Stellarossa: advice sought for USA trip

Old Nov 6th, 2000, 02:03 PM
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Now, Tony, I don't think anybody here hates you; we all just think you're a little crazy, that's all. I suppose if you have traveled all of the US extensively and seen the great things our country offers, then go for this itinerary. I have to give credit to anyone whose reason for visiting Council Bluffs is that it is near a state line!!! I wonder if I could come up with such an exciting itinerary for Scotland.
Old Nov 6th, 2000, 06:30 PM
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Keep in mind that this is the same Tony who doesn't understand why people enjoy Edinburgh, he just sees the litter and dog poo (rather than the castle, the beauty of the old town, etc etc!) I don't know his method behind the madness of the itinerary, but hopefully the interesting places/people will outnumber the boring ones. We had a great time driving through Kentucky on the backroads this summer and that was far from what most would consider "exciting".
Thanks for all the helpful responses.
Old Nov 6th, 2000, 07:18 PM
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I certainly don't hate you (or even dislike you), I just found your choice of places to visit somewhat difficult to understand. Now that I understand why, what sort of info are you looking for? I'd be happy to fill in on the (few) places I'm familiar with if you let me know what sort of experiences you're looking for.
Old Nov 7th, 2000, 05:40 AM
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OK, you've chosen places that have caught your fancy for one reason or another. That's as rational of an excuse as any other I've heard of. With 3 months, you should be able to do this.

Seriously, I'd get a good atlas and foldout maps of the eastern U.S. and the western U.S. If you're starting in the winter, I'd consider starting from a southern locale - the weather is less iffy. Meander your way across the U.S. Check with the tourism departments of each state to find the attractions and the happenings. You might be surprised what you'll find. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center just down the street beats the Smithsonian hands down. (you might even try Space Camp) Sadly tho, Miss Baker (the spider monkey) is no longer alive and still living there. While you're in the "Hotlanta" area on the topic of the Civil War, check out the Cyclorama. If you want to be bored out of your mind, try the Chicamauga Battlefield in the Chattanooga area - graveyard after statute after field after graveyard... You might want to walk a bit on the Appalachian Trail. Further west is the Nachez Trace, now a scenic 2-lane limited access road.

Think about it Fodorites, this guy may wind up seeing more of our great nation than we will. Tony, definitely include some of the "must see's" as you tour. The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Shuttle Launch (if possible), etc. It will make an interesting balance to the more off-beat sites. Have Fun!
Old Nov 7th, 2000, 07:12 AM
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Tony, what is it about state lines that engages you? I admit that it has struck me, on occasion, that there is often a real change in topography/vegetation within a few miles of a state line -- when there isn't something definitive like a river or a bay to separate the states. But the state lines you've zeroed in on aren't particularly impressive. Council Bluffs is a lovely little town, whose history is a microcosm of the frontier part of American history. But if you approach it from the east on the Interstate, you will encounter a series of signs saying "Scenic Overlook, X miles" -- repeatedly through hundreds of miles of rolling corn fields. When you get to that "Scenic Overlook," you will find it a mump allowing you to see some bluffs along the river. They're acceptable river banks, but that's all they are -- this is a "scene" that would be utterly ignored anywhere in the East or West as about as inspiring as a chewing gum wrapper.

While you're at it in the midwest, however, you might seriously consider a detour to take in Wall Drug, an institution bannered on signs all over the midwest ("450 mi. to Wall Drug"). A search on this forum will yield a long thread on the subject, or I will defer to denizens of the upper midwest to clue you in.

Although mildly mystified by your choices, I applaud the spirit of your itinerary -- guessing that the best experiences will take place betwixt and between.
Old Nov 7th, 2000, 07:27 AM
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Dear Tony, I give you tons of credit for taking the approach you have. Keep a journal! Can't believe how many wonderful, thoughtful people on this forum still tend to reflect the coasts'
mind sets and can't "see" a view if it isn't on a mountain or of an ocean. May the serendipity you might meet in the middle give you the meaty taste of America and Americans that few of us get to experience.
Old Nov 7th, 2000, 07:38 AM
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Tony, Des Moines, Iowa is not remotely "rural" if that is the reason that you chose it. It is a city and has no rural feeling to it. I've lived in Chicago for 11 years, but grew up in a real rural town of 6000. If you want to experience the "rural" Midwest, you'r not even close with Des Moines. Of course, if you want to be bored out of your skull in a small-size city, you're in luck.
Old Nov 7th, 2000, 11:26 AM
Tony Hughes
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the intention is to write about the trip and pubblish it when I get back to Scotland. thats the plan anyway. So the sub theme of the book is a trip around all 48 lower states in the 90 days I have in your country - not a race as we'll stay away from interstates if possible (except in the west where I think it makes sense and any other designated time I think is applicable). Also plan to take 6 days R&R at aunt bettys in Victoria, British Columbia, where I was back in september.

Who knows what lies hidden away in Des Moines? While we're on the subject, is it Merle Hay Mall or Merle May Hall, I can never remember?

I have seen the canyon at dawn, hiked the AT (ok so we walked to clingmans dome from the carpark), seen a shuttle launch (Gillian woke me up saying 'look, the shuttle's about to launch') but I've never seen the sun rise over a cornfield, never eaten grits, never pretended to be Cary Grant at Mount Rushmore and a whole host of other things. I might be able to in this trip.
Old Nov 10th, 2000, 02:14 PM
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With regard to the Civil War, you've listed Vicksburg & Andersonville. Someone else mentioned Chickamauga. Gettysburg in PA was where my (yankee) husband begin to understand the impact of that war.
We had an English guy visiting with us in Tennessee a few years back and he really liked the Battles for Chattanooga Museum with regard to the Civil War stuff because it gave a good overview. (Cyclorama in Atlanta is similar.)
(If you go to Andersonville, check out Plains, GA as well.)

There's lots of interesting places in the four corners area - you've listed Durango & that's good. Also, Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon are excellent for their Anasazi ruins. Window Rock (just across the border in Arizona) is the headquarters of the Navajo Nation - but the rock itself is worth a bit of a detour. Drive highway 666 south into Gallup (before they eventually rename the road). Gallup is a fun town - trading posts, art gallerys, the outdoor market on Saturdays, rodeos in the summer and fall...
There are also monthly rug auctions in Crownpoint.
If you are interested in a book to read, you might try "The Great Taos Bank Robbery" by Tony Hillerman - it's a collection of short stories from the four corners.

Truth or Consequences never did much for me but I did enjoy seeing the Very Large Array Telescope a bit west of Socorro. Personally, I liked White Sands Nat'l Mon much better than Roswell.
(If you happen to find yourself in NM toward the end of April, don't miss the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque.)

Since it sounds like you've visited Tennessee before, how did you manage to miss grits?
Also, depending on how early next year your trip will be, the cornfields may not look like much.

Well, I've got to go...
If you have questions that you think I might could help with, feel free to email me.

Enjoy your trip!

Old Nov 11th, 2000, 01:02 PM
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Charlotte, Thanks for the great suggestions, rest assured that Tony has been taking notes. We mail you for more info. About missing grits while in TN, we stayed with friends who weren't originally from the south, and we never got a chance to go out for breakfast. I was wondering though, what is "mush"?
Old Nov 11th, 2000, 04:20 PM
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Iowa is certainly break-basket country. I have driven through it, train-ed through it, and flown over it many times. When I was a child we used to take the Denver Zepher from Chicago to my grandparents' farm, just outside of Loomis, Nebraska. If you pass that way, Minden, Nebraska used to have a replica of a prairie family's sod house. Des Moines ("Dee Moyne" phonetically) is a small city. Council Bluffs is the last bit of craggy geography before you hit the long, flat plains. It will be an interesting trip. The Cape Fear River in NC is one of my favorite. We like to stay in Wilmington at a hotel where the main train station once was. It is neat because of the view right on the Cape Fear River. By visiting all these different parts of the country, you will notice the different speeds we live by. Most folks should be quite friendly and open.
Old Nov 12th, 2000, 01:07 PM
Tony Hughes
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Jeanette, I hope Serendipity will be with us for the whole journey, I dont think Emily wil mind.

Heather - I'm never bored, nomatter where. Every day when I wake up I'm glad to be alive!

Diane, I've never come across an 'unpleasant' American in my travels bar one time in a supermarket in Orlando. I'm sure there are some but I am sure the good will severely outweigh the bad.
Old Nov 12th, 2000, 03:21 PM
Bob Brown
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As far as I am concerned, Alcatraz is ugly! Unmitigated, and unameliorated by time. The fact that people go to see it does not make it less ugly. People also watch WWF, which to me is the epitome of ugly on TV. (The view from the island is nice, however, but the same view can be had from other vantage points.) Perhaps people who like to view prisons have something I don't have. Not that I am envious of that quality, or want it.
I for one never got much more than a chill feeling of horror when I viewed Dachau. I saw nothing amusing about looking at a place where millions were tortued and killed. Some people seem to become infatuated with the details of how Jews were gassed or thrown in lime pits. I certainly was not.
Perhaps if more people sought beauty in this world of ours we would have less hatred and killing.
Or, are we still in a national state of denial over Columbine High School?
(And there was a shooting at the school in Conyers, Ga. less than 60 miles from where I live.)

And Tony, there was a poet who lived in Scotland who had a line we had to learn in high school English:
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
And foolish notion.

A few get an idea; others never do.
And some never care!
Old Nov 12th, 2000, 05:29 PM
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What some Americans think of as boring little towns can be quite fascinating to outsiders! It's not only the little towns always either, but the scenery around them.
Old Nov 12th, 2000, 05:54 PM
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Tony, If you want back roads and character, visit my town--Johnston, South Carolina. That is, of course, if you can find it on a map! We are the "Peach Capital of the World!" Woo hoo! If you've ever seen The Andy Griffith Show, this town is like Mayberry. Hope you enjoy your trip and good luck!
Old Nov 13th, 2000, 01:47 PM
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Tony: Not sure when you're traveling, but the Durango area - Red Mtn. Pass gets a lot of snow. We were backpacking the first week of September and encountered snow. Some of the mountain passes can be treacherous in a blizzard. The drive between Durango and Silverton is gorgeous though! b
Old Nov 13th, 2000, 01:56 PM
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Bly, how bad do you think it'll be in the end of March?
Old Nov 13th, 2000, 02:10 PM
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Bob, perhaps you misunderstood me - the fact that many go to Alcatraz was in no way a response to whether it is ugly or not - it was a response to “if that sort of thing attracts you”. I simply stated that it “attracts” a lot of people, most of whom are going for the history rather than for the scenery. However, I thought it was quite beautiful, so to each his own.

Funny you should bring up Dachau. Again, I must respectfully disagree. I hardly think people go there looking for amusement! Why do you make it sound like if you go visit a prison there is something wrong with you? The chill feeling you had is what (hopefully) we all would get there, but do we have to only go to places that make us laugh and smile? Part of the reason many Americans go to Europe is for the history and education, how can you leave out wars and bloodshed? Is going to the Tower of London a no-no too?

I really don’t understand the reference to Columbine and us being in a state of denial. I am all for seeking beauty in this world, but I think burying our collective heads in the sand and not learning from the atrocities of the past is just as bad. Nothing can bring to life the evilness that men are capable of like Dachau. I think making that real to people is at least, if not more, important to preventing hatred and killing than looking for physical beauty in the world.
Old Nov 13th, 2000, 05:50 PM
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Tony, Alcatraz is very interesting from a historical point of view and the views back to the city are lovely in good weather (you don't say when you will be here). However, know that the native Americans took over the island at one point in recent history and there was quite a bit of destruction while they occupied it. The audio tour is recommended and you should make reservations ahead. If you are planning to be here during the rainy season (until end of March) you might want to reconsider Alcatraz or play it by ear when you get here. This past weekend, both days were sold out so nobody could go without prior reservations. Knowing that you like to get off the beaten path, think you'd like Port Angeles and you should consider the northern coast of CA as in Mendocino and Sonoma if you haven't seen those already. The Orca Islands might also appeal to you. Channel Islands down near Sta. Barbara are another possibility as well as the more remote areas of CA. Enjoy.
Old Nov 14th, 2000, 10:17 AM
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Hi Tony,

Well, as long as you'll be in the area, why not stop at Walnut Grove, Minnesota - you can frolic on the banks of Plum Creek where Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura and Carrie Ingles lived - you can still see the indentation where their sod house was. Seems to kind of fit your itinerary. Or if you're in the area during the two middle weekends of July, you can check out the Heritagefest in New Ulm, Minnesota. Small town of about 14,000 of primarily German heritage. The festival can be a blast but you may have trouble finding a room or camp site. Just thought I'd throw those in since they're off the beaten path a bit.

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