Thursday, October 15, 2009

We are home! Great trip, wonderful experience, but came home tired and ready to sleep in our own bed. Don't know why anyone feels that they have to go overseas to see beautiful sights when this country has everything you could ever want. This is ONE FABULOUS COUNTRY and everyone needs to see more of it!
Thanks for sharing our trip with us and hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We'll have to try this again in a couple years. Can't wait!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Texas and Homeward Bound

We've been visiting friends in DFW since Friday. We stayed in Grandbury at good friends, Becky and Charlie's, resort. Charlie has spent the past 3 years renovating his guest house right on Lake Granbury. It's gorgeous and we all voted....It's a 5 star accomodation! The best thing is that we got to spend time with them, too. Mike K worked with both of them for 12 years at GM in Arlington (right between Dallas and Ft Worth) so they are very special to us.

Also spent Saturday with Ann and Rick, our very good friends in Arlington, too. Mike T, Mike K, Rick and I toured the new Cowboy stadium and were blown away. It is huge. The tv screens hanging from the ceiling are 60 yards long and 7 stories high and valued at $40 million, $5 milliion more than the old Cowboy stadium cost to build about 30 years ago. The new stadium was $1.3 billion. I like football, but.....???? I know it was planned before the economy went bust but I find it a bit much. But that's Jerry Jones and the Cowboys and I still root for them.

We had a great time in Texas. Enjoyed gearing down and relaxing with friends. The only problem was that we did not see the sun the entire time we were there. In fact, we still haven't seen it. I'm assuming it still exists.

We are in Vicksburg, MS tonight and should be home by Wednesday, if all goes as planned.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Carlsbad Caverns and onward

We actually went into the cave this morning. We went down 750' in an elevator and took the 1 1/4 mile self-guided tour through the Big Room. There were interesting formations everywhere, with some areas looking like a group of Christmas trees, some looking like an audience of small people, and a lot looking like the Travelocity gnome. Of course, you already know that the growths from the bottom are called stalagmites and the ones from the top are stalactites but did you know that when they meet together they are columns and all the formations are collectively called speliothems ? You learn something everyday!

The rangers told us that the bats we saw last night took 2 hours to come out of the cave. That's a lot of bats. He did tell us that some of them were returning to the cave and he didn't know if the same ones were turning around and going back again. A storm was coming and they may have sensed it.

We drove across the Permian basin of Texas this afternoon where there are oil rigs everywhere. Saw many more of the wind turbines again. It seems that they are everywhere except NC. Also saw huge fields of cotton and endless fields of what we later found out was maize, a form of corn. All in all, today was a B O R I N G ride. You know it's boring when you get excited about maize.

We are in Abilene tonight with plans to go to a suburb of Ft Worth called Granbury tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

El Paso and Bats

We took a short tour of El Paso today including the University of Texas at El Paso, who happens to play in Conference USA with Marshall. The campus is surprisingly pretty with consistent architecture. Most of the buildings were adobe with brick or stone trim, many of them with tile trim pieces. Nice. Also saw the Sun Bowl where they host an annual bowl game. Very nice stadium.

We arrived at Carlsbad Caverns around 4:30 but unfortunately it was too late to go inside. Our timing is impeccable. We'll be there tomorrow morning!! (Warning: If bats creep you out, go to the next paragraph!) We stayed to see the bats come out of the cave opening. They do that everyday around sunset. When I say bats, I mean 300,000 to 500,000 bats. It looked like swarms of locusts streaming out. It took at least 20 minutes for them all to get out. In fact, they were still streaming out when they left. The ranger said they can take as long as 2 hours. And this was out of an opening that looked to be at least 15 feet in diameter. It was fascinating in a creepy sort of way. The skin on my back is still quivering.

After touring the cave tomorrow we are heading to Dallas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saguaro National Park and Tombstone

Howdy Pardners,

We started our day going through Saguaro National Park which consists of rolling hills covered with various types of cacti. A half mile trip through it would have been more than sufficient but the trail was a one way trail and we were trapped. It was interesting but not my cup of tea. I've had an aversion to cactus ever since I had the "incident". Nuff said.

We have been looking for a "western" town and finally found the closest we will probably get. Tombstone, AZ (as in the movie, Tombstone). It is a restored old west town, famous for the gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881, which is reenacted at 2 PM every day, exactly 45 min prior to our arrival. (Darn that cactus park!) We had seen the Boothill Graveyard where many of those killed in that gunfight were buried. We saw a few of the cowboys who had been in the reenactment, including US Marshal Wyatt Earp, with whom we had our pictures taken. We also ate in Big Nose Kate's Saloon, a rather raucous looking place. Big Nose Kate was a girlfriend of Doc Holiday along with multiple other men, if you know what I mean.

On our way out of Tombstone, we were stopped by the Border Patrol. He saw that Mike K had on a Marshall hat and commented about Randy Moss. Go Herd!

Traveling through New Mexico tomorrow. Not sure what where, though!! Story of our trip!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sedona and Phoenix

After leaving Flagstaff, we drove a scenic route down toward Sedona. We saw some gorgeous scenery. Sedona is a beautiful place, located in a canyon surrounded by huge red rock formations. A charming, artsy community high enough to have moderate weather but not high enough to be overly cold. (So they say)

We drove through Phoenix, stopping at the Capitol. I certainly don't want to offend any Arizonians (Arizonites?) but their capitol doesn't compare to any that we have seen, especially West Virginia's. The original building is now only for show and they do their governing in a building that looks like a 60's office building.

We are in Tucson tonight, planning to go to the Saguaro National Park tomorrow. It's named after the cacti you see in the Roadrunner cartoons and lots of westerns. You know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you? We just have to watch out for rattlesnakes and stinging insects (such as scorpions) that the signs keep warning us about.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The GRAND Canyon

After a harrowingly windy (gusts up to 60 mph) drive, Connie got us to the Grand Canyon where we peeled her fingers off the steering wheel. It took all three of us to do that! We can't complain about the weather we've had, though. We've seen rain one day and that was at Mt Rushmore, eons ago. Now we see that Wyoming and Montana are going to be hit with a lot of snow, even closing the interstates. We are sooooo lucky.

Saying that the Grand Canyon is breathtaking is an understatement although it really does take your breath away (the height alone scares the bejeebers out of you). If you can visit one place in this country, this should be it. Absolutely spectacular. So beautiful that pictures do not do it justice. We spent all afternoon there, driving from one overlook to the next. As sunset approached we looked up and there was the full moon rising above the canyon. God put an exclamation point on his work. Stunning.

We're in Flagstaff, AZ tonight. Not sure where the wind will blow us tomorrow.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yosemite and Las Vegas

Sorry for the long time between updates, but we've been busy and the hotel in Vegas wanted $11.25 per hour for Wi-Fi. A lot has happened so I'll try to catch you up while being as brief as I can (hard for me to do!).

On Wednesday, we made it to Yosemite NP, my favorite place on earth! I've been there 4 or 5 times, but Mike and Sheryl had never been there, so I was excited for them to see it. Unfortunately, this has been a very dry summer in CA and the numerous waterfalls were almost none existent. Yosemite Falls was completely dry. Bummer! It was still a beautiful sunny day and the valley was awesome, but I so wanted them to see the full wonder of Yosemite. While looking at El Capitan, a 3500 ft verticle monolith, we noticed small dots about a third of the way up. Looking thru our binoculars, we discovered about a half dozen rock climbers making their way back down the face. Unbelievable! We did make it to the top of Glacier Point, which is about 3200 feet above the valley floor, and enjoyed a magnificent view of the whole valley and Half Dome!

The next day, Connie and I got to enjoy a short time with her cousin Nancy and her husband Gary in a Fresno restaurant. They looked great and we so enjoyed laughing and chatting with them. Would have been nice to have more time to spend together, but the rest of the USA was waiting!

Next stop Las Vegas! It did not start well. Mike and I waited over an hour trying to check into our crowded, smokey hotel. When we finally got to our rooms, we were extremely disappointed. The next day, we were moved to new rooms, but even these were nothing great. But, we were right in the middle of the strip and we began exploring it ASAP. We went to the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Ballys Paris, Monte Carlo, The Wynn, Luxor, Flamingo, Venetian, New York New York, and others. Each one was more impressive than the last. That evening, we all went to a show called "Menopause, The Musical". It was absolutely hilarious! We all laughed so hard, we were actually crying. We had a great time! Gambled a small bit, won nothing.

Today, Saturday, we drove to Hoover Dam and took the tour of the visitors center and then went down into the dam itself. This was very impressive and truely a miraculous achievement. It's amazing what man can do when he puts his mind to it!

Tomorrow, we head for the Grand Canyon. Watch for us!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Presidio and Muir Woods

We started the day driving through The Presidio, a former army base which has been owned by the National Park Service since 1994. This is a huge section of San Francisco right at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, probably the most valuable property in the area. Word of mouth is that the city of SF is really POed that it was given to the park service and not to the city. For some reason, we think the Park Service will protect the property a little better.

We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, then to Sausalito, a quaint little town on the water. It absolutely oozes money. As quaint as that town was, we drove straight through and then headed up the mountain to a spot overlooking the bridge along with the entire bay area and city. This spectacular vista was worth the trip.

Going farther north into Muir Woods, we walked through a forest of redwood trees, some of which were 12 feet in diameter. There was a section called Cathedral Grove where they asked for silence so that you could appreciate the majesty of the trees and surroundings. We listened to the trees rustling in the heavy winds, the birds hopping under the fallen tree trunks and even saw two small deer eating within 4 ft of the path.

Next, we will head to Yosemite NP. Can't wait!

Monday, September 28, 2009

San Fran

Yesterday we toured the Calif capitol in Sacramento. Although it's a beautiful building, the only thing that makes it unique is that in the 70's they demolished the entire interior, keeping only the outside shell, and rebuilt it. You would never know that it wasn't built in the late 1890's as most of the others that we have seen.

From Sacramento we drove over and up through the Napa Valley. It is a beautiful drive with rolling hills covered with rows of grapevines. We took a tour at Beringer which is the oldest continuously running winery in the US starting back in the 1850's. It was a fun, interesting tour and we learned a lot about grapes and wine-making. As we were finishing up the tour, one of the employees asked our group if we would want to be part of the filming of the Japanese version of the movie, Sideways. Here we are, movie stars, and nobody will see us. Unless they're into Japanese films! Oh, and by the way, Connie finished off the tour dancing the West Coast Swing with our tour director. She actually held her own!

Today, we rode Bart, the San Francisco rail system, into town. We jumped on a cable car and rode on its back porch down to Fisherman's Wharf where we strolled around, watched the seals and ate sourdough bread and clam chowder. Yum! We rode a streetcar to Ghirardelli chocolate and had some samples, then walked up to Lombard St (and I do mean we WALKED UP to Lombard St) That was a real workout, particularly after walking down and up Lombard itself. It's a good thing we're all perfect physical specimens or we'd be really tired now. I have to wrap this up now, it's 9:30 and I have to go to bed. Tomorrow there's a lot more of this beautiful city to see...the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio, plus.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

We vowed to cover a lot of distance yesterday (at least get out of Oregon!) so we left earlier than usual, 9:15. I know a lot of you think that’s late (especially Phyllis Childers) but not the Kincaid/Tatum team. Probably the most memorable part of our day was that it was 46 in the morning at Coos Bay on the Oregon coast and by the time we were 2 or 3 hours into California it was 116. The killer is that we were at a pretty high altitude, too. I can understand it in Death Valley but not where we were. But it was a dry heat!

When we were near Redding, CA, we were able to watch the Blue Angels perform. It was flat in that area so we could see quite a bit of their show. Quite a sight!

We passed thousands of olive trees. The only way we knew they were olive trees (on any other day we would have stopped to check them out but remember the vow that I opened with??) There was a billboard advertising olive tasting at a shop. Yuch! Not an olive fan here. In a muffaletto is the only way to go!

Our vow paid off. We made it to Sacramento. Seeing the capitol today and then on into San Fran.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

There, it's fixed!

We left the Portland, Oregon area yesterday morning and went straight to Walmart because we had some fixin' to do. Apparently, the leftside headlight lens cover came off of the Silver Bullet, so we needed to rig up some sort of cover to protect the halogen bulb from burning out. Mike and I looked "high and low" for anything we thought would work, finally settling on a transparent plastic baking pan lid and some clear packing tape to do the job. Luckily, I had a small pair of scissors in my bag, so we formed the pastic to the headlight module and applied tape as needed. We used some duct tape around the edges to make sure it all held together, but saved enough in case it would be needed later for someone's mouth! All in all, I think we did a pretty decent job (it was still there after a full days travel)!

We went to Salem to continue our efforts to see as many state capitols as possible. The Oregon Capitol was pretty, but not as old as others because it had to be rebuilt in 1938 after burning to the ground.

We then headed west toward the Pacific coast, following the Umpqua River. It was very scenic and saw some elk and red headed ducks along the way. It lead us to Reedsport, where a nice little town festival was taking place for the weekend.

We then proceeded down the coast on US 101 and went by the Oregon Dunes State Park. Many large sand dunes between the hiway and the ocean. It wasn't until we neared Coos Bay that we finally saw the Pacific. Beautiful! Before dinner, we went to Sunset Bay State Park to watch the sunset over the ocean. There we were treated to a symphony by the numerous seals basking on the rocks. Sounded like dogs baying at the moon! This morning, we head south. California, here we come!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The past two days have been busy, busy!

We spent yesterday exploring Vancouver, BC. It's a high density big city. Lots of high rise condos everywhere. The city is busily preparing for the winter olympics with construction going on everywhere. We took a quick drive through Chinatown (typical Chinatown--people scurrying around the storefront markets that were selling anything you could imagine) then on to the downtown area. The waterfront seemed to be the focal point of the city with an almost completed new convention center right next to the present convention center. There were two cruise ships in port, one on each side of an Imax theater that reminded me of the Sydney, Australia Symphony Hall or the Denver airport. Looked like 5 giant sails protruding from the roof. One building had olympic figures newly etched into the windows. We took a walking tour of an historic area of town called Gastown which was so-named for a talkative fellow (No, not Mike T but you're warm!)
After we left the downtown area we went through Stanley Park which is a huge park that must have been set aside from the beginning of Vancouver. It is bounded on 3 sides by water and has old growth evergreen trees that are huge, some 5 or 6 ' in diameter. Someone in Vancouver was very far-sighted in preserving this area. It's beautiful.
We drove back to Seattle and spent another night in the same Country Inn. We intended today to be a driving day, with hopes of covering a lot of territory. We got all the way to Portland, a whopping 175 miles away!! We have excuses! After all, we didn't take this trip just to drive.
We stopped in Olympia to see the Capitol. It was beautiful, of course. Marble everywhere, a huge rotunda, and Tiffany chandeliers all around.
When we got to the Oregon border where Portland is, we decided to drive up into the Columbia River Gorge with the mile wide river on one side and mountains on the other. Waterfalls are prevalent there with one of them being the Multnomah Falls being the 2nd tallest falls in the US. Farther up into the gorge we came upon the Bonneville Dam and Locks. It has fish ladders there for the salmon and other fish to swim up and spawn. It channels the fish through corridors where you can view them through windows. They are very determined! There is also a hatchery there. We watched hundreds of salmon try their best to jump back into the tanks in which they were born. It was a fascinating sight. Even made me want to go get my fishing rod! Might even catch something there.
Tomorrow it's the Oregon coast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Boeing Tour

We reluctantly checked out of the Country Inn and Suites this morning. This was one of my favorites, very large and comfortable rooms, beautiful lobby, and a hot breakfast buffet. The great thing is that we only paid $52 a night through Hotwire. I asked the desk clerk what it would have been if we had walked in the door. She said around $129.

We are so glad that we toured Boeing today. What a phenomenal place. The buildings alone are worth seeing. Huge, huge, huge. One of them will hold Disneyland and have 12 acres left over for covered parking! One side has 6 huge garage doors, each one of which is almost as big as a football field. And they are all painted with murals. Impressive. We saw them making 747's, 777's and the new 787's. The 787's have a carbon composite skin and totally new technology in the way they are made. They are 20% more fuel efficient at the same speed as the 777. By the way, Boeing is the largest exporter in the US.

After we went to Boeing we had a late lunch at Ivar's Seafood which overlooked one of the waterways. Wonderful food (fresh salmon, etc) and we got to watch the ferry load and unload 3 times during the hour we were there. This ferry took semis, school buses and scads of cars. Very large and very fast. Interestiing to watch.

Staying in Vancouver, BC tonight with plans to tour it tomorrow. Hope to see some of the Olympic 2010 venues.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Downtown Seattle

We started off the day at the Seattle Center and going to the top of the Space Needle. Great views of the city and Mt. Ranier! From there, we took the monorail to downtown and went to the Pike Place Mall. Our first stop there was at the Pike Place Fish Market that is famous for the employees throwing the fish around that are purchased by the customers. Fascinating! They did it over and over and never saw them drop a fish. We then had lunch at the Pike Place Chowder restaurant. Many different kinds of chowder and the ones I tasted were delicious. Since we were all tired, we decided to take a bus trip around Seattle to experience the "flavor" of the area. On our way to the bus stop, we met a lady wearing a Marshall University t-shirt and chatted with her for a few moments. Once on the bus, the driver began talking with us and we found out that his family was from the Raleigh area and he enjoyed going back to NC for NASCAR races. Small world? After the ride, we walked through the Pioneer Square area of Seattle to see some of the old architecture from the 1800s. Many beautiful structures!

As we were going back to our car, we noticed lots of people gathering around the Key Arena and found out that Pearl Jam was performing that night. Wow! What a concert that must have been!

Before heading home, we drove to the Queen Anne section of Seattle to see the city from Kerry Park. That's the area overlooking town with very extravagant older homes (some mansions) and they were simply awe striking.

We stopped in a small local restaurant called the 125th Street Grill and enjoyed dinner, drinks, and Mud Pie while watching the Dolphins lose a heartbreaker to the Colts. Because of the Pacific Time Zone, the game was over at 8:30, so we headed back to the motel to call it a night.

See you tomorrow after we tour the Boeing plant!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

That Tricky Ol' Mt Rainier

After leaving our motel, we headed west across fields and fields of hay. They have giant watering systems because it is so dry on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. We came to a giant gorge with the Columbia River at the base of it. We then drove into the valley and when we came up the other side we saw the unmistakable Mt Rainier in the distance. It was a clear day and being over 14,000' in altitude, it stood well above everything else. We decided to try to get closer so we got off I-90 to drive near it. The closer and closer we got, the harder it was to see. Then when we finally got a view, there were too many clouds around it. (We had been told that it is shrouded in clouds so much that some people say that Mt. Rainier is just a myth!) We decided to give up and head back up to Seattle. Just a few miles up the road, we turned around, looked back, and were rewarded with a magnificent view. The clouds were gone! Unfortunately, Mike K was driving and didn't get to see it. Maybe he'll get to see it on the way south to Portland.
Tomorrow we explore Seattle.

Travel day

Not much went on Saturday as we traveled from Montana to Washington. We did, however, see a black bear on the road from Paradise to St. Regis, MT. It was in a beautiful valley along the Clark Fork River and it was about to eat some apples growing on a roadside tree. It did not seem to want its picture taken, so we let him go and headed down the highway. We will be in Seattle today and will try to update the blog tonight or tomorrow. See you then!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Glacier National Park

We actually got out of the motel early this morning. On our drive toward Glacier Park we were passing continuous wheat fields (they are prolific growers of grain out here!) with the mountains in the background. One thing lead to another, and the next thing we knew, we were all out of the van shooting a video with us singing America the Beautiful in the background. You know..."amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty". Watch for us on Youtube or maybe even America's Got Talent! (I think I'm going to be sorry I put this part in!)

We drove through Glacier via Going to the Sun Road which cuts through the middle of the park going up, up, and up, twisting and turning as it goes. The scenery was spectacular with rugged mountains complete with glaciers (of course), deep ravines, waterfalls, and pristine rivers and lakes. We walked down to an area of the river with large boulders scattered around and slight rapids. The water was pooling in areas that looked so blue that we thought of the Tidy Bowl man. It was so crystal clear you could see all the rocks on the bottom in what was probably 10 to 15 feet deep. We couldn't convince anyone to dive in because the temperature of the water was approximately 33 degrees. At least it felt like it!
We hiked over a mile out to St Mary Falls. No stairways this time but it was quite rugged terrain and we had to go across lots of rocks and boulders. Beautiful area and so peaceful.
We were disappointed that we did not see any bears but we were thrilled to see Big Horn sheep at Logan's Pass which is the highest point in the park. There were four of them, two of which seemed to be charging at people who were on a path nearby. I suppose they decided that the people weren't really a threat because they turned and went back up the mountain. It was interesting watching them jump and climb on the very steep rocky mountain. I can't figure out how they do it.
I can't emphasize enough how beautiful this area of the country is. Pictures just do not do it justice. You just have to see it!
Tomorrow we head toward Seattle.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Old West Virginia and Cincinnati friends

After a couple fast and furious days in the Yellowstone area, we drove to Bozeman, MT to spend the night. The next day (Wednesday) we went to see a couple friends of ours from our days at Marshall and in Cincinnati. Mike and Rhoda McCormick graciously invited us to stay the evening in their wonderful home in the Montana mountains. I can't begin to tell you how beautiful their home is and the magnificent views that they enjoy from every room in their dream house. When we arrived, they were enjoying the peace and quiet from the deck just outside their living room. We spent an hour or so touring the grounds before we sat on the deck for an afternoon cocktail and appetizers. We then decided to go out for dinner and went to Ted's Montana Grill, a wonderful restaurant owned by Ted Turner. The place was warm and charming and the food was delicious. Most of us had buffalo meatloaf and it was absolutely terrific! After dinner, we went back to their place and marvelled at the clarity of the sky. We could see countless stars, a planet or two, and the most awesome view of the Milky Way you can imagine! We then sat in the living room and laughed (mostly at me) and chatted until midnight before turning in. The next morning, we talked a bit more before leaving for Glacier National Park, which we will begin touring Friday. We went through Helena, toured the capitol, and saw a beautiful old church, the Cathedral of St. Helena. After riding through downtown and the walking mall by Last Gulch Street, we then went to Great Falls. This is a very neat city on the Missouri River that we drove around for an hour or so before heading north toward Glacier NP. Stay with us for more!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yellowstone and Grand Tetons

We've spent the past two days touring Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks. The north end of Grand Teton is only a few miles outside the south entrance to Yellowstone. They are both so spectacular we are already planning a trip back to stay longer! Right now we are getting the Readers Digest version of just about everything. So much to see, so little time. This is a spectacular country with breathlessly beautiful scenery and we are so thankful to be able to take this trip.
We've seen mountains with glaciers on them fronted by pristine lakes, canyons that take your breath away to look into, geysers (including Old Faithful) spewing water and steam, roads winding between huge boulders that looked like children were playing with them and so much wildlife we couldn't begin to count. We hiked down hundreds of feet (and back up) to see the lower falls of the Yellowstone River. It was exhausting but probably the most memorable part of the past two days. After watching Old Faithful do its thing, we went into Old Faithful Lodge, built in 1904. It is the largest log structure in the US and has a vaulted ceiling that is probably 4 stories high. You can sit on the porch upstairs and watch Old Faithful erupt as much as you want.
The last hour of our time in Yellowstone was filled with wildlife. We came up over a rise, looked out over a huge valley covered with buffalo, some of which were within a foot or two from the road. The contrast of the buffalo to the yellow vegetation was a sight to behold. It was truly awesome. It is rutting season so the males were very interested in the females. What's new!!
We also saw a lot of elk, the males bellowing (or whatever you call that high pitched sound they make) so loudly you could hear them from 1/4 mile. I guess they are calling their women, too!
We've seen many shallow, winding streams and rivers with lots of fly fishermen. The highways in Montana even have fishing access parking lots like other states have rest stops. If you enjoy the outdoors, this is certainly the place to be.
We are exhausted but happy. Staying in Bozeman, Montana tonight with plans to see some old friends tomorrow.