Happy Anniversary… To Me!

May 6, 2015

Contrasts in the Valley of Fire
Contrasts in the Valley of Fire. One of my favorite photos.

I don’t normally begin my posts with a date but today is a day of note in my travels, my See-the-USA-in-an-RV trip. Today is day number 365. It was May 7, 2014 when I nervously, unceremoniously climbed into my RV beginning what might turn out to be the adventure of my lifetime, and so far it has been quite an adventure. (Click images to enlarge.)

Chihuly Glass
Some of the glass by Dale Chihuly that was on display at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR.

I visited Valley of Fire in Nevada, followed by the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Then came Zion and Bryce National Parks in Utah. There was Cedar Breaks and Capitol Reef… oh Capitol Reef what a beautiful place. Leaving Utah before I would have liked due to the heat I spent the summer in the Rocky Mountains visiting Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Crested Butte and Crested Butte South. Then it was on to Marble where I met and interviewed sculptor Greg Tonozzi. I saw Rocky Mountain National Park where I crossed the continental divide at I don’t know how many thousands of feet in elevation.

It's PeeWee!
Look everyone! It’s PeeWee in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hi Peewee!

After Colorado it was on to Wyoming where the spectacular Grand Tetons rise dramatically from the plains with no foothills. Just north of the Tetons I found Yellowstone National Park, a splendor of colorful geothermal pools, vents and streams. From there I zipped through Montana to North Dakota where I visited Theodore Roosevelt national Park with its bison and badlands. It was there I faced down numerous buffalo and save the life of a rattlesnake.

Fall colors Minnesota
This was taken at Cut Foot Sioux Lake, MN, late September 2014.
Tetons in the morning
This is a view of the Grand Tetons in the morning from route 287 outside the park

Getting cool as autumn approached I went in search of fall colors to photograph in Minnesota. It was not a good fall for color. I found but three trees worth shooting. South from Minnesota to Iowa–don’t miss their spectacular state capitol building in Des Moines. Fleeing autumn’s chill I continued southward through Missouri where I was charmed by Kansas City. Then onto Arkansas where I happened upon the terrific Mountain View Bluegrass festival by chance and snagged the last ticket.

Selfie along Medicine Bow Peak hike
Yours truly along the Medicine Bow Peak trail outside of Centennial, WY

Winter now nipping at my heels I drove part of the wonderful Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi stopping to learn about the history of Natchez. It was here I met Harrison Brown who was riding his bicycle from Alaska to Florida–he made it! Next Louisianna and the French Quarter of New Orleans. The cold snaps kept coming one after the other and I was driven down to Big Bend National Park in Texas after which I zipped through New Mexico stopping to see White Sands National Monument.

Thermal Streasm
Detail view of a thermal stream in Yellowstone

New Mexico was followed by another pass through Arizona, this time more southerly than the Grand Canyon. This time it was Saguaro National Park at Tucson, and after that the “Spectacle” at Quartzsite after which I rested for seven weeks in the Sonoran Desert outside Yuma at the Imperial Dam LTVA. Here the cold weather faded into a distant memory and the days turned hot toward the end of my stay forcing me to seek out cooler climes, which I did as I began my journey across the country to visit the southeast.

White Sands National Monument
I was in photographer’s heaven at White Sands National Monument. My friend Tim and I accidentally walked into an area that was off limits. Before the park rangers came and booted us out we managed to get off a few shots. This area had plants and zero footprints except those from birds and animals. Almost everywhere else we went was littered with human footprints, people, had little if any plant life, and was thus uninteresting.

I drove the Arizona and New Mexico again, once more through Texas this time the northern panhandle. Adding a new state to my 50 states list I visited Oklahoma next where for several weeks I began fleeing east, this time not from cold, not from heat, but from severe weather warnings of thunderstorms golfball and larger size hail and if that weren’t bad enough, tornados. After Oklahoma I passed through Arkansas again but this time from west to east unlike the north to south when winter was chasing me. Mississippi again where I drove the norther 2/3 of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a bit too early to catch much of spring.

Interior View: Iowa State Capitol Building
Interior View: Iowa State Capitol Building

In Nashville things were starting to feel more spring like and here I added another new state to my list of those visited. Turning south it was Alabama next. Technically I’d already passed through it, the northwestern most corner and even spent a night there while driving the Natchez Trace, but now I spent maybe a week there and it was gorgeous, spring in full swing. After Alabama I added Florida to my visited states list followed by Georgia and South Carolina.

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

Today, day 365, I’m holed up in North Carolina near Asheville, the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs along the crest of the mountains north some 460 plus miles. I’ll pass through North Carolina and the Virginias and continue north toward Maine, along the way adding those states plus Delaware, Maryland and Rhode island to my list of states.

Sunset at Imperial Dam LTVA
Sunset at Imperial Dam LTVA

Only a small number of states will be needed to complete all 50 after Maine including Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin although I did spend one night there when I was visiting Minnesota. Kentucky, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas and that’s it, all 50 states under my belt. Then? Then I hope to do it again with company spending more time in each state as warranted. It could take years.

Cypress and reflections, Okefenokee Swamp, GA
Cypress and reflections, Okefenokee Swamp, GA

For now, year one ends as unceremoniously as it began: no fanfare, no great sendoff party, no music, dancing or champagne, but its rich with a legacy of places visited and people encountered, of beautiful mountain scenery and spectacular desert sunsets, of many photos to help my memories survive. All I can say is see you next year… umm, err,  tomorrow.

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a.k.a. Travels With Charlene

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