One would think that being retired excludes you from taking a ‘formal’ summer vacation. Living in the Finger Lakes area in New York State, my husband and I usually take a short trip to North Myrtle Beach or travel internationally between January and April so that we can stay at home during the summer and enjoy what New York has to offer. However, this year, we mapped out an awesome itinerary that took us up through Michigan, across the top of the U.S. map on Route 2 along the Canadian Boarder, all the way across North Dakota and Montana into Washington, then down into Oregon, California and once the car pointed back east—we followed Rt. 80 through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Illinois, Indian and Ohio then zoomed on home. The main emphasis was checking out all those spectacular National Parks, monuments, and forests we hadn’t previously visited. And, of course we followed the dinosaur trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail as well as the California and Oregon Trails while we were at it.
Crossing through three time changes going out West, and three time changes coming back East, we crossed the Continental Divide, the Mississippi, the Rockies, the Cascades, and spent the night in a different hotel every night. We dove in our own, very dependable Buick LaSabre that held up wonderfully throughout the 8,855 miles in 21 days, through 19 states! I was also very fortunate that my husband loves to drive, and is a very good driver, as some of the roads in those national parks are very treacherous! Really. I kid you not. Sitting on the passenger side really does give you a completely different perspective of the sheer drop-offs on that side of the road. Yes, the views are fantastic if you dare to look out and over as you climb 7,000 – 10,000 feet above sea level, or dip back down to a reasonable height. Maneuvering around boulders, curves, dips, and narrow byways where there should be some sort of guardrail (and there isn’t) can be tricky as well as frightening. For me, anyway. One really does need nerves of steel!
But I digress. The parks are amazing. North Dakota’s Badlands Theodore Roosevelt National Park could use a few guardrails, but I survived. Stopping to hike a couple of the trails in the southern park lead us to an overlook where we spotted wild horses running loose. And, in the Northern Park the buffalo greeted us alongside the road. How cool is that? Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park was truly awesome. I’m sure I really enjoyed it as much as I did because we drove from the East to the West, where our car was on the inside next to the mountainscape (most of the time).
But that was just the beginning—Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Columbia River Gorge (Oregon), Mt. Hood, Crater Lake (definitely need guard rails!), followed the Redwood Highway in California and the Avenue of the Giants, through Napa Valley, Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park. We then headed up to Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake, Utah, and made a mad dash through Wyoming (we’d visited before), Nebraska and all States along our straight path toward home!
What thoughts did I bring back home with me after witnessing all this grandeur? Well, besides having an excellent and much needed rest and escape from the rest of the world (mostly family), I was struck by the stark fact of the sheer determination of the people who carved out roads up to and into and around such immovable snow dappled mountains, pristine lakes, ancient and historic feats of nature, so that we could enjoy what our great country has to offer. Majestic mountains, gigantic redwoods and sequoias (yes, we drove our car through one of those large trees!), and the fantastic aromas of the balsam firs, the pine, the redwood, and the sun soaked sage. Wow! A most excellent adventure, indeed!
About the Author: http://www.carolhenry.org.