I have traveled through most of the Western, Mid-Western, and NorthEastern United States, plus Hawaii [October 2001 with Mom], Mexico [regularly from Arizona], Canada [Victoria & Vancouver], France [14 years ago on a month long home stay with my penpal and her family, about 4 years ago for my penpal's wedding, and again this past Spring to see her Mom], Germany [back in high-school to see where my Senior year German exchange student lived] and much of the rest of Europe [on a whirlwind tour during high-school with my Girl Scout troop at the time.]
In the fall of 2002 I filled in the rest of the states I had yet to see (excepting Alaska) on a 7-week road-trip with a stop at Disneyland in California, then continuing on to tour the South and Civil War battlefields with my Dad. Here's the itinerary we had for that trip:
Drove to LA, stopped in northern CA to visit one of my many cousins, then visited friends in LA and Temecula, attended another college friend's wedding reception, scouted out the southern California areas for future move there, then spent 5 days & 4 nights at the Disney Grand Californian hotel in Anaheim. Went to Disney Land, California Adventure, and spent a day at Universal Studios. Said goodbye to the college crowd and drove to AZ to meet up with Dad.
9/16 – 10/9
Driving tour of South and Civil War Battlefields with my Dad:
New Mexico including stopping at the Zuni Indian Reservation, lunch with a college friend and his wife in Albuquerque, then on to Oklahoma, Tennesee, and Kentucky where we spent some time at misc. battlefields [especially around Chattanooga] and saw a couple more college friends in Nashville, drove through the Shenandoah Valley and saw attractions in the DC area including Antietam, Appomattox Court House, Gettysburg, Mount Vernon, and Arlington National Cemetery. (Well, we tried to see Arlington, but ended up mainly just driving in circles around it, then decided since we'd both seen it before we'd just skip that plan and head on out of DC.) Visited another college friend in DC (who used to live 2 miles from me, but whom I see more often now that she's clear across the country than I did when she lived around the corner!.) Then headed on south and spent a day at Colonial Williamsburg. On through the Carolinas and Georgia, to Orlando Florida where we had planned to spend 4 days at Disney World & Epcott Center [plus taking some time to rest.] (We actually ended up there for a whole week as I remember, as we were skirting around the hurricanes that were building up and sweeping their way north. It worked - we missed getting hit by the winds, though we did encounter an absolute deluge of rain on a couple of occasions. Also, we ended up not going to the actual Disney park in Disney World as according to the map it looked identical to Disney land, but we did spend a couple days at Epcott Center and one day at the Sea World there. Epcott was amazing! I highly recommend it - especially the 360* theaters with movies of China and France. At Sea World we saw an astonishing animal show that had trained everything - cats, ducks, geese, docs, mice, and even a pig - and all in the same show! I didn't realize cats could be trained! A bit of a step up from the seals and sea lion show I usually see at Sea World.)
We then headed back West through Pensacola, New Orleans (we had planned to stay right near the French Quarter, but after all the hurricane damage I think we just blitzed on through to Texas. It was really shocking how much damage wind can do - signs were turned backwards, tree branches littered the highway, and buildings looked much the worse for wear.) We then went on to Houston to visit a friend from church. Back through the rest of Texas and New Mexico, and back into Arizona.
10/10 – 10/24
Spent a week or so in AZ seeing a friend and her new little baby, spent some time with my Mom, and worked with Dad to clean out the boxes stored at his house since Mom sold her place this summer. I then hauled said boxes back up to Washington in a trailer pulled behind my car, coming back up via the Grand Canyon and visiting more friends in Utah, Idaho, & Eastern Washington.
In actuality we didn't stick exactly to the itinerary, as often happens on vacation, but we saw most of what we wanted to see. It was an absolutely fabulous trip in all. I recommend the Grand Californian hotel - it's a bit pricey but is just beautifully decorated and has great views of the new California Adventure park. I really enjoyed the new park, especially a particular water ride as summers can get warm in CA. The next time I go through the South I want to spend a little more time in Tennessee, maybe visit some places in Nashville or Memphis. The most telling battleground for me was Gettysburgh - it gave me a glimpse into the past, with descriptive plaques, towering monuments, and a large cemetery. I believe Dad was particularly impressed with Shiloh. My Mom's currently out adventuring in her RV and may see some of the same places we saw, such as Gettysburgh, Antietam, an Harper's Ferry.
I've been on a few other amazing trips lately, most notably a trip to France in March '03 to visit my pen-pal's Mom (as well as a brief visit with my pen-pal and her family), and a cruise in September of '03 with my nuclear family. (Yes, a cruise with both parents - who've been divorced some 24 years now - but they've stayed friends so we often all get together for holidays, etc.)
The France trip was very, very relaxing - I spent my days reading by the shores of the English Channel (called the Emerald Coast), or walking through the local parks. I spent my evenings having wonderful home-made meals with my pen-pal's Mom, and conversing not-quite-fluently in French. (I would like to take more classes in French and get my grammar and vocabulary both up to speed. Someday I'd like to get enough coursework and linguistic skill under my belt to be able to teach French as well as Math, but that may take several years of further study.) While there we traveled to Dinan, a town which dates back to the middle ages. I was fascinated by the historic buildings, cobblestone streets, and city gates. We also traveled out to see some of the ancient stone arrangements - mainly one giant stone, and in a separate area a collection of stones that almost look like just random boulders as the forest is working to reclaim the area.
The Alaskan cruise was quite enjoyable (Princess cruise lines has some very very nice ships!) and I especially liked our excursions in Skagway and Juneau. We rode a railroad car up along the gold rush trail toward the Yukon, Mom and I had tea and toured the gardens at Jewel Gardens, where they have marigolds the size of grapefruit, and cabbage the size of a boulder! (Evidently the extended daylight hours in the summer months make for a highly productive growing season, despite the somewhat colder temperatures.) We also saw a lot of wild life, including bald eagles, and visited a salmon hatchery. In Ketchikan we got cought in a downpour while touring Totem Bight state park. Evidently late September is not the best time to be cruising to Alaska - we were on the second-to-last cruise of the season, and many stores and tourist-industry seasonal workers were already closing for the year and leaving town. Parts of the cruise were a bit rough - we all spent a couple days in our cabins battling sea-sickness, though we're told that's unusual for that route. On our way back out of the inland passage we detoured into the Tracy Arm fjord, where we got a chance to see a glacier up close, and even got to see some "calving' - where part of the glacier's edge breaks off and falls into the water. There were many a seal and sea lion lounging about on the small ice-bergs scattered throughout the waterway, and more eagles spotted overhead. That was by far my favorite part of the trip.
That's all I have about my recent trips so far. Someday I'll beef this up with greater details of past excursions, but for now this covers the last few years. See my current letter if you want to know what else I've been up to, or check out my photos page if you want to see some of what I've seen on these journeys.