Sunday, August 28, 2011

The travels come to an end

17 days, 5237.6 miles, 17 States, 4 National Parks and 2 National Monuments later we finally made it to Tampa Florida - our final destination on Thursday afternoon.  We were welcomed to Florida by a typical afternoon thunderstorm, which believe it or not was the first and only time we encountered rain during our entire return trip.  We were happy to make it to Mom and Dad Friedberg's house safely, but sad that the trip has come to an end.  Bogey was happy that he no longer had to be cramped up in the back of the car amongst the luggage, but can now run free in the large fenced-in backyard at the Friedberg's residence.

We would like to thank President Eisenhower for establishing the Interstate Highway System, Toyota for a smooth ride with unprecedented fuel economy, The United States Congress for establishing National Parks, and all of you for following our blog and our adventures over the past 9 months.

Instead of traveling and visiting National Parks our time now will be taken up by house hunting and setting our roots here in the greater Tampa area.  Tim is excited about beginning his new job at USF tomorrow morning and Jodi will continue with her job search, as she has not yet found a job that is a good fit for her.

We are sad that the Excellent Adventure has come to a close, but excited about starting this new chapter of our lives.  We are now accustomed to taking the weekends to explore wherever we may be, so we hope to now continue this trend Florida-style.

If anyone is going to be in or around Tampa, you've got a place to stay!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia

After making the incredibly boring drive through the heart of Illinois to Chicago. We arrived at our friends house that evening.   We spent the next 2 days visiting with the friends we were staying with as well as Jodi's Aunt and Uncle who live in the area.  Friday morning we made the short trip around the southern tip of Lake Michigan to Kalamazoo.  There we spent the night with Jodi's childhood friend, her husband and their 7 month-old son.   After eating breakfast Saturday morning we left Kalamazoo and headed to Fort Wayne Indiana.  There we spent the next two days visiting with one of Tim's friend from Trumansburg, his wife, their 2 year-old son, and 2 month-old daughter.   It was nice to be able to swing through this part of the country to spend time with friends and family we rarely get to see. We had a great time visiting and catching up with all of them. 

After dinner on Sunday evening we left Fort Wayne, Indiana and drove south to Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Monday we spent the day at Mammoth Cave National Park, which was sadly, our last national park stop of the trip.  We went on a 4.5 hour, 4 mile, ranger-led hike through a section of the cave.  The ranger leading the tour was quick to point out that our hike only covered 1% of the entire area of cave passageways.  The hike even included a lunch break at picnic tables in a large open area of the cave called the snowball room. There the National Park service set up a makeshift cafeteria with bagged lunches and restrooms.  Hiking through the cave was amazing, we definitely would like to return to go on some of the other hikes the park offers.  

Bowling Green Kentucky is home to the one and only GM Corvette assembly plant.  Tim woke up early Tuesday morning to go on the tour of the plant.  There he walked along the floor of plant where he was fascinated watching all stages of the Corvette assembly.  After he returned from the tour, we loaded up the car and made our way to Atlanta (our final stop before Tampa).  

We rolled in to Atlanta Tuesday evening.  As soon as we checked in to our hotel, we headed straight to Trader Joe's.  During our time in California and Nevada we have come to love this grocery chain.  Unfortunately, the closest Trader Joe's to Tampa is right here in Atlanta.  Because of this we stocked up on some of our favorite non-perishables, including the Charles Shaw wine aka 2-buck Chuck.  Which apparently is $2 only on the West Coast, as it is $2.79 Chuck in Atlanta (and I've heard it's even more expensive elsewhere along the East Coast).

We spent today in Downtown Atlanta exploring the Georgia Aquarium and The Wold of Coca-Cola.  We had a great time seeing all of the aquatic wildlife at the aquarium.  The best part of the aquarium is the 6.3 million gallon Ocean Voyager exhibit, which is home to four Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.  We were slightly disappointed at the minimal number of exhibits given the size of the building.  At the World of Coke we enjoyed learning about the history of the company through the various exhibits and tasting the different Coke products from around the world.  

Tomorrow morning we will load up the car and make the final leg of our 17-day cross country journey.  Unfortunately, our amazing trip will to come to an end once we arrive in Tampa tomorrow afternoon.  Bogey will be pleased to be in one place for a long period of time with a yard to run around.  We wish we could continue to explore the country one national park at a time, but unfortunately we have to get back to the real world and return to work. We have decided that working really gets in the way of this traveling lifestyle we have come to love.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois

Monday morning we met up with a former teammate and roommate of Tim's from Greensboro College and his wife, Ed and Gretchen.  Gretchen is from Sioux Falls South Dakota and they were both in town for a vacation.  We spent the morning eating breakfast and catching up with each other.  We left around noon and headed south toward Kansas City. Interstate 29 from South Dakota to Kansas city  follows the Missouri River along the boarder of South Dakota and Nebraska.   Due to the recent floods in Iowa, portions of Interstate 29 are underwater resulting in about an 100 miles of detours.  It was quite sad to see houses, farms, barns and parts of towns underwater.  Several sections of I-29 that were open had sand bag levees along the shoulder of the road.  
We spent Monday night and most of the day Tuesday in Lenexa, KS which is a suburb of Kansas City, KS to visit with Tim’s uncle Dan and his Wife.  It was great visiting with family that you don't get to see too often and Bogey enjoyed playing and running around the house with their 2 shorthaired pointers.  Tim’s uncle was also able to teach Jodi a thing or two about photography to help her hone in on her skills.  After dinner, we headed East toward St. Louis for the night.
Wednesday morning we awoke early to head into downtown St. Louis to see and ride up to the top of the “Gateway to the West.”  We enjoyed riding up the inside of the arch in the little elevator cars/pods.  Once at the top the view over St. Louis and the Mississippi river were fantastic.  The cars that take you to the top are quite small and not meant for those with claustrophobia and the height at the top of the arch is not meant for those with a fear of heights.  We were glad we were able to check another great American landmark off of our list.  

After we left the Arch we headed north to Chicago where we will be spending several days visiting friends and family.  

The rest of the pictures

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Colorado Springs, Wyoming, South Dakota

Saturday morning we awoke in a hotel in Colorado Springs.  After a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed we headed to the National Olympic Training Center and toured the facility.  The Center not only houses Olympic caliber athletes, but also allows local athletes to train during camps.  We were able to see boys gymnastics, women’s volleyball, men’s wrestling and swim teams practicing while on our tour.  To our surprise, the swimming pool was full of Florida Gator swimmers warming up for a competition.  Also, while we were there the center was setting up for the Modern Pentathalon National competition to be held later that day.
After lunch, we drove to an elevation of 14,110 feet to the top of Pike’s Peak.  It was a balmy 44 degrees at the summit, so we took as many pictures as we could as fast as we could.  The views on the ride up/down the mountain and at the peak were spectacular, despite us being so close to the clouds.  It was somewhat scary to drive to the peak because the road is quite close to the edge of the mountain for a majority of the ride.  
Sunday morning, we packed up the car again then made on last stop at the Air Force Academy before heading north out of Colorado Springs.  We made a quick stop at the famous Chapel which was stunningly beautiful on the inside, full of stain-glass window accents along the peaks in all directions and an enormous pipe organ in the balcony.  
We then drove North on I-25 on our way to Mount Rushmore.  Tim wanted to make a stop at the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, but unfortunately they are not open on Sunday.  He figured we would need a few beers to make it through Eastern Wyoming.  The most exciting part of this area of Wyoming was driving past a section of the Oregon Trail.  
In the Black Hills of South Dakota on our way to Mount Rushmore, we drove past The Crazy Horse Monument. We were pleased that there were great views of this tremendous work-in-progress from the road.  Soon after, we successfully made it to Mount Rushmore. It was spectacular to see in person, but we both agreed it looked much smaller than we had imagined it.  Either way it was still wonderful to see and a nice pit stop.  We had plans of staying in a hotel in the area of Mount Rushmore, but when we returned to the car we decided to get as much of South Dakota behind us as possible. Which is the only choice if you heading West out of Rapid City (or any direction for that matter) as the next town of any significance that would have a decent hotel is on the other side of the state. Unfortunately we did not account for losing an hour crossing in to the Central Time Zone.  So we planned on making it to Mitchell South Dakota around 10:30pm, but it ended up being 11:30 due to the time change. 
Once you descend from the Black HIlls, South Dakota along I-90 is miserably flat and boring.  This stretch of I-90 from Rapid City to Mitchell SD must have been the inspiration for the game frogger.  We have never seen so many frogs hopping across the highway in a high stakes game of crossing the road. Most were unsuccessful in making it to the other side as they met the tires of our prius.  
The 731 miles from Colorado Springs to Mitchell South Dakota by way of Mount Rushmore was by far our longest day in the car, but it went by quickly. 

Here are more of the pictures.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

3 National Parks in 3 States in 4 Days

Our return cross country trip is in full swing.  We officially began our journey Monday August 8th.  With Vegas in our rear view mirror we headed across the desert to the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.  As we were setting up our tent there were two Elk roaming behind our campsite to greet us.  As soon as we had our tent set up, we hopped on the shuttle bus that took us to different vista points along the rim.  We then grabbed some dinner in the Grand Canyon Village, before we drove to Yavapai Point  to watch the sunset over the Canyon.

Tuesday morning we packed up our campsite and headed to Mesa Verde National Park in Cortez Colorado.  On our way to Cortez we made a quick stop at Four Corners, where Tim did a push up and Jodi did a backbend in 4 states.  After setting up our campsite in Mesa Verde National Park, we drove around the park looking at the various cliff dwellings.

Wednesday we loaded back up in the car and took the scenic route to Arches National Park in Moab Utah. From Cortez, CO we headed east to Durango.  After walking around Durango for about an hour we got back in the car headed North on U.S. Route 550 to Ouray Colorado.  This stretch of road winds through the rockies and various mountain passes is better known as the Million Dollar Highway.  On our way to Ouray we stopped for lunch in the sleepy western town of  Silverton, which is surrounded by 13,000 ft. peaks.  From there we winded around the cliffs as we made our way into Ouray.  In Ouray, the massive rocky peaks dominate the skyline in every direction, making it easy to see why this town is known as Switzerland of America.   After descending from Ouray we headed Northwest to Arches National Park.  We were lucky enough to be able to reserve a campsite in the park at Devils Garden Campground.  The entire campground is surrounded by the various rock formations and arches that make this national park so amazing.  The only problem with the campground is that there were no shower facilities available.  This meant we would have to go the next 2 days in the blistering desert sun without bathing.

Thursday we spent the entire day driving, hiking and climbing around the spectacular arches and rock formations throughout the park.  We hiked to Double Arch, The Windows, Turret Arch, Balanced Rock, Landscape Arch, Double "O" Arch, Skyline Arch, and Delicate Arch upper overlook. All in all we hiked and climbed our way through about 9 miles of trails before sunset.  Needless to say as soon as the sun went down, we went straight to bed.

Friday morning we packed up our campsite for the final time and headed back up the Rockies to Colorado Springs.  From Arches we drove North through the canyon along the Colorado River to Interstate 70.  Amazingly enough this was the first time since Monday that we were going to be driving on an Interstate Highway.  Interstate 70 heading East to Denver is one spectacular stretch of highway as it ascends the Rockies winding along rivers and passing through various ski towns.  As soon as we checked in to our hotel in Colorado Springs we took much needed showers, even Bogey received a well deserved cleaning.  After cleaning up we went downtown Colorado Springs to grab some dinner and a cold beer.  While we had a blast camping in 3 different National Parks over the previous 4 days,  we were thrilled to return to the modern comforts of a bed, hot shower, TV and internet.

Check back soon for more travel and sightseeing updates as we continue to make our way along the scenic route to Tampa.

Until then, here are some pictures from the past week.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vegas - 3rd and final weekend

(we have not had internet access until now, so this posting is 5 days late; our return adventure is in full force, so please check back soon for more updates and pictures) 

As usual, our last weekend in Vegas was another busy one.  We finished our last day of work and both facilities were sad to see us go.  We headed to the Venetian for dinner at the Grand Lux Cafe just off the casino floor.  Then we took a ride on a Gondola through the canal in the middle of the Venetian hotel.  From there, we walked outside along the strip to watch the Sirens of ti show outside of the Treasure Island hotel.  The show was a little cheesy, but entertaining.  
Saturday morning we met Jodi’s uncle at the Original Pancake House (again) in the Green Valley Ranch Casino.  The breakfast was just as good as the first trip.  That afternoon, we took our Florida Law exam which turned out to be much harder than expected.  We hope to get the results sometime this week.  That night, we headed up to the Anthem Country Club for Burger night one last time with Jodi’s uncle and his sister and brother in law.  The curly fries were fantastic and it was the best Bison burger Tim had ever eaten.  
Sunday morning, we packed up the apartment and prepared for our cross country trip.  We then headed to Mount Charleston for a scheduled horseback riding trip at 1:00.  We arrived at 12:30 to find out that our trip was overbooked and there were no broken horses for us to ride.  Due to our busy schedule and plans to leave town we were unable to wait for the next ride nor reschedule.  Sadly, we had to leave Vegas without our horseback riding trip through the mountains.  So we returned to the apartment to finish packing.  Sunday night, we headed back to the Strip to see Celine Dion at the Coliseum at Caesar’s Palace.  It was a great show with a very talented orchestra and man, can that woman sing!  
We are sad that our time in Vegas is over, but had a great time while we were here.  There was plenty that we did not get to see or do, so plan to come back to visit.  We leave for our cross country trip on Monday morning were our first stop is at the Grand Canyon.  As we find internet we will post more updates and pictures.  Stay tuned....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vegas - 2nd Weekend

Our second weekend in Vegas was another busy one.  Friday night we went to Town Center, just south of the Strip, to walk around the shops and grab some frozen yogurt.

Saturday morning, Tim went golfing with Jodi's uncle, his Sister and Brother-in-law at Anthem Country Club.  Tim says, "it was the best course he has ever played."  By that, he meant the most well manicured course and one that actually rewards you for staying in the fairway and one that punishes you for landing in the rough.  He also enjoyed playing a desert course that had sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the Strip. After the round Jodi met up with the foursome for some lunch at the clubhouse.   Saturday afternoon, we headed down to the Strip for dinner, some sightseeing and to see the Cirque du Soliel show, "O."  We started the night be walking through the Forum shops at Caesars Palace.  We had hoped to see the moving statues, but the exhibit was closed for maintenance.  From there, we ate dinner at one of the restaurants inside of the Bellagio.  After dinner, we walked through the Conservatory at the Bellagio where everything inside is made of flowers and each month the decor changes to fit the season.  We then walked outside to see the fountain show outside of the Bellagio then walked across the street to ride up to the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris to take in the views 460 feet above the Strip and see another fountain show (which was different from the first one we had seen).  Finally, we made our way back into the Bellagio to see "O" and it was fantastic!  This Cirque show is centered around water so it was packed full of synchronized swimming and diving as well as the normal Cirque splendor.  We both agree that it was the best Cirque show we have seen thus far.

Sunday morning we got some much needed sleep then headed to breakfast at the Original Pancake House at the Green Valley Ranch Hotel and Casino.  An amazing breakfast with fresh squeezed juices!  In the afternoon, we headed back to the Strip to walk around MGM Grand and the Venetian.  We got lost walking around the massive MGM Grand, but eventually found ourselves at the Lion Habitat.  Sadly, the lions were sleeping, so we didn't see much activity, but it was very interesting to see 3 trainers just sitting in the habitat with the 2 lions and 1 trainer sleeping with the lion cubs.  From there, we went to the Venetian with all intentions of riding the Gondola, but the wait was too long and we decided this attraction would have to wait until the next weekend.

We have one more week of work here and another busy weekend planned ahead of us before we start our adventure to Florida.  We have been busy planning and booking camp sites and hotel rooms for our 3 week road trip to the Sunshine State.  Check back in a few days for the details of our last weekend in Vegas!

Here are more pictures from our 2nd weekend in Vegas.