Sunday, 18 August 2013

Great American Road Trip - Day 16 & 17

It's hard to believe that today is our last fun day of this Great American Road Trip!

We are definitely feeling the effects of travelling, and time zone changes, but we're determined to enjoy our final day exploring Chicago.  The hubbs and I have been here before, but it was cold, and that made it difficult to explore on foot! Plus, we were not on Route 66 mode at that time.  

We started our day the way that all Route 66 trips should either start or end: Breakfast at Lou Mitchell's.  The mother road used to start at their door step (before it became a one way street headed in the wrong direction). 

This place was super busy, super efficient and super good! While waiting in line which extended down the street, the hostess walked up and down the line serving guests fresh baked doughnut holes.  Upon being seated, it has always been tradition that the women are given a box of Milk Duds...amazing!

After breakfast we headed down the street to the current official starting point of Route 66 in front of the Chicago Art Centre. 

We said our final farewell to this amazing highway before exploring the rest of the city.  

Our first stop was the Buckingham Fountain. It was beautiful - and I could not stop singing the 'Love & Marriage' song from Married with Children!

From Grant Park we made our way to Millennium Park to check out The Bean, and The Crown Fountain. 

The Crown Fountain was fun, as lots of people were splashing and playing in the water.  It was hot, so it felt good to cool our feet in the water!

Continuing on, we headed to the Magnificent Mile were we stopped for a picture of the infamous Chicago theatre - and of course, enjoyed some Chicago mix popcorn from Garret's across the street. 

We enjoyed looking at all of the stones tucked into the architecture of the Tribune Towers.  Apparently the guy who built it had reporters from WW2 send him pieces from various structures from all over the world.  We had fun trying to figure out how someone cold have brought home a brick from the pyramids of Egypt, and the Great Wall of China (among other notable places).

We had a traditional Chicago Deep Dish pizza for dinner, before heading to Navy Pier.

We were feeling too tired to stick around for the fire works display.  But we had a good ride on the Ferris wheel before calling it a day.

Tomorrow we drive home.  We are all a bit relieved to be heading back to our own beds, but also a bit sad to put this journey behind us.  After months of planning and researching for this adventure, we can now say "been there" and "done that" to some of America's greatest sights and scenery!

There is something about travelling and sharing experiences that brings people closer together.  During this trip we have shared a lot of laughs, made new "inside jokes", and experienced changing landscape, culture and life, daily.  It is somewhat fitting that out last day is also our one year wedding anniversary.  I can't wait to find out what adventures are in store next for this family of ours!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Great American Road Trip - Day 14 & 15

When we planned this trip, we knew that coming home we could either divide our driving up into 4 days, and do pretty much nothing between Colorado and Chicago - or drive like mad for two days and then spend a day in the Windy City.

So...we decided to just drive like crazy for 2 days.  

We drove East yesterday, seeing the mountains disappear behind us as we headed for Nebraska.  All along this trip we have continuously been in love with the changing scenery.  

Nebraska, however, is boooooring!  It was a lot like driving down the 401 - not too thrilling.  So we were glad to get to our hotel for the night, which had a nice pool for us to swim in.  

Leaving Nebraska we were looking forward to getting to Chicago - but it required a FULL day of driving.  We were glad to see Nebraska behind us as we crossed into Iowa...

...however, Iowa is as exciting as Nebraska.  So we rigged up something where we could hold the iPad up on the sun visor with bungie cords, hooked it into the stereo in the car, and watched the National Lampoon's Vacation movie.  It was fun to compare their trip to ours, and to see some of the sights that we visited.

We finally made it to Chicago just in time to see the sun go down and have time to rest up before a big day tomorrow! 

Looking forward to touring around the city!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Great American Road Trip - Day 13

We left Moab this morning and started working our way East, back into Colorado.

It was a bit of a relief to see the desert trailing off behind us as we started entering the Rockies.  The changing scenery continued to blow us away, and we loved seeing the mountains all around us...

...and driving through them!

Eventually we took a little turn off the highway, to take a trip up Mount Evans Scenic Biway.  Entering this area we were surrounded by forrest, and saw a little fox trotting by a house.  

Mount Evans is home to the highest paved highway in North America.  We drove around tight bends in the road (which did not have guard rails) up into the clouds and above the tree line.

We stopped driving at a little half way point and spotted some of these long horned sheep. 

Continuing up, we were starting to feel the air get thinner.  I was feeling slightly amazed that we had been driving for about an hour, and made it to the altitude that took me 4 days to get to on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  

Once at the top, we started spotting these fluffy white mountain goats.  

...Don't let the shorts fool 14,000 feet it was cold! There were little pockets of snow on the ground all around the mountain top. 

After a short visit at the top we continued on the road to head towards Denver.  We didn't have anything planned in Denver, so we parked the car and took a little walk around.  It was a nice city, which reminded me a lot of Toronto. 

After exploring, we headed to our hotel for the night.  We have a long driving day tomorrow

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Great American Road Trip - Day 12

We were feeling a little bit slow this morning, after such a full day yesterday.  We were also staying in a lovely hotel in Bluff, and didn't want to rush out the door.  So we changed the plans for the day, allowing us to leave a bit later, and decided to take a short drive to a very touristy stop: The four corners monument.  This is the location where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico intersect.  We posed for some pictures, and did a little shopping in the Navajo booths before heading back out.

On our way to Moab, UT we crossed the boarder briefly into Colorado before heading back into Utah.

The drive was beautiful as we continued heading North.  We always had to be watching the road carfully as animals like cows and horses have free range here.

While entering the town of Moab we found this great little stop: Hole n' the Rock.  It started out as a small zoo when it first opened, and now this land has a trading post, general store, quirkey garden, zoo...and this...'s almost impossible to tell from the outside, but this is a house!  A very strange husband and wife couple blasted the inside of this giant rock, painted the rock walls, and moved in.  We paid to do a little tour of this home, and it was totally worth it.  It was super quirkey, and strange, but interesting.  

Once we got into town we drove straight into Arches National Park.  This is the park which houses the typical image of what Utah is known for: Rock arches.  

the drive into the park is nicely paved and we followed the map looking at the various rock formations. This one is called Balanced Rock.

Then after a quick drive around a corner, we reached the North and South windows.  We took a little walk up to these arches, and over to a double arch, before driving a little further to look for the delicate arch. 

It was a little bit of effort to walk up a bunch of rock stairs to find our way to the upper view point of the delicate was quite hot!  But it was worth the trip to see it, and I'm glad that we did.

We headed back to our hotel for a night time swim outside to refresh before resting up for a long driving day tomorrow.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Great American Road Trip - Day 11

Today was quite the experience.  We had an early morning today, having scheduled a tour for 8am.  Note to self - 8am is too early for 2 teenage boys!  However, in the end, 8am was worth it, and allowed us to have two awesome tours today!

We started with a tour of Antelope Canyon.  To begin with, we all loaded into the flat bed of a pick up truck fitted with seats, and buckled up for a bumpy drive from Page, AZ to the Navajo land where Antelope Canyon is located.  We got splattered and sprayed with red mud as we drove through the land which yesterday was a river.  It is monsoon season here, and heavy rains fill dry river beds quickly, and they disappear just as fast.  

We pulled up to a large wall of red sand stone which had a crack down the middle of it, which we entered through.  We learned that this crevice was discovered by a Navajo woman who hearded her sheep through here.  

It was slightly frightening to walk through these large walls, seeing the sand spilling over from the top down onto our heads, and praying that there were no rain storms up stream from here!  But in the end, we were safe and sound, and eventually I was able to relax and just enjoy the stunning slopes and colours of the narrow sand stone walls.  Our guide showed us where the ground had been just over  a month ago, and explained that the floor of this canyon is always washing away, and growing with every rain fall.  At one point we were able to look up and see a tree trunk stuck in the rocks above our head, which had been swept in there with a flash flood.  

This canyon is mostly famous for its light beams which shine down from the top.  However, we were here in the morning, and the position of the sun was not ideal for the famous light beams - but it was enjoyable and beautiful none the less.

Once we finished in Antelope Canyon, we made our way north to Monument Valley.  We were absolutely in awe of the scenery here!!  We booked a tour with Duffy Holiday, a Navajo gentleman who was an incredible host in this beautiful land.  

Duffy took us around Monument Valley sharing the information about his people, including showing us in a Hogan, and explaining the names of the large rock formations we were seeing.  We headed off of the main path at one point to make our way to some private land which only tourists escorted by a Navajo guide could access.  

He took us first to an arch called "Sun's Eye".  It was stunning.

We then took a little walk through the very dry, hot land to a large arch called "Ear to the Wind".  Duffy explained how sacred this space is, and asked us to just enjoy it - he then pulled out a large flute, and played some beautiful music.  We were all blown away by how precious this experience was, and afterwards all of us discussed how it felt like a real "moment".  


After our 2.5 hour tour of Monument Valley, we were back on the road headed for Bluff, UT.  The land was gorgeous on this drive with the stark contrast between the blue sky and red rocks.

Once in Bluff we checked into our hotel, and headed into town to grab a bite to eat.  We decided on the Twin Rocks.  Which was easy to locate from the road - because of the two giant twin rocks on top!

We all got to sample some Navajo bread (which we were seeing signs for all over the place) - this picture below is a Navajo taco.  

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a refreshing swim, and a good nights sleep.  We lost an hour today due to time change, so we'll have to catch up before tomorrow which is another pretty full day!!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Great American Road Trip - Day 10

We woke up this morning after a very good nights sleep after having slept with the windows open and letting the cool mountain breeze blow through to find the sun shinining brght.

We set out on the open road headed for the Grand Canyon!

Before getting to the Grand Canyon, we made a stop half-way at an old Flinstone theme park.  This park seems like it might have been quite the site duing its hay-day.  Now however, it was kind sad and dated, but a great place for some good photos, and we had a chance to chat with one of the workers who was full of personality.

We were super excited to reach the Grand Canyon - and had no idea what to expect!

After a quick walk into the park, we found our way to the South Rim walkway which looked like this:

We were blown away!  It was spectacular, and much bigger than I had anticipated.  It was also super cool to see the rain in the canyon (which ocasionally rained on us too).

After taking a nice walk along the South Rim, we started heading north...but first, we stopped at the Mary Coulter Watch Tower, which had great views of the canyon. 

Back on the road again, we started working our way around Kiabab Forrest before reaching the desert again.

We are still blown away by the changing landscape and vibrant colours!

We were feeling like we needed a bit of a driving break, and aroud Tuba City we saw a hand made sign advertising "Dinosaur Tracks".  We pulled off the highway onto the reservation, and a very nice Navajo lady greeted us and took us for a little tour around to show us some tracks fossilized in the ground.  She didn't charge us, but asked us to buy some jewlery from her.  We have no idea if these tracks were legit, but it was entertaining anyways...and the price was right!

Heading back out on the road, we were delighted to see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever before reaching our destination for the night: Page AZ.