Monday, December 14, 2009

Wrapping it Up

Hi Everybody! We hope you liked coming with us on our trip. It's 12/14/09, 4 months since we've been home, and we just made a few new posts to wrap it all up.

10,011 miles in total! A fantastic journey across this amazing country.

We lost track of the number of museums, historic sites, and bookstores that we stopped at. We didn't keep track of the books read along the way. We do have a list of audio books that we enjoyed. Among these, one stands out as the absolutely perfect story for our trip - Summerland by Michael Chabon. It combined travel, baseball, inventions, and Native American mythology in a captivating story which kept us all enthralled.

We mailed boxes home as we went along. This is some of the mail and boxes that piled up during our 8 weeks away. Everything arrived safely and in one piece. Thanks to Catherine, Tim, and Cathy for helping with boxing and shipping at the sending end and to Mom and Dad at the receiving end. Thanks to all of you who made time in your summer to see us, opened your homes to us, lent us your washer and dryer, cooked fantastic meals, showed us local sights, and just hung out with us. And thanks also to Megan for house-sitting and taking care of Milk Face the cat.

Photos: Bret became Champ at the Vermont Lake Monsters' baseball game.
Camping in South Dakota - Reed is relaxing upstairs in the Sportsmobile.

Good Night, and God Bless!

Odd things - Fail Blog

Sanitary...the best kind of tortillas. San Antonio, TX
Do you mean dumbster...I mean dumpster? San Antonio, TX
Ladies' room. Cool Springs, WV
Graphic diorama in the country store. Cool Springs, WV
Would that be a foot long? Keystone, SD
Authorized dogs. Keystone, SD

Isn't it weird how odd things occurred in pairs in these places?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Funny stuff

These photos bring a smile to my face.

Bone weary at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA.

Two smiles at Niagara Falls, NY.

Statues in Fort Collins, CO.

Animal sightings

Live animals spotted on the trip:

250,000 bats - without a doubt, at nearly a quarter of a million, Mexican free-tail bats at Carlsbad Caverns, NM, were the most numerous species of animal we saw on the trip.

736 bison - at Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park, SD, plus a few in Colorado

[squirrels - we didn't count them]

44 turkeys, NY, MI, SD

26 deer, NM, TX, MS, WV, NY, MI, SD

17 wild burros, Custer State Park, SD

14 prairie dogs, SD

11 rabbits, NM, PA, NY, OH, NE

10 pronghorn antelope, NM, SD

2 golden eagle, MS, CO

1 beaver, NY

1 elk, UT

1 muskrat, NY

1 skunk, MI

1 snapping turtle, OK

1 woodchuck, NY

Road Kill (yes, keeping track of this stuff helped on those long driving days; no, we didn't hit anything besides bugs on the windshield):

63 unknown
18 raccoons
15 opposums
11 porcupines
11 skunks
9 rabbits
8 coyotes
8 squirrels
7 armadillos
5 deer
5 small birds
4 woodchucks
3 red foxes
2 badgers
2 grey foxes
2 marmots
2 snakes
1 bobcat
1 moose
1 vulture

Biggest Bug: Stick bug in Austin, TX. Seen on the wall in front of Bret - it's bigger than his hand!

More of the "Bests"

Best All- American meal: 4th of July BBQ at Cathy, Don, and Burton's house: burgers, fresh corn on the cob, watermelon

Best evening entertainment: 4th of July backyard fireworks in Indianapolis

Best pie: Catherine's home baked coconut cream and lemon meringue

Best gourmet food: Comedy Club, Albany, NY

Best ice cream: Abbott's Custard, Ontario Beach Park, Rochester, NY

Best buffet: Golden Corral, Bartlesville, OK

Best fondue: Melting Pot, Nashville, TN

Best truck stop: Johnson's Corner, CO

Worst restaurant: Simmering Pot at the Holiday Inn, Bridgeport, West Virginia

Best museum exhibit: Verdoy Schoolhouse at Pruyn House, Newtonville, NY - Reed and Catherine find family members in the school photos on display.

Best sandwiches: Torch Lake, MI - fresh from from the new grill

Miles and comments

10,011 miles driven on our Great American Road Trip!

Nicest, smoothest, cleanest roads: Vermont

Bumpiest roads: Pennsylvania

Most re-treads (broken tires) along the road: Hwy 40 through the Ozark Mountains

The most trash along the road: I-15 in southeastern California

Best recycling programs: California and NY

Outside of National Parks, there doesn't seem to be much interest in recycling in the middle of the country. We turned in accumulated cans and bottles at whatever NPS site we happened to be at.

National Park sites visited: 18

Junior Ranger badges earned at National Parks: 33

ZERO problems with the new Ford van. One oil change in Albany NY, halfway point in time and space.

Two problems with the Sportsmobile conversion: 1. The latch for the refrigerator door failed on day 2 of our journey. We ended up buying a baby-safe refrigerator latch in Albuquerque. The heat of the van's interior caused the sticky adhesive to fail, so duct tape held it on for the rest of the trip. 2. Three of the flimsy plastic cupholders broke.

Bryn's favorite road sign: "weaving traffic" in Vermont

One emergency room visit; 9 stitches in Bret's right leg.

Hottest place: Austin TX, 108 F.
Coldest place: Torch Lake, Michigan, on the morning it rained.

[photos, top to bottom: southern New Mexico on the way to Carlsbad Caverns; take me home, country roads - western West Virginia; near Scott's Bluff, northwestern Nebraska; Colorado National Park, where the canyons meet the Rocky Mountains]

Best Places

Today, 4 months after we returned home, I asked the boys what their favorite things were. Interestingly, although we all enjoyed many things, the places we each specifically picked came out on top. We had desired to visit these places, so maybe our dreams just came true?

Randy: the bats coming out of Carlsbad Caverns; the walk and talk about Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg; the Watervliet Arsenal. [photo - Reed, Bret, and Ranger Matt at Gettysburg]

Reed: the Pinball Hall of Fame - because there were so many games to play and some of them were vintage. The Mall of America and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were great too.
[photo - Reed with his favorite pinball game - The Pinball Wizard]

Bret: Lake Champlain, Camp Half-Blood, and the Mall of America were the best. And Niagara Falls and Carlsbad Caverns because these two are just amazing. [photo - Bret on the Lake Champlain cruise boat]

Bryn: visiting family and friends was definitely tops, and this included trips to three cemeteries. For places, the Black Hills around South Dakota were unexpectedly beautiful, as were West Virginia and Michigan. Ohio was also full of fun things, and Ohio is not a place that I ever thought about visiting. [photo - picnic at Hopewell Culture National Historic Site, Ohio]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, Aug 11 - UT, AZ, NV, CA

Bryn: We started the day viewing the beautiful red rocks of Utah. We are so close to so many National Parks, and I want to go see them. However, we're so close to home, and Randy wants to go there. We'll have to do a southern Utah trip in the future with Cedar Breaks, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and more. On to Interstate 15 and out of Utah, through the northwest corner of Arizona, and into Nevada. We made a stop at the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza, a place we've visited before. While the boys oogled the fireworks for sale, I liked looking at the baskets.
Next stop, fabulous Las Vegas. Randy keyed up the MP-3 player and we listened to Tommy by the Who, and repeated Pinball Wizard a couple of times. Last year we visited the best thing in Las Vegas, the Atomic Testing Museum. Randy's cousin Vanya used to work there, but she has relocated to the east coast. Anyway, we non-gamblers found another super fun thing to do in town - the Pinball Hall of Fame! We took all of our extra laundry quarters and had a great time spending them here. Bret and Reed were excited to actually win stuffed animals on the 1950s claw game. Randy showed the boys a few of his old favorites like Star Trek, and I taught them Tetris. All of the vintage games work, the Hall of Fame is a non-profit, and the money goes to charity. Definitely a good use for those quarters!
After Vegas, we drove through Baker, CA, home of the world's tallest thermometer , and got some A & W Root Beer. I guess we've finished with the nice weather, we're back to California's HOT and DRY. Although we hadn't intended on getting home today, the boys had a semi-mutiny and so we just drove home, stopping for dinner in Littlerock.

In a couple of days we hope to put up a few more photos and also give some trip statistics.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! In fact, I'd be happy to change out the clothes in the suitcases and take off again tomorrow. After a thorough car wash. I really enjoy the suspended reality associated with vacations. Coming home to the piles of bills, a dead lawn, work commitments, and the never-ending "to do" list is tough for me, so I think I'll be having a few days of post-vacation depression. And then I'll start planning the next trip!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crossing the Rocky Mountains

Reed: Today was a big driving day for us. We took a few stops for drinks and gas. The longest stop for us was at Colorado National Monument, where we could get a junior ranger badge. The ranger there was surprised that we earned so many junior ranger badges on this trip!

Bryn: Good-bye to friends Elaine and Don! We left their house and Elaine followed us a bit on her way to work. As it has been with all of our visits this trip, our time together was much too short!

We headed up and over the Rocky Mountains today. The second photo is snow near the Vail area. We criss-crossed the Colorado River many times on our way down the mountains. It was fun watching the changes in rock type and also the changes in vegetation – from pine forests to juniper and sage, with cottonwoods near the water. Utah also has stunning rock formations. Bret was surprised at how few houses and people there are around. We're staying in Cedar City, UT tonight. While Randy is pressing hard to get home, I would like a few more days! And we need more walking around breaks, we didn't have enough ground time for the amount of drive time today.

The photos with the boys are at Colorado National Monument. It looks like a small Grand Canyon, except there isn't a real river there. All of the erosion comes from flash floods.

Last photo: along the road in Utah.

Aug 9, Sunday, Cycles, Sculptures, and Potters

Bryn: We had a slow and easy morning at home. Elaine found the heron on a walk to the neighborhood lake. Then came talk of bicycles. Randy and Don taught Bret how to ride a bicycle! Then veteran Sturgis rider Don pulled out his motorcycle and gave Reed, Bret, and Bryn rides around the neighborhood. We each enjoyed our first motorcycle ride!

Elaine and Bryn headed to the Loveland Sculpture Invitational, the largest outdoor sculpture show in the world, located near the Benson Sculpture Park. We had a lot of fun looking at interesting, whimsical, realistic, small and monumental sculptures.

The boys all went out with Don for lunch and then they saw the new Harry Potter movie. Then Don showed them the new library branch. It's located in a mall and is set up like a bookstore, complete with a fireplace.

We all met up again at home before heading out for Italian food. In the evening, Elaine treated us to some of her fine piano playing. We had a brilliant sunset over the Rocky Mountains from their backyard. Tomorrow we'll be crossing that range.

Bret: She should have charged us money for her solo piano concert. I liked it!

Aug 8, Saturday - Fort Collins, CO

Bryn: We drove through Wyoming, flat range land with occasional windmills. We arrived at Elaine and Don's house in Fort Collins, CO, in the late morning. They treated us to lunch at a local landmark, Johnson's Corner Truck Stop, where we shared a famous, huge cinnamon roll (except Randy, he tried to ignore it). Elaine has been following the blog, so they wanted to give us some regional fare. We passed on the offer of Rocky Mountain oysters!

Elaine gave us a driving tour of the area, with a lovely stop at Horsetooth Reservoir. Bret's stitches prevent him from any water activities, so plans for using the jet skis were dropped. We went into Old Town Fort Collins, the city in which Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. is patterned after. Expert shopper Elaine took us to the perfect stores - Nature's Own, filled with fossils, stuffed animals, and things made of rocks; the Old Firehouse Bookstore, featuring new and used books; Ten Thousand Villages, with baskets and ethnographic art; and a Science Toy Shop. She really knows our tastes! Rain drops started just as we got to the car. Hail stones started just before we got home. Don met us at the garage door with umbrellas, and we all watched in wonder as the hail storm escalated. Wow, what a meteorological event! When it subsided, we all went to dinner at a great Mexican restaurant.