A Travellerspoint blog

USA - Washington DC

sunny 31 °C

We descended from the mountains and arrived in Washington DC. We stayed in the suburb of Hyattsville in a super Airbnb accommodation, just a few hundred meters over the Washington DC state border as it's such a small state!

Washington DC is a planned city, and has a generous strip of monuments and parkland. We took our bikes in to explore, which were perfect to cover the sprawling stretch of monuments. Spotting some food carts on our way, we couldn't resist stopping off for a bite to eat from the 15 carts clustered together....now we just had to choose one! We munched down lunch with the Capitol Building as our backdrop, and spent the afternoon exploring the shady monuments, which were a nice shelter from the heat of the day.

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The Lincoln Memorial is impressively situated overlooking the National Mall strip and Washington Monument. Inside it houses a giant sculpture of Abraham Lincoln who saw the states through the Civil War and was ultimately assassinated for his attempt to abolish slavery and achieve equal rights. Two other monuments honor past presidents; The Washington Monument for the first president of America, George Washington, who chose the site where the capital of America would be built, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Before the day ended we made it to the well guarded White House, which permanently has two police cars pulled up at the front gate. We didn't manage spot President Obama - maybe next time!

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The following day was an early start for our tour of the United States Capitol (although this is free, you need to book it in advance). It's a splendid building, and was great to visit the inside with a guide. After the tour we had the opportunity to sit in on the Senate and House of representatives as they were in session. (International visitors can pick up tickets on the day). The Library of Congress is another impressive building worth popping inside to check out, just over the road from the State Capitol.

Washington is full of museums, and many are founded by the Smithsonian Institution, making them free to enter. We passed a few hours very easily in the National Museum of American History and rubbed the nose of a giant bronze sculpture of Albert Einstein perched on a nearby street.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 23.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Blue Ridge Pkwy & Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

semi-overcast 26 °C

Time to hit the road again and say goodbye to our German friends. We drove inland to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. A long scenic drive winding it's way along the Appalachian Highlands through North Carolina and Virginia.

The route is dotted with walking tracks and campgrounds. We hiked up to humpback rock, a jagged precipice for some great views out across the mountains, which had a gorgeous blue tinge to them! Our campground for the first night was at the warmest point along the ridge, which meant it was buzzing with 'critters' - spiders, fogs, toads and snakes to name a few... Nothing like a spider hovering over you on a night time trip to the toilet!

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The next day we drove further north into Shennandoah National Park for some more scenic views of green hilltops weaving their way across the horizon. We stopped off for some hikes as we wound our way north on the picturesque route. We pitched our tent at another great campground and a started a nice campfire to warm us up. It was a cold and foggy night, and we could hear deer rustling around our tent!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 20.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - New Bern, North Carolina

sunny 29 °C

We stopped in New Bern, North Carolina to visit a friend we met during our time in Vancouver. Ollie and his girlfriend from Germany were fantastic hosts and we really enjoyed our stay with them. New Bern was settled by Swiss immigrants, who named the town after Bern, the capital of Switzerland. Bern, meaning bear in English has led to the presence of multiple bears sculptures throughout the town, which are pretty cute. New Bern also lays claim to being the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola and has a small museum store in town, which was fun to check out.

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On Friday evening we joined Ollie and his work colleagues at a beachouse for a night with the locals and had a great time. We were taken out on the water for some Friday night drinks as the sun went down on a friend's boat. After dinner and a night on the town we all jumped back on board to be ferried home again to the gorgeous beach house. The night was followed by brunch in a classic American diner, a bottomless jug of coffee and omelette, just what the doctor ordered! We felt like real Americans after our time in New Bern...

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 18.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Savannah, Georgia

semi-overcast 30 °C

Savannah is a gorgeous historic town, with many squares scattered throughout the lush, historic district. Known for its long and almost tropical summers it's a very popular tourist spot, with some nice beaches nearby. We camped outside of the town at Whispering Pines campground and had a chorus of insects singing us to sleep in the evenings! Being the oldest town in Georgia, ghost tours seemed to be the thing to do here - we spotted many different carriages, hursts and trolleys taking visitors around the haunted spots in Savannah.

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Savannah is where the movie 'Forrest Gump' was set and filmed. We checked out Chippewa Square which is where the park bench was in the famous scene "life is like a box of chocolates....", but is has recently been removed due to vandalism! Nearby Tybee Island was also very nice, with the best beaches in the area although the weather wasn't ideal!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 16.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Pensacola, Florida

sunny 33 °C

This was the first beach we visited on the USA's southern coast. It was beautiful, with extremely white sand and warm clear blue water. Fort Pickens (old fort built in 1829 ) is in the National Parkland on the tip of the peninsula, and after exploring this in the heat we went for a dip in the Gulf of Mexico - very refreshing in the warm water! We really wanted to camp in the National Park here, but had to hit the road to get over to the east coast…America’s a big country!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 14.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - New Orleans, Louisiana

sunny 34 °C

The drive in on stilted roads high over the wetlands set the mood, with lightning and thunder clapping overhead as we arrived in this crazy, interesting city. Ruled over by the French and Spanish, and more recently devastated by hurricanes, the worst being Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which flooded the city when levees failed and water reached 7-8 meters high in some areas, causing massive destruction and many fatalities. The city is still recovering, outside of the touristic ‘French Quarter’ which is bringing some money back into the New Orleans.

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We did not feel like we were in America during our time in New Orleans! It’s a hot and tropical city frequented by a daily storm, with music pouring onto the street. We loved Frenchmen Street, The Spotted Cat music bar, and the way you can walk the streets with a drink in your hand, how civilised! Our experience was even more enriched by catching up with a friend from Australia who lives here - a big thanks to Yanti and Alex who were amazing hosts and took us to some great local spots!!

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On our last day we visited 9th Ward which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and didn't get nearly enough government support in the aftermath. One of the residents Ronald Lewis decided to setup his own tribute to the event with a museum on his property called the 'House of Dance and Feathers'. It also shares information about the vibrant New Orleans culture. The nearby wetlands was another must see, buzzing with wildlife, it felt as though we’d stepped into a jungle. Massive spiders, lizards, and even alligators were visible in the swamp water which the boardwalks passed over, a little too close for comfort!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 12.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Houston, Texas

34 °C

Our next stop was Houston, mainly so we could check out NASA's famed Johnson Space Centre which is located nearby. We spent the day learning about the space program from the early years, the missions to the moon and current activities such as the International Space Station and the Mars exploration. It's well worth seeing with loads of interactive exhibits, films and plenty of actual articles used in their missions. We were even able to touch some moon rock!

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Tours to mission control, a visit to the facilities that are producing future space equipment and viewing the actual Saturn rocket from the 1960's was fascinating. The Saturn rocket was massive and the robots that are being engineered to be sent on the next exploratory mission to Mars were very cool.

The following day, we checked out downtown before heading further west towards New Orleans.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 08.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Austin, Texas

semi-overcast 35 °C

A night stop over in Austin gave us a great feel for the city. Again it was very hot and humid, but we enjoyed sussing out 6th Street which is packed full of music venues and tattooed musicians! We heard some great blues improv at Friends café and had a ridiculously giant pizza in a spot nearby…I guess we’ve arrived in the ‘supersize me’ part of the states…no complaints from Paul!

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Austin is the State Capitol and we visited the Texas Capitol building the following day. It’s an impressive building, and celebrates the six nations which have ruled over Texas – Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States of America and finally The United States of America.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 06.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Dallas, Texas

semi-overcast 37 °C

After spending the last few weeks camping it was a welcome relief to stay with some family friends in Dallas, Texas. A massive thank you to Celia and Anthony who made us feel like we were at home in their beautiful house. We spent 4th of July at a BBQ with friends of theirs, where we had rooftop views of the downtown fireworks celebration!

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We were expecting Texas to be dry, but the climate was very humid. We made our way into downtown along a great shady bike path called the Katy Trail. The 6th floor museum covered all the details of the shooting of President John F. Kennedy, which happened in Dallas in 1963, supposedly from the level where the museum is now housed. It was a great insight into 1960's America at the time of the assassination and an interesting spot to visit. Downtown was pretty quiet on the weekend, although there are a few neighborhoods dotted around outside of downtown with artisan cafes and shopping strips. We enjoyed the Dallas Heritage Village, a living museum housing 19th century homes which gave us an insight into what life was like in Texas over 100 years ago.

We couldn't leave Texas without going to a Rodeo and visited the Mesquite Rodeo in Dallas on our final evening. It was really interesting to see and forms such a big part of the farming/cowboy life in this part of America. However, Paul and I couldn't help but cringe at some of the things the animals had to endure, and I guess being a vegetarian doesn't help!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 05.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Denver & Manitou Springs, Colorado

overcast 25 °C

We left Yellowstone driving south and spent our first night at a truck stop (!) before driving onto Denver the following day. The truck stops are set up for the long-haul truck drivers, but welcome camper vans. It was well set up with a salad bar, access to toilets, showers and other facilities which made it quite comfortable.

After our night with the truckies, we had to get our car fixed as we’d had a problem with the heater core. It took a lot of phone calls to find somewhere available with the approaching 4th of July holiday weekend! Luckily we found a good mechanic who was able to fix it for us in a day, and we headed into Denver in the late afternoon. There was a lot going on, and it seemed like a cool city to spend some time. We loved the sculpture of the giant blue bear peering into the Colorado Convention Center!

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The following day we drove south to Manitou Springs, a cute touristy spot filled with cafes and shops, which was shrouded in mist during our visit! Nestled in the base of the Southern Rocky Mountains, Manitou Springs has 11 spring water pumps dotted around the streets providing access to the natural spring water under the ground. The town also boasts a red cog train which climbs its way up to 4,300 meters to the summit of Pikes Peak.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 01.07.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

semi-overcast 21 °C

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Just a little higher in Wyoming's north eastern corner is Yellowstone National Park, home to the Yellowstone Canyon, Bears, Wolves, Bison and all sorts of geysers! We camped in the middle of the National Park, and spent our first day exploring the canyon and nature spotting. We really didn't have to try too had, as we drove along the winding road we saw so much wildlife. Many Bison, which are Buffalo-type animals, with hefty bodies and sharp looking horns. Herds of Elk with beautiful antlers were roaming the meadows, and a few small calves. We also spotted some bears and cubs, very close to the roadside - we were very glad to be in the protection of a car! And a range of wolves, coyotes and foxes.

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Yellowstone holds half of the earth's geothermal features and the following day we explored the erupting geysers, hot springs, bubbling mudpots, and steaming fumaroles. We were lucky enough to see some of the large geysers erupt, showering steam up 30-60 meters into the air. Boardwalks wind over the bubbling land, giving great vantage points, where you can hear the hissing and bubbling of the ground below, sending over wafts of sulphur! Yellowstone is a strange and wonderful place, so different from the other national parks we've visited.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 29.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

semi-overcast 22 °C

We drove north out of Utah and the scenery started to change from dry red rocks, to lush green hills. The Grand Teton Mountain range protrudes out of lakes and meadows, a beautiful sight.

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The first day the mountains were shrouded in rain clouds, but we returned to see them in sunshine, and what a majestic sight they are. Lakes and rivers wrap themselves around the foothills and make for some beautiful walking in the area. Sitting at higher altitude, the weather was much cooler, a welcome change from the scorching 35° c days we had in southern Utah!

Posted by TheNomadWay.com 26.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City is in Northern Utah nestled next to the Great Salt Lake. Originally founded by The Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints (Mormans) in 1847, Salt Lake City has a large central plaza called Temple Square that is dedicated to the religion and houses some extravagant buildings. The centerpiece is the Temple and Morman headquarters of the world. Tourists are welcomed to the plaza complex, however are unable to enter The Temple unless members of the Mormon Church, there are however many other parts to visit. The convention center was pretty impressive, with a seating capacity of 22,000 and 3 acres of gardens on the roof! As for their beliefs...interesting but we left feeling a little jaded.

Dinner on our first night was an experience as we went to Lucky 13 Bar and Grill, a place famous for its burgers! Actually world famous, the won the prestigious award of 'Worlds Best Burger' in 2013. We are yet to really experience the USA's famed gigantic foods so when Paul read that they also do a big burger, off we went. The 800 gram 'Big Benny' in the photo below.

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We stayed with a great Airbnb host here, Travis who was very welcoming and down to earth. We drove east to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats, where they race cars and achieve land speed records with all types of vehicles. Although there was no car racing while we were there, as the salt flats were too wet, it was pretty amazing to see the expanse of salt, reminding us of our time at the Bolivian Salt Flats.

Antelope Island sits in the Great Salt Lake, and is 15 miles long and home to a large number of wildlife, including Bison, Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Pronghorn Antelope. Surrounded by the high content of salt creates an interesting environment. Ranches were operating on the island in the 18-1900’s. Fielding Garr Ranch was a sweet old Ranch we were able to learn the way an old American farm was run.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 25.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Canyonlands, Utah

sunny 28 °C

Last of the Utah big 5, Canyonlands is unofficially the start of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado and Green Rivers meet in the middle of the National Park, and lead down through Grant Canyon and into The Grand Canyon. There are definitely similarities with Canyonlands boasting crumbly terraced red rock walls on a very large scale. The rivers divide Canyonlands into three sections, we visited the ‘Island In The Sky’ named so because it is the highest section and overlooks the rest of the park.

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‘The Maze’ section is Canyonlands at its wildest, a 30-square mile puzzle of jagged sandstone and one of the most remote parts of the nation, due inaccessibility. And ‘Needles’ the third section of the park, is full of orange rock Hoodos and Arches. We spent our time walking the cliff trails, with great views and after learning about ‘buttes’ ‘mesas’ and ‘fin’ rock formations it was time to hit the road and bid farewell to Utah’s spectacular National Parks.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 22.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Arches National Park, Utah

sunny 32 °C

Another scenic drive took us across Utah towards Arches National Park. We stopped off at Kiva Koffeehouse for lunch. Situated in The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hwy 12, it’s a small family run café with panoramic views over the beautiful valley.

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We camped in Moab, just outside of Arches and spent a day exploring the many views and walk on offer in the National Park. There are 2,000 rocky red arches dotted throughout the park, formed by unusual erosion processes, it’s just a matter of finding them! In the 35+ degree celcius temperatures, we decided to skip the ‘Firey Furnace’ a square mile of jagged rocks you can get lost in for hours, guided tour reccomended.

Our favourite arches were north and south Arch, with gorgeous views behind, as well as double arch. Paul was in his element afterwards as he rode his mountain bike off into the sunset on some slickrock trails just outside of Moab. They rate them as the worlds best trails!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 22.06.2014 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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