Two days after returning from Switzerland I jumped in a car with my sister, Laura, and headed across the U.S. This trip was a bit like running a marathon, because time mattered and we had to eat and drink on the run. Nonetheless this trip provided a great opportunity to experience the lands west of PA, spend time with my sister, and visit relatives and friends along the way. Our time line and limited internet access prevented me from updating the blog during our travels so I'm going to outline the days below.
So grab a beverage, because we are going on a journey across this large country.
Saturday, August 30
Our journey began in Laura's Golf with mom and dad in the back seat. We had to go to Harrisburg to pick up our rental car. Laura said we should have taken her car on the trip, but I don't know that much about engines, nor do I have all of the necessary tools.
We stopped for breakfast with the rents and had our picture taken with the rental car outside of a diner near the Harrisburg Airport. We had a Hyundai Sonata for the trek and I'll tell you that I was quite surprised by the handling and the added features. I must admit that I did not expect much when the rental office told me that I had a Hyundai. I even wrote to Hyundai to tell them of my pleasure with their Sonata. It came equipped with XM Satellite radio (a must for a multiple state trip) and from the lumbar support to the steering wheel finger controls, it was a great car for spending lots of time in.
Laura enjoyed the reclining passenger seat during the trip.
I think this is the only state welcome sign that we caught with the camera, there are a few more on the video camera. It's really hard to capture these signs because they are not always conveniently located, nor readable at high rates of speed.
Sunday, August 31
- Drive from IN to TX (passing through IN, KY, IL, MO, AR, TN, and TX)
We were able to visit with our friends Mikel and Anita in Indiana. It was great catching up with them, I haven't seen them since our days in Florida.
Cecilia was so cute and quickly made friends with Laura.
We stopped in Bloomington, IN (home of Indiana University) and had lunch before heading back on the road.
Looking at the map I noticed that we were really close to Kentucky and could easily swing through there on our way to highway 55 in Illinois. This was a grain transporting system that went for miles, and was about the only interesting thing we encountered for the entire day.
This was the scene for most of our trip south to Texas. Boring... I almost feel bad for people living in the middle of the country.
I really didn't have anything better to do.
I felt like I suddenly was transported to the African Safari and would encounter a ferocious animal at any moment.
No animals on this section of the trip, just flatness with an occasional tree.
Monday, September 1
- Dallas, Texas
We arrived in Dallas at 3:30am very tired but thrilled to have made the journey in one piece and to finally have some interesting things to see.
Turns out that we had several friends living in the Dallas area, so for lunch we got together with Jess...
and Heather. Heather was kind enough to let us stay with her and even waited up for our early morning arrival.
The glass building in the middle of the picture was designed by I.M. Pei, the architect that did the triangles at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
We visited the sight of the JFK shooting. Just off this street there were some gentleman set up with a table and pictures giving their take on another theory surrounding the shooting.
This is the Grand Ole Opry hotel in Dallas. Inside the hotel there are tributes to the various areas of Texas. This is a large state so this is a great, one-stop-shopping view of the Lone Star State.
It seems that most of my friends from Florida have left the state and have relocated around the country. My friends Amy and Jeremy are now living in the Dallas area. I haven't seen them in 3 years, it was really good to reconnect.
Our trip to Dallas proved that some relationships aren't affected by distance or time.
Tuesday, September 2
- Drive from Dallas to Flagstaff, Arizona (through TX, OK, NM, AR)
We decided to take the straightest route from Dallas to our Flagstaff destination, which meant going due north through Oklahoma City. As we approached the city we stopped for gas and noticed a Chick-fil-a just down the road, turns out it was opening in 3 days. We couldn't wait the 3 days, nor could we give up the search for another Chick-fil-a. Our search took us to downtown Oklahoma City to a former Chick-fil-a location. Apparently the GPS was not updated on the latest O.C. news. Little did we know that the search would take us by the government building that had been bombed years earlier
(By the way we never found a Chick-fil-a restaurant)
A train sighting, at times these were very exciting because it provided something new to look at.
We passed a lot of wind harvesting areas in Oklahoma and Texas. Seeing 40 or more windmills clustered together is a very interesting sight, much more interesting than the 6 or so perched along the PA Turnpike.
This was the view leaving Albuquerque, NM. The terrain became much more varied as we headed west.
This sign was at a pull off area in New Mexico... apparently it wasn't enforced.
In the distance is the beginning of the most gorgeous sunset I've ever seen.
Here is the view from the car.
There was rain off in the distance with some spectacular lightning.
Notice the town name... it solicited a little singing on my part.
Wednesday, September 3
- Flagstaff, Sedona, Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas
We loved the town of Sedona, if you ever get a chance to visit it's a must see.
A stop for chai and coffee to admire the views.
A trip to the airport provided a great view of the valley and the red rocks.
The trip to the Grand Canyon was across this plateau, but we spotted some deer along the way to make it a little more interesting.
I don't like heights! I get really nervous when near the edge or watching others near the edge. I was convinced this guy was going to jump and could barely watch as he maneuvered around the edge. Thankfully this was all for a picture and not preparation for a plunge.
The sun was really bright and was bothering Laura's light blue eyes. I really like this picture, other than the fact that Laura is squinting... no I like it even with her squinting, because it makes me laugh.
This was a close as I could get to the edge. The appearance of being close without actually being close at all.
Here Laura is trying to talk me into going out on the end of this rock ledge... can't do it! With every step my knees went weak.
Laura went to the other end of this rock that we are sitting on. She's crazy and also gives me butterflies in my stomach.
Here she is on the other side wanting it to look like she is dangling from the edge.
On our way out of the park Laura spotted this mule deer hanging out in the shade. I wantded her to go closer but she got scared when he lifted his head and locked eyes with her. I should note that while she went to take a better picture, I went to hide out in the car for
the escape plan of course!
Another long train spotted on our way to Vegas.
Laura loved the sunflowers scattered around the highways, so we had to stop for a photo shoot.
I didn't really study the path we were taking into Vegas, so I was pleasantly surprised by the crossing of the Hoover Dam (and we reached it before sundown!).
Another beautiful sunset on the way into Vegas.
Our hotel... we checked in about 8:30pm pdt and were told that the manager okayed a room upgrade for us. See the ph, our room was just to the right in a panorama suite.
The view from our room.
The entry to our room was down a long hallway to the double doors at the end.
A view inside our room... 1300 sq ft with two bathrooms and two flat panel tvs.
We walked around a little and then decided to get P.F. Chang's takeout and return to our room to enjoy the view.
Thursday, September 4
- Las Vegas, drive to L.A.
We took a morning walk down to the Venetian to wander the shops and see the gondolas.
In front of the Parisian Hotel, not quite as good as the real thing.
Inside the Bellagio was a replica of the hotel with the fountains. It was very pretty inside the hotel lobby and arboretum.
Leaving Vegas we headed south through the Mojave Desert towards L.A.
Friday, September 5
- drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco
Thank you Aunt Barb and Uncle Jerry for the hospitality and the entertainment.
Fighting L.A. traffic to head north to San Francisco.
This was the view heading north... don't they look inviting for 4-wheelers?
As soon as we came to the Pacific we found a parking area and jumped out to touch the water and do a photo shoot.
The Hearst Castle... but we didn't have time for a tour, just a fly by.
The drive up the coast provided more views of the clouds and fog than it did of the ocean. It was still a fun drive winding around the mountains.
Downtown San Francisco, complete with trolley cars.
This is a view looking out from the entrance of China Town and across the street to the restaurant we ate at.
Saturday, September 6
- San Francisco
We took a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and had to set up a photo shoot. A nice foreigner with a great accent took our picture... he was by himself and driving a mini van, very curious.
A view of downtown and the bay bridge.
Alcatraz - We looked into a trip to the island, but never made it out because Laura got sick.
We saw several of these "cars" around town. I even heard audio instructions coming from them. Then our thoughts drifted off to the sight of our parents renting one of these and driving around town... the imagination provides some of the best entertainment.
At first I thought they were piping in the seal sounds for the tourists, nope they were live.
We walked around for a little and then headed back to the car where Laura had to stop and use a random bush to deposit some of her stomach contents. So we scrapped the afternoon plans and headed back to the hotel for an afternoon nap for Laura and a PSU game for Michelle.
After our resting time we headed back out on the town to see a free Shakespeare play in Presidio Park.
Their version of Pericles was done in a western style, it was an interesting interpretation.
We borrowed the hotel blankets to cover up for the show, because it was very cold at night.
Sunday, September 7
- San Francisco
Our last day in San Francisco was spent trying to see all of the tourist recommended sights. Here is a view of the painted houses. We weren't really impressed after the long walk up the hill to get the view.
I drove the car down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world.
We made our way along a scenic drive through the city and stopped for photo shoots along the way.
Another hazy day along the water, which I'm told is common.
I'm really good at capturing the best of Laura!
Our last meal in San Francisco before heading to the airport. We sat along the bay with a view of the bay bridge.
Overall we had a fabulous trip, even though we had to buzz through most areas. I will say one thing, no one that we stayed with could complain that we overstayed our welcome, because we were barely there for the welcome! I've learned several things from this journey:
1 - Things really are larger in Texas. I was amazed by how spread out everything was and how large the industrial complexes were.
2 - The middle of the country leaves a lot to be desired in many areas of life, but the people sure are nice.
3 - Few people = faster highway driving speeds.
4 - There is nothingness between L.A. and San Fran.
5 - I definitely view life through a northeast U.S. lens and I'm okay with that.
6 - You can get good pictures while traveling in a car at 80 mph.