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  1. #1

    Default My 2005 holiday (vacation) trip report

    Here is the first portion of this years trip report to be closely followed by the second. More to follow as I write them.

    For our first week we stayed in a villa just off the 192 in Kissimee (nr Orlando) with the four of us and another 5 family members who had already been in Florida for a fortnight. It was basically a Disney week with one day in Sea world.

    We picked up an intermediate car from the airport when we landed for getting around during the week. We were given paperwork at the counter in the airport and told to go to the garage and pick any car we liked from the intermediate line (the keys were in the doors of the cars). This was new procedure for me; previously I have always been assigned a specific car. Choice is not always a good thing and there was some significant debate from the rest of the family about what model and which colour to get! We ended up with a silver grey Pontiac Grand Am which had a nice interior (my wife) and had a cool spoiler and colour (my 12 year old boys).

    This was the first time in almost 10 years we had visited Disneyworld without staying in a Disney Hotel. The growth in traffic levels in the surrounding areas in that 10 years was amazing. The 192 was frequently choked with traffic and it was more like the M25 than the wide open roads I enjoy driving on in the states.

    The only significant changes in Disneyworld since we were there last year were the addition of `Soarin' in Epcot which is a copy of the ride in DisneyLand California (an excellent simulation of a hang glider ride around the major attractions of California) and a Stunt Driving show in the MGM studios which is apparently a copy of a similar attraction in Disney Paris and is a very entertaining spectacle.

    Outside of Disney we found a new favourite appetizer the `Bloomin Onion' from the Outback Steakhouse – try one if you get chance (its to share though, don't try to eat one to yourself).

    The week was over before we knew it and we were saying goodbye to the
    others as they flew home and the four of us set off for Salt Lake City (or as the kids would say `we've been to Disney, now Dad is going to the mountains).

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-01-2005 at 10:47 AM.

  2. #2

    Default My 2005 holiday (vacation) trip report - 2

    And here is part two:

    We left Orlando bound for Salt Lake City via Denver. The change of plane in Denver had less than an hour between landing and take off and we were a little concerned about making the transfer. When we landed we were even more concerned to learn that the SLC flight was from a different terminal. However, Denver airport is so well organised with moving walkways and a very rapid automatic underground train between terminals that we made the connection very easily within the time we had despite the enormous size of the airport.

    Arriving in SLC we had moved two time zones from Orlando and were now 7 hours adrift from the UK rather then the 5 for Florida giving an extra couple of hours daylight vs our body clocks.

    We proceeded to the car hire area to pick up the minivan we had arranged with Hertz. I had got the best deal by paying for everything back in the UK and went through the now fairly normal routine of the car hire clerk trying to sell me an upgraded vehicle (which I did not want), insurance (which I already had), a full tank of fuel (which I already had) and to charge me for my wife as an extra driver (which I already had). Having settled that I already had everything he could sell me, we were given the keys and headed for the garage.

    To ensure plenty of room we had gone for a 7 seater minvan for the 4 of us. We got an almost new Ford Explorer and kids were delighted with the armchair seats they had just behind us complete with DVD player that came out of the roof and their own air con and radio controls for the back. We had purchased a portable DVD player before we travelled to keep the kids amused on the long journey days and initially we thought we had wasted our money. However, we discovered that because DVD players are regionally coded, we could not play the DVDs we had brought with us on the vans system and we had to use the portable one.

    I was fairly good at practicing what I preach and I carefully set all the mirrors up and worked out where all of the controls were for lights, wipers, washers etc before I set off. What I failed to do was to scan the outside of the vehicle for scrapes and dents, when I did do this the next day there were several blemishes that I really should have ensured were registered by Hertz before I set off. Fortunately for me, the insurance I had completely covered the vehicle, but be warned, if you have an excess on your policy you really must check the vehicle before you set off.

    We drove the short distance to our first stop a Motel 6 close to the airport and the kids had a splash in the pool – one degree C they claimed for the water temperature – just a little cooler than Florida was the reality. While they were swimming I bought some food and drink (and beer) from a nearby supermarket. I had been led to believe buying alcoholic drink can be difficult in Utah, I'm delighted to report I did it very easily ! We had a snack and then hit the sack fairly early (by local time) but reasonable by our 2 hours out of phase body clocks.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-01-2005 at 10:49 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula


    Sounds like you had a great trip! Thanks for the report.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts


    Glad you had a nice trip. I believe the difficulty in Utah is in regards to pubs and getting someone to sponsor you. I had a similar experience with regards to checking for damage on a rental I had from Alamo. There were scratches all over the hood, and footprints (!) on the ceiling inside the car.

    I am finding traffic, in the most popular locations, to have increased substantially even over the past 2-3 years. It's reassuring (though not necessarily refreshing) to know that another has the same impression.

    Looking forward to learning about what you did in SLC area!

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by TimboTA
    .Looking forward to learning about what you did in SLC area!
    You'll have to wait a while, we left SLC immediately for a two week loop up to Glacier and spent 2 days around SLC at the very end of the holiday. Therefore, it will be some time before I get to that part of the trip.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-01-2005 at 10:50 AM.

  6. #6

    Default Part 3

    Bright and early (our body clocks were telling us it was two hours later then the local time) we were off and heading north.

    Salt Lake City is like a mirror image of Denver. It sits on a flat plain (next to a Salt Lake would you believe) with the Rocky Mountains rising dramatically like a wall to the east behind the city (Denver sits on the edge of the great central plains of the USA and has the eastern edge of the Rockies rising majestically in the west behind it). So with the mountains to our right and the salt lake to our left we headed north on the I15.

    We had only gone a mile or two when I noticed that the fuel gauge was showing empty. My mind went into panic. I could not definitely remember checking the fuel when I picked up the van, but I was almost certain that I did. We left the I15 in search of a petrol station (Gas station to our American friends). A mile or two up the road I pulled in and filled up. I managed to get just over a dollars worth in and it was full - faulty fuel gauge ! I thought about taking the van back but decided to carry on feeling certain that
    some the towns ahead would have a Hertz Depot in them if I needed to have something done with the van. I turned on the engine and the gauge showed full. The gauge then worked for most of the holiday with it dropping down to empty a couple of times before it went back to reading correctly after a mile or so.

    The drive was uneventful and relatively dull just getting some miles on the interstate under our belt. As planned, some 215 miles and 3 1/2 hours later we arrived in Idaho Falls, located our Motel and went for lunch. After lunch we checked in, left the bags and went to explore Idaho Falls. We were lucky that the Museum of Idaho located in the town had a travelling exhibition from NASA and our boys had great fun trying to land a shuttle simulator and playing in a space station mock up. In the same museum was a really interesting exhibit about the history of nuclear power and the fact that nearby was the major nuclear power experimental site for the USA and the town of ARCO was the first to be powered by nuclear power.

    We then headed to the centre of town and the river walk a really well maintained park area along the side of the river looking at the extensive waterfalls that are maybe half a mile long and are now backed by a low weir/dam which is used to generate power. These falls are the reason behind the name of the town and are the place where the mighty Snake River was bridged many years ago bringing people to this spot.

    After a dip in the motel pool, a meal in a nearby restaurant, we hit the sack.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-01-2005 at 10:45 AM.

  7. #7

    Default Part 4

    Here goes with part 4.

    Todays journey was the real start of the holiday for me, off into the wilds. My initial plan for this trip was always to drive up the west side of the Grand Tetons. I have visited the eastern side of the Tetons twice and looked forward to seeing them from their other flank.

    After having it recommended to me I had purchased the National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys scenic road trips. To my delight, on this section from Idaho Falls to West Yellowstone I could take in two of the recommended routes:- the Big Hole Mountains Drive (page 259 for those of you with the book) and the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (page 260).

    We set off east from Idaho Falls on US 26 until we got to Swan Valley then we headed north into the Big Hole Mountains on route 31. Not stunning jaw dropping scenery but an extremely pleasant drive nonetheless along the rim of Pine Creek Canyon, down into the Pine Creek Valley before climbing out and over Pine Creek Pass. We descended down into the broad flat farmland of the Teton Valley.

    This part of the day was a little anti climatic for me as I had anticipated being wowed by the Tetons away to the east. However, the peaks just 'peeked over' the foothills, we were much further away than I had anticipated. We drove on through the rolling farmland and small towns, stopping off at a grocery store to buy some sandwiches for lunch.

    At the northern end of the Teton Basin we took route 47 east at Ashton for the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. You first come to the turnout for the Lower Mesa Falls. A short walk from the car park brings you to a wonderful overlook showing the crashing Lower Falls way down below. A mile or so further along the road is the turn off to the Upper Mesa Falls. Here the car park is down in the valley close to the falls and its quite a drive down the switchbacks on the
    steep canyon sides.

    These falls are magnificent and you can get really close to them on the well maintained paths and walkways. Without the National Geographic guidebook we would never have found this spot, it was worth the price for this place alone. Walking back past the old Lodge my boys were pointed to a 'spotting scope' (at least I think thats what the man called it). Peering through the stubby telescope on a tripod we were all delighted to take turns at seeing an Ospreys nest complete with baby Ospreys being fed. A Lovely spot to sit and
    eat our lunch.

    Onwards we went to West Yellowstone checking in to our hotel in time for the boys to have a play in the park opposite and then have a swim while I found a supermarket and stocked up with beer (a mans got to drink hasn't he ?). That evening we wandered around the town (very touristy, but then again we were tourists). We decided to go to the Imax cinema but the last show had already started when we got there. We had a meal in a small Chinese restaurant and back to the room to get the lads to bed and for a night cap for me.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Those night caps


    Thanks for the latest installment. I like your style -- Night caps are a part of my roadtrips too.


  9. #9

    Default Part 5

    Its been a while coming but here is part 5.

    August 4th. Up early to the supermarket to get food for the day knowing it was a long drive and that at around mid-day we would be unlikely to be close to anywhere to buy lunch. We left West Yellowstone and straight away hit the West Entrance to the park which is on the outskirts of the town.

    I handed all the paperwork we were given by the Ranger to my wife and we set off into the park. A few moments later she said 'we've got a problem there are roads closed in the park'. Pulling up at the next turnout we surveyed the information. Yellowstone has a large figure of 8 road and the West Yellowstone entrance is on the western edge of the bottom of the figure of 8. Having passed through Yellowstone twice before, we knew what we wanted to do. We had planned to cut across the middle of the park and head up the eastern side of the upper part of the figure of 8 after seeing the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was this section of road that was closed. Therefore we changed plan and headed up the western edge.

    We stopped at Norris Geyser Basin and had a walk around one the trails we had not walked before. We were not long out of the crowded car park when the magic of Yellowstone kicked in and I forgot my frustration at not being able to see what I had planned to see. This was the third time I have been to Yellowstone and it still had the impact of an alien landscape with lush green wooded slopes giving way to dead grey bare earth punctuated by deep blue pools frothing and bubbling steam and silver grey dead tree trunks. It really is other-worldly to gaze around at.

    Heading north we drove straight through crowded Mamoth Hot Springs (having thouroughly explored them in a previous visit) and headed east across the top of the park towards the Northeast Entrance. We paused for our picnic lunch in the broad lush Lamar Valley and watched a heard of buffalo across the other side of the creek.

    Onwards we travelled climbing out through Colter Pass and then close to the Beartooth Highway turnoff we hit roadworks, thankfully we were not held up for long. The Beartooth Highway was still closed and so we took the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (296) towards Cody. The drive really came alive as we climbed up away from the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone and up towards Dead Indian Summit. There is a thrilling series of hairpin bends with wonderful views from the apex of many but none to compare with the view from the pull out at the summit. It was marvellous to look back at the dramatic drive we had just taken.

    From there it was a hum-drum drive through farmland up the 120 and into Montana (becomes the 72 in Montana) and on up to Billings. Our hotel was just off the I80 and easily found. Following the obligatory dip in the pool for the kids we ate at a nearby Outback Restaurant and then turned in (following a can or three of liquid refreshment for Dad !).

  10. Default Partners in highway use

    I rode the Chief Joseph and much of your route through Yellowstone in the opposite direction just a few days after you! A couple photos of my journey can still be seen at . Relive your trip! (although I suspect you took your own photos as well?) Bob

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