Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lincoln's Town

Three hours drive from Chicago, and we were in Lincoln's adopted home town and his final resting place : Springfield, Illinois.

First stop was Lincoln's Tomb where the remains of Lincoln, his wife and two sons are buried. Unbelievable that Abraham Lincoln's remains have been moved at least 17 times thanks to the fear of Grave robbers holding his remains for ransom. Now Lincoln rests under an immense concrete structure securely. Was listening to the audio version of James L Swanson's book Manhunt : The twelve day hunt for Lincoln's killer while on the road. Then Secretary of War Edwin M Stanton made elaborate arrangements to ensure that John Wilkies Booth's body is buried in a secret location and ensure that his remains does not get in the hands of Anti-Lincoln / Anti-Union activists and end up becoming a 'holy relic'.

Right outside the Cemetary is a smallish but intriguing Museum of Funeral Customs; it had enough interesting details about the progresses in the funereal business to occupy half an hour of our time. The museum's by-line is Death is only the Beginning! Never really had given thought to what goes into the business of death, and how it would have evolved over the years. One section of the museum highlights a few of the people in this business who have lead to significant improvements. While they may not be house-hold names, I am sure they did earn respect from their colleagues during and after their lifetimes.

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is an impressive monument to arguably the most inspirational American President ever. The museum is organized in such a way as to get the visitors intimate with the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Key incidents in Lincoln's life are related along with details on the impact of Slavery and Civil war. Next time, I am in Washington, DC., I definitely want to visit Fords Theater and Peterson House where Lincoln was shot and died respectively. Got quite a few books and memorabilia in the Gift shop after touring the Museum.

Too bad everything shuts down in Springfield by 5:00 PM; we would have welcomed the opportunity to spend more time at the Museum, and even the Lincoln home.

Drove down I-55 and arrived in St. Louis by late evening; got to see The Arch in bright sun-light.

Long, liesurely week-end in Chicago-land

We were in and around Chicago from Thursday evening till Tuesday
morning, during which JH flew to California to attend a wedding.

Did quite a few things during this time. Ran in the Corn Boil 5K run -
9:45 minutes for the first mile, 22:00 minutes for the second mile and
34:30 minutes for the full 5K. Went on a Bike tour in Chicago
downtown; was quite enjoyable. Got to know a funny story about water
management cycle between Chicago and St. Louis - will not spoil it by
writing it here. Get onto the Bike tour to know it for yourself. Got
to see the fireworks at the Lake front. Chicago has fireworks twice a
week during summer. Visited the Art Institute of Chicago and spent a
very enjoyable half a day there. Had dinner with AR and GA and then
with AS separately. Slept at UR's and AS's place two nights, and spent
one night in a hostel in Downtown Chicago. The hostel stay turned out
to be pleasant as well as inexpensive. Stopped by at the BAPS
Swaminarayan temple to admire the intricate artwork in the fully
marble temple. UR's two year old son was a joy to play with.

While at UR's place, he accompanied me on a jog of around 2.5 miles -
he biking while I managed to run the entire stretch without stopping.
I can run 2.5 miles non-stop!! I should get more ambitious now :)

AS pulled out the Reminiscence book from our college days; we were
nostalgic going over some interesting incidents from that time and
exchanging notes on many of our batchmates.

Traveled in the CTA and Metra trains in and around Chicago - the
public transit system in Chicago is good, and definitely cleaner than
in New York. Chicago, while being a lesser version of New York, seems
to be much friendlier and cleaner than New York.

I will have to come back to the Windy City in the future with more
time to spare.

Monday, July 30, 2007

iPhone problems : going, going, ...

The iPhone which I had bought a couple of days before the start of this road trip has proven extremely useful during the first part of the trip. I am using it to access emails (yahoo and gmail only; haven't figured out how to configure hotmail yet), maps for directions, browse the Internet, play youtube videos, calendar & date book, taking quick notes, phone with an address book (which is likely to become the central repository of all my contact details) and even the calculator.

The only major functionality of the iPhone I haven't used so far is the iPod part of it!

After serving its function admirably over the first 10 days of its life with me, the iPhone started crashing very frequently by the time we were in Wisconsin. Nothing was working other than the phone, and it was making me feel handicapped.

Decided to go to Apple store to complain about my iPhone problems, and after struggling with Chicago traffic and commuter train delays, finally was able to sit face to face with an iPhone expert at the Michigan Avenue Apple store. They guy did a full power shutdown and restarted it, and all the problems vanished into thin air.

In the 2 weeks I had the iPhone, I had not bothered to read the instruction book-let to know enough as to how to shutdown the damn thing :)

Next part of the trip is going to be iPhone-enabled as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In Chi-town

Arrived in Chicago today in the late evening, a little ahead of schedule largely because of the lack of interest in visiting any places in and around Minneapolis. Stopped on the way at a cheese shop - with a perky mouse statue beckoning travelers into the store - in Wisconsin, the 'Bread-basket of America'.

Got to meet AR, GA & AS after a long time. Drove down to Aurora to have dinner with AS & GA, and then drove back up to Cary to stay at AS's place for the night.

I will be in Chicago for four days; will plan out the schedule of activities tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Long drive to home made food!

Chamberlain, SD where we had stopped for the night yesterday, turned out to be on the mighty Missouri river. There are three picturesque bridges (two for road, one for rail) over the river at this location. The river is impressive even at its early stage here.

The location also claims fame for being the camping grounds for the Lewis & Clark expedition team on both directions of their exploratory journey to the Pacific coast in early 1800s. Going over the route Lewis & Clark & their men took during the expedition while I was at the at the Lewis and Clark information center, I realized they had moved upstream along the Missouri river from St. Louis to North Dakota making their way to the Pacific.

Other than the brief stop at the Lewis & Clark information center in Chamberlain, we didn't stop anywhere for longtime on our journey to JR's place in Rochester, MN. Reached Rochester late afternoon and had a relaxed evening at JR's place, sipping beer, watching the Hindi movie 'Main Hoon Na', playing with the cute dog 'Gizmo', spending time with JR's family and enjoying some good home made Bangalorean food.

Home made food after almost two weeks!!! Yummy!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Flying high...

Today was indeed a day of flying high - rubbing shoulders with US Presidents & American Indian Heroes and actually taking to the air in a helicopter.

Started the day in Deadwood, SD; I decided to take it easy and stay at the hotel. JH went on a sight-seeing trip in the town and had a great time with the Wild West ambience and its history.

First stop on our trip was Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The "Shrine of democracy" is an impressive monument. The carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln will hopefully continue inspire people five hundred years from now as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt mentioned in his speech at the dedication of the Memorial in 1936.

15 miles down the road is Crazy Horse Memorial - the Native Americans' answer to Mount Rushmore, originally conceived out of the Red Indian Chiefs' desire to "show the White man that Red man too has Heroes". Crazy Horse was played an important role in the victorious battle against the US Army led by Gen. George Custer. The monument is still under construction, and is very ambitious. When complete - with Crazy Horse depicted sitting on a horse - it is intended to dwarf the monument at Mount Rushmore. Right now, only the face of the warrior is complete. While we were there, there were two dynamite blasts as part of the construction, to clear the rock around the horse's eye area. Even the Mount Rushmore monument was built with the same technology using dynamite for blasting rock.

On the way to Crazy Horse, we noticed a sign for Black Hills Aerial Adventures touting introductory Helicopter rides for only $35. On the way back we stopped and took the aerial trip; the 5-6 minutes ride going close to the Crazy Horse monument, flying behind the monument and returning. The views of the highways along the lush green mountains with very few signs of civilization around was quite impressive!

A few miles out of Rapid City, SD is the touristic high-light of the desolate and barren landscape of along the South Dakota Highways. The place - Wall Drug - was started by a young couple in the early 1930s and the wife hit upon a brilliant idea to attract the numerous travelers in automobiles racing along the nearby highways without stopping at their store: To put signs along the highway that the travelers can get free ice water at Wall Drug! As the story goes, while the husband was putting up the first signs about the free ice water, travelers were already lining up at the store. From then onwards, it has grown to be more than a drug store and has become a full fledged touristic attraction with lot of stuff to do for people of every age. They even have a T Rex which roars every 12 minutes, and a couple of music bands who play very frequently.

Racing towards the Minneapolis and Chicago now, and stopped for the night at Chamberlain, SD - around 400 miles from Minneapolis. Long day's drive ahead tomorrow.

Museum of Natural History, Dinosaurs, Casino-town....

Started the day early to spend more time at the BBHC.

Enjoyed the well-thought out and entertaining/informative displays & learn-by-doing activities in the Draper museum of natural history all morning. The Museum is intuitively organized, starting on either end of the altitude and going down/up - from the plains to the alpine heights - and elaborating on specificities at each level. At many locations in the museum, there are field notes of a fictional naturalist - aptly named B. A. Ware - providing insights on the particular display item.
There are more "please touch" and "do-this" kind of activities included here, and in that way this museum seems to be very different from the Natural History Museums in NY and DC.

Raced through the Buffalo Bill Museum and the Gift shops in half an hour before heading out for lunch, and on the way to Thermopolis, WY - famous for its hot springs.

The website for Buffalo Bill Historic Center (http://www.bbhc.org) will move up on the list of my favourite web-sites, and some of the prints from the Whitney Gallery of Western Art will soon embellish my apartment walls :)

The hot spings at Thermopolis is a good place to swim, as many people told us on the way, but since the outside temperature was 106 degree Fahrenheit, we decided against getting into the hotwaters - we are already very hot, Thank You!

The trip to Thermopolis was saved from being a total waste of time, when we encountered Dinosaurs there. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites - located in Thermopolis - has impressive displays of Dinosaur remains.

After Thermopolis, it was a long drive towards Mount Rushmore; we made it to Deadwood, SD by 9:00 PM. Guess what : Deadwood, SD is full of casinos, around 80 of them in the small town.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wild Wild West

The Buffalo Bill Historic Center in Cody, WY has a tag-line We are the West, and it is very appropriate. BBHC is comprised of six museums each dedicated to preserving and presenting different aspects related to the Wild West.

Two of these museums have an audio tour arranged with PDAs. Took this very informative and entertaining audio tour and spent time in the two museums: Cody Firearms Museum and Whitney Gallery of Western Art.

Initially we had penned in two hours for the entire museum and were planning to drive over to Thermopolis,WY by nightfall. After an hour spent being very absorbed in the Firearms Museum, those plans went out of the window and we decided to stay over in Cody to spend more time at the Museum.

The Firearms Museum depicts the history of Firearms from the early 1600s to the modern day, and elaborates their role in the history of the West and that of US as well, debunking many Hollywood-inspired western myths like "Everyone in those times carried guns" and "Lawlessness, Bounty-hunting, duels, etc were the order of the day".

One thing I found very interesting was that the club of big game hunters - the Boone and Crockett club - was first hand witness to the destruction of natural wilderness resources and they played a key role in conserving these resources. One of the members of this club who was an avid hunter went on to become the President of the US and is currently hailed as the biggest contributor to the preserving of the natural resources of the country. President Theodore Roosevelt's name keeps coming up everywhere we go these days!

Now I also know how the expression "lock, stock & barrel" gained coinage and the meaning of the terms "lock", "stock" and "barrel".

The Whitney Gallery of Western Art has an extra-ordinary collection of paintings, sketches and sculptures connected to the West. The landscape and history of this region inspires even the most common of men, so it is no wonder that many artists drew inspiration here and created their masterpieces. Among the ones that particularly attracted me were the two huge paintings by the artist Harry Jackson placed opposite to each other. The first one is named "The Stampede" and depicts buffaloes stampeding across a river with a few cowboys in the middle. One of the cowboys has fallen off his horse and is being dragged along by his horse as his leg is struck in the stirrup. The second picture is the depiction of the aftermath of the stampede and is titled "Range burial" showing the burial of the cowboy who lost his life in the stampede.

This picture - titled "Waiting for the Chinook" or alternatively as "The last of the 5000" has an interesting story; it was supposedly used by the painter - Charles M. Russell - to answer a query from a cattle owner about how the cattle were doing. Full story on this page on Charlie Russell's website. Incidentally, a Chinook is a wind which will make the snow vanish and allow cattle to feed on the grass below.

It didn't surprise me that an entire section was dedicated to the battle at Little Bighorn; the section indeed being named "The battle with many names". The native American name for the battle was "The Battle of Greasy Grass"; the Indians referring to Little Bighorn river as Greasy Grass. Many of the paintings focus mainly on Custer portraying him as a valiant hero cornered by the Native American warriors, while a few of them give a balanced view of the war from both sides.

Went to see the daily organized Rodeo show in the evening; now I know what is done in a Rodeo show, and can tick off the "See a Rodeo" item on my to-do list :-) A rodeos is a good place to spend some time drinking beer, eating pop-corn, and watch a few cowboys and cowgirls tangle themselves with cows, calves and horses. The comedian in the show tried to make people laugh by making funny comments at people from different states [West Virginia : You folks finally seem to have got electricity!, etc. ]

More time at the museum tomorrow, and then a short stop at Thermopolis, WY before racing towards Rapid City, SD and Mount Rushmore.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Beartooth Scenic Byway and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Can't believe it is just one week since we started on this road-trip. Did so many things and saw so many places in the past week, it almost feels like we have been on the road for a month at least!

Left Yellowstone NP in the morning, after stopping at a book shop for printing out some documents while JH picked up the copy of the new Harry Potter book. Drive through Yellowstone from the North entrance to North-east entrance.

The couple I met yesterday evening at the Boiling river - who were from the nearby Bozeman - had recommended highly the Beartooth Scenic Byway in Montana, and the guidebooks endorsed the recommendations. So decided to go through this route towards our next destination.

The scenic byway was indeed very scenic providing excellent views consisting of mountains with patches of snow, lakes and huge valleys. The road ascends the Beartooth mountains providing awesome spectacles all along the way. It was definitely worth the additional driving we had to do today!

The next destination was the Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument, after a brief stop in Billings, Montana which turned out to be a really very small town. Little Bighorn is of historical importance; a battlefield where Sioux Indians scored a victory over the US army in 1876. While it was a big shock that the army could lose so badly and that Gen Custer lost his life as well as all his mens' in the battle, the victory itself proved to be the Last Stand for Indians as well as they lost their freedom immediately afterwards.

The monument was originally named as Custer Battlefield and informally famous as Custer's Last Stand. Recently the name has been changed to Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument, and a Indian Memorial has been included as part of the monument to recognize the fact that the Indians were not the villains in this story.

Stopping at a place called Sheridan in Wyoming, with the intention of visiting Cody and Thermopolis tomorrow.

Tagore in Montana

Stopped for lunch at a Cafe in Montana after exiting Yellowstone, and was pleasantly surprised to see their menu-card include a quote from Rabindranath Tagore!

The Log Cabin Cafe in Silver Gate, Montana claims to have great Trout dinners and also has a very good veggie item (Falafel wrap). Their menu card has three quotes at the beginning of the three pages of their menu:
* Breakfast Menu : Trees are Earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven - Rabindranath Tagore
* Lunch Menu : The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness - John Muir
* Dinner Menu : In the woods, we return to reason and faith - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Silver Gate, Montana is a town in an exotic location; on its west is the Yellowstone National Park, and on its east is the Beartooth mountains and the Scenic Byway. The menu claims Silver Gate is the place which does not know about Hay fever!

Near disaster on the road

Early today morning while we had just started on the day's journey and had entered Yellowstone, I lost focus while at the wheel at had a real scare. Took my eyes off the road for too long while meddling with the audio controls on the steering wheel, and the car was off the road and speeding on the dirt at around 35-40 miles an hour. Took me a few seconds to get control of the car and get it back on the road.

It would certainly have been very serious if the same incident had happened on one of the many cliffs in Yellowstone!

Took a few minutes break from driving; JH checked the wheels are all fine; and we were off on the road again with a more cautious mind-set.

I definitely intend to finish this road-trip and go on many more road-trips here, in other parts of US and the world, and also travel extensively by air, on water (and maybe even in space ) and my plans really don't have any room for these kinds of errors.

So from now on, it is EYES ON THE ROAD while driving, and as JH says NO MORE 'DETOURS' AND 'OFF-ROAD-TRIPS'.

Grand Teton National Park : Worth a week long vacation

While driving from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park on
Wednesday, we breezed through the Grand Teton National Park, almost
turning a blind eye to the spectacular scenery of snow covered
mountains and their reflection in the immense Jackson Lake.

The Tetons definitely deserve a weeks time at the minimum on my next
trip here! And one of the must-do item will be to climb one of the
Teton peaks. The Middle Teton peak (Elevation:12804 ft) is supposed to
be accessible to amateur mountaineers, and I do belong to that group!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hiking, and bathing in boiling river in Yellowstone

Had a second long hike of this trip. The tightness in my legs after the strenuous hike in Yosemite on Sunday disappeared totally on Thursday - so planned to do another strenuous hike today.

After vacillating between two of the many trails in Yellowstone, I decided to do the Bunsen peak & Osprey Falls trail; the clinching factors being the chance to hike up a dormant volcano and seeing the less visited Osprey Falls.

The hike was wonderful despite - or because of - not seeing any wild animals on the way. Was wary of bears and to a lesser extent mountain lions during the entire hike; always making some noise (humming a song or talking to myself or just plain gibberish) to ensure I don't surprise any wild animals around the corner.

Bunsen Peak - named after the scientist who did extensive research into the workings of Geysers, but is more famous for inventing the Lab burner - turned out to be a easier climb than in Yosemite. It took me almost two hours to climb up the two miles as I went about it very leisurely - stopping to finish some postcards on the way under the shade of a tree and enjoying the sight of the beautiful valley below.

Met a Virginian Water Purification Operator on the peak. He was hiking in the reverse direction. Had a nice conversation with him on many topics before both of us went on our ways.

The climb down the Bunsen Peak on the eastern side was long and easy. Took the Osprey Falls trail at the bottom of the mountain and started to worry about the return journey after seeing the steep one mile climb down the canyon losing around 800 feet altitude. The Osprey
Falls - which shows itself to the visitor only at the very end of the hike - was wonderful and made the trip very much worth it!

Spent some time rock-hopping (and occasionally struggling through the rapids) and crossing the Gardiner river from end to end.

The hike up the canyon was not as bad as I imagined. Finished it in good time. Got back to Mammoth Junction after covering around 10 miles in 9 hours, and feeling great about myself!

Stopped at the boiling river on the way back and relaxed in a nature-made jacuzzi (combination of waters from a river and a geyser); the 15+ minutes in the river did wonders at banishing my exhaustion.

Too bad we have to leave Yellowstone tomorrow. I will in all probability visit Yellowstone next time in Winter to ski along the long maintained trails in the Park, and watch the wildlife (minus the hibernating Bears and Grizzlies) and the Hydrothermal features against the beautiful snowy background!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


You have to see it yourself to understand and appreciate the beauty and grandeur of this place!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mormon country

Salt Lake City, Utah is an interesting place to spend a day or two. Nestled in between mountains on all sides, it is not hard to understand why Brigham Young proclaimed "This is the place" after the Mormons' long trek to escape persecution.

Took a guided tour of the city in the morning; got to know quite a bit about the city's past and present.

Spent the evening at Antelope Island, a huge island/peninsula in the Salt Lake.

Had dinner at Cedars of Lebanon (Lebanese) and Himalayan Kitchen (Nepalese/Indian) while in Salt Lake City; The food at both restaurants was good.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The travel plan - 99 % finalized

Here is the Travel Plan JH and I discussed and finalized:
  • Saturday July 14th : Leave San Jose; Arrive in Yosemite.
  • Sunday July 15th : Full day in Yosemite. Arrive in Reno.
  • Monday July 16th : Travel to Salt Lake City
  • Tuesday July 17th : Sight-seeing in and around Salt Lake City
  • Wednesday July 18th : Onto Grand Tetons NP and Yellowstone NP
  • Thursday July 19th : Yellowstone NP
  • Friday July 20th :Yellowstone NP
  • Saturday July 21st : Leaving Yellowstone NP; Stopping in Cody, WY for lunch and visiting Cody Museum; Arrive at Hardin, MT (or St Xavier, MT)
  • Sunday July 22nd : Half a day each at Little Bighorn National Monument & Bighorn Canyon;
  • Monday July 23rd :Arrive in Rapid City, SD - Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse monument, Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave NP
  • Tuesday July 24th :Rapid City, SD - Badlands NP
  • Wednesday July 25th :Leave Rapid City, Arrive in Minneapolis
  • Thursday July 26th : Full day in Minneapolis
  • Friday July 27th : Leave Minneapolis; Arrive in Chicago; [JH : leaving for California]
  • Saturday July 28th : [PNM: Sugar Grove 5K run Chicago 7:30 AM] Day in Chicago
  • Sunday July 29th : [PNM: Melanoma 5K run Chicago 8:00 AM] Day in Chicago
  • Monday July 30th : [JH : Returning from California] Leave Chicago
  • Tuesday July 31st :A day in St. Louis
  • Wednesday Aug 1st : Cairo IL, Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas
  • Thursday Aug 2nd : Memphis, Nashville
  • Friday Aug 3rd : Nashville & Natchez Trace Parkway
  • Saturday Aug 4th : Natchez Trace Parkway and onto New Orleans
  • Sunday Aug 5th : French Quarter experience in New Orleans
  • Monday Aug 6th : Katrina affected New Orleans
  • Tuesday Aug 7th : Leave New Orleans; Arrive in the Lone Star State
  • Wednesday Aug 8th : [PNM: 5K run in Austin 7:00 PM] Stay in Austin
  • Thursday Aug 9th : Alamo & San Antonio
  • Friday Aug 10th : JFK Museum & Dallas
  • Saturday Aug 11th : We have a problem, Houston
  • Sunday Aug 12th : End of road trip; Fly out of Houston to Baltimore!

On the Interstate 80

Drove from Reno to Salt Lake City today, spending most of the day on Interstate Route 80.

Started the day by having a lunch get-together with JH's cousin PN at a very interesting place called Pneumatic Diner; the menu card is wacky and gave a kick even before starting with the cup of coffee. Thanks to PN for bringing us to this place; Pnuematic Diner is definitely a must visit place in Reno, Nevada.

There isn't really anything between Reno and Salt Lake City.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Amazing Yosemite

The first destination on our road-trip - Yosemite - is the best place to start the trip! It is unbelievably beautiful.

We reached there on Saturday evening after starting from San Jose and stopping at an interesting place called Casa De Fruta on the way. Spent Saturday evening visiting the various interesting spots in the valley - Visitor's center, Ansel Adams photo gallery, Gift shop, Ahwahnee Lodge, etc. - and planning the next day's program. Had a nice dinner at Ahwahnee Dining room within the Yosemite valley.

On Sunday we started early from the hotel, as I had planned to hike the arduous 7.2 mile Yosemite falls trail. JH busied himself in activities in the valley, while I started on the hike at around 10:00 AM.

Was apprehensive at the beginning as I compared it to the hike of similar length I had done in Grand Canyon a couple of years ago. That hike turned out to be very strenuous and had me hurting for a week at least! This hike turned out to be easier than the Grand Canyon hike, mainly because the tough part of climbing up comes at the beginning of the hike, and also because the elevation seems to be less than in the Grand Canyon. Better personal fitness and knowledge of the benefits of stretching also contributed a lot towards me enjoying the hike in Yosemite.

On the way up, met a group of tourists from France, and tried to improve my French language speaking skills by conversing with them in French. At one point in the hike up, three of the young guys in the group decided to take a deviation from the trail to take a shower below the falls. Since the whole group was waiting for them to come back, I too joined the young guys, and went over to take a wonderful shower standing in the way of the huge waterfall. There wasn't much water in the falls; the torrent kept moving around, and the water was very cold. Nice to take a nature shower surrounded by incredible scenery!

After the short deviation, I had to part ways with the French group as I was too tired to keep up with their pace. I slowly made way to the top taking many short breaks (at one point, stopping as I could hear my heart-beat very loudly!) and conversing with many of my fellow hikers.

The end of hike up is at the top of the Yosemite falls; it is a wonderful place! There are a few small size but deep pools on the top before the river takes a mighty fall. Many people were swimming and sunbathing around the pools. I too joined the group after dipping in the cold pool. I need to learn swimming after I return to NY to enjoy swimming in these kind of places :)

Hiked down at a leisurely pace, and made it to the bottom by 5:30 PM - thoroughly satisfied with the day. After a short break for dinner, continued the road-trip on the beautiful Tioga road, exiting Yosemite NP, stopping at the immense and beautiful Lake Mono before heading to Reno for the night.

Stayed at the El Dorado Casino in Reno.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

5K runs I could participate on the road

Found a few 5K races scheduled conveniently at the right places and the right times for me during the trip.

Active.com and Chicago Area runners Association sites have details of the following races I could participate in:

Friday, July 13, 2007

First stop on the road - AAA

JH & I stopped at AAA office in San Jose and picked up maps and guidebooks to help us on the way. The lady at AAA gave us some tips on places to see on our way, and also helped us in finding accommodation in Yosemite for tomorrow.

Did a little shopping for the road - water bottles, enegry drinks, crunchy corn, .. :-)
Must pick up a few Indian snacks before we hit the road tomorrow - don't think I will see a decent Indian restaurant till we reach Reno or Salt Lake City - 2 or 3 days from tomorrow!

Had a college get-together in the evening at Southern Spice restaurant; 12 of us from Engineering school gathered for the party. Met many of them for the first time after graduating from college. It was a very good experience to meet up with college friends after a long time, and catch up on their - and other batchmates' - stories.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Why do this trip?


Seriously though, I wasn't really sure why I wanted to go on this trip. When I decided on this trip, the only reason I had in mind was "I have wanted to do this for long, and now is as good a time as ever"

Giving it further thought, here are the reasons why I want to go on this trip:
  • To see the places in US I have wanted to see for long, but haven't been able to visit. Since many of the places are close to each other, it makes perfect sense to drive. In a matter of 4 weeks, I will be able to see a lot of places and also spend significant amount of time at some special places. Perhaps it is appropriate (or ironic) that the start point (Bay area) and the end point (Houston) of this trip are the only two places I have seen before!

  • To take a complete break from the worries of my everyday life, and hopefully come back with a totally different perspective.

  • To meet up with different people across America, meet old friends and make new ones.

  • To have fun. On the road.

A brand new route plan

Decided to not drive all the way back, to avoid driving through the same places I usually drive over the weekends. Instead, planning on finishing my road trip in Houston and fly back from there.

The tentative route plan as of now is as follows:
  • Fly to San Jose on Wednesday July 11 from BWI
  • Meet up with friends in the Bay area
  • Start on the road-trip over the July 14-15 week-end.
  • Yosemite NP
  • Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Death Valley NP
  • Salt Lake City
  • Yellowstone NP
  • Helena & Glacier NP in Montana
  • Mount Rushmore, Wind cave NP & Jewel Cave National monument, Badlands NP
  • Drive down Mississippi starting from Minneapolis-St Paul
  • Green Bay
  • Chicago
  • St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville
  • The big easy : New Orleans
  • Dallas
  • Houston. Fly out of Houston on Aug 12th Morning
- Confirmed.
- Definite to-do; but no fixed schedule.
- Tentative; to-do if time permits

The plan is likely to change over time!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Why do this trip?!!

Why? Why? Why?!!!

Some things to do on the road. Possibly!

Here are some of the items on my to-do list:
  1. Visit as many National Parks on the way. Get a national pass to allow us entry into all the National Parks across the country.
  2. Participate in at least two 5K races at different places on the road.(Given that I could run one on the wknd trip to Baltimore last week, it should be easy to come across 5K runs during these summer months)
  3. Visit MM, AS, SS, GD and others in California; PK, VJ and ASK in Texas; UR, SB, JR and others around the great lakes
  4. Stop by Arcosanti in Arizona.
  5. Visit a Native American (American Indian) reservation (Rancerias / Pueblos)
  6. Take a boat-trip along the Mississippi river.
  7. Drive along some of the most scenic drives in the US : Highway 1 in California, Custer Scenic Byway in South Dakota, North Shore drive in Minnesota and many more.
  8. Visit Mount Rushmore.

Things to do before leaving on the road-trip

Some of the things I have to before leaving on the (approximately) 4 week road-trip:
  1. Complete the Landmark Advaced Course this wknd & next tuesday evening.
  2. Book Flight to California. DONE (Leaving from Baltimore Washington Intl Airport on Wednesday July 11th afternoon)
  3. Make car-rental reservations. (To discuss with JH)
  4. Add SD onto my car insurance so that he can use my car while I am on the road.
  5. Renew AAA membership (Would be useful on the road!)
  6. Pack clothes for 2 weeks; Music - Kannada, Hindi and a few English CDs and mp3.
  7. Have a rough plan for the trip : San Francisco - LA (?) - Phoenix - Tuscon - Houston - Dallas - Memphis - St Louis(?) - Minneapolis - Chicago - Detroit (?) - Cleveland (?) - Baltimore (Locations to be added and deleted from this list - Montana? Utah? Colorado?)