue about whether you can collect signs saying "DIP".

        (9) If you see an Element or a PT Cruiser, your opponent's cows are miniaturized. Or maybe your cows are miniaturized. Hmmmm...

        (10) Make up additional rules as needed. Forget the rules. Argue about the rules. Argue about how many pink miniature talking cows you have as compared to how many negative cows with gold collars your opponent has. NOTE: (this game is for adults only)

    Beth and Dennis, you get the Gestalt of Cow and we salute you. We intend to impliment many of your rules and add some of our own.

    Meanwhile, the legend of Cow grows, as Plucky New Orleans Home Co-Owner and Official Plucky Welcome Home Team member Diana files this celebrity Cow report:

      So, I'm at the Greek Theater last night to see kd lang and Lyle Lovett. During patter, Lyle explains that when he and his cello player John Hagan (sp?) met in the 70's, they bonded after discovering they shared a Lutheran upbringing. He tells this amongst other witty stage repartee playing in L.A., then about taking childhood road trips to L.A. and elsewheres. Hagan explains that during road trips to Lutheran bible camp, the kids passed the time playing COWS (yes, plural). Including the cemetery rule, in which you don't just lose your cows... they die. Presumably the camp counselors weave some frightening lesson into the game. There was no mention of cupcakes OR donuts, so clearly some rules are regional. The whole thing had the audience howling. Since I already knew about Cow, and the cemetery kicker, I didn't howl till the cows died. It was a bit of a shocking turn, in the good way.
    Cow. Eight days and then....GAME ON.
    August 21, 2007

    As promised the Day 9 intinerary has been posted. You can view it by clicking on the Day 9 link at the left or by clicking here.

    A few other updates... so last year at about this time we were stressing out about a hurricane that was headed toward our intended route and selfishly wondering how it might ruin our trip. Luckily for us and the entire Gulf Coast, it veered off and did nothing.

    So this year we notice there's been a little bit of rain up in the neck of the woods where we're going to be and by little bit of rain we mean like 19 inches, with flooding, roads and bridges washed out, and major damage to towns and homes. We'd like to say we were distracted by everything we had to do and that's why we didn't really put that together with the fact that Mary's sister Deb lives in the area (we're staying at her house on one night of the trip). Or maybe we're just awful people. Whatever.

    Anyway, while things are scary there and nervous eyes are watching the sky hoping against more precipitation, we now know at the very least Mary's sister and her house are fine and we're thinking good thoughts for the rest of the residents of the area. You can blame us because apparently our vacation plans make the weather gods unhappy. We're pretty sure that if we had gone ahead with the Plucky Nor'Easter that Maine would be experiencing the first ever blizzard in August right about now.

    Meanwhile, Mary keeps bragging about how she is all packed and Rick keeps silently cursing her name under his breath. And Rick keeps saying that 351 miles in one day is not that big of a deal and Mary silently curses him under her breath. We're trying to figure out who we can both curse under our breaths at together but the list is too long to narrow down. We'll let you know.

    9 days and counting!!

    August 20, 2007

    The Day 9 Itinerary will be posted tomorrow night!

    August 19, 2007

    Every day I get a little bit closer to feeling fine... Our mantra for so many things.

    August 18, 2007

    We promised you Day 8 and we're delivering Day 8 - the itinerary has been posted! This one involves processed meat products, toys, futons, and a MYSTERY STOP. Find out more by clicking on the Day 8 link to the left or by clicking here.

    By the way, in case you haven't been paying attention, we kind of like food. Our mantra for last year's trip was "the first cheeseburger will taste like freedom" and this year it's "the first Chicago dog will taste like freedom." Along the route we have already decided on a few food musts including some Kansas City BBQ and Rick's favorite Maid-Rites but if you know of some places along our route that we just can't miss, send Mary or Rick an e-mail, won't you?

    Day 9 itinerary and more musings on packing and the Plucky Survivors 2 Bigger Book O'Fun coming soon.

    August 17, 2007

    As a travel writer, and a trip organizer by inclination and circumstance, Mary's atypical response to Plucky Survivors planning is to leave it all to Rick. So much so that while she may have a somewhat vague notion of what we will be doing along the way, she barely knows in which states these events will take place, and certainly has no idea of the route until each morning, when she gets in the car and sometimes not even then. To his credit, Rick doesn't mind this, since apart from the occasional "350 miles in one day? What?" reaction to the day's itinerary, Mary is full aware that those who don't plan don't complain. And even when she can't help it (no, really--350 miles?) once Rick assures her there will be snacks, she settles down right away.

    For Rick's part, he has long since accepted the fact that he is a control freak and therefore Mary's quiet acquiescence to his mad scientist like experiment of roads and routes and itnieraries and maps (that wind up doing no good if you're near Branson) works out quite well for him. And what Mary doesn't know won't hurt her, he figures. And as for that whole 350 miles in one day thing... 350 miles is nothing! Why, he remembers going on road trips with his family kid where they would do 350 miles before lunch... uphill... both ways... in the snow!

    Meanwhile, Mary's packing mojo--or desperate need to do something other than the paper she should be writing--kicked in and she announced today that she is done packing. She assures everyone that this was less a smug attempt to make Rick look bad than a method of weather jinxing. She has packed assuming that the smothering heat wave currently centered right on the path of PSSA will continue through the trip. By packing for Saharan heat, she has guaranteed the day before we leave, a cold front will enter the picture, calling for last minute wardrobe chaos. See how giving she is?

    The Day 8 itinerary will be posted this weekend. 13 days. Just saying.

    August 16, 2007

    Mary is breaking down and getting a DVR. It's causing quite the stir in the Herzcog/Hochman household. More on that another time.

    But for now, a couple of updates. We have updated the Day 6 itinerary now that we have confirmed where we are staying for the night. Our friends at Harrah's are kindly putting us up in Kansas City on Day 5 and now they are also inviting us to spend the night at their hotel in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Day 6. Be sure to check out the updated itinerary.

    Also we have now posted the itinerary for Day 7, which will involve ice cream, bunnies, popcorn, grottos, hobos, and the day the music died. Read all about it here.

    We're going to be posting the Day 8 and Day 9 itineraries in the next few days so stay tuned.

    TWO WEEKS! We have way too much to do between now and then. Seriously. Not the least of which is the fact that Mary is making Rick "test pack" because she's convinced he can do 10 days without having to check a bag. Rick is now convinced that Mary doesn't know him AT ALL!

    Did we mention? TWO WEEKS!?

    August 13, 2007

    Proving that timing is everything and we have the worst timing in the world, we have just found out today that we have run headlong into a potential scheduling problem that involves Plucky Survivors See America and a star of "Desperate Housewives." Intrigued, aren't you?

    You see, Mary wrote this book called Figures of Echo, a novel about a young girl named Echo who finds herself in the middle of two fathers - one, the man she grew up calling "Dad" and the other her biological father who turns up unexpectedly. Mary doesn't like the shameless self promotion stuff, but since Rick is writing this particular entry he can say that it is a wonderful book and you really should check it out. You can read more about it and purchase it in the Books section of

    So anyway, Figures of Echo got optioned by Lifetime Television and has been turned into a movie for that network called "Custody," starring James Denton of "Desperate Housewives," Rob Morrow of "Numb3rs" and "Northern Exposure" fame, and the beautiful and talented Kay Panabaker of "Summerland" and "Nancy Drew." All we really knew is that it would be airing "sometime in September."

    Well, we got the date today - September 8, 2007 on the Lifetime Television network at 9pm. Do watch, won't you? Because if you do it might make up for the fact that Mary and Rick might possibly miss it because of Plucky Survivors See America. September 8 is the day we're flying back to Los Angeles and our plane gets in at 8pm so the only way we're going to make it in time to see the opening credit of "Based on the novel 'Figures of Echo' by Mary Herczog" is if the plane isn't delayed, the bags come to the carousel really fast, and whoever is picking us up at the airport has a casual relationship with things like speed limits and red lights. Any one of those things goes down and you'll be seeing the movie before the person who made the whole thing up in the first place does.

    But since the foremost quality of a Plucky Survivor is, in fact, an overabundance of pluck, we're convinced it's all going to work out fine. No, really.

    So buy the book, watch the movie, and enjoy.

    Meanwhile, a few other Plucky Survivors See America updates... We have now posted the itinerary for Day 6, which comes with a huge caveat. We may be changing this particular leg of our itinerary because we're kind of fickle that way. If we do, we'll let you know in a future update but for now the stuff on the Day 6 page is what we're planning.

    Also, we'll be posting the Day 7 itinerary soon but wanted to let you know about another lovely place that has invited us to stay with them. It's the Decker House Bed and Breakfast in Mason City, Iowa. Not only is it a beautifully restored historic building, but it was once the home of Jacob Decker who made his fortune from his local meat packing plant. Those who know us know our affinity for all things meat so we feel it was pre-ordained, in a way.

    We're also coordinating with various relatives of both Mary's and Rick's who live along the route so you'll get to meet Plucky Sisters, Aunts, and Uncles! You don't want to miss that.

    Two weeks, three days, and counting!

    August 10, 2007

    More on packing... it has relevance, we promise.

    While it is true Mary brought no clothes from L.A. for PSSA 1, since she would just use her NOLA based wardrobe, her suitcase was not empty. It had nicely wrapped presents for Rick's birthday, all carefully planned for presentation throughout the big day, thematically timed. (Like the mini desk sized dino-themed sandbox just before heading into Dinosaur World. We still have to make little cardboard cut outs of our photos to stand up in it.) That is, it HAD carefully wrapped presents when she entered LAX. By the time she got to NOLA, said gifts had been torn open by security, and the wrapping paper replaced, crumbled, in the suitcase. Did you know that paper could be a sarcastic statement? Mary does now. Anyway, she rewrapped with newspaper, which is why Rick's presents were wrapped even more poorly than usual.

    It seems that wrapped presents are a no-no, even in checked luggage. Because security X rays can't go through paper?

    Whether or not Mary will have learned that particular lesson this year or is saying "you know what, my presence in the car is birthday present enough" is yet to be seen, but here's the relevance we promised... the Day 5 itinerary has been posted! Day 5 is September 3, 2007, which just so happens to be Rick's 41st birthday, and he has already told Mary that he will not be digging in dirt again this year unless there is a sizeable amount of cash buried underneath.

    Click on the Day 5 link to the left or just click here.

    Less than three weeks?!!?

    August 8, 2007

    Before we get to today's update, we just wanted to let everyone know that yes... we are aware that the site has been having some problems in the last few days. Now before you go getting all blame-y and suggest we broke the Internet again, this time it really wasn't our fault. Our web hosting company tells us that the server CancerChick lived on took a swan dive into that great computer scrap heap in the sky (cushioned by a big pile of Commodore 64s, Beta-Max machines, and CB radios) so they had to move us to a new one. They say it's all fixed and we want to believe them but Rick has worked in the Internet world for too long to really have any faith in those consarned mechanical doohickeys so if you read this and come back to the site later and it's not there, try again and thank you for your patience. Hum "The Girl From Ipanema" while you wait.

    So it's three weeks and one day until Plucky Survivors start and things are very rapidly falling into place. More itineraries on the way in the next couple of days but we wanted to let you know about another cool hotel we've been invited to stay at. On our final night of the trip we will wind up back where we started in the Windy City but actually staying a night this time at The Inn of Chicago, which looks just lovely and is very well located near the Navy Pier and Magnificent Mile. Since we're going to have less than a day before we have to jump on a plane and fly home, this will help us take in more of Chicago than we had thought we'd be able to.

    By the way, our hosts for the evening have two other properties in Chicago - The Allerton Hotel and the Chicago City Centre Hotel & Sports Club. They look nice too but we figured it would be inefficient to sleep in three different hotels in one night.

    About that packing. In the past, Mary has prided herself on her packing abilities. With the annoying nonchalance of the regular traveler (and travel writer), she strolls on to planes with only a carry on for a month's journey. "Two pairs of pants, five shirts, and a sweater!" she tells everyone, whether they care or not.

    Please note that for the last Plucky Survivors, Mary totally cheated because the trip started from her second home in New Orleans, which meant she could not only delay packing until moments before departure, but said "packing" could consist of simply dumping the contents of her New Orleans closet into the trunk, treating Plucky Mobile like a big giant suitcase on wheels. Which is only the letter, but not the spirit, of "one suitcase." Not that she did that or anything.

    But a few weeks ago, Mary lost the ability to pack. It's like that thing that happens to golfers where they lose their swing and their confidence. She's lost her packing mojo, her packing serenity center. Right before departing on a two week trip to England, she experienced a packing meltdown so profound, her London-based friend Paula had to hold her hand long distance, assuring her that if she packed incorrectly, London really did have a few shops wherein she could correct matters. (Here Mary notes that her crisis was justified; during her trip, the weather cycled through all four seasons every three hours, all day long, and thus no matter what she wore, she was incorrectly dressed most of the day. She was comforted by her English friend John who said, cheerfully and Britishly, "No one can pack for an English spring. It's impossible. You have to bring everything in your closet." Exactly the problem.)

    And of course, PSSA 2 is not starting in New Orleans. Mary's smug glances at Rick's usual pre-trip clothing angst have vanished in a puff of hypocrisy, and she is beginning to tremble and search for outlets all along the route.

    Please disregard how we look in photos.

    We'll be posting the Day 5 itinerary from St. Louis to Kansas City later this week. Come back to check it out or just sign up for our free RSS Feed and we'll tell you when it has been posted.

    Until then!

    August 6, 2007

    Sing it with us...

      If you ever plan to motor west
      Travel my way
      Take the highway that's the best
      Get your kicks on...
    Yes, on Day 4 of Plucky Survivors See America 2 we will be traveling a stretch of the famed Route 66 through central Illinois, with stops for donuts, a presidential library, a couple of unusual museums, more donuts, a blues festival, and probably more donuts. It's all on the way to our destination for the evening in St. Louis, Missouri where we will spending the night at the Ritz-Carlton, which we're pretty jazzed about.

    The itinerary with a map and more details has been posted. You can read it by clicking on the Day 4 link in the navigation on the left or by clicking here.

    Have we started packing yet?

    August 2, 2007

    There's an old Hollywood saying, believed to have been coined by no less than Groucho Marx, that goes: "Will it play in Peoria?" We're going to find out if Plucky Survivors will play in Peoria as it becomes the stop for our third night on the road.

    We'll be staying at the beautiful Mark Twain Hotel after a nearly 200 mile jaunt through Iowa and Illinois involving lots of barbecue. Want to know more? We've posted the itinerary for the day which you can read by clicking on the Day 3 link on the left nav or by clicking here.

    Are we are on vacation yet?!

    July 31, 2007

    Although we don't yet have a place to hang our hats at the end of it, we have pretty much figured out what Day 2 of Plucky Survivors is going to look like. The itinerary along with an overview map and links to websites for the things we are planning on seeing is now posted.

    Read all about our proposed route and highlights of the day's activities by clicking on the Day 2 link on the left nav or by clicking here.

    30 Days and Counting...

    July 29, 2007

    We have posted the overview intinerary for the Day 1 of Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Midwest Express. To be honest, it isn't all that exciting since the bulk of the day will be us in airports and on a plane getting to the Midwest so we can actually start the Express part. But there is one cool stop we are making in the Chicago area as soon as we get our hands on Plucky Mobile. We don't want to ruin the surprise but it involves a funeral home and a sport. Take a look at our route, highlights, and first night hotel accommodations by clicking on the Day 1 link on the left nav or by clicking here.

    Plucky Survivors starts in one month!

    July 26, 2007

    For those of you who may not know what this whole Plucky Survivors thing is, we've just updated our "About the Trip" page for the 2007 adventure. Click on the link at the left or click here.

    More details about each stop of the intinerary are coming soon but in case you can't wait, here's the overview route:

    July 25, 2007

    Just a real quick note to let y'all know that we are still hard at work on our itinerary but should be ready to announce the final route in the next week or two. Things are rapidly falling into place with a night now confirmed with our friends at Harrah's North Kansas City Hotel & Casino.

    You may be sensing a theme here and you'd be right. Since Mary is the author of not just one but TWO of the best-selling Las Vegas guidebooks and Rick the author of a third and a syndicated columnist through his website, we thought it would be fun to see what the casinos and hotels in places other than The Strip are like. Watch for more announcements coming soon!

    Oh, and by the way... We're already getting hungry so if you are reading this and have any suggestions for places in the region where we absolutely must eat or we will quite simply die from the shame of it, send an e-mail to Mary or Rick.

    Plucky Survivors 2 starts in 5 weeks!!

    July 22 2007

    Plucky Survivors has gone high tech!

    Starting today you can sign up for our RSS feed. What's an RSS feed? Well, it's this magical Internet thing that will allow you to be notified via your web browser or services like My Yahoo! or Google when we have updated this page.

    How does it work? We have no idea. But you can give it a shot and see for yourself by clicking on the RSS/XML buttons in the left nav. Follow the instructions and you should be set.

    We'll update the feed every time we update this page leading up to Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Midwest Express and of course every day when we're actually on the trip.

    We're still deep in planning mode although we're excited to announce that we have our first night taken care of. The good folks at the Isle of Capri Hotel and Casino in Bettendorf, Iowa have invited us to stay with them and we think that's just a great way to kick off Plucky Survivors, although Mary is a little worried that she will have to physically drag Rick away from the slot machines to hit the road the next morning. Rick insists that he has more self-control than that but he won't actually look you in the eye when he says it.

    More updates as they happen! Plucky Survivors 2 starts in just under 6 weeks!!

    July 6, 2007

    Hey Plucky Survivors friends and family! The plane tickets are booked, the Plucky Mobile has been reserved, and the itinerary has been plotted. And then re-plotted. And then plotted a third time. Then there were tears. But then, finally, success! We think. And as much as Plucky Survivors See America 1 was the "BEST. TRIP. EVER!" we think #2 is going to outdo it.

    We're not quite ready to share the entire itinerary yet (because we may change our minds another four dozen times) but you can get a clue about our thinking by checking the links on the left. None of them actually work yet, but it'll get ya excited, we think.

    We have redone this portion of the website in preparation for The Midwest Express. You can still read all about Plucky Survivors 1, where we traveled more than 2,300 miles across the Southern US by clicking the Plucky Survivors 2006 link. That one actually works.

    We've also added the links you see above here, which allow you to do something for very little - a mouse click or a micro-loan that can make huge differences in the lives of people around the world. We hope when you come back to visit us in the lead up to Plucky Survivors 2 and then during the actual trip, you'll take a moment to visit them by clicking on one of the links above.

    More updates to come!

    July 1, 2007

    The countdown has begun, Plucky family and friends. Plucky Survivors See America 2 is coming in less than 2 months!!

    We know we said we were going to do the Plucky Nor'Easter this time but a variety of things caused us to change our minds, mostly food. You see there's this thing in Illinois over Labor Day weekend called Hog Fest and there was absolutely no reason we could think of to not ditch all of our carefully researched New England trip plans to put together a new itinerary, tentatively titled: Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Midwest Express.

    We will be making a mad two-thousand mile dash around the upper midwest including Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa again, Nebraska, more Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to visit some must-see attractions like the aforementioned Hog Fest, the world's biggest ball of popcorn, and the Spam Museum. What could be more fun than that?!

    Plucky Survivors 2 kicks off in late August. Check back here for periodic updates since we have already started to stress about what to pack.

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