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Trip Report 6 Weeks in the U.S./ London with Two 60ish Young At Heart

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After 7 flights, 12 hotels and one airbnb apartment, we finally landed at home. I knew I had to write a post on Fodor’s after all the help I got from Fodorites in planning this trip. I thought I’d give some highlights. I just didn’t think it would take me two and a half months to get around to doing it.

Be Prepared….
I began planning this trip 9 months before we set foot in an airport. First of all, that’s me! I love to research travel sites on the Internet, read what other people say and have all the information at my fingertips. But there was another reason why I had to do my “homework”. My husband had a severe stroke two years ago which he recovered from. But he still has physical limitations and I had to make sure that we would go places where he could manage. Just to skip ahead briefly, he managed wonderfully, walked and hiked and split the driving with me. But we weren’t sure what his capabilities would be until we started travelling.
We had to break up the 12 hour flight to New York because his doctors recommended not flying more than 6 – 7 hours and having at least 12 hour breaks between flights. So we stayed over in London, then flew to New York. A couple of days in New York and then we flew to Las Vegas. We drove to Zion Park and Bryce Canyon and ended with 3 and a half days in Las Vegas. From there, we flew to SF and spent 3 weeks in California, alternating between the Bay Area (where our daughters live) and trips to Monterey and Yosemite. Back to New York for an overnight stay and then to London, where we stayed for 4 days before heading home. Yes, it was a lot of unpacking and packing…… but it was worth it.

A Modern Truth: Internet All the Way
There’s no way you can travel abroad without a computer or tablet, even if you’re Internetphobic (well, if you’re reading this, you aren’t!). For example, our flight was changed while we were in London and we needed ASAP to arrange a car service in two days because we had to leave for the airport before the Tube started running. I posted on the Great Britain forum late at night and the next morning 9 people answered and solved my problem. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Expect the Unexpected
Case Number 1: Lightening Doesn’t Strike Twice??????
We landed at Heathrow at 8:30 p.m. the first evening. I had reserved a hotel within the airport area since we had a morning flight. Luckily, we didn’t have to pick our suitcases because the flight to NY was a connection. With our two backpacks, we arrived at the hotel quite tired and a little hungry. I sent my husband to order some coffee and sandwiches at the coffee shop before it closed and I went to check in, pleased that everything was going smoothly…. until I opened my wallet to take out my credit card and it wasn’t there! There was a moment of panic because I couldn’t understand what happened. After all, I hadn’t used the card at all that day. Suddenly I realized that my credit card was sitting safely at home! Before we left in the morning, I had carefully put away all important documents, extra keys and extra credit cards in a safe place at home, including the card I wanted to take. As my step daughter wrote later: “take it easy and laugh at the oh-so-funny absurd: this happening to the MOST organized person on earth!!!”
Yeah, I’m chuckling now, but I wasn’t then when I realized that we were at the start of a 6 week trip with one lonely credit card. We immediately called the credit card company to arrange for a new card to be sent to one of our daughters in California. My husband felt confident that we’d manage just fine with one card during the two weeks.
But fate had another plan for us. A week later, we arrived at Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon in Utah – the most remote place we got to - and when we went to check in, the reception clerk told us that the card was blocked. That moment was definitely the low point of the whole trip! I think my mouth fell open from shock and my husband actually looked worried. Again, an urgent call to the credit card company. It turned out that hackers had begun shopping with his card three hours earlier and the company blocked the card. There we were, in the middle of nowhere without any way of paying anything!
Well, the credit card company came up with some creative solutions and until we got to SF, we had to pay for everything with cash. And we learned a lesson after years of travelling abroad. Take an extra credit card. It doesn’t take up any room.

Case Number 2: The Impossible Can Happen
Bryce might have been the low point but it was also the high point – it snowed. Yep, in the middle of May, there was a “rarely but does happen” snowstorm. (Well, the elevation there is over 2,500 meters (8000 feet)). We woke up to see the whole area covered with snow and it continued to snow. For me, it was a wonderful déjà vu of my childhood in the United States. For my husband, it was a shock (His snow experience amounted to movies and television.) He was worried how we’d drive to Las Vegas that morning. Because the roads weren’t iced over – they were just slushy so I knew that I could handle the road. The problem was finding the car under 20 cm. (8 inches) of snow. We ended up buying a snow/ice scraper in the general store which we later left in our hotel room in Las Vegas (I’m sure the maid had no idea what that plastic pole with a squeegee was!) After an hour of slow and careful driving in a beautiful wonderland of snow, we safely descended to the point where there was no snow. Fantastic experience that wasn’t planned.

Case Number 3: Believe What You see
We’re used to urban trips abroad but this trip was all about nature. Each place we went was wonderful in its own way. I don’t have to go into details of our visits. Whoever has been there, knows and whoever hasn’t, go! We went to Zion and Bryce in Utah, Big Sur, Point Lobos Nature Reserve and Yosemite in California.
Yosemite is by far the most magnificent place. We were there the last week of May when the waterfalls and lakes are full from the melting snow and ice in the mountains.
We wanted to walk to Mirror Lake which is one of the accessible trails for my husband according to the map. I saw that there were two possibilities – one was a paved road and the other a trail through the forest. If you’re at Yosemite, of course you want to walk through the forest. I thought that we could walk through the forest along the river and then cross the river to get to the road and the lake. It wasn’t exactly marked that way on the map but it made sense that there would be some kind of bridge along the way. My advice – never “think”. We started the path which began easily and then became more difficult and steep with lots of rocks. We also discovered that it was a horse trail and the horses had left plenty of “presents” for us to dodge. We reached a point where we could see Mirror Lake(about 1.5 kilometers/1 mile walk) but we discovered that there was no way to cross the water to the other side. We slogged on with the path getting harder and harder for my husband. I suddenly realized that we might end up walking the entire loop trail which was 8 kilometers (5 miles) or more. That wasn’t an option so we desperately looked for a way to cross over. We finally reached a shallower part of the river in an open flat area. The river here was about 25 meters wide (about 30 yards). We were joined by other hikers in our situation. The only solution was to wade across. We took off our shoes, rolled up our pants (the water came to our knees) and took a step. It was like walking in a freezer! The river was melted snow and ice from the mountains and when I finished crossing (once to get the backpacks across and then again to help my husband), I felt like my feet were frostbitten! In a month or two, there wouldn’t have been any problems crossing over at any point because most of the river would have dried up. Okay – I learned my lesson. If it’s not on the map, it ain’t there.

Case Number 4: Sorry U.S., London is better
¬The London Underground wins hands down on public transportation. New York subway gets last place – no elevators or escalators anywhere. And if there are, you can’t find them or they’re out of order (Penn Station) when you need them. Once we used a pedestrian tunnel to get from one subway line to another. We walked 10-15 minutes in the tunnel and at the end there were something like 50 steps to reach the next station level. There was no way for us poor tourists to know that. Big thumbs down.

Kudos to Zion National Park
Maybe it didn’t have the majesty of Yosemite, the fauna of Point Lobos or the uniqueness of Bryce, but Zion was the best organized park we visited. First of all, we stayed in the town of Springdale where there were many restaurants to choose from and other amenities. A shuttle to the park was right outside our hotel. The shuttle in the park is fantastic. It runs every 15 minutes, gets to every point in the park and was super convenient. It was also accessible to wheelchairs and people with limited mobility which was very important for us. Scattered through the park buildings are faucets to fill your water bottles. We didn’t see this at any other park. Because Zion is an arid area, the visitors were encouraged to drink enough. The rangers at the visitor’s center also gave us the best information than the other parks as far as trails that would be appropriate for my husband. The map and the signs at the head of the trails were also the most informative.

Final Thoughts on the Trip
Too short. We ate too much. Clean hotels. Thank goodness for Internet and Wifi. Can’t wait for our next trip.

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