Travel Time with Roger Tweed

Travel Time with Roger Tweed- Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks (part 3)

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

On Friday, our fourth and final full day in the parks, we had a full day scheduled.  First, it was back to Lodgepole to hike to Tokopah Falls, then back to the Giant Forest to see the General Sherman Tree (the largest tree by volume in the world) and hike the Congress Trail.  Later in the afternoon we were scheduled to tour Crystal Cave.  And finally, if time permitted, we’d visit Moro Rock.

Lodgepole has a very large year-round campground and we drove through most of it as we searched for the trail head for Tokopah Falls.  The trail to the falls is about 2 miles with a little bit of a climb.  Bugs were not quite as bad as earlier in the week.  You are hiking alongsisde the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River.  At 1200 feet, Tokopah Falls is the highest falls in the park and one of the highest falls in California (outside Yosemite).  As you approach the falls the trail becomes mostly granite rocks, and that makes it a bit tricky.  Yellow Bellied Marmots are said to live in these rocks near the falls, but we didn’t see any.  And unfortunately for us, we didn’t see the falls either.  Mid September was too late in the year to see any falls or cascades, at least it was this year.  You can see where the cascades and falls would be, and some of the rock faces were wet, but no falls on this day.  If you go online you can see pictures taken in the spring.  (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Banff National Park (Part 2)

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

Finally, after all the delay, here is the story of our hiking experiences in the Shadow Lake area of Banff National Park (one of the 4 oldest National Parks in the world!).

On Tuesday (8/14), our plan was to hike from the lodge to Gibbon Pass and beyond. With breakfast out of the way and lunches packed, we put on our gear and headed to the trail. Or at least what we thought was the trail. The map was a bit imprecise and it looked like the northbound trail turned off of the main trail (the one we took into the lodge) just before you arrived at the lodge. Heading in that direction we found two trails that led in the right direction, but one ended at the horse corral and the other seemed to dead end. As it turned out, the trail to Gibbon Pass and beyond to Rte. 93 began right behind our cabin. And with that knowledge we were off once again. (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Hiking in Banff National Park

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

On August 12, I picked Roch up at the Calgary airport and we headed out on the Trans Canada for Banff, stopping at a Mr. Sub on the outskirts of Calgary. You see Mr. Sub signs on the boards at hockey games and on the outfield walls at Toronto Blue Jays games on TV, and I must say that our subs were very good. Once you get to the west of Calgary the Rockies begin. The mountains are all around the Trans Canada, and they are very impressive.

We went straight to Lake Louise, which is west of the town of Banff where we would spend that night. Lake Louise is fed by the six glaciers that cover Victoria Peak (the lake is named for Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter). Chateau Lake Louise was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and several of the peaks surrounding the lake are named for CP officials of the era. The angle of the sun washed out some of our pictures, but the place is as beautiful as you are led to expect. You can hike all the way around the lake, but between the bugs and our needing to get to Banff and our accommodations, we made this stop a bit brief. (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, and the Minnesota State Fair

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

In August of 2010 I had the chance to visit Mount Rushmore for the first time.  I had always wanted to visit this national icon, and since I had just retired, I finally had the time to take the trip.  I flew into Minneapolis on the next to last Monday in August, picked up the Ford Focus that was part of my “fly and drive” package booked through Orbitz, and made my way to my friend Cam’s home in the St. Paul suburb of Mounds View.  Cam grew up in Minnesota and had not been to Mount Rushmore since he was a kid, so he was going to accompany me on my travels.

Earlier in the year I had read an online article about “weird travel destinations” that mentioned the “Darwin Ball of Twine,” the world’s largest ball of twine collected by one individual, located in Darwin, MN, west of the Twin Cities.  Darwin would be one of our stops on the way back from South Dakota.  Other stops during my visit were going to be the Minnesota State Capitol complex, and the Minnesota State Fair.

On Tuesday we headed from Mounds View through St. Peter, MN (the home of Gustavus Adolphos College) where we bought some snacks for the road.  Continuing to the west we finally met up with Interstate 90 which we would take all the way across South Dakota to Rapid City.  As we entered South Dakota (for only the second time in my life) we stopped at the Welcome Center.  In addition to giving us South Dakota highway maps, the man behind the counter told us that there was a Chevy Impala Show going on at the Convention Center in Spearfish.  We didn’t know where Spearfish was, but Cam’s family had owned a few Impala’s, so we filed that piece of information away.  (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: ‘The Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament and Kansas City’

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

On Tuesday, March 6, I flew to Kansas City to attend the 2012 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.  I started attending this tournament in 1993 when it was the Men’s Basketball Tournament of the Big Eight Conference, so this was my 20th tournament.  I have seen many changes over these 20 years, the biggest being the expansion of the conference to 12 teams in 1996.

The Big Eight Men’s Basketball Tournament was always played in Kansas City, and through 2002 the Big 12 Tournament was played at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.  In 2003 and 2004, the tournament was played at American Airlines Arena in Dallas.  The tournament returned to Kemper Arena in 2005, and returned to American Airlines Arena in 2006.  The tournament was then played at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City in 2007, then the new Sprint Center in Kansas City in 2008, back at the Ford Center in 2009, and then at the Sprint Center starting in 2010 and scheduled to remain there through at least 2014.

I had made a “flight and car” reservation through Orbitz that had me flying from Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, DC to McConnell International (MCI) in Kansas City on US Airways Express.  We landed in Kansas City 20 minutes early through 40 mph winds that would be in the Kansas City area for the next two days.  It was 70 degrees when we landed.  (more…)

‘A Day in New York City’

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

I decided to spend this past Halloween in New York City.  It wasn’t the fact that it was Halloween that made me want to go to New York.  It is just that “going to New York for the day” had been something I had told myself that I could do (and would do) once I had retired.  But almost 14 months after I ended my work-a-day life, I somehow hadn’t gotten around to making the trip from the Washington, DC area.

I’m no fan of cold weather, so it was understandable that a trip north had been ruled out for the months from November through April.  And although I had traveled elsewhere and done other things during the other seven months of my retirement to that point, it still nagged at me that I hadn’t taken the train or a plane – I don’t trust the really low fare buses that swarm the highways of the Northeast and besides, too much of a day trip to the Big Apple would be taken up by travel if you were to use the bus – to spend the day experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of New York.  So, with October slipping away from me, I decided to take the plunge.  If I didn’t make the trip by Halloween, I figured that my next chance to get to New York wouldn’t come until after the following Memorial Day.

After checking out the rail and flight schedules, I decided to fly round trip.  American Airlines was offering American Eagle flights to JFK at $59 each way at the time, and not only was this competitive with the then current Amtrak fares, but the travel time would be reduced to 1 hour each way.  The train has the advantage of dropping you off in Manhattan, but I had things I wanted to do on the Brooklyn side, so a JFK arrival would fit my plans very nicely.  (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Houston

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

Last February I visited with my brother and sister-in law in Houston, TX.  I hadn’t been in Houston since 1991, and I could not resist the opportunity to get away from the very cold winter we were having in the Washington, DC area.  I also wanted to see sights in and around Houston that I had never seen before while revisiting some that I had seen in my two previous visits 34 and 20 years before.
The weather in Houston during my visit was marvelous, with highs in the 70s each day and some humidity (it is Houston) but not near as bad as Houston can be later in the year.  Natives will tell you that February is a very good time to visit Houston since winters are usually mild here, and the humidity is not yet in full swing.  When I arrived on the afternoon of February 19 (Saturday) it was 72 degrees.  My timing was excellent, since there had been freezing temperatures earlier in the month.

My flights from DCA to Memphis and then from Memphis to Houston-Bush were uneventful.  CRJs on both legs, with a tiny 50-passenger CRJ 200 on the Memphis-Houston leg, with only 27 passengers aboard.  My rental car was a Chevy Aveo, no surprise there, with crank windows but with a CD player.   I had no trouble finding the home of the Houston Tweeds using my GPS.   (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Las Vegas and Yosemite – Part II

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

Last month I chronicled the first five days of my trip to Las Vegas, Kanab, UT, and Zion National Park through arriving at Yosemite National Park.  This month I’ll describe our adventures in Yosemite and the trip back to Sacramento.

After our first night sleeping in Yosemite Valley Housekeeping Camp (Unit A 250), Roch and I awoke on Monday September 19, bought muffins for breakfast along with beverages and trail mix at the camp store and then drove to the parking area at Yosemite Village. After checking with the Visitor Center on hikes to take in the Valley, we decided to hike the Valley Floor Trail and Mirror Lake Trail on Monday, and then on Tuesday we would take a bus from the Valley to Glacier Point where we’d hike down the 8.2 miles back to the Valley along the Panorama Trail (which includes the Mist Trail and parts of the John Muir Trail). We left the Visitor Center and started on the Valley Floor Trail, planning to hike as far as El Capitan. There is a beautiful view of Upper Yosemite Falls from the Village, with a good photo opportunity just in front of the Yosemite Post Office. From the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail you will be able to get shots of both the upper and lower falls. This trail will also take you to the spot where John Muir built his sugar pine house, and the view of the falls explains why he chose that particular spot.  After rejoining the Valley Floor Trail you pass the Yosemite Point trail head (a 2,900 foot climb to the point) and Camp #4 before crossing Northside Drive to hike along the Merced River.  To the south you can see Sentinel Dome and then the trail and the river bend around the “Three Brothers” (Lower Brother, Middle Brother and Eagle Peak) to the north.  Then, before you reach El Capitan, you can see Cathedral Spires and Cathedral Rocks to the south. After you have hiked about six miles from the village you are at the base of El Capitan. The massive rock face towers almost 3,600 feet above the valley, so pictures from its base do not do it justice.  We crossed the drive and went deep into the meadow to try to get longer shots.  Then we crossed the El Capitan bridge and waited for the El Capitan shuttle to take us back to the village and the car.  At the bridge there were a number of people using high powered lenses to view climbers making their way to the top of El Capitan. To the naked eye the climbers looked like dark specks on the very light granite face. (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Las Vegas and Yosemite – Part I

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

Subject: Las Vegas and Yosemite – Part I

In mid-September  I flew to Las Vegas on the first leg of a trip that would take me to Yosemite National Park for the first time. The group that had hiked through Glacier National Park last September (my friends Roch and Bob would join me) were going to meet at the Sacramento airport and drive to the home of Half Dome, Big Red, El Capitan, and the Grizzly Giant.  But first I had some free nights at the Orleans Hotel-Casino to use before they expired.  This is Part I of a two-part series covering the trip.  Part I deals with the time I spent in Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Kanab, UT, Sacramento and the drive to Yosemite.  Part II will chronicle our stay at Yosemite and the trip back to Sacramento.

I flew Air Tran out of Reagan National Airport and the flights (changed planes in Milwaukee) were uneventful. I had spent 5 hours waiting out a flight delay in Milwaukee’s Air Tran concourse in mid-July, and the number of flights coming and going then was so much greater than the flight volume in mid-September. My three hour layover this day was interrupted by very few flight announcements. On the flight from Milwaukee there was one gentleman wearing a sleeveless “Wisconsin Badgers” muscle shirt. He had arms like Popeye! I would be seeing many more such individuals in Las Vegas.

I arrived at McCarran Airport about 8 pm and took the shuttle to the rental car facility. Budget had accepted my Priceline bid for an economy car at $26 per day. I probably should have made a lower bid, but this was well below the pricing I could find on line. The counter person made a big deal out of trying to find me an economy car even though they were “out of them” (this happens frequently in Las Vegas) but after 15 minutes he gave me the keys to a Ford Fusion (two classes above Economy) and I was off to Orleans.  (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Wyoming and Montana

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Travel Time with Roger Tweed

Subject: Wyoming and Montana Travelogue

Last September, I managed to visitGrand Teton, andYellowstoneNational Parks, camp and hike inGlacierNational Park, and visit Little Big Horn National Monument all in one trip.  Over the course of seven days, my friends and I drove over2,000 miles, hiked over25 miles, saw waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, peaks and lakes of incredible beauty, and marveled at bison, elk, big horn sheep and mountain goats.  It all started the day after Labor Day.

I flew out of Reagan National (DCA), and changed planes in Detroiton the way to Denver. The flight from DCA to Detroitwas only about half full, so the empty seats made even the old war horse DC-9 (an MD-90) we flew feel comfortable.  It was the first (and only) non-full flight I took that summer. We were a few minutes late arriving, and I had to run from gate A23 to gate A74 where my flight to Denverwas taking off in 20 minutes. The Delta (former Northwest) concourse at Detroitis huge! The plane (an A320) was full, so they checked my bag at the gate.  I arrived at Denverabout 20 minutes early, and my friend Bob met me as I was wandering around the baggage area.  And then we were heading off on I-25 to Wyoming. (more…)

Travel Time with Roger Tweed: Hawai’i

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Travel Time with Roger TweedI visited Hawai’i for the first time last February, spending five nights and four days on Maui with a side trip to O’ahu.  Using Orbitz I was able to book a package that included round trip (from Washington, DC) airfare, 5 nights at the Westin K’a’anapali Resort, and a rental car for the week for just over $1,500.  I added a one day fly/drive package from Maui to O’ahu for another $300.  When I left Dulles Airport on the morning of January 31, it was raining and 46 degrees.  When I landed at the airport at Kahului on Maui early that evening, it was also raining, but it was 86 degrees.  Kahului is the main commercial center of Maui, and it connects the West end of the island (where K’a’anapli is located) with the East end, where Haleakala National Park and the rain forest are located.  After stopping at the Kahului Walmart to pick up some essentials, I drove the 20 miles to the resort.  Although I was a bit jet lagged, I needed to get an early start on Tuesday morning for my drive on the Hana Highway.

The Hana Highway or the “Road to Hana” as it is sometimes called, runs along the coast on Maui’s east side.  On one side is the ocean and on the inland side there is agricultural land near Paia (where the Hana Highway starts) that gives way to rain forest as you continue on.  The Hana Highway is really 3 roads (HI 36, HI 360, and HI 31), and I took all three on my journey to Hana and then 9 miles past Hana to Oheo Gulch and the Haleakala (House of the Sun) National Park Visitor Center.  Stopping to hike to several waterfalls along the way, it took 6 hours to get to Hana from K’a’anapali, and almost an hour more to travel the 9 miles on HI 31 to get to Oheo Gulch.  Those final 9 miles were the most difficult part of the drive.  If you have ever driven in England, HI 31 is most like a “B” road there.  Not quite 2 lanes wide in most locations so two-way traffic has to cooperate and make way for traffic to flow.  Each segment of the highway has one lane bridges where cooperation between opposing traffic is a must.  My hiking and the long drive got me to Oheo Gulch after 5 pm on Tuesday, so my drive back after my hike to Waimoku waterfall would be after dark.  Driving the Hana Highway at night, although a bit scary, is actually easier than during the day since you can see headlight beams before you can see the vehicle they come from.  But if you can’t see the scenery, what is the point of driving the Hana Highway?    (more…)