Thursday, May 07, 2009

Places I've Seen

Badlands, South DakotaLast week I talked travel with my list of Places I've Got to See and I think some of you felt slighted. Since I could only mention places I hadn't been there were plenty of spots that didn't make the cuts but I'm going to try to make up for it by posting my list of my favorite American places that I've already seen.

Rule #1: Must be in America (sorry Canada, I fudged the rules last week but that's as far as I can go)

Rule #2: I was physically there.

Have you been to any of them yourself?

1. The Badlands, South Dakota. I may be wrong here but I heard the Badlands got their name from the outlaws that would use the terrain as shelter from pursuing posses (posees? possees? Whatever) but that could just be a nice myth. Anyone going to back me up on this?

Andrew and I drove through the area in 1996 when I was pregnant with Spencer on the way to my brother-in-law's wedding. It's funny how I tend to chronicle my life by my pregnancies. "Oh that must have happened in 1993 because that's when I was pregnant with Grace . . . "

How do men remember things in their lives when they don't have pregnancies to mark time?

Anyway, we visited Mount Rushmore on the way to the wedding and the Badlands on the way back and I have to say that Mother Nature totally conquered the man-made attractions. Totally. I remember standing on the edge of one of the cliffs and feeling the air swirling around my largeness and thinking. "You know, in my swollen state I bet I could catch the wind just like a sailboat. I'd better stand back from the edge."

Sunflower Fields2. Sunflowers in North Dakota. I'll stick with the general region and include the sunflower fields of North Dakota as a must-see. While this under-appreciated state is flat and at first glance rather unremarkable the Red River's deposits have made it some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world (did you know they produce more potatoes than Idaho?)

As we drove from west to east toward Grand Forks we passed field after field of full-grown August sunflowers ready for harvest and they don't call them sunflowers for nothing. Every single flower in every field was angled at exactly the same degree to catch the sun's power. It was gorgeous to see millions and millions of flowers all turning their faces to meet us as we drove along and I took it as a good omen. What a welcome to our new home.

Denali National Park3. Denali National Park. The highest point in North America is Mt. McKinley at 20, 320 feet above sea level. You might be interested to know that Mt. McKinley (named after U.S. president McKinley who was responsible for buying Alaska from Russia) has a greater mass and rise than Mt. Everest simply because the Himalayas sit on the Tibetan plateau which means it's kind of like trying to claim that Shaquille O'Neal seated in the bleachers is taller than Yao Ming standing on the court. Sure he's taller if you boost him up on some seats but back to back barefoot on the floor Ming gets him by a good six inches.

Anyway, while you can see Mt. McKinley from Anchorage on a clear day the way to really see it is to drive to Denali National Park. This can be tricky because to protect the environment they control the traffic in and out of the park pretty carefully, only allowing buses except on special occasions, but if you can get up there to see the mountain and the wildlife it really is the chance of a lifetime.

There's been a push for years now to rename the mountain--or rather to let the official name revert back to the original Athabascan name of "Denali" which means "The Great One." Alaskans have been trying to get it legal for a while now but apparently Ohio is the only hold-out against the change because McKinley was from Ohio. Because we Alaskans LOVE it when outsiders tell us what to do. And I won't comment any further on this. You can feel my disapproval from my stony silence. Stony . . . can you feel the tension in the air?

U.S. Naval Observatory4. The Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. When Andrew and I lived in Washington before we had children we spent every weekend exploring up and down the coast. I don't think there are many places in our nation's capital and surrounding region that we haven't seen. All the major monuments and government centers, battlefields, museums, the National Zoo, you name it we were there but I think the biggest surprise was our trip to the Naval Observatory.

I should back up. Everyone knows where the president lives, right? But do you know where the vice-president lives? I thought not. Well unless things have changed since 1993 he lives at the Naval Observatory right smack in the city in a rather rundown house overseen by the Navy.

Besides the vice-presidential mansion the observatory was fun because it houses the official atomic clock that sets our time according to the vibrations of the cesium atom (and I'm really testing my memory here, I think that's how it works). So the clock that Andrew constantly checks to make sure his watch is EXACTLY on time was fun to see. Then on top of that you could visit the telescope to take a peak.

We saw Jupiter and Saturn and it was amazing. I've always liked astronomy but it's too cold to go out stargazing in the winter and too bright in the summer so I got my first real glimpse of the sky there. Very cool.

5. Haleakala at night. I won't say much more about this because I already did a post on Maui a couple of weeks ago but if you're ever in Hawaii and if you take my advice about going to Maui you really must take a night trip up the volcano to see the stars. You'll never see the stars quite like that.

Mary Chilton's Grave in Boston6. Boston, Massachusetts. As a side note here, for some reason I am completely incapable of spelling the word "Massachusetts" correctly. Thank goodness for spellcheck, I'd be lost without it. For some reason I keep thinking the word has silent characters like extra S's or C's.

I think this is one of the few places that I've been to that Andrew hasn't. What appeals is the way this city just oozes with historical significance. You can visit the Freedom Trail and walk by the major Revolutionary War historical sites such as Paul Revere's house, the Boston Commons and the Old North Church--all marked by gorgeous red brick under your feet.

When I was there I caught a Monet exhibit at the museum, enjoyed shopping downtown, made my way out to Cambridge for the college scene and tried to figure out how to pronounce "Faneuil Hall."

The highlight was visiting the downtown cemetery that dated back to the 17th century and found my great-great-great . . . . great grandmother Mary Chilton's grave right there in real life. Or death or whatever. Amazing city.

West Virginia7. West Virginia. I've seen lots of states and while each is beautiful in its own way and has its own highlights West Virginia blew me away. We'd been driving across the country in bleak January weather and when we got to WV the green and the mountains and the whole place was just gorgeous. Up until then I was voting for Kentucky but at that point I had to go with West Virginia all the way.

It's a small state, it doesn't take that much time to drive across, but if you have the chance grab it because it will definitely be worth your while.

8. Reading and Lancaster Counties, Pennsylvania. Are you sick of my east coast wanderings yet? Well stick with me because I'm giving you yet another. Andrew and I drove up to Pennsylvania (we really wish we'd been able to catch Gettysburg but we missed that part by a nose) and hit Rocky's territory, caught a Philly cheesesteak, paid our respects to Ben Franklin then drove out to the Amish country there and it was so pretty.

Don't go to gawk, go to see a different way of living and appreciate a culture outside our frenzied norm. We had dinner at this restaurant there that was a big barn with picnic tables set up in rows and we sat down and they didn't bring us menus--they brought us food. Mashed potatoes, corn, pork chops, everything my man's heart could desire.

Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night with the word "Gravy!" on his lips and I know he's been dreaming of that meal again.

Sanibel Island9. Sanibel Island. Last year's trip to Florida was nice and while Orlando and the whole Disneyworld craze was fine the real trip for me began when we got to Ft. Myers and Sanibel Island. I already did a post on the experience which I won't repeat here but Sanibel reportedly has the world's second-best shelling beaches and since my favorite thing to do is to walk along a beach and find treasures this was something that completely won my heart.

It's warm, it's fun, it's full of dolphins and seashells--and I hear if you care to pick up a nice piece of beachfront property approximately 95% of the island is for sale right now. They got hit pretty hard with the whole sub-prime mortgage thingie.

10. Utah Ski Resorts. There are plenty of pretty things to see in Utah--the drive through Provo Canyon, Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon--but I have to say it's the skiing that haunts my dreams.

Alta, Deer Valley, Park City, Sundance, Brighton, Solitude, Powder Mountain, Park West, Snowbird--I've skied them all and the snow really is the greatest on earth. When I was in college we used to get these half-day passes at 7/11 for Park West for something like $11 (remember that Melissa?)

My first time skiing in Utah was when I was 14 right after the 1984 Olympics and we were skiing Park West (it's my favorite of all the resorts for the price) and my little brother joined us at the base and mentioned casually that he'd rode up the chairlift with this guy who won some kind of a medal.

"What??" We said.

"He said he'd won a silver medal," he said as if that kind of thing got passed out at the concessions stand.

As best we can guess from his disconnected narrative is that he'd been sitting with Steve Mahre who'd just got back from Sarajevo after winning the silver medal in the slalom, finishing second after his twin brother Phil. The U.S. Ski Team practices next door in Park City and there were reports the men were in the neighborhood.

"So what did you do?" We asked my brother.

"I got off the lift. It was my stop." He said.

Oh. Apparently a silver medal doesn't count as much as it used to.

San Diego Sea Caves11. Sea Caves in San Diego. There's so much that's great to see in California where do you start? North or south you're going to find great things to see but on our last trip the thing we enjoyed the most was the La Jolla sea caves.

Right there on the ocean in La Jolla (pronounced "La Hoya") you can park along the street then walk down to Windandsea Beach or watch the sea lions hanging out by the caves.

And then you've got to visit Sunny Jim's Cave. There's a little store called the Cave Store up by the road but if you pay the admission price of $4 you can go down into their basement along this narrow flight of steps and down down down into a tunnel that leads into the back of Sunny Jim's Cave.

You totally feel like a pirate I tell you.

Anyway, I'm not sure if they'll charge you admission if you start at the other end and come up through the basement into the store--maybe they won't let you out unless you pay--but going that direction you're going to get wet as the cave is surrounded by water.

Anyway, I mentioned last week how I love caves and I had said that I'd never been in one but I guess this does count as a cave so that was a bit misleading. If you're in San Diego it's a fun place to visit. Though when we went Lillian had become deathly ill with a stomach bug. We ended up later in the hospital twice with her puking up blood and dehydrated and all sorts of nastiness and we couldn't ever figure out why she got so sick while the rest of us didn't.

When we got home from our vacation and were watching the movies of the trip there was this scene with Lillian at Sea World, dipping her hand into the tidepool water then slurping it up off her fingers. Over and over again while Andrew behind the camera laughed and said, "Hey, don't do that! That's gross!" But did he stop her??

No wonder.

Freemont Troll12. The Freemont Troll. My Mom and I spent a week back in 2000 or 2001 in Seattle and someone at the desk of our hotel mentioned to us that we should go see the Troll. We had nothing better to do, we were hanging out wild and free so we went on a hunt to find it.

You go across the bridge to Freemont which is a suburb of Seattle and this little artsy district and there underneath the bridge on the Freemont side is this giant troll. Eating a Volkswagen.

Yes there are plenty of great things to see in Seattle and the northwest but the trip was fun and though I'm sure there are millions of people who have been there to visit my friend the troll when you go there it kind of feels like you're the only one who has discovered this fun little surprise.

13. The Statue of Liberty. This other statue is a little harder to miss. I wondered if it would live up to the hype but it really was the highlight of our trip to New York City. We took the ferry across to Liberty Island and climbed the stairs to the top of her crown. I've heard that it's no longer open for viewing this way which is too bad. Climbing up inside with all the scaffolding to see the city from so high across the bay really is an amazing experience.

Andrew and His Silver Salmon14. Resurrection Bay, Alaska. If you drive south from Anchorage for two hours you'll hit the town of Seward on Resurrection Bay. You can see porpoise, an occasional killer whale and all sorts of marine mammals and birds if you're not distracted by the gorgeous greeny blue water and the fabulous fishing.

Andrew and I have been down three or four times in August for the annual silver salmon derby where they tag several salmon and then spend the week fishing like crazy to see who can catch the biggest silver (or coho) and who can catch the ones with the tags.

The first year we went we hadn't planned on buying a derby ticket but ended up doing so and lucky for us because Andrew caught a 17 pound silver right off the bat and led the derby for the day with his name in the paper and everything. He didn't end up with the biggest fish in the end though, I still remember the winning guy's name: Bill Bixby. Why do I remember that? Well because Bill Bixby was the guy who played on the Incredible Hulk if you recall.

"You don't want to make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Anyway, he won for the second or third year in a row and we secretly suspect that he raised a silver in captivity all winter long just to yoink the victory from us. Though I guess that's not so secret any more. Not that we're bitter.

Anyway, it was an amazing day--Andrew fished while I put the seats down on the upper deck of the boat and went to sleep in the sunshine. I could not have been happier.

Photo credit: West Virginia Travel

Sponsored by Tiny Prints for the holiday party invitations for children.


Chrissy Johnson said...

I think we're the only ones awake!

I'm sorry that Ohio hates Denali and wants to be mean. And may I say in behalf of ALL Ohioans, we're very sorry that we're stodgy and strange.

Peruby said...

I'm with Chrissy on this one. I apologize for the stubborness. Maybe there is somebody we can write to?

Lucy said...

Too bad about the Statue of Liberty and that climb being off limits. I did the climb to her crown and could have gone to the torch but they were working on it at the time. What I loved the best about that climb? The graffiti on the walls going up. I wish I'd taken pictures of the names, dates, etc.

Alice Wills Gold said...

Wow. You make me want to travel and I hate traveling.

Patricia Linehan said...

I agree with West Virginia. I think that's the only one on your list I've been to. While were driving a relative said, "West Virginia's so much prettier than Virginia". Silly, but WV is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

See? This is why the East Coast doth rule.
Livin in the elbow of Amish country and so near DC and W VA. is great! But those Badlands look pretty bad too.

Snow White said...

I had the pleasure of seeing Denali up close when I did field work based out of Fairbanks.... In addition to being in the park, I caught an amazing view on the plane -- our pilot took us low and right by Denali! AMAZING.

LLG said...

I too have been to the Statue of Liberty and it was amazing. I was there last year with my husband and you can no longer climb to the top, but it was pretty amazing nonetheless. My whole trip to NYC was great. Ellis Island was another amazing and very interesting spot. I love NYC, I would go back for another vacation in a heartbeat. Time Square was so much fun!! Anyone who has a chance to visit NYC should, its worth the trip. I would also like to visit the Southern States. I am Canadian, but an American history University student and I love the history behind South U.S.A.

jacjewelry said...

Look at those sunflowers! Great list - I, too, love all things DC!

Anonymous said...

I am originally from South Dakota and you really do want to go see the Badlands. They are beautiful. Make sure you stop to see Mt Rushmore as well while visiting the state. The sunflowers in North Dakota are stunning but you will be able to see those all over South Dakota too if you head that way. :-)

I have a list of places that I want to see too. One of these summers, I am going to load up the kids in the camper and just drive all over the country and see things.

Lahni said...

I'm not sure about the naming of the badlands, but we have badlands in Alberta too and I'm pretty sure they weren't named for the bad guys hiding in them. So I think it must have something to do with the type of rock formation.
Ok, so I just wikied badlands and it does refer to the rock formations. They were called badlands because they were barren and difficult to cross.

Scribbit said...

Chrissy--on behalf of Alaskans everywhere (including you now apparently :) I accept your kind apology.

Poor McKinley, I suppose it's the least he deserves after getting shot right? Maybe we should combine the names and call the mountain Dekinley?

Snow White--when Andrew flies to Barrow all the time he goes by the mountain and says it's amazing from the air. I'd love to see that too.

Lahni--Too bad. Being named after marauding bad guys seems so much more exciting doesn't it?

MommyJ said...

Ok. I've been to pennsylvania and south dakota and remember being equally impressed with both. And now, because I'm convinced it is the loveliest place on earth, have you ever been the awesomely beautiful mountains of north carolina? I'm partial, cause it's always been home. But really. Breathtaking views, rich green everywhere... I hike all the time through the mountains where they filmed Last of the Mohicans, Dirty Dancing, Patch Adams, The Fugitive... serious hollywood history in this here parts of the woods. :) Oh, and the Biltmore House. Everyone must see the Biltmore house at least once in their life.

Your list has inspired me. As lovely as it is here, I need to travel more!

Heart2Heart said...

I love all your wonderful insights about the beautiful and charming places you have visited.

There are some like the troll I never heard of and would love to see. I guess it's not the biggest ball of rubber bands or frying pan, but it's something out of the ordinary.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

LLG said...

The badlands in Alberta are awsome! Drumheller is a great place to visit, the dinasour museum is fantastic and of course the badlands are super fun!! There are so many great places to venture too! Safe travels

Janet said...

I've been to DC three different times. OF course, I missed the Observatory.
We drove through West Virginia to get from Kentucky to Maryland (avoiding the beltway). In autumn. Absolutely gorgeous scenery. But if you drive back into Kentucky from West Virginia on I-64 at night, you are greeted by the coal-fired power plant in Ashland. I felt like I was driving straight into hell. It was worthy of any Hollywood special effects.
I've been to Captiva Island (next to Sanibel) twice. Absolutely gorgeous. I have tons of shells.
I've been to Seattle, but no one told me about the Troll and I find that I am very annoyed about that! :) I love that sort of thing.
When we went to the statue of Liberty, it was in the 90s in early May of 2001. (Please note the date.) We opted not to stand in the 2-hour long line to go up the stairs, but to get back on the ferry and get the breeze from the water. On the way back, we were considering whether or not to go to the World Trade Center. And I said, "It's pretty late, let's do that next time." Haunts me to this day.
I want to go to all the places on this list too!!! Those sunflowers are gorgeous. The Mountain Man has been through the Badlands.

Momma Roar said...

On this list, I've been to DC and Lancaster...and I live in the latter...think I need to get out more? ...sigh... LOL!!

I'm so close to NYC and I've only been there once to see a broadway show - not even the statue of liberty. Someday, I'll travel! I said it, so it has to come true, right?

Actually, my hubby's family took 4 weeks one summer to tour the west. He wants to do that when our kids are older, so I do believe it will happen!! :)

J at said...

That's weird about Ohio and Denali. And as a former Alaskan, who has also been to that beautiful park, I am also stony in my attitude.

I have ancestors way back when in Boston, too. I keep thinking I'd like to go there and find their graves someday.

One of my great-great aunts married a member of the Brethren, aka, the Dunkards. They're fairly similar to the Amish. And when my Great Grandma passed away, they gave a wonderful lunch in a big barn that is much like you describe. Lovely.

I've never been to WV, but my dad's side of the family hales from there, right near the Ohio border, and he says it's beautiful.

Mariel said...

Very cool post! You've got me craving West Virginia! I used to live out East and I miss all the GREEN, lush landscapes! Utah was quite a change but we just spent last weekend at Fish Lake by Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley...that is what Utah is all about to me! It's amazing!


Melissa B. said...

Let's see...I've been to the Naval Observatory plus inside the VP's Mansion, natch (so glad you mentioned DC!); Maui (but not Haleakala); Boston (once just to visit the ball park-we saw 5 games in one weekend); all over the Beautiful State of West Virginia (it's my neighbor, ya know); Lancaster County (I have an Amish Quilt from there) but not Reading; Sanibel several times (last time, for a "significant" b-day); Alta, Park City & Snowbird, but not the rest of the Utah ski resorts, and the Statue of Liberty (even crawled around in her crown. The rest-especially Alaska and the Badlands-are on my list, for sure!

Amy said...

Greetings from Sanibel/Captiva - my favorite place on earth! I must confess I'm only visiting but I own a tiny little piece in the form of a timeshare and six glorious weeks here every year!

I love your blog and am grateful to have found it. Hubby is looking at a job in Anchorage. I'm afraid to look how long that flight would be btw here & Anchorage...

Tammy said...

My DD lives near Grand Forks, and my DH works for the seed company that supplies sunflower seeds for most of the U.S. growers - guess we'll have to make sure we see those sunflowers when we're in ND this summer. :o) I enjoyed your post, but especially the photo of Mary Chilton's headstone. She is one of my ancestors, also. It is a small world, huh?

Pam D said...

What a lovely tour around the country! You've been to so many places that I WANT to go, and now I want to go even MORE! Badlands area is probably at the top of the list, mainly because of all of the fossils in the area that my son would LOVE to try and dig up! Seriously... so many choices.. aren't we blessed? (and, um.. my dad was from Ohio.. so please accept the apologies of my family for the stubborn nature which apparently does transcend state boundries. Because if it's an Ohio thing, my son DID end up having it flow right into HIS veins!)

david said...

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Miriam said...

I've awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award.

Melissa-Mc said...

Hey, I love the Fremont Troll. One year my parents took a picture of our whole family by him and that was our Christmas card that year.

Anonymous said...

Very fun! There is nothing like those sunflowers in ND. My cousins tease me I took pic after pic.

PS: I think I saw you the other day. It was so weird, I recognized you but couldn't place why. You're a celebrity! :-)

JanMary said...

As I read this, I wondered if I could tick off any of your list.

Boston, Washington (but not the Naval place) and Statue of Liberty are the only ones that I have also been to.

The sunflowers reminded me of the many fields of sunflowers in Tuscany and Umbria in Italy. However, my dh will probably only remember how I could never get the "perfect" shot of the flower heads - they always seemed to be turned away from me!

J at said...

I just saw this in the news, and thought of you. They're reopening the Statue of Liberty!

We have sunflower fields here, too, and they are indeed a big ray of sunshine. :)

Scribbit said...

Anonymous--where were you? I was out all over the place yesterday so it very likely could have been me.

Thursdays are my day for shopping. Today? I'm finishing up my spring cleaning with my bathrooms. I've saved those for last for obvious reasons.

ewe are here said...

I love Sanibel Island; haven't been there in years and years... sad that it's taken such an economic hit.

Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

I love traveling so obviously, I love this list among your always fabulous lists! :-)

You've been to places! BTW, I think that this is the first time I've seen a photo of your hubby in your blog. I don't know I always have this impression that he looks like Bill Gates!

Scribbit said...

Grace :) That's a hoot! I haven't heard that one yet.

Though when we got married people who hadn't yet met him thought he looked like my younger brother. Creepy.

david said...

you read the article, inspiration for me to learn to write

Anonymous said...

I'm the anon above who saw you (at least I think). You were driving west on Huffman, almost to Old Seward. I was going east. I noticed because we were both slowing for traffic or something. Now I can't remember what day it was this happened. Might not have been you, but I had that odd feeling like 'don't I know her?'

jubilee said...

As an Ohioan: I am sorry that you can't have your Denali. If it were up to me, I'd vote for the name to be changed back. Still . . . a rose by any other name . . . right?!