mandag 28. september 2015

The last week

Day 22 – Chicago

We drove in to downtown Chicago from a suburb an hour north, and parked at the hotel, at a walking distance from the most busy areas of Chicago. From there we walked down to Millennium park to see the famous Cloud Gate, and walked around in the park for a bit. Afterwards we took a bus to Lincoln park where we found the Chicago history museum. We joined a very interesting tour presenting the beginning of Chicago as a town, the origins of the name, and of course the fire, the rebuilding, world fairs and racial confrontations. We spent about three hours at the museum and I could easily have spent another three, if we didn't start to get hungry or have anything else to see.
We took the bus back to the shopping area, and had real Chicago style pizza for a late lunch. Then we went shopping on Michigan avenue, without much to show for it afterwards, some bath cubes from Lush and some candy. After check-in and some rest at the hotel we were still not really hungry after lunch, so we had some real Chicago milkshake for dinner. I had another dip into US specialities and had cotton candy milkshake! It really tasted of cotton candy, I don't see how they make it. I also had a fudge milkshake. Since the milkshakes actually came in small sizes (microscopic sizes in US terms) I decided to have two. 

Day 23 – Chicago – Elkhart

In the morning Tollef went for a run to the waterfront while I slept in. When he came back we got some breakfast, and headed east to Amish Country and Elkhart. The original plan was to go straight to Detroit from Chicago, but then we realised we were going through Amish Country on the way and decided to take some time here. We will be following a Heritage Trail from Elkhart, ending up in Shipshewana, where there is supposed to be a lot of Amish stores and a museum.

Day 24 Elkhart – Shipshewana – Toledo – Detroit

Today was the first day we went really off our planned track, and took some back roads. We decided to do the first half of the Heritage Trail, an audio-guided (driving our car, yes) tour through the Amish Country. Starting out in Elkhart, we got some information about the town we saw the previous day. Then we followed some back roads to the towns of Bristol and Middlebury, while getting some stories and information about sights that we passed. We decided not to stop everywhere, as that would have taken too much of the day.
In Shipshewana we parked and had decided to walk through the town and back. We saw the famous flea-market, a huge stall marked with food stalls, home made furniture and other hand crafted things, clothing, hardware, pet supplies, as well as the usual Chinese cheap stall goods, and a camel you could feed carrots. We walked around for a bit and had a raspberry pie before we walked on.
On the road there were several Amish buggies passing, and there were Amish people everywhere, as well as other local people (a lot of them probably Mennonites, much like Amish but less strict) and of course a lot of tourists. Because the Amish don't like to be photographed I took very few photos in Shipshewana.
After a bit of shopping we visited the Menno-hof museum, learning about the history and beliefs of the Mennonites and Amish peoples, and their lives in Amish country. It was very interesting and I learned a lot. I also realised that I believe in a lot of the same things that the Amish do, even if I lead a very different kind of life. On our way back to the car we stopped for lunch in a small shopping centre, and I got some gifts in their large store, as well as an Amish-style bonnet for myself.

Out of Shipshewana we decided to take a small detour just to get through Ohio and put one more state on the list – a 5 minute detour. And then we chose another scenic route to go past some nice little lakes with a lot of holiday houses along the beach, and really nice and clear water. In Toledo we stopped for milkshake. I just couldn't forget the cotton candy milkshake from Chicago, and we found a Cold Stone Creamery close to the road in Toledo. From there we turned north, and, not for the first time, wove our way through miles and miles of roadwork for the last bit in to Detroit.

Day 25 – Detroit – Niagara Falls

After two nights of bad sleep, I didn't feel very well when I woke up. Possibly also because my body and mind both realise that we are nearing the end of our trip, and is full with impressions, driving, museums, history, eating out and everything else. We are staying at least two nights in Niagara Falls, just to take it easy and relax, apart from a trip out to see the Falls, of course.

Before leaving Detroit we drove around parts of the city and saw some of the empty, neglected buildings that are left several places. Then we drove through the tunnel and came up in Canada. Not very different from the other side of the border, of course, but still very nice. Tollef drove to Niagara so I got some sleep.

In Niagara we had booked a motel quite close to the river. We checked in, and went to a nearby pizza place for dinner. On our way back to the motel we walked by the river and got our first glimpse of the falls, but decided to leave it to tomorrow, since it started to get dark. I suppose we will try to see the sunset tomorrow.

Day 26 – Niagara Falls

To save us some walking de decided to rent a tandem bike to get around to see the Niagara Falls. First, we walked by a spa on our way, planning an afternoon treat for me. Despite quite updated websites they were closed down. Then we walked to the bike rental and got our bike. Riding tandem felt a bit wobbly from the start, but worked out ok. We went down to the Queen Victoria Park and saw the rapids before the falls, and then turned north along the river, getting soaked trying to get a photo of the falls. Then we continued north to the Whirlpool bridge, and then back to downtown. There we dropped by a hotel spa and booked an appointment for me, before delivering the bike and heading back to the hotel for a short rest.
In the afternoon I spent one hour being scrubbed and massage, incredibly relaxing. Tollef met me after the spa, and we went to a nearby American-Italian restaurant for dinner. When we were finished, it was still an hour until sunset, and the sky was clouded, so we just decided to call it a day.

Day 27 – Niagara Falls – Nyack

The easiest way to get from to motel to the mall across the road? Driving, of course!
In the morning, I had a short shopping stop at PetSmart, a chain supermarket for pet supplies. Then we drove across the Rainbow bridge from the Canada side and back to the US. We made a short trip to Goat's Island to see the Niagara from the US side, and then headed south. We weren't quite sure about the plan for the last few days, but at our lunch stop in Bath we decided to stay in Nyack for the last two nights, about an hour from the airport.
Arriving at the motel in the evening, the first thing that met us was four or five police cars surrounding a car and some people. I am still not sure what was happening, but they were gone after we checked in and got our luggage from the car. That is, after changing our room, because the first room we got smelled of smoke.
We thought to go to have some dinner in the mall across the road – apparantly one of the largest malls in the US. The road was very busy and had no pedestrian crossing that I could see in any direction, so we ended up taking the car for the few hundred metres across the road and to one of the main entrances. Taking the same way out after dinner we discovered that we were not allowed to turn left, and ended up driving a mile away to be able to make a u-turn back to the motel. 

Day 28 – Last whole day!

We drove half an hour to the nearby town Port Chester for breakfast and to actually touch the Atlantic ocean. Wow, here we are!
Then we drove north through Hudson Valley, and went for a nice two-hour hike there. It was quite steep in parts, and I am afraid I will feel the result tomorrow. Back in Nyack we had dinner on a brewpub in town, and did some foodshopping before going back to the motel for a shower and a quiet evening.

Day 29 – Nyack – Newark

We got up, finished packing, and drove across the street for some shopping. I didn't really find much, but got a new dog toy and a new blouse. Something for myself, for a change. After a quick lunch, consisting of milkshake, we headed south for the airport, with just a quick detour via a Cracker Barrel store store to buy some last minute gifts.
I'm happy we were early at the airport, as SAS had managed to mess up my upgrade, so it took a bit of time to solve that. Then we settled in the lounge to have some food and wait for our flight back home. Tomorrow morning I will wake up in Norway!

The End

Wow. It's been a great trip, but I am also glad to be home. A month away is a long time, I kind of have gotten used to it, but it will still be nice to get back to everything familiar, and get some routine again. Doing something different, going somewhere new every day, is tiring after a while. We have had surprisingly good luck with most of the motels, nice weather almost all the time, except for one single day of heavy rain, no troubles with illness or anything else.
I have learned so much more about the USA, about the history, cultures, the food, and the land itself. In some ways, it is everything you have seen on TV, and then it is so much more. In many ways the Americans are just like the average Norwegian, they get up in the morning, drive to work, have dinner with the family and spend the evening before the TV. But also there are a larger variety of people, a lot of poorer people than you will find in Norway, a lot of rich people, people of so many different cultures and backgrounds, and a different history. There is a lot of beautiful nature and a lot of fascinating places. I still prefer my own little country, but I do see why people love the different parts of the USA.

The last week we only drove about 1760 km in 18 hours. That is a total of about 8780 km in about 89 hours, pluss in-town driving, navigation to motels, eatingplaces, sights etc. We've been via 18 different states (some more than others).

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