S: Karim & Ellie: 27 States! 2012
BC: DEPARTED | TEXAS | 9 JUNE 2012 | Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, RhodeIsland, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.. | 9 JUNE, 2012 ----- 5 JULY, 2012 | Over 5,000 MILES
FC: Karim & Ellie's
1: CHICAGO | On June 9, 2012, we traveled from Texas and stopped in Missouri to visit family in Springfield on Karim's way to Chicago for a 2-week business trip. On June 19, we were reunited in Union Station. It is there that our very romantic journey began...
2: On June 21, Karim finished his training in Chicago and we officially launched our vacation adventure with a romantic meal and a bottle of chilled Riesling at Navy Pier there on Lake Michigan. We watched the boats from our picnic blanket and fed our leftover bread to the seagulls.
3: A nighttime boat tour of the Chicago skyline offered us a truly surreal experience: snuggled together atop the boat's top deck: dazzling sights, sounds and smells overwhelmed our senses as our tour guide offered historical insights into the city's most stunning architectural features.
4: June 22 held more adventures for us as we spent the day exploring like curious kids the discovery-rich Field Museum in downtown Chicago.
5: We ended the day with a walk along Chicago's Michigan Avenue (aka: "The Magnificent Mile"),
6: After traveling through Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana, we camped one night at "The Bluegrass Campground" in Swanton, Ohio. (Unfortunately, it had neither bluegrass or blue grass, but it did have very friendly folks.) On June 24, we viewed the "great" Lake Erie, drove through Pennsylvania, and finally arrived at Niagara Falls, NY. We enjoyed an adventurous tour on the historical "Maid of the Mist" boat to the base of the Falls; it was nothing less than INCREDIBLE. Then we strolled through the park to take in other views of the Falls. We finished the day with fireworks, dinner at "The Hard Rock Cafe," and a memorable night at a 4-star hotel.
7: NIAGARA FALLS: "Maid of the Mist" Tour: EXHILARATING!!!!! | As we inched closer and ever closer to the falls, we literally thought we were going to die. It was AWESOME.
8: June 25 found us traveling through the green hills of upstate New York. We stayed overnight in Albany, where we stopped at a very eerie, Victorian home that had been converted to an antique shop. It was filled from floor to ceiling with treasures and surprises. On June 26, we woke up early to travel to Vermont where we spent much of the day driving on a winding road through a "cloud mountain." We found another unique antique shop where even the stairs were decorated! Stopping at a small store, we bought the most delicious coffee cake topped with almost two inches of streusel made from Vermont maple sugar, cinnamon, and butter. We continued on until we arrived at Stowe, Vermont. Once there, we gorged ourselves on a deluxe pizza at "Pie in the Sky" Pizza Restaurant, then camped in the rain at Smuggler's Notch State Park in Stowe, Vermont. On the 27th, we ventured to the lodge home of the "Von Trapp Family Singers" from "The Sound of Music." The area truly resembled the hills of Switzerland. After a brief tour, we drove to New Hampshire where we got a bit lost (but managed to find some really scrumptious "Muddy Boots" ice cream, Karim's "dream lake," and watch rain-filled fog pour over a mountain ridge). Finally, we found the Kankamaggus Highway (Highway 302; surely the most scenic and remarkable piece of highway we've ever driven) and discovered "Lost River Campground" where we rented a cabin, hiked, and found birch bark to be the perfect tinder for creating a roaring campfire. Eating s'mores and sipping wine by the firelight was a memory we'll always . We ended the day camped in the rain at Smuggler's Notch State Park.
13: On June 28, we woke up in the White Mountains on Kankamaggus Highway and sipped our coffee by the campfire. Two friendly chipmunks joined us; one was so friendly that he actually climbed on top of Karim's head and my lap! We left the campground and backtracked to visit the "Lost River Gorge and Caverns" where we hiked for hours through gigantic, glacial granite boulders. The primeval forest was breathtaking with its many waterfalls and grottos. We squeezed under gigantic, wet slabs of granite and through tiny crevices in the various caverns throughout the park. Once our hunger for exploring was replaced with hunger for food, we enjoyed a picnic lunch perched atop a large rock in the middle of the "Lost River." Then, it was time to move on to Maine and the coast, where the Atlantic Ocean awaited us.
15: When we arrived in York, Maine, Karim was able to bargain his way at Libby's Oceanside Camp into finding us a camping site right on the ocean.! We purchased fire wood and tinder from the gracious camp hosts, set up our tent and camp chairs, built a roaring fire, and sipped margaritas while we marveled at the blessing of the prime camping spot we were given. Our night and morning on the Atlantic Ocean were MAGICAL. We laughed at our good fortune of getting to camp on the ocean, and watched dusk settle over the surf with a joyous and grateful hearts. We savored hours under a moonlit sky while watching the ocean tide ebb. The next morning, we awoke early to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. We sipped our coffee snuggled together by our roaring fire. Dolphins played in the distance, and we watched as mother ducks taught their ducklings how to swim atop the choppy Atlantic waves.
17: The next several days took us through several states including Connecticut, a 2-hour traffic jam in "The Bronx in New York, New Jersey and then onto Maryland and Washington, D.C. While in our nation's capitol city, we visited the Washington Monument, the LIncoln Memorial and the Korean War Veterans' Memorial. We snacked on grapes atop the bridge of the Potomac then stayed in a lovely hotel to rest up for our next big day in Washington, where we would see the most impressive museums in the U.S.A.!
19: The next day (Sunday, July 1), we left our hotel and traveled back into the Washington, D.C. via the beautiful "George Washington Memorial Highway." On our way, we passed many large trees that were uprooted during the big storm that had come through the New England states just a few days before. We spent that day touring the most amazing places, beginning with the beautiful and artistic garden at the rear of the Smithsonian Castle. We walked on to the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden and then to the National Gallery of Art where we took an audio tour and viewed masterpieces by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Raphael, and De Goya. We then toured the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (which was very similar to the Field Museum in Chicago).Highlights in the museum were the Hope Diamond and the many taxidermy displays which included seals and even tiny bats.
20: The Smithsonian Castle
21: "Self-Portrait" Vincent Van-Gogh National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
22: "Alba Madonna" Raphael
23: "The Fall of Man" Hendrik Goltzius
25: Taxidermic Wonders galore awaited us at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
27: After leaving national treasures behind us in Washington, D.C., we were off to find national treasures of another kind: w arrived in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia at dusk. Wildfires in the area caused concern about camping conditions due to the heavy smoke that was blanketing the valleys. As we were setting up the tent, a park ranger came by to tell us that three bears had been spotted in the area. We sipped wine by the campfire... but had a restless night's sleep.
29: When we awoke on July 2 (Monday), we discovered that the storms that had hit a few days before knocked out the power, preventing us from having hot showers that morning. Upon leaving the park, however, near the "Hazel Mountain Overlook" area, we were thrilled to see a large black bear trotting across the road about 20 feet ahead of us.
30: After seeing the bear... We traveled down Highway 81 South through North Carolina, West Virginia and into Tennessee. We arrived at Great Smoky Mountain National Park at dusk and traveled down a questionable, one-lane, very narrow dirt road that caused us to wonder what we'd gotten ourselves into. Thankfully, though, the road led to a primitive tent-campground. We slept in our tent despite knowledge that bears were in the area. Looking for a hot shower the next morning, we found ourselves on a long, and precariously narrow, winding, unpaved trail that hugged a steep mountain and offered no guard rails! It did, however, offer sweeping views of the forest below, and, after the great relief of getting off of that crazy trail and finding a shower, we excitedly headed into Gatlinburg!
31: Little Miss Muffet had nothing on Ellie during the morning we woke up in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Ellie narrowly escaped a likely spier bite when Karim came up from behind and knocked it off of her backside. (Scientific Name: "Big Ass Spider" or "Big Ass" Spider)
35: In Gatlinburg, we perused antique shops and toured the "Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery" while enjoying bluegrass music from a local band. We stayed at "The Chatanooga Choo-Choo" in Tenessee that night, enjoying the pool and hot tub. On July 4, we spent our last night in Shreveport, Louisiana, where we watched the fireworks from Harrah's Riverboat Casino. (We were missing our girls, so it was time to head home.) It truly had been "The Trip of a Lifetime"!