Our Big Trip Update

imageSo, the last time we talked about our “Big Trip”, we told you that because of a need to make certain reservations now or not be able to stay where we want to, our trip had taken on some real details. We will be leaving Long Island on August 21st…two months from tomorrow… and heading west, so this is becoming more and more real! Since our last update, some of our reservations have changed and more of the early part of our trek has been further fleshed out.

imageOriginally, the only place we could originally get in the Grand Canyon was a room at the Yavapai Lodge, this was definitely not our first choice. While it is indeed located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it is not ON the South Rim, but is back about a 1/2 mile. As everything else at the Grand Canyon was already booked for our dates, we felt fortunate that we were at least in the Grand Canyon and not miles outside of the Park. Frank had read online advice from many folks that said to grab something, and just keep on checking back and see if something better opens up, and that’s exactly what we did. After checking back on almost a daily basis, we were rewarded with exactly what we wanted. We now have reserved a cabin at Bright Angel Lodge, which is literally feet away from the rim of the canyon! Sunrises and Sunsets will be much easier to enjoy from that location!

We’ve also fleshed out our stay at Yellowstone a bit and have booked one dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Lodge, a boat tour of Yellowstone Lake, and a Lake Butte Sunset Tour, the vehicles for which are classic Yellowstone “Yellow Buses” from the 20s and 30s. This along with exploring things like Old Faithful on our own, and seeing the varied wildlife in the park, should make for two unforgettable days in America’s First National Park!

We have also looked closer at the days leading up to our two night stay in Yellowstone. The amount of reading you have to do, the number of maps you need to consult, the websites you have to check, and the mileage and time calculations you have to do to have a successful trip can be mind boggling! But, when it’s a trip you have been dreaming and talking about for years, it all becomes worth it! One of the things that will be included on those days leading up to our Yellowstone visit will be one of Frank’s main Bucket List items on this trip, Mount Rushmore!

imageHis desire to see Mt. Rushmore in the flesh, probably stems from seeing Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint climb across the faces of the presidents in the Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest. Frank found an interesting article recently dealing with what was actually filmed on site, and what was shot back at the studio. Of course, it would seem fairly obvious that someone like Cary Grant was not actually dangling from Lincoln’s nose on the real Mt. Rushmore, but apparently the head of the National Park Services was fearful that back in 1959, some folks might think he was! It seems that the permit that Hitchcock and the crew were given for the scenes they filmed at Mt. Rushmore contained specific language detailing what the film makers could do in scenes shot on site, or in the studio using mock-ups. The reason for this language lay in one simple fact: master film director Alfred Hitchcock had long wanted to film a movie involving the “Shrine of Democracy,” but the Park Service had concerns about the memorials potential “desecration.” After seeing a preview of the movie before it’s public release, the head of the service wrote, “The phony studio shots leave the average customer with the idea that the scenes of violence were staged on the memorial itself.” Kind of hard to understand that logic when 60 years later we have seen everything from the Empire State Building to the White House destroyed in movies, but the Park Service actually tried to have the release of the movie stopped…obviously that didn’t happen. You have to wonder how many of the tourists who have journeyed to Mt. Rushmore over the almost 60 years since the release of the movie, have done so for the same reason we are… because they saw North by Northwest. In hindsight, perhaps the movie they feared so much, was the best publicity a monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota could have gotten! As Cary Grant playing Roger Thornhill, the advertising executive protagonist in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest says, “Ah, Maggie, in the world of advertising, there’s no such thing as a lie, there’s only the expedient exaggeration!”.

So, anyway, Mt. Rushmore is the first major stop of our adventure, and as we said, we have fleshed out some of the days leading up to our visit. Leaving NY on August 21st, we will journey out Interstate 80 to Chicago, then head slightly north until we join up with Interstate 90. Depending on weather, the road conditions, how we feel, and what we may want to stop and see along the way, we figure it will take us the better part of 4 days to reach South Dakota. We are planning our first stop in South Dakota to be in Murdo, and then the next morning, we expect to hit our first National Park of the trip, Badlands National Park, on our way to Mt. Rushmore. Next we reserved two nights in Keystone, South Dakota which is right in the heart of the area with easy access to Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills National Forest. After our two nights in the area, we will head out, hopefully hitting Devils Tower National Monument and detouring north to pay a visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. We hope our stop that night will be in Sheridan, Wyoming and then the next day we will head into Yellowstone for our two days there.

imageTo be honest, this kind of planning is definitely not our style. We are more the type of folks that get into the car, have a rough idea of where we’re going, a general idea of our time frame, and then take off, stopping each night in hotels we find along the way in the AAA Tour Books. What we have discovered though, is that when your trips include National Parks and Monuments, unless you want to drive around half the night looking for a place to stay, you really have to plan ahead. So at least on this first leg, we have been forced to make hotel reservations, figure out how much mileage we’ll cover each day, and what we’re going to see. Hopefully the next leg of the trip, will leave us a little more leeway to wander, but we will see when we soon take a closer look at the two weeks between Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. We’ve already looked at the maps and are thinking about the next leg taking us to the Rocky Mountains, Salt Lake City, Denver (perhaps a baseball game there), Pikes Peak, and maybe even Vegas. We don’t want to give away too much of the “adventure” of this trip, but just thought you might be interested in a bit of the planning we’ve put in. Only time will tell if our trek between leaving Yellowstone on August 30th, and checking into the Bright Angel Lodge in the Grand Canyon on September 14th will be as planned, or more free form. Only time will also tell if our plans will all work out, or if we will be doing some “flying by the seat of our pants”. Stay tuned!

Our “Big Trip”

Our recent sojourn down to Florida was, if you will, just an appetizer to our retirement road trip; what we call “Our Big Trip.” We’ve been talking about this for years, and actually figuring dates out once the decision was made that I was going to retire at the end of this past January. The time line in our minds was to leave sometime mid August, and to return, at the very latest, in time for Thanksgiving. Our plan was to drive west, seeing some of the great sights this country has, and to check them off our bucket list. This would be a Bucket List trip for us.

imageWe started by collecting AAA Tour Books for most of the states. We also have added a couple of books with listing of things you absolutely must see across the United States. Some are wacky, like the World’s Largest Ball of String, but many are just not to be missed attractions. Susie has been going through the books taking notes, and the last two days we have both been working diligently on the tour books, and putting together a list of MUSTS for the trip. We also figured that places like Chicago or Detroit were close enough to the East Coast to be other shorter trips, and our intention is to concentrate on more of the Western United States. We figured to head west on a northern route, and return east on a more southern route, hopefully keeping summer weather with us for most of the journey. The first “must” we planned on hitting was Mount Rushmore, to satisfy Frank’s long desire to see it in person (too many viewings of North by Northwest).

imageWhile our plan is to basically wander in the general direction of the west coast, we understand that to stay in some places that are on the “Must List” of ours, we were going to need reservations. Three of those places are Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Monument Valley. We’ve read online that reservations at these 3 places need to be made months in advance, but figured that as we were 5-6 months out from our dates, we were still within the window of opportunity. Yesterday afternoon, we discovered that we didn’t have all the time in the world, and that our window of opportunity was about to slam shut! So our trip, that before yesterday was still kind of in the imaginary stage, just moved into the realm of reality! We discovered that there were very few availabilities left, and that if we wanted to stay on-site in these three places, we needed to act ASAP. Needing to make those reservations meant that we had to really look at the trip in earnest, decide what we really wanted to see, and forced us to actually come up with a timeline, while still leaving lots of open time to just check out neat looking things and places along the way.

Our “real” trip will commence with us leaving Long Island on Saturday August 21st. Our first reservations are for the nights of August 28th and 29th when we are booked at the Lake Hotel Sandpiper Lodge in Yellowstone Park. From there we have 2 open weeks, as our next booking is the nights of September 14th and 15th at the Yavapai Lodge in the Grand Canyon. Then, on Friday the 16th, we have one night booked at the View Hotel in Monument Valley. The only other defined part of our trip is the October 2nd to 16th two week period when we will be cruising on the Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston, Texas, and visiting with Kenny and Chris and their shipboard family. We still have lots of open space on our calendar to do the wandering part of this trip, and even if we have had enough, and just return home after the cruise, we will be gone 2 months! We always had a plan, but now we really have a plan and the trip is much more of a reality than it was just 24 hours ago!

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