I don't have a travel story to send, but it's something I'm planning to do starting next week. My wife's cousin is coming to stay with us in Los Angeles (but then after he's settled, he's going to get his own place), so I'm flying to NYC this Sunday night to drive cross-country with him. I've decided to keep a journal/diary kind of thing about the trip. I wanted the "story" to have some kind of theme and I finally came up with one yesterday: in search of UFOs and Elvis. We're definitely stopping at Devil's Tower and in Las Vegas, so I think my chances are pretty strong of seeing something interesting. If this sounds like it might be of interest, let me know. I'm taking my PowerBook with me and typing it all into here. I also have an AOL account, and I'll be using that to send out messages. Let me know if you'd like to hear anything on the road-we're taking a northern route.
(Yes, I spell my name with an O)
Los Angeles, CA
I haven't left yet--I'm still here in L.A.I'm travelling cross-country with my wife's cousin, JP, and the head gaskets on his car now need to be replaced. It's being done starting tomorrow or Tuesday, and should be done by Wednesday night.
Just finished the first day of the cross-country travel. It went pretty well. We're in Cleveland. Very nice place. We're staying somewhere decent tonight--courtesy of my Entertainment Book, we're saving 50% at The Stouffer Renaissance Hotel. (Very posh, I must say.)
We left NYC at 12:00. Got gas in New Jersey. Had lunch somewhere in Pennysylvania. Got to Cleveland at 9:00. We drove about 450 miles today. It was still light when we got here. Forgot about things like that happening at the end of time zones!
Had a tough time actually getting to the hotel because every street was blocked-off. Turns out the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra was playing right outside the hotel in a big square to several thousand people. We're getting ready for the 4th of July--so you know what that means: the orchestra performed The 1812 Overture and shot off fireworks and lasers. After that, they played The Star-Spangled Banner and shot off more fireworks. JP got a tad nervous because some fireworks debris started to land on our heads and legs. (You see, this square is surrounded by buildings, and they shot the fireworks off right IN the square over everyone's heads and pretty close to all the buildings! It was great!)
Anyway, since we're staying at a nice place tonight, we're going to probably use the Exercise Club here in the morning. Then, we'll head toward Chicago. We'll stay either there or Madison, Wisconsin. That's it for today. Until I next log on...
PS: We saw a terrific play on Broadway called LOVE! HONOUR! COMPASSION! Guess who appeared onstage singing "Blue Suede Shoes?" Is he everywhere????????
We left Cleveland around noon--it was a great-looking city. The traffic out of Ohio was unbelievable! It took us over an hour just to go the 5 miles before the first of MANY tolls we had to pay yesterday. We had lunch at the worst McDonald's ever--somewhere on the highway in Indiana. We missed the turn-off for the Loop in Chicago, so we kinda skipped Illinois.
We got off at Kenosha, but it was no-go for a place to stay. Milwaukee didn't look too inviting, so we drove onward (via Route 94) to Madison. Had pizza at a decent pizza place on State Street. UW was down the street, so Madison looked like a cool place to stay. Sorry--"no room at the inn" is an appropriate quote here. It seems Madison put on a big to-do fireworks display and everyone in Wisconsin was there! We drove onward, stopped too many times to remember, and found EVERY place we stopped at full--no vacancies were to be had in Wisconsin. No one at the hotels seemed to know why. We ended up sleeping 3.5 hours in the car at a rest area in Menomonie- almost at the end of the state.
Got up early, ate in River Falls, I looked for a t-shirt (I'm trying to get one from every state we stay in), and drove on to Minneapolis. We actually found a room here and could check in right away. We took a little nap, just got ready, and are now preparing to check out the largest mall in the world--The Mall of America.
Talk to ya later...
Hi from Bloomington!
We made it out of the rest area and stayed in Bloomington, Minnesota--where we spent most of the day at The Mall of America. It's got over 400 stores, an indoor amusement park, it's 4.2 million square feet, and is 78 acres big. Yeah, it's all here. Unfortunately, we were here for the one night of the week that they don't shoot off indoor fireworks at 10pm. There's also going to be a concert outside the Mall on July 3 and 4. Not only will those big-name acts the Beach Boys, Ringo Starr, and REO Speedwagon be there, but The Flying Elvis will drop in for a visit! It's a shame we won't be here....
We made reservations for the next 4 nights, so we won't have a repeat of Saturday night. It's on to Murdo, South Dakota next... See ya!
Howdy! I just ett me sum buffalo meat. Yum-mee! Actually, it was pretty good. Buffalo is like lean beef--it really tastes good. You should try some! We left Bloomington, Minnesota this morning and continued along the I-90 West. We crossed into South Dakota early this afternoon, had lunch at a Burger King (had to get some POCAHONTAS glasses, of course), stopped for a picture-taking opportunity at the Missouri River, checked out the Corn Palace in Mitchell, then came here to Murdo. The weirdest thing about being here isn't eating buffalo--it's being close to a Time Zone. Mountain Time is a mile away from here. It's now after 10:00 at night and it still looks light outside!
We had another meeting tonight trying to decide just where we'll be staying. We changed our reservation from Custer to Spearfish for tomorrow night. Gotta try to get to bed early tonight because we've got about 80 miles to drive to the Badlands really early in the morning. Then it'll be Mt. Rushmore and some Black Hills stuff. More tomorrow...
Well, Day 5 is about at a close and it finds us in Spearfish, South Dakota. Lots happened today--even though we stayed in the same state.
We left Murdo at 7:00am. Suddenly, one mile later it was 6:00am. We ate breakfast somewhere near Kadoka (I think), then we went to The Badlands. This place is The Reason to visit South Dakota--it's absolutely incredible! It's mile after mile of limestone formations that are breathtaking to see and climb on and drive through. I took lots of pictures, but I'm sure they won't do the place justice. (I'm not saying I didn't take any good pictures, I'm just saying it's hard to capture the "essence" of the place, if you know what I mean.)
After we left The badlands, we stopped at Wall Drug--as seen in Time, people, Modern Maturity, TBS, "General Hospital," and on and on and on--we must have seen at least 200 signs along the highway advertising that Wall Drug was coming up. It's basically the world's largest drug store--in a town called Wall. You can buy lots of gifts there and get coffee for 5 cents. The people there are very, very friendly. If you stop there (believe me, if you go to South Dakota, you'll be so annoyed by all those signs that you'll HAVE to stop there), make sure you get one of their chocolate-covered homemade donuts. They're definitely delicious.
Next stop: the Black Hills. We had lunch at the turnoff toward the cavern we were going to visit. We took a tour of Beautiful Rushmore Cave (the word "Beautiful" is part of the cavern's name.) Then we checked-out Mount Rushmore. The highlight came after we left, when everyone stopped to take pictures of some wild mountain goats by the side of the road. Further on, everyone around us had to slam on their brakes because two deer decided they wanted to try to cross the road. (One chickened-out and turned around, but the other crossed right in front of us.) And still later on our drive toward Spearfish, we stopped so I could take some pictures of a bunch of buffalo.
We got to Spearfish, changed, ate, and went to the Black Hills Passion Play. It was performed outside (even though it was sprinkling) and was staged in a very interesting way: there were seven sets that they used to tell the story. The problem was the organ and the acting. Pretty bad. That was it for how we spent the 4th of July on our trip. What did you do?
Tomorrow, it's off to Devil's Tower and west. Talk to you again in Montana...
Well, Day 6 saw us travel quite a distance. We arrived in West Yellowstone (next to the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park), shortly before midnight.
We left Spearfish early and had breakfast at a nearby B&B--which was very nice. Our waitress told us it was 400 miles to Yellowstone. Okay--no big deal--maybe 6 hours.
It took us about an hour to get to Devil's Tower in Wyoming, which is absolutely spectacular. We took the Tower Trail, which is a 1.2-mile hike around the Tower. Yes, I took lots of pictures--probably more than 40 or 50. Before you get to the Tower, you pass through Prairie Dog Town. It's a huge field where lots of prairie dogs live. I got (I hope) some great pictures of them near the holes they call home. At the souvenir shop, we were told it was about 400 miles from here to Yellowstone.
We stopped for lunch in Gillettte, about an hour from Devil's Tower. Our waitress told us it was only 400 miles to Yellowstone.
Then, we travelled on and stopped in Buffalo, about an hour from Gillettte. This time, we went to an Information Center. The woman looked questioningly (like it was a wrong idea at 4:00pm), said it was about 400 miles to Yellowstone and would probably take us 6 hours to get there because there were some slow roads involved. We decided to stay on I-90 and travel into Montana. Even though it was a greater distance, it made for faster travelling.
We stopped for dinner at 9:00 in Bozeman. Our waitress didn't tell us it was 400 miles away, but she said Glacier national Park (way out of our way in northern Montana) was better. The road to West Yellowstone was 82 miles long, wound beside a river, would be better to see during the day, asked if we'd thought of not making reservations and travelling by the seat of our pants (so we told her about Wisconsin), but was generally very nice.
Well, we drove on and finally got here. If anyone tries to tell you it's easy to get from the Black Hills in Douth Dakota to the west entrance to Yellowstone Park, don't believe them--especially if you want to see Devil's Tower along the way--which should be a definite stop.
More later... Brion
PS: In case you're wondering, the Mothership wasn't at Devil's Tower. Maybe because we were there during the day? Anyway, maybe you'll have better luck when you go...
PPS: There seem to be lots of mosquitos around here. I've been bitten three times while writing this--and I'm still in the motelroom! Can't wait to get outside. Maybe I'd better wear long pants today...
Sad news today: we saw the devastation that is now Yellowstone National Park. It's an absolute crime and a sin that humans are responsible for so much damage being done to this park. It's absolutely spectacular! The word that best describes it is the word that is very overused and abused: awesome! It's truly an incredible place!
Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres big (and I do mean big). The fires in 1988 burned almost 800,000 acres--almost 1/3 of the park! (There's another 200,000 acres that were burned at other times--naturally and by humans.) It's very sad to see mile after mile of black trees. On a positive note, though, there is a lot of grass and greenery on the ground around the trees--so Mother Nature is trying her best to live on.
What did we see? We drove about 200 miles around the park and saw many geysers (yes, we saw Old faithful--which isn't very faithful these days), waterfalls, rivers, lakes, trees, snow, the Continental Divide, bumpy roads, and wild animals (deer, buffalo, elks, coyotes, ducks, swans, various birds, and lots more buffalo). In fact, the most thrilling moment in the Park for me was when I took a picture of a buffalo about 10 feet away--and he stared right at me as I took the picture. (You know how I'm deathly allergic to bees? I hurried past a swarm of bees at one of the more spectacular hot springs spots.) Anyway, we entered the Park at 10:00am (the West Entrance opens at 9:00am), and left at 8:30pm. It was a full, but exciting day!
Tomorrow: we have to pass through Yellowstone to go south, where we'll pass through Grand Teton National Park and (hopefully) on to salt Lake City. Until then...
Hello! We left Yellowstone this morning, had breakfast, then drove through the Park again (we had to do that in order to get to Utah--we had to enter the West Entrance, go by Old Faithful, and exit through the South Entrance). We stopped at a few spots this morning, the most impressive of which was the Great Basin Geyser--it was more spectacular than Old Faithful, by far! It took almost 3 hours to get through that short section of the Park because of the road construction and people taking pictures of the wild animals.
The only animal I didn't get to see that I really wanted to see was a bear. (I was going to tell you something about bears and female menstruation, but I left it in the car. Ask me about it later.) I did get to see a moose pretty close--so that was exviting. We saw the moose in Grand Teton Park, just south of Yellowstone. The Teton Mountains are incredible to see--there are about a dozen or so of them, and they range over 10,000 ft. to 13,770 ft. Yes--there was snow on them!
We arrived here in Salt Lake City at about 9:00pm. The ride here was pretty long, but beautiful. We passed by Bear Lake after we left Idaho, and thought it was big until we got a look at the Great Salt Lake and read about it. It's 72 miles long, about 30 miles across at its widest point, and only 10 to 28 ft. deep. (I'm becoming a geography nut on this trip. Something you mwant to know? Try me.)
Tomorrow night, we're staying near Bryce Canyon in Utah. We were planning on checking out (and maybe tasting) the Great Salt lake befeore we left, but our waitress tonight made a face when we mentioned wanting to go to the lake. She says it's smelly and polluted. The tasting-business may be out. You'll just have to wait to find out....
We started out the day in The Twilight Zone. Salt Lake City seemed pretty good when we got in and went out to eat last night, but this morning, we had breakfast at a nearby restaurant that was the scariest moment of our trip. It was easier to face that buffalo in Yellowstone than to have breakfast where we did. (No, I won't give you the name--there seem to be lots of good places in SLC, this was just a very bad experience for us.) Our first waitress didn't seem totally with-it, and our second waitress, the one who took our order, seemed about ready to die. The young girl behind the register seemed about to fall over and had no idea what to do with our credit card. Don't even get me started on the customer who came in, sat at the counter, hit himself on the head a couple of times, then started swearing aloud (to no one in particular) about who-knows-what and the lack of service. It was 40 minutes of hell.
We got in our car quickly and journeyed away from there. It was basically an easy drive to Bryce National Park about 260 miles away. The car's engine temperature rose slightly, but went back down. It was probably because we were going uphill, it was in the 90s, and we had the air-conditioning on.
We passed through Red Canyon before we arrived at our motel. It looked pretty red, that's for sure--lots of limestone and rocks. Bryce is a very nice place. Part of the road (the last 8 miles) is closed until October 1995 due to construction. (There is A LOT of road work going on in the National Parks. Unfortunately, it's very expensive for these too-heavily travelled roads to be correctly repaired, so they're constantly being patched.)
The sunset was nice, but not spectacular tonight. We're going to try to get up for sunrise. (Ha!)
We've seen so many international tourists that I'm prompted to say hello in a different language.
Anyway, we're still in Utah. We went down into Bryce Canyon this morning and that definitely made the trip there worthwhile. If you go to Bryce National Park, you should take a hike down into the canyon. It's great to be able to look up at some of the rock formations. It's a must-do! If you do hike down there, you really should take some water with you. We took a simple trail to Queen's Garden (all the spires have smaller rocks on top of the spires, emulating a Queen's crown)--it descends 320 feet, but then you have to come back up. If it's hot (it was in the 90s today), you really need to take a swig of water.
After we left the area, we took a drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (in Arizona). It's got some spectacular views. There are a number of trails that lead toward some promontories above the Canyon. The Lodge is quite nice, too. We had lunch there and it's not at all expensive. One of the best things about the North Rim is that notmany people are there. Only 10% of the visitors to the Grand Canyon go to the North Rim, so it shouldn't be too crowded. (It's closed when there are heavy snows in the winter, though, and since it's over 8000 feet high, the snows DO close the roads.)
One thing, though: please don't feed the wild animals! We got a notice when we entered the Park, stating that the rangers had to recently shoot a number of deer because they couldn't survive. People had been feeding them their food. The deer became used to this, and kept trying to get at food wrapped in plastic or in plastic containers in the trash--and that's all they would eat. They performed autopsies afterward and found that the deer's stomaches had a lot of plastic in them. They were not able to properly digest food because of this. So, please don't feed wild animals--it only forces the rangers at these parks to do jobs they don't want to do.
After the North Rim, we drove to our motel in Kanab, Utah. Tomorrow, I finally get to see Zion National Park, then it's off to the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas--home on Tuesday.
Talk to ya later!
Well, we got up and had breakfast in beautiful, downtown Kanab. Then it was time to begin our journey again. No, we didn't switch and go to the other side of the world (as the subject of this post may lead you to believe)--we're still in the US.
Our first stop was Zion National Park. It's yet another stunning place to see. After a beuatifully scenic drive through colored rocks and a very long tunnel, we arrived at the park itself. We took two hikes in the park. The first hike we took was at the end of the park and it goes to the start of the Narrows. We stopped at the river, but if you want to chance it and are ready for the challenge, you can go up the river into the Narrows. The warning: there is no maintained trail--you go along and in the river--and the danger was HIGH on this particular day (meaning there could be a flash flood or some menacing act of God that could get you into trouble out there). If we had the time and were prepared, though, we probably would have done it.
The other hike we took was to the Lower Emerald Pool (there are also two other pools you can get to, but it was starting to get very hot). The pool itself was nothing to write home about (in July, that is--I'm sure it looks beautiful at other times), but you do get to walk around it under these giant cliffs that is something not to be missed! It was a wonderful experience going there.
After we left Zion National Park, we drove to Las Vegas. Yes, it was hot. The outside temperature got up to 105. Fortunately, the a/c in the car kept working. I'd never entered Las Vegas from the north (being from Los Angeles, I've always gotten there from the south). It was different, but Las Vegas itself has changed quite a bit since I was last here about three years ago. For one thing, when I was last here, the hotel we're staying at wasn't built yet. It's hard to describe the Luxor. It's a giant pyramid and we're staying on the 28th floor. The inside of the hotel is completely empty space, so you can look up and see the inside of the pyramid from the Attraction Level below. We had to take an elevator to the 28th floor, but think about it. If the building is shaped like a pyramid and the middle is hollow, do elevators go straight up? Of course not, that's why they're called Inclinators. They got up at a 39-degree angle. If you're prone to motion sickness, this Inclinator movement may get to you. Personally, Ithought it was a lot of fun! There are 2,526 rooms here and it looked pretty full--on a Monday!
There are a number of attractions/rides you can go on. The most known of the 5 attractions are the three films that make up the "In Search of the Obelisk" trilogy. The first film is a motion simulator ride/movie that is more 87%5 attractions are the three films that make up the "In Search of the Obelisk" trilogy. The first film is a motion simulator ride/movie that is more jarring than Star Tours at Disneyland. (This is not a ride for people with motion sickness, but to Luxor's credit, it is possible to take the ride "motionless"--you get to see the film, but you don't have to feel the rocking, swaying, and moving.) The second part is a 3D movie/"live" quiz show, and the third part is shown on a 70-ft. vertical screen, in which your seats are attached to something that makes them rumble. We took the boat down the Nile (it goes around the base of the hotel) and it's quite a big place. According to our "guide" on the trip, nine Boeing 747's can fit inside the hotel--and that's just parked on the floor! Yes, it's pretty large! We still have the fifth attraction to see: it's a tour of a replica of King Tut's Tomb, audio-hosted by the man who found the tomb in 1922.
There's also a laser light show outside in front of the hotel every half hour, starting at dusk. You should check that out, too. Well, that's where we are now. It's quite different from the rest of our trip. Tuesday will be our final day and we'll make it home--to Los Angeles.
Talk to you then!
PS: Oh yes--there's also gambling here. The Casino is below the Attractions level and there are plenty of things to keep you going all night. Ask me if you need any pointers...
Hey, I'm back!
Well, we made it to Los Angeles! We left las vegas after visiting King Tut's tomb this morning. If you go to Las Vegas, you should definitely stop and check out Luxor. It's a wild place to see!
It was pretty hot in the desert today: the temp hit about 104 as we were driving. We stopped at Stateline to see how Desperado looked. Desperado is the rollercoaster at Buffalo Bill's. The first drop is 280 feet--I believe it's the longest drop in the world. We didn't do it today because we were both pretty much drained after our trip. It will be nice to go back there again and try it out, though. It looks like fun!
Anyway, it was great to get back home. The Los Angeles area might be hot and dry, but I guess (and I really hate to say this) it's become "home." I'll summarize everything probably this weekend, but in the meantime I have a question for you. HOW MANY MILES DO YOU THINK WE DROVE IN OUR CROSS-COUNTRY TRIP? Whoever comes the closest to guessing our mileage before I post this weekend, will get something that I got at Zion. Okay? You have to write to me back at this address, though. My regular address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to hear from you soon!
PS: No longer were we back, than we went to El Chiquito--my favorite Mexican restaurant. Just love those fajitas!
Well, it's been a few days since we've been back in Los Angeles. I have the answer for the total mileage: we drove 4,232 miles. That means Jon is the winner. I picked up something at Zion, so he gets to have the warrior that'll watch over him. (Or something like that--it's upstairs, Maria is preparing for a lecture she has to give at work tomorrow, and I'm too lazy to go up there and get it). I also got the photos back. There are 434 of them. It seems I documented the trip well. I'm going to try to put together a small photo album of 100 of them, so maybe some of you can be bored by them when I see you.
Thinking about it, a cross-country trip was an excellent, exciting thing to do! I recommend it highly. To be completely honest, doing what we did should take about 4 weeks. If you take a longer amount of time, you can really see and learn about the places you visit. I'd do it again in an instant, though--even if it was only for another 12 days. We visited 16 states while we were travelling and I bought t-shirts in each state we stayed in--plus a couple to keep the economy going! I ended up with 11 t-shirts, so I have my new summer wardrobe now.
I'm glad we took a northern route. It was probably cooler than going south--although, I'd like to do that sometime, too. One thing I learned: this truly is a wonderful country to see and there is certainly lots here! I think my favorite state was Wyoming--I just loved Yellowstone, even though it was sad to see what fire has done to 1/3 of the park. The place I would most like to visit again would have to be The Badlands--with spending more time hiking down into Bryce Canyon following it closely. (Las Vegas, being the nearest area, is probably the place I'll get to visit again first--and I'll definitely go back to Luxor!) I would like to go back to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and spend more time there, or stay at one of the great cabins in Zion National Park--their prices look quite decent, too! (It'll be a great place to stay at, as long as there are no rock slides. The last one was April 12. They had to evacuate the cabins and it took them 7 weeks to rebuild/clear the road.)
It seems we made our trip just in time to avoid the heat wave that's ravaging parts of the country. It was hard enough hiking into some of those canyons when it was in the 90s, that doing the same thing in twenty more degrees would have been near impossible. (If you hike--and I highly recommend you doing so--don't be foolish and not take water! You really should bring some with you).
Thanks again to everyone who wrote to me on the road. It was great to get mail. I had fun posting daily updates to everyone, and if anyone ever goes anywhere, I recommend e-mailing friends very highly. Sure, it may take 5 or 10 minutes before you want to collapse into bed, but it's worth it when all is said and done. It feels good to share the experience with others. Because I did this, I now have a record of my trip and it meant a lot to me hearing that other people enjoyed hearing about it. If any of you ever do this, too, I'd be more than delighted to get some travel posts from you, and I'll certainly write back.
Thank you again for cybertravelling with me. Until the next trip--may the sun wrap its warm fingers around you!