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]