So this is it. Come along for the final installment of a four part series on our Great American Road Trip.
After 21 days on the road we were just past the half way point of our epic journey across the USA which started in Seattle, took us through the heartland and up the Blue Ridge Parkway into Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York and back home again. We were now in Virginia, birth place of these United States of America and home to many historic sites including Jefferson’s classic home Monticello.
And Colonial Williamsburg, the restored capital of colonial Virginia where men and women of the American revolution lived.
After leaving Virginia we headed north into Pennsylvania’s gentle and fertile farm country where we stopped at the York Harley Davidson factory and shopped in the Amish town of Bird in Hand while looking out for horse and buggy. (Yes, we saw them.)
We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Hershey (yes, THAT Hershey)
and Steamtown National Historic Site which tells the history of steam railroading and its role in the development of the country. It also had the biggest collection of trains I have ever seen. This place made Bob happy.
Our next stop was one of the most anticipated: the Adirondacks in upstate New York, a beautiful mountain region of six million acres and the largest protected natural area in the lower 48. (I bet you didn’t know that. Neither did I.) Here were mountains, forests, lakes, streams, verdant valleys and steep cliffs. And hundreds of small communities including Lake Placid, site of the 1980 winter Olympics where the USA upset the Soviets to take the gold in a game called, “Miracle on Ice.” Score!
We were there in early September and got to see the trees start to change color. And we visited the charming Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake which reminded me of our own San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest.
Whether it was this reminder of the Northwest that tugged at our hearts or something else, it was about this time in our trip that something changed, quietly at first. It wasn’t just that fall’s breath could be felt in the air. Or that climbing into the camper bed every night was taking more and more effort. And it wasn’t because of that slight panic that sometimes happened when we got lost and were hunting for a campground in the dark much later than we’d planned, and sometimes in the rain. Or that we were tired of both my camper style cooking and eating out at diners along the way (which we were.) No, it was more than all that. A kind of travel weariness had set in, a missing of things familiar. A longing for ordinary days. We were still a long way from home but it was in New York that home began calling us to press on, perhaps a little more hurriedly.
But we were not done yet. On our 31st day we were camped at Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. And in one of our more spontaneous excursions we boarded the train at nearby Beverly Shores station leaving the solitude of that beautiful park and our camper behind..
and explored the great city of Chicago which was unexpectedly beautiful, as seen from the Hancock Tower.
The next day we were westward bound again, stopping only when convenient to the highway. One such stop was in Minnesota at Blue Mounds State Park, where we walked through a remnant of preserved prairie grass to pink quartzite cliffs, while warm winds blew through tall wildflowers and grasshoppers danced around us.
And still we pressed on. On into South Dakota’s Badlands where the air was crisp and the sky clear blue and where we seemed to have the place to ourselves…
Our time in the Badlands included a visit to a genuine prairie homestead made of sod and included a friendly colony of white prairie dogs (the only ones in the world) who were everywhere and unafraid;
And was complete with this amazing sunset.
After a long drive the next day with stops by Sturgis and famous Wall Drugs, we made it to Wyoming and set up camp in Buffalo at 4,600 feet. Temperatures plummeted that night and we woke up to snow on the Big Horn Mountains nearby. Does it seem that I’m rushing the telling? That is just how it felt at this point in our trip. Though the scenery was grand, magnificent in fact, we were back in the West now and so close to home we could almost smell it and Bob’s foot was heavy on the gas pedal.
And so our Great American Cross Country Road Trip which covered 23 states over 37 days and 8,000 miles came to a close. We loved every single day of the adventure, and would do it again in fact, but as that lovely Dorothy Gale realized after her fantastic journey to Oz was over, There’s No Place Like Home!