MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Finishing Off the "O" States

Time keeps on slipping (slipping, slipping - into the future)... sorry, I can't help it... in 2 weeks a friend and I are headed to Cleveland, OH.  Yeah, go ahead and laugh... I am excited. I have wanted to go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a while.  In fact, I have wanted to visit Ohio for a while.  It is the closest state I have left on my map.  I can't believe that I have not made it there yet.  Just a 6 hour car ride.  I have driven double that to Florida for years.  I sit in traffic for longer than that going home to Jersey (and DC snow storms).

So, the trip is essentially Cleveland area highlights stuffed into 3 days with some extra time to travel.  There is more to do there then 3 days allows, so some choices were in order.   To satisfy our roaming desires, we wanted to sample as much as possible:

  • Cedar Point - considered the capital of US amusement parks (for roller coasters), this was an absolute must.  Growing up, I thought I could be a roller coaster rater... I loved them.  I had heard of the craziness there - being from NJ, Great Adventure was our hang out.  We never got to this park.  Now, we are dedicating a day of our short trip for this adventure.  Loops, drops, corkscrews, twists and turns - bring it on!!!
  • Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - I cannot wait.  I have seen that they have a special exhibit on women rockers and that is fantastic.  Since I have never been  there, it will all be new.  I have heard that you can spend a day here listening to music and getting lost in the history... but I can't
  • A Christmas Story House - "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out"; "I can't put my arms down;""Daddy's going to kill Ralphie;" "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine;" " Ohhhh Fuudge."  I could keep going.  I love this movie, and the home is there in Cleveland.  Yep, the home of the leg lamp, where the neighbors damn dogs ate the holiday turkey, where Frankie hid under the sink home... and it is a must.  
  • The Cleveland Art Museum - Heard that it has a solid collection of Warhols in their Contemporary Collection.  They are known for their decorative arts collection, full of sculpture of various materials like silver, ceramic, stone.  They are most famous for their Ancient Egyptian collection full of sculptures, vessels and other objects.
  • The Cuyahoga Valley National Park - The only national park in Ohio, it is not too far to make the journey.  I understand it has old settlement ruins, a railroad that can take you on a tour, a working farm area, good trails and WATERFALLS!  We need time outside and this is just the ticket.
Lots to plan before the big weekend, but before we get there, I have to head back to Wyoming.  More specifically, I am headed back to Rawlins.  Maybe this time the weather will cooperate and I can better see those amazing sites I spoke about - Lincoln's head, and the granite rock formations.  

I will keep you posted!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home on the Range

What can you really say about a quick trip to Southern Wyoming?  Yes, there is pretty country - a very picturesque valley around the Medicine Bow.  But when you are there for work and travel between   Cheyenne and Rawlins, your pickings are limited:

  • By far the best thing on that drive was the cool granite formations of Vedauwoo - located off I-80.  These rocks are some of the oldest in Wyoming and look oddly like rock piles.  The Vedauwoo brings me back to my favorite word from my most recent vacation - hoodoo.  These formations were formed by uplift of the Laramie Mountains, and get their shape from the hard granite with crystals of quartz, so they really grab your attention as your drive by.  Unlike the hoodoo's of Bryce and Ceder Breaks, these formations are more rounded and and reminded me of a puzzle.  We never stopped and when I had a spare moment, it was cold and rainy... so maybe on a return trip to the Denver area I can revisit these formations.
  • The largest feature on the drive was Elk Mountain - I was told that it creates its own weather. It is the peak in the northern Medicine Bow Mountains and it looks like a giant slope
  • The town of 1 - that is right, ONE.  Buford!  There, you can go to the gas station (or the store next to it).
  • A Random Statue of Lincoln - nothing like the one in DC - this is really just a tall column with a giant head.  You can see him looking south, keeping watch. Find him on I-80, near Laramie.
  • Once you make it to Rawlins you can entertain yourself by heading to the jail or the local county museum:
    • The Clark County museum is home to the shoes made of human skin (not kidding)!  A local doctor  had the shoes made from Big Nose George, a local nuisance (thief and train robber).  Story goes that the museum also has the skull that was used as an ashtray.  At lunch in Rawlins, I met the museum director who let me know that there is an effort to bury the skull (and hopefully the shoes).  She is currently trying to determine where the rest of the body is buried... I say - GOOD LUCK.  And YUCK!
    • The local Gas Station - you can't make this up!
    • You can visit the old state prison!

If this sounds just too exciting for you - don't worry, I did not have time to actually do anything at these sites.  I saw them... passed them... and kept going.  I was on a schedule for work.  No time to play.  But don't worry, colleagues made sure that I took in some wacky goodness.  Just to give me a bit of local flavor, they took me to the local gas station (see picture); I was not expecting that, at all!  And while on the drive back, the rain over Elk Mountain treated us to a fabulous rainbow that was so defined I wanted to stop to find the gold.  Instead, they showed me elk ramps along the ranch fence lines - everyone can't leap like a leprechaun.  Too bad we didn't find a lamp and a genie, because I would have wished for warmer, drier weather - it was cold!  I am not ready for snow and they got a bit when I was there.  It was almost 20 degrees warmer in Denver when I drove back to the airport.  Whew!

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Struggling With What To Do

    September 11th... it is just a date.  Really, a day.  But the day has meaning... it is seared into so many of our memories.  I can recall just about every moment of that morning 10 years ago.  I remember riding the DC metro, and as the masses ascended the escalators, the cell phone and pagers that went off - it was just a symphony of sounds.  And as everyone answered, there were some gasps and some faces were stunned silent.  I made my way down the street to work and arrived to find offices empty.  People gathered around the public affairs TVs to watch the horror.  I immediately got on the phone to call family; yes, I was in DC, but at that point, nothing had happened here.  I was more concerned about my sister, who often worked in the city, my godfather who was a detective with the NY/NJ Port Authority, my step-mom's brother who worked in the area of the twin towers.  Doing the roll call of family that could be there hit hard - my family eat/slept and breathed NY/NJ.  Countless generations have called it home.  (I have been in DC for 11 years and NJ/NY is still home to me).  Family calls - couldn't get in touch with Louis, Uncle Tom was home, my sister had not gone in yet... then the Pentagon was hit.  Reports came in that the State Department was bombed, there was a fire on the Mall... and the phone lines went down.  We were told to evacuate... "Get the hell out."  I did not want to get on the metro and traffic was in a DC patented stand-still.  It was chaos.  Yet, nothing like the chaos that I saw on the TV moments earlier of home.  And as I traveled, many hours, to my apartment, I learned of the falling of the towers, the crash in Shanksville.  Shock - that is the only way to describe that day.

    September 11th... it is just a date.  It is a hard date.  And every year I struggle with how to honor it.  Truthfully, the day makes me sad.  I vividly recall the confusion.  I remember the struggle to contact everyone.  I remember the relief of hearing news that family got out of the financial district.  And  I remember days later getting word that all of my friends did not make it out of the Pentagon.

    September 11th... it is just a date.  Yet, it is a day to reflect.  I went to Ground Zero once, and never went back.  It was a hole.  It was horrible.  I visited the Pentagon Memorial twice.  It was less broken... but that was because it was finished.  That hole was just a horrible scar from the day.  Last year, I went to Mt Rushmore, the evening ceremony, thinking that it was a honorable tribute while I was site-seeing in the Black Hills. There, I was hurt by the cavalier attitude so many in attendance had... it was so bad that I ended up approaching someone talking on their phone and told them to exit the ceremony or get off the cell.  I was so angry.  It is just a date... but it is not just a day.  Life changed that day.  And we should remember that.  We should be respectful of that.

    September 11th ... it was today.  DC and NYC were in high alert due to a new threat.  Earlier that week I had called out a few young "kids" on the train lamenting about the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry and proclaiming all would be better if NYC was bombed.  Yep - right there in the Metro.  Idiots.  And I called them out.  Why was I the only one?  And later that week, we were notified about the possible bomb plot in the city... so, really, can we please be more careful with our words?

    September 11th.... this year, a weekend day, and not a day to sit at home.  You could sit home watching all the documentaries, but you would go numb.  I watched the memorial, and then donated money to the Shanksville Memorial (which is not fully funded yet - so, if you are not sure what to do, consider that an option.)  I had to force myself to turn off the TV.  It was hypnotic.  But due to that possible threat, many decided not to travel into DC or anywhere near people.  I really tried.  I couldn't.  This is a hard day.  I really hated to be alone... so, I made my way toward Alexandria to attend the art festival.  Old Towne Alexandria's historic King Street hosted the festival and it was a decent get-away from the relived horror on the television.  Wandering the streets, I found a few artists that I recognized from the West Palm Beach Arts Festival in January.  Wandering the booths, I found some of these old favorites  from January (lewk, stern, marin), some that I recognized from other festivals (holwerda) and found new ones to watch (hairy potter, markowitz).   Art can be theauputic for so many.  The outdoors is good for others.  Getting outside and wandering the festival was a good way to spend the day after the memorials that morning.

    September 11th... it is just a day.  It is a day that we need to remember, but we also need to function during the course of the day.  There must be a way to balance that.  Ten years ago, that morning was beautiful; it was warm, the skies were blue.  Today was no different.  So, I needed to honor that day, but then force myself to do something that I love.  Just like in years past,  I have needed to make sure that I get out.  That I enjoy life.  Because, September 11th is a day... a day that reminds us that with people, we are stronger!

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Hoodoo You Think Hiked in Bryce???

    What can you really say about one of the most breath-taking hikes you have ever taken?  I have struggled to write about to trip to Bryce because I am still in awe of what I was able to take in.   Granted, we only saw a portion of the park... you really need more than one day at Bryce, and I will have to make sure that I get that... but the priority was to see and experience.  To do that, my friend and I hiked from both rim and valley. It was the best way to marvel at the hoodoos, rims, fins and other geologic structures.  From above and below, they were a sight to see!!!

     Hoodoo became my new word of the trip... honestly, I do not remember that from geology class or lab.  I have never seen these types of structures on the east coast, but the park was smart to point out that you can see hoodoos in places all over the world - the difference is, nothing is this vast, colorful, deep and spectacular as Bryce.   If you look the right way, you can understand the native american story that woodoos are really people that have been turned to stone by the god/trickster - Coyote.  In reality, they are the result of constant weathering and erosion.  Hoodoos were rock mounds, sculpted into fins, that broke into individual pilliars.  In Bryce there are rows that look like a consistent series, cut from the same cloth; there are section upon section that look like that paper trick you do as a child - the one where you cut one  doll and create a series of linked ones.  It kinda boggles your mind to think that weathering processes created something so similiar.  And then, you turn your head, and you have another forest of hoodoos, that looks different and yet similar to each other.

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    One Night in Vegas.... Again!!!

    Three Times might not be a charm at the tables (or maybe it is - who knows, I don't bet)... but for Vegas and I this year, it works.  Used Vegas as a launching point for my quick trip through the some of the most famous national parks of the southwest.  In all my times in Vegas, I have never used it as a launching point to the big ones, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion.    My very first trip to Vegas, I got out of town to see Hoover Dam, and this past January's trip took me to the Valley of Fire.  I never left Nevada.  I never took advantage of the proximity to these sights.  I do not usually attribute trips to Vegas was loads of hiking.  This trip was different - I was going for the parks, not for the glitz and glamour.  But before I could hit the trail, my friend and I had one day/night in Vegas.

    I arrived in Vegas right around noon in a mood that told me that I needed to avoid shopping at all costs.  The advertisements in the airport let me know that the Bellagio Art Museum had a new exhibit, so I knew where i needed to go.  Named "A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney", this very small showing showcased different movements and types of artistic expression that illustrate concepts of landscapes.  Two of the most exciting pieces in the exhibit were an ocean front seascape from Roy Lichtenstein (known as the comic style paintings - dot colored) and contemporary country side by David Hockney (known for vibrant color and a bit of pop flare).  Yes, they had Monet, as I would expect at an exhibit of Landscapes - honestly, how could you not... he is like the granddaddy of landscape paintings.  Interesting though that this exhibit focused on many forms of art - paint, sketch, video, sculpture, photo, and they included the obvious of Monet for painting and failed to include the obvious choice for photography - Ansel Adams. (even though they had an Adams showing a few years ago, his exclusion has no excuse).  Instead, for photography, we were shown a series of 6 photos of a human form's outline in the surf, in various states of destruction by the water.  These photos would haunt me a week later in Chicago where I found an entire wall of them (and could not remember, right then, where I had seen them before).