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Drive By Cross Country

22nd August 2016

From the Midwest to the West at 75 mph

It’s a long way from Grand Rapids, Michigan to the western USA and when you’re driving there’s an awful lot of space between here and there. For those of us who enjoy traveling, there are many familiar sites along the amazing interstate highway system that connects the great expanses of our country.

My journeys are accompanied by a camera or two. These cameras usually stay packed until we reach our final destination. However, I have a nice little point-and-shoot which sits on the dashboard – waiting for me to grab it to capture “stuff” as we pass by at highway speeds. Below is an abbreviated scrapbook that shows you some of that stuff that we saw along the highway as we made our way from Michigan to California. Excuse me if some of the photos are 75mph blurry.

 



the rolling farmlands of Illinois

the paths between rows in Iowa are irrigation ditches


colorful clouds as the day nears sunset

huge irrigators watering corn


rolls of hay in Nebraska fields

gigantic stockyard in Ogalalla, Nebraska


Lincoln statue near Laramie, Wyoming

oil refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming


solitary monuments near Green River, Wyoming

steep upgrade ahead in western Wyoming


skyline of downtown Salt Lake City

salt processing factory near Grant, Utah


Tree of Utah sculpture

production company filming at Bonneville Salt Flats


mountains leaving western Utah

mighty diesels pulling freight at Battle Mountain, Nevada


hillside letter at Carlin, Nevada

work train near Lovelock, Nevada


weather approaching Reno at sunset

Lake Tenaya in Yosemite Nat’l Park – driving much slower!

 

 


the compact Canon SX710

it’s small but capable of recording excellent images

 

 

I hope you enjoyed our most recent cross-country adventure in these few photographs courtesy of my handy Canon SX710 camera.

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


We just returned home after spending the last several weeks on the road. This was our annual summer vacation and as is customary, this outing was another cross-country road trip.

From July 6 to August 3 (that’s 4 weeks), we traveled by auto from our home in Grand Rapids, Michigan to the west coast and southwest to explore many of the scenic areas and to attend several family events.

From our starting point in Michigan (latitude 42.9633° N longitude 85.6681° W), we drove in a wide loop around several of the western states (exactly 17 states).

We followed the Interstate highways (I-196, I-94, I-294, I-90, I-84, I-5, I-15, I-70, I-76, I-80) for about 75% of our route. Twenty percent of the route was over excellent US highways (US 2 and US 34) and only a small portion (5% or so) on horrible, unimproved roads (CA 58, for example).

Our vehicle was a Honda mini-van for three adults (my wife, her sister and myself) and two of our grandchildren (ages 7 and 8).

There was plenty of room for the five of us when we snapped this tongue-in-cheek photo of the rear luggage area (38 cu ft). The remaining front passenger area actually had lots of room (172 cu ft).

As an avid fan of our National Park system, I was armed with my Senior Pass. Those of us who are 62-years and older can purchase a lifetime pass for only $10. This is a substantial discount from the $75 annual or $20 per entry pass for younger visitors (61-years and below).

We visited six National Parks on this roadtrip and the two grandkids earned several Junior Ranger badges by completing the requirements during these stays.


I used a pad to keep track of the fuel usage. Here’s some of the travel statistics –

Duration: 28 days
Lodging: Madison, WI; Bismarck, ND; Shelby, MT; Kalispell, MT; Oregon City, OR; Reno, NV; Sonora, CA; Coarsegold, CA; San Luis Obispo, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Moab, UT; Glenwood Springs, CO; Sterling, CO;
Distance traveled: 7040 miles
Fuel consumed: 285 gallons
Fuel efficiency: 24.6 mpg
Ave price of fuel: $3.75/gal
Highest price of fuel: $4.19/gal
Lowest price of fuel: $3.34/gal
Total cost of fuel: $1070.00
National Parks visited: 6 – Theodore Roosevelt NP; Glacier NP; Crater Lake NP; Yosemite NP; Arches NP; Rocky Mountain NP


 
 
 

Another statistic pertains to photography. With six National Parks under our belts and the many other places that we visited along the way, I kept busy shooting pictures. In all I recorded more than 1500 keepers.

I used two cameras – a Sony NEX7 with 18-200mm lens and a Canon 6D with 8-15mm fisheye and 100-400mm telephoto lenses.

The Sony NEX7 has a built-in panorama feature which I used frequently. I also enjoyed working with an Eye-Fi SD card in the Sony NEX7. The Eye-Fi card transmits images from the Sony NEX7 directly to my iPhone automatically. This let me review the photos at my convenience. And while the Canon 6D has built-in Wi-Fi capability, I did not use it on this roadtrip.

Below are my picks from each one of the National Parks.



Theodore Roosevelt NP

Glacier NP

Crater Lake NP


Yosemite NP

Arches NP

Rocky Mountain NP

 

Of course, these boring statistics hide the real roadtrip.

Our vacation was not only about spending time together in the vehicle (we clocked roughly 140 hours driving) as we visited with family in Oregon City and Reno (which are 530 miles apart). Reno is nearby our favorite Lake Tahoe (an easy 50 mile drive) where we spent 2 days swimming its crystal clear waters (albeit a little chilly at 65 degrees). Also in Reno we invested a cool $120 at the arcade in Circus Circus to bring home 27 stuffed animals – what a deal! In Yosemite we hiked the Merced Grove trail to pay our respect to the 2000+ year old Sequoias that reach more than 250 ft towards the heavens. A two-day jaunt to Moro Bay on the Pacific coast gave the grandkids the opportunity to collect rocks and sea shells (120 of them weighing twelve pounds). Then onto a family reunion (would you believe 90+ relatives) in Las Vegas. Believe me when I say that July is not most opportune time to be in Las Vegas (the temperature was 106 degrees). As if the heat there wasn’t enough, we stopped at a hot springs in Colorado to bask in its healthy but soothing waters (104-degree pool). And in a moment of driving indecision we backtracked (more than 200 miles) to visit our last National Park. There we climbed the tundra at the top of Trail Ridge Pass which is 11,800 ft above sea level. Anxious to get home, we made the final leg home from Sterling, CO to Grand Rapids (1050 miles in 17 hours).

While I’d like to share the other 1494 photos with you, these will have to wait for another article.

Roadtrip! There’s still several more weeks to enjoy the summer vacations. I hope you can get out there to enjoy our fabulous country. Did I hear roadtrip?
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 
 


 
 
 

Cross Country – … almost

22nd November 2011

packing in the sites when time is limited

 

Mom plans her getaway to her winter home in Arizona around the time the leaves start to fall in Michigan. When it’s time to leave the cold behind, she hops on an airplane for the 1500 mile flight and I volunteer to drive her car to Phoenix.

This year I chose to drive a circuitous route. Instead of heading directly for the southern route, I travel straight west towards Utah and Nevada. My plan is to do a some sightseeing. As it turns out, I visited five national parks and a few other interesting places.

To avoid a long slideshow, I’ve condensed this long cross country trip into a series of photos – one photo for each major stopover.

Are you ready?

OK, let’s go.


There is some snow in Colorado and this attractive bird is out looking for food.
We reached Arches National Park in eastern Utah about 10pm. The moon is full, inviting us to a camera challenge. Here’s a two second handheld photo taken at midnight without any other light except the moon.
The next day we travel to southern Utah and find a gorgeous and colorful Bryce Canyon National Park sprinkled with white stuff.
Before dusk we reach Zion National Park. Unlike Bryce where you’re looking down into the canyons, in Zion you’re in the canyon looking up.
That evening we arrive in Las Vegas. This city has always been a favorite of mine for night time photography. Can you see why?
After we leave Las Vegas we stop at the newly constructed bypass to the Hoover Dam. What a view. It’s an engineering and architectural marvel.
That evening, we arrive at the Grand Canyon National Park. Unfortunately, the clouds and rain moves in during the night and the next morning we are greeted with ground fog. The weather is perfect for “mood” shots like this.
Instead of crying about the cloudy Grand Canyon, we move south to Sedona and were able to catch some of the red rocks for which this area is noted.
Finally after five days on the road, we arrive in Phoenix.

This seguaro cactus is a familiar and welcome site.

 


So there you have it.

I’ve squeezed 2700 miles into a few compact photos.

I hope you enjoyed the parks as much as we did.

 

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 


On my latest cross country drive to deliver my Mom’s car to Phoenix, I broke the 2000 mile journey into two parts. Here’s why.

For years I’ve been reading and hearing about Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. It’s known as one of the best places in the USA to watch birds, especially those who have migrated there from the northern latitudes for the winter. Since the route from Grand Rapids to Phoenix passes close by, I decided to detour slightly.

Part one of the journey was 2-1/2 days traveling from Grand Rapids to Socorro, NM and visiting Bosque. Although I was in the NWR for only 16 hours or so, I totally enjoyed the wildlife and outdoor. You can see some of the photos from short stay at Bosque here.

Part two of the journey was the remaining 380 mile ride between Socorro and Phoenix. As I was planning for the drive a few days before the trip, I noticed a place on the map with a funny name “VLA”. When I googled it, I found it to be an acronym for Very Large Array. It’s a set of huge radio telescopes 50 miles west of Socorro on US Route 60, the preferred highway to Phoenix. It sounded interesting, so I decided that this would be another stop after Bosque del Apache.
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Last Friday Mom flew from Grand Rapids to Phoenix as many other snowbirds do for the winter. I volunteered to deliver her car to Phoenix so that she’d have wheels for her six month stay. To make my drive more productive, I turned the 2000 mile journey from Grand Rapids into a mini photo trip.

Just as many retirees make the trek to warmer climates in the late fall, so do many northern birds. One of their gathering spots is the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. I leave Grand Rapids on Tuesday at noon (ahead of Mom) and set the destination in my GPS for Socorro, New Mexico – about 90 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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It’s that time of the year again. Almost all of the leaves have fallen from the trees, the days are noticeably shorter and the temperature has decided to fall as well. With the onset of winter, this is when Mom is preparing to leave Michigan to head south for warmer environs. She’s booked her flight to Phoenix and is anxious to again become a “snowbird”.

Of course she’ll need a car in Phoenix for her winter stay. For the past several years, I’ve been the chosen one – I drive her car to Phoenix and then fly back home to Grand Rapids.

This year I’ve decided to make a slight detour on the drive to Phoenix. I’m planning to join the migrating birds at Bosque del Apache, a large bird sanctuary near Socorro in western New Mexico. I’ve heard about this wildlife refuge for a long time so now is the time to take the plunge, so to speak.

In preparing for the visit to Bosque, I found out about another close-by site. The Very Large Array (VLA) is an astronomical observatory made of 27 antennas each 80 feet in diameter. The VLA collects large amounts of data from outer space. Being only 50 miles from Socorro, I’m planning a short stop at the VLA following my visit to Bosque.

My drive is a southernly route taking me through Missouri, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle and to Albuquerque; then south to Socorro. Up to here, the route is all interstate highways and the weather should be snowfree in early November.

When I leave Socorro, I’ll head west following US 60 which takes me through some mountainous and forested areas in New Mexico and Arizona before flattening out near Globe, AZ. Hopefully the snow will hold off until later in the month. From Globe it’s clear sailing to Phoenix.

Many consider a cross country trip such as this an arduous undertaking. I have always enjoyed driving long distances and welcome the chance to stop at Bosque and VLA. I’m hoping that they will both offer me some interesting photography opportunities.

If the cameras are working and I make good with the photography opportunities, I’ll have some pictures here soon.

I wrote this article almost two years ago. The purpose of this cross country journey was to deliver an auto to Phoenix. Whenever possible, I try to record my travels through photographs. Since I’m planning another repeat of the drive from the Midwest to the Southwest in a few weeks, I wanted to refresh my memory to see how I might stuff even more photos into my next trip to Phoenix.


Written: November 2008.

Here’s some rambling about nothing in particular.

When the weather starts cooling off in Michigan, Mom starts thinking about going to the warm environs of her Winter home in Arizona. Normally she waits until after the Christmas Holidays, but this year she decides to travel early.

Here’s where I come in. She flies and I drive. As the designated driver, I drive her car from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Phoenix, Arizona to use for the months that she is there. I don’t mind, in fact I look forward to the 2000 mile trip. After delivering the car to Phoenix I’ll fly back to Grand Rapids.
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