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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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all seasons in one day 79 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'

I think I've used that title for a blog entry more than once but we
are in Wyoming country now and it seems appropriate for this new entry.
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This entry is best read while listening to this music. [i]Copy this https://youtu.be/PYI09PMNazw and open in another window please. Enjoy!

We are currently in Sheridan, Wy located between South Dakota's Black
Hills National Park and Wyoming's Yellowstone Park. This region is
knee-deep in history related to (mostly bloody) U.S. and Native American
relations. It took us about 17 days to get here from Boston and we
drove and hiked through amazing landscapes and into big/small cities.
There are times when our travel energy gets low but then we see old
friends who help recharge our batteries so we can complete this almost
year-long journey.

Originally we had planned on driving down to Florida where we
would fly to Chicago and Minnesota to visit friends. Then we would
try and catch a new ferry service back to Merida for Fall and Winter.
As it turned out, the new ferry service never materialized and Andrea's
niece back in So. Calif. happened to be need of a car for her senior
year in high school.

Soooo we made the amazing decision to drive back across the country
in the Spark. After 4 months in storage, the car started up and
resumed the drive. Boston in August is much nicer than it was in April
but I still remember the bitter cold. As usual, the weather dicated
which way we would go. A severe storm just south of us meant we needed
to stay more north, taking a drive path that took us to Albany, New York
and then to Buffalo, New York. We drove along the edge of the storm
and we were occasionally socked by torrential rains that came from nowhere
and lasted 15 minutes or so. That brings me to the 'Ugly' in the title.

...The Ugly

Driving conditions for us this year were mostly good and occasionally
very ugly.

This big, beautiful land called America is filled with extreme weather
conditions that arrive very quickly and very powerfully. It seemed this year was
filled with highly unusual weather conditions and we constantly had
to monitor the weather conditions to see if it was safe to drive.
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Our trip started from California in the Fall and everything was fine
until October when winter blew across the country with a vengeance. The
winter driving conditions forced us to escape to Mexico's Yucatan where
we were ended up buying a winter home in Merida.
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When we returned in early Spring, winter still had its grip on much of the
U.S and we needed to avoid unseasonable snow and ice-storms
even on the most southern edges of the Southwest.

We had a brief respite while driving through Florida and up through the
Carolinas but cold and snow greeted us when we hit New York and New England.
Even in early April, snow was everywhere along this part of the eastern
seaboard and Boston was still a bone-chilling, snow-covered mess by the
time we arrived to catch our flight to Europe in April.
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It's August now in America and we are driving through a cornucopia of
somewhat challenging driving conditions.
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Tomorrow's weather report says strong winds are expected. The vast openness of
the Wyoming lands make it easy for strong winds to blow our subcompact car around.

Today, we are dealing with haze generated by all the smoke from the
variety of wildfires currently plaguing the western states. Windows
stay rolled and the smoke shrouded mountains around us appear as if
there is some kind of ancient Indian 'smoke signal' war going on.

A few days ago, we drove through the kind of thunderstorm that drops rain
so heavy you can barely see more than 20 feet in front of you.

A few days before that, clear sky gives way to very dark ominous clouds as
we drive along the edge of a severe thunderstorm while driving through
Ohio to Chicago, Illinois. It can be disconcerting when a favorite
song on the radio is suddenly interrupted to alert you that a tornado
may possibly pop up in your vicinity. The alert is thorough in its
information in what you should do if your faced with a tornado. Hey, we
are from California. What do we know about tornadoes??

So, for us on this trip, 'ugly' has been the weather challenges while
driving. If that is all we have to call "ugly" then this has truly been
a damn good trip!

Of course when we hit Buffalo, NY we must see Niagara Falls. It was never
on our minds, when we arrived back in Boston, that we would see Niagara
Falls but that is where the weather pushed us. I had no expectations
of the Falls other than it being some kind of crazy tourist trap but
I was surprised by how impressed I was by the power of the Falls even
though it seemed to be at maybe 1/4 it's true flow.
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From there we drove down towards Pennsylvania, stopping in Jamestown
to visit the Lucy and Desi Museum on Lucille Ball's Birthday. We didn't
plan that. It just happened that way.
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We checked out Pittsburgh and got a first taste of the massive infrastructure
projects that seem to be going on in nearly every city we've hit. Typical
4 lane freeways are shrunk to one and we move at a snail's pace which makes
our average 4 hour drives even more of a drudgery.
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We march on through Ohio and Indiana and into Illinois to stop for a
3 night stay at 'Jupiter's Airbnb'. This brings me to the 'Good'.

....The Good
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Driving for several hours through unfamiliar territory, checking into
new hotel rooms practically every night and constantly planning our
next destination can wear a person down. But we both looked forward
to staying at Jupiter AirBnb located near famous Wrigleyville, home
of the Chicago Cubs and our good friend Adam. I met Adam during my
poetry administration days in San Francisco but he, like many smart,
talented, creative types left the Bay Area for a different life.
Andrea and I both enjoyed seeing the face of somebody we know and
enjoyed the shared meals and incredible warmth that only a special
friend can provide. Despite his busy life, Adam took us in for as
long as we wanted to stay and gave us the key to the city and his apartment
The weather happened to be great during our time in Chicago so we were
able to see the beach, tour Millennium Park, take in a free concert and
even go out and see the Perseid Meteor shower. I think I did see
one shooting star.
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After we left Chicago, we stopped in Minneapolis, MN where we met up
with our friends David and Marilyn Bengtson. It also so happens that
I met David via my poetry administration life way back when.
After a nice lunch, we unexpectedly (some might even say "mistakenly")
signed up for one of Minneapolis' "Best Hidden" walking tour titled, 'Bob's Pierless Tour and Ice Cream
Hunt'. We knew this tour would be good since Trip Advisor named this tour, "Best Hidden."
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This lively, three-hour tour (unlike the crew from the TV show 'Gilligan')
did not end up on a desert island but it did seem to come with a similar
storyline and laugh track. The tour basically begins with somebody making
a seemingly innocuous comment like, "I'd like some ice cream." What you get
in return is a thorough tour of 3-4 blocks of downtown Minneapolis on a
hot day culminating in enjoying something that ends up not being ice
cream at all. I could go on but you really had to be there. Andrea and
I give this tour a '10' on Trip Advisor for the warmth, kindness, humor
and friendship Bob, and his co-conspirator Betty, showed us during our
too brief stay. The tour ends with the obligatory tour pics including
shots with the famous Mary Tyler Moore statue which Bob insists, "really
is there. You just have to squint really hard."
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After our goodbyes, we get back in the car and we are both feeling charged
with energy as if we just started our long trip that day. Maybe it was something
in that faux ice cream or perhaps it was something about Bob and Betty?
Maybe Bob and Betty were really aliens from another planet who gave us
new energy in return for a few simple, colorful pieces of sea-glass we combed
from some Mediterranean Beach a few months earlier. I mean, doesn't it seem
strange to you that a walking tour only charges customers pieces of sea-glass??

It was after leaving Minnesota that we once again faced more challenging
weather conditions including driving through the edge of another severe
storm. This one was the worst and was thankful that we made it through
alright.

We drove passed cornfields and sunflower fieldsd in S. Dakota, stopping at the world famous Corn Palace known for its murals made entirely of corn. We then hunkered down for a few days in Kadoka, South Dakota.
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From there we get to the 'Bad'.

....the Bad.
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The Badlands that is. The storm moved east and a bright, glorious morning
welcomed us. We hoped in the car and entered the amazing Badlands National
Park. A mixture of Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Iceland it seemed to
us. Walking through the terrain felt like being on another planet and
the 60 mile drive through the park was filled with opportunities to just
pull over and take in the views.
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After the Badlands we take it views of Mt. Rushmore, Keystone, Lead, Deadwood and the
incredible Black Hills of South Dakota.
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Next stop for us is Yellowstone National Park and then on to Salt Lake
City!

Wish us luck!

Posted by woa 06:47 Archived in USA

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