Day One - Aloha Hawaii
Flying from Hawaii to San Diego was rather uneventful other than Shala having to sit next to a rather large woman who engulfed the armrest and part of Shala's seat. During the first flight (Hawaii - San Francisco), we decided to use one of the great chocolate chip cookies that Michelle Brosseau had made us as a "Flat Stanley", taking it with us on the trip and taking pictures of it in different places. Approximately twenty three minutes into the second flight (San Fran - San Diego), the set aside "Flat Stanley" cookie was eaten. They were just too good. Upon arrival in San Diego, we were met by Josh Smith (an old shipmate from the boat) and shuttled to his place. He had a dinner party that night where we were able to meet some of his friends and eat some great food.
Day Two - Arizona is cold, WTF?
We started off with a nice breakfast in San Diego with Josh and his friend Liz. After that we hopped on the road and began our journey. Nothing really exciting on Day Two other than reaching Grand Canyon National Park a little after sunset. We were bouncing around in shorts and T-shirts - until we realized it was freakin' cold...this is Arizona, right? Who would have thought.
Mileage - 550 (550 for the day)
Photos - 16 (16 for the day)
States - 2 (CA, AZ)
Day Three - Things get interesting
We got up bright and early to catch sunrise over the canyon. We wanted to get to a certain overlook for the sunrise, but thanks to a dearth of any useful road signs (every sign told you the direction to the park exits, not the overlooks) we weren't able to get to the overlook by sunrise. We did have a close encounter with some large hoofed animals whose exact classification remains unknown (giant deer, dwarf elk, platypus?...). We wandered through the woods for a while until we found the canyon rim. We got some nice pictures of the canyon with early morning sun as the colors changed with the rising of the sun. After breakfast, we headed east through the park stopping at most of the overlooks on the drive that runs about 25 miles along the canyon rim. Photos aplenty were taken.
We continued out of the park and on our way to Monument Valley in Utah. As we were making our way through Navajo Nation on US 160, I was passed by a tour bus whose driver we had seen at the Grand Canyon. With the driver doing about 70 or so about 200 yards in from of me, his right front tire blew. He lost control and headed off the road. The bus came to a stop about 100 yards after the tire blew about 20 feet of the road. I stopped about 100 yards past him and ran back to help. I was expecting to find a bunch of hurt people. When I got to the bus it was leaning over at about 20 degrees in soft dirt. I help the driver get out one of the windows, get a ladder out and start helping people down. It was a bunch of German (I think) tourists with no injuries whatsoever. The bus however started to lean even more. That was corrected to a safe angle however by deflating the suspension. After the people were corralled away from the bus and checked for injuries, the police arrived and we headed on our way.
The rest of the trip to Monument Valley was uneventful. Monument Valley was absolutely amazing and was a quite enjoyable ride. Unfortunately, we were taking more time than we wanted. We exited Monument Valley with the realization that we had about 65 miles to go to get to Four Corners in about 70 minutes. We thought we had about 2 hours because we had been operating on Arizona Time which is different than the other three states that come together at Four Corners. So, imagine if you will, Dave behind the wheel flying down roads in the desert that had a speed limit of 65 liberally applied to them. I certainly had the vision of coming flying up to the monument, tossing money at the guy at the gate, skidding into a parking space and running out for the obligatory picture. I came up to the gate at 5:26 with the knowledge that the site closed at 5:30. Imagine the deflation once I saw the park sign that says they are actually open until 7:00. Well, we got our pictures and headed to Durango, Colorado to bed down for the night.
Mileage - 900 (350 for the day)
Photos - 421 (405 for the day, no joke)
States - 4 (AZ, UT, NM, CO)
Day Four - Wyoming or bust (or damn commercialism)
On Monday we left our hotel to make the run to Cheyenne, WY. The flavor of the day was a bunch of small state highways with some great scenery. During the course of the day we had to stop multiple times for construction which slowed our progress a lot, but it didn't bother us too much. We stopped in Del Norte for lunch at a little cafe. We invited an older couple to sit with us since there weren't enough seats in the cafe. We had a nice conversation with them and then shocked them by buying their lunch for them. Del Norte appeared to be the end of what I am calling the "graveyard for train cars". A line of rail cars sat on the track running from South Fork to Del Norte (16 miles at least). They were all the same type and were rusty and fairly overgrown in most spots so they hadn't moved in a while. Of course, I took pictures.
From Del Norte, we headed on a side trip to Royal Gorge to go across the highest bridge in the US (over 1000 feet above the river). Shala had been there before, so we decided to go so I could see it. When we got there it was very different than Shala's memory. Essentially an amusement park had been built on each end and they were charging $11 a person to cross the bridge (In season price was $21 a person). They had also put up privacy fences to essentially block any view of the gorge or the bridge itself. Pretty crappy if you ask me. We left without crossing the bridge because, as another couple who turned away said, "There are plenty of beautiful places to see for free."
After the letdown of the bridge, we headed on our way to Cheyenne. We finally managed to get to Cheyenne around 9 pm. Because of the construction and detour to Royal Gorge, we ended up taking almost eleven hours for a trip that should have only taken about 8.5 or so. Oh, well, safe and sound.
Mileage - 1410 (510 for the day)
Photos - 429 (8 for the day)
States - 2 (CO, WY)
Day Five - Large Animal Bonanza
After a great night's sleep we grabbed some bagels and fled the raging metropolis of Cheyenne for points East (and North). After a while we were able to return to small country highways and see some beautiful scenery. (Most of the trip had been done on small country highways. From San Diego to Grand Canyon was almost all interstate, but we hadn't returned to an Interstate until Denver, CO.) About two hours of travel got us to Chimney Rock in Nebraska. It is a pretty impressive piece of topography. Since our goal was to get to Mount Rushmore before the sun fell we pressed on after taking an obligatory set of pictures.
Our route for the day took us through Bridgeport, NE. There is a very good possibility that Bridgeport is where Nebraska's farm equipment comes to die. There were spots on the little country road where, for as far as you could see, there were pieces of rusted, broken down farm equipment. A glance into the fields of farm equipment brought an interesting sight. A quick U-turn followed by a second one put us in a prime spot to take pictures of cows grazing amongst the tractor parts. And who was there to keep the cows company while they grazed...llamas, yes, llamas. I think, based on the looks on the bull's faces, that they were more confused by the sight of us than we were interested in them.
We continued the trip towards the Black Hills of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore. We passed through many a small town that still had the feel of early twentieth century. Along the way, we went through Wind Caves Nat'l Park. As we wound through the park, we came upon a couple cars that had stopped on the road. It was at this point that we saw the Bison...about 15-20 of them, mainly females and calves, making their way across the road. The group moved slowly across the road overseen by five or six of us in our cars and countless prairie dogs. After the procession moved on, we continued on our way. Near the exit to the park, Shala's keen eyes picked up a huge Bison bull off of the road near the treeline. We stopped for photos at which point the Bison took his cue to walk across the road since we had stopped traffic. Smart animals with good road sense if you ask me...or at least better than Hawaii drivers... We raced on to Mount Rushmore passing Crazy Horse on the way. Since Crazy Horse is still far from complete, we simply shot pictures from the road as we drove past. (Yeah, psycho-tourists...I know...)
We got to Mount Rushmore around 5:30 so there was still some good light for late afternoon pictures. We hung around for a while shooting a handful of pictures and then headed off to Rapid City where we spent the night with some relatives, Bonnie and her husband Terry. Bonnie is Shala's mother's cousin (I have no idea what that makes us other than people eligible for a night in a free bed, but who's complaining).
Mileage - 1810 (400 for the day)
Photos - 568 (139 for the day)
States - 3 (WY, NE, SD)
Day Six - If it's made of rock, we saw it
Day Six was supposed to be a short day - mileage and time-wise -, but it wasn't. We started out around 9 am so that we would be to Mount Rushmore for some nice late morning sun for some good picture opportunities. We stayed at Rushmore for a while and took a bunch of pictures. A couple kindly volunteered to take a photo of us so we managed to get a picture with the monument after previous failed attempts (a lady, the day before, took a picture of us standing in front of the monument, but the heads of the presidents were cut off, go figure). After about an hour or more at Rushmore, we headed off through the Black Hills to make a return to Wyoming and visit Devils Tower. With one eye on the road and one eye on the sky (searching for alien spacecraft), we made our way down some small country roads. We finally reached Devils Tower and were amazed by it's size (and the size of the prairie dog town just inside the entrance). Many a picture was taken, and after a bit of education at the Visitor's Center, we headed off for Belle Fourche, SD and the geographical center of the US.
Around 4pm, we reached Belle Fourche. The map was somewhat unclear about the actual position of the monument so using our best guess we headed north to the center of the town. No luck. We started randomly driving through the neighborhoods in the town. Again, no luck. We searched up and down and finally asked a lady at a gas station. She told us that it was 30 miles north of the town and that we would see signs for it. So, we went racing out of town. After 14 miles we saw a sign directing us to a dirt road with the promise that the monument was 8.7 miles away. 20 miles down the road there was still nothing. We turned around and headed back to the county highway. We headed away from town again and burnt up 15 more miles until we were actually 30 miles out of town. Still nothing. So after many an hour, and many a mile, we gave up our search. We turned our dirt covered car around and pointed it south towards Rapid City again. 7pm saw us arriving back at Terry and Bonnie's place for a needed sleep.
Mileage - 2200 (390 for the day)
Photos - 733 (165 for the day)
States - 2 (SD, WY)
Day Seven - Palaces of Corn and Giant Green Men
After an early breakfast with Terry and Bonnie, we hit the road. A couple classic Midwestern icons awaited us on our trip. First up was Wall Drug in Wall, SD. The ultimate in tourist sites, the highway was littered with signs announcing your imminent arrival at this icon of South Dakota over fifty miles in advance. It was interesting to wander around the icon of small town capitalism to have a break from the boring interstate. We bought some drinks for the road and a stuffed Bison for baby Thelma. The donuts there were great too. After a few more hours on the interstate, we found the next great pit stop of this leg of the journey: the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. What can I say, only in South Dakota...a building with murals on the outside made of...(wait for it, wait for it)... CORN! We stopped for pictures and decided to walk inside. What could top off a building decorated in corn you ask? Well, a building decorated in corn with older couples polka-ing (is that a word?) inside doing something called "snowballing" is a real barn burner. In all honesty, the building was pretty cool and on the inside there are many pictures of the building in days past with different corn murals. The design drawings for the murals were interesting too. After a stop at Taco John's for some well needed bean burritos, we headed back to the interstate. As the road stretched before us, South Dakota became Minnesota and Iowa loomed ahead (and to the right). The interstate-through-farmland monotony was broken by the sight of our final pit stop: The Dairy Queen in Blue Earth, MN, oh, and the 60 foot tall Green Giant Statue behind it. Yeah, it was big. These were the highlights of our 12-1/2 hour journey from Rapid City, SD to Ames, IA. Before I end this day, I have to point out our gas stop in Clear Lake, IA. The premium gasoline cost us $2.19 a gallon. The same premium gas, on base in Hawaii, would have cost $3.33 a gallon on the day we left.
Mileage - 2840 (640 for the day)
Photos - 757 (24 for the day)
States - 3 (SD, MN, IA)
Day Eight through Day Ten - Homesteading
Finally, Ames! and a few days of visiting family and our house. The stop in Ames allowed us a much needed rest as Shala had been fighting a cold up to this point. While in Ames we took care of some business at the bank, county courthouse and city recorder. We also managed to hit the two most important places in Ames: Hickory Park Barbecue and Ice Cream and Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company (a pizza place). Our weekend in Ames also included spending time with some of Shala's friends watching the Iowa Superbowl as Iowa State and Iowa faced off on the football field. Unfortunately the outcome saw Iowa State on the short end of the stick, but it was nice to spend some time with Kirsti and Jason. With all of the football on Saturday and Sunday (Bengals on the internet), I was able to determine that Thelma is a football fan because she kicked Shala almost continuously through all the games we watched or heard. Shala's sees this differently however. She thinks the kicking is an indication that Thelma wants to get away from the football. Too late, I already have plans for a Bengals jersey and other Bengals baby stuff for Thelma. On Sunday, Shala and I went to Ledges State Park with Sylvia (Shala's Mother), Henry (Sylvia's beau), Jamile and Rita (two of Shala's sisters). It was pretty cool to walk through the woods and see the changing leaves. Because of recent rains, the water level was high, so there were numerous spots where we had to walk through streams that rushed across the road. Throughout the park, there are numerous sandstone cliff faces that have been beautifully carved by a stream. It was an enjoyable walk as we made our way down to the Des Moines River and returned. Sunday evening was pretty exciting too as I got to feel Thelma kick multiple times while I touched Shala's stomach. I had kinda felt things before, but this time it was obvious that she was kicking. Pretty cool. 3 months or so to go...Yay, baby!
Mileage - 2969 (129 for the three day period)
Photos - 908 (151 for the three day period)
States - 1 (IA)
Day Eleven - Cincinnati, Please!
Not much to say about this leg of the trip. We started from Ames around 9 am and used I-35 to get to I-80. I-80 got us to I-74 which led to I-275. We arrived at my grandmother's house at 8 pm local for the completion of 10 hours on the interstate (1 hour time change from CDT to EDT). We did have to drive in rain from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, but it was relatively light and didn't really slow our progress. Pretty much the only comment that I can make about this leg of the trip is that the Rest Areas in Iowa were the best of the entire trip so far. Yay, Iowa.
Mileage - 3574 (605 for the day)
Photos - 908 (0 for the day)
States - 4 (IA, IL, IN, OH)
Our fourth trip report comes to you from my grandfather's condo overlooking Cincinnati, OH.
Day Twelve through Day Fourteen - Bengal Country
After struggling out of bed Tuesday morning (Day 12), Shala and I headed to the mall to burn up some time before a lunch get together with family and friends. Shala and I managed to find a birthday present for her mother, Sylvia, and then we made our way to PANERA for lunch. Grandma Jamison (Dave's maternal grandmother) met us with her friend Bill. We all sat to lunch with my cousin Frank. After a nice lunch and some good conversation, Shala and I headed across town to another mall where we met up with my best friend from high school, Joe. We spent a while talking and then headed to the Cincinnati pizza place, LaRosa's Pizza (ok it's a big chain now, but it is still homestyle good). That evening, we also hit a movie after spending a couple hours at Joe's parent's condo down on the Ohio River. Joe and I spent so much time together in high school, it was like our parents each had an extra son.
Wednesday morning saw us awaken to the smell of a turkey baking in the oven. Turns out the lunch with my aunt Susan and grandmother was going to have extra guests. My cousin, Emily, showed up with her son and my cousin Steve's son. Shala expertly carved the turkey when it was finished and we had another great meal and conversation. Mid-afternoon, we packed the car, bade farewell to Grandma Jamison and headed downtown to Grandpa Grogan's condo (Dave's paternal grandfather and husband to baby Thelma's namesake). After doing some catching up, the three of us headed over to see my uncle Todd's church. Uncle Todd converted to Catholicism and joined the priesthood and has been the pastor at a couple churches. His current church is Annunciation in Cincinnati. Todd gave us the grand tour of the Church and Rectory and told us a lot about the history of the church and the restoration work that is going on. After the tour, we headed down the street for dinner at the Cincinnati chili place...Skyline Chili. Yeah, it's a chain now too, but has managed to stay close to its roots too. If you have never had Cincinnati chili, you have to drop into a Skyline when you are in the Greater Cincinnati Area. If you can't make it to Cincy, when you see me or Shala, ask us if we have some we can make for you. (We have it shipped to us by the caseload.)
Thursday (Day 14) could be called our Cincinnati tourist day. To start off with, Grandpa's condo has a great view of Cincinnati so a bunch of pictures were taken from his balcony. The three of us then made our way down to Carew Tower. Carew Tower is the tallest building in Cincinnati and has a commanding view of the city and the Ohio River. For the videophiles, you may remember Carew Tower from the sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati", which is where the fictional station was located. The trip to the observation deck requires an elevator ride to the 45th floor followed by a ride in a small closet masquerading as an elevator from the 45th to the 48th floor and then a torturous stair climb from the 48th to 49th floor. Supposedly with the last renovation of Carew Tower, nothing was touched about the 45th floor so it remains as close to its original state as possible. While atop the Carew Tower, we took photos of many of the major landmarks including the Roebling Suspension Bridge. John Roebling was the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. The story goes that he built the suspension bridge in Cincinnati as practice for the Brooklyn Bridge. We were treated to great views of City Hall, Music Hall, Union Terminal and Paul Brown Stadium (Go Bengals!). After absorbing all that we could on top of Carew Tower, the three of us headed out and around the city. We saw a great deal of downtown and the west side of town. We also headed up to Eden Park and went down Madison Road looking at the huge old houses. After a while we headed to Oakley to visit Aglamesis Brother's Ice Cream Parlor. Great homemade ice cream made right in the shop. After the sweet treat we headed back to Grandpa's condo where we had a nice dinner together and then waited for the sky to turn black so that Shala could work her magic with some nighttime shots of the city.
Mileage - 3574 (605 for the three day period)
Photos - 1186 (278 for the three day period)
States - 1 (OH)
Day 15 - Southward, HO!
Friday saw an early wakeup to have breakfast with Grandpa Grogan before he had to head to a meeting. After eating and packing our bags, we headed to meet Joe for an early lunch. After lunch with Joe, we headed back to Grandpa's to get our bags and depart the Queen City. After crossing into Kentucky, we stopped at a supermarket to grab some cans of Skyline Chili to take with us. Coincidentally this is the same market we stopped at a few years back to grab chili. We ended up with a "Shala's Dozen" of fourteen cans. (Somebody can't count in twos...). The trip south through Kentucky saw our first lengthy period in heavy rain. From Cincy to Berea, KY (around 120 miles or so) was almost continuous heavy rain. We continued south into the mountains of Tennessee. Tennessee gave us our two leading contestants in the "nastiest gas station bathroom" competition. The gas station in Newport, TN was actually nasty enough that I was unwilling to wash my hands in the cesspool disguised as a sink. Our drive continued into North Carolina and onto our ultimate destination of Dillard, Georgia. The ride was nice enough through the Smokey Mountains but I gotta wonder...who's the idiot who puts stoplights on highways that have 65 mph speed limits and exits...seriously, are you trying to cause accidents? We arrived at the cabin in the hills of Georgia (yes there are hills in Georgia) and were greeted by Dave's parents; Brother, Tom; his wife, Brandi; and their kids, Miranda, Mitchell and the baby, Seth. It was the first time all of us had been together. Eschewing the opportunity for a home-cooked meal, we headed down to the Dillard House for a country style family meal. All manner of food was brought to the table... Fried Chicken, Barbecue Chicken, Fried Fish, Pulled Barbecue, Country Ham, Salisbury Steak, Fried Okra, Scalloped Potatoes, Lima Beans, Green Beans, Squash, Biscuits, Cole Slaw, Apple Salad and on and on... Since it was served country style, huge portions were brought to the table, I mean seriously, what are 6 adults, 2 kids under 9 and a baby going to do with 16 pieces of Salisbury Steak, 3 chickens deconstructed into Fried or Barbecued portions, 10 pieces of fish and bowl after bowl of everything else...but damn, was it good...
Mileage - 4104 (430 for the day)
Photos - 1204 (18 for the day)
States - 5 (OH, KY, TN, NC, GA)
Day 16 - Crazy Farm Animals, Winding Roads, Cataracts...oh, yeah, and Shala's Birthday (now she's old too)
We started off Saturday with a trip down to the Dillard House where they have a small "farm zoo" and horse rides for children. We bought little packets of food so that we could feed the animals in the pen. There were goats, sheep, chickens and even a large bull. We were astounded by the teamwork between a large sheep and a young goat. The sheep let the small goat jump on his back while he carried him over to the fence for food. While at the Dillard House, Tom and Brandi led Miranda and Mitchell around on horse rides. After the kids were sufficiently tired out, we headed up the serpentine road to Highlands, NC. Along the road we were treated to amazing views into the gorge. Our first stop along the road was at Dry Falls. It is a beautiful set of falls that has a path leading all the way down to and behind the falls. Shala used her skills with the camera to take a bunch of beautiful pictures of the falls. After about a half hour of photography, we returned to the car and headed back up the hill. Our next stop was Bridal Veil Falls. The positioning of the Falls was such that you used to be able to actually drive behind the falls. A rock slide has ended that particular feature, but the falls are still quite beautiful. After a couple minutes to snap pictures, we continued our sojourn up the hill. We stopped in the little mountain resort town of Highlands, NC for lunch. After filling our bellies, we headed back down the mountain to get back to the cabin. We were hoping to catch the Iowa State - Texas football game. Unfortunately, the game was not being televised where we were, but the act of checking for the game sent us down the slippery slope of football. Since we were back home, we decided it was the right time to break out the birthday cake and ice cream for Shala (Yay, Ice Cream!, Yay, Cake!). Shala was kind enough to finally join Dave on the opposite side of the 30 year old hurdle. Now she is officially OLD! The night was whittled away with some card playing and more football watching. Oh, yeah, and more cake and ice cream (Yay, Ice Cream!, Yay, Cake!).
Mileage - 4104 (0 for the day, Dad drove everywhere)
Photos - 1530 (326 for the day)
States - 2 (NC, GA)
Day 17 - Dillard
Sunday in Dillard was a nice lazy day where we spent time together and visited an antique mall. Shala set up the camera so that we could take a nice family photo in the cabin. After waiting to find out the result of the Bengals-Steelers game (Yay, Bengals! Who Dey!), Tom and his family packed up and headed home. The remaining foursome spent the rest of the day together and watched the Sunday evening series premieres. Yes, life ruled by television...we need our DVR back!
Mileage - 4104 (0 for the day, Dad drove everywhere, again)
Photos - 1597 (67 for the day)
States - 2 (GA, NC)
Day 18 - to Staunton
On Monday, we packed up our cars and started our caravan to Dave's parents' home in Staunton (pronounced Stanton), Virginia. Slightly over an hour into the drive we encountered a large traffic build-up on I-40 in NC. We were lucky enough to be right at the Canton, NC exit. Since we were familiar with the area, we got off the interstate and used the back roads. Our path took us past the old Grogan Farm in Leicester, NC. We stopped to see if our relatives were home. Unfortunately, they weren't there. We did take a small number of pictures and returned to our travels. Most of the trip to Staunton was relatively uneventful. I-81 however did provide us with a couple enjoyable hours of driving in close proximity with tractor trailers. No joke, if you took all of the tractor trailers that we saw from California to North Carolina, we saw the same number in the couple hours we were on I-81. Not looking forward to jumping back on that Interstate on Sunday.
Mileage - 4509 (405 for the day)
Photos - 1613 (16 for the day)
States - 4 (GA, NC, TN, VA)
Day 19 - Adventures in Southern Education
After a hearty breakfast at home, we headed north on I-81 for Luray Caverns. These caverns were discovered by Luray tinsmith Andrew J Campbell on the morning of August 13th, 1868. The caverns contain many beautiful formations including a "drapery" called Saracen's Tent and a shallow pond called Dream Lake. In 1974 the caverns were designated as a Registered Natural Landmark. One of the "rooms" in the cavern is called the Cathedral and it contains the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the world's largest musical instrument. The organ console activates rubber-tipped mallets spread over 3.5 acres that are attached to stalactites that produced tones matching a musical scale. The winding trip through the caverns was excellent if unfortunately punctuated by a guide who was less than skilled in the English language. Upon our arrival in the first chamber we were informed that "we seen what they seen" when the discoverers of the caverns first entered. Shortly thereafter we were directed to the "most driest" section of the caverns. At this point, I shifted my brain to "inhibit-stupid" mode and didn't hear another word she said. I had to get further factual information from brochures and books in the gift store since I "tuned out" the guide.
After the caverns, we headed to Harrisonburg, the home of James Madison University, and grabbed lunch. We continued towards Staunton, but skipped the Interstate in favor of the smaller country road that paralleled it. We passed through a couple of small towns and came upon the site of the former Augusta Military Academy. This was a small military school that had its start in 1865 under the guidance of a former Confederate soldier. The school officially became the Augusta Military Academy in 1890 and ultimately closed its doors in 1984. Numerous graduates went on to military academies and later military service. Possibly the most well-known graduate (of current history) is Air Force General Miers who was nominated as head of the NSA. The old large barracks building still sits on the campus along with the original schoolhouse which is now a museum. It was a neat example of the traditional southern military school. Some of the buildings on campus have thankfully gained new life as a church so that the architecture and history isn't completely lost.
Mileage - 4509 (0 for the day, Dad drove everywhere)
Photos - 1836 (223 for the day)
States - 1 (VA)
Day 20 - Monticello, Charlottesville and Charlottesville again.
On Wednesday, we headed to the town of Charlottesville so that we could visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. At Monticello, we were greeted by every tourist's favorite sight... a massive group of schoolchildren (Yikes!). Luckily they were in their own private tour, but there was some skillful avoidance of the children throughout the day. Luckily we were there outside of the busiest season and busiest days so that our wait for a tour was pretty short. The tour was pretty good with some interesting insights into the history of the beautiful house and the man who built it. I do have to say that I think I am getting close to rivaling the library that Thomas Jefferson had...I'm only about 1800 volumes behind. (Well, behind his second library since he sold his first library to replace the volumes burned by the British in the War of 1812) "Little Mountain" has some absolutely amazing views and a beautiful vegetable garden. The time at Monticello provided some relaxing walks through the beautiful grounds and some great photo opportunities.
After spending a fair chunk of the afternoon at Monticello, we headed to historic downtown Charlottesville to find a quick bite to eat. We wandered through the pedestrian mall where we stumbled upon an old fashioned soda fountain in the back of a pharmacy for lunch. After being treated to some great sandwiches and milkshakes, we headed back into the pedestrian mall to do some window shopping. With another hour or two gone, and a few bags in hand, we decided to head back home.
Only a short hour or two after returning home, Dad and Dave hopped back in the car to make a return to Charlottesville. No, we didn't leave something in Charlottesville. Grandpa Grogan flew in to visit for a while so he had to be picked up at the Charlottesville Airport.
Mileage - 4509 (0 for the day, Dad drove everywhere, again)
Photos - 1972 (136 for the day)
States - 1 (VA)
Day 21 - Staunton, VA - Architecture Tour
Thursday was a relatively easy day. We headed down to see the hotel where Mom is the Director of Room Operations. The hotel is the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. It's a historic landmark of Staunton, VA. After getting a look around the hotel and seeing some of the beautiful rooms, we headed out into the town of Staunton to take some pictures and look at some of the shops. So, for the few people reading this who know nothing about Staunton, VA, Iíll give a little background. Staunton, VA (nicknamed the "Queen City") used to be the focal point of the Commonwealth of Virginia that used to stretch up into Ohio and Indiana all the way to what is now Chicago, IL. Staunton is currently home to Mary Baldwin College and the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. For country music fans, Staunton is the childhood home of the Statler Brothers. As for the link to Stonewall Jackson, well, he fought battles in this area and a lot of his senior officers lived in this area. While he never spent much time in Staunton, I think every historic southern hotel has to have some reference to a Confederate Civil War General (I think it may be part of the process for getting a hotel permit). For the daily trivia question, who can tell me why the bar in the Stonewall Jackson Hotel has a bar in it named "Sorrels". Last, but not least, Staunton is the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and home to his presidential library and museum.
Staunton is a beautiful old southern town with some great old buildings with astounding detail work. As we wandered through shops and little restaurants, Dave took a bunch of pictures. There are a bunch of old antique shops and general junk stores. Dave got the chance to look through a couple hobby shops and came away with some things.
Mileage - 4524 (15 for the day)
Photos - 2234 (262 for the day)
States - 1 (VA)
Day 22 - Staunton, VA - The birth of Income Taxes
Friday continued the trend of relatively easy days. We decided to go to Woodrow Wilson's Presidential Library. Yes, Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton. He was born into the family of a Presbyterian minister and after only a year in Staunton, they moved away to Augusta, Georgia. While he only spent his first year of life in Staunton, the locals refer to it as his "formative year". Part of the library is the home in which Woodrow Wilson was born...including the bed in which his mother gave birth. Besides the beautiful Manse (church's quarters for the minister) that he was born, the library also has possession of the Pierce Arrow that was Wilson's Presidential Limousine (which he bought from the White House fleet after his second term in the presidency). Interesting things about Woodrow Wilson: His first name was Thomas, but once he entered politics he stopped using it; He was the President who started the Federal Reserve; He gave us income taxes (booooo!!!!!!!!!); He led us into WWI after the main platform of his reelection bid in 1916 was that he had kept us out of WWI in his first term; He was president of Princeton University before becoming Governor of New Jersey and then President. After the Presidential Library, we hit a local restaurant for some great ribs and other food before retiring home.
Mileage - 4539 (15 for the day)
Photos - 2311 (77 for the day)
States - 1 (VA)
Day 23 - Staunton, VA - Down on the Farm
Continuing the trend of easy days in Virginia with family, our trip for Saturday was to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. Unlike some "farming museums" that show the progression of technology and living conditions in a farm in a certain area, the Frontier Culture Museum shows farms from four countries at the same time in history. The 1850s era farms are from Germany, Ireland (transplanted Scottish family), England and Germany. The farms don't just represent the given country; they were actually moved stone by stone or timber by timber from where they originally stood. There were people in each farmhouse in period costume who told about living conditions and life on the farm. Along with the four farms, there was also a Scottish Forge with a blacksmith who put on quite a show for us. After the museum, we headed home for some college football and 'burgers and 'dogs from the grill.
Mileage - 4562 (23 for the day)
Photos - 2495 (184 for the day)
States - 1 (VA)
Day 24 - Pushing North
After a nice breakfast with Mom, Dad and Grandpa, we jumped onto the road again. While some time on Interstates was required, we eschewed large swaths of concrete cutting through farmland for some small highways cutting through hometown America. The travel was slower than the route recommended by MAPQUEST, but it was almost 70 miles shorter and much more scenic. On our trip through the back roads of Pennsylvania and New York, we were treated to Glass City USA (Brockway, PA) and the beautiful mansions and scenic downtown of Ridgway, PA. Near the town of Philipsburg, PA we saw an interesting billboard stating "Stop causing CANCER, close the Nuclear Power Plants". I guess there are no carcinogens in the exhaust from Oil and Coal fired power plants. Unfortunately we didn't take the time to turn around and shoot a picture of it. Along the route we saw some beautiful colors as we passed through forest that was changing into autumn shades. After about nine and half hours of travel (we were expecting ten and a half), we arrived at our destination: The Chestnut Inn Bed and Breakfast on River Road in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. After taking a rest in our room for a while (and watching the Bengals get slaughtered in the second half of their game against the Patriots), we walked down to the falls to see them illuminated in the dark. We only shot a couple of pics because the mist was pretty heavy and conditions weren't the greatest. We wandered around for a while until we stumbled on an Indian restaurant for dinner. With full bellies, we hopped a cab back to the B&B and bedded down for the night. (As the random aside, since the beginning of last season, I have only been able to watch all or part of 4 Bengals games live on TV. The have lost all four. In that same period they have only lost 8 of the 21 games. Maybe I should stick to listening top them on the radio/internet.)
Mileage - 5015 (453 for the day)
Photos - 2503 (8 for the day)
States - 5 (VA, WV, MD, PA, NY)
Day 25 - Niagara Falls
On Monday morning, we headed down to the falls for some pictures and to get on with our day. We shot a pile of pictures, but the mist from the falls was pretty heavy so we didn't get as many as we wanted. We couldn't get close enough to the Horseshoe Falls to get a couple of the pictures we were looking for. After the falls, we headed off to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We did a fair amount of window shopping before getting some lunch and some items from a local bakery. We headed back to our Bed & Breakfast for a mid-afternoon break. On the trip back to the B&B, we stopped at the Brock Monument in the park overlooking Queenston Heights. The monument stands as memorial to the commander of the combined British and Canadian forces that won the battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812. After our break, we headed back to downtown Niagara Falls to return to a Mini-Golf course we had played on our previous trip to the falls. Shala had a storming front nine including a hole-in-one, but Dave came back with a solid back nine for the two stroke victory. After the vast energy expenditure caused by sport, we hit an Italian joint for some pizza.
Mileage - 5047 (32 for the day)
Photos - 2671 (168 for the day)
States - 0, uh, we're in Canada
Day 26 - Long Road (to a new) Home
Tuesday opened up to dreary, rainy skies so we inevitably dragged our feet some prior to leaving. Once we got on the road, we headed up to the coast of Lake Ontario and traveled along the water until we reached Rochester. From there we joined I-90 and commenced the long trek to Connecticut. The trip was relatively uneventful. Skies cleared after about 2 hours of driving. After paying a few tolls and making a few stops, we finally found ourselves in Groton, Connecticut at the Navy Lodge.
Mileage - 5555 (508 for the day)
Photos - 2671 (0 for the day)
States - 3 (NY, MA, CT)
Well, we made it here, we have a place and we have cleared the final hurdle to make our place a home (digital cable and cable modem were hooked up). Our trip was a blast. It was amazing to visit all the great places in our country. Unfortunately, we barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. We can never thank enough the family and friends who made this trip possible. We love you all and want you to know our door is always open. Besides the Falls pictures we added some of the covered bridges in Connecticut. The two bridges are Bull's Bridge and the West Cornwall Bridge.