The trek I made this year started in New York and ended in San Francisco. That is a long distance if you take a direct route, but if you want to see something it is 'just a little bit' more. We saw the Niagara Falls, Chicago, Yellowstone en Yosemite. This trek was organized by Suntrek. I am not satisfied with the way they performed this trek, and I will not book another trek with them.
On this trek we had a maxi van again, the same type we had on the previous treks too. Also the equipment was almost the same, only the colors were different.
Saturday may 31
At half past four the taxi picked me up from home to bring me to the railway station. It was this early because I had to catch the 7.45 flight from Schiphol to London. I flew with British Airways this time, and I had a quiet flight. The plane to New York was a brand new 777, only three months in service. There were some wiring problems: on one of the TV-screens in tourist class they played one of the business class films.
In New York I took the shuttle from the airport to the hotel. The drivers
of those shuttles are pretty weird, but this one was completely mad. There
were a number of other Dutch people in the shuttle, and these people were
complaining (in Dutch) about the driving, and the fact that it took so
long before they were at their hotel. They expected to be dropped of first,
and the fact that we drove to a wrong hotel first to drop off someone else
did not make them any happier. I am sure the driver did not understand
Dutch, but he must have understand what they meant, because we passed the
hotel a couple of times from a couple of blocks, but he did not drop them
off. I had a great time in this shuttle: I saw a lot of Manhattan, I experienced
the driving and I understood all the comments from the other people.
I went to the 'Wizard of Oz' in Madison Square Garden. There is not much garden left inside this building.
Sunday June 1
Started with a real American breakfast: pancakes with syrup and a large cup of American coffee.
I spend that day to see New York. I climbed the Empire State Building (bad visibility, less than 10 km) and the Statue of Liberty. The first one had an elevator, but the second one only has stairs. The statue was completely filled, so it was climbing step by step. Especially the way down is fun: these stairs are very steep. After that I walked through Manhattan. It is a large change from the Netherlands to the center of Manhattan.
That night we had the welcome meeting. There were 3 other Dutch people, one from Belgium, one girl from New Zealand, one from Australia and one from Denmark, one German speaking guy from Switzerland and 4 people from Germany of which 2 did not speak English at all :-(((((( That's fun: there is always someone who has to translate to and from German. They shouldn't have been on this trek, but on one of the German-spoken treks that they also have. Out trek leader is from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and you hear that in every time he speaks.
Monday June 2
We started loading the van at 8 o'clock in the rain. It continued raining that day until we are at our first campground at Cayuga Lake.
Tuesday June 3
Loaded and on the road before 8 o'clock! We got lost a couple of times on our way to Niagara Falls. One time we stopped in the middle of the road to check on a map. A police car stopped behind us and showed us the way to the interstate. This police officer must have been very impressed with the French accent of our driver, because we were standing in a bend of the road, and we did not even get a ticket.
The weather is very good at the falls, and we made the 'Maid of the mist' tour. If you want you can get a free shower on that boat. We went back that night to see the falls from the Canadian side. That is an amazing view.
Wednesday June 4 and Thursday June 5
We drove from the Niagara Falls to Chicago. On the first day we stopped in Cleveland to have lunch and to visit the mall in the center of town. I found a very good model railroad store. When we arrived on the campground we were almost send away, because of a previous group.
The second day we drove on to Chicago. We stayed in a hotel in one of the suburbs of Chicago. We took the train to the center of town, and visited a blues festival. There were a lot of stands where they sold food and souvenirs, but not much music. But after that we visited some bars with good music to compensate this.
Friday June 6
In the brochure from the hotel it said 'Continental Breakfast'. This means a donut and some coffee. I spend the rest of the day walking through the center of Chicago with 2 other group members. We climbed Sears tower; the view was better than New York, but still not very good.
I went to the House of Blues that night. They had a show with Charlie Musselwhite first and after that John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. That was very good, both the shows and also the House of Blues itself, the people, it was all just great. The main act was John Mayall, but to me they had 2 main acts. The only problem with this evening was that it was one of the NBA finals, and the Chicago Bulls were playing, so between the shows they had this match on the TV's, and John Mayall had to wait until the game was over.
I had to leave before this show was over to catch the last train back to the hotel.
Saturday June 7 - Wednesday June 11
Only travel, to get from Chicago to Yellowstone. We left the campground almost always around 7.30! (For me that is amazing, because I always have problems getting up in the morning)
Saturday we visited the Miller Brewery (according to the taste they use a lot (too much) of water per bottle). After the tasting we have a very quiet drive to the next campground. We stayed in Pikes Peek State Park. We visited a small boat-casino near the town, I was very lucky: I won almost $20!
On Sunday we drove to Blue Mounds State Park. This is a small area that is just a bit above the surrounding (flat) area and has some 'wild' nature.
On Monday we arrived at a more interesting area, Badlands National Park. This is an amazing area: an area with rocks without plants. We heard that this area was used as background for scenes in a film that was located on the moon! We also made a helicopter ride over this area. From such a high point of view you can see how large it is.
The next day we moved to Devils Tower. This is a gigantic rock that is standing there in the middle of nowhere, without any reason to be there :-) On the way to Devils Tower we visited Mount Rushmore (the presidents) and Crazy Horse (an Indian leader). Especially the last one is very impressive: it makes the presidents look small! It is a statue that is being made in a mountain, and they are already working on it for 50 years. After that we also visited the town Deadwood (the name says it all): it was said to be an old western town, but it was just a number of old western houses that were transformed into casinos.
On Wednesday we moved to Cody, and late that evening (in a bar, after another match in the NBA finals) we learned from a local that this was the town of Buffalo Bill, and that we should have visited the museum and other places. Our tour leader did not know about it (this was not the only fact he did not know about, it would be easier, and much shorter, to tell about the things he knew).
Thursday June 12 and Friday June 13
We left at 7 for some horseback riding along the river. When we are halfway there is a load bang (a shot?), and one of the horses starts to jump. One of the Germans gets a first lesson in rodeo driving: after 5 seconds he is off. I expect that the horse only understands English, and this man only spook German (or maybe it was just on old World War 2 army horse?).
After that we drove on to Yellowstone. We asked our driver to tell us some more about Yellowstone: this is the first national park, and all the other information you can find in the brochures.
The nature is very beautiful, but there is still much visible from the fires in 1988: there are large areas with only dead and burned trees. But it is starting to get green again on the ground. It is still pretty cold: there is a lot of snow, and the lakes are almost flooded, a number of geysers had already disappeared into the lakes.
The main road in Yellowstone consists of two loops, the north and south loop. We stayed on a campground where the two loops touched. On Thursday we did the northern loop, and on Friday the southern loop. The most impressive was (of course) 'Old Faithful', but also the 'Mud Volcanoes' because of the smell. We also made a hike near Yellowstone falls, and we got some rain and snow. During that day a part of the campground was evacuated because a grizzly was walking around in the area.
Saturday June 14 - Thursday June 18
On Saturday we drove to Jackson Hole. We planned to go river rafting, but the road to the starting point was blocked because of the high water, so we went canoeing. That was not as much fun as rafting but still pretty good. That night we went to a rodeo. When we were sitting there in the open it started to get colder, so we decided to go downtown to find a place where it was a bit warmer. But we could not get into the bars, because someone forgot the ID, and they check that in all bars, but luckily not in restaurants.
Sunday we moved to Salt Lake City. We did a tour through the Mormon religious center. That night we went to a drive-in cinema. We were sitting with a group on top of the van watching 'Liar, liar', and some other movies that were shown in other parts of the cinema.
Monday morning we went back to Salt Lake City to visit the Family Center to see if they knew anything about our relatives and us. They did not know anything about my family. After that we went to the famous racetrack. But this day there were no record attempts. The only attempts they could have made were with boats, because the whole area was still flooded.
The next day we moved to Reno. We stopped at a gas station called Cold Springs. It was the only 'village' in about 70 miles. The center of Reno is only casinos, but is not even close to Las Vegas. That afternoon we moved to a campground close to the Tioga pass, the entrance of Yosemite, and after a good night sleep (outside this time, what a great view, all those stars!) we entered Yosemite. There was also a lot of snow on top of the Tioga pass. Now I know why we were not allowed to use this pass 2 years earlier. We only had half a day in Yosemite, and that is much (MUCH!) to short to even see the smallest part of this park.
On Thursday we moved to Sacramento. We had lunch in a small restaurant in Sonora. This was the first time in the States that I had very bad service in a restaurant. I heard the waitress talking to another customer: "They only come over here once, and still they expect full service". For us it will really be only once!
That night we spend in old Sacramento. We spend some time in some bars, because all the other shops were closed, and it was to dark to do something else.
Friday June 19
We drove to San Francisco. Our driver wanted to drive directly to the hotel, but on our request we made a tour through the city: a quick drive around downtown without stops (except traffic lights). In the afternoon we made a boat trip in the bay, under the Golden Gate and around Alcatraz.
That night the group split up (a quick good-bye to the driver and some more time for some of the other group members), and we went to Fisherman's Wharf with a part of the group.
Saturday June 20
I had breakfast at Starbucks, the only place in the States where they serve a good coffee (together with the Starbucks in Chicago). I spend that day walking around: from the center through China Town to Fisherman's Wharf and back. San Francisco is the best town I know of in the States!
During that day I discovered that the band that I saw in Chicago (John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers) was also playing here that night. Because I had to leave early in Chicago I decided that I wanted to see the band again. That night I had dinner (with 2 others from the group) in Chinatown. After that I went to the show. Before John Mayall went on stage we saw Greg Piccolo and Heavy Juice, another very good band. It was another very great night!
Sunday June 21 - Monday June 22
I started the flight back home on Sunday, and arrived in Amsterdam on Monday, after a short stop in London.
When I entered the railway station I discovered that there were no trains at all: a huge power failure had stopped all the trains (and a lot more) in the center of the Netherlands.
It was a nice trip, even if you take in account the qualities of the driver (Suntrek calls him a trek leader, but he did not 'lead' us at all, he only drove us to the places he had on his list). The nature was beautiful and impressive, the towns where great, and the music just amazing. The group was moderate, and the driver was not very good at all, just like his English and his knowledge of the States.