Concord Travel Blog› entry 59 of 59 › view all entries
This was the longest road trip Jag and I have taken: 56 days.
The beauty of this country is so awesome. There is so much variety. There is also much that is the same almost everywhere one goes: McDonalds, Burger King, Carl’s Jr./Hardees, Walmart, K-Mart, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts … the list goes on and on. Thankfully, the small towns have little or none of this. Their charm is still there. But pressures to include the big box stores such as Walmart are overwhelming. In today’s economy, so many people can no longer afford to patronize small local businesses. Nevertheless, I hope these little enclaves of so-called “traditional” America can remain unsullied and welcoming.
I am trying to think of the highlights of this journey. Jag found highlights everywhere. However, after thinking about the question of what stood out most of everything we saw, he answered: “Kennedy Space Center. Seeing the size of the rocket engines brought home the courage of the astronauts to sit on the top of those rockets and be blasted up into outer space.
For me, it becomes a bit more specific. I agree with Jag in that because everything was new to us, the entire trip was one huge highlight. However, the following stood out most:
Our friends in Miami, Green Valley and Las Vegas. They welcomed us into their homes and made sure we were comfortable and entertained. They made us part of their families. This kind of warmth usually comes only once in a lifetime. Here we experienced it three times. We are so lucky.
Jeff and Meg’s wedding in Asheville. It was so much fun. Seeing my usually up-tight husband burst out into a fun loving, dancing guy was absolutely wonderful. He was full of hugs for everybody and he began a terrific friendship with the groom’s father and uncles. Those guys were laughing and joking as if they had grown up together. Jag NEVER does any fast dancing; that all changed during the wedding reception. I smiled for days after that.
I loved seeing dear friends after very lengthy periods of time.
Sightseeing highlights included La Posada Hotel in Winslow, AZ; the very touching National Memorial in Oklahoma City, plus its Art Museum with the Chihuly exhibit; Cades Cove area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park; visiting The Biltmore in Asheville, NC; the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse; charming Ocracoke; Charleston, SC (especially the Ravenal Bridge); Savannah, GA (oh, how I loved the historic district of Savannah); Kennedy Space Center, alligators and thunderstorms in Florida; that damned “Mission Space” ride at Epcot Center in Disney World (now why did I have to prove I could handle it …? I couldn’t!!); Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, AL; the cemeteries of New Orleans; the gorgeous Hill Country and the LBJ Ranch in Texas; Tumacacori and Tubac, AZ; and even stopping at Hoover Dam, which we have seen so very many times. Less specific sights that nonetheless impressed me included the green forests of eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee; the incredible color of the famed Red River; the gorgeous Sonoran Desert; even the drab Mojave Desert became beautiful in the cool air of October.
The low-lights had to be, first of all, the impossibly rude drivers all over this country. If the speed limit was 55 mph, people were driving at 75 and 80! If it was set at 70, they were going close to 90!!! Turn signals are very rarely used and a lot of drivers do not seem to realize they cut in too close to the vehicle they have just passed. I was shocked at the number of high-rise condominium buildings in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. I suppose it makes sense, given the limited space to spread out, but I sure would not want to live that way. I was very disappointed with the claustrophobic and squalid French Quarter of New Orleans and with the crass commercialism of Pigeon Forge, TN, and in the Alamo area of San Antonio, TX.
The greatest highlight, however, was the Level 9 Tour of the Johnson Space Center. Even though I was unwell during that tour, I was not about to give it up. I had made our reservations on the very first day the tour was offered and I had been watching for that day for three months prior. I was in such awe of the training facilities and the monitoring facilities of the various Mission Control centers. I was brought to tears by being allowed to sit at the consoles of the old Mission Control for the Apollo journeys to the moon and by seeing the view of the earth from the International Space Station.
This has been a marvelous experience. Writing this blog has kept the details clear and bright. Sharing it, and especially sharing my grandchildren, with you all has been great fun. I hope you have enjoyed reading about Jag’s and my travels as much as I have enjoyed writing about them.
See you soon!