Road-Tripping Forward From Corona

“ Each of us must confront our own fears and must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.” (Judy Blume).

It would be easy to“let my guard down” and say that my worst fears of the Corona Virus have ended. After all, I can again stroll the beach, eat at my favorite cafes, or find a friend to accompany me to a live Miami Dolphin game. Yet the beginning of Phase 2 recovery from the pandemic, however, does not mean life for me has returned to normal. For I continue to face seemingly minute to minute decisions about when and where to wear my mask, sanitize my hands, and social distance from strangers in congested South Florida. So being a person who likes to get “out and about”, my 2018 Honda CRV therefore now serves as the most natural place to feel safest now from such continuing airborne health concerns.

Other thoughts are going through our minds as Ruth and I move forward to resume our road trip adventures this weekend. For a quick glance at the photos at the end of this blog provides an emotional calling for both of us to experience autumn’s natural beauty again amid the the wide open spaces of Colorado. But don’t get me wrong as I am not taking our decision to plan such a long distance road trip now lightly.

Consider then that I’ve learned from our March road trip to steer clear of those regions in our country that remain potential “hot spots”for Corona spread activity. Thus, such destinations as New Orleans, Houston, and Denver seem too risky to visit at this particular time. We must  pay vigorous attention as well  to likely encounters with freezing road conditions, smoke filled air, and late season hurricane activity. So take a look at our proposed itinerary in the cover photo above. Feel free to provide comments to me about our projected loop route to and from home.

So what might interest you to read my upcoming U.S. travel blogs in October and early November other than autumn’s natural beauty? Ten items below immediately come to mind.

1) Capture the authentic antebellum feel of Route 61 adjacent to the east side of the Mississippi River.
(2) Be curious about some lesser known museums of local historic interest in the Deep South region.
(3) Understand some longstanding cultural traditions of German dominant communities in small Midwest towns.
(4) Observe some notable hiking trails or snow-shoe paths in the state parks of Colorado.
(5) Enjoy the live music sound of country rock in Texas.
(6) Feel the fall excitement of game day fever in a southern, college football town.
(7) Tour the hallowed grounds of a famous Civil War battlefield site.
(8) Gain a sense of the political pulse of small town America for the upcoming Presidential election.
(9) Learn some interesting facts about birdwatching in the wild nature of the Rocky Mountain region.
(10) Uplift your with human spirit with some timely words from one of my current novel readings.

See you on the road soon. Stay well. USFMAN

Road Trip Realities Faced

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” (Lao Tzu)

When you embark on a long road adventure as we do every year, you have to prepare yourself for unforeseen crises that may alter or end the trip. So in hearing the sad news last Tuesday that my mother urgently required a hospital stay back in Fort Lauderdale, we made the quick decision in Flagstaff, Arizona to strategize the most direct and easy path home as possible. Happily, we will accomplish our Plan B goal with a Saturday afternoon arrival in South Florida after four grueling days of driving along truck congested U.S. Interstate Highways 40, 20, and 10.

On a side note, government facilities, motels, and restaurants throughout the country on our vacation seemed to be successfully adhering to current virus prevention policies. Yet there were large numbers of customers/tourists we encountered, particularly in the “Deep South” who failed to similarly follow these guidelines. Don’t be fooled by such peer pressure to “let your guard down.” Wear a sturdy mask, avoid lingering in crowded situations indoors, and stick to social distancing guidelines.

In closing my account of this adventure with my eighteenth blog, I offer you some memorable video moments from our 2020 road trip below.

Grand Canyon Chasm Of Life

“ I just need time in a beautiful place to clear my head” (Ritu Ghatourey)

Can you imagine a more beautiful place to reenergize your love of being alive than the spectacular Grand Canyon? Yes, you might imagine the euphoria we felt upon witnessing this grand spectacle of life once again on day 44 of our road trip. For it seemed right then to forget about the oppressive heat in Northern Arizona as well as the worrisome influx of so many maskless tourists at this park then. Instead we would resolve to experience these amazing canyon environs on Monday morning for the primary purpose of uplifting our human spirit. Thus a casual walk along the canyon’s South Rim corridor would successfully serve our purposes today. The following photographs thus provide a sensory glimpse of several memorable moments that we witnessed that day.

I am feeling more relaxed in the silence of pure nature today because the park does not seem busy today.

I scan this pleasing panorama of geologic layered artistry, feeling a human will that I will change yet survive.

As hardy plants cling to the canyon walls, I sense there is a strong will in life to obtain  peaceful coexistence conditions.

I breathe in more deeply and slowly in response the rustling wind blowing through the dense, Ponderosa Pine forest growing near our picnic table.

I follow the daring path of a black crow who flies freely to “edge of the canyon” environs and wonder about searching for such places of peaceful solitude for my life from up high.

I hear the shrill whistle of an old time, passenger train arriving from the nearby town of Williams and picture living in a much slower time and place.

I search closely for spiritual meanings provided by nearby rock formations that seem so oddly human.

Whether it’s photograph or painting, the Grand Canyon appeals to the celebration  of of the enduring living spirit for us all.

Vibrant Energy Of Cliffside California

“You could travel the world, but nothing comes close to the golden coast.”(Katy Perry)

Can you imagine what your life would like if you experienced the freedom to fly as a seagull? Yes, I do envy the powers of bird flight as I gaze over a Central California coastal environs on our road trip dotted by inaccessible spots of wonder that only an adventurous seagull might reach. As a gull, I would certainly experience no fear of height when perching precariously on a jagged cliff above the crashing surf below. Or perhaps by posing proudly on an offshore rocky shoal, I would feel empowered about keeping my distance from the human predators staring at me on the distant shore. With the vast ocean as my trusting friend, my magical wings could also carry me along with great efficiency to find plentiful feeding grounds in the blue waters below.

Of course as I am merely human, a gull reincarnation in my next life will have to wait. Instead, I’ve been willing and able to slow down our road trip now to absorb the positive energy of California oceanside from a safe vantage point ashore. Along the famed Pacific Coast Highway, I thus cautiously drive my vehicle around Big Surs’ tortuous curves into panoramic bliss where mountain meet the sea. At Morro Bay, I gape in awe at a giant rock protruding from the ocean as multitudes of seagulls, squirrels and sea otters playfully gather nearby. Then it’s on to Montana de Oro State Park near the small town of Los Osos for a curious walk nearest cliff edge to obtain breathtaking views of a cove shrouded bay. So join me in my humbly human ways as I present the following photographic display of wild nature’s glory.

Moseying Around Mansion Row

“ A beach house isn’t just real estate. It’s a state of mind.” (Douglas Adams)

Ruth and I have frequently stopped to visit our friends Bobbi and John in the Northern California region of Santa Cruz since the 1980s. Serving now as a popular travel escape for the San Francisco Bay crowd as well a liberal minded college town-surfing cultural hub, Santa Cruz struggles to retain its “laidback” bohemian reputation of former times. It’s major road arteries are simply too congested now to drive amid growing urban sprawl surroundings. So on our road trip visit to Santa Cruz this past weekend, we seemed fortunate to witness glimpses of this historic town’s historic, pedestrian friendly past with a post 4th of July walk with John along the mansion lined corridor of West Cliff Drive. 

Imagine then the direct conflict of public vs. private land use values that we observed along our hike today. On the inland side of West Cliff, one could imagine a multimillion dollar sales figure exclusively for the wealthy buyer to purchase one of these estates. While a casual glance to the adjacent beach side would reveal in direct opposition a sustained public commitment to provide free and open access to “Mother Nature” for all. So as you observe the following photograph set, ask yourself to what extent do you feel the need to protect and preserve America’s coastal beachfront lands for future public enjoyment?

In Bay Broken Busy Mode

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. (Maya Angelou)

The streets of San Francisco Bay Area seemed eerily quiet and absent of traffic as Ruth and I arrived in nearby San Rafael, California for a three day, road trip visit. Our friend Dan who lives downtown had advised us of severe shutdown issues there prior to our visit so we realized the need to take social distancing measures seriously. As we watched Governor Gavin Newsom read off the latest Corona restrictions on television, we also grasped that live attendance at sporting events, concerts, beaches, movies, plays, and indoor eateries would continue to be off limits for awhile. For “Bay Area” Californians faced the realistic need to continue battling the Corona problem with such austere measures now hoping for its safe resolution in the long run.

Under these present circumstances then, what touristic activities out of the norm in San Francisco made sense for us amid this continuing health crisis? Perhaps a simple city drive or beach view would render a more observant eye for detail. Or as tourist visits to art museums, shopping centers and waterfront activities remained unavailable, money could be saved by seeking out free or inexpensive sources of entertainment. Even a short “dead end” trek to nowhere in particular might spark a fresh taste of fun. So let’s go photographic exploring for two, gorgeously sunny days at this “city by the bay.”

Driving along the steep hills of downtown San Francisco, these normally busy urban corridors were noticeably missing pedestrian and vehicle movement.

So I seemed more aware amid such driving solace of interesting architectural features of surrounding buildings.

We’ve crossed the majestic Golden Gate Bridge by car many times but have rarely taken the time to stop at nearby overlooks for a close up view.

Yet a short walk below the south entrance of this iconic bridge span provided a more intimate look at the this engineering marvel as well as several new vantage points of the San Francisco Bay environs beyond.

A normal day at famed Fisherman’s Wharf would attract throngs of tourists. But business there seemed to be severely hurting because of Covid- 19 on the day of our visit.

Perhaps we could find more excitement at nearby Pier 39. For thirty years, large numbers of harbor seals have congregated along the nearby jetties there. But sadly, the seals are now all gone. So we had to settle for a series of eye catching artpieces symbolizing their enduring presence there.

The Cliff House along a steep promontory of San Francisco Bay normally would provide an ideal patio spot to sit for for a relaxing lunch and enjoy a classic oceanside view.

But today, we would “make due” with a “takeout” clam chowder and venture out to find new “overlooks” of scenic view.

San Francisco’s renowned Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park provided the ideal place to social distance amongst wild nature’s splendor.

Without the crowds often found there, we felt emboldened to aimlessly walk around and make new plant discoveries and forego using a map or GPS for directional guidance.



“Cruising” Along In West Coast Style

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” (Rachel Carson)

The term “cruising” in the informal sense refers to the casual act of driving a vehicle in an aimless manner most often at lesser speeds. The scenic drive along the western coasts of Oregon/Northern California thus appeared to have become the ideal route for a “cruising” adventure on this weekend’s leg of our road trip. Foregoing our U.S. east coast perceptions accustomed to congested beachfront housing and touristic business sprawl, we instead enjoyed a west coast adventure from Coos Bay, Oregon heading south to San Rafael, California amid wild nature relatively untouched by human intrusion.

Keep in mind that while Google Maps suggested that this north – south drive could be accomplished in a little over eight hours driving time, we opted to spend close to two full days of slower paced “cruising” to accomplish this task. Thus, the matter of making time and covering distance seemed relatively unimportant as I experienced  enhanced sensory awareness of remote coastal beachfronts, cool highland forests, and lush river valleys. In the photograph set below, I thus reveal some personally enlightening observations about the essentials of “cruising” in west coast style. Stay healthy in July. USFMAN.

Feel the immense life energy of a Giant Redwood Forest.

Summertime blooming of wildflowers can cleanse the soul.

A lonely crag offshore can enthrall the imagination.

Pay attention to the large rock ahead for safety reasons.

The objects of interest along a lonely beach comprise much more than seashells and sand.

Stop frequently at designated road turnoffs for best scenic views.

Beware of sudden, natural event hazards.

Alternative health options abound in west coast settings.

Keep two hands on the wheel at all times .

Visiting a State/National Park can be an effective cure for “Covid -19” social isolation.

There’s no such phenomenon as a “Bridge Too Far” in cruising mode.

Jackson Hole: A “Two For One” Time

“The grand difficulty is so to feel the reality of both worlds as to give each its due place in our thoughts and … eye, ever fixed on the land of promise , without looking away from the road along which we are to travel toward it.” (Augustus Hare”)

Whenever we visit Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I do not know whether it’s more appropriate to say “yippee, ride em cowboy” or “Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo.” For this popular town situated amidst the majestic Grand Tetons resonates strongly as both a “Wild West” town for country western enthusiasts and a cosmopolitan playground resort for the hedonistic city dweller depending on one’s point of view. You might thus feel comfortable entering the “Million Dollar Cowboy Bar” downtown for a country “ hoe down”, informally “decked out” with your ten gallon hat, leather gun belt, and western style boots. Or alternatively you’ve just flown in from a major city on a LearJet at the local airport and wish to head for the slopes with your trendy ski wear equipment purchased from the “Skinny Skis Sporting Good Store.”

So as I enter the “Antler Arch” entrance into Jackson Town Square on our current road trip, I thus feel confused about the prevailing town image. For I’ve been given the initial impression of a municipal persona embedded in wild game hunting, and a rugged pioneer spirit. Yet as I sit quietly to eat my social distancing lunch on a park bench there, I opposingly notice the gentrified ambience of trendy art galleries, fancy cafes and fashionable clothing boutiques on the streets beyond.

Apparently then, Ruth and I do not convey very well either of these tourist images described above. For as you can no doubt tell in the photographs I present below, we humbly pass through this region simply hoping to slow down a little, engage in simple conversations, imbibe in moderation, and perhaps take a hike or two.

Driving the slower road across the Grand Teton pass from the west into Jackson Hole, I took the time to stop at several picturesque overlooks.

Passing through the “Antler Arch” in Jackson Town Square, we enjoyed a brief chat with a local volunteer on horseback.

Window shopping for inexpensive souvenirs downtown, several displays “caught my eye.”

Perhaps I did want to “yodel” a little when I observed this steep hill behind our motel.

The sign next to the exhibit said to wear a mask across from the “Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.” Did they really mean to wear a western bandana?

“Stick em up cowboy. This is a holdup.”

On the road up to Grand Teton National Park, it appeared that I would be driving straight into this gigantic mountain.

Parking our vehicle at the “Jenny Lake”Visitor Center, this scenic panorama produced flashbacks of our previous hiking expeditions in the Switzerland Alps.

On a questionable weather morning for hiking, we found good luck in booking the popular “Jenny Lake” boat cruise.

We then took a well marked, one and a half mile walk on the other side of the lake to “Hidden Falls Overlook.”

Along the way, we relaxed into the soothing sounds/sights of downstream, running water. 

Nature’s Victory In Yellowstone

“Choose only one master—nature.” (Rembrandt)

Note: I wish to dedicate this blog to cousin Tim whose past  knowledge from working  at Yellowstone helped me immeasurably in writing this blog. 

Moving south into Yellowstone National Park from Montana, Ruth and I once again stood in awe at the powerful forces of nature on display here. Super heated subterranean forces expelled steam and boiling liquid into the air in a wide range of geyser fields. Wild animals roamed freely along unfenced wilderness lands often acting oblivious to nearby human encounter. A free flowing river carved its horizontal path between massive canyon walls then rapidly descended at a massive waterfall. A pristinely still lake once created by a massive volcanic eruption encircled the park interior.

Our two day visit Yellowstone visit also seemed well timed in early summer to take advantage of the expected reduction in tourist travel there as a result of the Covid -19 pandemic. Yet surprisingly all areas of the park we visited seemed surprisingly busy in spite of limited lodging/food service options and Visitor Centers being closed. Animal sightings as expected would seem to be the most popular tourist activity during our stay. A brief photographic chronology of the entire duration of this visit to Yellowstone is provided below. Enjoy the scenery.

After entering the the park via Gardiner, Montana, our first park stop took place at “Mammoth Hot Springs” area. We then walked steeply uphill along wooden paths to reach a lava strewn wasteland.

Heading south at a vehicle turnoff we spotted this grazing buffalo. I was advised then to keep my distance from the animal. Other buffalo sightings soon followed.

Other animal sightings became more common at unexpected times/places during our visit.

Stopping at “Norris”vicinity, we opted for a brief overlook view of this massive geyser basin.

Someday it might be fun to try fly fishing at Yellowstone.

Continuing toward “Old Faithful”, a series of smoking geysers midway to there captured my photographic interest.

Waiting for the suspense of an “Old Faithful” eruption, we made time for a loop route around the surrounding geyser field.

After a one hour wait , we joined a sizable crowd on benches to witness the “Old Faithful” eruption.

Proceeding east to Yellowstone Lake, we observed colorful shoreline geysers at West Thumb basin.

Stopping frequently as we traveled north and east along this serene lake , these towering peaks in the background captivated my attention.

Our tour ended at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone , where we witnessed the spectacular waterfall descent of the river along the Lower Falls Overlook at “Inspiration Point.”

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