Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tinkertoy's travels, Part 2



I started my second travel life in 1981 after a separation and divorce. I met Donna, in 1981, She lived in the same apartment building where I lived. We started dating and in June 1982, we started our travels together. I made a trip to Massachusetts to meet her after a business meeting and we toured CAPE COD

AT Cape Cod National Seashores
 and PLYMOUTH where the ROCK is. It looks nothing like you may picture it. On the way there to meet her I stopped to visit my aunt in PROVIDENCE, RI and then went to the BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME in SPRINGFIELD MASS.
displays inside the Basketball Hall of Fame
Then in 1983 we drove back to Cape Cod for another visit along with one of my car club buddies, my best friend Prentice.
Cape Cod

Later that year we went to MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina for a couple days. Donna and I married in 1985 and for our honeymoon we went to HAWAII. We stayed on WAIKIKI BEACH

Hawaiian sunset from our hotel balcony
for a few days but I arranged a tour that took us to see all of the other islands by air and we had land tours of MAUI and KAUIA. Then we stayed on the Big Island of Hawaii for a few days. On this trip we saw the ARIZONA MEMORIAL at PEARL HARBOR, the FERN GROTTO on Kauia and a lot of great sights. We saw VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Volcanoes National Park on the big island of Hawaii
on the Big Island of Hawaii. I found out when booking our flights that at that time you could add a west coast stopover on flights to Hawaii for about $60.00. So on the way back we stopped on the west coast. We went to DISNEYLAND,
The Electric Parade in Disneyland; held each night after dark
Universal Studios in California
and drove to LAS VEGAS
the old Dunes and Oasis Hotel and Casino which was where Bellagio now sits.
for a couple days. On the way to Vegas we stopped at the Grand Canyon
At the Hermit's Rest overlook at the Grand Canyon
since Donna had never been there. Then we drove on up to Bryce Canyon National Park
Entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park
Rock formation in Bryce called Hudoos
and back through Zion National Park on the way to Las Vegas.

We liked Hawaii so much that we decided to go back again the next year, 1986, and my friend Ernest and his wife went along.

On a dinner cruise in Hawaii
We stayed a week in Waikiki but again stopped on the west coast and went to Las Vegas for a day and then to UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and NBC STUDIOS.

After Donna and I were married I didn’t drive across country anymore for a long while, primarily because my job took me regularly to several places out west that gave me an opportunity to explore. When I went to PORTLAND, OREGON, I drove up the COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, which is beautiful, and another time drove up to MOUNT HOOD (actually ran into a snow storm up there) and went skiing. That was before it blew its top. When I went to BILLINGS, MT I would rent a car and drive (about 2 hrs) to Yellowstone National Park, and then the next day drive the other direction to CUSTER NATIONAL MONUMENT (where Gen Custer had his last stand).. When I went to RENO, NV I would drive to LAKE TAHOE just to look at the scenery. When I went to Sacramento, Ca I would drive to the wine country and/or San Francisco just to bump around. But I did continue to make a trip or two to Las Vegas every year because it was so cheap to go and when you got there.

But we did have driving trips/vacations up and down the east coast and also flew places for vacation trips. In 1987 Donna and I drove north again through MASS, NEW HAMPSHIRE AND VERMONT and into Canada to MONTREAL. I didn’t care for Montreal either because the French speaking Canadians were not friendly. The drive back was through Canada to NIAGARA FALLS

at Niagara Falls, Canada
and then back to Maryland, with a stop at the CORNING GLASS WORKS in Corning NY.

In 1988, a year or so after DISNEY’S EPCOT CENTER opened we drove down to FLORIDA and did the whole Disney parks experience.

At Epcot Center in Florida
Then a year later, about 1989, I decided to look at doing a cruise. I found a 4 day cruise out of Miami on NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE ship, MS SUNWARD II.
First cruise ever for both of us; a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas
So we drove down and stayed in LAKELAND, FL and went to BUSCH GARDENS in TAMPA one day, then Disney the next. Then drove on down to Miami for the cruise. We liked the cruise and so in 1990 decided to do a seven day cruise. We had an inside cabin on the NCL NORWAY,
Boarding the SS Norway
the SS Norway
a grand old style ship built back in the 1950's I think. We went to ST THOMAS,
Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St Johns, US Virgin Islands
ST MAARTIN, and then to a private NCL island (for a beach party), and then back to Miami.

In June 1991 I had a business trip to Alaska and one of my coworkers up there arranged a tour for me that took me from ANCHORAGE, AK to the port city of WHITTIER by bus and train, then by cruise on a small boat across PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND

Glacier in Alaska
Terminus of the Alaska Pipe line in Valdez, Alaska
is located. I then had a flight back to Anchorage the same day. On this trip I also drove up to DENALI NATIONAL PARK and also south to PORTAGE GLACIER just south of Anchorage.

Also in 1991 I had a two week business trip for training in KEYSTONE, COLORADO and on the weekend I did a WHITE WATER RAFTING TRIP on the Arkansas River. That was exciting but I don’t want or need to do that any more. The water was freezing cold and there is no way to keep from getting wet.

I had been doing so much traveling that I earned a free airline ticket so in September 1991 we used the miles to fly to Hawaii again. We stayed in Waikiki again, but went to Maui for a day to do the downhill bike ride on HALEAKALA MOUNTAIN.

On top of Haleakala in Maui for the downhill bike ride
THAT was a great experience. Of course we stopped in Vegas on the way back home.

In June, 1993 we went to Cancun, Mexico for a few days and met some really nice people who live not too far from us in Maryland.

with friends we met in Cancun, Mexico
We had a ball while in Cancun and became good friends.
hanging out in Senor Froggie's in Cancun, Mexico
After that trip we flew to Las Vegas again. Then in September of 1993 we did a 7-day cruise to BERMUDA out of NY City on the NCL’s ship the DREAM.
On the beach in Bermuda
In 1995 we made a second trip to Orlando and went to Universal Studios Park and Epcot again.

One winter, I think it was about 1994, we decided to try going to the Poconos for a get away and went to Cove Haven

Entrance to Coven Haven
. Now you know its an adult couples only place, don't you??
Cove Haven in the Poconos

I retired in 1996 and in September 1997 went to travel school with the intention of starting my second career as a travel agent. I attended Carlson Travel academy for abut six weeks and did get my certificate. My intention was to go to work for the local AAA office and probably would have gotten the job because one of my classmates eventually did. We had a cruise booked to the Southern Caribbean out of Puerto Rico. We had our bags packed and were set to go when 3 days before our departure date tragedy struck. Donna had a heart attack while in an aerobics class and died.. I chronicled our life in a blog titled, “Speaker for Donna” = http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?drafts&id=1543067433#!/note.php?note_id=462502118768 .


In the midst of my grief I looked for the one thing which gave me the most comfort, traveling. So I planned a train trip across Canada. This was something I had wanted to do for a long time and had actually saved a little money for while working.

In April 1998 I took the train from DC to New York City and changed to one which took me to TORONTO, CANADA where I spent the night. The next day I caught a VIA’S train, the CANADIAN, headed for Vancouver on the West coast of Canada. VIA is Canada’s equivalent of Amtrak. I planned a stop in the Canadian Rockies for a few days and then took tours in JASPER,

Jasper Inn in Jasper, Canadian Rockies
a bus tour to BANFF and LAKE LOUISE with a stop at the COLUMBIA GLACIER
Columbia Glacier in Canada; on a snow coach tour
where we got out and walked on it. That return trip on Amtrak trip included stops in Seattle where I visited a cousin; Sacramento where I visited my favorite uncle and then drove to Reno for a couple days and stayed with my former supervisor, John; and then Denver where I stopped to visit my friend Lee and his wife.

Later that same year an opportunity came to go with my church members to Africa. I thought about it for only a short while and decided that it was a great opportunity not to be passed up. So in August 1998 we went to CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA

Arrival in Cape Town
at Cape Point in South Africa
for a week and then
The Brunte Hotel in Zimbabwe, an old English style hotel
Africa University in Zimbabwe
the countryside in Zimbabwe
at the women's camp meeting in Zimbabwe
a shanty town in Zimbabwe
. The male chorus at my church was invited to do the trip; I just went along. They sang concerts several times a week at various churches in those countries. That remains one of THE best trips I have ever taken. The South Africa part included a trip to ROBBIN ISLAND
On a mountain top in Cape town with Robben Island in the background
where Nelson Mandela was held captive for 25 years. The facility is now a park
the former prison that is now a park on Robben Island
and we saw his cell and narration was by one of his former cell mates.

I continued to make 2 or 3 trips to Las Vegas, just because I loved the place and it was a cheap get away. After a couple years I started to get into dating again and in May 1999 I took a Caribbean cruise on the NCL Dreamward out of SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO to ANTIGUA, ST LUCIA, ST THOMAS, ST MAARTIN, and ST KITT. Then in January, 2000 I went on the Grand Princess to the Eastern Caribbean islands of ST THOMAS, ST MAARTIN and their PRINCESS CAY private island. Later that year I drove up to Niagara Falls again and also to Toronto for a day or so. There is no need to mention my dates for those trips as the relationships didn’t last and I moved on.

In April 2000 I decided to take another train trip. So I booked Amtrak from DC to Chicago where I took the Amtrak’s Empire Builder through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho to Seattle.

in my sleeper compartment on the train
a train stop in North Dakota; I finally made it there
I stayed in Seattle a couple of nights, did some sightseeing through Mt Rainier National Park and visited with my late wife’s in-laws and my cousin. Then I took the best of Amtrak’s trains, the Coast Starlight down the California coast to Los Angeles. From there I got a rental car and drove to Las Vegas for a couple of days. Then I drove back to LA and boarded the Amtrak’s Sunset Limited from LA all the way to Florida. This train no longer runs that whole route but it went through Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to Florida. From Florida I took the train back to Maryland.

************** be sure to also read part 1 and then part 3 of Tinkertoy's Travels *********************

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