Reflections of Travel to the United States

As a four-decade Certified Travel Agent, international airline employee, researcher, writer, teacher, and photographer, travel, whether for pleasure or business purposes, has always been a significant and an integral part of my life. Some 400 trips to every portion of the globe, by means of road, rail, sea, and air, entailed destinations both mundane and exotic. This article focuses on those in the United States.

New York:

Originally accessed by Floyd Bennett Field–New York’s first municipal airport–Manhattan, experienced from the water with island-circling boat cruises, was channeled through its museum, theater, and restaurant arteries, and from the heights of its Empire State Building and no-longer existence World Trade Center. It became the threshold to its Lower-, Mid-, and Upper-Hudson Valleys, which were characterized by Bear Mountain, West Point, the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, the vintage aircraft Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, dinners in the Culinary Institute of America, plays at the Rhinebeck Center for the Performing Arts, and visits to the Hudson River School of Painters venues.

The Catskill Mountains, ablaze with autumn, afforded skiing at Hunter Mountain and Ski Windham, and natural scenery, such as its Kaaterskill Falls, and became the next step to the Adirondacks, famous for its glittering blue Lake George, its numerous boat cruises, and Fort Ticonderoga.

Further north and to the west was the Finger Lakes region, with its sculpted, waterfall-lined Watkins Glen chasm, Glenn H. Curtiss and National Soaring Museums, boat cruises on Keuka Lake, where Curtiss himself tested his seaplane designs, and outdoor lunches at area vineyards.

New England:

The New England area encompassed six states.

Maine, the first of them, provided an epicurean experience with its Atlantic-caught lobster and shrimp, but its topographical duality included Bangor, Bar Harbor, and Acadia National Park on the coast’s Mount Desert Island and the lodges and forests at Rangeley Lake inland.

Neighboring New Hampshire was equated with knotty pine cabins on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, the vessels, such as the MS Mount Washington and US Mail Boat which plied it, and the tiny motorboats from which fishing lines hung to catch what later became dinner. The White Mountains, with their main North Conway entry point and numerous notches, was accessed by a myriad of ski lifts and gondolas, including those up triumphant Mount Washington, the crown of its peaks.

Vermont, with its mirror-image Green Mountains, was characterized by a crossing of Lake Champlain, the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Green Mountain National Forest, the Mount Snow Ski Resort’s Grand Summit Lodge, an ascent of Mount Snow itself on the Bluebird Express Scenic Chairlift, Benington Battlefield State Historic Site, the Covered Bridges Museum, the Grafton Village cheese making facility, Plummer’s Sugar House for maple syrup, and the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, whose setting provided inspiration for his poetry. The Molly Stark Trail afforded a 48-mile scenic drive through the southern region.

Massachusetts, slightly further south, offered the major city of Boston with its Freedom Trail and its harbor-moored USS Constitution; the smaller towns of Plymouth, where the Mayflower first touched its now-famous rock; Salem, with its House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birthplace, and Witch Dungeon Museum; the battle sites of Lexington and Concord; and the Berkshires on the state’s western side. Sights here included the historic Red Lion Inn, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Herman Melville home from whose window the mountain that inspired his classic, Moby Dick, was visible, and a drive up Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’s highest point, for spectacular views and lunch.

The gilded mansions hugging the Newport, Rhode Island, shore gave way to the casinos in eastern Connecticut, the Essex Steam Train in the Connecticut River Valley, the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine in Groton, the Connecticut Coast with its Mystic Seaport, Yale University and the Broadway “try-out” Shubert Theater, and the Long Island Sound crossing ferries.

The Mid-Atlantic States:

The seven Mid-Atlantic States, descending from New Jersey to North Carolina, included the District of Columbia.

New Jersey’s beach-lined shore, with Cape May and its Victorian architecture, and its Atlantic City casino complex, was balanced inland by numerous aviation sights, such as those of Naval Air Station Lakehurst, location of the 1937 Hindenburg airship disaster, and Naval Air Station Wildwood.

Pennsylvania offered considerable sight and geographical variation. Scranton, in its northeastern portion, provided opportunities to sample early, track-based transportation modes at the Steamtown National Historic Site and at the Electric City Trolley Museum. Further south, after a cross of the Delaware Water Gap, were the winter ski resorts, such as Big Boulder and Jack Frost, in the Pocono Mountains. And still further south was Pennsylvania Dutch Country, accessed by Reading and Lancaster, which offered aviation exposure through its Mid-Atlantic Aviation Museum and glimpses into simple, natural life with its horse-drawn buggies, lack of electricity, Good n’ Plenty Restaurant, and shoofly pie.

A tour of the extensive Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and a ride on the Strasburg Railroad, the oldest steam train in the United States, rounded out the area’s attractions.

Philadelphia, in the southeastern corner, served as the threshold to Valley Forge National Historic Park, while Pittsburgh, in the state’s western portion, was punctuated by its hill-hugging inclined planes.

Rich rail history was experienced in the Allegheny Mountains, with its steam railroad lines, Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark, and Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in and around Altoona.

Johnstown’s flood history was recounted in its appropriately named Johnstown Flood Museum, and a ride up its included plane, the world’s steepest vehicular railway, satisfied hunger for lunch and city-overlooking views.

Raystown Lake was plied by a houseboat and skiing opportunities were abundant at the Seven Springs Resort in the Laurel Highlands.

The Omni Bedford Springs Resort, with its elegant afternoon teas, was a national historic landmark.

Delaware, synonymous with DuPont, offered glimpses into his wealth-amassing life with the Hagley Museum, Library, and Eleutherian Mills, the 235-acre site of his gunpowder works on the banks of the Brandywine River in the north, and the Dover Downs Hotel, Casino, and Racetrack, Dover Air Force Base, the Air Mobility Command Museum, and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in the south.

Lunch in a bake shop, the Dutch architecture of the Zwaanendael Museum, and a tour of Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, one of the state’s numerous Atlantic coast towns, were highlights of a day trip from Dover.

Maryland, with its Baltimore Harbor and College Park Airport–considered the nation’s first and the location of considerable Wright Brothers training activity–was itself the threshold to the District of Columbia, whose monument- and Smithsonian Institution museum-lined National Mall provided multifaceted, experiential education. Dinners in nearby Georgetown restaurants were also highlights.

Virginia, synonymous with Colonial Williamsburg, afforded other sightseeing opportunities, including those of the Jamestown Settlement, a cruise on the Miss Hampton II to Fort Wool and the Norfolk Naval Air Base, and an open-cockpit biplane flight from Bealeton’s Flying Circus, grass-field aerodrome.

Charleston, with its domed Capitol Building, served as the gateway to West Virginia, which afforded vintage railroad rides, such as those on the Cass Scenic Railroad, a national historic landmark, dinner in the Graceland Inn, located on the grounds of Davis and Elkins College and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, glimpses beyond the planet at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, and winter sports at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.

Although only moderate in size, North Carolina offered numerous, diverse sights, depending upon region, which was either accessed by its Raleigh/Durham or Charlotte gateways. The Outer Banks, for example, were synonymous with Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, the latter the location of the Wright Brothers’ first powered, sustained, controlled, and heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer, as interpreted at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Both a drive and ferry negotiation of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, spawning ground of the nor’easters, enabled me to thread down the famous-or, perhaps, not-so-famous-hurricane alley, whose natural beauty far usurped its negative reputation.

Western North Carolina was marked by Ashville, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Biltmore Estate, Chimney Rock Park, and the Nantahala Gorge in the state’s Piedmont section.

The South:

Known for its southern cuisine, antebellum mansions, and country music, southern state travel entailed a say at the Opryland Hotel with its homemade biscuits, and a tour of the Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville, Tennessee; a tour of Rainbow Row and a boat cruise on the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in Charleston, South Carolina; a stay in upscale Buckhead, and a tour of Stone Mountain, the world’s largest granite relief carving, in Atlanta, Georgia; visits to Birmingham and Huntsville in Alabama, the latter with its US Space and Rocket Center; a pass through Biloxi, Mississippi; and a tour of New Orleans’ Jackson Square and French Quarter, followed by a day cruise on the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

Florida:

Long in length and attractions was Florida, which received state blanketing coverage.

Aviation took center stage on its panhandle with visits to Naval Air Station Pensacola, its National Naval Aviation Museum, and Gulf Islands National Seashore, while Jacksonville, Florida’s northern gateway, led down to Orlando, its Walt Disney World and Epcot Center theme parks, and Cypress Gardens. Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center resulted in contemplative focus on launch pad 39A, literally the threshold to space, and Tampa and St. Petersburg, on the Gold Coast, were characterized by surgery sand beaches.

Cruise boats plied Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway, reminiscent of Venice’s canals, and the beach ribbons, along with the art deco architecture, were features of Miami, along with airboat safaris through Everglades National Park, alive with saw grass, alligators, and crocodiles.

Finally, a drive through Key Largo led to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, the southernmost point in the United States.

The Midwest:

Despite trips to Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and Dayton in Ohio, the first of the Midwestern states, aviation once again took center stage in the latter city with visits to the Wright Cycle Shop, part of the Wright Brothers Trail, and the extensive National Museum of the US Air Force.

Although the theme continued in Wisconsin, with a tour of the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, location of the country’s largest annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in and witnessed while enjoying Wisconsin brats from a rooftop restaurant, two cruises through the Lower and Upper Wisconsin Dells offered close-up inspections of their glacial water eroded sandstone cliffs and rock formations.

Shopping was in store in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s, sprawling, single-roof Mall of America, and Chicago, on Illinois’ picturesque Lake Michigan, offered birds eye views from its Sears Tower summit and cultural attractions at the Art Institute and at its multiple-complex Museum Campus. Business trips for two of my airlines sparked numerous visits to the windy city.

St. Louis and Kansas City served as entry points to Missouri, but entertainment abounded further south in the Ozark Mountains, specifically in Branson, including a performance on a paddle wheel cruise of Table Rock Lake, and a drive across the state line to Arkansas revealed Eureka Springs’s Historic District, which was trolley-toured.

After every stop, a tour guide, positioned in the back, would yell to the driver, “All clear, Bob!”

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a return to old west transposition with a stagecoach ride, a steak barbecue, and the grand outdoor Medora Musical production marked travel to North Dakota, but a particular milestone was achieved in Rugby, the geographical center of North America.

South Dakota, accessed by Rapid City, wore the faces of four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore in Keystone. As, perhaps, a southern counterpart, it offered its own national park and geographically significant area-in this case, Badlands National Park and Belle Fourche, respectively-the latter considered the center of the United States.

Union Station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was the location of a sip of an old-fashioned “phosphate” soda and preceded a descent to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum below it in Omaha, Nebraska. Other attractions included Mahoney State Park, the Durham Western Heritage Museum, and Freedom Park-the US Naval Museum. A visit to the Strategic Air Command Museum, in an adoption of an aviation focus, was itself the prelude to a quick traverse of the bridge to Harvey’s Casino Hotel in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a dinner buffet.

The West:

National parks and pinnacling, snow-capped peaks served as signposts to the country’s western states.

A horse-drawn sleigh safari at the National Elk Refuge, a visit to Grand Teton National Park, and a stay in Jackson Hole with its antler horn-arched park characterized Wyoming.

The majestic Rocky Mountains, reached after three cross-country road trips and numerous aerial ones, served as the backdrop to Denver, the ski areas of Aspen, Snowmass, and Vail, Pikes Peak, the Royal Gorge, rustic cabins, horseback riding, and stream fishing in Colorado.

The famed Sun Valley served as Idaho’s winter wonderland ski resort, while Utah offered its own counterpart in Park City. Its Great Salt Lake, Tabernacle Choir, and Temple Square, and Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, were also indicative of the state.

While Nevada offered the neon sign, casino, and entertainment lined Strip-officially designated “Las Vegas Boulevard South”-it offered a miniaturized counterpart in Laughlin, leisurely viewed from a boat cruise on the Colorado River. Manmade Hoover Dam was equally water-accessed-in this case, by Lake Mead-and the state was naturally blessed with the Mojave Desert and Red Rock Canyon. A glimpse into old west, cowboy life was gleaned at Old Nevada, a simulated town.

The Southwest:

The major cities of Dallas and Houston served as portals to Texas on numerous occasions, but the scent of pine remains an olfactory imprint after a stay in artist-associated Santa Fe, New Mexico, along with a visit to the Bandelier Monument’s pueblo ruins. Views of Albuquerque were enjoyed after an ascent on the Sandia Peak Tramway, the longest one in the Americas, for dinner.

An almost other-planetary surface of red topographical rock, Arizona, encompassing the cites of Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff, offered many geological formation sightseeing possibilities-from Sedona to Montezuma Castle in the Verde Valley to the grandest of all, the Grand Canyon. Cactus provided the landscape in Saguaro National Park a 3.8-mile tram ride ascended Sabino Canyon, technology was displayed at the Pima Air and Space and the Titan Missile Museum complexes, and horsepower, in the literal sense, replaced engine power during a stagecoach tour through 1880’s Tombstone, a National Historic Landmark.

California:

Like Florida, California was its diverse, West Coast counterpart. Its highlights, listed in northerly order, were numerous: San Diego, gateway to Tijuana, Mexico, with its Balboa Park and San Diego Air and Space Museum, and the historic landmark Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island; Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, the Palm Springs aerial tramway, the country’s steepest vertical and the world’s longest-single-span one; and a covered wagon trip along the San Andrea’s Fault; overnight stays in the permanently moored Queen Mary ocean liner in Long Beach; Los Angeles with its Hollywood Walk of Fame and Universal Studios; Fresno, gateway to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks; Death Valley whose superlatives included the largest park in the contiguous US, the highest recorded temperature, and the lowest elevation; and San Francisco, with its Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, and cable cars, the only moving national monument, and its surrounding Muir Woods and Napa Valley wine regions.

Benefits from my first airline facilitated West Coast travel just for lunch.

The Pacific Northwest:

Two states comprised the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon, the first, was entered through Portland. Sights here included Astoria and the Columbia River, the Tillamook Naval Air Station and its aviation museum, and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville with Howard Hughes’ colossal, all-wooden Spruce Goose Flying Boat.

Further inland was Multnomah Falls, the country’s second-largest, Mount Hood, which, lying on the 45th parallel, marked the halfway point between the North Pole and the equator, and Timberline Lodge, a national historic landmark. Bend, permeated with pine because of its dense forests and lumber mills, was the location of Newbury National Volcanic Monument.

Washington, above Oregon and the second state in the Pacific Northwest, was also volcanic cone-characterized, with its Mt. Rainer and Mt. St. Helens national parks. Seattle’s monorail accessed Space Needle, its very symbol, offered birds eye views of its ferry-connecting islands, and final assembly of the 747 could be witnessed in Boeing Commercial Airplane Company’s Everett complex, the world’s largest single-roof structure, which was subdivided into mini climactic zones and covered by internal bicycle shuttles. The Museum of Flight, in Renton, offered a design evolution chronology of its aircraft.

Alaska:

Far removed from the contiguous states was Alaska, visited on several occasions by road, rail, air, and sea.

Southeast coverage entailed Sitka on Baranoff Island with a performance by the New Archangel Dancers and its Russian, onion dome churches; Juneau with an ascent up the Mount Roberts Tramway, and its area Mendenhall Glacier and Tongass National Forest; Skagway, designated a Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park; and Hubbard Glacier in Yakutat Bay.

Anchorage offered its own Portage Glacier and panning for gold. And northern travel included the Eskimo community of Kotzebue, which lay on a sand spit at the end of the Baldwin Peninsula in the Kotzebue Sound where the Noatak, Kobuk, and Selawik rivers ended above the Arctic Circle. It was reached after a flight that touched down in Nome. Area life was augmented with visits to the Reindeer Camp and the Nan Living Museum of the Arctic.

Hawaii:

Hawaii, also accessed by multiple travel modes on several occasions, included four separate islands.

Kauai, the Garden Island, offered sightseeing opportunities of its ten-mile-long, 3,000-foot- deep Waimea Canyon, which was formed by a deep incision of the Waimea River and augmented by extreme rainfall on the island’s central peak, Mount Wai’ale’ale, considered one of the wettest places on earth.

Oahu, with its mostly-concrete city of Honolulu, nevertheless provided glimpses of the “original Hawaii” on Waikiki Beach and at Diamond Head; the Dole Pineapple Plantation; the Iolani Palace, once the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii; traditional lei greetings; the feasts and entertainment of local luaus; the Polynesian Cultural Center; and the still-used “aloha” and “Mahalo” Hawaiian words. Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, commemorating the lives lost during the World War II Japanese bombing, brought chills.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.