McDowell Trip 2006

The McDowell Trip cross country. Enjoy our trip with us as we finally make our "Western" trip.

Location: Syracuse, New York, United States

I am an Eagle Scout having been a member of the Scouting fraternity for over 30 years man and boy. Now that I have graduated from SU I am preparing to become more active in the fall. I am a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church and I have recently become the Presbytery Resource Person for the Theological Education Fund of the Presbyterian Church USA. As part of my college training I designed websites for both my church and the local Presbytery. I have been married for 36 years to a warm, loving, special lady named Charlotte and we have two great children, Margie and Francis, and one grandchild, Alex, who all live in the Syracuse area. Francis is getting married in October and Margie is dating a great guy named Mike.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Williams, AZ / Grand Canyon

Hi All, Well we got our earliest start of the trip so far yesterday. We had good reason for this. We drove from San Diego to Williams, AZ. This leg was 492+ miles our longest day of the trip. We drove through mountains and up into the high desert regions of the southwest. The pic below was taken at a rest area in Arizona I suspect that the mountains in this pic are over 100 miles in the distance.

We arrived in Williams around 6 PM. We were expecting a time change but Arizona apparently doesn't change to daylight savings time. On the last section of the trip we ran into our first real weather so far. We drove through a nasty thunderstorm with major lightening strikes. One of them a cloud to ground strike lasted for 10 or 15 seconds. We passed a nasty accident with a semi and car in the median and a van that had rolled over. We had to slow way down several times and fight the spray from other vehicles and semi trucks.
This morning we got up and drove about 65 miles to the north to visit the Grand Canyon. It was a partly cloudy day and we saw several raindrops on the windshield as we drove up to the park. As you can see from the pic below the canyon itself is stunning and beautiful.

I know I sound like a broken record on this but it is totally impossible to really describe in words the sights we have seen over the last few weeks. And there is still more to come. The next pic is of a little wildlife that we saw at the visitor center at the park.

After we saw him we drove down to Grand Canyon Village and saw some of the park lodges. We stopped at the Maswik Lodge and got directions, had lunch, and got some souvenirs. We then spotted some Elk by the side of the road on our way to the General Store area. I grabbed the SLR camera as it was closest and got several pics from about 50 ft. away. These animals are spectacular. The General Store was very interesting and had store items as well as quite a few souvenir items.
Tomorrow we are off to Cortez, AZ and Mesa Verde NP.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

San Diego, CA

Hi All, I finally got smart and decided to finish out the blog with the name of the city or special place we are visiting.
We made the short run down from La Mirada in several easy short hops. We stopped at Capistrano to visit the famous Mission of San Juan Capistrano. There is a continuing effort to restore the mission to its former appearance. The photo was taken just inside the mission entrance. The sign to the left shows the various sections of the mission. The bell on the question mark shaped holder is a symbol of "El Camino Real" or the king's highway. We saw these bells all the way down US-101 and in San Diego. The king's highway connected all the missions in California and was the main North and South route through early California.

After we got to San Diego and found our motel and got settled we walked over to the "Old Town" area which is only about five blocks from our motel. While we were there I took this neat picture of Char standing next to this huge cactus growth. There were a lot of neat little shops in period buildings.

After dinner at a nearby Denny's Char did laundry again. Shortly after that we heard sirens and discovered that there was a fire about two blocks behind the motel. After that calmed down it was off to bed for the night.
This morning I took the car for a much needed oil change at a nearby service center. After that I drove back to the motel to pick Char up and we headed for the famous San Diego Zoo. After we arrived the first thing we did was take the guided bus tour. The place is so huge that this is the only way to start a visit here. When the tour was over we rode one of the express shuttles back to near the Panda exhibit. We walked to the exhibit but decided we needed to eat first. We had a good but rather expensive lunch near the exhibit. After lunch we stood in line for about fifteen minutes for a look at the pandas. There were only three on exhibit today and I took some pictures with my good SLR camera before taking the one below with the digital camera. Of course just as I took the shot the panda moved the branch in front of her face. I think that the other photos will come out better but I haven't had time to have them developed yet.

I am going to sign off now as we need to get up and moving early tomorrow. We are driving 492 miles to Williams, AZ and losing an hour on the way when we cross into Arizona. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Twenty-first Day on the Trail

Hi All, Had a rough day followed by a much smoother one. We got packed up, ate, and left San Fran for LA Area. While it hadn't the two previous days the fog really rolled in the morning as we were leaving. As we came over the crest of the hill just north of the Golden Gate bridge we were just above the fog bank that was covering the bridge part way up the towers and the inner bay area. The visibility on the bridge was OK but not great. There was no sign of the Pacific or even the water below the brige. There was traffic on the way through and out of the city but we expected that and it wasn't terribly heavy going our way. Most of the day we were in rolling hills on Rt US 101 going down the coast slightly inland for most of the way. It was a long, long, long drive to LA for us. Imagine our surprise to find this sign along the roadside somewhere south of Camp Roberts Military Base.

We decided to stop at Solvang on our way. Char remembered that her parents had visited there and that it was a quaint little place with interesting shops, etc. It was still a neat place but probably more commercial than when her folks visited. Our problem is that the heat wave out here made it too hot to wander around outside. After only a short visit we were "on the road again". We finally arrived about 7:15 PM and were very glad to see that we wouldn't have to drive anywhere to get dinner. We got the car unpacked, contacted Char's friend Margie, ate dinner, and crashed for the night.
The next morning after we got up leisurely and ate breakfast we headed for Margie's house. After one missed turn we arrived there and had a great visit with her. We then headed over to the Big Straw for lunch. This is a great little Cafe that Margie's daughter and son-in-law, Grace and Howard, have started in La Mirada. They have hand made sandwiches, juices, teas, etc. We had a great lunch there and in between customers got a chance to talk. The rest of the family helps out there as well. Later on we headed back to Margie's and spent most of the rest of the day there enjoying a great family dinner and more fellowship. Char and I finally headed back to the motel for a swim and then to bed. Below is a pic of Margie and Char.

I am posting this in the morning as we are packing and getting ready for breakfast before heading to San Diego. I was too tired last night. The long drive from San Fran to LA drained both of us.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Nineteenth Day on the Trail

Hi All, I purposely skipped a day this time. This will be our last three day visit. We left Winnemucca, NV fairly early and got on the road. We drove through a variety of terrain from open prairie to mountainous. Char was not very happy about some of the mountainous terrain but survived it. We stopped for lunch in the mountains of California and there was some girl running around in a Darth Vader helmet and later in the full face mask, helmet, and chest communication/control unit. Gotta love the nuts we live with in this country. We got into Mill Valley north of the Golden Gate Bridge about 4:30 PM. We called Char's cousin, made contact and made plans to meet for dinner. Below is a pic of us at the Thai Restaurant where we went for dinner, a new experience for Char and I and a very delicious one. After a delightful time they dropped us back at the motel and we got to bed.

Saturday morning. After breakfast at the motel Mimi, Char's cousin, picked us up for a day of sightseeing. We went into San Francisco and toured the Japanese Gardens. This buddha statue was cast in 1870 in Japan.

Next we went further downtown where we walked over to Macy's and went upstairs for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We all had "small" salads (Yeah, right) so we would have room for, what else, cheesecake. The salads weren't so small but they were very good and we did indeed have room for cheesecake. I can see now why there is always someone asking if there is a Cheesecake Factory coming to Syracuse area in Bob Neidt's Store Front Column and Blog for the Post Standard at home. Next we went to Fisherman's Wharf area and did the tourist bit some more. Our first stop was at Ghiardelli Square of chocolate fame. While we were there we met up with Mimi and Bob's son Josh. He and I talked of his preparation for college and other things. Another bright young person who gives me hope for our country and the future. All too soon he had to head off for work but it was great to see him again after many years. We next headed to Pier 39 to see the seals that now congregate there. They are funny as they gather and interact on the floating docks in that area.

We also got a long range view of Alcatraz in the bay.

We also came to discover, who knew, that pelicans fly in formations like geese. This was the first time that I have seen this phenomena. Unfortunately I did not get a pic of this. Later on we met up with Bob for dinner at a great Italian restaurant. After that it was back to the motel and bed for us.
Sunday morning after breakfast we met up with Mimi again for more touring of San Fran. This morning we went down to Chinatown to walk through that famous landmark area. We picked up a few more postcards and some other small presents for the home folks. The pic is of the entrance to Chinatown. Yes, that is Char on the left. Mimi is mostly hidden by the guy in the green plaid shirt. I had to shoot and run as the traffic light was changing.

We then headed back to Mill Valley for lunch at at neat little place called the Rain Forest Cafe. I had a Monte Cristo sandwich (one of my favorites) while Char settled for a BLT and Mimi had a interesting looking salad. We then headed off to the school where Mimi will be teaching history in the fall. We stopped by the horse barns at the school and I was impressed by the stable area. Everything was neat and orderly as a well run stable should be. The bad part was that it was brutally hot there. We then went up to the class room area. Boy, there was no question but that we weren't in Syracuse anymore. The school is sprawled out mostly on one level with lockers along the outside of the buildings. There are covered walkways between the buildings as a concession to cover from rain. On our way out of the school we saw one of the "students" getting a quick snack.

Mimi then dropped us back at the motel where Char and I both crashed and took major naps. The walking and heat suddenly got to us, I guess. Later on Mimi and Bob picked us up and we went to a Sizzler Restaurant for dinner. Mimi brought us back to the motel after dinner and we talked for quite a while. It was really good to see her and Bob.
Tomorrow morning we are headed for the LA area.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sixteenth Day on the Trail

Hi there, I messed up awhile back (and nobody caught it). The count above is correct. The last three posts were two days off. I posted the eighth day on the trail when it should have been the tenth day and that threw the other two off by two days each. Oh, well, that's what I get for doing this late at night after being on the road all day. By the way, if you think that I am doing all the driving you're nuts. Char usually drives after lunch which is when I get groggy. Depending on what kind of terrain and whether or not she gets sleepy or not decides how long she drives. Today for example she drove the last 100+ miles to the motel for tonight.
Now, backtracking to yesterday. We got a good start from West Yellowstone after eating at the Running Bear Pancake House. For those few who don't know my nickname is Old Bear.

We stopped briefly at Mack's Inn for a quick photo op. The young men in our family have been nicknamed Mack for several generations.

We then went on to Salt Lake City. After getting checked into the motel we had a quick swim in a cool instead of cold, outdoor instead of indoor pool. We then had dinner and headed downtown into the city to try and find the temple. The weather was threatening rain, there was no parking, and we were too tired to walk several blocks in unfamiliar territory. Oh yeah, who knew there were street cars in Salt Lake City?

Shortly after taking this we drove around the block for the last time and headed back to the motel and bed.
This morning we got on the road again headed west across a variety of terrain. Late in the morning we went by the Bonneville Salt Flats exit where they do all the high speed runs for records on the very flat desert floor. Later in the day I took this great picture of a snow capped mountain off to the south of I-80.

Another clue that we aren't in the east anymore was this sign seen at a rest stop along the trail during today's trip.

We are now THREE hours behind Syracuse time having passed into the Pacific time zone shortly after we passed over into Nevada from Utah. We stopped in Elko, NV for lunch and there was a WalMart just up the road, so we also picked up some supplies.
Tonight we are in my favorite named waystop of the trip Winnemucca, NV. This small town is spread out along I-80. It is about seven streets wide and ten streets long. We had a swim after unloading the car, went out to dinner, bought a passenger side wiper blade to replace a streaking one, some window cleaning wipes, and then headed back to the motel for the night. Tomorrow we will be heading to San Francisco, CA where we will be meeting up with Char's cousin.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Twelth Day on the Trail

Hi All, Well we made it again. We got a good start from Hill City, SD on our way to Yellowstone National Park. Most of the day was spent driving across open prairie with mountains in the distance.

Toward the end of the trip we went up over the Big Horn Mountains. Char doesn't do mountain driving very well. Something about looking out over an open space where you don't have any reference points really gets her nervous. It is one of those things that you can't really control. When I looked at the map after I posted the last blog entry I realized that I had made a tactical error. I didn't realize that it was about 60 miles from the motel to the park entrance. After we got to the motel in Cody, WY and got the car unloaded we went down to the desk and made a reservation in West Yellowstone, MT and canceled our second night in Cody. We got up this morning and went to Mickey D's for breakfast. After loading the car we headed for Yellowstone National Park passing scenery like this.

Char and I both agree that it is impossible to really discribe this country. It is OK to take pictures and try to verbally describe it but to really understand this area you have to see it in person. We finally drove into Yellowstone National Park after a 57 mile drive. There was construction going on just inside the park and we had a 20 minute delay before driving for about 15 miles in convoy going only about 20 miles per hour. What a pain. We finally got beyond the construction and found a latrine for a much needed rest stop. Below is a photo of Char standing next to Yellowstone Lake at the pullout where we stopped.

We stopped at the Bridge Bay Gift Shop / Restaurant for lunch and some gift purchases. The picture below of a buffalo was taken from a bridge while it was about 50 yards away.

After another couple of stops at other areas in the park and getting our National Park Passport stamped we headed for Old Faithful Geyser. Again this is one of those things that defies simple description it really needs to be experienced to be believeable.

Shortly after this we decided that we had better head for our temporary home in West Yellowstone, MT. Char was still not feeling well from the crazy ride through the construction area and possibly some altitude reaction and I was just simply dog tired from driving on the twisty roads in the park. On the way out we saw the smoke from a fire in the middle of the park.

I am writing this post about three blocks from the western edge of Yellowstone National Park. We had dinner in the motel dining room after a short swim in what was supposed to be a heated indoor pool. It felt more like a spring fed lake in the Adirondaks. Tomorrow we will be headed for Salt Lake City. The motel change from one side of the park to the other has saved us over one hundred miles off of tomorrows trip.
On another note Char and I have been collecting state liscense plates and Canadian province plates. Today we got Alaska and Hawaii. Char tallied up the plates for the states we have seen so far and we are only missing Rhode Island and Vermont. We also have seven Canadian province plates so far.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tenth Day on the Trail

Hi to All, Here I am again. The next two legs of the trip are travel days followed by touring days. Yesterday we left Brandon, SD for Hill City, SD via the Badlands. We drove through miles and miles of Great Plains. Slightly rolling terrain with corn, soy beans and occasionally live stock in the form of cattle and horses. I only remember seeing one small flock of sheep the whole day. The weather was hot and dry with a nasty wind out of the southwest. The rest areas all had some type of walled shelters and roofs over the picnic tables. Here is a photo taken from the car as we traveled.

After driving most of the day we finally arrived at the bypass route off of I-90 for the Badlands. This is an area of desolation in an otherwise fertile area. The land is useless for anything but sight seeing. The views and vistas are very impressive and photography can only begin to show the colors and textures of the landscape. I remember driving through the Badlands as a young teenager with my parents in a non-airconditioned car and it was 102 deg. in the shade. Yesterday we arrived at the ranger station in 115 deg. heat. The picture below is a sample of the wild terrain to be found in the Badlands.

After leaving the Badlands we stopped at the famous (or is it infamous) Wall Drug in Wall, SD. There are signs for the Wall Drug store all across South Dakota. The "store" only takes up a city block and we bought some things and enjoyed a dish of ice cream there before heading out for the last leg of the day. After arriving in Hill City, SD we unpacked the car and inquired about dinner. There are no Mickey D's, Dennys, or Burger Kings in these hills. We ended up eating dinnner at the Bumping Buffalo. I had a Buffalo Burger which tasted very much like a standard hamburger and Char had chicken fingers after initially ordering Fish and Chips, apparently they ran out.
This morning we had a liesurely start (Hey, don't forget we are on vacation.) We first went to Mount Rushmore. What a spectacular sight. Again photos don't really do it justice. The photo below is the best example that I took with the digital camera. You will have to catch up with me later to see others that I took with the "good" SLR camera using the telephoto lens. Char and I caught a "Presidential tour" given by about the cutest park ranger I have ever seen. She did an excellent job of explaining the significance of each of the four presidents that are depicted on Mt. Rushmore. We spent about 2 hours there and I had another Buffalo Burger for lunch while Char had a hot dog.

Our next stop was the Crazy Horse mountain monument. This is still a work in progress but it is even larger than Mount Rushmore. In fact during the orientation film we saw they juxtaposed the Mount Rushmore figures into just the head of Crazy Horse. The photo shows one of the models at the visitor center in the foreground showing what the finished monument will look like with the real thing, so far, in the background.

We are hoping to get an early start tomorrow on our way to Cody, WY. Our next stop is Yellowstone National Park.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Eighth Day on the Trail

Hi Again, Well I missed a day. I guess I will have to do this again tomorrow to get back on schedule or not, we will see. We got a good start from Oglesby, IL on our way to Minneapolis, MN. We saw a lot of corn and soy beans(?) on the way. I was expecting flatter terrain in the northern part of Wisconsin as we neared the Minnesota border. It was quite hilly. We ate lunch near the Wisconsin Dells. I remember visiting that area as a teenager with my parents. This was a long driving day for us but we arrived in Minneapolis around dinner time and called Andrew Webb our family friend in the area. We made plans for the next day and then called it a night.
On Thursday morning Andrew had some business to conduct early and we went off to the Mall of Americas on our own. What a place! I did find a pair of shoes to replace the pair I forgot to bring and we walked around three of the four levels in the mall. It is enormous. We then returned to the motel where we planned to meet with Andrew. When we went down to the lobby to wait for Andrew we found this parked outside the Motel.

After Andrew met us we headed downtown to see the sights. We ate lunch at "The News" in downtown. We did think of sitting outside for all of 30 seconds but it was in the low 90's and we wisely decided to eat in. We then got in Andrews car for a motor tour of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Here is a picture of the Cathedral. We went inside and the stained glass windows were beautiful with the bright sun on them.

We then saw a little more of the city as Andrew took us back to the motel. He went by his house that he shares with his fiance Emily and the church they are to be married in next year. After taking short naps Char and I went to Andrews house for dinner. He cooked steaks to order while Emily whipped up the rest of the meal. It was good to finally meet her. They make a great couple. While we were there Andrew called his parents and Char and I had a chance to speak to both of them. We will be seeing them at the end of our trip in August as we return on our southern route.
This morning we got a good start and we only went about 250 miles south and then west to Brandon, SD which is next to Sioux Falls, SD. While making a rest stop we spotted this familiar figure and paused for photos.

After arriving at our motel we had a swim in their indoor "water park". We ate dinner at a Perkins Restaurant, stopped at a Walgreens for some supplies, and then walked dinner off at a nearby mall. We are now settling in for the night. We plan on an early start tomorrow as we head for The Badlands and Mount Rushmore.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Seventh Day on the Trail

Hi All, Well we are at the end of our first week on the trail. Yesterday we got up and back tracked into Illinois to visit the Cahokia Mounds Historic Area. We went to the interpretive center first to get the first hand scoop on the area. The displays were museum quality and very well done. We misssed some of the displays because we wanted to see the movie presentation that was to be followed by a guided tour on site. The movie was very well done and we enjoyed it. It set the stage for the guided tour. We had to drive across the road to the parking lot for Monk's Mound (See Photo) to meet our guide. He walked us over to and up the stairs to the top of the "mound". This mound is the largest earthenwork structure in the Western Hemisphere. All the other pyramids in meso-america are stonework structures. We then walked out to the area where there was an ongoing dig to locate the placing of the wooden palisade that had enclosed the central area of Cahokia. We then drove into Colliersville for lunch at a Bob Evans Restaurant. We drove back to St. Louis for a nap and a major swim session before dinner at the motel. I spent most of the rest of the evening working on my journal before bedtime.
This morning we got a slow start waiting for the rain to end. We then drove to Springfield, IL for a visit to the Lincoln Library and Museum. We spent several hours there and ate lunch before heading to Oglesby, IL for the night. We ate dinner at a nice local place called DeLaney's before going back to the motel and doing laundry. Tomorrow we are off to Minneapolis.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fifth Day on the Trail

Hi Again,
Well it is the fifth day out on our trip and we are doing fine. Yesterday we traveled to Dayton where we spend some time with the Aldrich family. It was great to visit them in their home and compare notes on what has happened with both famillies since our last get together. We then hit the trail for St. Louis. We arrived in St. Louis about 7:30 PM their time having crossed over our first time zone. We needed and enjoyed a swim before bed time.
Today we went up in the Arch (See Photo Below of the Casino Queen taken from the Arch) in the morning and then met up with the Glaziers, friends of our daughter. (Wendi is our unofficially adopted daughter) We went to Union Station for lunch and then to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for the tour. It was very interesting to see how the brewery operates and the samples at the end of the tour were very good also. We then went over to the Glaziers to continue our visit. Later we went out for dinner before saying goodby to them. Char and I then walked down to Union Station to stretch our legs. We heard singing and listened to an interesting group sing by the staff of the Fudgery. I don't know if they were practicing routines for their jobs or just singing for fun but the blend of voices was very well done and they were sure having fun.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Third Day on the Trail

Hi All,
Well we have been "on the road" three days now. We got up late (for us) the last two days [Hey, we are on vacation you know!] Yesterday we went over on the West side of Columbus and found the house where my parents and I lived when we first moved to Columbus on S. Roys Ave. When Char and I pulled up in front of the house it looked familiar, but boy is it SMALL. We also drove by West Broad Elementary and Hoge Memorial Presbyterian Church both of which I attended and are only several blocks from our old house. After that we went to one of our favorite malls, Tuttle Crossing, near Dublin. We had lunch there and picked up several items. Last night we had dinner with my mother's good friends the Barlow's at a Bob Evans Restaurant. We talked for several hours, showed pictures, and told stories. It was a good time for all.
This morning we stopped by Overbrook Presbyterian Church where my parents and I attended after we moved to Clintonville on the far North side of Columbus. We spent some time with Rev. Leety talking about our trip and other things. Later we had a business lunch at Schmidt's Sausage House. If you like German cusine and are ever in Columbus, this is the place to go. After lunch we went to a Topiary Garden that is modeled after Georges Seurat's painting "A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte". It was a quite interesting oasis in the middle of downtown Columbus. The effect was partially spoiled however by the apparently homeless folks sleeping in the bushes and on the benchs around the park. Below is a photo I took there.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

First Day on the Trail

Greetings All, Well we survived the first day but just barely. We got a late start from home finally getting on the Thruway about 10 AM. We had to go back to the house, after our traditional trip starting McDonald's breakfast; stopped at church to retrieve my "Indy Fedora"; and stopped briefly at the bank. We arrived in Dublin, OH about 7 PM after having to slow down for about 8 or 10 construction areas. They were all along the route but most of them were five or six mile long ones in Ohio. We had dinner at a family favorite Italian Restaurant. Morrone's is a small store front eatery that has a Pizza Buffet every Wed. Eve. They have a small salad bar and lasagna, spaghetti, meatballs on the buffet as well. A dessert pizza finishes off the meal just right. Tonight it was a chocolate cookie dessert pizza.
Tomorrow we are going to locate the first house I remember living in here in Columbus and the Presbyterian church we attended nearby. After that we will probably hit the two malls we like to visit while here. We are going to meet my mother's friends the Barlow's for dinner later. If the weather cooperates we will probably swim in the afternoon or at least get on the treadmill for awhile.
Well it is getting late and we are both bushed so I will end this for today. Stay tuned!