10 July 2011
Two weeks and 5597 miles later we are back in the Bay Area! We saw so much in such a short time that it feels like we were away much longer. Our eyes were tricked by the desert mirages in the Great Salt Desert; we rode the alpine slides and roller coaster in Park City, Utah; swam in String Lake in Grand Teton; had a summer snowball fight and watched Old Faithful blow in Yellowstone; crossed the Bighorn Mountains and got a speeding ticket on the high plains of Wyoming; were escorted by an American buffalo to our hotel (the State Game Lodge) in the gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota; toured the Badlands and celebrated my aunt and uncle's anniversary with family in Illinois.
On the way back, we traveled the pioneer trail through Nebraska, did a quick drive-through tour of Colorado, then relaxed in a beautiful historic resort in Santa Fe. Staying at the Mirage in crowded Las Vegas was a huge contrast to the rest of our trip, but the room had just been tastefully renovated and the huge saltwater pool offered a respite from the desert heat. We wound down for a day in central California at a family house there. Our grand idea of riding ATVs on Oceano Beach got postponed to a later date when we got to the beach and realized we were just too tuckered out to race around the sand for two hours. Traveling up the coast, the landscape became more and more familiar until we arrived home to our bunny who gave us a happy welcome.
As you can see on the map, only twice did we have to repeat sections of road ~ one tiny stretch of the 80 going to the Mississippi River had to be passed again on our way out, and a southern detour in New Mexico lost us at least 5 hours total when we realized that the less-traveled road was seriously remote and we'd better turn back and stick to the freeway. (We'd traveled a lot of road but this area was different ~ someone had posted quite graphic signs warning of wolf attacks, there were high-alert fire risk notices prohibiting entrance to the forests and the towns that we thought were on the map were nearly abandoned/shut down.) If traveling east-west in the southwest, I definitely recommend sticking to the 40 or old Route 66!
We made an effort to stay in nice hotels (historic when possible) and to eat well since we were always sightseeing or traveling. We enjoyed good food just about everywhere we went, but found that coffee is better closer to the west coast. After an excellent cup of coffee in Park City we didn't have another really good cup until Santa Fe!
I took a lot of pictures and got so much inspiration from the land and wildlife. The sculpted rocks in South Dakota were very impressive. Santa Fe was an especially artistic and creative place with shops full of folk art and imagination. I'll share some of our discoveries and favorite places in upcoming posts. Thanks to everyone that kept in touch with me via twitter during our journey. It was a great trip that will also give me lots to work with for my Sketchbook Project ~ the theme Uncharted Waters should work out perfectly!