Grand Tour 1980 - Jim and Karen Colyer

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January 5th 2008
Published: January 5th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Karen and I called our 1980 Greyhound trip the Grand Tour because it was so comprehensive. We made a figure 8 up east and through the southwest. We left Louisville on August 3rd. Our momentum increased as we approached Washington, D.C. In D.C., I showed Karen the best of what I had seen 3 years before: White House, Washington Monument, and Bureau of Engraving and Printing. In the Capitol, she touched the same white circle I had. At the Shakespeare Library, I got a picture of her standing by the statue of Puck.

We ate lunch in the National Gallery, and Karen was taken with many of the same paintings. She preferred the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson, however, as she recalled the way the states are engraved around the top of the building.

The National Archives was still open when we got there, and we saw the Constitution. Karen wanted to see Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was shot. We chanced upon it as we were leaving. Lincoln was taken from the theater and died in the house across the street.

Leaving D.C., we headed for New York City. At daybreak, we took a subway to Battery Park and ferried to the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue is a green Colossus located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Its green color is attributed to the rusting process of copper. The Statue is operated by the National Park Service. We climbed to the crown and looked out the small openings. It was a strenuous test in the heat. From the ferry, the Manhattan skyline was well-defined. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building were prominent. I looked back and forth from the skyline to the Statue. The city was harmless.

New York City is composed of 5 boroughs. The island of Manhattan is the biggie. The others are Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Brooklyn and Queens are on Long Island. Only the Bronx is on the mainland.

Karen was surprised by the amount of farmland in upstate New York as we continued toward Niagara Falls. We got a room in Rochester and had pizza. We crossed the border into Canada, and Karen was out of the U.S. for the first time.

The town of Niagara Falls is in the province of Ontario. The falls is a natural barrier between the two countries. The American Falls is to the left. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls is to the right. It gets its name from its horseshoe shape. It is the most spectacular of the two. We rode a boat, Maid of the Mist, into the curve of the horseshoe. We wore raincoats but got wet from the spray.

We left Niagara Falls for Toronto where we ascended the CN Tower. It is currently the world's tallest structure. From its height, we saw what an enormous city Toronto is. We peered across Lake Ontario. The Niagara River flows between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Water from 4 Great Lakes flows over Niagara Falls into Lake Ontario on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Our travels gave me a geographical sense of North America.

Karen and I spent the night in Toronto. A false alarm drove us from our hotel. The next morning we enjoyed a streetcar ride. Street signs reminded that French is a second language in Canada. Canadian money is in the same denominations as U.S. currency, a 10-15% premium being paid on American money.

We left Ontario at Windsor and entered the U.S. at Detroit. The eastern swing of The Grand Tour had ended. We returned to the house in Lebanon and rested for three days before starting out again.

The western swing began. On the journey to Tucson, we spent a few morning hours in Dallas. We saw the book depository from whose 6th floor John Kennedy was assassinated.

Arriving in Tucson, we rented a car and drove to the Saguaro National Monument. There are 3 sections of the desert: the Great Basin of Nevada, the Mojave of California and the Sonoran of southern Arizona. The Saguaro cactus is found in the Sonoran. We drove through mile after mile of these cacti. Some of them reminded me of people. The forest was peaceful. Karen and I were amazed that the Saguaro is so localized.

We became familiar with 4 species of cacti: 1) The Saguaro can live as long as 200 years. Arms do not even appear until the Saguaro is 75 years old. 2) Organ Pipe, the arms of which grow right out of the ground. 3) Prickly Pear leaves are flat like Mickey Mouse ears. 4) Fishhook Barrel, named for its shape and fishhook-like spines.

We went to Tucson's San Xavier Mission, opened in 1798. We caught a glimpse of old Spain. The Spaniards were unaffected by the Protestant Reformation and came to the southwest to spread Catholicism. The mission is known as the White Dove of the Desert and can be seen perched and shining from a considerable distance. There are a cat and mouse above the doorway. Legend says that when the cat catches the mouse, the world will end.

It was inevitable that we end up in Las Vegas even though we had not planned it. Vegas is a magnet. We returned there from Tijuana, Mexico via San Diego and Hollywood. In Hollywood, we took the Universal City tour. It consisted mainly of a drive through old movie sets.

Back in Vegas, the memories flowed. We again tried the hot corner of Caesar's, MGM, the Dunes and the Flamingo Hilton. We spent 8 days and nights in Vegas and stayed at the Granada Inn, right up the street from last year's spot. We saw a show at The Treasury.

We made two trips while in Vegas, one to the Grand Canyon and one to Reno, Virginia City and Lake Tahoe.

Virginia City is a mining town from the 1870s. It is the home of the Bonanza series and the Comstock Lode, the silver strike responsible for its existence. The town's population has dwindled from 40,000 to 700, Renovated saloons survive off tourists.

Lake Tahoe resembled other places we had seen. There were the Ponderosa pines of Yosemite, the blue waters of Lake Mead and a touch of Reno. The place seemed a composite! When we finally left Las Vegas, Ann-Margret was once more at Caesar's. She was there in June, 1979. We had come full circle.

Reaching Salt Lake City, we assumed the same route I traveled in 1978. Salt Lake City remains clean and hospitable. The Mormons have not forgotten their past. The spirit of Brigham Young presides over Temple Square with unquestioned authority. Young brought his people from Illinois to Salt Lake in 1847. He was a stud! He had 27 wives and 56 children! Karen and I visited his home, the Beehive.

We had a full day in this town. We took in the Natural History Museum at the University of Utah. It was strong in the area of geology and on the subject of dinosaurs. The geographical location of a university affects its curriculum.

We had lunch at the Shakespeare Dinner House and toured the State Capitol Building. That night, we attended a presentation at the Hansen Planetarium. We gained admittance to the astronomy library. Returning to the bus terminal, I was reminded of the uniqueness of this city by the light reflected from the top of the LDS Temple.

I glance at the front page of a newspaper for sale in a box. A picture of Ronald Reagan was on the front page. He would be elected in November. Times were changing as they often do.

It was on to Yellowstone. I wondered why the condensation from the hot springs was more abundant than during my previous visit. Karen said it was the cold weather. It is like seeing your breath on a cold day. The hot springs are caused by molten lava.

We sighted animals: elk, buffalo and moose. I became aware of the layout of the park. The river flows from Yellowstone Lake through the canyon and eventually into the Missouri River. We saw Old Faithful erupt. That was August 27th. We spent the night in West Yellowstone, Montana. We were told that during the winter it can get as low as -60. Ice remains on the lake until June, and we even saw sleet.

Coming back from Idaho Falls, we saw the Grand Tetons in the distance. We ate lunch in Pocatello near the Union Pacific Railroad Building. In Cheyenne, we toured the Capitol and the Wyoming State Museum. The Grand Tour ended in Denver.

Jim Colyer
Originally written
August, 1980


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