Thursday, 28 September 2017

Sheetz

We keep getting fed useful hints and tips from my boss, Wyndham. His latest one is Sheetz - which is as far as I can tell a gas station chain combined with a fast-food eatery and coffee shop.

They have locations all over the North-East, so we will definitely have to try this at least once...

Map from Google Maps via sheetz.com

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Wyoming

I'm in love with Yellowstone and we haven't even been there yet. I have watched the BBC programme Yellowstone every time its on, and its been on every Christmas since it was first produced in 2009! It's just a magical place like no other and I can't wait to see it in person.



Whilst researching Wyoming, I was surprised to find another National Park which often sits in the shadow of Yellowstone yet has just as much to offer. Grand Teton National Park is located south of Yellowstone National Park and includes 40-mile-long Teton Range peaks, the Snake River and a number of scenic drives, hikes, lakes and vista's to find and enjoy.



The final place we are visiting in Wyoming is somewhere Lee has been on about going every since I met him 13 years ago! Lee doesn't like mash potato,  but he does love Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Its his favourite film and like any CEOTTK super fan, he has to go just to make sure there are no aliens visiting so we're off to Devils Tower for a night.




State:Wyoming
Towns of Interest: (FB) = FirebreakN/A
National Parks:Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park
State Parks of Interest:N/A
Places of Interest: (N) = Night StayJackson Hole Aerial tram (10 minute ride up to the summit of Rendezvous Peak)

Grand Teton National Park (N)Gros Ventre Loop
Teton Point Turnout
Snake River Overlook
Cunningham Cabin Historic Site
Oxbow Bend Turnout
Signal Moutain
Cathedral Group Turnout
String and Jenny Lakes
Teton Glacier Turnout
Taggart Lake Trailhead
Menor's Ferry Historic Site
Jenny Lake Excursions (offers small, passenger shuttles across Jenny Lake at the base of Mount Teewinot. The shuttle runs to Inspiration Point every 10-15 minutes during the day, and the Cascade Canyon trailhead can be found on the west side of the lake)
Yellowstone (Nx3)
Mammouth Hot Springs
Obsidian Cliff
Norris Geyser Basin
Viringia Cascade
Firehole Canyon Drive
Fountain Flats Drive
Firehole Lake Drive
Midway Geyser Basin
Old Faithful
Yellowstone Lake
Fishing Bridge
Hayden Valley
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Mt. Washburn
Tower Fall

Pahaska Tepee (Built by Buffalo Bill, its a hunting lodge)
Route 14A (Modeled after routes in the alps and the most expensive stretch of highway ever built, its slithers around cliffs, slices a few feet away from seemingless bottomless drops and is a 10% gradient)
Big Horn Medicine Wheel (A short trip through an unpaved forest road takes you to this landmark. It is America's version of Stonehenge)
Devils Tower Area
Belle Fourche River (The town of Hulett sits next to this river. It is a good place for services and supplies)
Devils Tower National Monument
(N) (Two hikes - the Tower Trail and the Red Beds Trail, loop around the base of the monolith. Try to visit in the morning or the evening when the effect of the light are at their best)
Sundance (Town the Sious Indian dance is named after. Follow Route 14 to the north where a paved spur road leads visitors to the Warren Peak Lookout. The fire tower offers a great vie of Devils Tower off to the North West and the Black Hills)
Routes of Interest: Route 14A - Most expensive Highway ever, goes to Big Horn National Forrest
Where to Stay:Yellowstone There are 12 park campsites - 5 are reservation and the remaining are FCFS:

Reservable Sites:
Bridge Bay ($25)
Canyon ($29)
Fishing Bridge RV Park ($48)
Grant Village ($29)
Madison ($25)

FCFS:
Indian Creek ($15)
Lewis Lake ($15)
Mammoth ($20)
Norris ($20)
Pebble Creek ($15)
Slough Creek ($15)
Tower Fall ($15)

Guide to the campsites: https://www.justahead.com/where-to-camp-in-yellowstone/
Grand Teton National Park All campgrounds are FCFS and $31:

Colter Bay Campground
Gros Ventre Campground
Headwaters Campground and RV sites at Flagg Ranch
Jenny Lake Campground
Lizard Creek Campground
Signal Mountain Campground
Devils Tower National Monument Belle Fourche River Campground ($20) - No reservations are available for this campground FCFS
Useful Links: http://www.travelwyoming.com/things-to-do



Brian Dunn's 48-state Road Trip

We've just stumbled across the blog of an American chap called Brian Dunn, who did a 48-state Road Trip back in 2009. It has a lot of similarities to ours - go check it out:

http://www.48stateroadtrip.com

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Colorado

I have always wanted to go to Colorado skiing. Unfortunately, we're not visiting during the ski season but there is still plenty to do in and around the 4 National Parks.

State:Colorado
Towns of Interest: (FB) = FirebreakN/A
National Parks:Mesa Verde National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - not visiting
Rocky Mountain National Park
State Parks of Interest:Eleven Mile State Park
Places of Interest: (N) = Night StayMesa Verde National Park (N)
Balcony House
Guided Ranger Tour
Scenic Drive

Durango (Restored downtown with gas lamps and victorian shops)
San Juan Skyway (Route 550 from Durango to Silverton and then Silverton to Ouray)
Silverton (The quaint streets are lined with historic relics)
Ouray (Known as the Switzerland of America - known for the hot springs) 

Black Canyon National Park (Nx2)
South Rim Visitor Center
Drive Along the South Rim Road (This 7-mile drive has 12 overlooks to test your fear of heights. A lot of the overlooks do require walking a short trail but nothing difficult. If you’re limited on time, be sure to check out Pulpit Rock, Painted Wall, and Sunset View)
Explore the Inner Canyon
East Portal Road (gives you access to the river. Keep in mind that it is extremely steep (16% grades) with hairpin turns. They don’t allow vehicles over 22 ft)
Warner Point Nature Trail (although the hike itself wasn’t exciting, the views at the end were worth it)
Sunset View (enjoy the sun going down. It’s probably the best spot for photos)

Salida (Historic town - downtown historic district with many gallaries, bars, restaurants and unique stores)
Collegiate Peaks Overlook (Above the Arkanas River Valley, view looks west)
Driving Route 24

Eleven Mile State Park (Impressive views and mountain ranges which take in several areas)
(N)

Georgetown (Historic mining town)
Route 119 (View of Mount Evans, passed enterance to Golden Gate Canyon State Park and a view of Downtown Dever)
Brainyard Recreation Area (Two looking glass lakes - short paved trail to Long Lake Trailhead where thre is splendid views of peak haloed by clouds)
Long Peak Trainhead (1.5 hour round trip to hike to the summit with great views of the central Rockies)
Estes Park (popular recreational center with an aerial tram to Propspect Mountain summit for panoramic views)
(N)
Rocky Mountain National Park Park Headquarters (Information on the National Park)
Deer Ridge Junction (start of the legendary Trail Ridge Road - 48 mile route rises 12,000 feet, meandering for 11 miles across tundra that looks like Alaska)
Many Parks Curve (Panoramas of the park)
Forest Canyon Overlook (Overlook high above the Forest Canyon)
Lava Cliffs Overlook (View of the Volcanic ash desposited 26 million years ago)
Alpine Visitor Center (National Park Visitors Center)
Fairview Curve (An overlook with amazing views of the Kawuneeche Valley)

Grand Lake (Colorado's largest natural lakes)
(N)
Tabernash (Remarkable views of the peaks of the Continental Divide)
Winter Park (One of Colorado's most popular ski resorts)
Berthoud Pass (Reowned mountain road - white-knuckled curves and stunning views)

Rimrock Drive and Colorado National Monument (One of the grandest scenic drives in the American West, the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive offers redrock canyons, crisp blue skies, and glorious views along the way for motorists and bicyclists. The road is inseparable from the identity of the Monument. The drive provides access to Saddlehorn Visitor Center and campground, 19 signed viewpoints, and 14 hiking trails — from ½ to 14 miles round trip. Many short, easy trails allow you to gaze upon or walk up to towering masses, while backcountry trails head down into remote canyons full of bird song and solitude)
(N)
Routes of Interest: 23-mile Rimrock Drive (One of the grandest scenic drives in the American West)
Berthoud Pass (Route 40 - Gerogetown through the Rockies)
Route 119 (Up to the Rockies)
Route 24
San Juan Skyway (Route 550 from Durango to Silverton and then from Silverton and Ouray (known as Million Dollar Highway)
Where to Stay:Mesa Verde
Morefield Campground and Village ($30) - 267 which very rarely fills
Black Canyon
South Rim ($16) - can be reserved with electric, 88 sites
North Rim ($16) - no reservation, 13 sites
East Portal ($8) - no reservation, 5 sites
Eleven Mile State Park
State Park Camping ($18)
Estes Park
Estes Park KO ($41 with no hook ups)
Grand Lake
Elk Creep Campground and RV park ($32 - cabins are $59)
Winding river Resort ($37)
Green Ridge Park Service Campsite ($21)
Rimrock Drive
Saddlehorn Campground ($20) - you can book 6 months in advanced or FCFS
Useful Links: http://www.colorado.com/articles/7-day-colorado-family-road-trip

Monday, 26 June 2017

Alabama

Alabama was one of the first states we researched and sadly, it was one of the states that took heavy losses when it came to the cull. The reason we dropped so much from this state was because the best way to see Alabama is to go north to south. For our trip, we needed to go west to east through the state.

I can see us going back to Alabama after MERTA and having a mini-road trip holiday that allows us to really explore this state.

The following site is one of the best road trip sites I have come across, it's just a shame it only covers Alabama: http://alabama.travel/road-trips

Best bit about this site... there is a mobile app!


State:Alabama
Towns of Interest:
(FB) = Firebreak
Birmingham
Mobile
National Parks:N/A
State Parks of Interest:Rickwood Caverns State Park
Gulf Shores State Park
Places of Interest:
(N) = Night Stay
Mobile
Gulf Shores State Park

Birmingham (N)
Vulcan Park and Museum (On the top of Red Mountain just outside Birmingham sits a 50-ton 56-foot tall iron statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. This enormous sculpture, the largest cast iron statue in the world, has been guarding Birmingham since the 1930s and is one of the city’s most important symbols)
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark (only blast furnace in the United States to be preserved)
Pepper Place Saturday Market
Kelly Ingram Park (Historic four acre park in the Birmingham Civil Rights District. It was the location for large demonstrations during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s)

Rickwood Caverns State Park (Guided cave tour)
Routes of Interest: N/A
Where to Stay:Birmingham
The Redmont Hotel Birmingham, Curio Collection by Hilton ($117)
Tourway Inn of Birmingham ($56)
Kings Inn Civic Center ($57)



Saturday, 24 June 2017

Georgia

We're going into Georgia twice - once at the start of the trip and then again towards the end.

The first time we're in Georgia, we're staying in Atlanta. This city wasn't originally in our plan but when I rearranged our route through the Smoky Mountains, it gave us an opportunity to stop here for a couple of days.

Atlanta has a bad reputation and I am a little nervous about staying here but I guess its like any big city, it has its good areas and its bad. We still need to do a little research into where the bad areas are and what we need to avoid. If we arrive and we really don't like or don't feel comfortable, at least we can just move on!

Next stop after Atlanta is at Tallulah Gorge State Park and there won't be a single high rise building in sight! Tallulah Gorge is a 1000 foot chasm carved over millions of years by the Tallulah River and it is home to the Tallulah Falls, a series of six waterfalls cascading down through Tallulah Gorge. One of the things I love about America is how in the morning you can be sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of a huge city and by the afternoon, walking in the wilderness with just the bears to keep you company.




State:Georgia
Towns of Interest:
(FB) = Firebreak
Savannah
Athens
Atlanta
National Parks:N/A
State Parks of Interest:Cloudland Canyon State Park
Tallulah Gorge State Park
Places of Interest:
(N) = Night Stay
Lookout Mountain Parkway
Point Park (Rte 210 scenic loop passes the Park - see up to 6 states)
Cloudland Canyon State Park (Panoramas of the hills and hollows)
Route 157 (Lookout Mountain Parkway)

Atlanta (Nx2)
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site (he modest home where Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was born and raised)
Piedmont Park (Adjacent to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Midtown, perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon)
Centennial Olympic Park ( 21-acre patch of land that features lush paths of grass, artwork, pools and fountains. The park was originally built for the 1996 Olympic Games and was a centerpiece of the festivities; now, it's one of the most visited areas of the city)
World of Coca-Cola ( a museum dedicated entirely to Coke)

Stone Mountain Park (Standing tall in this 3,200-acre park is a massive quartz monzonite mountain etched with the images of three famous Civil War figures: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis)
Toccoa Falls (Waterfall just outside Toccoa)
Scenic Loop 15 (Tallulah Gorge Scenic Loop)
Tallulah Gorge Visitor Center
Tallulah Gorge State Park (N)
Clayton (Trading post for the Cherokee Indians)

Savannah (Nx2) (best explored on foot)
Historic Trolley Tour (tour of the city in an old trolley bus)
Historic Squares (The 22 squares of Savannah, most named in honor of a person, are the heart of the city. These communal mini-parks are scattered through the historic downtown. Make sure to visit Chippewa square where the famous bench scene in Forest Gump was filmed)
Jones Street (was voted one of the most beautiful in North America by Southern Living)
Forsyth (large city park located in the historic district of Savannah)
Jen’s & Friends (dive bar with hundreds of creative martinis to choose from. And they come with edible accessories)
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Broughton Street (Bars and Restaurants)
Drive Under the Oaks (for the best experience, drive under the oaks on the way to Wormsloe, an avenue sheltered in the impressive trees)
City Market (in the historic district)
River Street (Waterfront district, lively area, good for an afternoon stroll)

Altamaha Historic Byway (Route 17)
Darien (Sea food and wharf crowded with fishng boats)

Routes of Interest: Altamaha Historic Byway / Route 17
Scenic Loop 15 (Tallulah Gorge Scenic Loop)
Lookout Moutain Parkway (Route 157 - views of the three states)
Where to Stay:Atlanta - need to check where is safe before staying
Aloft Atlanta Downtown ($103)
Atlanta Marriott Marquis ($120)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Atlanta Downtown ($111)
Sheraton Atlanta Hotel ($92)

Savannah
Thunderbird Inn ($88)
Quality Inn Savannah Historic District ($118)
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Savannah Downtown/Historic District ($129)

Tallulah Gorge State Park
Tallulah Gorge State Park Camping ($20)
Useful Links: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/road-trips/low-country-south-carolina-georgia-road-trip/
http://www.exploregeorgia.org/slideshow/georgias-must-sees
http://www.oldsavannahtours.com/



Florida National Park Boat Tours

We're seeing 2 National Parks in Florida and both of them are best seen via the water.

For Biscayne National Park, it was an easy decision on what tour to do. The National Park service provides the Boca Chita Key boat tours. Each tour lasts approximately three hours and includes opportunities to explore and learn about popular and scenic Boca Chita Key and Biscayne Bay.

Boca Chita boat tour

For the Everglades, the decision was so much harder due to the number of tours on offer. I started with looking at the National Park run tours from Flamingo but the reviewers on trip adviser were very mixed, it particular, there was a number of comments about how little wildlife was seen.  The main purpose of wanting to take the tour was to see an alligator or two!

I ended up finding this site which compares different tours in the Everglades, not just boat tours but also buggies, walking and kayak tours too. After looking at a few more review websites, we decided on the Buffalo Tiger’s Airboat Tours who have a good reputation of getting people close to the alligators, maybe a little too close looking at some of their videos on YouTube!