G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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A Trip To New England – September 2015

Baby Samuel September 2015
Baby Samuel September 2015

At the end of August we had a new grandson born into the family — Samuel Kravetz is now grandchild #10.  He was born to my son Seth and his wife Holly, who, at the time, were living near Hartford, Connecticut.  Naturally, this was a cause for celebration and for a trip to Connecticut to see this new bundle of joy.

Our Route to Connecticut from Lexington (via Hershey World and Carlos Bake Shop)
Our Route to Connecticut from Lexington (via Hershey World and Carlos Bake Shop)
Heading east with the grandkidz!
Heading east with the grandkidz!

So, we planned the trip and our daughter Marissa and her three children would join Julianne and I for a visit to New England.  On September 5th we headed east on I-64 for this “see grandson/see nephew/see cousin/see New England” trip.  I was excited not only for the grandchild, but also because this trip would afford me the opportunity to knock off the last 3 states on my list…I would finally get to Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, to make it to all 50.

Sunrise in Eastern Kentucky as we approached West Virginia
Sunrise in Eastern Kentucky as we approached West Virginia
Welcome to West Virginia
Welcome to West Virginia

We were on the road before sunrise and arrived at the West Virginia/Kentucky border just shortly after sunrise.  there is wonderful Rest Area a few miles east of Huntington, WV and so we stopped to give the now awake kids a chance to run a bit.

As for me, I walked around and enjoyed the flowers, the fresh morning air and a chance to stretch my legs as the day would be a long one…we planned to drive all the way to Connecticut and I would be the only driver (as always — because I am a road warrior of course!!)

Welcome to West Virginia
Welcome to West Virginia – West Virginia Welcome Center
I got lucky and got a nice shot of a small butterfly at the rest area
I got lucky and got a nice shot of a small butterfly at the rest area

After the break we were back on the road again heading east on I-64 to Charleston and then northeast on I-79 until we got to Cheat Lake, where the interstate switched to I-68 east towards Cumberland, MD and then eventually onto I-70/I-68.  We finally stopped at the South Mountain Rest Area south of Greenbrier and South Mountain State Parks.  This was a perfect place for the kids to get out and run around, stretch and play.

Lyla and Joselyn climbing around on a hill at the South Mountain Rest Area in maryland
Lyla and Joselyn climbing around on a hill at the South Mountain Rest Area in Maryland
Landen relaxes at the rest area
Landen relaxes at the rest area

While they rested, I was out capturing sots of flowers and plants, of which there was an abundance.

A Unique pod
A Unique pod
A thorny briar or thistle or something
A thorny briar or thistle or something
A nice pink flower
A nice pink flower
Dandylions?
Dandylions?
Selfie - Explore the Chesapeake at the Rest Area
Selfie – Explore the Chesapeake at the Rest Area
Have a Sweet Day!
Have a Sweet Day!

After a nice rest and stretch, we were back on the road and heading towards Hershey, PA for a sweet visit to Hershey’s Chocolate World.  The last time I was here was with the kids a number of years ago, when there was an entirely different facility.  Now there is an amusement park, a HUGE building, and plenty of crowds.  We had hoped for the factory tour, but the place was away too busy for us since we had to get back on the road…we were driving all the way to Vernon, CT.  But, we had time for a little fun….

Hershey's Chocolate World
Hershey’s Chocolate World
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne
An obligatory Hershey Kiss from Julianne

And Joselyn wanted to give Grampz a Hershey Kiss as well…

Joselyn gives Grampz a Hershey Kiss
Joselyn gives Grampz a Hershey Kiss

And then there is the Chocolate…

A candy bar the size of Landen!
A candy bar the size of Landen!
Giant Kisses...wanna bite?
Giant Kisses…wanna bite?
The kids get a big kiss from Hershey
The kids get a big kiss from Hershey (photo by Marissa Noe)

After sweetening ourselves up a bit on Hershey’s chocolate, we were soon back on the road eastward, with the next stop planned being Hoboken, NJ for a view of NYC at night and hopefully a visit to the famed Carlos Bake Shop from TLC’s “Cake Boss.”

Midway Diner sign on a barn
Midway Diner sign on a barn

Along the way we stopped for gas in Bethel, PA.  While there, I grabbed a couple of shots of the iconic Midway Diner signs.  It used to be in one of those silver diner styles, but has since been changed.  But, I always love the old Neon Signs like the one below.

Old Midway Diner sign in bethel, PA
Old Midway Diner sign in Bethel, PA
Hoboken, NJ
Hoboken, NJ

After fueling and restroom breaks for the kids (and adults), we were back on the road again.  We pulled into Hoboken around 8:30 PM and drive straight to Frank Sinatra Park to get a nighttime view of the Manhattan portion of New York City.  The kids had never seen it at night and this is probably one of he best places to get a great view of the entire skyline Manhattan.

Built in 1998, it honors Frank Sinatra, who was born in Hoboken. Sinatra Park is shaped in a Roman amphitheater style with an area that faces the former site of the World Trade Center.

The grandkidz get a view of Manhattan from Frank Sinata Park in Hoboken. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
The grandkidz get a view of Manhattan from Frank Sinata Park in Hoboken. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
Blue Eyes Pizza and Gelato in Frank Sinatra Park
Blue Eyes Pizza and Gelato in Frank Sinatra Park (see website)
One World Trade Center all lit up at night, as seen from Sinatra Park
One World Trade Center all lit up at night, as seen from Sinatra Park
Manhattan Skyline with the Empire State building
Manhattan Skyline with the Empire State building

CarlosBakeShop7After the great view, we made our way to Hudson St. and then down to Newark, turned right and then right on Washington to Carlo’s Bake Shop (Actually, they all walked over there and I dealt with the traffic mess!).

A busy bakery! Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken at 9:15 PM
A busy bakery! Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken at 9:15 PM

The place was hopping even at 9:00 PM.  I had to double park on the street and Julianne came out to sit in the car so I could get out and get a few photos (and some cannoli!!).  Carlo’s is a family owned bakery featured on the TLC hit show Cake Boss. Carlo’s, was originally opened by Carlo Guastaffero in 1910 and was acquired by Bartolo Valastro Sr. in 1964. After the  passing of Bartolo Sr. in 1994, matriarch Mary Valastro and her children Grace, Maddalena, Mary, Lisa and master baker Bartolo Jr. “Buddy” Valastro have expanded the business with the help of their spouses.  They actually have bakeries in 5 states!!

Sumoflam at Carlo's Bake Shop
Sumoflam at Carlo’s Bake Shop
Cannoli at Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken
Cannoli at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken
The Famiglia
The Famiglia

We picked up some goodies…and I wanted to try the Cannoli, since they are supposedly famous for them.  I had mine, it was good, but not as good as the ones I had at Presti’s Bakery near my birthplace in Little Italy in Cleveland.

Nevertheless, the goodies were good and this made for a fun stopover before we finished the last leg of the trip to Connecticut and a much needed good night’s rest.

The kids hitched a ride on the luggage rack....
The kids hitched a ride on the luggage rack….

We pulled into the Holiday Inn in Vernon sometime after midnight…it was a long day.

I must say that the Noe kids have become seasoned travelers, even at their young age.  Joselyn has been on long trips with me from Arizona to Kentucky and then all three have traveled to Omaha, St. Louis, South Carolina, Georgia and now the northeast coast.  They are a fun lot to travel with!  Grampz is always happy to be with them!

What a day it was….with kisses and cannoli!

 

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