Wednesday, October 3, 2012


We traveled this beautiful country of ours for 143 days and saw so many different and wonderful things.  From the desolate desert to the mountains with its snow capped peaks, valleys, canyons and lakes; from rivers winding through canyons to  dried up bedstreams in the desert; from green coniferous forests to petrified wood forests; cascading waterfalls to rapids on the Colorado;  from cliff dwellings to city dwellings and everything in between. Every area that we traveled through had its own distinct flavor with its own geographic features of which we spoke in the previous blogs. Everyone has asked us what we liked the best about this trip. The answer is not as easy as it may sound, but we have decided that Yellowstone and the Tetons were our most enjoyable stays even with the issues with the cold weather and non-working batteries and lack of heat in the RV. That was only a part of the time and the rest of the three weeks there we had wonderful weather and were able to do anything we liked-touring the area, hiking, biking, canoeing, viewing all of the magnificent wildlife and, as a bonus,  smores' around the campfires at night.

Spending the last two weeks with our family was icing on the cake!

We have compiled the statistics for our total journey in case anyone might be interested in taking a similar trip. Here goes:

Sights along the way:
1. Carlsbad Caverns, NM
2. Old Town Albuquerque, NM
3. Sante Fe, NM
4. Santuario de Chimayo, NM
5. Taos, NM
6. Mesa Verde, National Park, CO
7. Leadville, CO
8. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
9. Yellowstone Nationsl Park, WY
10. Grand Teton National Park, WY, UT
11. Bear Lake, UT
12. Arches National Park, UT
13. Canyonlands National Park, UT
14. Zion National Park, UT
15. Bryce National Park, UT
16. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
17. Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim, AZ
18. Sedona, AZ and Montezumas Castle National Monument
19. Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, AZ
20. Winslow, AZ
21. Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
22. Painted Desert National Park, AZ
23. Lake Meade National Rereation Area, NV
24. Hoover Dam, AZ/NV
25. Las Vegas, NV
26. Tehachapi, CA
27. Lake Isabelle, CA
28. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA
29. Yosemite National Park, CA
30. Lake Tahoe, NV
31. Mount Rushmore National Park, SD
32. Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial, SD
33. Wall Drug, SD
34. Badlands National Park, SD
35. Niagara Falls, NY
36. Ellis Island, NJ (Upper New York Harbor)
37 Statue of Liberty National Monument, NJ (Upper New York Harbor)

We drove through 30 states and our mileage and gasoline statistics are as follows:

RV stats:
      Miles traveled -10,411
      Cost of fuel- $4,791
     Gallons used-1324
     Highest paid was $5.91 in Lake Tahoe
     Lowest paid was $3.21 near Lake Meade
     An average of $3.62 per gallon.
     Average mpg-7.87
     Average cost per mile- 46 cents
When we look at this we have to keep in mind that we used our generator quite a bit to charge our batteries as we had no electricity most of the trip and the generator uses up gasoline as well. Still not a great average.

Car stats:

Once we landed in a Park for a week or so, we would use the car (Honda Fit) to get around.
Cost of fuel-$981
Miles traveled-7,861
Gallons of Gas used-271
Average cost per gallon-$3.62
 Average mpg - 29
Average cost per mile-12 cents


Total Cost-$3,286
Overall average cost per night-$23

We stayed at 29 State Parks with an average cost of $25 per night; at National Parks at a cost of $10 per night; at Private RV parks at an average cost of $38 per night. Four nights were free as we parked in relatives yards three nights and one night we stayed in a Walmart parking lot.


We didn't track food costs as they would be the same as if we stayed at home. We made picnic lunches every day and had breakfast and dinner at the RV everyday with a very few exceptions when we ate out.

 Total Cost-(excluding food and souvenirs)-$9057
  Average cost of gas and lodging per day-$63

The National and State Park systems are absolutely fantastic. What we can't understand is why more Americans are not taking advantage of them. The majority of the people we met throughout our trip were non-Americans. They were Asian and European. We were in the minority as English speaking people in every park visited. Not only do they come to visit our parks, but they rent RVs do it. Our rate as senior citizens in a National Park was $10 per night and the cost to everyone else, including foreigners, is $20 per night. If you can't afford an RV, then I would encourage the American people to buy a tent and take the children to see these wonderful places. The wilderness is here for us thanks to many of our forefathers, not the least of which, is Teddy Roosevelt. They had the foresight to perserve these untouched miracles of nature for future generations. I hope that more of our children and grandchildren will take the opportunity to explore and experience this wonderful country of ours.

We were so fortunate to be able to make this trip and we are looking forward to more in the future. We'll see what next summer brings. We'll keep you posted!

Friday, September 28, 2012


September 24th, Monday- September 25th, Tuesday- September 26th, Wednesday-Thursday, September 27th

Knowing what the traffic would be like going in and out of Manhattan, we arose early and were on the road out of the New York area by 5:30am. We were so glad that we did as the traffic was very light and we didn't have to battle semis for space in our own lane.

We spent Monday night at the Kiptopeke State Park in Cape Charles, VA. We had stayed there last year going north and really enjoyed the fact that it was on the Chesapeake Bay. We rode our bikes down to the dock, watched the fishermen for a while and just relaxed after 7 hours of riding.
Chesapeake Bay
On Tuesday we left at a more reasonable time-9:00am and drove about 235 miles to a KOA campground just outside of Fayetteville, NC. This trip was about 5 hours and we arrived early enough to relax from the long ride once again.

And Wednesday found us back in Bluffton after a leisurely 8:30am departure and a 5 hour ride. It's always nice to drive in through those gates and see the welcoming fountains, beautiful flowers and nicely manicured lawns. The temperature is still low 80s and the Carolina skies are gorgeous. We do love it here!

It always takes a while to unload the RV and get settled back in our home. First, we had to turn on the water, adjust the air conditioning, remove the saran wrap from all of the drains, clean the kitchen and the bathrooms so that they are once again useable. The unloading commenced! and continued right on through Thursday. The canoe is back in the rafters, the bikes are back in the bike rack and the laundry has been done. Now we need to figure out where to put all the clothes we brought with us! I think it's time to clean out closets and bureaus! 


Friday, September 21st

We left Connecticut behind and headed for the RV Park and Marina in Jersey City, New Jersey. This is conveniently located just about 20 miles from Tim's daughter, Kristin, and her family and across the harbor from New York City one way and the Statue of Liberty the other. It was definitely a challenge to drive through city traffic with the RV towing our car. When we arrived, we noted, however, that  RVs much bigger than ours had made a simlar journey. I honestly don't know how they maneuver in those streets. I must commend Tim for his expertise in handling our vehicle.

That afternoon before the mass exodus from "the city" started, we drove out to see the kids. We spent a quiet afternoon with Graydon (8), Greer (14), Graeme (16) and Kristin (don't worry, I won't divulge it) on their new outdoor living area under beautiful blue skies. We were amazed to see how much they have grown since we last saw them in April. Greer went off baby sitting and Graydon decided to draw pictures for us and keep us entertained with the games he quickly invents. He has a great imagination. After Peter got home, we had dinner and drove back into the RV park. Another testatment to challenging driving (even in just a car) as we are not used to driving at night especially on highways we don't know.

Saturday, September 22nd

Another great day to enjoy the family. Graydon and Graeme and his friend bravely jumped into he pool even though the water temperature wasn't quite up to 80. While Graeme and his friend enjoyed the larger pool, Graydon displayed his excellent swimming techniques in the spa area.

 Greer played badminton with Pop-Pop. The fall air was decidely crisp and wonderfully refreshing.
 We left before dark to avoid any issues with the highways and drove to the dock in Jersey City. From our vantage point, we could see the Twin Towers Memorial building that is still under construction. At the dock there is a 9-11 Memorial and you can't help but wonder how many people stood in that exact spot on 9-11, willing, but unable to help the victims of that terrible day.
Manhattan Skyline

We dined at a local Irish pub and made it an early night.

Sunday, September 23rd

We met, Kristin and Peter and their children at  Liberty Park so we could take the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately, the thunder storm from late last night was long gone and the blue skies and billowy white clouds promised another wonderful day to spend with the kids. Before the ferry, there is a September 11th Memorial for all of the New Jersey residents who perished on that day. If you look down between the two walls you can see where the Towers were.

Kristin, Peter, Graeme and Graydon at the New Jersey Towers Memorial
Ellis Island

Since we had been there in 1995, Ellis Island has many more exhibits and we were able to use the headsets for self guided audio tours. From the tour and the pamphlet, we learned that starting in 1892 about twelve million people came through Ellis Island looking for a better life. Two of those people were my paternal grandparents, John and Ellen (nee Keating) Leahy and two of their children. My genealogy information is at home and not with me as I write this, but I have the date that they arrived in America and the name of the boat they came over on from Ireland. Standing in the same rooms, the Registry, the Health Inspection and the major halls, I got a sense of how it must have been extremely intimidating to them and all of the others as they were separated, questioned, examined, poked and prodded before being allowed to enter. My ancestors were allowed to enter with no problems, but, sadly, some were not allowed to enter and were returned to their homeland. Some call this island the "Island of Hope" while others call it "Island of Tears."
Picture of Eye Examinations with Button Hook

After lunch, we boarded the ferry taking us to Liberty Island. We didn't go ashore here as the Statue is under going renovations and we wouldn't be allowed to enter it. The history of the Statue of Liberty is that in France in 1865 a group of French intellectuals, led by Edouard de Laboulaye, were unhappy with what they felt was political repression in their own country and decided to make a statement honoring the ideals of freedom and liberty present in America with a symbolic gift. Sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi,  completed the "Liberty Enlightening the World" sculpture. The height of the statue is 151 feet and the thickness of the copper skin is 3/32nd of an inch or about the thickness of two pennies. It  was dedicated in New York harbor on October 28, 1886. This year they are celebrating the 125th anniversary of this historic event.

Statue of Liberty
Pop-Pop, Graeme and Greer
Greer, Peter, Graydon, Kristin, and Graeme

We settled for excellent views from the water and a wonderful ride around the harbor before landing back at Liberty Park. 
Let the Race Begin

Reluctantly, we said our goodbyes to Peter, Kristin and the crew with proimises to see them again at Christmas. We enjoyed our three days with them immensely and just love being with the children and seeing how they change and grow each time we venture north. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012


September 4th-September 21st

After many months touring unknown territory for us, we started our trek to more familiar surroundings and to family and friends.

On September 4th, we left Niagara Falls and drove to Thompson Lake State Park in the Catskills where we virtually did nothing but sit by the fire for 3 days. Knowing that we would be on a whirlwind tour of New England after this, we relished the quiet time in this quiet, out of the way retreat.

On September 7th, Friday, we drove down to Brookfield, CT where we had a great visit with my sister Ellen and her husband Art at their Candlewood Lake home. Fortunately, their driveway was long enough to park the RV in it for the  night. While there, my nephew, Jim, and his wife, Beth, with thier youngest child, Jack, came to see us. Ellen and Art are heading out to Mount Rushmore and the Badlands as well as to the round up in Cody, WY next week so we had lots to share with them about our recent trip there. Jim and Beth have a 38 foot RV and will be doing traveling of their own with their 3 children.

On Saturday, September 8th, we headed down to Hammonasset State Park in Madison, CT. This is where we stayed for the next two weeks. It's really a great park located right on the shoreline with great access to the beach, the highway and the really neat little town of Madison. 

That afternoon we saw my children and grandchildren for the afternoon for lunch and a walk to the beach with the roaring waves from an incoming storm. Kevin and Wendy and their children Amanda and Kaleigh along with Kelley and her son Brian were a sight for sore eyes. We enjoy them all so much and haven't seen them for a while. Kaleigh is one year old and is walking, Amanda who just turned 14, is a Freshman and Brian is looking at colleges for next year. Where does the time go?

For the rest of the two weeks, we traveled to Maynard, MA west of Boston to see two of my other siblings, Fran and her husband, John, and Rita and her family- Kim, Amy and Ben and their two children, Abbey and Charlotte Jane. Lots of laughs as usual when this whole group gets together.  The beginning of the second week, we drove to Bristol, Rhode Island to visit with my brother, John, and his wife, Maureen, for a wonderful afternoon and dinner.

In between times, we had two different cookouts with our sailing group of friends and lunch with Tim's brother, Pat and his wife, Kim, and long time friends Tom and Grace.
Friends at Shennecossett Yacht Club

While we do keep up with everyone on a regular basis, it was great to see everyone in person and be able to give them all a hug!

We were able to spend an afternoon with Kevin, Wendy and Kaleigh on the beach. I couldn't believe how much Kaleigh loves crawling through the sand and seaweeds to get to the water! Kelley and Brian spent a day with us at the Hammonassett Beach as well. Great days!
Kate, Brian and Kelley at Hammonassett Beach in Connecticut

We had wonderful Fall New England weather for the two weeks here in Connecticut with the exception of one major storm that came in on the 18th which carried tornado warnings with it. When the weather radio reported that anyone in a mobile home should evacuate, we did. The RV was rocking so much, we were considering it anyway. We went to Tim's daughter's condo in Old Saybrook until it quieted down around midnight. The only damage at the park were a few branches down, but there were several neighboring towns with trees down and power outages for the night.

We've had a wonderful time these two weeks and are looking forward to seeing and having a wonderful time with Kristin, Peter, Greer, Graeme, and Graydon this weekend in New Jersey.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


September 1st, Saturday- September 3rd, Monday

The KOA Campground is located about 8 miles from the American Niagara Falls. We arrived midday, got settled in and drove over to the State Park to purchase our Discovery Passes for Sunday. With the passes we would not have to wait in line to purchase ticket the next day. We could not believe the hordes of people everywhere. Even for a holiday weekend, this was extraordinary.  Fortunately, the line for the passes was not too long and we were able to purchase them and get out of the mayhem before too long.

Sunday we arose early, drove to the Niagara State Park, parked and got in line first for the 25 minute Maid of the Mist cruise knowing that it was sure to be as crowded as the day before.  We were glad to be there early as many busloads of foreign tourists unloaded and crowded into line behind us. There was much pushing and shoving from them as we made our way to the boat, but we made it to the entry, donned the ponchos we were given and boarded the boat. As we approached the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the mist and water were all over us. We managed to get a few pictures, but were afraid to leave our cameras unprotected from the water too long.
Horseshow Falls

American Falls
American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls
Tim on Maid of the Mist
Maid of the Mist Near Horseshoes Falls

The boat stayed in the one spot for a few minutes before heading over to the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The thunderous roar of both the falls was very intimidating and reminded us once again how forceful Mother Nature is.  The Horseshoe Falls span 2600 feet wide and are 167 feet high. About 600,000 gallons of water flow over it every second! The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls together span 1060 feet and are 176 feet high with 75,000 gallons of water flowing over them every second. The hydroelectric plant regulates the flow of both of these and slows the flow somewhat during the night hours.   There are two stories that folks here tell about survivors of the Falls. One was of Annie Taylor, a school teacher,  who, on her 63rd Birthday in 1901, went over the Falls in a barrel and survived with only minor cuts and scrapes. The second was of a 7 year old boy who fell out of a boat with his sister when the boat had engine trouble. The owner of the boat drowned, the sister was pulled to shore by onlookers before she went over the Falls and the young boy went over the falls with his life jacket on and survived with minor injuries. The Maid of the Mist rescued him at the base of the falls. There have been many other stunts at the falls, including hire wire walking across the falls, going over in barrels, boats and rubber balls.  Some of these people survived, but there was a high incidence of death so now all stunts are banned.

Our next stop was the  Cave of the Winds. Here they not only gave us ponchos, but also rubber sandals. We ventured down through the tunnel to the staircase leading down to the base of the American Falls. The wind was strong and the water was flying everywhere as we made the climb up the other side. At several places you could stop and almost reach out and touch the water and at one point, if you stood against the rail, the water would come through the fencing and drench you thoroughly. It was a wild experience!

Base of the American Falls

Kate at Base of American Falls

Staircase at the Cave of the Winds-Note the people near the water

We ventured on back up to dry land, had lunch, and took the shuttle through the park over to the top of Horseshoe Falls. The incredible volume of water and its forceful nature are a marvel.

Horseshoe Falls

After viewing the movie at the Visitor Center, we handed back to the RV to rest a bit and then catch a tour to the Canadian side this evening.

The evening tour took us with 15 other travelers through customs into Canada to tour many different sights. However, we thought we would be out of the bus more often than we were and thus were a little disappointed in the tour. The highlights of it were the Observation Deck from which you could see all three falls at the same time, the Whirlpool Rapids which are North America's largest area of standing waves and classified as deadly, and the Skylon Tower from which you could see the illuminated American and Bridal Veil Falls and gave us an awesome view of the Ontario skyline at night.
Whirlpool Rapids
Illuminated American Falls from Skylon Tower in Canada
Ontario from Skylon Tower

Thoroughly exhausted, we called it a night. Tomorrow is a day of relaxation before we start our travels once again,

Niagara Falls were bigger and much more impressive than I thought they would be and we were glad we added this to our itinerary.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


August 29th Wednesday through September 1st, Saturday

We left the Badlands National Park early on Wednesday as we were planning on driving a long distance this day as well as the following days so that we would be in New York by Saturday September 1st. Our journey took us on Route 90 through Minnesota, dropping down to Route 80 in Iowa. We stayed on Route 80 through, Illinois to miss the Chicago traffic and on into Indiana below Gary where we picked up Route 90 once again. From there we traveled through Ohio, over just a corner of Pennsylvania next to Lake Erie and into New York.

We averaged around 350 miles per day and welcomed our convenient KOAs along the way with their pools and electrical hook-ups so that we could use our air conditioning. The days continue to be very hot which we don't feel so much until we stop to take a break from driving and exit our air conditioned RV.

The countryside along the highways was beautiful. Rolling hills, miles and miles of corn crops... a lot of it was dried up due to the drought. In fact, one of the farmers we spoke to at a visitor center said that  the corn growers have contracts with the oil companies to supply them with a certain amount of corn for the ethane in the gasoline. The dried corn can still be used for that and they have to honor those contracts, but now the farmers won't have feed for their own animals and will have to buy it this winter.  The bean crop was fine as it needed to be dried out.

We also saw miles and  miles of wind farms on these farm lands. It seems that the landowners get a certain amount for allowing them to use their land and then another amount yearly. You would think that would help the farmers, but they say that the wind turbines do damage to the crops and the surrounding land with the force of the wind.

The traffic was never really heavy until we came to major cities which were few and far between and we made good time most days. It was a tiring drive just the same and we were glad when we arrived in New York for the long Labor Day weekend.


August 28th , Tuesday

The Badlands National Park was only about 100 miles from Rapid City so we took our time getting on the road. Of course, we had to stop at the famous "Wall Drug." The founder graduated from pharmacy school in 1929 and wanted to live in a small town with a catholic church. Since his father recently had died and left him $3000, he thought this would be the time for him to open up his pharmacy. They found Wall and decided that is where they would settle down and buy the pharmacy.   At first, they didn't have very many people stopping by in this prairie town, but he and his wife decided to give it five years to see if they could make it. They thought that when Mount Rushmore was completed that they would have more traffic through the town.  They were right. They put signs up on the highway offering free ice water and the tourists began rolling in. Today, the town of Wall situated on the edge of the Badlands, has accomodations for 2000 guests but still looks like an old fashioned western town (with parking lots, of course.) Wall Drug takes up 2/3rds of it with all of its souvenier shops and cafes and even a travelers chapel. It does still have the original soda fountain with its marble counter tops and is rather a charming section of this now expansive enterprise.

We continued on our journey and after a brief stop at the Badlands National Park Visitor Center, we arrived at the KOA in Interior which is just outside the Park.

We were originally going to stay here for 2 nights and once we got a better feel for the area, we decided we could tour it for the rest of the day and see pretty much what we wanted to. It was still hot..high 90s to low 100s and so we were not going to do much hiking here. A car tour would have to do.

The Badlands as part of the Great Plains was covered with a shallow sea albeit 75 million years ago. As a result, there are fossils from the sea creatures of yesteryear in the bottom grayish-black sedimentary layer rock which is called Pierre shale. The fossils found both in and just outside the park range from clams, crabs and snails to ancient fish and giant marine lizards as well as diving bird akin to the modern loon. Other types of fossils are from 23 to 35 million years ago and they were the land animals that inhabited the savannah and are similar to the small deer, goat, and wild cats that exist now.  We were not sure what to expect in the Badlands, but we were surprised to learn about these fossils here and to see the terrain that we did. The rock formations of peaks, gulllies and buttes were foreboding in their austerity. Some of them looked like huge sand dunes and others were more like mounds of soft earth.  There was a sense of calm as we drove the scenic loop and stopped at the overlooks. It really is other worldly here.  I think that the paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson nailed it when he said, "Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water-without an animal and scarce an insect astir-without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands." We concur.

We drove through what we think was the town of Interior, population 94 and is 1.3 square miles. We found an old school built in 1939 and still used today in some capacity. It's quite large so we think it is a regional school and perhaps has all classes in it.  It has air conditioners sticking out of the sides of the building so you know there is no central air. With the temperatures still so high I'm not sure how they will handle the start of the school year in this outdated building. We didn't find much else in the nearby vicinity except for a very old and falling down gas station/store and an old jail which we are sure is currently out of service. Maybe we shouldn't be so sure!