Lee and I left on July 16th and drove first to Niagara Falls, which, even though somewhat honky-tonk, is still an incredibly beautiful and exciting place. First stop was the Visitor Center (always an excellent beginning even if you have been to a place before, since it provides maps and information about things to do. Often there are orientation videos and displays). We walked the trails along the falls, rode the Maid of the Mist, and did the Cave of the Winds. All were exhilarating and fun!
Moving on to Toronto, Canada, we were mesmerized by the view of the Toronto skyline and Lake Ontario from the top of the CN Tower. On the following day we headed for the exciting city of Chicago. Climbing the Sears Tower gave us our first appreciation of its glorious skyline. Later we observed it at night from the front of the Adler Planetarium. We walked the Magnificent Mile, admired the unusual Water Tower (the only building to survive the Great Fire) and had a picnic on the beach at Lake Michigan.
The next day, we headed for St Louis, Missouri to check out the Gateway Arch. It is an extremely interesting structure with its cool, shiny, silver lines. We were even able to ascend to its apex in a small pod (not for claustrophobics) where we had great views of the Mississippi (there was a tremendous amount of flooding this year) and of the city of St Louis.
Next it was on to Denver, Colorado where Lee saw the Rockies for the first time. As you approach Denver on the Interstate, you see this persistent and stationary cloud up ahead on the horizon. It keeps getting bigger as you get closer to the city and finally you realize that it is not a cloud at all, but the front range of the mountains. While in Denver, we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park to admire the wonderful scenery, walked some trails, and even spent part of a day White-water Rafting on the Poudre River, west of Fort Collins. While in Denver, we also traveled south to the Air Force Academy to see its lovely chapel and to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak (very scary). We also spent an hour or two at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
From Denver, we headed north to South Dakota to be awed by Mount Rushmore, certainly one of America’s most patriotic and impressive sights. En route we drove the Needles Highway through Custer State Park.
Then we headed west into Wyoming. Our first stop here was at the eerie and forbidding Devil’s Tower National Monument. We loved the Indian myth about the origin of the place and walked to the base to get a closer look. Then we took the scenic road along the Tensleep Creek and finally arrived in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is, without doubt, America’s most beautiful, varied, and interesting national park. Such sights as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Fountain Paint Pots never cease to amaze and delight visitors. Then, of course, there are the various geyser basins which boast regular eruptions such as Old Faithful as well as colorful pools of superheated water. Besides all this there is wonderful mountain scenery and an incredible variety of exciting wildlife, such as bears, buffalo, elk, etc.
Just south of Yellowstone is another fantastic attraction, Grand Teton National Park which showcases some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in the world. The drive along the Snake River is gorgeous (we stopped numerous times for photo ops) and leads to the quintessential Western town of Jackson.
Our next stop was Salt Lake City where we checked out Temple Square, the Mormon center of operations. The guided tour of the facilities is very worthwhile.
Heading west, we stopped at Reno, Nevada, which bills itself as the "biggest little city in the world" but is really nothing much more than a somewhat sleazy gambling area. Nearby is Lake Tahoe, a more pleasant gambling location.
We then headed into California and the "city by the bay", San Francisco. What an exciting place! There are so many icons which are recognizable around the world, such as, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street, the "crookedest street in the world", and the San Francisco Trolley cars. Just outside the city, we enjoyed the solitude at Muir Woods. A great excursion from San Francisco is to drive south along the Pacific Coast Highway to admire the magnificent coastal scenery. Stops along the way include Big Sur and Monterey, which has its own coastal drive, Seventeen Mile Drive where we savored the iconic Lone Cypress.
We left San Francisco behind to travel into the mountains to Yosemite National Park, another of America’s great places. It is a testament to the power of glaciers and what was left behind is truly awe-inspiring. We drove to Washburn Point for a particularly spectacular vista.
Our next stop was Sequoia National Park where we marveled at the General Sherman Tree. Then on to Arizona and one of the wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. The beauty here is beyond description and photos do not do justice to the place. It is a must-see for everyone in the world.
Traveling south we reached Tucson where we delighted in a visit to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, known as the "white dove of the desert". Heading further east, we arrived at Carlsbad Caverns, which, besides the intricate and fascinating cave structures, is noted for its bats. An interesting side trip in this part of New Mexico is White Sands National Monument.
Next, we headed into Texas and spent several days in San Antonio. Here, the major attractions are the Alamo and the pleasant Riverwalk with its many shops and restaurants.
Further east is New Orleans, one of America’s most important destinations. New Orleans is all about the music (home of jazz) and the food (cajun and creole cooking were created here). In addition, there is the fun-loving irreverence which pervades society here.
Turning northward and heading toward home, we drove some of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive (both very scenic) and reached our last stop, Gettysburg National Historic Site. Here we immersed ourselves in Civil War history and tried to appreciate this most pivotal battle of the campaign.
Finally, twenty-nine days after setting out, we got home from a trip of a lifetime!
1. Drawback of lengthy trips — get tired of eating out. Remedy: Have more picnics/lunches using food obtained in deli’s, supermarkets, etc
2. Tendency to gain weight because of eating out, driving, etc. Remedy: Incorporate more walking into travel routine. Choose hotels (like Hampton’s) which offer breakfast and try to skip lunch entirely or just have a snack like fruit, etc.