Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Memories From the Road
Although I haven’t traveled nearly as much as I want to and I haven’t laid eyes on even ten percent of the places I want to see in my lifetime, I’ve traveled quite a bit. So far, I have seen more than half of the United States, almost all of Canada and various places in Mexico and Cuba. I made a lot of memories and met some great people along the way and below is a sample of some of my greatest travel memories. When I recall these memories, I am inspired and reminded of how important it is to have these experiences in life and I hope by reading mine, you will be inspired to recall some of your favorite memories from your travels and will share them with others. After all, travel is one of the most educational, inspiring and eye-opening things we can do throughout our lives and when people recall some of their best memories, often, it is from times spent on the road where they made new friends, tried new foods for the first time, immersed themselves into a new culture, fell in love or did something they normally wouldn’t do like bungee jumped off the side of a cliff. For me, it is not just one moment that inspires me to write this post but many life-changing moments that will stay with me forever. Here they are in no particular order…
I remember reading one of my father’s copies of National Geographic as a child and being awestruck at a feature of the Grand Canyon. From that moment on (even if it was the only place I ever got to see), I wanted to see the iconic symbol of America’s southwest. That dream came true in April of 2009 when I traveled to Las Vegas and made a side-trip to the South Rim in Arizona. Because it was my first (and certainly not my last) trip to the Grand Canyon, I decided to do a tour which combined a helicopter ride over and down into the canyon where I than drifted down the Colorado river in a pontoon boat. The experience was surreal and looking at those photos years before didn’t come close to seeing it with my own eyes, up close and personal. Our tour guide gave us the choice at the end of the first leg of the tour to either walk the horseshoe shaped skywalk for an extra fee or to head over to a place that few people are even allowed to go to. This area located on the Hualapai Indian Reservation was gated off and only open to the very few people who had a key and the permission to enter the well-preserved location far removed from the touristy areas. The stillness was incredible and while looking down into that vast canyon, it felt like I was the last person left on the planet. There was literally nothing getting in the way of that perfect moment. No power lines, no cars, no loud tourists, no screaming children, no hotdog vendors…just this large canyon stretching for miles into the desert. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about that incredible moment!
My mother and grandmother often talked about the Magdelan Islands as my great-grandparents hailed from there. The islands, which are located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near PEI and belong to the province of Quebec were always at the back of my mind as a place I would visit one day. That day came in the summer of 2009 when I hopped in the car and made my way to the ferry crossing to PEI and took another ferry to the main island in the archipelago. I was immediately smitten with the laid back, Acadian way of life, the scenic outports and beautiful sandy beaches. Along the highway were giant sand dunes and when curiosity got the better of me, I climbed over those dunes to discover that eastern Canada is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in North America, not Florida as we are lead to believe by travel agents trying to get us to relax in the deep south. The beach looked like it went on forever and was completely deserted. The white sand was the softest I had ever felt on my feet and the water was so warm, it rivaled that of any water I swam in while in the Caribbean. A trip on a Zodiac over rough seas, through caves and around rocky coast to an almost deserted island away from the main island and a spectacular sunset at a beautiful lighthouse were among the other things that made that trip so memorable.
Death Valley, California is not a place that many people think of for a vacation destination but after reading so much about this intriguing place and its many mysteries, I put it at the top of my must-see places. When I left Las Vegas early one morning in April, it was a bit on the cool side and rain was in the forecast. I drove off into the desert and after getting lost a number of times, I found the entrance to Death Valley National Park and kept driving until I found a look-off where I could get out and stretch my legs. Nothing prepared me for the shock I got when I opened the car door and was nearly knocked off my feet by the inferno that was, as I was told, normal temperatures for the valley. I will never forget it! It honestly felt like my skin was frying in that scorching sun.
Las Vegas is a very busy place at all hours of the day but, as one would suspect, Friday night is the busiest time of the week particularly on The Strip. Bumper to bumper traffic across all lanes, pedestrians (who have often had too much to drink) darting out into the street and numerous distractions everywhere all make for hectic and nerve-wracking driving for locals and visitors alike. I had one such experience with the madness that is The Strip one Friday night on my way home from a quiet and peaceful drive in the Mojave Desert and although, at the time, it was a very stressful and nerve-wracking experience, it is one I can now laugh at. I set my GPS to take me straight to my hotel (which was located on one end of the strip) without actually driving down the busy street to get to it. I followed the directions provided and, after a near accident in a poorly marked construction zone and a few wrong turns, I ended up at the opposite end of The Strip. I barely made it in one piece to my hotel a couple of hours later than intended and my frazzled passenger was kissing the ground upon disembarking our rental car. I should have known the rented GPS would fail us because earlier that morning it had gotten us lost on some deserted desert roads…after we programmed it NOT to take us on deserted desert roads!