Friday Thought #93 Awesome America

So I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of a summer break, but I’m back, and despite it feeling like a very long time ago now, I would like to journey back to our American road trip this summer. We try and do at least a 10 day road trip in the States every summer, simply because we love it. It is a country with endless adventures, you could spend multiple lifetimes there and still only scratch the surface of its diversity. Coming from Europe it’s hard to get your head around a land mass that size which is all one country, over here we are so used to being able to hop on a plane and be in another country in little more than an hour. And not just a different country, but one with a totally different language, a new culture, a completely different climate. And while that is just wonderful, the grass is always greener isn’t it?! What you haven’t grown up with is always intriguing and exciting, and it kind of blows my mind that in America you can drive in a straight line for 10 hours and still be in the same state!

I just love the American open roads, the big skies, the sheer enormity of it, the emptiness. Europe is SO full, especially in the summer. You cannot pitch your tent on a public campsite and be more than 5 meters away from the tent next to you. And try driving anywhere on mainland Europe in July and August without being stuck in dreadful traffic and adding at least a couple of hours to your journey. Away from the cities, the States is simply empty. During the week it’s not uncommon to have an entire state campground to  yourself, and as for the wilderness areas, wow, uninhabited wild spaces that size are just mind boggling, and it almost makes me feel worried that I’m never going to have the time or opportunity to fully explore even a fraction of these incredible places.

So enough of my rambling, this trip saw us starting in Seattle and finishing in Portland, Oregon, in between managing to explore a bit of the Olympic Penninsula, stay on a horse ranch in rural Idaho and journey across Idaho and Oregon, taking in some incredible places, including Boise, Bend, Smith Rock, deserted campgrounds, empty lakes, and of course those endless skies.

If you ever plan a trip to the States I can’t recommend road tripping enough. It is by far the best way to see the country. We didn’t really have a set plan, just followed the weather and went wherever took our fancy. The roads are enormous and there is never any traffic, which means that rather than being a chore, the journey to a new destination is all part of the fun, in fact it’s thoroughly enjoyable! Crank up that country music and sit back and relax under those big, open skies…

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Friday thought #43 America’s RVs

One of the most commented on sights throughout our US road trip was not just the amount, but the sheer size of the RVs flying along every highway. I guess being British we’d notice them a lot more as we simply don’t have vehicles like that where we’re from. For starters they simply wouldn’t fit on the roads. Your average European road is firstly too narrow and secondly, far too busy! I would love to see one of these trying to fit down a narrow country lane in rural Wales! (in fact the pick up trucks alone wouldn’t fit, let alone an RV!) But not only are they enormous, I also observed that when stationary, they also extend out to all sides and angles, making them even more gigantic. And much to our delight, we also spotted many of them towing a 4×4 truck behind them.

It put our tiny tent to absolute shame on the campgrounds; I’d hazard that some of them are considerably bigger per square metre than many residential apartments, especially those found in either ski resorts or large cities. We loved watching these blast through Montana, Idaho and Utah in their thousands, but it really did leave us wondering, just how much space does an average couple need when on holiday??!

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Check out all the extra compartments!
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Public coach or single family holiday home??
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Obviously towed by the obligatory giant truck!
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Of course, we’ll need our mobile house AND a pick up truck whilst away…!

Friday thought #42 The Great Salt Lake

I have to admit before coming here I knew virtually nothing about the Great Salt Lake. I’m not sure I even knew it was in the State of Utah. But I can now happily admit that my mind has been blown by this astonishing natural feature, sitting contently in the middle of the vast land mass that is America, so very far from any kind of sea!

I have since discovered that it is 75 miles long and 28 miles wide, the biggest lake in the United States that isn’t part of the Great Lakes range further north. I was confused as to how a body of water this far from the sea could be an actual salt lake, so being the curious English tourists we are, we asked someone! The lake has no outlet other than evaporation, and is fed by 4 major rivers which tumble down to it from the mountains. Just like rivers flowing in to the sea, these carry huge amounts of rocks and minerals containing salt, which remains in the lake when the water evaporates. Due to the sheer quantity of salt arriving in this lake, and the fact that it is so much smaller than the sea, the salinity is vastly higher than that of the sea, 7 X to be precise.

We had to test this out, so after a bit of research we headed for Antelope Island, the biggest of the lake’s 10 islands, for a couple of nights. Utterly stunning would be one of the many ways to describe it here and would still not come close to doing it justice. To access the island you drive across a long, purpose built causeway, with the salt flats rolling away on either side. We came across various tourists pottering round at the visitors’ centre, but predictably enough, as soon as we left to explore the rest of the island we were pretty much on our own. The Bridger Bay campground had arguably one of the best views of any I’ve ever stayed on, and provided 2 of the most relaxing days I’ve ever had; a feeling I very much cherish. There’s something rather magical about swinging in your hammock, reading a book in the sunshine, with wildlife and the gentle lapping of the lake as the only sounds.

So, back to the Salt Lake. For starters the temperature of the water was 28 degrees, not much like the sea in any way (and certainly not in the UK!) It was shallow for a long time so one has to wade out quite a distance to get above knee deep, but yes indeed, once you immerse yourself and take your feet off the bottom you do in fact float in any position you wish to try! It’s difficult to describe, but it’s one father weirdest feelings I’ve ever had. You just float! Imagine sitting in a pool on a lilo, happily floating around, but there’s no lilo. I feel like it is what astronauts must feel like. You can simply barrel roll round and round without even a hint of sinking. You can happily swim along using just your arms, legs just floating out behind you. We couldn’t get enough. Plus, if you scrub your skin whilst in the water, once you’re out and blasted clean with cold water, you feel like you’re skin’s been born again. People pay a lot of money for exfoliating skin treatments that make you feel like that!

I can’t recommend it enough, it’s one of the most unusual and most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. During our time on this island we’ve also had the opportunity to see close up; bison, antelopes, wild deer, eagles and wild hare. Hard to knock. Antelope Island will be tough to leave behind, but we’ll be back, I’m sure of it!

Wild Antelope on the island named after them
Wild Antelope on the island named after them
Wild bison, what cool animals!
A wild bison, what cool animals!
Not a bad camp spot, as they go
Not a bad camp spot, as they go. Salt Lake in the background
The Salt Lake itself, no-one around but us...
The Salt Lake itself, no-one around but us…