Report US trip 3/8/1990 to 4/30/1990

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Tucson, 1-May-1990

How are you doing folks ? We hope you had such a good time as we did and still do. We would like to tell you a little bit about our time in Florida and our journey back to the west coast. As we mentioned in our last report, Reto's parents Karl (you would probably say Charles or Charly) and Susy came to visit us in the sunshine state. They flew to New York, where they spent three days in the icy weather of Manhattan. On March 8, they took the plane to Miami international airport, where we met them at half past ten in the morning. It was great to see mom and dad again after seven months, even if we had talked to them by phone quite often. We put all the luggage in our Joker (they brought more stuff for 3.5 weeks then we have for 15 months) and drove them to the "Go Vacations" office, where we picked up a rental camper for Karl and Susy. After a few turns around the building, mom was ready for the traffic of Miami. We spent the first day on a campground south of Miami, so that Reto's parents had time to install themselves in their new home.

The next day, we drove to Flamingo in the Everglades national park, where we met a lot of birds and some huge alligators. Some short trails led us in small, islandlike forests, called hammock. On 3/10 we took the road to Naples at the west coast of Florida. At Shark Valley on the north border of Everglades national park, we stopped and rented four bikes to make a trip to an observation tower located 8 miles south of the parking lot. A road on which no cars are allowed, led from the entrance to the tower. We stopped often to look at the alligators, which laid in the sun only a few feet away from the street. There where many small ones but also a few large reptiles, which we found very impressive. It's a strange feeling to be so close to animals, which are supposed to be very dangerous and sometimes very fast if they are hungry. But the park brochure said, they have lunch only twice a week, so the chance to become a dinner is relatively small and as this letter proves, we made it through ! but Karl and Susy caught at least a nice sunburn ...

Swamp as far as one can see at Everglades NP
Swamp of the Everglades
Island with trees at Everglades NP
A wonderful tree very close to the shore at Everglades NP
Tree at the edge of the land
Young alligator at Everglades NP
Young alligator
A grown up alligator at Everglades NP
Alligator showing his jaw at Everglades NP
Two turtles at Everglades NP
Water turtles
Kormoran at Everglades NP
The Ambühler family on bikes at Everglades NP
Bike tour at Everglades NP

3/11 was Susanne's birthday. We wanted to spend the day on a nice beach, but we had to find out, that around Naples most of the coast is private property. But in the town itself, there was a public beach and even if there where many other people who enjoyed sun and water, it was not too crowded. It was a gorgeous day, the whether was hot and the water cool and refreshing. It was like holiday ! In the evening, Reto's parents invited us for dinner. But to be honest, going out for dinner in the states is very different, if you do not have such a very experienced guide like Cheryl ...

Breakfast in Naples, Florida
Cheers !
Susanne with birthday gift
Happy birthday Susanne !
Beach at the Golf coast in Florida
Golf coast
Two generations Ambühler
The Ambis

The following day, we drove away from the coast to a place called Arcadia. A couple from New York told us about a nice river where one could do beautiful canoe trips. And they did not promise too much. We spent the whole next day on two canoes floating down the Peace river. From the number of canoes the rental shop had available, we could imagine that in summer times, the river must be crowded and one would float "bumper to bumper". But we met only two other boats, it was a perfect day. Karl and Susy had also the opportunity to increase their sunburn ...

An owl visited us at the campground at night

We intended to continue our trip to Orlando, but as we called the campground for a reservation, we had been told, that there is no site available until Friday. Therefore we drove back to the coast where we found a nice campground near Nokomis. We spent the next day at the beach swimming, laying in the sun and watching pelicans. We even saw the fins of a few dolphins. The water of the Gulf of Mexico was surprisingly clean and had just the perfect temperature for us even if the native people found it too cold.

Two pelicans at the pier
Pelicans at the pier
Nose diving pelican
Nose diving pelican
Pelican splashing into the water
Pelikan chasing a fish
  Two dolphins near the coast

On 3/16 we finally drove to Kissimmee near Orlando. For the next five days we had a fully loaded schedule. We started with a visit of the "EPCOT Center" at Disney World. We were introduced to the world of computers from the Unisys' point of view ... An oil company explained us in a moving theater, how plants and animals turned into oil and gas over millions of years ago. We also had the chance to meet some sharks and other species from below the oceans in the living seas building. Finally, in the "spaceship earth", we traveled through the history of mankind. But there were also 11 nations represented in what was called the world's showcase. We had lunch in France, found shelter from a short thunderstorm in Germany and saw a wonderful film about the beauty of China.

EPCOT Center at night
EPCOT Center

We spent the second day of our visit of Disney World in the "Magic Kingdom". The place is similar to Disneyland in Los Angeles. It might be done more pretty, but unfortunately the most spectacular rides were missing.

Castle of the sleeping beauty at Magic Kingdom
Castle of the sleeping beauty
Susanne and my parents starring at their sandwiches
Is there something wrong with the food, guys ?
Plenty of visitors at Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom

After the two days at Disney World we needed a little rest. We spent a relaxing day at "wet'n'wild", a fun waterpark in Orlando. On 3/20 our next trip to Disney World was due. This time we went to the MGM studios, where we had a chance to look behind the scenes. But it was not as impressive as the universal studio tour in L.A. The last day of our stay in Orlando was definitively the highlight. We spent a wonderful day at Sea World. This is one of the places we could visit over and over again. The only thing which confused us was the fact, that the killerwhales at Orlando have the same names as the ones in San Diego !

Trainer with Orca
Orca at Sea World

But there was one more thing to see in Florida: Spaceport USA at Cape Canaveral. On 3/22 we drove to the east coast and spent the night near Rockledge. The next day, we visited the space center, attended a tour to the huge assembly building and the launchpad and saw the greatest film about our home planet we have ever seen. On a five story high screen, we saw the launch and the landing of the space shuttle, we saw our hometown from maybe a hundred miles above and we saw the astronauts doing their job in the spacecraft. It was breathtaking, mindboggeling or whatever word you may have to describe the indescribable !

Space Port USA - logo on a shuttle bus
"Space Port USA"
Assembly building for the space shuttle - the world's most voluminous building
Assembly building for the space shuttle
"Rocket garden" - various space rockets
"Rocket garden"
Saturn V, carrier rocket for the Apollo space craft - also known as the "moon rocket"
Saturn V
Control center at Cape Canaveral
Control center
Lunar landing module
Lunar landing module

Since the vacations of Reto's parents were going near the end, we stayed one more day at Rockledge, enjoying the beach, the sun and the water of the Atlantic ocean. The next day, we drove back to Miami. There was only one day left for Karl and Susy. While Susy decided to stay on the campground to do the luggage and prepare herself for the long trip back home, Karl and the two of us drove to Miami beach to see the world's most famous beach. We were surprised how clean the water was and spent a few hours on the sand and in the water. In the evening, we went out for dinner. The next morning, we had to return the rental car, then it was time to say goodbye again. It seemed to us, mom and dad had just arrived, we could hardly understand why they already left again. But as the plane with Reto's parents took off, we were laying on the beach again. When we drove through Miami, we sometimes looked in the mirror, but the white van with the green stripes was no longer following us ...

Atlantic coast in Florida
Sand beach at Florida
Atlantic coast in Florida
Sand beach at Florida

But also for us the time in Florida was almost over. We followed the coast up to Charleston, South Carolina. Even if we had a good time in Florida, we did not feel too sad when we left the sunshine state. Florida was too much like Europe in some respects. It was too crowded, too many cars and no unpopulated areas like the southwest. To us, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and some parts of California are the "real America". It is nice to be in a town for some days, but the national parks are the places we love !

In Charleston, we tried to find a company which will help us to ship our car back home at the end of this trip. It seems, it should be no problem at all. The traces of the terrible hurricane, which went through Charleston and the surrounding areas are still visible. The owner of the campground told us, that on his property 600 trees had been cut and it will take at least a year to repair all what has been damaged. At the end of March, we arrived at Atlanta.

A group of black people singing in the public
Public singing

From there we continued our trip to the Great Smoky Mountains national park. The temperature was freezing, quite a change compared to what we had two weeks ago. We hiked two days in the park, it was quiet, relaxing, wonderful. On the top of the hills, there was still snow, we needed warm cloths when we were out on the trails.

View over the rolling hills at Great Smoky Mountains NP
Great Smoky Mountains
Small river in the foggy woods at Great Smoky Mountains NP
Small river
Small hut in the foggy forest at Great Smoky Mountains NP
Small hut in the forest
Fresh snow in the woods of Great Smoky Mountains NP
Fresh snow in the woods
Susanne balancing over a bridge made out of a tree at Great Smoky Mountains NP
Construction made out of nature's materials
Fresh snow at Great Smoky Mountains NP
Fresh snow at Great Smoky Mountains

On 4/9 we came to Mammoth Cave national park. We spent two days in the world's largest cave. But even if the size of this more than 200 miles long cave is very impressive, it's decorations are not as beautiful as those at Carlsbad Cavern national park !

Our VW van on the campground at Cave city at sunset
Campground at sunset
Entrance to Mammoth Cave
Cave entrance
Fat man's misery at Mammoth Cave NP
Only suitable for small people
Cave decoration at Mammoth Cave NP
Cave decoration
Stalactite with drop of water
Stalactite with drop of water
Cave decoration at Mammoth Cave NP
Cave decoration

We continued our journey to the west coast through Nashville and Memphis.

Downtown Memphis with sculpture made out of music instruments
Downtown Memphis
Black musicians at a live concert in Memphis
Band playing music in Memphis

We spent almost a full day at "Graceland", the place where Elvis Presely lived.

Tour bus of Elvis Presley
Elvis' tour bus
Graceland, Memphis - home of Elvis Presely
Private plane "Lisa Marie" of Elvis Presley
Elvis' private plane "Lisa Marie"
Living room at Graceland
Elvis' living room
Grave of Elvis Aaron Presely
Elvis' grave
Pink cadillac of Elvis Presley
Elvis' pink cadillac

Before we came to Dallas, we stopped by at Hot Springs national park. This national park is very unique because it is more or less a city partially maintained by the national park service. Unfortunately, the place has not been taken too good care of, probably because government and private owners have to work together. But we have been told it has been changed about two or three years ago and the town will be restored and put back in shape. There was only one bathhouse open, but it was definitively worth a visit. They offered not only hot tubes, spas, whirlpools and so forth, but also a well equipped exercise room. It was at least 8 months ago, when we used to trim our muscles with weights like this and it hurt for days ...

Military hospital at Hot Springs
Military hospital
Buckstaff-Bath at Hot Springs NP
Fountain with hot water at Hot Springs NP
Fountain with hot water
Susanne and Reto in a spa at Hot Springs NP

We spent two days in Dallas, the most modern town we saw in the whole US so far. The skyline is dominated by the tall, glittering towers of glass, headquarters of rich oil companies, banks and assurance companies. Even DIGITAL has its bright tower !

Tall buildings in downtown Dallas
Downtown Dallas
Hotel building at Dallas
Towers made out of glass at Dallas
Towers made out of glass
Sky scraper at Dallas
Sky scraper
Memorial for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy at Dallas
Memorial for President John F. Kennedy
Sky scraper at Dallas
Sky scraper
Office building of Digital Equipment Corporation at Dallas
Office building of DEC
Galleria - icefield in the middle of the shopping mall
Galleria - shopping mall with icefield
Hotel at Dallas

It took us two days to cross Texas and New Mexico until we finally arrived at the Petrified Forest national park, Arizona. We drove over the very scenic park road and strolled over some short trails through the desert. We saw a lot of petrified wood of all colors, shapes and sizes. In the visitor center, they displayed polished petrified wood, which shows the color even better.

Petrified wood spread all over the place at Petrified Forest NP
Petrified wood
Desert of Petrified Forest NP
Petrified trunks at Petrified Forest NP
Petrified trunks
Petrified piece of a trunk at Petrified Forest NP
Petrified piece of a trunk
Two small, green lizards at Petrified Forest NP
Petrified piece of a trunk at Petrified Forest NP
Petrified piece of a trunk
Petrified piece of a trunk at Petrified Forest NP
Petrified piece of a trunk
Desert of Petrified Forest NP
Petrified piece of a trunk at Petrified Forest NP
Petrified piece of a trunk
This is really not wood

On 4/21, we continued westward. We visited the meteor crater, a huge crater which was created a few tenthousands years ago, when a large meteorite hit the earth's surface.

Meteor Crater - East rim
East rim
Meteor Crater - Crater bottom
Crater bottom
Meteor Crater - West rim
West rim
  Fraction of the meteorite consisting of almost pure iron
Fraction of the meteorite

The same day, we also stopped by at the Walnut Canyon national monument. We saw some ruins of ancient Indians who lived in this pretty canyon. And we also climbed the Sunset Crater with our Joker, where large lavaflows reminded us of our visits to Iceland. The next day, we thought we need some exercise before we start to hike the Grand Canyon. The 12600 feet high San Francisco peaks seemed a good place to us. But after two hours, we got stuck in about two feet of snow. We returned to our car by sliding down the slopes of the nearby ski area, which was already closed. But there was still enough snow for skiing, we felt very sorry that we had no skis with us ! The following day, we drove up to Grand Canyon and the next morning, our alarm clock woke us up at half past five. But rain was falling on the roof of our car, therefore, we simply turned around in bed. But a few hours later, the sun was shining and we hiked at the rim of the canyon. But the next day, we really got up at a half past five and started our trip down in the canyon about one hour later. Around ten o'clock, we already reached the bottom of the canyon. We spent three hours at the beach of the Colorado river. Its water was 42°F, but the temperature of the air was in the 80's. On the way down and up again, we saw hundreds of blooming cacti and flowers. We also met some mule deer, bighorns and lots of tiny lizards. We finished the perfect day with a relaxing bath in the hot tube of the nearby campground.

View from the south rim into the Grand Canyon
South rim Grand Canyon
Hiking trail at the south rim of the Grand Canyon
Hiking trail
Park ranger with horses and muledeer on his way out of the Grand Canyon
Park ranger with horses and muledeer
Blooming cacti at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Blooming cacti
Lizard in the Grand Canyon
Blooming cacti at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Blooming cacti
Suspension bridge across the Colorado river at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Suspension bridge across the Colorado river
River rafting on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
River rafting
Colorado river at Grand Canyon NP
Colorado river

On 4/26, we drove further south, away from the snow and into the hot Sonoran desert of Arizona. Two days later, we arrived at Organ Pipe Cactus national monument just adjacent to the Mexican border. During daytime, the temperature was close to 100°F. In the morning, we drove over the dirt roads which lead us through the beautiful desert. All the cacti were blooming, it looked like springtime ! When it became very hot around midday, we spent some time in the shade of our sunroof, waiting for the cooler evenings. We took many pictures of the colorful cacti blossoms.

Desert of Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Desert of Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Various different cacti at Saguaro NM
Plenty of cacti
Saguaro cacti at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Saguaro cacti
Organ pipe cactus at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Organ pipe cactus
Saguaro cacti at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Saguaro with blossoms at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Saguaro with blossoms
Yellow cactus blossoms at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Cactus blossoms
Red cactus blossoms at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Cactus blossoms
Yellow cactus blossoms at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Cactus blossoms
Saguaro blossoms at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Saguaro blossoms
Desert pigeon feeding on a Saguaro blossom at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Desert pigeon feeding on a Saguaro blossom
Jackrabbit at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Reto at his computer at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Working on the dairy
Two Saguaros at sunset at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Sunset at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Saguaro at sunset at Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Sunset at Organ Pipe Cactus NM

At the end of the month, we continued our journey to Tuscon. What surprises awaited us in the old western town, how we spent the time with our friends in Escondido, California and where we went after that, we will tell you in our next report ...

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Production note: Images have been taken as slides using a Minolta 7000AF camera with various Kodak films. Images have been digitized using a Canon Scanner and have been processed using Microsoft Image Composer.

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