8 August 2018
Today we drove from Winnemucca in Northern Nevada, through the southeast corner of Oregon, to Boise, Idaho. The drive was pleasant with rolling terrain and small mountain ranges on either side. Northern Nevada was nicer than the barren desert I was expecting but not stunning. The corner of Oregon we cut through was only slightly greener, very different than other parts of the state we have visited. Crossing the Idaho border, we finally started to see signs of life as the population picked up as we closed in on Boise.
Boise was our third state capital in as many days. It is a small city that appears to be growing rapidly. We really enjoyed exploring downtown, Old Boise, Davis Park, and Boise State University. As we always do, we visited the State Capitol Building. Most states have nice capitol buildings – Idaho was no exception – and almost all of them are nicer than our hometown, Raleigh. C’mon North Carolina, you can do better just look at any other state! Ok, enough about that.
We spent less time than planned so we missed a few places I’d liked to have seen but overall we were impressed.
Idaho State Capitol
Idaho State Line (top left), Northern Nevada (top right), Boise State Univ. (middle right), and Julia Davis Park (bottom)
7 August 2018
With our original plans trashed by the California forest fires, we decided to head northeast and to get ahead of the smoke filled skies. Ony 30 minutes up the road from Carson City is Reno, Nevada.
Reno’s slogan is “The Biggest Little City in the World” but probably Americans more often think of it as “Not Vegas.” I’ve always been curious, so why not stop?
Besides the casinos and bright lights the city is famous for, Reno is also home to the National Automobile Museum. The museum is well done and a must see for any car enthusiast. It has a collection of over 200 vehicles from early steam powered carriages to the mid 20th century.
National Automobile Museum
We – well my son and I – got lucky, it was opening day of the city’s Hot August Nights festival. The event is centered around a large classic car show and cruise. So after taking a walk around town, the girls went shopping and the boys went to the car show!
Over all we enjoyed our visit, mostly due to the cars. The city itself has some charming features and glitzy casinos but it suffers from being dependent on those casinos in some of the same ways as Atlantic City. It can never out shine Las Vegas so its upside is limited until it finds its niche outside gambling. I can see the potential but the reality makes me sad.
Hot August Nights
6 August 2018
Starting our road trip home in Sacramento worked out well; however our plans in California did not. Originally we planned to visit Yosemite National Park but unfortunately the Ferguson Forest Fire closed the park. Plan B was Lake Tahoe but smoke from the Ferguson and Carr Forest Fires turned the sky a menacing gray. As excited as we were to be in Tahoe, we felt it was better to come back another time when we could enjoy the scenery. So our week in California went up in smoke just like that!
Lake Tahoe in the Smoke Haze
We pushed on to nearby Carson City, the capital of Nevada. Carson City is a sleepy town with old west style. We make it a point to visit the state capitol buildings so we checked that box. Time to regroup and decide where next.
Nevada State Capitol and Kit Carson Statue
6 August 2018
We chose Sacramento for our long awaited return to the mainland. We picked it because it is a relatively small international airport that is much easier to get in and out of compared to San Fran or LAX. We only spent a day in town before heading east but was pleasantly surprised. Sacramento might be considered sleepy and boring compared to its more glamorous neighbors. We found it to be a charming small city, a worthy under the radar stop for families travelling in the area.
Sacramento is the capitol of the ‘Golden State’, California so it is well kept and has several state museums and attractions. The Capitol Building itself is impressive with a neoclassical design similar to that of the United States Capitol Building in D.C. Like most capitol buildings, the walls are adorned with portraits of past governors. California being California, we got a chuckle seeing the Hollywood versions of President Ronald Reagan and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Hollyweird version of Governor Jerry Brown.
The highlight for us was Old Sac, aka Old Sacramento State Historic Park. What a cool place! In the heart of the city and along the river are several city blocks of old western buildings converted to shops and restaurants. Western themed museums, steam locomotives, river boats, and a Pony Express Memorial all made us forget the cars zipping past on the nearby expressway.
2 – 5 August 2018
We stayed in Waikiki on our trip to Australia to break up the arduous journey. It’s the perfect place to spend a couple days so we stopped again on our return trip to the States. If we had more time, I’d rather have explored one of the islands we haven’t yet been but Waikiki can’t be beat for a quick respite.
2 August 2018
As our Australian adventure comes to an end we will not say ‘good-bye’. Instead ‘until next time’ because we will be back. When we decided to take a year off from our normal life, our primary motive was to get away from it all and concentrate on family. Australia was simply the place we chose to do it. We expected to enjoy the travel but I don’t think we expected to love the land, the lifestyle, the people as much as we do.
As Americans we are told we live in the greatest country in the world. The more we travel, the more we realize we do live in a great country, but there are many great places in the world. In Australia we found the people to be as warm and welcoming as their sun drenched sandy beaches.
While we are sad this experience has come to an end, it has given us lasting memories, good friends, and a new perspective on what the future might hold. Yes, it came at a cost but worth every sacrifice we made. Would we do it again? I hope to.
Stay tuned for our Best of Australia series in the upcoming months. But first, a good old American road trip home.
Here are a few pictures from our last days in Coolum Beach and Surfers Paradise.
Coolum Beach and Surfers Paradise (bottom)
23 July 2018
Hervey Bay is one of Australia’s top whale watching spots. Between mid-July and October Humpback whales stop here along their long migration to rest and teach their newborn before continuing to Antarctica for the summer. The bay also provides calm waters for a smooth ride.
We had visited Hervey Bay last year on our Great Barrier Reef trip but bad weather ruined our plans. This time we had nearly perfect weather.
Dolphins enjoyed swimming with our catamaran which was a real crowd pleaser. They also liked to swim with the whales which actually helped us spot them. The first part of the tour, the whales glided up and down occasionally showing us their tale of flippers. As the sun started to set, they started playfully breeching the water and putting on a remarkable show.
Thanks to good weather and some feisty whales, Fraser Island and Hervey Bay became one of our favorite experiences in Australia.