Travel Adventures – Trip #5
Trip Mission – Cross Country from Maryland to the State of California via the northern part of the country.
Dates – May 25th thru June 27th.
Method of Transportation – Tesla
States Visited (at least one night stay) – Maryland (MD), New York(NY), Pennsylvania(PA), Ohio(OH), Michigan(MI), Wisconsin(WI), Minnesota(MN), South Dakota(SD), Montana(MT), Idaho(ID), Washington(WA), Oregon(OR), California(CA)
Cities and National Parks/Monuments Visited or Stayed in – Ithaca (Finger Lakes Area), Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Catawba, Put-In Island, Toledo, Grand Rapids, St. Ignace, Mackinac Island, Escanaba, Neenah, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Phillip, Interior, Badlands Park, Wall, Rapid City, Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood, Sturgis, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Billings, Big Sky, Yellowstone Park, Missoula, Whitefish, Glacier National Park… To be Continued !
Picture links are at the end of each section.
And don’t miss the lessons learned at the end.
Beautiful Cities, and attractions (in the order of visit)
- Finger Lakes area – Everything in Finger Lakes was pretty, so many falls, loved them all but not-to-miss – Watkins Glen State Park, Ithaca Falls, Buttermilk Falls, the town of Geneva, and of course the Magnus Ridge Winery.
Finger Lakes Pictures Link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/2pKLApmDQ5MFmcRj9
- Cleveland as a city, much better than expected. Downtown historic district and rest of the city, Art Museum, Rock-n-Roll Hall of fame, Cleveland Clinic, one historic mega-church…. So many things to see and do, but don’t miss the Sunset at Lakewood Park on a clear sunny day. Surprisingly much better than other popular cities.
- Put-In Island in OH is definitely worth the visit only for its party scene.
OH Pictures Link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/8FpiFw27hDmeTmxx5
- Grand Rapids, MI is a must-visit if you like sculpture art. Its Sculpture Garden is world-famous for a reason. Never seen a better Japanese Garden.
- Mackinac Island is a beauty. It truly is a lovely quaint Island city, reminded me of Bermuda, far better than Martha’s Vineyard. And do visit Grand Hotel while you are there.
MI Pictures Link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/r1PesAybhh8jNZe78
- Minneapolis/St. Paul twin city is not a tourist town. It is a good town for its residents. Beautiful locales and artistic venues but as a tourist disappointing.
MN Pictures Link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/9VKk5rhKYL9xwJxm8
- Phillip, SD does not appear even on the map until you enter the address but enjoyed knowing what a Ranch looks and feels like. When you drive 7 miles on a gravel road and as far as your eyes could see is open private land with cows and birds, it is an experience, nothing good or bad. Lived with an old couple (70+), the man in the late stage of cancer but still smiling, cracking jokes with oxygen tubes inserted, and the wife cooking and serving delicious breakfast for 5-6 people, it shook me for a while, hence the mention.
- Badlands National Park was the name I had never heard of until the day before I got there. It is a national park of canyons and sandstone rocks spread over miles and miles. It’s a place to visit if you are in the area but does not deserve a visit by itself. A good combination to do when visiting Mount Rushmore.
- Between Badlands and Mount Rushmore lies a small town called Wall, which was made famous by two marketing geniuses, who started a drugstore. Wall Drugs sells everything, and it is located in the middle of nowhere. But you can see their signs hundreds of miles before you get to the town of Wall in every entry point in South Dakota. If you are driving in that area, you can’t skip it even if you want to.
- Mount Rushmore is a national treasure, worth visiting for the work one artist conceptualized and built but I wouldn’t come just to spend an hour there because there is nothing else to do at this site. However, you must also visit Blackhill National forest and Custer State park if you are in the area.
- If you want to see what real old western white America looks and feels like now, you should add Deadwood and Sturgis, South Dakota to your itinerary. And you will love the drive from Rapid City thru Blackhill Forests. It’s gorgeous.
SD Pictures Link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/ARgah7z9wEV6Ffm77
- You approach Yellowstone from any side of it, it will present magnificent views. Almost everyone knows or has heard about this park. It should be called a natural wonder of the world. I know of no other park in the world where you have so much natural beauty, so many natural wonders in the form of hot springs, volcanoes, geysers, lakes, mountains, trails, wild-life, waterfalls, canyons, and spread over 150-mile drive just within the park, bordering 3 different states. It is a natural wonder for me. Go check it out yourself and yes, keep at least a week to fully enjoy it and not rush thru it over 2 days as I did.
Yellowstone Pictures Link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/L7tbbJsB5thxk53q9
- Glacier National Park is another magnificent park, like many other national parks but when you get to the center of the park, you feel like you have not seen such beauty anywhere else. It has the magnificence of large mountains surrounding a relatively small area with an emerald green lake and hundreds of waterfalls. I was so overwhelmed by its surroundings that I have never felt before. This park is a hikers paradise and not something kids would enjoy as much as they may enjoy Yellowstone Park. While watching this a quote came to mind – “it is so overwhelmingly beautiful that depending on the age, one will have an orgasm or will pee in their pants.”
Glacier Park Pictures Link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/5L4rn4E5fAJWDd7V8
- Rest of the trip in Part 2.
Lessons Learned –
- Natural beauty is abundant around us, we just need to open our eyes and mind, and find time to explore and appreciate it.
- Caring people are important in life. Love is important in life. One cannot live life alone but alone moments are equally precious, enjoy them both.
- Getting out of our comfort zone is very difficult but once we are in it, it gets comfortable.
- Don’t let the fear of the unknown drive your life, rather drive your life into the unknown to get the fears out.
- Scary people may not be scary once you get to know them. Our fears make them scary in our minds.
- South Dakota has more human weight, motorcycles, and tattoos per capita than in any other part of the world. I can guarantee that without even searching Google. LOL.
- The public image of a city or town may turn out to be the opposite, just be aware and accept. See Cleveland and Minneapolis.
- Tesla still is the best car ever built. Yes, I am biased because it has taken me 5400 miles without complaining except once for some minor issue. And Tesla service people fixed it with a smile without any charge.
- On a long solo trip, plan some time out for doing nothing.
- Life is wonderful !!! It takes several years and self-realization to understand that concept.
Travel Adventures – Trip #4
The destination – WV, KY, TN, and VA.
Who – Me and my Tesla
When – Apr 11 thru Apr 26, 2021
How – By Car
States Drove thru – PA, WV, KY, IN, TN, VA
Cities Visited (in the order of stops) – Canaan Valley, WV; Elkins, WV; Charleston, WV; New River Gorge, WV; Lexington, KY; Frankfort, KY; Louisville, KY; Elizabethtown, KY; Lincoln’s Birthplace Historic National Park, KY; Nashville, TN; Knoxville, TN; Warm(Hot) Springs, VA;
Pictures: At the end of each segment. Warning – I take too many pictures, they may be overwhelming, watch them on a bigger screen and scroll thru them fast or skip to the ones you like.
The Trip: This trip started a week later than I had anticipated and started from Pittsburgh rather than from Maryland. I was visiting my sister who had just come back from a 10 days stay in the hospital after getting her pacemaker. Thankfully, she is doing fine. So I could continue on my trip to West Virginia.
West Virginia, the God’s Country: I wanted to be with nature for a week and I knew from my previous brief visits that W. Va has nothing else but nature hence I started towards Monongahela (MO-non-gah-HEEL-a) national forest and Canaan Valley area. I knew nothing about this area but picked it because Canaan Valley Resort, located inside a state park, had the only Tesla charging station anywhere near Monongahela forest. I wanted to stay at other places but nowhere else had a charging station for tens of miles away. But as it turned out this resort was very nice. I was thankful to have stayed there. I had a room with a panoramic view of open fields and mountains as far as I could see. And hardly anyone was at the resort. So it was perfectly quiet but at the same time, several amenities were not available either because of the slow business.
When I got there, the trees had not truly started turning green yet. Canaan Valley has a lot of other places to see which included Black Water Falls, the town of Thomas and Davis, Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob Mountain (the highest point in WV), Dolly Sods Wilderness, the town of Elkins which is a real town, unlike Davis and Thomas which are more like rural communities. While I loved the quietness and the wilderness of Canaan Valley, I also felt the lack of life there. It is a hikers’ and wilderness lovers’ paradise. And also because the mountain trees and shrubs had not bloomed yet, it felt a bit gloomy. But as soon as I left Canaan valley, the greenery was abundant in the rest of WVa. Perhaps spring was late in that part of the country.
After spending 3-4 days, I drove west towards the capital of WVa, Charleston. This town reminded me of the good old days in Harrisburg, PA. Most likely smaller and more sparsely populated Charleston had a few good places to visit like the historic old downtown, the Town Mall in downtown, Convention Center, and the Capitol Campus. Their Capitol building is magnificent with a gold dome. The building was very well laid out but because of the Covid, couldn’t visit the indoors, instead saw a partially opened history museum next to it. So all in all, everywhere I went, most of the worth seeing places were either closed or partially open with limited hours.
In WVa, the most I enjoyed was the drive in and around New River Gorge and the Bridge, spent several hours around this structure and drove all around the bridge. Highly recommended if you are in that area, don’t miss it.
West Virginia Pictures – https://photos.app.goo.gl/Yy2qyWf63SB2wJph8
Off to Kentucky
After spending 2 days, moved on to the state of bourbon, and horse country, Kentucky. First stop, Lexington. Lexington is home to the University of Kentucky and the most famous racehorse farms. But most impressive was Lexington downtown for its historical buildings turned into bars and restaurants. Nightlife alone is not my cup of tea so turned in after a scrumptious dinner and wonderful bourbon-based drinks at a fine overcrowded maskless restaurant and came out safe. The vaccine is effective. Most of Lexington was covered in 2 half-days including the Horse Museum, UoK Art Museum, and a drive through the historic city center and the University of Kentucky.
The following day drove towards the city of Louisville. Along the way, there were many bourbon distilleries and the capital of the state of Kentucky. A scenic ride of horse farms and farms but nothing special in particular. I made an unscheduled stop at the capital city, Frankfort, to see the Capitol building. It looked fabulous with an empty long boulevard lined with old-fashioned lamps, seasonal flowers blooming, manicured trees and bushes leading to the Capitol building sitting atop a small hill. Equally magnificent was the Governor’s mansion, next to it. Manicured gardens, trees, and flowers made it a wonderful Sunday afternoon stroll with only a handful of visitors. Again everything was closed but enjoyed seeing these historical monuments was a joyful experience.
From the Capitol, I tried to visit the famous Woodford Bourbon distillery, only 15 min. away, but as luck had it, on the way over to the distillery, my GPS took me thru some back roads and one single-lane road was closed down because of some stuck vehicle. With 15 minutes left to close, I gave up on the idea of visiting the distillery and continued to the city of Louisville.
To start with, I had not done much research about the city of Louisville, until I got there. I had no clue that this city will turn out to be such a culturally rich place. From the state’s history to black history, art, culture, museums, food, drinks, nightlife were much more like a well-developed city. The impression I had carried in my mind of the state of KY was much like WV, but it was shockingly much more diverse and richer than WV. People seemed to be friendly and not redneck as the image is portrayed everywhere. Too many places to see and describe, so look at the picture library and enjoy them.
Louisville has plenty of museums to visit but make sure you check their opening and closing times and DAYS. I missed visiting most museums because I had saved them for Monday and Tuesday and those were the days they were closed. I was shocked to realize it on Sunday when I started to plan my daily visits. Coming from the DC Metro area, who had heard of museums closing on Monday AND Tuesday. Oh well…. Will have to revisit Louisville.
But every missed opportunity with one thing leads to an opportunity somewhere else. So I got a full day to explore the places that were not on my list such as their art district, their downtown area beyond tourist places. And on Tuesday, left early so got to see other places like Lincoln’s birthplace monument, a small historic town Elizabethtown, a lot of farmland, and a chilled drive to Nashville, TN.
Kentucky Pictures – https://photos.app.goo.gl/acMMaswEtK5Qgd7n6
Here I come Nashville
On April 20th, I reached the Las Vegas of Country Music, Nashville. Nashville is a good size metropolitan city and the capital of country music. The city lives only for music, so it seems based on the popular attractions listed on travel sites. Grand Ole Opry to Country Music museums to shops to an entire strip of Honky Tonks. By the way, I did not know the term Honky Tonk, until one afternoon I had to ask a stranger on the street what Honky Tonk is. A bar with live country music is called Honky Tonk.
But there is more to Nashville than what Google search shows. Nashville has wonderful, very modern neighborhoods like Gulch, incredible Mural art, very modern commercial buildings, historical churches, a very popular Art Museum that I couldn’t visit because all tickets were sold out, a full-size replica of the famous Parthenon in Greece, beautiful University of Vanderbilt campus and just an average Capitol building. But there was enough to see and do for 4-5 days. I covered most of it from the outside, honestly, I did not see country music museums from inside, instead, I went to see the Grand Ole Opry, which is not to be missed even if you don’t know much about the country music.
From Nashville, I headed to Knoxville where a friend of mine was staying. I had heard about Knoxville but never was on my list of places to visit. Again, like many other cities, it’s hard to imagine what that city would be like, Knoxville was just that. Going with no expectations gives you the best results. I spent a day and a half in Knoxville, exploring most of the tourist attractions around the city center. A modern Art Museum with an Art show with artists from various parts of the country was a pleasant surprise. The outer part of the downtown looked gloomy with old historical buildings and churches with hardly any tourists until we reached the city center later in the evening. It reminded me of a typical city center in any European city. The city center was filled with restaurants, bars, and a beautiful cozy, artistically done park filled with High School kids getting their prom pictures taken around the city.
The following day, Sunday morning, we went out to one of the most incredible hiking sites in Knoxville. Old, abandoned Marble quarries have been turned into hiking trails, with creative use of space and vegetation growth in the area. We spent a couple of hours there and a park by the river in the same area which reinvigorated me for the drive back home.
Heading Back Home
On the last day of the trip, since it was a long drive, I decided to stop for a night in a small rural town called Warm Springs in VA. Warm Springs is next to Hot Springs, a typical rural area deep in VA. I assumed some hot springs would be there but it had no hot or warm springs, however, the drive was very scenic, made occasionally ugly with political statements made thru confederate flags and Trump name at various locations and houses.
And that brought an end to a wonderful trip on April 26th.
Tennessee Pictures – https://photos.app.goo.gl/MM5LVaAhYVBta1iAA
Travel Adventures – Trip 3
The destination – Panama City, FL.
Who – Me and 3 of my Nomad friends
When – Jan. 15 thru Jan. 24, 2021
How – By Car
States Drove thru – VA, NC, SC, GA, AL, FL
Cities Visited (in the order of stops) – Charlottesville, VA, Greensboro, NC, Winston-Salem, NC, Greenville, SC, Helen, GA, Atlanta, GA, Panama City, FL, Pensacola, FL, Raleigh, NC
Pictures – I got hundreds of them, some were taken while driving, some didn’t come out right because of the wrong camera setting, but most are good. Links after each segment
The Trip – The unique thing about this trip was that I had a potential destination and nothing else planned in between. On Friday, Jan. 15th, 2021, we left MD with the intention of reaching Panama City FL, and back by Sunday, Jan 24th. At the time of departure, we decided the first stop along the way to be Charlottesville, VA, home to UVA and Thomas Jefferson’s plantation estate, Monticello. In less than 3 hours we reached Charlottesville, where we had lunch at a historic tavern just outside of Monticello. The Michie Tavern, though well maintained, but the interior design is still from the old Jefferson era. The food was probably the worst on our trip because it was not to the taste of 3 vegetarian people from spice country, very bland, an all-American buffet. But we had gone there not for the food but its ambiance and the historical value.
A museum, a film, and a walk-thru of the Monticello property taught us many lessons in history as well as revelations about Thomas Jefferson’s life. The man who wrote – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It was baffling to learn he kept hundreds of slaves on his plantation and had 5 or 6 children from a black woman. We had a serious discussion on this topic and the prevalent thought among the four of us was that he might have done this to protect black slaves from getting mistreated by other owners while he provided a very respectful life to them, including his black mistress. He had children with the black woman several years after he lost his wife. In any case, he died with a huge amount of debt, and subsequently, his property was sold to one of his admirer’s family trust that family trust has passed thru generations and still looks after this property. Some other interesting facts – Jefferson was not an engineer or an architect but he designed the Monticello property and designed it well. He also tried to make it a self-sufficient estate with the help of slaves but treated it more like a self-sufficient community living.
Next stop downtown Charlottesville. It was cold, raining, and mostly closed because of Covid-19 so not a very exciting place except for the only open coffee shop, but looked promising.
See Charlottesville Pictures here
Off to NC
In the evening, we drove down to our overnight stop in Greensboro, NC which is about 30 minutes away from Winston-Salem. Unbeknownst to us, Salem is a bigger, better, and a historical town, more popular than Greensboro. The next morning we decided to drive around Greensboro for an hour or so but then headed to Winston-Salem. Salem was a surprise gem of this trip. Salem has quite a few places to visit, including a historical Civil Rights Museum (see pictures), an art deco downtown, a historic Old Salem (Maurivean Village), RJ Reynold’s localized “Empire Estate” building, and many other attractions. We covered most of the city attractions between 11 am and 5 pm. One full day is good for Salem.
Next stop – Charlotte, NC. – Charlotte is a good mid-size city with many attractions and not just a city to see in passing. We did not allocate enough time for Charlotte and stayed only one night. We got there in the evening around 7 pm and immediately started the sightseeing, starting with a Light show in a park. This was a very interesting light show done in a very artistic style (see pictures). Later at night, we went out to see the skyline at night. The morning started with a visit to the NASCAR museum. It’s worth a visit if you have any interest in adventurous sports, one of the highlights of the city. Later we went around downtown where almost everything was closed including their famous Modern Art Museum and other attractions. We had to be satisfied with taking outside building facades pictures. But the downtown is so beautiful and very artistic, including an art deco park across from the Modern Art Museum. Don’t miss the downtown. This city deserves a lot more tourism and appreciation.
Random Stop at Greeneville SC – on our way from Charlotte, we decided to take a coffee break in Greeneville, SC for a couple of hours. Greeneville is a beautiful upcoming city in SC, southeast of Asheville, NC. It has a clean upscale downtown. As we stopped there, it didn’t feel like there was a pandemic going on anywhere in that part of the world. It was very lively despite a strong wave of Covid going in the rest of the country. Downtown is a cool place to hang and the city looked very promising. We couldn’t spend enough time there. Maybe some other day.
Unexplored GA – City of Helen – the previous night at Charlotte, we decided to explore the Tallulah Gorge State park area which is 15-20 away from a little known town of Helen.
The town of Helen was the best discovery of this trip. A small town of early German settlers in the state of Georgia, populated by just 574 people as of the 2019 census, and you see German architecture in almost every structure there. They seem to celebrate Christmas till the end of January so we caught Christmas lights and decorations and to our surprise found an authentic Thai restaurant. Nearby about 10-15 minutes away, we found a beautiful Anna Ruby Falls, situated inside Unicoi State Park. From there we went to Tallulah Gorge State park famous for the gorge and waterfalls. It was a wonderful refreshing day with nature. Quite a bit of hike in one day was desperately needed after almost no exercise of 3 days. (See Pictures)
Off to Atlanta – Finally on the 4th day we reached Atlanta. Staying in a nice neighborhood of Buckhead, helped us go around town. Atlanta is very much like Chicago without a lake and a river passing thru the downtown. Impressive skyline with a lot of history. Our first two stops – 54 Columns, and a tree glasshouse, both were dud for me. Then it occurred to us that it was MLK day that day, so we decided to visit MLK’s birthplace. We just happened to be 10 min away so stopped to pay our tribute to MLK and take some pictures at his birthplace. As we reached, there was a line of visitors, all taking pictures in the front yard and porch of the house. House itself was closed but it became a memorable event of our trip and life. Thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to an international attraction.
The next stop was Atlanta’s famous street art district around Krog Tunnel. It is definitely worth a visit. The art was not as great in the tunnel itself, since it is always evolving, meaning people create murals over each other or keep on changing it but the artwork on the street at the end of the tunnel was remarkable. Highly recommended. (See Pictures).
The next day started with a long walk in Piedmont Park, situated in the center of the city, very much like Central Park of NY and a 33 mile long Atlanta Beltline walking path, like Capital Crescent Trail in MD and DC, that runs thru the city. It was a good walk but went too long. And then started a city tour covering all major architectural marvels of Atlanta. There were many buildings to visit in one day, most of them were closed to the public because of COVID but they were worthwhile visiting even from outside including Flatiron City, Civil Rights Museum, Art Museum, Aquarium, Westin, Promenade, State Capitol, etc. (See pictures). We even visited a Hindu temple but missed Stone Mountain park because of the shortage of daylight time.
Here we come Panama City, FL – after 4-5 days of daily in and out routine tired us out and overwhelmed us with cities’ visual stimuli. We needed a change so decided to head directly to Panama City Beach, FL. The next morning, with just one lunch break, we headed out to FL via Alabama. Quiet, not-so-picturesque, smooth ride thru small towns of AL was a good break that gave us all time to catch up with our social network. Five hours later we reached the white sandy beaches of Panama City. We had booked an oceanfront AirBnB apartment the night before. It was an amazingly beautiful serene view of the ocean with almost empty beaches. The water was too cold to dip your toe in but still very pretty. On our first day, we watched the only sunset there. It remained cloudy for the rest of our stay, at least during the sunset time.
Our mission during the 2.5 days stay at Panama City was to cook at home and just chill and that is exactly what we did for at least one and a half-day. Bought groceries locally and enjoyed the homemade simple 3 meals a day for 2.5 days. The last full day of our stay was spent in Fort Pickens in the Pensacola area. Fort Pickens is a 200-year-old fort built to protect the entry points from foreign invaders but it was used only during the Civil War by the Union forces against the confederate army. (See pictures)
But the most pleasing part of the Florida trip was the white sand beaches of the entire panhandle area and the unobstructed ocean view from the 15th floor of our rented apartment. If I get a chance again, will go back someday and stay there for a week or a month, before or after the crowds are gone. The serene, quiet beaches made it so much more enjoyable. It was difficult to say adieu to Panama City.
After 8 days, we left on Saturday morning for an almost 15-hour long trip back to Maryland. Well, we stopped overnight in Raleigh, NC, and started over again on Sunday, Jan. 24th morning for the final leg of our trip.
Back in Maryland, things were just the way they always are. On the following Tuesday, tested for Covid and the results came out negative, as expected. Back to the retirement routine… dreaming of another trip sometime soon.
Travel Adventures – Trip 2
My second adventure trip truly turned out to be adventurous because it was mostly an unplanned trip with the idea of visiting at least 2 places, one Natural Bridge of VA and then Asheville, NC, the rest was uncertain.
Due to Covid spreading like a wildfire, I wasn’t sure if it is a good idea to go on a trip staying at hotels and unknown AirBnB places but eventually decided to escape for a week or so because I couldn’t be contained in one place for long. With a high risk of infecting myself, I was determined to be completely disciplined, to stay away from risky surroundings, and use masks in all surroundings.
With that mission, I embarked upon this journey in Tesla on a solo trip to the southern states of Virginia and North Carolina. (Pictures link is at the end of this blog)
Dec. 10- 11
Less than two days before the departure, I booked an Airbnb place in Lexington, VA because there was a Supercharging station in town and it looked like a decent size town. Well, on Thursday, Dec. 10th started the 3.5 hour trip in the morning, cruising in Tesla mostly in Enhanced Auto-Pilot (EAP) mode where the car drives you, you just have to keep your hands on the steering and occasionally pretend you are managing it. It’s little more than that but I still enjoyed having this capability so that I could enjoy the scenery, take pictures, talk on the phone and check Whatsapp messages. Tesla’s EAP mode driving is much better than my manual driving, for sure.
After one charge, I reached the town of Lexington, VA, home to VA Military Institute (VMI). Natural Bridge is about 12-13 miles from Lexington, which is almost like another town away in rural miles. The Airbnb place was right at the end of a mile-long single downtown street, called Main Street (Surprise!). The location and the hostess were fantastic but the place was a dump. I instantly became depressed looking at the place, despite the smell of homemade fresh chocolate chip cookies upon arrival.
Despite the disappointment of the place, I still tried to make the best out of it and put that thought behind me convincing myself the place was at a perfect location, it’s cheap and clean. Then ventured out to eat dinner at night. The town was dead because of Covid and VMI being closed because of it. So after contributing some of my earnings to a bar, I enjoyed a HOT Thai meal, probably the only Thai restaurant in town. Food was so hot, I couldn’t eat it so I packed it up and brought it back with me.
The next morning I went to see the Natural Bridge. It is a magnificent historical landmark, it’s not just the bridge but the entire area leading to and from it is picturesque and a good walking trail as well. It was almost empty, very few people were there during the day. Loved the bridge and the area, neighboring Caverns were not as great but went to see it just because they were there. If you have not seen Luray caverns then it may be worthwhile. The Bridge also has a light show in the evening during this time of the year. I missed it because one of my knees got a little uncooperative so didn’t feel like going back there.
Dec. 12 – 15, Asheville, NC
So, finished my 2 days in Lexington with basically one highlight, and the reason I went there, the Natural Bridge. It surely is worth seeing it but go there en-route to some other place.
The second leg of the trip was the famous town of Asheville, NC. This is a small quaint, very picturesque town in the middle of nowhere, famous for Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge parkway. Being in the middle of a pandemic and winters, the place was still much livelier than I had imagined based on my experience in Lexington. The downtown looked a lot like another normal day on a Saturday night. For me, the mask was a must all the time I was walking. Asheville is known for good restaurants and bars and they were very visible in and around downtown.
But the highlight was the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. This 469-mile long parkway was started during the Great Depression to fight it and in turn, we got a wonderful gift out of the worst depression in the US. Built in the middle of Blue Ridge mountains, the parkway displays its beauty in every season, under every circumstance, year after year. You experience the magnificence of nature in its full glory. It never lets you down. Even though I went there during the worst time of the year, in terms of natural beauty, it was like a bad hair day for nature, yet it still overwhelmed me to the point of making me shed a few tears.
The parkway in Asheville goes through Pisgah National park and it has more waterfalls than you would care to visit. So many trails that it may take someone an entire year to track them down.
Spent two days exploring nature and one day exploring human creativity at Biltmore Estate. This privately-owned estate is the largest in the country. Yes, the largest property is in a little unknown town of Asheville, NC. George Vanderbilt built this house in 1895, actually a palace, used as a vacation home for the Vanderbilt family. Yes, it can be seen as an obscene display of wealth, and income disparity even over a century ago, but no matter what, it’s a marvelous human creation and a historical marvel to be enjoyed by all. Though the admission fee ($100+) is quite steep, it’s worth seeing it once if it doesn’t break your bank.
NC Arboretum in Asheville can be a wonderful place to visit for an entire day in non-winter months. But I thoroughly enjoyed the art display of a Canadian artist who had magnificent paintings of unreachable places in northwest Canada. His stories of capturing those views were as fascinating as his creations. Some of his painting pictures are in my album.
Dec. 16 – 17 Raleigh, NC
After spending 4 days in Asheville, I was off to Raleigh, NC. I had heard so much about this city that I had to visit it even briefly. I cut the trip short by a couple of days because of Christmas and increasing cases of COVID-19. Because of the bad weather and travel time, I was left with just one full day of excursion, Tried to cover as much as I could, and I did cover extensively; starting from the oldest park, Pullen Park to NC State U’s state-of-the-art library, to Farmers Market, to State Capitol, then to Museum of Nature Science, Museum of Arts, and finally to the famous Raleigh Downtown. Decked with the Christmas lights, I landed at the famous Fayetteville Street, ended up finding a beautiful Indian fusion restaurant called Garland, and had a wonderful meal.
As they say, sometimes the universe conspires to help you any which way it can. On several occasions when I felt lost, my right path was created and things worked out everywhere. I felt like I was getting help from somewhere else throughout this trip. My guardian angel was guiding me, not sure who that is but I know for sure there is someone who has been helping me not just on this trip but most of my life.
Let’s plan to meet again sometime soon in another part of this world. May your guiding light be with you.
Pictures link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/YrWrVqo7G7N2txmY7
Travel Adventures – Trip 1
Oct, 6, 2020 – Oct. 15, 2020
I took early retirement to fulfill my dream of travelling around the world at my own pace, wherever, whenever… So to start that journey, I needed to dip my toes in the water like before jumping into the vast ocean, I had to dip my toes in the water to get the feel for the water temperature, depth and its surrounding.
To avoid the shock of being in unknown territory, the first trip I planned in the comfort and the safety of friends, in a familiar car, for just 10 days. Started my trip with a couple of friends, to the northeast region of the country, using Tesla.
Oct. 6th started out from Maryland, in the pursuit of fall colors up north. As we moved past Pennsylvania, we started seeing the glimpses of fall colors.
(Note to the readers: Links to the pictures are embedded after each major destination description and there is a summary at the end if you would like to skip the rest)
Lake George, NY our first designated stop for overnight stay. Lake George is a tourist town settled around one of the most pristine bodies of water, covered by mountains all around.
Lake George was originally called “Andia-ta-roc-te” by the Native Americans and was later named “Lac du St. Sacrement” by Father Issac Joques, the first white man to see the lake in 1646. The lake was finally named “Lake George” by Sir William Johnson in 1755 for his King, George II of England. Lake George was a strategic battle ground for the Seven Years War, known as the “French and Indian War.”
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the town was turned into a ghost town, and we get the best possible room in the entire place, right next to the water with a view to kill for. Since the entire trip was designed to be a chilled, easy, sightseeing trip, we were happy with no other soul around us. The scenery was amazing, mountains across from the lake and the sunrise view in the morning. A few lonely seagulls were around looking for any kind of food they could get.
Pilgrim Mountain across from Lake George was our first view of the fall colors, i mean true fall colors. The entire drive up was breathtaking with trees in green, yellow, orange and red. You could see the entire town from the top of the mountain and enjoy a 360 degree view of the lake town.
Here are the pictures – https://photos.app.goo.gl/mxjAKYiJG2oAqiJt8
After spending half a day in Lake George, we headed towards Stowe, Vermont, supposedly the best fall foliage site in the entire state and Vermont is the best state for fall foliage. The drive from Lake George to Stowe was thru small towns and hardly we went on highways. It took about 7 hours of spectacular scenic route to reach Stowe, VT.
Stowe, VT is situated about 20 minutes north of Vermont’s capital city Montpelier, a smaller town than Lake George. .Vermont is a sleepy state if you are coming from a very active DC area and Stowe is probably the sleepiest town in Vermont. However, it has the charm of an old historic all american town with the best colors in the country. Mount Mansfield is the major mountain peak for fall foliage enthusiasts and that’s where we ended up. While going up, suddenly the temperatures dropped significantly as we drove up, and finally got so cold that we couldn’t stay out for long. At the peak, the leaves had acquired frost and pine trees had its needles covered in ice. While the peak itself was disappointing but the drive was definitely worth it.
Outside of Stowe, we also visited the wonderful Moss Glen Waterfall, town of Burlington and Montpelier, the smallest capital town in the mainland US. All of them are very charming and must visit spots if you are in VT. All in all, we accomplished what we set out to do, enjoy nature and small towns along the way.
Here are the pictures. https://photos.app.goo.gl/sAAVcmNLurWrSyqK9
From Vermont we headed to the state of Maine, specifically the town of Bar Harbor, and Acadia National Park in Maine. The 6-7 hour ride from Montepellier to Maine via New Hampshire, outskirts of White Mountains National park, and the country roads of VT, NH and ME was a visual treat that cannot be captured by a camera or explained in words. You have to see it to fully appreciate the beauty and the serenity of it all.
First stop, Bar Harbor, Maine, a small town bordering Acadia National Park. The day started with a walk to the park’s southeast end where Sands Beach and Thunder Hole are the main attractions. The park itself is worth a trip to Maine. Plan at least 3-4 days to truly enjoy its beauty. Despite COVID-19, the park was filled with cars and people. Still we tried to maintain the COVID guidelines with mask and distancing as much as possible. This place is a mecca of hikers and nature lovers. I can live there forever.
From Acadia to Portland, ME was the next stop driving again via country roads and small coastal towns along the way. Kennebunkport was another gem, a popular tourist town, along the way. And we landed at Portland Maine which turned out to be better than I had expected. A small coastal town with charming restaurants and historical places to see. It’s a good place to just park your car and walk around the Old Port and the downtown area.
You judge it for yourself. https://photos.app.goo.gl/1GHyMMxHfhj3CbRr5
After spending 3 days in Maine, we headed to Massachusetts with high hopes to see Martha’s Vineyard over the next 2 days. The fall foliage in Massachusetts had just stated, colors were not as bright and vibrant as in Maine and Vermont. The first full day in MA was a rainy day; with total disappointment we decided to drive thru Cape Cod instead of Martha’s Vineyard.
So a drive along the Cape Cod area’s coastal towns turned out to be a surprise treat. Had it not being a total washed out rainy day, this could’ve been the highlight of this trip. The coastal towns and the ride itself was fabulous. We drove all the way to the southern tip of Massachusetts, a coastal city of Provincetown. Provincetown reminded me of Key West, Florida, but it was a ghost town because of Covid and rain. Still enjoyed its funky cultural style. Will definitely go back there someday.
Next day was a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard with high anticipation. The day didn’t start very well. My Tesla was running low on charge, didn’t have enough time to charge, after reaching the ferry location, found that parking is another 4 mile and 10-15 minutes away and the last shuttle from the parking lot to the ferry was about to leave. Somehow caught the shuttle and the ferry. Then as we reached the island, we had no prior arrangement to go around the island. Found a tour bus and went around town for a couple of hours. For some reason, Martha’s Vineyard turned out to be the most disappointing destination, perhaps because of high expectations. It is a small island with some small towns with no vineyard in the entire island. It is a rich old white people’s private island with not much to show for. There is some history mostly from Native American days and the britishers who landed there. After spending 2 hours in the tour bus and 2 hours of eating and drinking we were done.
Here are memories of Massachusetts – https://photos.app.goo.gl/65NFnCxa12yfwaML7
Back to the ferry and then about an 8 mile off-route drive to charge up Tesla. This was the only time I had to worry about getting the car charged during the entire trip, rest of the stops were comfortable and along the way.
From there started the last leg of our trip back home. If you are Indian and travelling between NY and MD, Edison, NJ is a must stop. Yes, we had to stop for some fresh authentic traditional Indian food at Mithaas in Edison, NJ. And finally arrived home 10 days later, safely without any major issue with tons of memories and lifetime of visual treats.
By the end of the trip, we had passed through or stayed in 10 states in 10 days. Woohooooo!!! – Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware.
In Summary, the trip turned out to be what I had anticipated and more. Our primary focus was to experience fall foliage in northeast in October, test drive Tesla on long trips, no-rush itinerary, and enjoy slow life (well that didn’t happen). Learned that we can fit 4 people with luggage and drive a couple of thousand miles in the northeast region pretty comfortably in a Tesla Model 3. Autopilot feature was a blessing which helped us in driving, enjoying the scenery and taking pictures and videos. And the second week of October is the best time to travel in that part of the country.
Here is the final score –
- Lake George – A-
- Vermont – A+
- Acadia National Park, Maine – A++
- Portland, ME – A+
- Cape Cod – A++
- Martha’s Vineyard – B
- Edison, NJ – A-
- Overall Trip Score – A+
Next solo trip coming is up in November and December…