Wednesday, September 14, 2011

USA Trip 2011

July 2011 saw me travelling for pleasure for a change. As my cousin was getting married in Montana, we decided to take a trip to the United States built around the wedding. It quickly became an Epic in 6 Phases - built around the wedding, visiting friends, some fun cities and a 2500 mile road trip !

Phase 1 of the trip saw us visiting friends in Washington DC (photos). The 5 nights spent with Gus and Caren (and 4 month-old Lochlan) were the longest stay we had in the one place all trip. A mostly social visit, we also managed to see the main sights of DC, visit a few museums and check out the old town of Alexandria.

Phase II was a too short two night visit to New York City - staying in the famous Chelsea Hotel, which shortly after was closed to paying guests. We still had enough time to catch a show; walk from Chelsea to the tip of Manhattan; then from Chelsea to the middle of Central Park via way too many shops on Fifth Avenue.

Glacier National Park

Phase III, the wedding was next; in Whitefish Montana for 3 nights. There was just enough time between all the formalities to pay a visit to Glacier National Park - even if the weather wasn't our friend. Sunday lunchtime, after the post wedding brunch, we drove to Whitefish Airport and picked up our friend Rachel who had flown from Vancouver to join us for Phase IV - the road trip.


Phase IV was big enough to be broken up into multiple sub-phases; 1 per National Park. From Whitefish we drove all the way across Montana to Gardiner at the North Gate of the Yellowstone National Park, via the scenic town of Livingstone.

Yellowstone National Park

From Yellowstone we made our way down the Grand Teton National Park, staying in Teton National Park and finally seeing the long hoped for bear.

After Teton was the longest leg of the road trip - around 550 miles from Teton Village to Bryce Canyon; from Wyoming, touching Idaho and crossing a large part of Utah - including lunch in the slightly bizarre town of Provos, where the cafes don't serve coffee.

Roadside Trains in Idaho

Finally we arrived in Bryce Canyon village, staying the mega-hotel-complex of Ruby's Inn.
Bryce Canyon
From the amazing Bryce Canyon there was a shorter drive into Zion National Park, along a spectacular road that comes out into the middle of the Canyon. We were only there for a day, which was still time enough for some exhausting hikes in the National Park; including wading chest high up a narrow canyon.
Zion in the mist

After Zion Canyon it was time for the spectacular grand finale of the Grand Canyon - we visited both the North and South Rims of the Canyon. It's 22 miles to hike between the two rims or 220 miles and 5 hours to drive. Monday night we dined at the El Tovar lodge before Tuesday's 5 mile hike in and out of the canyon before breakfast.

After driving the main look outs of the South Rim in the morning, it was time for the final leg of the road trip - to Las Vegas, which appropriately enough followed part of the old Route 66.

Phase V in Vegas was over in a flash. Two nights in a suite in Vdara Hotel was a much appreciated luxury after 10 days on the road; the one day in Vegas was spent wondering the streets and checking out the famous outlets. Strangely it was me who out-shopped the girls.

We said goodbye to Rachel and made our way to Las Vegas airport; for 1 hour flight to San Francisco and the sixth and final phase of the trip. Somehow we lost nearly 30 degrees on the flight as well; and it was only after arriving in the 12 degrees mid summer's day did I hear of Mark Twain's supposed quote 'The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.'

The final three days - spent with Ilaria's cousin Nicola - were over in a flash; and the iconic bridge never fully emerged from its foggy shroud. Sunday morning was spent in a Castro night club before getting back to the airport for the long flight back to Sydney.

Over the next few days I'll be sharing more photos and stories from each of the phases ... stay tuned !

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