Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 9:Reno to SF

We made it! 4080 miles. We were a little worried about the car, since it started vibrating in Michigan--worse between 45 and 75 mph--ok around 80mph! I'm so glad I went to 3 different mechanics before the trip AND had the alignment done. (obviously not very well--thanks, Wyckoff Tire)

We arrived in beautiful, but chilly SF around 1pm, took pictures at the Presidio Gate sign and headed over to Ocean Beach for our final Coast to Coast picture and a nice lunch at Beach Chalet. Scott had the beer sampler to make up for some of the local beers he missed in some states.

Drove Eric to the dock for his 5:40 commute to the Alcatraz night tour and Scott to the BART station--didn't want to chance the Oakland bay bridge at night. Wouldn;t that have been ironic to drive 4000 miles and break down alone on the bridge? No way I was tempting fate.

Quote of the trip:
Scott: "I dont think I need to see my brother and mother for a while now. haha"
ginny: "How many mothers get this opportunity to spend 9 days with their sons? truly a blessing. it was so much fun being in a suspended time bubble with 2 adults that i love (and also really like!) Glad Gary could pop in for a few days, too."
Eric: "It was all good!"

pictures coming soon!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 8: Baker Nevada to Reno

A bully good day from start to finish--full of contrasts. Imagine starting your day at 10,000 feet, hiking in Great Basin National Park and ending in the outdoor pool/hottub in Reno.

We took the scenic drive up to Mt. Wheeler, then hiked the Bristle Pinecone trail to see the trees that are the oldest on earth.

We bid a fond farewell to the Silver Jack and headed out to route 50-- the loneliest road in America, as proclaimed in Life magazine in 1986. It wasnt meant as a compliment, but Nevada tourism jumped on it and promotes the road with a passport book you get stamped at different locations and a CD, explaining the historical significance of various towns-- the route was the original pony express and overland stagecoach path.

Quite a contrast between the stark beauty of the Nev desert landscape (next services 86 miles read one sign) and the tacky glamour of Reno. We're staying at the Peppermill, which is over the top with red, blue and purple neon everywhere. Our room is luxurious and the bathroom bigger than some studio apts.

Got to sign off now--tired, but happy for Eric and I. Scott's night is just starting at the poker tables.
380 mile day

ps got an awesome text pix of Maureen and Teddy Roosevelt--not sure if she was at his birthplace in the 20's in Manhattan? See how we're converting people. Bully good!

Day 7: Pocatello, ID to Baker NV

Got an early start today and dropped Gary off at the SLC airport. Interesting billboards in Utah:
First one: "Commit a crime with a gun in Utah and you'll end up in federal prison in South Dakota."
And on the opposite side of the highway:
"Guns and ammo - next exit."

We arrived at Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada (pronounced Ne-vaaad-a; don't give us any of that Eastern fancy accents Ne vah da) at 2:30, so had time to do tour of Lehman Caves before checking in to the Silver Jack Motel and dinner.

The tour was great--ranger's name was Eric (good omen) and his delivery was similar to Arlo Guthrie singing Alice's restaurant. you had to laugh and our Eric gave him a B+--high praise from a tough critic.

We also caught our second ranger tour of the day in the evening campfire program on wild horses. Who knew you can buy a wild horse when the government has a round up and auction with a starting bid of $135. (Gary, we may just be bringing home a little present- ha)

The stars are supposed to be awesome here. You are far away from any light pollution because the 50 people living in Baker dont generate too much of a splash. Unfortunately, the moon was half full and brilliant, so it diminished some of the starshine. Eric and Scott got up at 3 am after the moon set and got a better view. (i stayed in bed!)

a 410 mile day, 7 hours driving, but lots of time doing fun stuff. Funny how we went from the most visited park (Yellowstone) to the least visited (Great Basin) and loved them both. they each have their charms.

ps: We miss Gary.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 6: Billings,MT to Pocatello, ID

Bully good day, but a loooong one. Started out at 7:30 am from Billings and ended at 1 AM in Pocatello or Palookaville, as Eric kept calling it....and that's all I;m going to say about that! (we are dropping off the Commander at SLC airport today, so should be returning to our more normal pace!!)

Yellowstone Park was great and not as crowded as we thought it would be. Saw the upper and lower falls over the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from the South side. Also spotted an osprey and nest with a baby. awesome.

the bison were out in force. Seems like the largest alpha males like to position themselves in the middle of the road to challenge rental cars and suvs. We took many pictures of the spot(s) where Beth had her "buffalo epiphany" in 1996--which became a fabulous college essay.

Old Faithful still performing on schedule and yes, this is still a "stinky place". Gary thought the sulfur was clearing up his sinuses.

had an excellent dinner at Colter Bay in the Grand Tetons.
early day on Tuesday (is there any other kind?!) to get to airport.

Quote of the day: "coming in hot.." (car shrieking to a stop)
mileage: one million, half in the dark. haha

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 5: TR National Park to Billings, Montana

Wow- a day where we didnt hit the road until 4 pm--too busy enjoying the rugged beauty of the TR badlands and the highlight of the trip so far:
Peaceful Valley Ranch horseback riding.

I rode Little Joe (or did he ride me?), Gary on Commander, Eric on Dude (of course) and Scott on Dan ( who, shared Scott's propensity for constant grazing). There were 11 people in our group and the guide immediately sized us up and chose me to be on the lead horse right behind the guide. Yes, I was identified as the weakest link, despite the fact there was a 10 year old girl among us.

Do you think a guided trail ride is like Pittman's ponies at the Valley picnic? Well, you're wrong--it's hard work and these horses have their own ideas. They knew how to go, but you had to rein them in or they would constantly stop, dip down their heads and set you off balance, while they grazed on the grass. It was a struggle! Don;t want to sound mean, but at the end of the ride, here was my quote:
"that little girl was crying? I;m glad because I felt like it, too!" haha

Actually, it was very cool. I tried to be "one" with my horse and imagine myself in a Western movie. We went uphill, over streams, perilously close to the edge of a cliff and of course, through lots of tasty fields of sweet grass. Head up there, little Joe.

I had trouble getting off the horse, but knelt down and kissed the ground and said Thank you Jesus.

Off to Wyoming today. Good omen for me so far:
Oatmeal for breakfast. Yay! with brown sugar and raspberries.
Bad omen for Gary: put the biscuit gravy in the waffle maker!

Day 4: Minneapolis to Medora, North Dakota

Hi Folks;
Catching up on our posts today from Billings, Montana. North Dakota was a little sketchy with internet/phone service plus we are usually dead tired at the end of the day---more so now that we've picked up team member 4 in Minneapolis. Gary has the energy of the Everready bunny.

we left Minneapolis for our 600 mile day, starting with our team t-shirt picture. North Dakota could also be called Big Sky country because you get a 360 view across the flat plains. A nice surprise: fields and fields of sunflowers, stretching out in golden blankets. We had some great stopovers along the way:
- Jamestown ND with the largest buffalo statue of the world and a real life albino bison in the field (or was it a cow they stuck horns on?--it was far away)

- Salem, ND--not to be outdone by Jamestown, they've erected the largest cow in the world--38 ft high Salem Sue on one of the few hills in ND.

_ iron sculpture of flying geese along the Enchanted Highway--luckily just off the highway or I would have voted nO detour!

What you love about America:
- It's a BIG country and so beautiful. Best sunsets ever. You would think the ride would be boring but you feel like you're absorbing it all, America seeping into your veins, the familiar and the new. (OK some states are a tad boring)

-people really are friendly. I had trouble with a gas fillup (Hey i am a lady from NJ!) and the clerk not only explained how to lift the lever, but walked out and did it for me. People are always talking to you in hotel elevators and we are an interesting curiosity for them. you can tell it goes in their trip highlights--"I talked to a woman from NJ today--can you believe it?!"

Good day--despite our 2nd Arby's meal (see what's wrong with America) and booked into the Bunkhouse Inn with dinner at Little Mo's. Teddy Roosevelt National Park awaits us tomorrow.
Quote of the Day:
TR 1883: "Aren't we having a bully good time?"
Gary K 2010: "Guys, this is great. Isn't it great?"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 3 Escanabe, Michigan to Minneapolis 425 miles

Our most rural day so far. Into a new time zone--Central--so it was light here until after 9 pm. Intermittent rain and clouds, as we traveled the lonely roads up to Wisconsin North Country. It was a surreal feeling--towering pines on either side of the hilly road, stretching off into the fog.
We arrived at Little Bohemia Lodge, the scene of a famous shootout in 1934 with the FBI closing in on John Dellinger, who escaped out the window and through the back woods. The lodge is nestled on a lake; town is called Manitawash Waters, nice pine trees, set off down a long driveway. (Which gangster scouted out this location?--not exactly ideal for a gang on the run) There was a little "museum" upstairs, with 3 rooms preserved from the Hollywood shooting of the movie Public Enemy with Johnny Depp and the other 2 rooms with artifacts and newspaper clippings.
Breakfast was excellent. "Our first decent meal" says Scott.

Afternoon was a long drive along Rt8--not too touristy, just meandered through farm, woods and small towns. We had to search for a cheese place, unlike Southern Wisconsin where the signs scream cheese. Eric did find a bottle of white wine with a cheesehead top-clearly a collector's item.

Eric and I did most of the driving, but Scott finally took the wheel for the final push into Minneapolis. Arrived around 6pm, in time for a meal at the Mall of America (Yes, everything you've always hated about America--fast food, fat people, tons of stores and rides). Gary arrived on time and we presented him with his team shirt.

Quote of the day:
Eric: "I must be getting old because I dont remember being this tired when I drove cross country 4 years ago."

Off to North Dakota...Eric still obsessing about missing the largest cross in America in Michigan, so today we are looking for the largest bison statue in America....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 2: Cleveland, Ohio to Escanabe, Michigan (Upper Peninsula)

Up at 6 am for the Hampton Inn breakfast (yay, they had a waffle maker!)

Ginny was the driver for most of the day. Go, Mom. We stopped at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in the morning and then had a picnic lunch on Lake Huron –Saginaw Bay. Swam there and later in Lake Michigan under the Mackinac Bridge. Pastis for dinner (a local meat pie that harkens back to the Cornish miners in the 1800’s). A bit on the dry side, but we added McDonald’s ketchup—wonder if the miners added anything? Good day- loving the Upper Peninsula--they act like it's a different country (or at least a different state)

Quote of the day:
Eric:: “I’ll have a chocolate cone.”
Kid working at the stand and looking at the bins of ice cream: “which one do you think is the chocolate?”

The day before in Cleveland:
Eric:” I’ll have a chocolate cone.”
Kid: “we only have regular.”
Eric: “ok- one regular.” (aka vanilla)

Mileage: 608 miles

Hotel: House of Luddington—very cool suite, decorated like your Grandma’s house in the 70’s; 2 double beds, 2 couches (one looking suspiciously like Jimi Hendrix’s)
We’ll post pictures tomorrow when we have a better connection!

Day 1: Wyckoff to Cleveland, Ohio 507 miles

Day 1 – Wyckoff to Cleveland Ohio
We’re off! We left Wyckoff at 6::21 and arrived at James A. Garfield ‘s House in Mentor, Ohio at 2:20. Eric was the sole driver because Scott and I kept falling asleep. Lunch was at Arby’s at 10:30. “Feels like an Arby’s day.”

Who is James Garfield, you may ask? He was the 20th president of the US, inaugurated in March 1881, shot in Washington DC that July and died in September in Elberon, New Jersey (near Long Branch, which was a populat presidential retreat at that time.) So he only served for 200 days. I loved the ranger tour of the house and gave Ranger Alan an A for effort and enthusiasm. Scott rated him A-/B+ and Eric, always the tough evaluator, gave him a B for going on a little too long and not wearing his hat.

We were about 20 miles from Cleveland. We had a quick dinner at Guy’S Pizza, forgetting that the rest of the country doesn’t know how to make pizza (or bagels). A relatively well dressed homeless person assured us that this was the best pizza place in Cleveland.

On to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gary would have absolutely loved this, but would have had to opt for the 2 day pass. I don’t know if we would have been able to get him out of the first floor exhibit, which traced the history of R &R.
Our favorites:

Ginny: the handwritten lyrics of Beatle songs, Bruce’s pictures of Asbury Park, history of Memphis music scene (note to Gary—I’m doing my homework for October!)

Eric: Michael Jackson glove and costumes, Springsteen’s handwritten lyrics and concert posters for Red Bank, Asbury, Middletown…”I know those places”, pictures from the Matrix Club in SF, Jimi Hendrix’s couch

Scott: Jim Morrison’s cub scout uniform, fat turista in golf shirt and khaki shorts who was waxing on about the best Stones concert he ever saw; the amazing similarity between a pink Stevie Nicks outfit and a pink one from Steven Tyler displayed next to each other; the fact that the featured exhibit was Bruce Springsteen. Gee, pictures of Asbury Park!

We were dead tired by the time we reached our hotel, so although we had wi-fi, we waited to post until today.

Quote of the day:
Eric: “Look,there’s the Cleveland skyline.”
Mom: “Where?” (Come on, it was a little hazy)
Mileage: 507 miles

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Leaving the Atlantic coast

Eric was home for Beth's wedding in June and we visited our beloved Jersey shore, including historic, beleaguered Asbury Park. A.P. has been on the brink of renaissance for years and it actually looks promising today. Lots of upscale restaurants on the boardwalk and a mixture of locals and gentrifiers on the beach. Of course, the chain link fence and barbed wire surrounding the largest unfinished condo development gives one pause on the eventual success, but we're hopeful.

Eric actually wanted to drive from Wyckoff to Asbury Park before heading West so it's a true coast to coast adventure. He was voted down, as an extra 100+ miles at the beginning of the trip seemed unnecessary. We convinced him by saying there might not be time for James Garfield's house in Ohio. (how many people would be swayed by that incentive?)

Please forgive us for faking the start of the trip, but here it is:

Eric in Asbury Park, Convention Hall in the background.

Hats off to an awesome trip!

Wednesday morning departure set for Sunrise: 6:00AM.

Team Profiles

Mom – Chief Navigator, PR Director, Traveling Secretary, Lead Logistics Worrier
Preferred Roadside Snack: Peanut Butter & Jelly
Preferred Music: Audio Book
Preferred Role: Backseat Sleeper
First Cross Country Trip: 1980, in Toyota Corolla with no AC
Favorite Accessory: Trail Umbrella
Trip Goal: Ride a horse without the horse sensing my absolute fear
Quote(s): “The meal only cost FiDollas and it was a Uuge portion!”

Scott – Assistant to the Traveling Secretary, Mobile IT Support Specialist, Comedy Director, Founder Stray Boots North Dakota
Preferred Roadside Snack: Dunkaroos
Preferred Music: High Tech Pocket Machinery
Preferred Role: Passive Aggressive-ist
First Cross Country Road Trip: Rookie
Favorite Accessory: Aleve, for physical weakness and hangovers
Trip Goal: Drink a local beer in each state
Quote(s): “Hakuna Matata”
“I’ll go where we go and drive when I’m told to but I’m not participating in any of the planning!”

Eric – Trip Historian, Chief of Reminiscence, Director of Obscure Site Visitation, Audio Tape Coordinator
Preferred Roadside Snack: Dairy Queen
Preferred Music: Mix Tapes
Preferred Role: Driver
First Cross Country Trip: 1980 in the womb, 2003 NJ to SF in 4 ½ days
Favorite Accessory: Leatherman
Trip Goal: Score National Park Patches
Quote(s): “Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road” –Walt Whitman

Dad – Executive VP of Optimism, State “Bagger”, National Park Fanatic, Member – Bull-Moose Party
Preferred Roadside Snack: Elk Burger
Preferred Music: Intermittent XM Radio
Preferred Role: Side of the Road Picture Taker
First Cross Country Trip: 1980, in Toyota Corolla with no AC
Favorite Accessory: A change of shoes
Trip Goal: Learn to use an ATM
Quote(s): “Isn’t this great?!”

Monday, August 9, 2010

What's in a name?

Inquiring minds have asked who thought up the blog title.  According to Eric, it was inspired by "The Summer of George" Seinfeld episode.

Check it out:

Cold feet?

I woke up today with a severe case of the pre-trip jitters. The headlines didn't help:

Yikes! What are we getting ourselves into?

I spent the weekend at the shore, pouring over maps and checking our itinerary. Gary's comment: "You can stare at Michigan as long as you want, but it's not going to get any smaller."

Ha! Easy for him to be glib, when he will be flying over the midwest to join us in Minneapolis and will miss the excitement of Day 2--- a  10-12 hour day starting in Ohio and proceeding north, covering  the length of Michigan and miles of blueberry fields and lakes.  Good thing Gary's the eternal optimist because he'll be with us for North Dakota --another state that just doesn't get any smaller staring at it.

The car is ready!  Three different mechanics proclaimed it trip worthy. The Toyota Dealer had the longest list of recommendations, which, if followed, would have meant rebuilding the entire engine. So we gave more weight to Occhi's gas station ("You're good for another 100k miles") and Wyckoff Tire ("no worries").  As several friends pointed out:  "You do have AAA." I just hope we dont have to test out its service on the loneliest road in the US (Rt 50- Nevada) or the endless plains of ND.

I re-confirmed our stay at the 1890 House of Luddington in Escanabe, Michigan and the friendly voice on the other end of the line buoyed my spirits. On to packing and final lists, and I find myself dispelling doubts and revving up the excitement meter again. 

Eric takes the red eye tonight! Scott wants to know when we get our berets emblazened with our names (a la Griswold Family). Maybe cowboy hats?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The trip map

Here's our crazy trip plan, via the Northern route, so we can visit Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  Our resident TR expert is joining us for that leg of the journey, having finagled his vacation time and frequent flier miles. Gary is happy to add North Dakota as a new state to his list of US states visited. Not too many unvisited after this trip! 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Calling all travelers - need advice!

Good morning, fellow travelers.  I'm sure at some point in your lives, you've been on a long car trip, whether it was that two hours as a kid to Grandma's house, which seemed to take forever or a really looooong cross country trip, like the one we're planning. 

Let's do the math: 3600 miles, even at an optimistic 60 miles an hour translates to a minimum of 60 hours in the car. Assuming we split the driving evenly (which we better not!),  that would be 20 hours driving and 40 hours as the happy passenger.  That's a full week of work. (Yes, I do remember how long a work week was)

As a kid traveling from Schenectady to Point Pleasant Beach for the summer or through New England on a Labor Day trip, we had lots of diversions. On the old country roads, there were plenty of opportunities to play "count the cows" and hope you didn't have a cemetery on your side, since you'd have to start over because all your animals were dead. My father was not immune to helping you out by going around the block to be sure the cemetery was on your rivals' side, so that they lost their animals, too. Did he only do that for me? I remember my competitive oldest brother planning weeks ahead the license plate game or roadtrip bingo. Funny thing is he always had the rules in his favor, assuring you would get stuck with Sinclair gas stations, while he got the more prevalent Shell or Esso.

For my own kids the trip to Grandma's was filled with Bon Jovi and Anne Murray tapes. We alternated between "Shot through the Heart" and "Apples and Baninis".  I want to eat, eat, eat apples and baninis...I want to oat, oat,oat apples and banonis.  Classic tune.  We usually arrived without me having to grit my teeth or turn around and swat at the restless legs in the back seat. Food helped, too.

When Gary and I traveled XC to South Dakota in 1980 in our un-airconditioned gray Toyota Corolla station wagon, we relied on old copies of the New York Times Sunday crossword.  We'd yell clues and answers to each other over the roar of the wind and the thrum of passing 18 wheelers.  Yes, we were a little nerdish.

So, we're looking for suggestions from everyone. We're assembling our music selections, gathering the NYT crosswords and have some books on tape.  Eric is thrilled that the Camry still has a tape deck, so Anne Murray may live again.  Let us know your ingenious ideas for passing the time.  There is a limit to how long you can gaze at  blueberry fields in Michigan or prairies in North Dakota without losing your inner zen!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Genesis - the beginning

Not exactly a Biblical story, but an epic trip in the making nonetheless.
Eric:    Mom, what do you think about helping me drive cross country this summer?

Mom:  You do realize that I have to take a power nap when I drive from our house to the shore (75 minute ride)

Eric:    Maybe Scott could come too?

Brothers Then

Brothers Now

So here's the team in a picture from Beth's wedding.  They look happy here. Will they still be smiling on August 19?