Kai and Johnny D annual road trip, 2019


Hello Zoners!

Kai and I returned from our most recent road trip nearly 4 weeks ago and I wanted to share some photos and travel tales with you.  (Big Thanks to those of you who shared your stories and advice for our Eastward Bound excursion)


For this summer, we decided to go to the only area of the USA that have haven't traveled to yet: The Northeast (OK, we haven't gone to Alaska, either).


Kai did all of the research and planned the entire itinerary on his own, compiling all necessary information for each stop (contact info, address, hours of operation, etc).

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He also outdid himself by creating an alphabetical "Trippy Mix" playlist of over 23 hours of music on 18 cd-r's:

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We reviewed Kai's itinerary and realized that this trip was going to take much longer than the customary 2 weeks give-or-take a day.  I asked for 3 weeks off from work in July, then added an additional day (July 5th), to fill the one day gap between the holiday and the weekend.  We spent Independence Day packing the car and the family went out for fireworks that night.  I was eager to get home, so that I could get some sleep before our big adventure.



Day One: Friday, July 5th


We set the alarm for 5:00 am so that we could pack our final items into the car and have a quick bite to eat.  We were hoping to leave the house by 6, as we were planning to drive a bit more than 1,000 miles. 

I had my last cup of Berkeley coffee (Peet's, of course) and we posed for our customary "before" photo (sadly, it's blurry, perhaps because it was still a little dark outside)

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We were happy to hit the road before 6

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There was light traffic through Sacramento and beyond.  Before we knew it, we were passing over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and about to drive through Reno

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We were essentially retracing our steps from the beginning of last year's trip to Ohio.

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Before long, we reached a stretch of freeway full of rather large bug-type things running across the road.  I was wondering if this was some sort of tarantula migration and was doing my best to avoid them without losing control of the car.  We pulled over at a rest stop to get a closer look at these things.  There were hundreds of large, strange-looking insects on the ground; many of them flat and spattered on the ground, being eaten by others of the same species.  Turns out that these were Mormon crickets.

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We kept driving and I lost track of time.  We seemed to be getting closer to Utah, but it was difficult to feel a sense of progress.

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At about this time, a very repetitive, very long song came up on Kai's mix and my eyes started becoming heavier and heavier....  I had to pull over at the next rest stop and take a 20-minute nap under a tree.  For the curious, this is the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGw8DWctAts  (some funny comments)


We were about 8 hours into our drive, approximately half way to our destination for the day, and I felt fresh and ready to continue.


Our next rest stop was at the Salt Flats of Utah; Bonneville to be precise.  It was kind of cool to walk on the salt and drink the water (ok, we knew not to do that)

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The famous speedway is over there:

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We headed into Salt Lake City and had our traditional "Last IN-N-OUT Outpost" meal before entering into the mountains and leaving I-80 for 1-40 to pass by the Olympic Park and wind into Colorado, through the town of Vernal, past Dinosaur National Monument, and to our hotel in Craig, Colorado.  We must have been on the road for 16 - 17 hours and I was glad to hit the hay.



Nice stuff, looks like a great trip

Thanks for checking in.  And thanks for your input about NYC when we were asking for advice.


I'm going to try to actually finish a travel story this time around (and maybe revisit our 2018 trips to complete those as well)

Day Two (Saturday, 07/06/19):


This was considered our "Bonus Day" regarding our initial travel plans, so we decided to visit a place that we missed last year: Rocky Mountain National Park.  Kai had done his research and shared that this was the 3rd-most-visited national park in the USA, so we wanted to get to the visitor's center as soon as it opened at 8am.  We were still about 2 1/2 hours away from the Kaweneeche Visitor Center at the South Entrance, so we woke up at 5am (again!) and followed a beautiful river, meandering through grassy fields, past Steamboat Springs and through a national forest.


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We arrived at the visitor center shortly after it opened and asked a ranger if he could recommend a nice, short hike that wouldn't be too crowded.  He shared a few trail options and noted that the day before there was a very long line of cars at the entry gate.  We decided to proceed without delay and were happy to see that no such line had formed yet..

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We arrived at the Green Mountain Trailhead and the small parking lot was already full, though we found an undesignated spot, which seemed to suffice.  We still considered this a travel day and anticipated that we would be driving a relatively short 8 1/2 - 9 hours to our next hotel, so we were not planning to do any major hiking.  We packed water and a few snacks then head out on the 6.8 mile round-trip trail.

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It was already a bit sunny and warm, which reminded me that I had left my recently acquired prescription eyeglasses in the car (Yes, I am getting a bit older).  This is a new thing for me and I was told that I shouldn't leave the glasses in the car because the high heat would ruin the protective coating.  So, I dropped my pack and ran about a quarter mile back to the car to get the glasses.  When I arrived, I realized that I had left the car keys in my pack, so I ran back-and-forth again.  At this point, I was amazed that I was in such bad shape, then I realized that we must have gained some elevation.  We were both relatively winded as we climbed a relatively moderate grade to Big Meadows.

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It was beautiful, but we noted at approximately half (or perhaps more) of the pines appeared to be dead.  I was wondering if this was a wood beetle situation.


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We proceeded to a skinny trail, which appeared to be less-used and encountered a very friendly squirrel.

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....and we were especially excited to have an extremely close look at an indifferent American Three-toed Woodpecker - a first for both of us!  (not our photo):

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We also saw a fuzzy-antlered elk and a female moose.

It was a nice hike, but it took a bit longer than we had anticipated, lowlanders that we were.

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Nice pics Johnny.  Keep the coming.

Great stuff so far, and I don't mind admitting I am a little jealous. 



So awesome and special you and your son have had these travel experiences together. Thank you for sharing- your story inspires me to do something outside of the box with my two kids.

Thanks for checking in!  Yes, it has been really special and each year I treat the trip as if it may the last.


I'm now about to head out for a little day trip with my daughter, which will be all by foot.  blush

I just checked the info on the hike we took on the Green Mountain Loop: it was a 7.6 mile trail with an 1100 ft gain (didn't want to sell ourselves short).


We returned to our car at about 2PM and set out for our hotel, via Trail Ridge Road, which would take through the park to the town of Estes Park on the Eastern side.  My body (and head) were telling me that I was overdue for my mid-day coffee; I had an emergency stash of bottled coffee concentrate, but I figured we may be able to get a cup of hot brew at one of the upcoming visitor centers, so I decided to bear down and get some miles under my belt.  I looked to my right and noticed that my co-pilot was already passed out.  I rolled down the windows and proceeded, only to catch up with an old, rusty pickup truck hauling a ton of junk metal; noxious smoke was pouring out of the tailpipe, so I rolled the windows back up and followed this 10mph snail up the steep, winding switchbacks.  My eyelids became heavy and my body started twitching uncontrollably.  I reached behind my seat and grabbed the large bag of kettle corn, which had temporarily revived me during the last hour of last night's drive to Craig.  Sure enough, that patched me up until we arrived at the Farview Curve pullout and a great view of the Never Summer Mountains, nearly all of whom are well over 12,000 feet:

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The truck kept going and I enjoyed the warm sun and the cool air for a few minutes before returning to the road.  Soon, we were well above the treeline and happy to see that there was still a good amount of snow next to the road:

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^Kai caught me breaking my resolution to stop taking photos from behind the wheel (I was taking the photo above).  It wasn't like we were at any risk of driving off of a road and tumbling several thousand feet to our death, or anything!

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We stopped at Medicine Bow Curve and reminisced about the crazy hike that we had taken last summer.  Here's a photo of our ever-faithful Prius:

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It wasn't long before we came upon the crowds that we had been warned about.  As we approached Alpine Visitor Center, we noticed that the parking area was completely packed and that the road beyond was a long line of cars in gridlock.  Fortunately for us, they were all going in the opposite direction and we continued to enjoy a nicely-paced drive though absolute beauty.  It was pretty wild to think that we were driving a car at over 12,000 feet elevation, looking down at snow-capped mountains.

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We continued unmolested down the road, but unfortunately, having no luck finding coffee for the addled driver.  We left the park and headed into the tourest haven on Estes Park and I was sure to be able to obtain a strong cup-o-Joe.  Sure enough, there were all sorts of high-end-looking coffee joints along the road; however, the place was a hot mess with clogged car traffic and even more densely packed tourists on foot.  There were traffic cones and more traffic cops than you could shake a stick at.  I quickly relented and reached behind my seat once again: this time to "break the glass" and grab my emergency coffee concentrate.  It was about 4:30pm, which is a little late for me, but Oh Sweet Jesus! - It sure did the trick and Kai experienced "Happy Daddy" for the next several miles.

I was ready to head to our next nocturnal resting spot, but Kai called an audible and directed me off of our predetermined route and onto some small country roads.  I was feeling pretty good after my recent caffeine intake, so I followed the maze and enjoyed a change in the scenery.

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We followed Hwy 14 (the one road whose name I can remember) along the Pawnee National Grassland.

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Soon we reached Kai's goal: a Minuteman III ICBM site, similar to the one we saw at night last year in Nebraska.

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It was actually nice to be here in the middle of nowhere; peaceful and quiet, with a gentle breeze and lengthening shadows.  After a short, slow paced walk abound the site's perimeter (waving at the security cameras), we returned to our car and drove about 2 1/2 hours via I-76 and I-80 to our home for the night in North Platte, Nebraska.  It was a welcomed luxury to go to bed well before midnight.



Day Two (Saturday, 07/06/19):


Once again, we woke up at 5:00 am to resume our journey: an approximately 12 hour drive on I-80 to Chicago to visit with family.

Just outside of our hotel was a large Veteran's Memorial, which appeared to have been built quite recently.


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BTW:  This may be a good time to let you know that we took literally thousands of photos of military museums, monuments, etc, etc...  I will try not to inundate this site with them, but would be more than happy to share some if people would like to see them (perhaps on another thread).


After spending a fair amount of time at the memorial, we hit the road.  This was the same section of road that I drove all night long in dense fog last summer, so it was nice to actually see what I had missed the first time around.


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The drive was uneventful, if long.  We passed through Lincoln, Omaha, and through Iowa.  When we crossed into Illinois, we hit our first toll road.  One of my colleagues had warned me about the many toll roads that we would take in the northern states as we travelled east and she advised me to take a bunch of coins with me.  As we reached the toll booth, I pulled out my bag of coins and realized that I didn't have time to count my change as they were demanding dollars, not cents (I think it's been awhile since my friend has passed through these parts).

Soon, we caught sight of the Sears Tower, of whatever new brand name it's called nowadays.

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It was actually fun entering into Chicago, especially on a Sunday evening.  We drove right into a rectangular tunnel entrance at the base of a large building and followed lower Wacker Drive.  We immediately started thinking of the Blues Brothers.

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We drove up Lakeshore drive with our windows down, enjoying Lake Michigan to our right.  We met Kai's grandparents Pam and Mel in front of their high rise apartment building and I felt fortunate and reassured that they had reserved a parking spot for our car in their secured parking garage.  This was a very important visit for us, as it was the first time that we had seen them since Mel was diagnosed with aggressive B cell lymphoma last October.  I'm happy to share that Mel has kicked its butt in his first major battle and he looks very healthy.  Mel was happy to share that the final bald spot on the top of his head has filled completely.

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We went out for a late dinner at their local Italian restaurant and had a great time catching up.  We shared some of our tales and they shared theirs.  Mel has been an English professor, firefighter, and partner at a large Chicago lawfirm, among other things, and he is a great orator.  Kai especially enjoyed hearing tales of ancestors, among them were war veterans, a judge, and an Iron union organizer (Mel's father who was hit with birdshot during one strike).  Pam was the first female police officer in Janesville, WI, and she had some tales to tell as well.  They also had some interesting stories of hippy life in the Midwest.

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They graciously hosted us for the night and we enjoyed a very nice sleep on their pull-out bed.


Oh boy, I am loving this! (And so glad to see Mel looking like a healthy lymphoma butt kicker).

Thanks always, John.

It's so good to "see" you, Judit!

I've been thinking about you.  A lot.  heart

Day Four (Monday, 07/08/19):

(I just realized that I did a cut-and-paste for the previous day and didn't adjust it to Day three!)



Kai and I slept in until about 9am and joined Pam & Mel for homemade preserves and bran muffins.  And good, strong homebrewed coffee.  We shared some more good times together before resuming our eastward journey.

We bid the Chicago POTUS Tower a fond adieu.

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...Then we joined I-90, a 500 mile gauntlet of toll roads from Indiana through Pennsylvania & Ohio, then into New York.  My paper bills were flying out of my wallet like deciduous leaves dancing in fall winds.  To the one state that accepted credit cards (Ohio?): I thank you.


While driving though the small corner of PA, we saw an old jet, a Korean War era F-90 Starfire near the side of the turnpike.  We quickly exited and found it in the Veteran's section of a small cemetery.  We spent some quiet time paying our respects.

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We arrived in Buffalo as the Sun was descending towards the horizon and I was hoping that we could get to Niagara Falls before it got too dark.

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We arrived at the US side of Niagara Falls at about 9pm and had no trouble finding free parking on a street nearby (I imagine that is probably not the case during peak hours).  I wanted to hustle down to the actual falls before dark, because I was worried that we wouldn't be able to see anything.  We did stop a few times to admire the rapids, though.

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As we walked along the rapids, we started to approach what appeared to be smoke (we had seen it for miles as we were driving)

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It was pretty cool to check 'em out

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There were still a fair amount of people.  And interesting colored lights from Canada.

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We walked around, crossing a bridge and exploring the area.  We saw more and more people wearing plastic rain ponchos and looking wet.  We think that they were hanging out down there:

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This area was much less crowded and we enjoyed tripping out at the Falls' edge

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We spent a good amount of time watching the water and spray dash across the rocks below

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We were just about to leave when there were fireworks!

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We took a circuitous route back to the car and crossed a different bridge.

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It felt like a well-rounded day.

Damn.  Nice shots.  Never been to Niagara Falls (driven by but didn't stop), but its cooler and more impressive than I had imagined.  Didn't know there was a big town skyline right at the falls either.  Thanks for sharing.

Anybody going over in a barrel? 


Day Five (Tuesday, 07/09/19):


We finally arrived at the first destination that Kai had planned for us: The Buffalo & Eirie County Naval & Military Park, home to the destroyer USS The Sullivans (WWII), the light cruiser USS Little Rock (WWII era built, converted into a guided missile cruiser), and the submarine USS Croaker (WWII, then converted into a hunter-killer sub).  This was an all-day affair and we took 489 photos of this place alone.  Here are just a few to give you an idea of what we saw:


We arrived about 30 minutes before the museum opened, so we walked along the shoreline park, which happened to include the terminus of the historic Erie Canal (with old foundations exposed for viewing).  From Albany to Buffalo...

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The Sullivans, dwarfed by the Little Rock

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Bow of the modified Croaker

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I thought that this would be an appropriate place to share this photo.

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As the day ended, we drove a very short 4 1/2 hours to Albany with the Sun following behind us.  We arrived to our new home at a reasonable time and fell asleep well before midnight.

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Cool.  Dig museum ships, but how did they get them to Buffalo?

Hey Ken.

We didn't see any barrels going over during our visit.  This reminds me that Kai was doing internet research to and from the Falls and was sharing all sorts of amazing (and some sordid) stories of barrel drops over the years.  Also about Nikola Tesla's massive hydroelectric project in the late 1800's; the first of it's kind (barely beating Edison's).  Apparently, more water is diverted though the hydroelectric tunnel at night, when there are less tourists, and more water is allowed over the falls during the day.

I was very impressed with Canada's skyline and wished that we had our passports (Kai has recently renewed his and he has't receive the new one yet).  I started thinking: This place is nearly at the northern extreme of the USA, while Canadians may think of it as a relatively balmy southern resort.  On that side of the river, there are boats which take passengers close to the bottom of the falls to receive a heavy deluge of mist.  One of my earliest memories of being a very young child (age unknown) is freaking out on such a boat and telling my family, "I think I want to get out of here!"

BTW: There appeared to be a large number of people dressed in Indian/Pakistani or  that area of the World garb.  Also,way more cigarette smoke in the air than what I'm now used to in CA.  Not a criticism in either case (nor an association between appearance and smoking), but a cultural observation.




I was wondering the same thing (there were also a number of tall ships, which had recently arrived for a festival).


They take the St. Louis Seaway to Lake Ontario, then the Welland Canal (west of Niagara) to Lake Erie.

Day Six (Wednesday, 07/10/19):

We had a leisurely morning and took a short drive to visit the USS Slater, an absolutely beautifully restored WWII destroyer escort on the Hudson River:

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We were taken on a guided tour of this gorgeous ship.  My zeal for this slow-moving, quickly produced protector of supply ship convoys in the Atlantic and Pacifici may seem a bit odd, but I know from Kai's experiences volunteering at a small WWII ship in the North Bay of CA that it can be very difficult to obtain the old original parts to these antiques, not to mention the work that needs to be done to keep the rust under control, the paint fresh, and the decks clean.  This ship was purchased from Greece (which had received it from the US in 1951) and returned to the US in 1993.  All modifications were removed so that it could be restored to its WWII configuration.  This operation is obviously well-connected,  And well-funded.

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These were placed on the dining tables during rough weather (never seen this before)

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Kai always wants to see the head in each ship we visit.  He scoffs at the larger ships that have privacy dividers, as his small ship has no such luxuries.  Kai was very happy to see this one.

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Kai was asked to demonstrate how a 20mm gun is operated...

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The ship was relatively small and we were ready to head to our next destination.

At least they had the Tabasco sauce and Glenn Miller.

Day 6, continued:


We drove a mere 1 1/2 hours down I-90 to Springfield, MA.  I pulled off the freeway and followed Google's directions up a relatively narrow curved road.  In my rearview mirror, I spotted a police car behind me, reminding me of stories from friends about being pulled over in other states for having a California license plate.  I started getting a little nervous and the roads were at strange angles, confusing me a bit.  I made a last-minute turn in one of the strange intersections, veering a bit to correct my direction from the wrong road at the intersection.  I drove on the left side of this one-way road, then realized it was a two-way road when a car pulled out of a driveway and headed towards me.  I quickly pulled back into the right lane with the police car behind me and stopped at a skewed T intersection waiting for the light to turn green.  I kept looking into my rearview mirror at the cop; then I heard the dreaded chirp of the siren.  The police car swerved around me and took a left turn at the intersection.  I looked up and realized that there was no traffic light!  Maybe the police officer was hungry for lunch (I realized later that it was the campus police for the nearby community college).

Our afternoon destination was the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

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This the first national armory, ordered by General Washington early in the Revolutionary War.  The location was chosen for its distance from the ocean (and potential attacks from warships) and proximity to the Connecticut River, which provided a good supply route.  We walked in and looked up at the spiraling ramp of the tower's interior.

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Superintendents and Commanding Officers from 1794 to 1968, when the armory was closed.

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Kai was excited to see the world's largest collection of historic American military firearms.  I'm not quite the gun enthusiast, but I did find the museum to be quite fascinating and extremely well curated.  I'm going to spare you the from seeing all 180 photos of military weapons, but will at least show you what this armory developed, from flintlocks to percussion muskets to the "Trapdoor" breech loaded M1873 and the bolt action M1892...

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...To the M1903, M1 Garand, & M14

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What interested me the most was the way that the museum was arranged to show the evolution of how rifles have been made, from hand-crafted flint-lock muskets (each hand-carved, forged, and ground to be one-of-a-kind), to mass-produced rifles with interchangeable parts.  The Military seems to get the lion's attention of Mother Necessity and I found it interesting how research, invention, and testing led to new products.  Added to period static displays were video stations, which demonstrated how each type of rifle was loaded and fired, to give an idea how loading and firing advanced over time.


This was my favorite display: the original "Blanchard's Lathe" a machine that has parallel rods, each with a wheel, one with a smooth edge, which follows the "Master Shape" (like a rifle stock), the other with sharp blades, which carves a piece of wood into the same shape as the pieces rotate and move laterally.  This is considered to be one of the greatest inventions in American industrial history.  The small model in front of the original moved and spun, showing how it worked.  I'm not sure if I described it's workings well, but it reminded me of how keys are duplicated.

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Well, here's a sign about it:

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We had plenty of time to see the entire museum and took a short walk on the grounds before getting back in the car

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Driving through Springfield, we had a sense that a particular doctor used to roam these parts...

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We got onto I-91 and spotted the Basketball Hall of Fame

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We followed the Connecticut River south into the state of the same name and went through most of the cities that I knew from that state. We continued southwest through Yonkers and across the Washington Bridge, finally checking in at the Super 8 in North Bergen, NJ at about 7:45.  This was about as close to New York City as I wanted to be for the night. 


We got everything settled and decided to do a little sight-seeing while it was still light.  We headed down the New Jersey turnpike and found a good place to see the City and the Statue of Liberty.

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It was nice to just sit on a bench outside for awhile, watching the sky get dark and the lights grow brighter.

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I figured that we would return to the hotel and turn in for the night, but Kai really wanted to explore the City.

So, we got back into the car, headed north, then entered the Holland Tunnel (for $15.00 toll!).  We drove down West St with the windows down and traffic seemed fine.  We passed the 911 Memorial and started looking for a place to park.  This was easier said than done.  We found a too-good-to-be true empty curb and noted that another car had stopped in front of us.  The curb wasn't painted red and I didn't see any "No Parking" signs, so we parked and got out of our cars.  I decided to check in with the guy who got out of the other car and asked if it was OK to park here.  He said that we'd get towed if we stayed.  I looked a bit harder for signs and found one stating "No Standing."  That was a new one for us!

We're no strangers to city parking and we found a good "standing" space without too much trouble.  We got out and headed for the World Trade Center area

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The Memorial closed at 8:00pm (it was about 10:00pm when we arrived), so we walked the perimeter, thinking about those who were lost and otherwise affected by the attack.

I hadn't been to this area since the mid-1970's, so there has obviously been a lot of change since then.  This building was a trip:

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The inside was pretty cool

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Though the Memorial was closed, we still spent a fair amount of time close to it.

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We also lied down on our backs at the base of One World Trade Center, looking straight up at the tapered view.

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After a bit of this, we jumped up, determined to find the Brooklyn Bridge.  We walked a maze of streets and encountered lots and lots of garbage piled everywhere.

I mean, "WTF?!"

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We were having a wonderful urban adventure.


Soon enough we found the bridge and were happy to have the chance to walk on it.

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There were quite a few people walking, running, biking, and sitting on benches; enjoying a mid-summer's night.  It was a good vibe...

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We turned the walk into a loop and explored new sights back to our car.  Kai wanted to check out Times Square, so we did a bit more driving on the island.  I got a kick out of driving, surrounded by so many yellow taxis.  It was also amusing to stop at red lights and watch the cars creep forward into the intersection, anticipating the light change.  Then, when the light turned green, there would be a pause before they started accelerating.  Very strange to me.

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We soon realized that Times Square was not a place to drive through and we started looking forward to getting in bed, as it was well past midnight.  So we returned "home" via the Lincoln Tunnel (another loop!).

Another great update, thanks for all the cool pics. 

I've only checked out the Falls once from the US side - dozens from the Canadian side. 

The Canadian side is like Vegas (tourist trap) for the pre high school crowd - arcades, go karts, mini golf, etc. Without kids, it's casinos & legal weed now. Lots of wineries (is ice wine still a thing??) and the Shaw Festival in Niagara-On-The-Lake that is big with the bed & breakfast crowd. 

Niagara Falls, Ontario is as campy as Canada gets to my experience - but still cool to take in. 

For the record, southern Ontario folks would consider Point Pelee/Windsor area as the southern "banana belt" up here. Another place that legal weed farms and casinos are replacing auto parts factories. 

Great pics, wish I had known what days you would have been in my town would have tried to hook up

^Yes, I would've liked to me you on your home turf; however, when Kai is in travel mode, it's awfully hard to meet up with anyone.  It's pretty much go-go-go.

It was a near-miracle that we visited his grandparents.


Fretboard: I responded to your post awhile ago, but must have forgotten to post it.  It was mainly about Canada stuff, like wondering what the view of the Falls was like from that side (I imagine pretty epic, considering that much of the Falls faces in that direction.  Also noting that I've been listening to a few cds from The Tragically Hip over the last couple of days.

Day Seven (Wednesday, 07/11/19):

We slept in until 8 and tried to gain access to the free continental breakfast, but the breakfast room was packed with several people speaking a variety of languages.  Pretty cool, but hard to grab a coffee and a few items to eat.  I was thrilled with the morning's commute into the City: a straightforward 2.5 mile drive to the Imperial Ferry parking garage and an easily accessible ferry across to the West 39th Street Ferry Terminal, steps away from the Intrepid.

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We arrived about 15 minutes before the museum opened and we were already starting to sweat as we waited for the doors to open.  We realized pretty quickly that this was a popular destination, as masses of people were waiting to get in.  We made a bee-line to the submarine, knowing that this would have an agonizing line of people waiting to pass through the cramped corridors.  Kai was especially excited to see this particular sub, as it has been modified a unique weapons system: a jet-like Regulus missile, which had to be pulled out of a special storage space and fired from the surface.

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We then boarded the Intrepid, itself.  Quite frankly, we'd already visited the other three aircraft carriers in its class (Essex), so touring it almost seemed perfunctory.  It was an excellent platform for the aircraft displayed.

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After spending a good amount of time broiling on the flight deck, it was a huge relief to cool down in the aft hangar, built to house the space shuttle Enterprise.  It was displayed so that everyone could get a close look at her, which made it impossible to capture the entire ship in one photo.

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This brought back a moment of nostalgia, as I remember being a kid hanging out with one of my buddies, whose father was really excited to talk to us about this exciting new technology: a spacecraft which could be used again and again.  What I didn't realize at the time (which I learned during this visit), is that the Enterprise isn't really a space shuttle.  It is an engine-less experimental prototype, mostly created to see if something of this shape and size could actually fly (well, really glide) through the atmosphere and land safely.

Here's a nice photo of the Enterprise being transported to New York:

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We went back to touring the Intrepid island (control tower), enduring several levels of steep stairs, jam-packed with visitors, all sweating in the muggy heat. We decended below deck to review several displays and wandered the passageways and rooms.  At one point, we entered an area which looked like nothing we'd ever seen on a ship: Kai first stated almost indignantly that the walls were painted "non-standard" colors and we were wondering if this was some sort of restoration primer.  Then we came to areas with strange cloth draperies and props hanging from the walls and we were thinking that this was a space being prepared for a temporary exhibit.

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Then we found out that these were recreations of how sailors actually decorated their mess halls on this ship during the VIetnam War,  This apparently was allowed to boost morale while out at sea.

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After about five hours, we felt that we'd seen everything and were ready to head back to the car.  By this point, it was starting to rain.

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We retraced our steps back Northeast to Massachusetts to spend the night in a town called Gardner, about 45 minutes northeast of our first destination the next day (I was finding it hard to find cheap hotels with vacancies in the greater Boston area).  I was particularly proud of this handful of potato chips, which I masterfully pulled directly from the bag

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Cool pics.  You guys are travel troopers. 

Like the shot of the piles of garbage in NYC.   My son (who is also named Kai) just got a job for next summer in a storied mid-town Manhattan law firm.  Unless he fucks up, it should lead to a full time job when he graduates the following year, so I might be spending some time in the city in years to come  Brooklyn Bridge shots were awesome too.   Can't believe you actually drove in that town, but being in a little Prius probably helped.  

Springfield Armory looks cool.  Next big settlement I get, need to pick up one of those old school M-14s.  Bad-ass battle rifle and guess the Navy still uses them to shoot mines and for other close in ship protection.   My brother has one of the M-1 Garands, and we have shot it along with a collection of other WWII service rifles from different countries out in his land in NM.  Kicks like a SOB.  


The firm we spoke about in another thread? When you come to visit please lmk :)


Yep.  That's the one.  If I make it out there, I will be sure to let you know.

Ken, I thought of you during the Springfield visit.

Day Eight (Thursday, 07/12/19):


We woke up at a leisurely time and drove about 40 minutes on two-lane roads through beautiful, lush countryside.

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Kai directed me to Hudson, MA, home of the recently opened American Heritage Museum.  The name is misleading, as it hosts an amazing collection of military vehicles from around the world, many of them fully restored and ready to roll.  As often was the case, we arrived well before opening time, so we wandered around the grassy grounds.  It had rained most of the night and it was quite warm and humid, well before 10am.  As we approached the back of the building, a car drove up and out popped a young man who looked way too young to have a driver license (they seem to be getting younger every year!).  He greeted us and noticed Kai admiring a WWII Chaffee parked among the cars.  He invited Kai to climb aboard and check it out (he didn't have to ask twice).  Kai started opening hatches and exploring the tank thoroughly.

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He was in Seventh Heaven.

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^He might have taken it for a spin, if a senior member of the museum hadn't told them to get off of the tank and clean the the dirty footprints off of it.

Essentially, this museum was created to house a suddenly growing collection: many pieces were recently donated by the estate of Jacques Littlefield, who had many fully restored tanks in the hills above Stanford University.  Sadly, Kai and I were unsuccessful trying to gain access to the original collection before they were all donated to the Collings Foundation (which operates the museum we were visiting in Massachusetts).  A fair number of the donated vehicles were auctioned off, so what we saw this day was much less than we would've seen in California a few years ago.

Still, it was quite a visit (for those who are into this sort of thing):

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We stayed for about 3 1/2 hours before heading east through Boston and up to Charlestown Naval Shipyard, home to the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat: The USS Constitution (launched in 1797).

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It's also home to another museum ship: the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Cassin Young, which we visited first.

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This ship was managed by the National Parks Service, so admission was free.  We enjoyed a ranger-led tour through the ship and, just as the tour ended, the skiy became dark and we started hearing thunder.  We were quickly kicked out of the destroyer and it was closed for the rest of the day (good thing we toured that first!).


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We turned our attention to the Constitution.  As this is an active military vessel, we had to show ID's to a uniformed guard and pass through metal detectors.  And this was free admission as well!

It was a fun ship to explore, very different from the gray, generally sterile ships we had toured so far.

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After we were done with "Old Ironsides," we stopped by the visitor center and realized that we were very close to the Bunker Hill Monument, so we took a little stroll through a quiet old neighborhood.

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I was wondering what that obelisk was!

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We arrived at the Memorial at about 5:30 and were told that we could climb to the top, if we were back down by 5:45.  So we ran up the spiral stone steps as fast as we could.

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Looking back at the shipyard and harbor.

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We returned to the shipyard and found that everything was closed, including the public restrooms.  Kai was particularly disappointed that the food joint in the old stone building had apparently closed just before our return - he really wanted a grilled cheese sandwhich and I was interested in trying the poutine.  We walked back to our car and noticed a food truck by the waterside at the end of our parking lot.  I thought we should check it out, because the truck had "Melt" painted on its side.  Sure enough, Kai got his grilled cheese and I had myself a mighty tasty Cuban.  People were arriving to start their weekends with a cold one (or few) from a local brewery and there was a great reggae mix, seemingly with a "Harder They Come" theme, including some great tunes from the likes of Ernest Ranglin, to balance some of the better know ditties.  It was a good way to end our visit.

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We were planning to head south to Quincy for the next day, but were unable to reserve an affordable hotel room close to the coast, so we headed inland about 40 minutes to Milford, MA for the night.

Did the mormon crickets wear magic underwear?


Good stuff John. Glad I found this thread.

Hey Mark!  Thanks for stopping by!


Actually, the crickets would've probably be best served by wearing iron chastity belts, judging by how many were flattened on the road.  Not sure if that is "kosher" attire (I think that I'm mixing religions here).


I'm going to add one more day to this thread, then start a new one to make for easier scrolling.

^^^^I am so off on the day listings, been one weekday behind...so:


Day Nine (Saturday, 07/13/19):


We drove about 45 minutes northeast to Quincy, Mass.

We had been zigzagging from Mass. to NY, then back to Mass., because of museums like the one we visited today, which is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.

The United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum is home to the USS Salem.

I'll just share what I ripped off from wikipedia:


The third USS Salem (CA-139) is one of three Des Moines-class heavy cruisers completed for the United States Navy shortly after World War II. Commissioned in 1949, she was the world's last heavy cruiser to enter service and the only one still in existence.

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Kai became especially interested in this ship when, one day in November 2017, a previous visitor to the ship that Kai volunteers at gave him an 8-inch shell, which, Kai deducted, would come only from a Des Moines class heavy cruiser.  As you can see below, the shell is HUGE and I believe that it may be the largest brass casing ever, at least for the US Navy.  Any larger gun/cannon (and some smaller) has separate projectiles and gunpowder bags.

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This seemed like a surprisingly low-key operation, with perhaps 5 people working on the ship, generally focused on their maintenance tasks.  Similarly, there were only a few people visiting when we were there.  It was fun exploring this good-sized vessel on our own.

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I thought some of you hippies would appreciate this sign:

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I even had a chance to catch up on my sleep.

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We spent about 4 hours on the Salem, then drove in heavy (and aggressive) traffic through Boston (again) and up to Portsmouth, NH to see the USS Albacore, an experimental sub from the early 1950's which pioneered the current tear drop shape seen in modern nuclear subs (based on the blimp, I believe).  This enabled the Albacore to go much faster underwater than previous subs.  I think that this was the first sub to employ an airplane-like control stick/wheel to allow one person to maneuver the sub (used to be a 3-person job).  There were other modifications with planes and rudders placements to maximize maneuverability at different speeds.  Also some experimentation with counter rotating propellers for added efficiency.  Some experiments were adopted and some were rejected.  I found this visit to be an enjoyable learning experience.

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Tight quarters, even in this relatively wide submarine

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We stayed until the 5pm closing time then jumped into the car to drive 265 miles of Freeway into Maine through Portland, Augusta, Bangor, then two lane roads past Millinocket (were there was a July fireworks celebration) and through a pine forest.

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FInally, we reached the first campsite of our trip at Penobscot Outdoor Center.  It felt late when we arrived and it was kind of cool that there wer no lights on at all.  It felt quite primitive, though we found our way down a slope to a building, which had our campsite information.  There was a nice looking restroom with sinks, toilets, and showers, but no lights (best of both worlds IMHO).  We quickly found our site, right next to a lake, which was making some very strange noises - FROGS!  We had no trouble setting up our tent and drifting off to sleep, while waves of mass croaking rose and fell.

Interesting stuff about that heavy cruiser and the largest shell casing.  Learn something new everyday.

That Maine road shot screams of alien abduction.

Always great stuff, Johnny  and  Kai...

I've been using my phone a lot instead of my computer and wasn't getting the best of this thread. Much more interesting on a big enough screen.

Great trip for you guys and your interests! I've never been, and never will be, interested in military anything, except when you're telling/showing it, John. Thanks.

Hey you three,

Thanks for checking in. 


I'm looking forward to starting the next thread with a couple of days in the great outdoors, where I generally feel most enthusiastic.


Been pretty busy on the homefront, but hoping to add more photos soon. 


I WILL finish this one, I swear!


...I will....