Thursday, November 26, 2009

Last leg of our Big Adventure

Leaving Flagstaff, not to early we were back on the I40, passing through Williams again. I talked Brenda into stopping at another Iron Skillet Restaurant, somewhere near Kingman.

We crossed over the Hoover Dam where there was an enormous amount of construction work going on, a new high arch bridge is being built, the completion date due sometime in 2010.

We decided to skirt Las Vegas, we saw the hotels and casinos standing against the skyline in the distance, but we decided not to visit (that den of iniquity- my description), and drove to our Best Western hotel in Pahrump, a real desert town.

Next morning, in glorious sunshine we drove via Beatty to the ghost town, Rhyolite, this must be one of the easiest ghost towns to get to as it is only a mile from the main road. We wandered around the ghost town, snapping photos here and there, Brenda thought it had a really nice ambience about it. Rhyolite was founded in 1904 after a rich strike of ore, had its own bank, school and electricity, however, the panic of 1907 and the playout of the mine by 1916 reduced the population of the town to a few hundred, and eventually the people moved on. The only occupant left is a caretaker and numerous sculptures.

We drove over a mountain pass and then for the next hour, I didn't touch the accelerator pedal as it was downhill all the way to Furness Creek, where the National Park Centre was situated. Brenda and I were sweating due to the temperature being in the mid 80's. We detoured to Zabriskie Point car park and walked up to the view point. Just after we had arrived two coaches pulled up, which meant we had to queue to use the smelly holes in the ground (so called toilets).

Our next stop was Badwater, the lowest point in the USA at 282 feet below sea level. We walked for a while on the saltflats and saw the sea level mark way above our heads on the black cliffs near the car park. Next we took an almost deserted minor road to join the I15 road and then the I 40. Just before Barstow our car sustained its only damage of the whole journey when a stupid driver driving a pickup reversed into us whilst waiting at a checkpoint on the I15.
We continued to Barstow where we stayed for the night, and for the next few days we drove through California, stopping at Fresno and Sacramento. The air was very polluted around these areas more noticeable after going through the clean desert air.
Then we continued on to White City, Oregon where we stopped for the night. The next morning we crossed over to the Oregon coast, now in pouring rain and headed for Newport, where we just missed a tornado. The coast line through Oregon is really breathtaking and has lots of view points to stop at and take photos, though when we were there the sea was really rough and the breakers were really high. We continued on our way travelling through McMinnville, a nice town (I thought it had a look of Sequim about it), to our hotel in Vancouver, (back into Washington State) getting lost in Portland on the way.

The next day, we stopped at Silverdale, where we had lunch with our friend Faith, (we had joined the circle, more of a square actually), driving about 9,600 miles over 40 days.

There were more places we would have liked to have seen, such as Yosemite and Crater Lake, but the weather turned colder and we didn't want to use the snow chains. I can understand why Americans stay in the USA for their holidays as this country is so diverse and has something for everyone.

Our road trip was finally over, we then drove to Seattle for our flight back to the UK the next day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

31st October 2009

Enroute to Flagstaff we decided to do an unscheduled stop and headed to The Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park in Arizona. The Painted Desert is a smaller version of the Badlands, but it's still worth a visit as it has its own identity.
Continuing through the park you come to The Petrified Forest. At first, it just looks like sawn tree trunks lying upon the ground until you get up close and you realise they are solid rock. It is so uncanny, as you can see all the layers underneath the bark just like in a tree. Evidently, the petrification of the trees occurred due to water which contained a high percentage of silica soaking into the wood over a long period of time and turned them to stone.

After getting lost for over an hour trying to find our hotel in Flagstaff (the road signs are non-existent) we finally went to bed ready for our visit to Grand Canyon the next day. After a good nights sleep we arose early and headed to Grand Canyon.

What can you say about Grand Canyon, only that it is every bit as good as what people who have seen it said it was. The vista was magnificent and the views unparalleled, we decided to walk along the South Rim of the canyon, (about 6 miles) passing the Hopi House (a copy of a true Indian house) that is used as a tourist gift shop to the Blue Angel Lodge. The paths are paved and it is really safe to walk along, and there are lots of lookouts to take photos from if you don't mind the long drop to the bottom of the canyon. To get to the furthest point we took the free shuttle bus that took us the rest of the way to Hermits Rest.

After something to eat we then drove eastwards towards Desert View, this is the best side to get a view of the Colorado River that runs through the canyon. Even though the Colorado is a large river it is hard to pick it out from the main viewing points. The Indian Watchtower is also situated here and after looking around the tower we sat down and awaited the sun to set. The Watchtower like some of the other buildings in the canyon was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. The interior walls and ceilings are decorated with original Hopi Indian drawings painted by Fred Kabotie a genuine Hopi Indian artist, this is not to be missed.

Finally, the sun set and Tony took his final photo of Grand Canyon. After a long exhausting, exhilarating and memorable 12 hours we headed back to Flagstaff.

PS: If you are looking for pictures of the Glass Skywalk you are out of luck, it is 250 miles away, 5 hours drive, nearer to Las Vegas, it is privately owned by the Hualapai Indian Tribe.

Monday, November 2, 2009

18th October 2009

After a long but enjoyable journey we finally arrived at New England which was to be our home for the next 10 or so days. As we drove through the towns and cities we became quite nostalgic as all the old familiar English names appeared on the road signs.

Enroute we stopped at Lenox, Massachuetts a small New England town that has a historical district to visit. It was just how we imagined New England towns to be, with the beautiful old palatial homes, a really lovely place to see.

Whilst staying in Milford, we headed to Salem, famous for the 17th Century witch trials. It wasn't quite what we expected, it was very commercialised, but we still enjoyed the visit.
Continuing on to Cape Cod we arrived at our home for the next 7 nights. We stayed at Chatham Guest Suites, a really lovely place to stay. Our apartment was gorgeous, it had a cosy den with one wall full of built in bookshelves and even a wooden ladder to climb to reach the top shelves, and Tony definitely made good use of the whirlpool bath (every night).
Unfortunately, due to car trouble we had to curtail our excursions, but still managed to visit a few places. Chatham is a pleasant place to stay, it has a town centre that you can walk around and really good white sand beaches, which we mainly had to ourselves, as the main tourist season was over.
We also visited Orleans and Provincetown (at the tip of Cape Cod). Provincetown is the place where the Pilgrims first landed on American soil (to replenish supplies) before continuing on their way to Plymouth. We really enjoyed our visit there, it was such a pleasant town to go to, it has a nice ambience about the place, it reminded us both of a West Country fishing village. Would definitely return there again. Whilst walking back to the car we came upon the salvaging of a 48 foot Tuna boat. It had broken away from its moorings in a storm a couple of days earlier. We sat on the beach for a couple of hours in the sunshine whilst watching the salvage operation.

After the 7 nights (which went too quickly) we said a sad farewell to Cape Cod and started on our return journey back to the West Coast of USA. Due to the great distance we had to cover we hurriedly drove through Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee, though we did stop at our namesake (Harrisonburg, Virginia) and explored the town, we loved the shoe shop (see the photo, you should have been with us Janine).

We also stopped at one of the tourist attractions, The Lost Sea Adventure in Tennessee. There is an 18th Century village to stroll around, then there are the huge caverns to explore which includes a boat trip on an underground lake. A pleasant experience, worth seeing especially when we visited as it was pouring with rain outside.

We continued on our journey through Arkansas, Oklahoma and passed through Texas on our way to New Mexico stopping at Alburquerque for our Starbucks fix and a visit to Borders bookstore. We stayed in a good hotel right on the old Route 66 Highway in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, the name is definitely better than the town.

Atter leaving Santa Rosa we drove to Flagstaff, Arizona where we were looking forward to spending a couple of days and visiting The Grand Canyon.
PS: Tony outside the tower is from the Grand Canyon visit, I put it on in error, but as Tony said he is definitely worth seeing more than once.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Niagara Falls

After driving over 3,000 miles, through 3 time zones and 10 states we arrived at Niagara Falls. As it was our first visit we decided to do a tour as we didn't want to miss anything.

We started off the tour at The Whirlpool where the falls actually originated, but time and erosion has now moved them further back to their present location. Due to the Americans and Canadians syphoning off 50% of the water from the falls for their own use the whirlpool actually changes direction every day when not enough water flows into it.

Our next stop was the boat trip on the Maid of the Mist where we dressed in our blue waterproof ponchos. Both the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls (the Canadian side) were awesome, though the Horseshoe Falls definitely has the edge. It was such an exhilarating experience on the boat as we headed to the mist getting closer to the Horseshoe Falls and listening to the thunderous roaring of the falls. Fantastic ! Unfortunately, it was over all too soon and we headed back to shore.

From there we drove to Goat Island where The Cave of the Winds Experience is located. For this we got a yellow poncho and a free pair of sandals. We descended 175 feet in an elevator to the tunnels that run behind the falls. We emerged out of the tunnels to wooden platforms that are built at the side of the Bridal Veil Falls and rise to about half way up the falls. There we ascended the steps and climbed up to the highest level (The Hurricane Deck). It's definitely worth doing as its probably the closest you get to the falls.

Coming back to the surface we walked to Terrapin Point right next to the Horseshoe Falls for Tony to take some more photos. There we said goodbye to our tour guide Dayna and headed off to look for something to eat.

Not a lot of eating places on the American side of the falls, we checked out The Hard Rock Cafe and the casino but decided on the Red Coach Inn, a replica of an old English inn. Tony's Fish and Chips were good, not so my Salmon Salad (where was the Salmon).

After eating we headed back to the hotel for a swim and chilled out ready for our departure the next day to Albany, the capital city of New York State.