Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 10: Four states in one day

After visiting the caves, I headed north again on Interstate 81.  What a great highway- scenic, no cities to navigate through (until Pennsylvania, but even those aren't bad), and manageable terrain for a Toyota Corolla.  I've decided I prefer the southern route (40 and 81) over the northern one (70 and 15, and assorted northern interstates).  Both have their advantages, but the southern route is lighter on the disadvantages, and seems to pass by more interesting stuff.

So, north through the rest of Virginia... weather changed to overcast pretty quickly...



... entering  the northeast corner of West Virginia, for around half an hour...


...through a tiny part of northwestern Maryland, so brief that they don't even mark it I don't think, although there were some truck shenanigans around there (they were attempting repeated passes of each other that they shouldn't, requiring much alertness), so it might be I just didn't notice the signs.  Traffic was heavier today than I would have expected on a Sunday.

And then finally into Pennsylvania...  where there were some snow showers:



I'm in Wilkes Barre for the night, south of Scranton.  On to Canada and Ottawa tomorrow!

Caves teaser photo

Virginia is cave country, and I visited the Luray Caverns today.  They were fantastic!  I'd been to some caves on Vancouver Island in B.C. and had marvelled at what I saw there, but these were soooooo much better.  I'll post my photos soon... I took way too many as usual, and will inflict them on you in a corresponding ratio.  So stay tuned!  I haven't forgotten about the Grand Canyon pics or Meteor Crater either... I'll put those up too sometime this week once I'm back.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 9: Virginia and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Had a good drive today- no snow (well... 3 snowflakes at a rest stop), dry roads, overcast at first but sunny later on.  Today was the first day since New Mexico where the landscape remained consistently 3-dimensional.  The mountains in Virginia are just beautiful.  Traffic was mostly OK- it would mysteriously build and then disappear; Interstate 81 crosses many other interstates so I suspect that's why.  I'm in Harrisonburg, and hope to go see some caves tomorrow morning.

Here are some views from the road, south to north:










Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 8: through Nashville and Knoxville

I'm in Bulls Gap tonight.  Had a good drive today, still sunny and perfect, feels like Ottawa in April.  The hills of Tennessee look exactly like the Joan Baez songs describe.  Here are some pics from the road, from west to east:






Had a fantastic view of the Smoky mountains just east of Knoxville- tried a photo but it didn't turn out (only about 25% of my photos turn out, since I am looking at the road and not at the camera!).

Nashville was another somewhat difficult city to navigate, although it was easier than Memphis had been.  Just had to stay alert to stay on the right road, it split every couple of minutes, five times.  Knoxville was easy, but a lot bigger than I had expected.

Heading north into Virginia tomorrow.  I'll be staying in Harrisonburg for the night, and might go see some caves on Sunday morning if weather permits.  There seems to be a window of sunshine following me north between storms though, I've been lucky so far, and my luck is forecasted to hold, so we'll see.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 7: through Little Rock and Memphis

I crossed Arkansas today.  The western part of the state is rolling hills, gradually flattening out into fields, then becoming gently rolling again in the east, then flat around Memphis.

Here's a view from a rest stop of the mountains in the distance to the north (probably the southern Ozarks?)


Lots of truck traffic today!  There would be a long line, almost uninterrupted, of trucks in the right hand lane.  Heavy traffic in general, especially heading into Little Rock and then into Memphis.  Little Rock reminded me a bit of going through Kingston on the 401, except they have a real (tiny though) downtown visible with highrises.

Here's western Arkansas, coming up on Memphis in the distance.  You cross the Mississippi river on I-40 to enter the city (and the state, Memphis is right on the state line).


Navigating the interstate through Memphis is something else- I think it's even more complicated than navigating the highways in central Los Angeles (except the roads are better and the people nicer... but the route, very complicated!).  Made it though!

Tonight I'm in Jackson, Tennessee.  Tomorrow night I plan to be in Bulls Gap (that's how they spell it, apostraphe-free) in eastern Tennessee.  It's a wide state, Tennessee is.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 6: Across Oklahoma into Arkansas

Another good driving day, sunny with temps around 5-7C.  This photo is from the eastern part of the Texas Panhandle, where the landscape is gently rolling.

Below are some windmills in Oklahoma:

There was a funny road sign at Clinton, Oklahoma that I didn't get a picture of.  It was a big billboard that said "Clinton: Last Gas for 200 miles".  I said to myself, "WHAT?  That's not what my research told me!"  And then noticed the fine print on the billboard, where it said underneath "(just kidding)".  Having driven through so many deserts on this trip where there really isn't any gas for up to 100 miles, I found that pretty funny.

This is from the eastern part of Oklahoma, where a bit of forest appears here and there.


Coming into Van Buren, Arkansas:


I noticed the reappearance of rivers and lakes today, hadn't seen those over the western part of the continent.  Oklahoma looks a lot like southern Ontario to me.  There's more traffic here than in Texas and the states further west, but it wasn't too bad.

Tomorrow I'll be driving into Tennessee.  I don't think I'm going to go to Graceland after all- the timing is awkward, and it's $35 admission PLUS parking, which is more than I spent to go to the Grand Canyon!  I'll probably go through Memphis and then stop somewhere between there and Nashville for the night.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 5: Albuquerque to Shamrock, Texas


Today I drove a little over 600 km to Shamrock, Texas, in the Texas panhandle.   Roads were dry, skies were sunny.  I passed four truck rigs though that had gone off the road, three of which were flipped.  All had conveniently landed on the median so that traffic wasn't affected, and it didn't look like they were fatal accidents, hope the truckers were OK.

The landscape went from mountains to flat lands, at first with mountains and mesas at the horizons, and then just flat land as far as the eye could see.  It then started to break up with creeks and such, and where I am tonight is very gently rolling.

The photo above is at a rest stop in New Mexico, looking back along Interstate 40 at the mountain range I'd just passed through.  The one below I actually took while driving (I realized today that with my little digital, I can just point and click without looking at it, and some of the photos actually turn out).  This one too is of New Mexico.  Unfortunately the batteries died after this shot, and while I can point and click without taking my eyes off the road, I sure wouldn't change batteries like that.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Albuquerque Biopark

Today I stayed in Albuquerque to let the weather pass me by, as I was ahead of schedule anyway (left the Grand Canyon early due to bad weather.)  I love zoos, so I decided to go to the one here, which is combined with an aquarium and botanical garden.  I'd actually wished when originally planning my trip that I would have had time to see the zoo here, so squeezing it in today was a nice silver lining to the clouds that literally chased me here early!  It sprinkled rain a bit today early on, but otherwise was mostly overcast with cool temperatures.

It's not a great season for a botanical garden in New Mexico (although a nice and soothing walk nonetheless), but the aquarium and zoo were great, and the zoo especially was deserted, I guess the season and the weather keeps locals and tourists away.  Just the animals and a handful of visitors; the animals would actually look up and often wander over when I approached, I guess they were happy for the diversion.

Here are a couple of photos of the flamingos, I just love their red colour!



Day 3, Grand Canyon to Albuquerque, New Mexico

The weather was still frightful at the Grand Canyon this morning, so I headed down the road to seek a better climate.  The weather was very changeable on the drive- snow, rain, and then a very interesting mix of conditions as I drove across Arizona and into New Mexico.  Nothing an average Canadian couldn't handle.

There were places in Arizona where I could have sworn I was already in Canada- lots of snow, mountains and pine forests.  One thing about the landscapes of the American Southwest though, they change every 10 or 20 miles, often dramatically.  So I passed through desert (various types), forest (ditto), bush and grassland, hills, mountains, ridges, flat lands and plateaus.  The weather was changing every half hour (or less) too.  Quite a day.

I went to Meteor Crater along the way, it was great!  I'll post pictures later (I took a pile of them and it will take a while to go through them.).  It was raining as I drove through Petrified Forest National Park so I didn't go in, plus by then I had decided to go all the way to Albuquerque as weather was not cooperating with the outdoor things like hikes and parks that I had planned.

Here are a couple of photos from stops along the road.

This is some interesting weather in eastern Arizona:


I think this is called the painted hills, it's on the border of Arizona and New Mexico:


This is just across inside New Mexico's border with Arizona:



Once inside New Mexico I crossed the continental divide.  Guess it's all downhill from here!  :-)  I'm going to stay put in Albuquerque for a day and see some stuff here, no need to get ahead of schedule, especially when they are forecasting more snow for tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Late Saturday afternoon

For around 10 minutes late this afternoon, the sun poked out, the snow stopped, and the clouds parted.  Here's the evidence:





I still need to post my photos from Friday, and I will, when I get the chance to go through them.

Why, just look at that view!

Here's what the Grand Canyon looks like...

...when it's snowing!  That vast background wall of white is where the canyon should be.  Today's forecasted "snow showers" manifested as relentless horizontal snow.  Couldn't see a thing!  I'm really glad I went out yesterday for the quick sunset view of the canyon.



Below is the historic Kolb photo studio (now a bookstore) perched on the edge of a cliff:


At the Yavapai observation station (where they had an exhibit on geology), I noticed I was parked beside a car from Quebec.  Then I noticed the next one over was from Saskatchewan!  Crazy Canadians on vacation... but at least we know how to drive in snow:


I'm hoping for better weather tomorrow... it's supposed to snow again, but maybe it won't be quite so constant.  If it is, I'll head down the road and go see something else.  Meteor crater is next on my agenda, but if it's snowing I don't think that will be a good choice in poor visibility either.  I have other options, something will work out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Grand Canyon teaser photo

I'm here at the Grand Canyon, and got in early enough to go have a look before the sun set.  It was very overcast, but then suddenly the sun poked through and lit up part of the landscape.


I have many more photos, but am too tired to go through them and post them now.  Just thought I'd post one to entice you to come back later and see the rest...

Tomorrow I'll go see some more of the lookouts and maybe do a hike.  It depends on weather- it's supposed to snow a bit tomorrow!  Hope it's a light, scenic snow.

Day 1: Los Angeles to Grand Canyon

The drive today was great.  There was a bit of light rain leaving Los Angeles, and some haze in the first set of mountains, but then mostly clear, but overcast.  Incredible landscapes along highway 40- constantly changing, always mountains within view, and crossed a few non-intimidating ranges that the Corolla coped with nicely.  Some snow in the mountains, and partially covering the landscape near the Grand Canyon (elevation is around 5000 feet).  The vegetation was so different everywhere- desert, then scrubby sparse cedar-like forests, and later full-sized pine forests (but without the undergrowth that you'd get in Canada.  It would change back and forth from mile to mile or past this or that mountain range.

Here are a couple of photos from the rest stops.  First one is a half hour west of Needles, California:


This is behind a gas station in Seligman, Arizona:


This is historic route 66 in Seligman, Arizona:


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leaving Friday for Grand Canyon and Canada

I lose my internet connection in a few hours, so I thought I'd let you all know I'm leaving Friday morning for Ottawa.  I'll be stopping at the Grand Canyon for the weekend, and probably Meteor Crater, and anything else in Arizona that time allows (there's lots to see there, but I only want to spend 3 days max. there so that I'm not too rushed on the way home, so probably that's all I'll have time for.) 

Then I drive Interstate 40 to 81, up into Canada.  I'm hoping the weather is good, but if there are any storms, I've built 5 extra days into the schedule in case I got delayed somewhere.  I'll probably use half of one of those days to see Graceland, since it too is on the way home, the highway goes right through Memphis.  I'll probably arrive in Canada on March 1.  I try not to drive too many hours in a day, especially when I'm travelling alone.

I'll update on my blog when I get the chance... I should be able to post a quick note now and then, and will try to post daily if I can (I usually have internet in the hotels).  I plan to take pictures in Arizona, but probably won't have time to post a lot of them while on the road, but you never know.

So don't go away, even if I am going away!  See you on the road...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

San Gabriel river bike path

There was a meetup bike ride last Saturday on a bike path in the east end of L.A., on the San Gabriel river bike path.  I carpooled there with a friend, but we got stuck in the notorious highway 10 traffic, and missed the group's departure by about 3 minutes!  However, we had a nice ride anyway, just not with the group.  Easier to stop for lots of pictures with just two of us anyway!

Here's the park at the start of the path, where we parked:


This is taken from a bridge that connects the park to the bike path:


Here is the bike path heading north.  Not bad scenery!


There are several gravel pits along the path, here's one in the distance:


In a valley at the north end of the path is a gated community, not sure what it's called:



This is an interesting plant.  It's got a spiky roundish base, with a woody stem up the middle, and then it seems to have the flowering portion at the part.  I have no idea what it's called, and I don't remember seeing it before today.  I liked both my photos of it so I'm inflicting both of them on you:



Another view of the mountains from the bike path, I liked the bushy vegetation in the foreground.  Yes, that's a billboard in the centre of the photo, this is California.


The bike path crosses the Santa Fe dam.  My friend and I were very curious about this dam, as it's huge, and the San Gabriel river is a tame-looking, insipid little thing.  I'm sure it's livelier after a rain, but it doesn't look like it could ever take out the city of Los Angeles, and the dam is big enough (the photo doesn't do it justice) that it looks like that's what they're trying to prevent.  I couldn't find out why it's so huge on the internet, but I assume the engineers know something we don't:


The land within the dam is parkland:


Views from the dam are very good in all directions, here's one:


It was a great ride!  About 18 miles round-trip.