Huntington VT – The Wrap Up

So we arrived home on a lovely evening and began the great unpack. Today it’s raining, again.
The rest of our trip home was completely uneventful, thank goodness. All in all we travelled ten thousand miles in four weeks. You should also note that the actual drive was spread over only 19 days of those four weeks. If anyone wants to emulate our trip, plan to do it in six weeks or more. All in all we passed through 26 states and one Canadian province.
Here is our long list of stats, for those who are into such things:
Cheapest Gas: $2.36 in Shelby, IA
Most Expensive: $3.20 Tehachapi, CA
Hottest day: 111 degrees in the Mojave Desert
Coldest: that 40 degree night in Keystone South Dakota
Flattest place: The Texas Panhandle
Most Mountainous: Colorado, near Leadville
Tackiest State: Tennessee, Nashville specifically
Classiest State: New Mexico
Most Beautiful: Colorado
Best Cuisine: Santa Fe with New Orleans as a close second
Best Campground: Rancheros De Santa Fe, Santa Fe NM
Worst Campground: Dallas/Forth Worth KOA in Arlington, TX
Longest Driving Day: Arlington TX to Santa Fe, NM (630 miles, 10.5 hours)
Shortest: San Rafael, CA to Atascadero, a cakewalk
Best Shopping: the Native Artisans outside the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe NM
Best License Plate: Arizona (picture of a cactus and a hill)
Most states passed through in a day: Four (Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisana)
Weirdest Town Names: No Name, CO; Kickapoo, IL; Beowawe, NV; Loveland IA; Minihaha, SD; Smartsburg, IN
Weirdest Street Name: Zzyzx Road, somewhere in CA
Best Ice Cream: Jersey Junction, Grand Rapids MI; Close Second – Ghiradelli’s, San Francisco, CA; Third – Bali’s, San Luis Obispo, CA
Highest Speed Limit: 80 MPH, Scipio, UT
Highest Elevations: Jacob Lake AZ (8500 ft), Leadville, CO (10,200 ft)
Lowest Elevation: New Orleans, LA (at or below sea level)
Traffic Jams: Las Vegas, NV; Iowa; Ontario, Canada
Total Rainy Days: Zero
Total Thunderstorms: Eight
Total Thunderstorms when Uncle Bryan was on the phone: three
Postcards Sent: 49
Traffic Tickets: Zero
Total spent on gas: $1458.69
What have we learned? We’ve seen that this continent is vast and varied and, for the most part full of a whole bunch of empty space. In Wyoming you can see for a hundred miles and all you can see in that hundred miles is power lines and Pronghorn antelope. We’ve seen cities so well designed and structured that you don’t even recognize that you’re in a city. We’ve seen cities knocked to their knees but in the process of rebuilding better, greener and more responsibly than ever before. And we’ve seen cities whose sole purpose appears to be to dazzle, overwhelm and ultimately demean. We’ve seen armadillos, sea otters, elephant seals, moose, pronghorns, wild horses and lots and lots of cattle. We’ve been roasted and frozen, blown about and rained on (but just a little).
Did we have a good time? All in all, absolutely yes. There were times of stress, a bit of fear every now and then, but for the most part we really enjoyed ourselves.
Would we do it again? Probably not. Our road tripping from this point forward is probably going to be in smaller chunks with the family airlifted into choice regions for lightning hiking raids into key areas.
From this point forward when asked “so have you seen such and such?”, chances are that all of us will be able to say “been there, and here’s the pictures.”

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Niagra Falls, NY – The Grand Finale

We’re so glad that we decided to stop here on the final stretch for home. None of us have ever been to Niagra and it didn’t disappoint. It turns out that this the very first state park established in America. People used to all sorts of dumb wierd things here, like go over the falls in barrels, or climb out on the ice bridge that forms (and collapses and reforms without warning) in the winter. In the 18th century they used to climb out towards the center of the falls on a ladder made out of a big cedar tree. Gee, guess that’s why our ancestor’s life span was statistically shorter than ours, eh?
Our original plan was to visit the falls, take a few pictures and then set up camp for the night. But Alaina had her heart set on getting wet and talked us into taking the “Maid of the Mist” boat excursion which goes right up under both the American and Horseshoe Falls. They give you these goofy plastic ponchos to wear but boy do you need them. It’s literally like standing under a fire hose when they take the boat up into the rapids at the base of the falls.
It was a great ending to a great trip. Kudos to Alaina for talking us into it.

Tomorrow it’s one final slog to home, Abby and our humble home. Check back here for a summary of all our favorites and not so favorites of the entire trip.

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Grand Rapids, MI

We caravanned our way out of Indy and up into Michigan, with my sister’s family along behind. Perhaps this was one time we shouldn’t have followed the AAA triptik because they sent us via the most direct route, but perhaps not the fastest. Lots of little towns and much time spent in the “Cone Zone” again. Of all of the states we’ve travelled through, I have to say that Michigan’s highways are in the worst shape next to New Jersey’s.
We arrived a little off schedule but still in time to see the “young folks” off for their annual tubing trip. Apparently this event involves lots of beer in blue aluminum cans (bleh), a kids swimming pool towed along behind for the empties, and giggling, but we’re much too old now to understand such things (which is why we weren’t invited, sniff).
My stepmother’s house in Grand Rapids is really lovely. Her sister said that it looks like the whole house is grinning, and she’s right. It’s a very sunny, happy place with lots of windows and vibrantly colored walls. The pack o’ cousins moved right into the third floor office space, setting up wall to wall mattresses. Not much in the way of sleeping happened over the next two nights, but there was much female bonding which is far headier stuff.
The first evening we had a meal of Taco Pie, which is a pretty terrific casserole of cheese, meat, veggies, sauce and tortillas. Second evening was a fish fry of Lake Perch filets rolled in corn meal and spices.
We spent the day in Saugatuck, which is right on the shore of Lake Michigan. Happily we had wandered into town during their “Venetian Festival” which apparently has something to do with Venice, but was mostly a huge number of people, zero parking and a whole lot of artisans selling their wares. After lunch the girls were off like a shot. My brother-in-law and I found a coffee shop, then a bookstore, enjoying an hour or two of “guy shopping”. The only thing we lacked was a conveniently located sofa somewhere.
Next morning, after a breakfast of omelets, it was off to Niagra Falls, NY. Just one night from home!

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