July - August 2017
  • Day36

    My kingdom for a plug.

    August 31, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    First priority was some shopping - Liz was not impressed. Sleeping tablets & a case for my phone. Got the tablets but my phone will have to manage. Headed to the area for river cruises. Wanted to do an architecture cruise but the company we opted for did a river and lake cruise for the same price - no choice. Especially since it was going in 5 mins rather than hang around for 35 mins. Set off and our guide who claimed dubiously to look like Sean Connery proceeded to educate us about the buildings of Chicago - some of the bizarre shapes had architectural reasons. Headed out to the lake - bit windy. The windy city after all - though the nickname is down to the early politicians rather than the climate. Got some good views of the city. Every time the guide said he'd leave us for a few mins he thought of something else to tell us about Chicago. Very proud guy. Had a sarnie when back on dry land. Quick detour to the bean and fountains and then back to the hostel. The train back was packed - Tokyo packed. Getting 2 backpacks on was going to be a challenge. Fortunately by the time we were back at the station things were quieter. Good job as they say. Off to O'hare & the quest to find a plug - battery in dire need of charging (5%) & the phone was my main source of entertainment on the plane. Failing that it'll be old school - book & sleeping tabs to Manchester.Read more

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  • Day35

    Millenium arty stuff.

    August 30, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Once back on terra firma we made our way to the Millenium Park. Site of the Cloud Gate or as it is more commonly known the bean - or at least we were calling it that. Just in the entrance however was another piece of 'art' two monolithic stacks of glass bricks with projections of faces on. The sides were fountains and every now and then the faces would purse their lips and a fountain would shoot out. The kids were loving it. It was funny to watch. And cooling to paddle around as well. The big kid wanted to have a go but it would've been just a bit embarrassing. The bean was just as interactive but on a more surreal level. Every photo of it was on some level a selfie and as the official title suggests the sky is an integral part of the reflection. Underneath the distortioned images were quite wild. Again the poses people were incorporating were something else...Read more

  • Day35

    Finally got her on a bike.

    August 30, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    After a massive sarnie in the park we headed to the nearby bike hire centre. Liz had been convinced / badgered into taking a cycle along the lakeside trail. No cars and allegedly beaches & swimming along the way, not that the swimming was persuasive. Once the bikes were sorted we made our way down to the lake. At the first opportunity I was on the bike - Liz was less sure - cycling wasn't allowed in the Millenium Park & while we weren't actually in the park she maintained it was dodgy. Pah! She got talking to a local as I sped off & he confirmed cycling on the pavement was something you could get a ticket for. Anyway the law didn't get me and we made our way along the lake. Past beaches and swimming areas. Obviously it had to be done & while it felt & looked like a sea there wasn't the salty taste. Very refreshing. Carried on towards Montrose Beach & point - supposedly good views of the city. Once out there it was hard to imagine it was part of the city & that it was on a lake not the seaside. Headed back in a laid back pace but eventually it dawned that the bike rental place would close at some point so ended up having to get a wriggle on. Cycled on the pavement, much to Liz's concern. Got back and they were starting to pack up. Phew. Opted to stay out for tea rather than go back. Thai - always a safe bet.Read more

  • Day35

    Up in the clouds.

    August 30, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    What with a good forecast today and a more dubious one tomorrow it seemed prudent to try and do the stuff that benefits from clear skies. That meant a trip up the Sears Tower - formerly the tallest building in the world. Warnings of 30 min queues were unfounded though I think I'd preferred that to being stuck in a lift with a pair of toffs - so wanted to punch them. The views as expected were great - apparently 4 states can be seen on a clear day & when you know where to look. The sky ledge was fun - a glass ledge suspending you 103 floors above Chicago. Some of the stunts people were pulling - handstands & all I could muster - sitting down. As you made your way down you passed through 3 different tat shops - it wasn't as if they'd got enough out of you already.Read more

  • Day34

    Big city culture shock.

    August 29, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 21 °C

    After struggling to locate the baggage reclaim - by the time we'd found it, ours were circling around relatively lonely & unaccompanied. Got the subway to our cunningly hidden hostel - the sign being inside the door on the wall - was getting a little worried. Checked into a rather industrial looking room with distant views of high rise Chicago. Oh boy - this is going to be a world away from Cooke City - we were in a proper city. Unpacked to find for the 2nd time homeland security had been rifling through my bag. The least they could do would be to repack with a bit of care - 2 of my pilfered shower gels had burst. How dare they! Did a bit of reading up on the place & made a plan. Since we were a bit later than anticipated this afternoon was just a get acquainted exercise, oh and get some Chicago deep dish pizza down us - no lunch after all. Gino's was the option to go for by all accounts & pretty filling they are supposed to be. Got in without a queue & were told the wait was about 45 mins - freshly baked ... and you buy starters because of that. Got some beers & handily the starter we would've ordered came with them - happy hour. The pizza eventually rolled up & to be fair it looked a bit puny. Anything but - 1 slice was fine the 2nd was a battle. I was done. Losing it. Needed a substantial walk. Went along the river past Orange Don's OTT ego massaging tower. The Wrigley building though far smaller was far more ornate and striking. Understated yet beautiful. Carried on down to the lakeside via toilets. Ahhh. Midges aside, a very nice walk.Read more

  • Day34

    SLC ish

    August 29, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Not much other than the usual bizarre setups at the petrol station - pay before you buy - I don't know how much... And returning the car - a substantial one way fee which both clerk & rental agent assured me was just a hold on my card - don't know what you are talking about. Dropped off bags to find that our seats were allocated at the gate. A nervous flyer got a little more jittery, more so when we saw the size of the plane. Strangely the gang plank means of boarding wasn't a problem. Holed out at the boarding desk until the clerk could assure me of seats together. That was a relief. Then to throw salt in the wound there were mechanical issues - 30 min delay & worries. It will be fine.Read more

  • Day33

    Should've flown.

    August 28, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Finished off all manner of bits & pieces including the butter, which had been with us since day 1 at Tillamook. It was emotional. We were heading for a drive that Ranger Jeff had recommended as good for wildlife. The initial impressions were not good - busy road, fenced off farmland & ski resort - none of which screamed classic wildlife viewing. Things became a little quieter & more promising once in the park. Wildlife was likely, seeing it was another thing. Gravel track came & went, a couple of stops but nothing other than a couple of squirrels. Decided to try the other option but via the visitor station - cereal & 1 litre of orange juice = waz-athon / regular toilet stops. Suitably relieved we pushed on to a riverside location good for moose. 5 screaming kids chucking rocks into said river put paid to that one. Quick stop at the toilet & back to Jackson via the visitor centre. Going over the bridge & a number of people were brandishing cameras. Quickly pulled over to see moose & moosette crossing the river to an island for a peaceful bite to eat. At least we'd seen something. Onwards & upwards, literally - the aerial tram upto Rendezvous Peak. A quick walk up there & lunch. That would have to do us for the Tetons. The top of the world hike did feel like that. Still some snow up here and plenty of paragliders - looked so peaceful & graceful - something to think about. Had our packed lunch with a spectacular view of the Snake River which has been a constant companion from Oregon to the end.
    The cable car ride down was 12 mins - pretty long & gave some great views of deer and the maintenance engineer we stopped to pick up - they rode on the roof down. Not one for someone with vertigo. Then the small matter of getting to Salt Lake City. 5 hours in a car didn't really appeal. Much less when it dawned that the vast majority was endless farmland. Still once at the motorway it would be plain sailing. Err except when we got there the sliproad was closed. OK follow on to the next junction & it was open or so it seemed. Entered the motorway to find we were on a rough lane with gravel & the rest of the traffic was on the other carriageway. Concerning. Would the rozzers collar me again. Eventually the roadworks finished & whether we'd done something wrong or not we merged & went on our way. Aside from lunatic drivers in & around SLC - the speed limit being seen as the bare minimum & lane markings as a vague guide. We made it to the hotel in one piece. No more peace & quiet - Chicago's going to be busy & noisy!
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  • Day32

    Lazy Day.

    August 27, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    A combination of fatigue, irritation with roadworks & a headache prompted a rather more laid back day. Oh and that made it substantially easier to follow the Mighty Reds trounce the Arse. That improved the mood. Had a wander into town to try to find somewhere open that sold painkillers that didn't necessitate a drive. Ended up at the National Elk Refuge information centre - turns out August is completely the wrong time to visit. From the empty plains outside our hotel - I think we'd figured that one. Sat outside to regroup & were cornered by on old guy just itching for a conversation - picked that we were English - accents or he was a closet football fan. Anyway he proceded to ramble on about Geordie slang, where he'd been in the UK, global warming, forest fires... Nice guy but we were baking & needed shade. Headed back and chilled on the balcony & read. After Liz had a doze we took a drive out to the Mormon Row - a series of buildings built by the early settlers to Jackson Hole. They have been preserved and / or are still in use and are often used as photogenic foreground for the Tetons. Who am I to argue. Made a pleasant little walk. Continued onwards to Jenny Lake where the dramatic nature of the Tetons became more apparent. Most mountain ranges have foothills but not here - they rise up startlingly from the plains. Annoyingly we got there and discovered a beach - no swimmies. Still a nice walk and back to pack - lots to do tomorrow and a long drive into the bargain. God knows what time we'll hit SLC.Read more

  • Day31

    Thank God for self-catering.

    August 26, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Once the roadworks were in the rear view mirrors the mountains of the Grand Teton National Park became an unavoidable spectacle. It seemed every 5 minutes there was a lookout to admire a slightly different view - with Jackson Lake in the foreground, with flood terracing, with Mormon barns ...
    Admittedly whichever you chose the picture would be amazing. Unfortunately the one chosen had no facilities at all - need the toilet. The visitor centre was the obvious next choice & it didn't let us down. In to the bargain there was a presentation of what the Tetons had to offer. The friendly rangers provided ample maps, advice on walks, parking issues... Checked in at our accommodation - very nice & self catering. Chilled & then faced the prospect of shopping. When put in the context of saving a dollop of cash it became more appealing. The sour faced cashier, having dealt with a weird yank, suddenly cheered up when seeing my Hadjuk Split top - he was from Serbia. There's no love lost between the 2 countries but clearly he was itching to talk football in this country of heathens. Then he drops the bombshell - when finding out we were from Liverpool he added, that his team was Manchester - could be bad, could be shameful - United. Oh dear. He appologised - I jokingly said he should be - I wasn't joking. Nice to talk to someone who appreciates the good things in life - even if they've made some bad life choices. Anyway, breakfast & tea were sorted for the next 2 days. Result. Little look around town - arches of antlers & the National Elk Reserve - curious. Jackson seems a very typical ski resort town. Nice enough though.
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  • Day31

    Leaving is so hard to do.

    August 26, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    After the geo-thermal theme yesterday, it was hoped that today would be focussed on wildlife. Spend a bit of time watching & admiring and then the joys of the trek to Jackson. All the best laid plans and all that. While we had plenty of Bison fun - they owned that road! Couple of them ambled past & you could fully appreciate their size. Unfortunately we struggled to find a suitable spec to settle down in & when we did there was nothing to see. Another couple were in for the duration - chairs, food & drinks. Decided to push onto Hayden Valley - the other supposed hotspot for wildlife. Unfortunately it is far closer to the park resorts & West Yellowstone. It was rammed. Lots of Bison & lots of tourists. Off to the lake & find a nice spot for lunch. First try was blighted by a monstrous hotel taking over the entire lake front. Took a lakeside drive to no avail. Ended up at West Thumb Geyser Basin, which was on the lake. Only catch was, that you couldn't take food down to the lake shore - eh! My downbeat mood took a turn for the worse as we headed out of Yellowstone. We were stopped by a worker under the pretext of roadworks. Proceeded to sit there for 20 mins until we were given an escort to the next queue. No sign of roadworks. Another 15 mins & another escort through non-existent roadworks - just a final mile of resurfacing. Not happy. Hopefully Grand Teton National Park would cheer me up.Read more