When I choose a theme I can’t help but wrestle it to the ground. The Nixon and Reagan Presidential Libraries are both in Southern California so to keep progressing down my list of the 12 managed by the National Archives I visited them both. Nixon’s was very good but interestingly the Watergate section is still not finished; Reagan’s was in an amazing location but key sections were closed due to preparation for his 100th birthday celebrations. I’ll have to return to Reagan’s because too much was unavailable and I might as well visit Nixon’s again to see if they ever finish Watergate. Continue readingby
Could I visit the last of NPS sites in Arizona on this trip? Perhaps not but I was going to try. If only I could keep from becoming distracted by serendipitously discovered sites worth visiting, beautiful locations worth taking pictures of, or parks worth hiking. For me, this tension always exists. Continue readingby
Want to have one of the world’s great caves to yourself? Visit at 8:30 AM on a Sunday and it’s yours. While I was not the first to arrive at Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, I was the first to descend by foot.
The Natural Entrance Trail is 1.5 miles long and takes you 750 feet below ground. It’s a walk I’ve done before and was glad to do it again. To experience the transition from a sunny day through the twilight zone into total darkness is memorable. Doing it alone makes it almost spiritual.
This visit I was not going to explore the bottom as I usually do. I already have hundreds of pictures from this area and, while I LOVE the freedom to roam provided at this park, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to see a cavern I hadn’t seen before. I wanted a tour of a restricted area. Continue readingby
I’ve had this silly idea about driving the perimeter of the continental United States. It’s not been something I focused on seriously until one day I realized I’d driven about 90% of it. “Wow!” I thought “So why not make it a goal to finish?” A quick inventory identified a gaping hole: the Texas Gulf Coast.
So into the fabric of this trip I wove a drive from Port Arthur to Brownsville. This included places like famous Galveston island with it’s amazing beaches and horrendous weather history. Corpus Christi and the fabulous coastline of Mustang Island. Also included was the Padre Island National Seashore which was on a separate list too, that of visiting all National Parks. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone! Continue readingby
In a movie at the NPS visitors center Jimmy Carter says that when he was young, a trip to Plains was a trip to the “big city”. My goodness! Arriving in Plains felt like arriving at a crossroads, there was very little substance. The boyhood home was another three miles down the road in the middle of absolutely nowhere. In a sense it really is amazing that someone from the hinterlands became president of the world’s most powerful nation.
In truth, I really enjoyed my visit to Plains because it was so untouched and genuine. I walked around in his boyhood home, strolled the hallways of his high school, stopped by the house where Jimmy courted Roselyn, drove by his current residence, and saw all that lay in between. There was the train depot which they used as campaign headquarters for the presidential campaign. There were the grounds of his father’s farm and the outhouse they were happy to finally leave behind when they got an indoor toilet. It was all so real.
However, it really was in the middle of nowhere! Continue readingby
After four hours of meetings I still had energy and enthusiasm to get out and see some of Atlanta. This city is rich with interesting things to do: tour CNN, visit Coca Cola HQ, see the Olympic Park, and much much more. I chose to continue two quests started long ago: to visit as many presidential museums and civil rights memorials as I can manage.
Down a long narrow parkway called Freedom Park are important sites of two native Georgians: President Jimmy Carter and Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Continue readingby
Asheville? I’d never heard of it. Sad how ignorant I can be.
After abandoning my second attempt to drive the complete Blue Ridge Parkway due to road closures I headed for Asheville, NC. It’s located in the western portion of the State. This was not my chosen destination because I had done research and knew what was there. Instead it was simply where I had planned to stay after completing the parkway drive.
I found Asheville to be substantial. The music and art scenes are really vibrant as evidenced by what can only be described as an excessively lopsided ratio of galleries to residents. The Biltmore Estate is located here and it is America’s largest private residence which, at $59 to access, is a house I will probably never tour. Chimney Rock would have been a great hike had I the time. Asheville is hilly, has a river winding through it, has tunnels all around, has an historic downtown … it’s got a lot going for it. Perhaps I’ll return one day.
On my way to Atlanta I made one stop: The BMW Museum. Their U.S. facility where BMW makes all of their X3, X5, and X6 cars is located in Spartanburg, SC. Also at this plant is a Performance Driving School. Not being a particularly rabid fan of BMWs I expected to spend only a few minutes walking around. Then I saw several of the tiny BMW Isetta cars, the same cars I fell in love with when I lived in Chile. So, ladies and gentleman, below I inflict you with pictures from the museum. Check ‘em out.by
Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway is fun. It’s not a stunning experience or life changing in any way. It’s simply joyful. The path is not ruthlessly twist-turny but instead follows the contours of the hills. You can drive a satisfying 35 to 45 mph, about right for this roads. The periodic overlooks provide pleasant vistas and the roadside historic sites are interesting. For around these parts, this drive is a pretty nice distraction.
The impression you get is that you’re driving a road through the wilderness. However, in the winter this illusion can be shattered. Whether you’re driving the Natches Trace Parkway, Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive, or the Blue Ridge Parkway the trees having lost their leaves makes it possible to see out of the park. You realize how narrow, how tunnel-like these parkways are. You can occasionally look off to either side and see back yards. The rest of the year you can delude yourself in to believing you’re riding through a never-ending wooded landscape along nature’s contours. Winter strips away the veil.
In any season I enjoy riding these roads. If it wasn’t for my tendency to go in the winter when storms leave ice and snow which result in road closures and detours, well, I’d enjoy them even more. Some day I would like to the end of the Blue Ridge. Again this time the bottom third is closed. At mile marker 290 I exited and went by Interstate to Asheville. Sadly this means I fell 175 miles short of my goal of finishing.
Some day I need to drive this road during another season.by
Pulling me south and west are a grab bag of forces. There are parts of the Gulf Coast I haven’t seen as well as many a scenic drive I haven’t driven. My cousin is getting married, my uncle has business planning meetings that involve me and then there’s MacWorld, my annual excuse to frolic around San Francisco.
While much of this trip will be about getting to know more of this great country, I will be overlaying an additional layer of activity. I have a long-standing interest in business incubators, the support organizations that foster the success start-ups. I’ve visited several and decided I’d visit more as I cut a path across the country and back. I won’t be cluttering this blog with those visits but will instead be writing a parallel blog and simply linking to it.
My trip will likely be around six weeks and much of it will cover new ground. That’s what fascinates me. With a little effort it’s so easy to find thoroughly exciting new things to see and do, places to hike and bike, people to meet. As I sit on the cusp of what will in the end be another exhausting trip, I know it will be SO worth it. My travels have always been great adventures.
Oh, and did I mention that where I’m going there’s no snow?