8 October: Reflections on our trip

Author: Mr A

Location: Atlanta, Georgia & Dallas, Texas, USA

I like to believe a holiday should change you in some way. For Catherine and I, this trip across the US has certainly had an impact on us. We have made some new friends, learnt some new things (like that gravy isn’t always brown, and kettles are not a universally recognised essential item for your kitchen), and decided to review our plans for next year (more mountains less scrubby desert).The America we have met on this trip is one full of kind, respectful people (no..we didn’t meet any politicians). We had so many instances of people (friends and strangers) go out of their way to be thoughtful and courteous. When you read the headlines focusing on the negative headlines from here, as elsewhere, its easy to forget a country is made up of individuals. It’s hard not to generalise about the “behaviour” of groups of people from the same geography, race, religion or sex. As humans, we want the simple truths, but really we will find as much variation as commonality.We have so many highlights it would be unfair to call them out, but I will. Thank you to all the people who went out of their way to help make our trip here go so well. Those who had us stay (may your livers recover), those who helped us settle in (Deborah of the care package extraordinaire), those who gave us tips on specific things to do in their patch, and most importantly to the doctors who provided a “just in case” safety net for Catherine (who can’t get medical travel insurance for her breathing disease).

We saw so much beauty in this country. The mid coast hinterland of California, then the giant sequoia trees and the soaring peaks of the Yosemite. Then over to Chicago’s downtown area along the lake front, then the much smaller scale lakefront community of Cicero, then on to the unique geological area of the Red River Gorge and finally the majesty of the Smoky Mountains.We have eaten some fabulous food, cooked by friends or out and about, the choice of cuisine is almost endless. The option to not have sugar or dairy in it…a little harder. We sampled some amazing wines in California (Dave and SJ, Susan and Joe – you have such great taste!), and mind bending cocktails and bourbon courtesy of the Chases in Cicero.Thank you for your hospitality America. It’s time to return to Sydney, and the life and friends we have there, but we are certain we shall return.

19-20 September: Breathless in Yosemite

Author: Mr A

Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Wednesday: Yes, Yosemite took our breath away, both literally and figuratively. We had been recommended to drive straight up to a lookout called Glacier Point on entering the park – which we did – and both of us found it hard to comprehend the sheer majesty of this view.But that’s not the only thing that left us breathless. Plenty of “wow” noises later we took a little walk along the cliff top and immediately noticed the effect of the thinner air – we were at 7,200 feet (3,200 metres). Catherine has enough trouble at sea level with her dinky constricted airway, so at this altitude noticed the difference. My nose started bleeding, something I always seem to experience at higher altitude, and with a nose my size its quite something!

We made our way down to the valley floor, via yet another switchback road, which I am mostly enjoying driving in our little Ford Escape, although when suddenly a car coming the other direction veers into our lane (as has happened several times), it isn’t quite as much fun. I think there are quite a few visitors here who haven’t seen many bends in their driving career, based on how slow some of them are and the number of brake lights slamming on for a gentle corner.

Our hotel turned out to be a concrete monstrosity that put us in a room next to the road. A little negotiation and we ended up moving to a river view room that was magic.

Thursday: A very peaceful sleep later and we were up to meet a local resident, Kim, Catherine knows through her Facebook support group.She gave us some great tips for how to spend our day, and after a chat with her we sped off up into the high country of the Sierra Nevada. What a drive it was…again. Check out these views along the way.We managed to puff and wheeze our way on a short 7km (4.5 mile) walk. We are now at over 8,600 feet (2,620 metres) but motivated by these incredible views to keep going – I had little excuse other than my cold and lack of strenuous exercise recently.Catherine here is sampling some naturally carbonated spring water, fresh out of the mountainside – delicious too…!We could spend weeks just exploring this one area – months more likely. The walking possibilities seem endless. It’s certainly putting the US on our radar for a longer trip.

So then it was a hairy drive back down to the valley floor, I’ve got a terrible head for heights, so was driving staring fixedly ahead and refusing to look at the sheer drop, all too close to our wheels for my liking.I breathed a sigh of relief (and I’m sure Catherine did!) when we reached the valley floor without incident, and then she captured these shots as the sun was dipping.We will leave with these photos to remind us of the beauty of this place – it’s busy, yes (although Kim tells us there are 25% less visitors post the bush fires here last July) – but a short walk from our car and we were pretty much on our own – there’s a lot of space to find some solitude away from the crowds that are hugging the valley floor.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, Australia

Apparently temperatures have PLUMMETED to below 30 degrees centigrade and Princess Tassie is needing reinforced bedding…