These are Eric’s diary entries, with the newest entries at the top.
A final almost 462 mile day has brought us back home! Over the past 23 days we have driven almost 7,000 miles (6986.7 to be precise), going from one end of the I-70 to the other and back, and seeing a lot on the way.
We got home exactly three hours ago as I type this paragraph. Nicoline and I have since emptied the car, sorted the laundry, put almost everything else back, showered, had dinner, and are now sitting in our comfortable chairs posting our last blog entry. Our cats are happy to see us back (although Butterscotch is still a little bit upset). Tonight we will be sleeping in our own beds (yay!) and tomorrow we'll work towards getting back into a more "normal" routine.
We started out with a (3-hour) detour to Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's home town. This was one of the few stops that had looked interesting but we missed on the way out, because it is located 1½ hours North of St. Louis and we went South... Well, today turned out to be a cool, rainy day and although we did visit the Mark Twain boyhood home, it wasn't quite as interesting as I thought it would be. They had tried to "interpret" Mark Twain's youth in a novel way, but it felt way too distant for me. Although it was interesting to see how close to the Mississippi river Samuel Clements grew up, and to imagine him growing up in this town in the 1840s... The town itself looked pretty run down, had a feeling that it wouldn't be anything if it hadn't been for Twain.
After Hannibal we went back to the I-70, through St. Louis into Illinois, which we crossed, followed by Indiana, and into Ohio. There is not much to tell about that -- the weather wasn't too good (gray and cloudy almost all day, a couple of rain showers) and, to be quite honest, I wasn't that much interested in the countryside anymore. I'm getting to the point that I'm happy to just drive through, going home.
Another driving day so there isn't much to report. From Colorado we entered into Kansas where, at exit 135, we were suddenly detoured onto a dirt road (K-147) until we got back onto I-70 at exit 140. We could hardly see the road from all the dust the cars and trucks in front of us threw up! But at some point we could see there had been what looked like a pretty big accident on the Interstate.
We had lunch at a Sonic in Russell, KS. When we passed Abilene, I finally got a good shot of the water tower! It is strange, though, passing by all these places we've been in the past weeks in backwards order...
Around 4 we passed through Kansas City into Missouri, then crossed most of that state until getting to a hotel shortly before St. Louis. In Kansas, when Nicoline and I changed places, I had taken the opportunity to take to photos of the I-70 seen from an overpass (can't do that in Maryland, since all overpasses have fences); when we got to the hotel I waited until after dark and now took some photos of the I-70 by night from the overpass. I thought it was kind-of neat...
We've started our way back. We were on the road before 8am this morning. In the first stretch, we did do some stops on the San Rafael Swell. Unfortunately, the day turned out to be pretty cloudy (we got even some drops of rain) so the photos aren't going to do the scenery justice...
The rest of Utah and into Colorado went pretty smoothly. Nicoline and I changed places just about every two hours, stretched for a moment, and went on. We now came through Glenwood Canyon from the other side, with a better view of the two-tier highway system.
Traffic was clearly heavier than we had been used to for the past few days. After passing through the Eisenhower / Johnson tunnel we got into a traffic jam, with everyone just standing still for half an hour or so. Not too long after that, we said a final goodbye to the mountains and, driving through Denver (where we saw a roof covered in birds), entered onto the East-Colorado plains.
We have made it! This morning after 19 days and 4,554 miles we arrived at the end (technically, the beginning) of I-70, mile marker 0. We knew that the end of I-70 wasn't very spectacular, since it's just an intersection with I-15, but it was our goal and we now reached it.
The "Cove Fort" on the sign near Baltimore is actually an old Mormon fort -- really more like a 19th-century full-service rest stop on the highway to Salt Lake City. After having been in private hands for some time is now again operated by the LDS church as a museum.
After Cove Fort we went back to Richfield where we had the car serviced - oil change, fluids topped off, air filter change. After all, we did drive almost 5,000 miles in sometimes pretty tough conditions. After that we had lunch in the park. Now we're back in our hotel room, where we plan to have dinner, and tonight we want to go out to some dark spot, looking at the stars. Not sure if that's going to work well; it seems to be pretty hazy out here (probably lots of dust in the air).
It was bound to happen. Just about every vacation I seem to fall and rip open a knee... I have been careful with all the hiking and stuff we did but this afternoon I was inattentive for a moment when we were at Burr Point, an overlook on the Dirty Devil River. And boom, there I went. Fortunately is seems to be mostly an abrasion, so I've cleaned it and it should be healing soon...
Anyway, let's take the day in chronological order. We started out in Monticello, Utah his morning, heading South on US-191. We did want to get back up to the I-70, but wanted to take a scenic route to do this, and US-191 to UT-95 to UT-24 looked promising on the map.
One particular nice viewpoint was where the road crosses the Colorado River, and you can walk out on the bridge and take pictures from there. Utah state roads are nothing like MD-100; traffic is extremely light and there is no problem just crossing the road...
Beyond the Colorado, we stopped at the Little Egypt Geological Site, the idea for which I got from a photography book. It is a mile and a half into a gravel road and is home to amazing rock formations. This was also the first time I saw a round cactus (the others had mostly been of the Opuntia type).
Not having had enough of primitive roads, we decided also to take the 11 mile road to Burr Point, for a supposedly spectacular overlook of the Dirty Devil River Canyon. This turned out to be not a gravel road but a dirt road, a different thing altogether. The photo book had said that it was suitable for passenger cars except during or after a rain. Well, it was -- barely! At times, we couldn't see where the road was because it was so steep we only saw the hood of the car! But the view was indeed pretty spectacular. All in all, this "little" detour took us two and a half hours for 22 miles.
From Burr Point we continued up to the I-70 (saw an antelope along the way) and crossed the San Raphael Swell. We had only one scenic stop on the way down from the swell because we felt we had just about seen enough for the day and wanted to find a hotel. But I intent to stop at more scenic points when we go back! After hitting a stretch of roadwork, we seem to have left the desert and entered a more forested area. Eventually, we got to Salina where we got a hotel.
By the way, today was day 17 of this I-70 trip. We have traveled over 4,000 miles so far in these 17 days, and are approaching the turn-around point (Cove Fort, Utah, where the I-70 begins). Just saying...
Most of today was spent in Arches National Park. This was, after all, the reason we spent the night in the sold-out town of Moab... After a good night's sleep, we had breakfast at a pancake place Nicoline had seen yesterday. For most of the trip, the hotels and motels included breakfast (this seems to be pretty much standard nowadays; usually just a bar with coffee, juices, danishes and such, but sometimes much more elaborate) but of course the hostel didn't provide that. They did offer the use of a kitchen, but we weren't really looking forward to putting a lot of effort into our breakfast. Anyway, after breakfast we went to the park. The first stop was at the visitor center, where they had faucets with filtered water to fill up your water bottles (our bottles were already full).
And then we went into the park. We did stop at the first few viewpoints, but then decided to move on the Delicate Arch Trail, the 3-mile round-trip trail we decided would be our main hike for the day. It did have a 480 feet elevation change, so although a little bit longer it wasn't as bad as yesterday's hike but still a reasonably tough walk.
The trail started out relatively easy as a nice gravel path but it got more challenging later on: rock, sand, sliprock... Most of the path was marked by cairns (piles of rocks). And we had some great views along the way. By the way, according to the GPS attached to my camera, the height difference was actually 532 feet, but I have to admit that the GPS isn't very accurate with its height...
Of course, the best time to view the arch would be in the late afternoon; we preferred to take do the hike in the morning though, before it got too hot. I was still able to get some nice pictures, including a raven perched high on a rock and a chipmunk looking for crumbs ;-).
On the way back we took short detour to see some Ute Indian petroglyphs, and we stopped at Wolfe Ranch (see also Nicoline's blog entry). And, of course, I took a bunch more pictures of the trail, including a belly-shot of one of the cairns.
After Delicate Arch, I really wanted to see Landscape Arch as well, so we continued on to the Devils Garden trail head and took the 1.6 mile round-trip hike to Landscape Arch. This arch is the longest natural arch in the park, and possibly the world. After in 1991 three slabs fell from the arch, visitors are no longer allowed to travel underneath and have to be satisfied with taking pictures from a little bit of a distance. The arch could collapse at any time...
After Landscape Arch we made one quick stop at Balanced Rock and then we were done with Arches for the day. After refilling our 5-gallon water container we continued on to Monticello where we got a room in a hotel with a big pool and hot tub!
We were close to I-70 where we slept (the Interstate almost ran through the backyard of the motel) so it was only 25 minutes before we got to the Eisenhower tunnel, one of the "wonders" of the Interstate system. The landscape was gorgeous both before and after the tunnel, so what can I say!
The Glenwood Canyon snook up on us before I knew it! I had been reading about it, and definitely wanted to do some hiking there (the Hanging Lake trail sounded interesting) but somehow I though it was somewhere beyond Grand Junction. Anyway, the canyon is so narrow that the two directions of I-70 are sometimes on top of each other! The scenery is beautiful (I feel I'm repeating myself).
So we did indeed hike the Hanging Lake Trail -- 1.2 miles each way, with a rise of 1020 feet. We just about averaged the record speed of a whole one mile per hour... we took it easy (after all, we're still a couple of thousand feet up in the mountains), moving slowly and taking plenty of breaks, but did make it. And fortunately, the trip down turned out to be not as hard as I feared. The trail, by the way, was advertised as "difficult" and that was no exaggeration!
After the two-and-a-half-hour round-trip we were back at the car and pretty exhausted. We had lunch in the parking lot and continued on I-70, through Western Colorado and into Utah. We were barely in time at the welcome center (40 miles into Utah) before they closed at 6:00.
By the time we got to Moab, it turned out that all of the gazillion of hotels / motels were either filled or only had 200-dollar rooms left. Now I understand that in a tourist area, you have to pay more than out in the middle of nowhere, but 200 dollar a night is still pretty steep. So we continued looking and found the Lazy Lizard Hostel where we got a cabin for under $40... when we were already starting to wonder if there was ANY place we would be able to get a bed...
We woke up to a car with a layer of frost on the windows; it had been a while since I've had that! Driving out of Estes Park, there was an Elk crossing the road... fortunately I got a good shot of it.
The goal for today was Rocky Mountain National Park. We started out at the visitor center, asking the ranger there for suggestions. The ranger suggested to drive up to Beaver Lake and hike to Dream Lake. It turns out that there is construction in the park, and cars are only allowed to enter on that stretch between 8:00 and 9:00. Fortunately, we had gotten up early: we were at the visitor center at 8:04 and were in the park on the road by 8:20. There were plenty of others...
Still, the drive up was gorgeous. At Beaver Lake, we started our hike and it was beautiful there. The first part, to Nymph Lake, was mostly between trees. The path is asphalt but still going up nicely. The lake is pretty small and has a lot of water plants in it.
Dream Lake was much larger and probably much deeper than Nymph Lake. It also looked gorgeous with the mountains in the background! At this point, there were two ways we could go: either to Lake Haiyaha or to Emerald Lake. Lake Haiyaha was twice as long and twice as much a climb, so we decided on Emerald Lake: the combination of altitude and us not being in the greatest condition anymore was starting to make itself noticed.
The way back to the parking lot had a few additional photo opportunities, including another great shot of Nymph Lake. The 3.6 mile hike had taken us 2 1/2 hours, but that did include a 600 feet height difference. Doesn't sound like much, but it was definitely enough for us!
From the Beaver Lake area we returned back to the main road and followed the Trail Ridge Road through the entire park, crossing the continental divide. This took most of the rest of the day, still filled with gorgeous views of the mountains.
Leaving the park, we followed US-34 and our old friend, US-40, down to the I-70 and went a few miles backwards to the town of Idaho Springs, where we found ourselves a motel. This is so that we can start out tomorrow with the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70.
The day started out with car trouble. Yesterday we felt a rumbling while driving up I-25 to Denver, so we felt we had to have it checked out. While Nicoline stayed back at the hotel to do laundry, I drove to a Meineke to ask them to check out the wheels and tires. The mechanic didn't have to look far to notice that the left rear tire had the thread separating. So I drove (carefully!) to a nearby tire shop and got two new rear tires installed.
All of this meant we were off to a late start today, but around 11:30 we were on the road again. The goal today would be Estes Park, close to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, which we plan to explore more tomorrow. We're planning to drive up through the Rockies, not in front of them, by taking Colorado state routes 119, 72 and 7.
We start out on I-70 driving into the mountains. I've been to Denver twice before (once on a business trip, once on our 2007 around-the-US trip), looked at the mountains, and wondered how it would be to just into those mountains. Now I know. The Interstate starts out curving in front and then between some of the foothills, but before you know it you're really in the mountains.
Just before Idaho Springs we turn right onto US-6 to take us to Colorado 119. Now we're really going through mountains, passing Black Hawk, which I guess is an Native American reservation since it is filled to the brim with casinos. We continue on driving not too far from the continental divide up the Rockies until we reach our lunch destination.
We have lunch in a town called Nederland! We noticed this town name on the map and of course had to make sure we'd stop there! It turns out this town is named after a Dutch mining company that took over mining in the area, but now it seems to be a tourist stop for many Dutch tourists. We even ran into someone who speaks Dutch in one of the shops! We had lunch at the "Pioneer Inn" and took a ride n the "Carousel of Happiness," featuring (according to its website) 56 whimsical, hand-carved animals on a restored 1910 Looff carousel. Of course it rained when we were in Nederland...
After Nederland we went on and ran into a gorgeous spot on highway 72, where the combination of green pine trees, yellow-turning deciduous trees and blue sky made for some great pictures. Here we spoke to Zachary and Rebecca who were also taking pictures; they gave us some great ideas for Western Colorado.
After this stop we continued on to Estes Park, continuing to enjoy the sights along the road. In Estes Park, we had some trouble finding an affordable motel. The first ones we tries wanted to charge us $130 plus tax, but the third one, Americas Best Value Inn & Suites, had a room for under $90 including tax. Worth the trouble of looking around a bit...
When we looked out of our hotel room window this morning, we were surprised to see two deer wandering around outside. Now we have seen deer in our own backyard at home, but I wasn't expecting them here in the pretty touristy Woodland Park in Colorado.
After breakfast we started out for Pikes Peak, getting gas on the way. The peak loomed over the view from the gas station; in fact, we've seen the snow-covered peak in the distance for most of the day yesterday. The first stop on the way up was at the 2 mile mark at the Ute Pass, where we got a nice view of US-24 sneaking its way towards Colorado Springs. We also saw another deer, this time in front of the car on the road... And we saw the first of many brave bikers on their way up the 19-mile road to the peak.
Then came Crystal Creek Reservoir. The view of the peak, with the lake in front, was breath taking! We were particularly lucky that the tries had started to turn yellow, so the colors were just amazing. They also had displays that included a nice map of the road up, giving an idea of how the Pikes Peak Highway snakes its way up. It turns out the road is mostly on the back of the side of the mountain we see from here.
Finally we reach the top, which actually is a bit of a disappointment -- it is mostly a big muddy, snowy parking lot. This is also where the cog railroad ends up, and of course it has a souvenir shop and restaurant. But it does have nice views in the various directions.
The way down was mostly uneventful, although we got stuck behind a bicyclist excursion van, which had to follow the slowest of the bicyclists. I guess this was a group that got themselves driven to the top and only had to bike down. We did stop again at the Crystal Creek Reservoir for lunch and some more beautiful pictures.
After having come down from Pikes Peak, we continues north from Colorado Springs and visited the Air Force Academy. We look through the visitor center, including a mock up of a dorm room, and visit the famous chapel. It turns out it has areas for Protestant and Catholic Christians, for Jews and Buddhists, but not for Muslim or other religions. However, the building is really impressive!
From the Air Force Academy we continue on to Denver where we got rooms in the Ramada Inn. There was some kind of a gemstone and other rock event with hundreds of companies displaying their wares and selling rocks, so it is a mess... Tonight we went out into Denver and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
We traveled the Colorado plains today, entering into the Rockies. It took us three hours to get from Lamar to Cañon City, from where we (after a detour to Royal Gorge, which turned out to be just a tourist trap) took "Phantom Canyon Road" (CO-67) to the mining town of Victor. It was a gorgeous 28-mile drive over a winding gravel mountain road... I'll let the photos speak for themselves...
The first stop today was Monument Rocks, an outcropping of rocks in the middle of the prairie. It reminded me of Utah, except that the rocks are not quite as large and much whiter. But they are pretty spectacular nonetheless, especially in the middle of the Kansas prairie where nobody expects them.
I also spend some time here taking close-up photos, both of some of the plants that were growing here as well as from inside a rain gully. Taking photos from below knee-height in the gully made it look like some great canyon, until you look at the plants and realize the real scale...
After Monument Rocks we went to the Prairie Museum of Art and History in Colby. This museum had a lot of interesting exhibits inside, including some great glassware, chinaware, etc. In particular a piece of Meissen procelain where I also took a detail photo to show the intricacy of the lace made out of porcelain. In addition to the indoor exhibits, the museum had a number of structures outside. We only went into the sod cabin (which was definitely an "improved" sod cabin" and the big barn.
We stayed on I-70 for the rest of Kansas, taking only a brief detour in Goodland to see the giant van Gogh painting which is (barely) visible from the Interstate. Shortly after Goodland we entered Colorado, where after a few miles we stopped at the welcome center -- and got overwhelmed with ideas of what to do in Colorado...
However, first order of business was to go to Lamar, where the last Madonna of the Trail for our trip was located. Lamar is 100 miles south of the I-70, so it's quite a detour to see this last lady, but I really couldn't leave this one out! On the way to Lamar we stumbled upon a Japanese-American Relocation Center called Amach (or rather, what's left of it). I knew about the internment camps, of course, but hadn't realized they were as far inland as Colorado. I thought they were mainly on the West Coast. Anyway, none of the buildings were left, only the overgrown outlines of the foundations could be seen. But that was enough to give some idea of what it must have looked like.
After taking photos of the Madonna and the exhibits at the welcome center next to it (including a steam locomotive and a wind turbine blade), we decided to find a motel right there in Lamar to spend the night...
By the way, I checked the mileage when we came to the hotel today, and we're over 3,000 miles on this trip so far...
Another day filled with unexpected Kansas wonders. We started out where we left off yesterday, in the Eisenhower Museum, where we went through the last part of the D-Day exhibit and then the years after that -- Eisenhower as president and in retirement.
After Abilene, the next stop was going to be the "Garden of Eden" in Lucas. We had no idea, really, of what to expect here; just something that "looked cool" in one of the brochures we got at the welcome center. Well, whatever we expected, that's not what it was... I'm not sure how to describe this. Between the years 1907 and 1932 a retired Civil War veteran, Samuel P. Dinsmoor, built himself a "stone log cabin" and surrounded it with concrete sculptures. He created this as a source of income in his retirement. There is a series of sculptures with biblical motives and another series with socialist motives. It is... different...
At the Garden of Eden, the lady giving us the tour strongly suggested to check out the "Grassroots Art Center" in town. It shows works by various Kansas artists who aren't artists by training but started doing this because they felt they had to. One creates displays (like the Model "T" Ford below) chiseled from solid rock. One creates art works from soda can lids. One created a collage from all kinds of artifacts that people had dropped into a lake in California and were found when the lake was dredged. The center also has examples of the local use of sandstone for building in the back yard, and much, much more.
But wait, there's more! When the town of Lucas found it needd a public toilet, it worked with various artists to create one. In the form of a humongous toilet with raised seat itself, it is covered inside and out with mosaics of all kinds of things. This has to be seen to be believed!
Next stop was the Historic Fort Hays, in Hays, Kansas. This was a fort on the western frontier, mainly to protect against Indians. The museum has two houses that used to house officers with displays of how they looked in the 19th century, as well as a number of other displays.
The last tour for today was to follow the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, a 60-mile loop off of the I-70 through the Smoky Hill River Valley. As it has been all day, the landscape has just been amazing. And now we made it to Oakley for what probably will be our last night in Kansas...
We had a great night's sleep at the motel in Council Grove and when we woke up we first went for a run - 20 minutes this time, which is better than what we did on Monday. Over breakfast (in the room, the hotel did provide breakfast but for an additional $5 per person and we were of course too cheap for that) we checked out the brochures that we got at the welcome center yesterday for the area we're in and decided to drive the "Prairie Trail" today. But since that gets us 50 miles beyond Abilene, we'll have to backtrack on the Interstate to the Eisenhower memorial.
Early in the morning the sky looks threatening but it clears up later. The landscape is varying and beautiful. In the town of Canton we run into a lot of statues of bison, not sure what's up with that. Around lunch time, we get to a dirt road into the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, where we head to the observation tower. You have a wonderful view of the landscape from on top of that tower! Some examples below; when I get back, I have to stitch the 25 shots I took into a 360-degrees panorama...
After the wildlife refuge we pass through the town of Lindsborg and outside of that town visit the Coronado Heights, a hill where, according to Wikipedia, "Francisco Vasquez de Coronado gave up his search for the 'seven cities of gold' and turned to return to Mexico." In 1936 the WPA built a shelter there in the form of an old fort, which is what you see when you drive up.
After finishing the Prairie Trail we head back to Abilene, to visit the Eisenhower museum and boyhood home. We get timed tickets for a tour of the home and then head into the museum, but only get halfway through the museum when it closes. We'll have to get back tomorrow!
With the museum closed, we have to find a place to eat, and decide to go to "Mr. K's Farmhouse Restaurant," a place where Eisenhower supposedly went as well. We were there right when it opened and seem to have been the only guest while we were there, but the food was good and Nicoline loved the ice-cold beer!
Yesterday we entered Kansas and stayed in Olathe, halfway between the I-70 and Osawatomie. Today we continued into Osawatomie, famous because John Brown (the same John Brown from Harpers Ferry) defended the town against an attack by the pro slavery militia in the largest battle during the "bleeding Kansas era." This was the time between 1854 and 1861 when the question of whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free state or a slave state was hotly contested. (In the end, Kansas entered the Union as a free state in 1861.)
We head to the John Brown Memorial Park in Osawatomie, where the history of the battle is remembered in a series of signs. The signs must have been brand spanking new; there was a lady walking her dog, who said she came to the park all the time, and asked us what those signs were.
On the way back from Osawatomie we stopped at a supermarket to stock up on some supplies, and hand lunch in the parking lot with baguette and cheese. We then continued on to Leavenworth, but weren't able to find the ford that the city is famous for, or the museum. Getting frustrated with not having found a welcome center for Kansas yet, and not having a highway map, we went back to the I-70 and stopped at the first service center. They still didn't have the Kansas state highway map, although they did have coffee tables that are, let's say, an acquired taste... The lady at the rest stop did mention that there was a welcome center at the next exit, Lawrence, but we'd have to get off the toll road. I don't know what it is with Kansas DOT and why they don't have a welcome center on I-70 for people coming from the east, and I really don't know why the rest stop on the toll turnpike can't have some basic tourist information, but whatever.
We got off the toll road and into Lawrence, where the visitor center is in an old train depot. There was a very nice lady in the visitor center who helped us with a load of brochures, so many that we had to sit down at a table and organize them all. One completely unexpected item she directed us to was the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics. It has an exhibition about Bob Dole, and a huge stained glass American flag, and probably an interesting collection of papers and artifacts if you'd really want to study the history of Dole.
After Lawrence we continued to Lecompton, one of the various ex-capitals of Kansas. All the museums were closed so we only got to see the outside of Constitution Hall and the Democratic Headquarters there. But we did get to wait at a railroad crossing for a train. There seem to be trains continuously all over Kansas, day and night. Actually, the lady at the visitor center told us that there were 170 trains a day passing by the visitor center...
We continued on to Council Grove, where there was another Madonna of the Trail to photograph. Along the road on US-24 we passed by a September-11 tribute. On the way to Council Grove we passed by a scenic stop with a great view of the Kansas landscape. I don't understand how people can say Kansas is boring...
My diary entries have been mostly factual, reciting where we've been and what we've done. For this entry, now that we're about 2,000 miles into the journey, I wanted to talk a little bit about other stuff, how this trip is going and how I'm experiencing it.
We have established a bit of a pattern, in that each day, we start out with breakfast at the hotel, go back to the room to brush teeth and pack the car, check out, and get on the road. Nicoline and I alternate in driving; some days, she starts out, other days, I start out, and we switch after two to three hours of driving, however it works out.
We don't have a specific schedule, only a list of ideas of things that might be interesting to visit, and we are continuously open to surprises. For instance, today we took a stroll around Lexington, which was on our list because of the Madonna monument, but we didn't expect it to be such a nice little town. Later, we went to the National Frontier Trails Museum because we happened to pick up a flier from them at the hotel.
Whenever we visit a place, we don't spend a whole lot of time. Many places that we visited are interesting enough to spend a couple of days in each, and of course, that doesn't work with the schedule we're having. So we mostly get an impression of a place rather than a thorough analysis. But all the impressions are adding up to an interesting picture indeed.
What this trip is doing is helping us understand better the psyche of the American people. On longer stretches we listed to books on tape (using Nicoline's phone as an MP3 player and "Koala" as the speaker). The first book we listened to was The Big Roads and now we're listening to Why Nations Fail - The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. It turns out that these books are surprisingly relevant to our trip, and what we see on this trip helps understand the books.
The Big Roads book was about how highways and interstates came to be in the United States, how they changes society but how society also changed them. It was about how roads are constructed, where the ideas come from, how decisions are made as to where which roads go, and so on. Since we are actually driving on exactly the roads that the book is talking about, there is an obvious direct connection.
Why Nations Fail is about the American entrepreneurial spirit, how individuals in America made history not because they were born in important families, but because they created something with their own hands. What we're seeing in the monuments and museums we're visiting is exactly that: how people got up and did something.
Meanwhile, we're driving through all these small towns, sometimes with a population of only a few hundred people, and all the time past the farm houses that are sprinkled on the landscape, and it becomes clear that there is a huge part of American still here in the middle, not in the big cities we're accustomed to on the East Coast or the West Coast. Although I don't think I can really imagine what it is to grow up in these small towns, the diversity of American society is tarting to make more sense.
These are the kind of things I am contemplating while we drive through America...
We woke up this morning feeling like we really could do with some exercise, so before breakfast Nicoline and I went out for a run into Concordia, Missouri. Running on the streets is not easy if you're used to a treadmill, but we really tried to do some running and afterwards it did feel as if it had helped. We're figuring that we probably want to do this on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just to keep in some kind of condition.
The first goal for today was Lexington, were Missouri's Madonna of the Trail is located. Lexington turns out to be a very nice little town, they have both a regular book store and a used book store on Main Street. They also have an extensive memorial honoring all "who have served honorably in the armed forces of the United States of America from Lafayette County Missouri." We also took the opportunity to go down to the Missouri river.
After Lexington, we continued on towards Independence, passing through a town called Wellington. In Independence, we started out visiting the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library, after which we had lunch at what looked like an old marble picnic table.
Second stop in Independence was the National Frontier Trails Museum which was dedicated to the Westward movement of the American people. The Lewis and Clark expedition featured prominently, of course, but there were a lot of other exhibits which pressed home how remarkable it was for people (men, women, families) 150 years ago to pack up everything and "go West"... including the diary of a gold digger.
From Independence it wasn't far into Kansas City. I wanted to take photos of the "Wall of Books" on the parking garage of the public library but unfortunately there are a lot of large trees in front of it. We hoped to see the Power and Light district, but I guess there wasn't much worth seeing on a Monday afternoon... We concluded our visit to Kansas City on State Line Road, a road that sits right on top of the border between Kansas and Missouri. So if you drive south on that road, you're in Kansas; if you turn around and drive north, you're in Missouri. I wonder if houses on different sides of the road are served by different police departments, and how to call the right 911...
Fourteen years ago we visited De Smet, South Dakota, with the house where Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up. I made a copy of the August 10, 1998 diary entry describing our visit there. Today, we visited Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri, where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived from 1894 until here death in 1957.
But since the museum doesn't open until 12:30, we first follow the signs we saw on the highway for "Bakersville Pioneer Village". Not having any idea what to expect, we weren't disappointed, but I have to say it looked more like a pioneer ghost town; everything was open, but the parking lot was entirely empty when we arrived and we didn't see a single person (other than two other visitors who arrived shortly after us) until the very last building. There were signs in all of the buildings "please pay in seed store" (which is where we eventually saw people). However, it was neat to see the buildings outside and inside...
After Bakersfield, we went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder home. The museum was nice, and the house was neat to see, but the tour (and the obligatory video before the tour) had the air of people who are too convinced of their own importance. I'm sure the ladies meant well, but I'm afraid I was a bit put-off by their presentations. Unfortunately, they didn't allow any photography inside the house, so all I have to show is the ourside, including a little salamander I noticed on the steps.
The detour to Mansfield has brought us 200 miles south of the I-70 so the rest of the afternoon was spend driving up Missouri state routes 5 and 52 and US-65 back to our I-70. We got a hotel early in Concordia, MO, and went out to dinner at a barbeque place.
We started out today going back to Illinois today, to its very first capital! The current capital of Illinois, Springfield, is actually the third capital in the state. It was preceded by Vandalia (where we were the day before yesterday) and before that, between 1818 and 1820, the capital was in a town called Kaskaskia, which is where we went today.
Kaskaskia is a very special place: it is located in an enclave west of the Mississippi (normally, the Mississippi is Illinois' western border), a little round area surrounded by Missouri. It has a Missouri ZIP code and a Missouri area code, but otherwise is considered part of Illinois. The whole enclave is surrounded by levees to protect it from flooding by the Mississippi. Apart from the 14 people that live there today (according to the 2010 census) there seem to be a couple of farms in the enclave. Actually, the whole area looks remarkably like a Dutch "polder," even the church has a distinct European look.
From Kaskaskia we went on to Sainte Genevieve, the first continuously settle town in Missouri. This is really a nice little town, looks very cozy! It has a city park (with benches and public restrooms) so small I guess it should be measured in square feet rather than acres... We wanted to take the ferry across the Mississippi from there, but the ferry was out of service because of the extreme low water levels in the Mississippi. We did have an ice cream at Sara's Ice Cream and Antiques, though.
From Ste. Genevieve we went on to St. Louis. I really wanted to enter St. Louis coming on I-70 over the bridge, so we took yet another detour into Illinois (the last one) and back over the bridge into the town. . The rest of the afternoon was spend visiting the Arch: going to the top, of course, but also watching two presentations, one about the Lewis and Clark expedition and one about the construction of the monument.
We had skipped lunch, but had dinner in the shadow of the Arch with things we are carrying with us (we're trying to only go out for lunch or dinner every other day and eat less unhealthy things in-between), then went on with our trip. We headed south-west on I-44, because we plan to visit Mansfield next. We drove down to Rolla where we got a hotel with an indoor pool, in which we did some relaxing before working on our diary entries. Which is why it is really late now...
Today we barely touched Interstate 70. But we did not sit still at all! After breakfast, we started out going north from Vandalia, to Springfield. The first stop in Springfield was at "Shea's gas station," a gas-station-turned-museum along the historic route of US-66, the "Mother Road." The owner of the gas station has stuffed it with Route 66 memorabilia and other stuff. Some may call it junk...
After the gas station, we went to the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. I had not expected such a modern building, although I'm not quite sure what I had expected, given that the Lincoln Presidential Museum might very well be one of the most famous ones. It turns out the museum is all about "interpretation" and has, in my opinion, overdone it. Everything is "immersing," you walk in-between the characters. It's nice, but there is no feeling of authenticity.
The "ghosts of the library" presentation was technically amazing, leaving you wonder at the end what was real and what was movie. Beyond that, the life-size figures of Lincoln and his family in front of the White House replica in the central rotunda of the museum was nice, and the reconstructed log cabin was quite neat.
After the Lincoln museum we went to a Honda dealership, because a warning light had come on on the dashboard. The service manager was very kind and instead of making us wait for a mechanic to be available, he plugged in the diagnostic computer to find out what the problem was. It turned out that an oxygen sensor had gone bad, something that needs to be fixed before I have my next emission test but not something that impacts the car. So now we can continue without having to worry about that light. Kudos for Honda in Springfield, IL!
From Springfield, we started following the old Route 66 for a while, starting out with lunch at the Cozy Dog Drive In. It's more a sit-down and drive-through place now, but they still serve their "Cozy Dog" (corn dog).
Continuing on Route 66 we came through a mile-and-a-half long stretch in Auburn that has been re-created with brick on a concrete bed, the way some parts of the road were in the beginning. At this stretch you could really imagine driving the road in the 1940s and 1950s (although to be honest, by that time the brick would probably no longer have been there).
From Girard we drove quite a way down to Colinsville, where there was a water tower in the shape of a ketchup bottle next to the road. We then continued further south, towards Kaskaskia, the first capital of Illinois. We made it as far as Chester (birthplace of the creator of Popeye), where we crossed the Mississippi river, but by that time it was getting late and the weather had turned so bad (pitch dark clouds, driving rain, and so on) that we decided to find a hotel room instead. We had dinner at a Chines buffet (not bad, actually) and when we turned on our computers we learned that the storm we were taken refuge from actually had made the news.
It's already past 11, Nicoline is done with her diary entry for today but I still have to do mine. I guess I'll be keeping it relatively short today.
This morning started out in Bloomington, where Nicoline was particularly interested in seeing Thomas Hart Benton murals. Right at the parking lot we ran into a "bike repair station" with various tools to do common repairs on bicycles on-the-spot. Now that is what I call a good idea! Wonder why they didn't have these in Holland?
We did walk around campus a little bit, including visiting the Lilly Library, waiting for the theater to open at 10:00. The theater, right behind the fountain with a statue depicting the Birth of Venus, is where the murals are on display. These murals display "a social history of the state of Indiana"
From Bloomington we had to return through the Indiana countryside to the I-70, which we followed into Terre Haute. In Terre Haute we had lunch in the car and then visited the Egene V. Debs home, a union organizer and leader of the American Socialist party. I'll refer to Nicoline's description for that part.
The last thing on our list for Indiana was a series of covered bridges in Park County. We did part of a driving tour which brought us along 5 of them, out of something like 25 in that county. I started to wonder why they covered the bridges in the first place; according to the Interwebz, bridges were covered because that would better protect the structural part from the elements.
After the bridges tour we drove back to Terre Haute where we picked up I-70 again into Illinois. We continued straight through to Vandalia, with only a small detour in Effingham to see the gigantic cross that was erected next to the Interstate.
In Vandalia we got a hotel room, had dinner in the room, and then went back out after dinner because I wanted to see what would happen if I took photos of the Madonna of the Trail at night. It worked, but as a result it's now really late and time to go to bed!
After a night's sleep, we head west from Richmond on US-40, the National Road. We enjoy the Indiana landscape, although the corn fields do not look well at all. There has been a severe drought this summer all over the Midwest. We spend some time walking around Cambridge City, and stop briefly to admire the grand Dublin Town Hall (actually, it's pretty small).
In Indianapolis we visit the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of the city, and climb all the 331 steps to the observation level. That gives a great view of the city center, and gives us our daily exercise!
After the Soldiers and Sailors Monument we visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (or rather the museum and hall of fame). It it located inside the speedway circle and houses a lot of the cars that won races here. I never realized that the "Indy 500" was a 500-mile long race, and for the longest time the only race held on the speedway. The whole thing was only used once a year!
There are also a number of other interesting displays, including an opportunity to take pictures of each other in a race car:
After the motor speedway we continue down to Bloomington, taking some landscape pictures along the way -- in the rain!
Finally, we got underway today! We have been preparing this trip for over half a year, doing research, making smaller initial trips, and finally today we get to do the "real thing."
We went to bed early yesterday (at 8:00) after having taken a NyQuil to help us get drowsy and sleep. The alarm clock went off at 3:00am this morning; we had breakfast, cleaned up the breakfast stuff, packed the last things in the car and by 4:10 we left -- starting out on I-70 East to first to to the park and ride at the absolute end, so that by the time we will come to the start of I-70 in Utah we can say we did indeed go from one end to the other! But after having taken the picture at the park and ride we really went West.
There is not a whole lot to say about the first part. We've done this a couple of times now. Rather than following the I-70 through Breezewood and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we took I-70 through Cumberland into West-Virginia, then I-79 north into Pennsylvania where we picked up the I-70 again in Washington. On the I-79 we stopped at a rest stop that had a monument dedicated to mineworkers, in particular 37 mineworkers who in 1962 died 460 feet below where now the rest stop is.
On through Pennsylvania, again through West Virginia, and into Ohio we continued until we came to Columbus, where we arrived at Mark's house around 11:30. Unfortunately, Mark was in college at that time (we were a lot earlier than we expected) so we had to wait until we could pick him up for lunch. We went to White Castle for lunch after which Mark showed us his new house.
After Columbus we went on into beyond Dayton into Indiana, where we entered Richmond. At the welcome center just across the state line we picked up the Indiana state highway map, as well as a few brochures. One of the brochures described the Tiffany stained glass windows that can be seen at various places in Richmond. Most of these places were closed, but we were able to visit the First Presbytarian Church and see the "Resurrection Window." Another Tiffany window could be see at the library (Nicoline will be describing more about the library and the librarian we met there).
We walked back to our car over Main Street, which has a very nice feel to it. There were still a fair number of shops that seemed to be able to make a living on it, although there were a number of empty store fronts as well.
We finished off the day at the Madonna of the Trail in Richmond. We are continuing the thread of visiting this ugly statues in every state where they are along the old National Road! After taking some photos of the Madonna we went back to I-70 and found a Quality Inn with a reasonable priced room, where we are now recuperating from a long, long day.
Twenty-four hours from now Nicoline and I will be on the road, somewhere around West-Virginia, making our way to lunch with our son Mark in Columbus and then onwards to Richmond, Indiana.
We are now ready to start the major part of our I-70 explorations. We have done shorter trips earlier this year, in April, May, July and August, exploring parts in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West-Virginia and Ohio. In May we got as far as Dayton, OH -- the diary section on this website has all the details of those trips.
Now we'll be driving through that first part tomorrow, and then start the rest of I-70. There is no fixed itinerary, but we have tentatively allocated two days each for Indiana and Illinois, three for Missouri, four each for Kansas and Colorado, and three for Utah. Which gets us to the end point, the intersection with I-15, around September 22, after which we'll have to "race" home in a week.
We are planning to stay most nights in motels and hotels, but are taking camping gear so if the opportunity arises we'll be able to spend the night out. Who knows, maybe we get to spend a night under the sky where we get to enjoy the night sky without light pollution from cities.
I expect to take a lot of photos, which means that I'll be spending an hour or more each evening processing and labeling them. Our goal is to update the website almost every day, depending on having sufficiently stable Internet access where we are staying.
Today we'll have some remaining last-minute chores to do, packing, and then we're going to be ready. Going to bed early, we should be on the road before 4am tomorrow morning...
Today we went to Bethesda to see the Madonna of the Trail that is located there.
The Madonnas of the Trail are a series of 12 statues along the route pioneers took to the west, celebrating the pioneer spirit of the women who helped opened up the country. There is one each per state in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West-Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California; they chiefly follow US-40 and US-66. The statues are all the same (and pretty ugly, but that's my personal opinion) so "seen one, seen them all" comes to mind.
However, as part of our I-70 adventure, we expect to visit nine out of twelve of the statues. These statues are part of the thread of the National Road that goes through our entire trip. We have already seen the first four: the statue in Bethesda, MD, the one in Beallsville, PA, the one in Wheeling, WV and the one in Springfield, OH:
The house is famous because of its open design and the fact that large parts of the living are are cantilevered over two waterfalls in Bear Run creek. Photos are not allowed in the interior, but the tour was really interesting. However, this is not a house I would want to live in. Nicoline and I concluded that the purpose of this house is to show it off by throwing parties, not to be a comfortable home to live in.
After our tour it started to rain, a torrential downpour, and we were treated to a completely different meaning of "falling water." All we could do was run back to our car and have the air conditioning dry us up.
We drove around the area some more, ended up having dinner at the Alpine Resort (a disappointment), and decided to drive home. The first part was pretty bad with multiple downpours so that we could barely see where we were going, but after Cumberland it became easier. We got home safely shortly before midnight.
One of the important encounters in the French and Indian War of the 1750s took place at Fort Necessity on the Braddock Road. This is where George Washington learned his military skills, which he later used in the War of Independence in the 1770s.
The French and Indian War was about really about who would control the North-American continent. Eventually, the French lost to the British. Later the colonies threw out the British, and with the Louisiana Purchase bought all the territories west of the Mississippi.
At Fort Necessity, we watched a demonstration of firing a mortar gun.
The fort itself was much smaller than the original 1930s reconstruction believed. A single cabin was constructed to hold the supplies; the soldiers slept in tents. The palisade around the cabin didn't have a military function other than preventing the soldiers from pilfering the rum...
The National Road itself, the construction of which was paid for by the federal government based on a law signed by president Jefferson in 1806, didn't come out of nowhere. It itself is based on other roads and in this area (Southwestern Pennsylvania) one of the main precursors is Braddock Road, originally a military road from Cumberland towards Pittsburgh.
In 1755, at the start of the French-Indian War, major-general Edward Braddock was sent to capture Fort Duquesne, located where Pittsburgh is now. Braddock's troops built the road by blazing a trail and removing trees, making it possible for supplies to catch up with them. Just a few hundred yards from what later became Fort Necessity, the expedition was attacked by French and Indian soldiers and Braddock was mortally wounded.
Afraid that the enemy would desecrate the body of the major-general if they found it, Braddock's men buried him in the middle of the road and then marched over the grave, thereby hiding the grave. Only many years later was the grave found.
Braddock Road was followed by the National Road, which in turn became US-40. Many parts of the original Braddock Road have been paved over or abandoned in the past 250 years, but at some places, like here in Fort Necessity, Pennsylvania, parts of it still survive.
As part of our I-70 adventure this year we are also exploring its history, which traces back to the National Road from Cumberland, MD to Vandalia, IL and could be considered the first Federal highway in the U.S. For most of its length, the I-70 closely follows the National Road but in Southwestern Pennsylvania it deviates quite significantly. During our May trip we mostly followed the I-70 so now we returned to this area focusing on its precursor.
Today, Friday, Nicoline drives us up there after dinner. It is a three-hour drive to the historic Stone House Inn, a bed-and-breakfast where we have a reservation. Here we stay in the "Marshall" room. Fortunately last week's heat wave is over because the room doesn't have air conditioning. Interestingly, there is only a single electrical socket in the whole room. The floors creak, and the bathroom is shared with the other guest room on the third floor.
But it doesn't really matter, we enjoy staying in an inn that is actually located on the National Road and, having been established around 1822, was part of the original National Road infrastructure. I slept well and enjoyed the breakfast on Saturday morning!
Today we drove from Columbus to the Toledo area, where we would be visiting our friends Kandace and Ken, and have dinner (called "supper" around here) with our friend Doug. On our way we stopped in Marion for a walk on a new nature trail they are developing, the Marion Tallgrass Trail. Only the first few hundred yards are paved, after that the trail (which eventually should stretch for 12 miles along old railway tracks) got slowly worse as fewer people had been walking it. But we saw a variety of flowers, birds, and other things.
When you enter Ohio from the East, as we did, you start out in the mountains (the Appalachians) which very quickly give way to rolling hills. The strange thing is that you can't really pinpoint where that transition happens. And by the time you get to central Ohio, the hills give way to very flat land, as flat as a pancake, the result of gletchers which have scraped the land clean.
This flat landscape extends all the way up to the Toledo area and Nicoline and I noticed a few times how similar the land was to our original Holland. Which made the swimming pool in Genoa all the more remarkable: on the photo, you can clearly see how the land drops off steeply. Only later did we realize that this was probaby a disused quarry. A quick Google search confirms this, and adds that the pool is spring-fed and up to 100 feet deep.
After meeting with Doug we drove over to Luckey to meet Ken and Kandance, who invited us over for the next few nights.
After the visit to the Air Force museum we turned back Eastward, towards Columbus. Mark had been in class all day and we were to meet him, his roommate Kyle and his dog Hoshi around 5 at his house in Columbus.
Hoshi is a service-dog-in-training (with Mark being the trainer) and Mark was eager to show off how well behaved he is. Unfortunately, just like a toddler, Hoshi was too excited with us around to care much about his training...
We went out to dinner at a Mexican place, and here Hoshi did behave like a good dog, sitting quietly next to the table all the time. We had a good time talking about all kinds of stuff and catching up with our son... and finally got to try dessert at Jeni's!
Today we visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This museum must be the dream of a military airplane buff come through. There are three gigantic halls filled with military airplanes, from the pre-airplane beginnings (the use of balloons by the military) to some of the latest jets. The photos below are just a small sampling of the collection.
There are a number of related exhibits, relating to the first and second world war, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and the Cold War. Some ICBMs are on display, as is the capsule of the Apollo 15. But the vast majority of the exhibits are definitely the military airplanes, as can be seen from te two overview photos:
Some of the other exhibits, showing respectively an early wind tunnel, a Forde Model-T ambulance, various ICBMs, the Apollo 15 captule, a cruise missile, and a replica of an English World War II control tower.:
The visit to the museum in Dayton officially concludes the first leg of our I-70 tour. The rest of this week's trip we will be visiting Mark and then friends in the Toledo area. I leave you all with this sign we saw along the I-70 between Dayton and Columbus: "Do you know Linux? We are hiring!"
Much of today was spend at The Wilds, which is a 10,000+ acres area where strip mining took place and which has been restored to some semblance of nature. Driving up to the park was an adventure, going through a number of very different landscapes, from rolling farms to pine forest to heath.
We started out in Wheeling today. Driving in on US-40, we easily found West Virginia's copy of the Madonna of the Trail (won't bother with a photo of it here) in Wheeling Park. A little bit further we happened to stop at McColloch's Leap. Although I had read about this major in the Revolutionary war jumping over a cliff I hadn't expected to stop here. What made us stop was a statue of an Native American a few feet further down; looking around I noticed the marker of McColloch's Leap. Speak about an interesting juxtaposition of images... Anyway, the view at this point was impressive.
The second thing (after the Madonna) I wanted to see in Wheeling was the suspension bridge. When built in 1847 it was the largest bridge of its kind. It served to carry the traffic of the National Road until a new bridge was built for the I-70.
After this excursion over the bridges we drove back to Wheeling to find the visitors center. Which we did find, not because of their brilliant signs (there were none) but because we by chance happened to pass it. Nicoline was curious where in Wheeling senator McCarthy had held his speech. The visitors center couldn't tell us, but referred us to the public library, so Nicoline did some research in old newspapers to find that this had been in the McLure hotel.
We couldn't find the hotel at first so we sat down in a coffee shop (for the Dutch readers: a coffee shop here is a place where you actually buy coffee) where we had tea and a cookie, and sat down and relaxed for a bit. By the time it was 2:30 we continued onward into Ohio.
After seeing the bridges (and seeing a horse-and-buggy at a gas station) we thought we might want to consider spending the night at "The Wilds" (where we plan to visit tomorrow) but that turned out to be way to expensive. So we circled back to Cambridge and found ourselves a room at a Days Inn.
We started today at the site of the Homestead Steel Strike, and in particular the location of the battle between the Pinkerton agents and the striking workers. We visited the pump house, which used to provide over 17,000 gallons of water per minute to the steel mill.
After the pump house, we visited the Homestead Cemetery (which has recently been vandalized) and briefly stepped inside a Russian Orthodox church during a service - I couldn't understand much but the singing was impressive.
The inside of this place does look much like a cathedral! I find it hard to imagine coming here for classes every day, but I guess that is what is is there for. The main reason we came, though, was to visit the "National Rooms," individual rooms dedicated to various countries. Below are some photos of these various rooms, with respectively the English room, the French room, the Norwegian room, the Italian room, the Irish room (which looked like a monastery), the Chinese room, the Scottish room and the Austrian room. In the Austrian room, I also took a self-portrait of my camera between two mirrors...
After Pittsburgh we went back to the National Road (US-40) and followed it out of Pennsylvania. Here we ran into an old "S-bridge", a bridge named that way because the road makes an "S" curve leading up to and coming off the bridge. They built bridges this way to keep the bridge itself cross the water at a right angle, making the bridge as short and cheap as possible.
We had dinner in our room with a bread that Nicoline had bought earlier today on a farmer's market and cream cheese in which was mixed some kind of powder (she can explain this better). After dinner, we went for a swim in the hotel's indoor pool!
We started this morning at 6:35 with our car loaded up and Marching Monkey on the dashboard, on our way West on I-97. We breezed through all of Maryland, just taking a restroom break near Hancock and on into Pennsylvania.
In Breezewood we stop again, this time to take a photo of the remarkable interchange there. Because the I-70 follows along the I-76/Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the turnpike remained a toll road after the construction costs were paid off, federal money could not be used to build the interchange. On the other hand, the state didn't want to spend to money to connect to the I-70 at this point - resulting in one of the few places where an Interstate has an at-grade interchange with traffic signals...
We had planned to go to Pittsburgh first, but had found that the Bradford House in Washington, PA would be closed tomorrow, so we decided we'd go to Washington first. We found the house, but there was a sign on the door saying it was closed until 2:00. So we decided to hang out in Washington for a bit, seeing among other things this movie theater turned church.
We were back at the Bradford house, but it was still closed. We waited for fifteen minutes and still nobody came. In the end, we gave up, went a little bit back along the National Road to see the Madonna of the Trail in Beallsville. This is one of a series of identical statues along the old National Road, put up by the Daughters of the American Revolution. There should be one in every state we go through, and I want to try to visit them all.
Back on the road, we passed Carnegie, PA, and tried looking for signs with lodging, but so close to Pittsburgh there wasn't really anything. We ended up driving a little bit through Pittsburgh and some of the surrounding area, in the end finding an Econolodge in Clairton.
We walked all the way to the other incline, had dinner there, and walked back, for another panorama shot of the Pittsburgh skyline, now by night.
We're just about ready for Part One of our I-70 trip. Tomorrow morning we will start out and over the next few days we will be exploring the part of I-70 all the way through Ohio.
Part of this first trip is a "dressed rehearsal" of the vacation we have planned for September, when we will be exploring the rest of Interstate 70, from Indiana to Utah. Over the next few days, we will be seeing how well it works to keep a diary on the road, upload photos and all that.
Finally sat down and finished the "essay" about the National Road. I tried to show how the Interstate 70, which we are exploring this year, ties into America's history of westward expansion as well as its history of highway development throughout the 20th century.
I also expanded the website's comment feature to the Essays, so now visitors can leave comments on the essays as well.
I'm thinking about Katie's suggestion to add a "Like" button ;-)
Of course, after 150 years, the park that commemorates the battle is very peaceful, consisting of beautiful lawns, well-kept fields, and clearly identified trails. Most of the monuments and memorial displays are accessible from a self-guided tour you can do by car.
We chose to follow some of the hiking trails instead - We walked from the visitor center to the watchtower, then over Bloody Lane to the Three Farms Trail which we followed until it ends at Sherrick Farm Trail, from where we walked back to the visitor center. It was a wonderful walk, most of which without a person in sight...
I'm starting a new website for our new trip, the exploration of Interstate-70. This web site will be based on the 2007 trip-around-the-U.S. website...