Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Where in the world is Rick?

(Somewhat off topic)

So where have I been? Vacationing - yep, a real vacation.

This year I decided I am going to vacation like normal people. You might not know this, but most people actually leave work behind when they go on vacation. So I did this over the last twelve days. Okay, not all twelve days, but for the majority of the twelve days. Heck I was disconnected from the Internet most of every day, and sometimes all day. One day when I reconnected I downloaded over 1000 messages.

Last fall while watching The Amazing Race (television show on CBS here in the USA) we saw some beautiful country when the teams visited Yellowstone. It reminded me how much I have wanted to visit this part of the country. I have wanted to go there ever since seeing my grandfather's slides when I was a young boy. Last month I convinced the family to go. They voted unanimously for this. The other option I put on the table was to visit Louisiana/Mississippi where Katrina hit, and Houston, Texas (for Johnson Space Center). Seriously, I thought seeing the destruction first hand would be something good for us to experience.

At first Therese was a little nervous when I mentioned camping without electricity. Then it hit her, if Rick does not have electricity he has no way to run his computer once his battery runs out. She was sold.

We packed up the family (including my parents and nephew), connected up the camper, and headed west on a 1800 mile journey through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. We also stopped by Idaho since it was still on my list of states to visit. I am now down to three (Alaska, Louisiana, and Oregon -I plan on visiting two of the three next year).

Yellowstone was spectacular! It surpassed all my expectations except for not experiencing an earthquake. We saw everything from Old Faithful to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We went to the top if a 10, 000+ foot pass to get there, visited each and every entrance, and hiked though geyser infested areas. The Mud Pots were cool. The falls were spectacular. Revisiting the Continental Divide is always fun. The views just kept getting better all week. We saw a ton of Elk, dozens of Bison, and even on Grizzly Bear. The weather was spectacular.

We also visited the bridge where Drew and Brent died last September. It reminded me of how fragile our lives are. Being there also brought more questions to mind than answers on how such a tragedy could happen to these two.

After Yellowstone we visited the Grand Tetons. These are the mountains I have always wanted to visit. I have seen mountains in Colorado, Washington, California, and Tennessee, but these mountains are the best I have seen. Therese said these were the closest mountains she has seen to the Alps.

I took over 400 pictures and an hour of video.

On the way home we headed out the east entrance of Yellowstone and drove to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota because my nephew has not been there. We also travelled through Iowa, Illinois to get back to Michigan.

We have decided Illinois is the state most unfriendly to travelers with RVs (sorry to all my friends there). They restricted us to 55mph when everyone else can drive 65mph including some trucks, they charge more than triple the tolls over the price of a car, and we had long traffic jams around Chicago. One toll booth was responsible for a 15 mile backup and then they charged us US$8 when cars were charged US$2. Appalling.

In Michigan you can travel on our roads for free. So come to Michigan where vacations are better for drivers of all types.

Wyoming is a fantastic state to visit. I have to rate it as one of my 5 favorite to visit. If you have not visited this part of the country, make sure to add it to the list of places to visit. You will not regret it.

So we drove over 4000 miles, added three new states to our list, stayed in some great hotels to and from Wyoming, and one really crappy Holiday Inn Express in Benton Harbor, Michigan (they stuck us in a smoking room when we reserved non-smoking, and told my parents to come get a plunger to unplug their toilet when they arrived to a plugged toilet). The hotel did not even appear to be near capacity, but they refused to put us in a better room.

Overall - one of the best vacations I have ever had. Now for the fun part, getting back to work. I guess it should not be too hard since I love what I do. Good thing, I have a lot to do! {bg}


At 7/12/2006 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Craig said...

Sounds like a blast. It's always interesting to read what people from other parts of the world and country have to say. A 10,000 foot mountain is nothing for me (I reguarly ski at 8000-1000 feet), but something cool for people from the low-lying flatlands of central and eastern US.

Wyoming one of your favorites? Perhaps you haven't seen much of the state. Try driving across I-80 sometime. BORING. Nothing to see. Even the scenery is ummm...not scenic. I remember Garfield (a cartoon cat) saying that Wyoming really means "Nothing there". The Yellowstone/Teton area is the only area I would call scenic...and that is a VERY small corner of the state.

We'll have to talk about some of your travels sometime. Perhaps when we meet up at SWFox.

At 7/12/2006 01:14:00 PM, Blogger Rick Schummer said...

I have been on 14K foot mountains and it was spectacular, but the views from the 10K pass were better in this case.

You are correct about the impressions from those of us who live in the flat land. I love the mountains, but I love to live on the mitten. It is the same impression from those who live in sparsly populated places like Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota coming to the "big city" once and a while.

But back to my favorites list criteria. I don't judge a vacation spot or city just by a boring ride like the one across I-80 in Wyoming or I-94 in North Dakota, or I-70 in Kansas (I have done all three). If that were true I could say the salt flats of Utah would make me never return to the beautiful parts. I would be missing a lot

So If I only visit Yellowstone/Tetons and Laramie to see Sue and Dave again, Wyoming remains in my top 5. In no particular order: Washington, California, Utah, Arizona being the other top 5.

At 7/12/2006 02:52:00 PM, Anonymous Jeff Simon said...

Rick -- I live in Illinois and we all hate the tollways and think they should be free. However, you got the rates wrong for cars. Car tolls are typically $0.40 with others at $0.50, $0.75 or $0.95 for 2 axle passenger vehicles (RV's are higher). To get these cheaper rates you need an "IPASS" transponder. Some of the Eastern states have ez-pass which is compatible and soon (politics) the Indiana Tollway will also be compatible. There is a deposit for the device, but in the long run you'll be doing yourself a favor. Unsuspecting traveler's really get taken by the cash rates.

It's really not much different than the scam of having to pay "out-of-state" tuition. (My kids went to school at IU (Bloomington, In) and OU (Ohio University)). Think of the extra fee as a Tax on people who have no vote in the state.

At 7/12/2006 03:37:00 PM, Blogger Rick Schummer said...

Jeff - The stop I quoted was a "double stop". One toll booth for two fees. The operator was kind enought to remind me I only needed to stop once, cutting my overall aggravation in half. Funny thing, we left the toll road soon after this which ticked me off even more.

Thanks for reinforcing my understanding that people get shafted even more for paying with cash. Being from the a "toll-free" state, I will never be inclined to buy one of the IPASS gizmos. I will just avoid toll roads, and states that stick it to me.

Funny thing, I don't mind paying tolls on the Ohio Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. One stop at the beginning, once at the end. Toll booths along the way are wasting fuel and time. Dumb all the way around.

At 7/28/2006 10:49:00 AM, Blogger Randy Jean said...

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Indiana toll road now that they are leasing it to some foreign consortium for the next 75 years.
Speaking of which, why didn't you stop in Indiana? I know it's kinda flat and nothing but corn and soybean, but you can always visit the Amish or something. {g}

At 7/28/2006 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Rick Schummer said...

Hi Randy,

I have nothing against Indiana, but like Ohio, it usually is something I pass through to get to someplace else and Indiana is just a short drive from Michigan so it hardly is worth staying over for us except when we are visiting friends.


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