To satisfy more on her bucket list a trip was designed to visit family members and vacation destinations along a southern route to the San Francisco. From Hamden CT to Asheboro NC to start the adventure. Guests started with their adult son traveling too. We continued on to the panhandle of FL to River's Edge RV campground. This provided a stop to work out any kinks or missing items wanted before the real trek begins. First destination, New Orleans. Dad wanted to have crayfish etouffee which is best in the spring, and Son had never been to N.O. Spent three days and nights to allow them to experience the flavors and music of N.O. and a day of touring the plantations (one Cajun and one White American owned). Very different architecture and farming methods.
We arrived in Houston the day after nationally televised flooding. Our campground was not flooded, but there were puddles everywhere. Because of the extra day in N.O. we opted to not visit the space center as previously planned. We stopped for a couple of days in San Antonio and opted to take a Mission Tour. It started at the Alamo (in a downpour) , but the rain had stopped by the time we got to the first of the Missions south of the city. On to Austin TX where family members live. Guests spent most of 4 days with them, and son flew back to NYC.
Leaving Austin to cross Texas and get to Big Bend National Park required an overnight. I had chosen Senora Caverns as a potential waystop. There were 12 campsites with water and electricity (for running the AC). The Caverns are privately owned, and not improved with optimal public access. The high humidity and lack of air circulation made it difficult for Dad and the slippery "path" helped to deter us from visiting the cave. Continued on to Big Bend arriving around 4:30 and it was HOT. Around 10:00 pm we all went outside to look at the stars. This park is one of the darkest areas in the US. There is no ambient light to muddy the star gazing. Unfortunately there was also no WiFi within reach so that the phone / ipad applications that show the location of all of the stars weren't usable.
The next day we toured in the car to visit the "hot springs" that fed into the Rio Grande River. The springs were supposedly 1/4 mile from the parking lot, but in the heat seemed much further. And of course we had left our water bottles in the car. DUH. Back in the car each consumed at least a pint of water. On to the Main Visitor's Center and a "park informational movie". Big Bend has desert, mountains, and river topography. And even at the end of April it was "bloody hot".
Next scheduled stop - Mesa (Phoenix) AZ and more family to visit and pick up. Stayed in a "snowbird resort". A beautiful RV park that is full of snowbirds during the winter months but nearly empty now. Spent much time with family, and had a side trip to airport to pick up Sister (M)from Rochester NY, (who had never before visited a national park). Another day trip took us to Lake Saguaro for a tour boat ride. A beautiful area, that they had grown up enjoying while living the the AZ desert.
Then on to Sedona AZ. The mystical area of vortexes and gorgeous mountains. A place to explore and experience. should have scheduled more time there. From the sublime to the minimal accommodations of the Grand Canyon National Forest Park (Ten-X) just south of the Canyon. No hookups but amazing camping sites with easy turn offs, in a beautiful Ponderosa Pine forest with huge elk walking and eating grasses within 20 feet of our rig. We drove the car to the free shuttle stop that took us into Grand Canyon National Park. The sister (M) had been impressed with Sedona and the drive north to the Canyon but was overwhelmed by the Canyon. This can really only be appreciated as an adult. The next couple of days involved more of the shuttle trips that traversed the south rim. The family often walked between stops along the rim and would jump onto the next available bus to ride the longer distances.
Next stop - North Rim. Different vistas from the south rim, 8860 ft elevation and 46 degrees F. outside. On to Bryce Canyon - camping outside of the park, but again the free shuttle bus stopped right outside of our campground. Signed up for a free guided tour to Rainbow Point and discovered that the unique "Hoodoo's" of the canyon are the native American name for "Red Man Who Stands With Feet in Hole" and pretty aptly describes the stone structures found throughout the park. The tour often reached over 9000 feet and our campsite was above 7000.
Now Zioln National Park - In this canyon you are IN the canyon, not on the rim looking down. A whole new perspective and an especially unique opportunity to watch rock climbers assent the sheer walls of the mountains. This park has 450 spaces for cars to park, and it is estimated that over 5000 are on the roads daily. The best part is that the shuttles can traverse areas where privately owned vehicles are prohibited.
Wanting to change our environment for a bit, we left for Las Vegas. We were in a park away from the strip, but the family wanted to see the real Vegas. They watched water displays to music at two or more locations and ended up at Caesars for an expensive fish and chips dinner. (M) came out of the casinos ahead $10 while the other two were down $20. Not too bad for a night's entertainment. Death Valley provided yet another environmental change for us. And we were now at 300 ft below sea level. Breathing is a real pleasure again.
We had intended to spend some time visiting the Oasis in Death Valley but it was under renovation following water damage during an unusual storm a couple of years earlier. One afternoons touring seemed to satisfy everyone so we continued on to Yosemite. The climb out of Death Valley was breath taking and snow still covered the sides of the roads, with lakes frozen, and luckily this entrance into the park had just opened saving us many extra miles to the south. Our campground was an Elks Lodge that provided water and electricity for $10 a night. Certainly no ambiance - but convenient and available to a small town with laundromat, grocery and drug stores. We spent two days touring the interior of Yosemite and then opted for Sequoia National and Crant Canyon NP. We visited the world's largest know tree. These giants are unbelievable in size and estimated age - some over 1400 yrs old.
Our next stop was outside of San Francisco. We rode the ferry across to the city and spent the day eating, and ultimately taking a double deck bus tour which took us across the bay bridge as a finality of the tour. It was extremely cold, windy, and fogged in. A day trip to Wine Country was next on the agenda. We tasted the wine and enjoyed the food, learned of Marcona Almonds and discovered an olive orchard. mmm mmm good. With enough purchases they would wrap and ship for free. (Christmas gifts for folks at home). Our last day on the coast took us to Murin Woods. What a history, and wonderfully protected area. We ended our drive at the park, and everyone got their feet wet in the Pacific. There was on board surfer in a wet suit enjoying the wind and waves.
The tallest waterfall in North America is located in Yosemite National Park. Its flow peaks in May and it has a 2,425 foot drop. Its name is Yosemite Falls. There is a waterfall in the park named Bridalveil Falls. Fires that burn low are actually good for the forest ecosystem.
It's always an adventure traveling with Eileen. Being loaded onto the front of the Ferry, facing open water took some getting used to, but when she opened up the cheese and crackers and libations for the group everyone forgot their anxieties and enjoyed the trip home across the Sound to Bridgeport CT. [scroll down]