Friday, August 27, 2010

THE END






Day 30: We have entered the Golden State again, and are heading back to unpack the car and return to school. We will both miss our road trip a lot. We have seen so much of the country and learned so much about the diverse landscapes, cultures, and history of the locations through which we drove. We also realized how little of the country we really did see. You can see the map that highlights our route and the places where we stopped. A narrow line around the country can only cover so much. And of the 1000+ pages of our tour book, we might have only read through about 100. That leaves more room for adventure! -Eran and Sarah

Salt Lake City, UT

Here we are in Salt Lake City, Utah. The main attraction in the city center is the Mormon temple square, which we toured around the evening we arrived. The large building below is the main temple (we couldn't go inside, but saw a model of the structure and its rooms inside the visitor's center). In the other picture, Eran is standing inside the Salt Lake Tabernacle, which is a big egg-shaped structure where concerts and meetings are held. The other photo is us next to Salt Lake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grand Tetons


Here we are trying to do a jumping pose in Wyoming at the Grand Tetons (the mountains behind us). It didn't quite work out as planned, but it is still an interesting picture.

Mud Pots, Hot Springs, Steam Vents, and Geysers







Yellowstone is centered on a active supervolcano which last erupted over 600 thousand years ago. But due to its activity, there are many underground cavities in which water is heated and pushed to the surface. This can lead to four different types of observable phenomena, all of which we saw during our stay in the park. The top picture is of Sarah sniffing the sulfur-rich mud pot. The next one down shows the two of us in front of a hot spring, colored by minerals which are brought up with the water. Next one down is me getting heated up by a steam vent. And, on the bottom you can see Sarah with the most famous geyser in the world: Old Faithful, which erupted right on schedule at 2:54.


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Why did the Bison Cross the Road?

The once endangered North American Bison were saved from extinction and reintroduced into the wild in Yellowstone. They have repopulated very successfully, and now have a very strong presence in the park. We ran into a large herd of them about an hour into our drive on the "Grand Loop." They were munching on the grasses by the road, and some of them ventured onto the pavement. These had no fear of humans, and did not respond to the car horns. In the video you can see how close they got to us. Shortly after this video was taken one even scraped up against the back of our car as he crossed the road.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mt. Rushmore


It is true, the faces of four famous presidents really are carved into the side of a mountain in South Dakota.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wall Drug, South Dakota

All during our drive through west Minnesota and the entire state of South Dakota, we saw advertisement signs every few miles or so for a place called "Wall Drug," located near Mount Rushmore in western South Dakota. You can see some of these in our collage of them. This represents only a fraction of the signs that we saw during our eight-hour drive.

Since we had nothing else to do, we thought, "Hey, why not! Let's go to this 'Wall Drug' place." It is basically an old-west style drug store which now consists of several buildings selling mostly tourist items, home-cooked meals, and a few actual drug store items. It also has a courtyard with various games and other entertainment. You can see us in the courtyard, me on a jackalope and Eran on an old settler's wagon.

Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota





The end is in sight. After Chicago it was time for us to turn westward and drive the long stretch back home. We began our first day of the stretch with a 12 hour drive across Wisconsin and Minnesota, and called it a night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Windy City



Today we spent the whole day in downtown Chicago. After nearly an hour in traffic and in the search for reasonably-priced parking, we went straight to a restaurant for Chicago's signature deep-dish pizza. From there we went to the Millennium Park to check out the now iconic "Cloud Gate" sculpture. The large, shiny bean-shaped thing is completely mesmerizing, and keeps visitors staring into the distorted reflection of the city. Those that walk underneath and look upward fall into a rabbit hole made of many distorted reflections of themselves.




Next we darted to the Willis (formerly known as the Sears) tower, and took the elevator up the the "SkyDeck" on the 103rd floor. There are four glass boxes that extend about three feet out of the side of the building. We were told that it is safe to stand in them, so we gave it a shot.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just a great photo


This was also at the Kentucky Horse Park. I love this photo!

Kentucky Time



Our next stop after Mammoth Cave was Lexington, KY, which is known as the "horse capital of the world." We camped out at the Kentucky Horse Park, a large horse farm complex that also gives tours and shows to visitors about the different horse breeds. We signed up for a horseback riding session there too!

Mammoth Cave and Some Salmon in a Storm

Yesterday we took a 2 mile tour in Mammoth Cave, which is the longest known cave system in the world and consists of over 300 miles of passageways. There were areas within the cave known as "Fat Man's Misery" (known for its narrow passage), "Tall Man's Agony" (known for its very low-hanging passage), and "The Bottomless Pit," which we walked right over on a narrow bridge.





We had planned to camp in the Mammoth Cave National Park the previous day, but a storm scared us off and we decided to get a hotel room instead. The storm did not keep us from grilling up some salmon in a covered picnic area that we found.



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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Music City


















We made it to Nashville, TN after going through the Great Smoky Mountains, and went out on the town to check out some of the music nightlife. I've never heard so much country and bluegrass concentrated into one street... wow! Oh, and to add to the mix, Justin Bieber was playing a concert the night that we
came... I've also never seen so many screaming pre-teens and mini-vans with pink window paint. Whew!

Camping in the Smokies



We took a series of self-timer photos in the Great Smoky Mountain campsite that we stayed in. We were pretty proud of them, and wanted to share. In the first picture, we are grilling vegetables, and have skewered meat on the picnic table ready to go. The second picture is actually from Texas, but it was so good that we had to include it. The river pictured below was adjacent to our campsite, and the bottom picture is us sipping hot chocolate.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An interesting place we stumbled upon in Tennessee...



On our way to find some groceries outside of the Great Smoky Mountains, we came upon a town called Pigeon Forge, TN. It is home to "Dollywood," a wild Dolly-Parton-themed amusement park, part-owned by Dolly herself. Here in Pigeon Forge, there are also a number of family-friendly "fun" centers, such as this Titanic "museum attraction" you see in the photo. We also found some kind of entertainment hall shaped like an upside-down mansion which has apparently "fallen" from the sky on top of a smaller business in Pigeon Forge.

We had quite fun a time looking at all these bizarre attractions and taking photos. On our way back to the Smokies, it began to pour, and we realized we needed to turn around to get a hotel room instead of stay in our tent. So, tonight, we are officially guests in this quirky town...

The Blue Ridge Parkway

We were 2 of nearly 20 million people to drive on the historic Blue Ridge Parkway this year. This road is the most visited national park, it stretches nearly 500 miles from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains between North Carolina and Tennessee. Winding roads overlook the rolling Appalachians and come to frequent tunnels.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Boone Hall Plantation

We stopped in the Boone Hall Plantation, right outside of Charleston, South Carolina. This plantation had a beautiful driveway lined with Live Oak Trees that were planted in the 1700's. The also had an extensive exhibit of the old slave quarters, some of the few remaining slave quarters found in the US. They were fascinating but also spooky because of the heavy history surrounding them.


Our Kabin in the KOA Kampground (with a K)

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Historic Streets of Savannah


This morning we did an extensive walking tour of Savannah. Every street is filled with history. Buildings are still intact from colonial days. There is plenty of civil war history too: General Lee and Jefferson Davis were frequent visitors, and it was Sherman's final stop on his famous march to the sea. Above you see my beautiful fiance walking in the street under the Spanish Moss-covered trees.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Made it to the Atlantic and...

We just got into Savannah, GA today, and decided to drive about 15 miles further east to get to the coast (of course, after driving across the whole USA, we had to get to the Atlantic coast and touch the ocean!). Check out what happened after Eran set up a self-made "video of us at the beach" to celebrate our arrival to the east coast... I was totally surprised!
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The Georgia Aquarium



The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world. The most exciting exhibit was a huge tank in the "Ocean Voyager" section, which amongst many other fish held four of the largest fish in the world: whale sharks.

The Gulf Coast, and some more gators

Yesterday we drove from New Orleans to Atlanta, a drive that should have taken 7.5 hours. We decided to make it a little longer by driving through the Mississippi Gulf Coast cities of Gulf Port and Biloxi. On the way there, our first stop was a gas station, where we parked next to a family with two tied-up alligators in their truck bed. They had captured them to relocate them from oil-damaged areas. They let us hold the smaller one.

As we were walking away from the gator family, a man leaned out of his window and said, "Welcome to Mississippi. When you come to Mississippi, that's what you're gonna see."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

French Quarter By Day and Night

We explored the French Quarter of New Orleans during both the day and night time. During day, we saw all of the beautiful, unique architecture on an informal walking tour we followed from our lonely planet USA book. At night, we stopped into 6 or 7 different shows, with music styles ranging from dueling pianos, to cajun, zydeco, blues, and southern rock. We also watched an awesome brass jazz band playing in the street (all of the members were around age 20-22). Oh, and also, the cops patrol on horseback on Bourbon Street, as this seems to be the only feasible way they can get through the crowds to control the craziness. We love Louisiana...