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!
After nearly 2 weeks on the road we had reached a low point on our cross country journey. 310 feet underground to be exact. We were in Kentucky on the historic tour of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world, with over 400 miles of explored cave. We would settle for exploring 2 miles of the cave and descended into large cavernous chambers, squeezed through claustrophobia inducing spaces and navigated over 440 stairs.
We’d arrived at Mammoth Cave National Park after leaving Kansas and whizzing by the Gateway Arch in St Louis (too rainy to stop), pausing at Camp River DuBois (where Lewis and Clark stayed the winter before leaving on the mother of all road trips), and passing through the beautiful cornfields of southern Illinois and Indiana. We even managed to take in the 100th anniversary of the Kentucky State Fair the day before in the sweltering heat. We were ready to be in the great outdoors for the next few days.
After our journey to the center of the earth (well it seemed like it), we took a scenic boat ride on the Green River that formed Mammoth Cave, and saw muskrat, beaver and deer (none of which agreed to be photographed.)
After our adventures in Kentucky, we pressed onward to what became one of the highlights of our trip: the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469 mile linear park running from the Great Smoky Mountains through the gentle Appalachian mountains all the way to Virginia.
Here again the pace was slow and the views enchanting with mountains, waterfalls, wildlife and wildflowers. Original homesteads, that were lived in up until the 1930’s, dotted the sides of the road.
It’s here we had our most memorable camping experience of the entire trip at Doughton Park. While relaxing at our campsite in the warm and fragrant summer evening, we were befriended by locals who serenaded us with their live dulcimer music and shared with us homemade pulled taffy. Now that was some fine southern hospitality!
So this section of the Great American Road Trip came to a close as we reached Virginia where we would appreciate a real bed for a few days, some home cooked meals and a visit with family including 2 darling grandsons. Ahh!
See you soon for the final leg of our journey which will take us the long route back to Seattle. Thanks again for coming along. ~ Susanne
I’m resting on the shore, absorbing the heavy rays of August sun, watching a tall, elegant bird, peering into the water’s edge. There’s a thick, summer stillness and almost imperceptible sound rising from the ripples caused by fish and the insects skirting over the lake. Then lift off as the wings soar. We are in Kansas.
Six days earlier, we’d packed our camper and headed east from Seattle on an epic road trip across the country with this basic itinerary in mind: head southeast and across the middle of the heartland to Virginia, via Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Head north for the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Throw in other places as desired. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. The Great Smoky Mountains. Monticello. Colonial Williamsburg. Hershey. Niagara Falls. And when you’re good and ready, head for home by way of Chicago, and the Badlands of South Dakota.
The past week, we’d traveled the open spaces of the West. We stopped for a look at the Oregon Trail near Baker City (now THAT was a road trip!), gazed at the those beautiful arches at the national park in Utah, and crossed the continental divide at Monarch Pass in Colorado. We didn’t linger long at any of these as we were seeking new sights, not the West we had grown up with and knew so well.
I’ve lived my whole life in the Pacific Northwest and had seen it all. Mt. Rainier. The Olympics and the rain forest. The Mighty Columbia. The wet and the damp and the rainy. On this trip I wanted to see the anti-northwest and that definitely included that flat land, where Dorothy ran home to get away from that dark twister. The very center of the contiguous United States.
Now we were in Kansas camped at Spring Lake RV Resort. It was here we slowed down and heard the cicadas chirping and the fireflies flashing their blips of light in the night sky. This was new territory for us.
During the next couple of days we’d see Apollo 13 and V1 and V2 rockets at the Cosmosphere in Hutchison (who knew?)
We’d walk the streets in the sweltering heat at Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita. And we’d park our camper at Melvern Lake, where we walked among tall prairie grass, and where the ranger assured us, not to worry about the snakes as only four kinds were poisonous. (!)
On our last night in Kansas, we finally did have dark, angry skies and unfortunately it was after we had arrived at the ball park in Kansas City where the Royals were to play our Seattle Mariners. Heavy rains cancelled the game.
We were ready to move to the next leg of the journey.
Okay, so off I go in a new direction. Figuratively and literally. And it’s all about the classic American road trip. Yes, we’ve done a few. In all four corners of this great country of ours. And across the middle too. And that is the one I will start with. This was a while back when my husband had retired and to celebrate we decided to take a trip across the USA in our camper.
Research and planning began in earnest as we considered which places we’d most like to see on this six week adventure. I picked several places and Bob picked out a couple too (although truth be told, he’s all about the driving.) You will never guess what they were. No really, you wouldn’t. Now you have to remember that we are from the Great Northwest and thus are not easily impressed by other places. Why? Well, Mt. Rainier for one. And Olympic National Park. And Puget Sound where killer whales frolic. Okay, I rest my case.
But my point is, I’ve already seen all that. So I wanted to see the anti-northwest. I wanted to see where it’s completely flat and the skies are threatening and Dorothy saw the twister in the Wizard of Oz. And I wanted to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Appalachians where Catherine Marshall’s ‘Christy’ lived and served and loved. And how about Dutch country in Lancaster? And the worn down colorful Adirondacks in upstate NY? So these were some of my choices, which as it turns out didn’t leave Bob much room to pick. Other than we knew we were heading to Virginia to visit our daughter and the boys. But as I said earlier, he is happy just to do the driving. In fact, in the entire trip across the USA I think I drove one hour somewhere in Indiana.
So planning began in earnest. Because that’s what I do. I’m a planner. Heaven forbid if we should do something that was not in my itinerary. (Although some spontaneity did accidentally creep in here and there.) Here’s the map of the journey on one side and the itinerary on the other. Doesn’t it look fun? Don’t you wish you could go? Me too!
In case you can’t see clearly from my rickety old scrap book, this trek started from the Pacific Northwest, through the Rockies, across the Midwest on I 70 (yep, right through Kansas), over and down and up again on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Virginia, through Pennsylvania, New York, with a left at Niagra Falls, then west through Chicago on I 90 until home. Whew! I’m tired already. So I’ll share some highlights of this journey in my next blog post (or two or three or…) thanks for coming along.
After we first arrived at our new home to begin the third of our nine lives, Bob & Sue put us in our own little room where we had everything we would need. They brought in Shadow’s piece of carpet and rolled it up so he could crawl inside and feel safe. They set up some nice cardboard for me and I obliged them by using it. They moved slowly and talked quietly so as not to startle us. We appreciate those little things.
After a few days we decided it was safe to explore the new territory and so we did, inch by inch, room by room. It was then we detected the scent of one called Joey. We especially felt his presence on the perch in the bedroom. We have stayed away from that perch, feeling it sacred and not to mention a bit small for us. Joey was a little cat with white hair, blue eyes and a tiny smile. We know this because there’s a picture of him on the bulletin board in Sue’s office. We know his name because sometimes Sue calls us Joey by mistake. I suppose that’s why we’re here. And I suppose that is why I am extra nice to Sue. We are not nearly as cold and indifferent as some humans say.
I’m pretty sure Joey had a wonderful life. Who wouldn’t like your own perch right next to the window and your picture posted on your human’s bulletin board of favorite things? So don’t feel sorry for him. We just don’t know how long we get, you know? Even Shadow and I had some rough times in the past. I mean, living in jail wasn’t easy, but at least we were together. And if we hadn’t gone there, we never would have ended up with Bob & Sue.
So Joey went before us and trained our humans well. They really know how to make a cat feel at home. Crunchy kibble anytime we want. Gravy laden tenders fresh from the can every morning. And sleeping? Anytime, any place.
Finally, about those names. I think you know in our former life we were known as Miracle and Brother Love. Yes, I had escaped many unlikely predicaments causing my former mistress to proclaim Miracle! when I returned. (I can’t help that I am curious.) And my older brother really did look out for me (in fact, had insisted to go with me when I was chosen from the litter first.) Hence the names. However, we both felt it was time for a change to go with our new life here. So after trying out the likes of Smokey and Panther, Brother Love became Shadow, the elusive one. And I became Tiger like our mighty cousin, striped and strong. Good fit, huh? And so I shall remain,
Did I tell you there is a forest in my backyard? Behind my fence are twenty-two acres of typical northwest woods with mature Douglas firs, majestic old maples and trails through brush frequented by dogs and their walkers. They form a wonderful backdrop to my yard and permeate everything with fragrance.
Many birds and small mammals call these woods home. There are chickadees, sparrows, wrens, hummingbirds, flickers and jays and juncos. I’ve heard the great horned owl hooting deep in the night and seen the pileated woodpecker stop by for a drink during the day. And then there are the rabbits, and raccoon, and deer.
Not only animals, but young men also play in the forest. I ran wide eyed for cover the first time I saw them rush by in army fatigues. I heard of them later at the hearing where we gathered to fight for the woods. You see, those twenty-two acres have been sold. To a developer. We tried to explain what a loss it would be to the city and neighborhood and to the birds and animals who live there. How the woods should be kept just because. Because they can never be replaced. Because deer feed there without fear. Because woodpeckers build homes inside standing snags. Because boys run and build forts and play army.
Stand near them, walk through them and you will know why.
But we did not prevail. I did not expect we would. They have promised to keep a buffer of trees around the perimeter. We hope they keep their promise. And we hope the trees in the buffer zone are strong enough to stand without their many companions who must come down to make way for the houses.
We have not yet heard the trucks rolling in or the chainsaws doing their deed. We will continue to enjoy this forest in our backyard until we do.
This happened some years ago after we’d first arrived at our new home. I was relaxing on Sue’s desk and had just finished cleaning my toes under the fading light of winter sun….
when I felt a strange tingling in my neck and had the sense I was being watched. I turned around and saw black eyes peering at me through the window.
I was not afraid, no not me, but Sue came unglued and started yelling, “Bob! There’s a raccoon on our roof!”
The next thing you know Bob’s pumping up the BB gun, running outside and firing away to scare off that old bandit. I must admit it took me quite awhile to settle down after all the commotion but settle down I did and I choose to have a short memory about such things.
So there really were raccoons. It made me wonder what else was out there. You see, up till then we’d always been “indoor cats.” I even hate the name, no offense to the rest of the kingdom. In all of our previous lives, we were never allowed to go outside – no, not even a short walk in a fenced yard. Never allowed to hunt in the wild like our ancestors did or jump high in the air to grab one of those winged creatures. Just playing you understand. We mean no harm. Instead we had to content ourselves with the stray spider in the house, the slow moving housefly or worse yet, chittering away through windows at crows and squirrels who would come by and taunt us.
Well, I thought, this raccoon may set back our efforts to ever go outside. Still, we vowed to continue working on it until we could wear them down. Day by day, we would stand by the sliding glass door and cry pitifully and with sad eyes. And we made promises to stay inside the fence and to always come in at night when called. (Yeah, uh-huh.) And as the days grew longer and the sun grew brighter and the squirrels began running frantically to and fro, begging us to come out and play, Bob and Sue FINALLY opened the door. And for that we will always be grateful.
Our sweet Joey had died unexpectedly at the age of four. (Who knew cats died of heart failure?) I was still hurting when I learned about two cats who needed a home. They were ordinary cats their former mistress had told me, but sweet. Not really lap cats, but loving. She was boarding them at a cat hotel since she couldn’t keep them and didn’t want to take them someplace where they might be separated. Would we at least go see them? Their names were Miracle and Brother Love.
Oh! I said and smiled. Although we had wanted kittens we decided to go visit the boys and be open. After we were escorted back to their quarters Miracle was the first to greet us. He jumped down from his condo, stretched out long and lean at our feet and looked at us with gorgeous eyes, inviting us to pet him. We did. We were hooked. Brother Love on the other hand, had tucked himself as far as possible into a rolled up piece of carpet so only his long gray tail could be seen sticking out. This one might have issues, I thought. But that cat with the green talking eyes! Yes, we would give it a try. We’re so glad we did. ~ Susanne
This is the first installment of our new blog and I appreciate Sue for letting me have the first few words. As you can tell by my picture I am a handsome fellow.
That’s why she picked me out of the line up at the cat jail. Okay, so it really wasn’t a jail. They called it a cat hotel (without check out privileges I guess you could say.) Either way, it was my green eyes that saved me and my brother Shadow from spending the rest of our lives there. Only I wasn’t Tiger then, I was Miracle. And Shadow was Brother Love (I kid you not.)
Bob and Sue were so kind to rescue us from our sheltered life and let us live with them in a nice big house, surrounded by luscious trees and thick forest with lots of little critters (who don’t stand a chance, by the way.) I will let her tell you about all the other wonderful things outside our home like the little framed plots containing lavender and rosemary and strawberries and roses and clematis and vegetables and… oh the list goes on and on and it is her job to tell you.
As for me, this was only to be an introduction and I have said enough and am tired and ready for one of my many afternoon naps. Talk later. ~ Tiger