The first flight in the Delta B738 in First Class was rather uneventful. We did not fly direct, but via Jacksonville and Savannah to New York JFK. I wonder it is due to the missing ETOPS clearance of the aircraft?
We took FL370 as cruising altitude. On the way; we saw several planes flying in the opposite direction. Most interesting were three Virgin Atlantic B744 aircraft, all going to Orlando, FL from Manchester, Glasgow and London-Gatwick and all in FL400. Near Ocean City, we started our decent into JFK where we landed on runway 13R after flying the famous Canarsie approach. Nice one!
Our airplane to Amsterdam came in at the same time as we landed with ours, so the next flight should be on time.
The impression that NYC is big can be confirmed without a doubt. The idea that NYC is crowded is true, even the airport is. And that NYC has money is undoubted, business seems to be going like no other.
Sven took some additional pictures during the approach, we will add them later.
We left Naples via US-41. At 0930, when we left, it was already 32 degrees Centigrade. We got in a good shower system which steamed up the atmosphere even more. We really felt like being in the tropics.
While driving through the land of the Miccosukee American Natives, we stopped at an Everglades airboat offer. This was quite an experience.
After having a very good Sushi meal near Homestead at “Sushi Sake”, we continued on Florida Highway One down to Key West.
We had time for a short photo stop at the southernmost point of continental US – the end point of our big diagonal crossing – from where we saw big thunderstorm clouds over Cuba, only 90 miles away.
We started our return to Europe by driving to Miami back on Highway-1 and the Florida turnpike. Our last night stop, before the flight home the next day, has been the Embassy Suites Hotel at Miami International Airport.
(More photos from the Keys and Key West to come later)
Our Airboat Ride through the Everglades in five parts:
Today, we stayed in Naples. For a good reason. It was about time to let Sven fly on an aeroplane for the first time with an instructor.
So we went to the flight school I graduated from and got all the necessary pieces of information for Sven’s potential PPL course if he delivers the German A-Levels next year well enough and a plan what he would like to do thereafter.
So we took some pics during the session. Have a look!
I would like to add the message that we finally have added a lot of more pictures in the posts earlier. Feel free to comment at any time and place.
We started the day with a nice breakfast together with our friend from California in the GRAND HYATT hotel. The food was nice, one servant was from Darmstadt and absolutely happy about me speaking the Hessian dialect with her in Florida. Once again a nice meeting with him. We said good bye to Scott afterwards as he was heading out directly to his business meeting – and we continued our trip.
It was short trip from Tampa to Naples, only 370 kilometres in distance. We drove via the I-275 seabridge south of St Petersburg and joined then small Florida highways to see a bit of the town surroundings. That is not too bad as we have already done most of our trip and take this Wednesday as rest day on the beaches of Naples, Florida. This is also why we did more kilometres than foreseen on the direct link.
This town has changed a lot since I have been here the last time in 2003. The old city centre has been renovated and stacked up with new restaurants, shops. All over the place, new housing, condominiums, hotels, shops and realtor agencies have opened or replaced older ideas of living or how to make money. The old Vanderbuilt Inn Hotel, where we stayed in 2001 and Sven learnt swimming, has been demolished and converted into a Condo skyscraper.
I have the feeling that a lot more money is in Naples now, it reminds me a lot more of Marco Island in 2001.
Luckily the beach is still the same. Clear water with soft and white tropical sand. 🙂
Have a look…!
Drive over the I-275 seabridge near St Petersburg:
This was a very uneventful day while driving – no heavy traffic, no cities to see, but a lot of nature left and right of the Interstates I-10 and I-75. Mainly we were passing through loads of forests, farms and swamps. First in Alabama and Northern Florida, the road sides were covered by loads of normal needle trees you can find in any Mediterranean forest, later aside I-75, being replaced more and more by palm trees.
We have completed this trip after 861 kilometres in which we changed the time on our watches for the last time from Central Time to Eastern Time.
In Tampa, we met our friend from California again who is here by coincidence for Business. We met him in his hotel for a nice chat for an hour, very nice! It is good to have friends like this, we know each other now for more than 16 years. 🙂
We stay once again in the Hilton Garden Inn, this time next to TPA airport.
Only a few hundred kilometres are left over in our trip – all of them in Florida, the 11th state of the USA we visited on our trip this year.
Not so far as in the last days, but we have been driving through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Departing from Houston around 1000, we headed East on the I-10. Traffic was not so dense as expected, well, it has been a Sunday morning. But already at this time, we had 32 degrees Centigrade.
After passing the border to Louisiana, we decided to do a short detour and stay on I-10 to drive through New Orleans. During this time, we already had 100 degrees Fahrenheit, around 37 degrees Centigrade. Ufff, that is very hot!
A second detour was done right after passing the border to Mississippi… Down to Gulfport and Beloxi to see the Gulf of Mexico. As it was already evening, just past 1800, we stopped in the HOOTERS restaurant of Beloxi. It was the first time for Sven in this restaurant chain, so he was very amazed about it. We had a very charming and beautiful servant with the name Paige. We talked a bit, told about our origin and what we are doing here in the States. We enjoyed a lot this conversation. So, Paige, if you are reading this, once again, thank you very much for a nice time Sven and I had. 🙂
Afterwards, we headed back to the I-10 and found another Hilton Garden Inn in our planned target for today – In Mobile, Alabama. We really had a very smooth and enjoyable ride today.
Video of our Mississippi Crossing on the I-10 East in Louisiana:
We had a good breakfast In our Hotel in Amarillo and decided to head directly to Amarillo Airport. The air-conditioning system of our Chrysler stopped working. And going into Southern Texas with temperatures of 40 degrees Centigrade is not a god idea without air-conditioning system in the car.
Unfortunately, the only car they were able to give us was a Chevrolet Captiva. Good for driving – but not the type of car we would like to have for a long distance trip. Nevertheless, we decided to take it – no other option available – and drove the Captiva to Dallas.
It was quite amazing to see that we have already lost all the altitude we had earlier on the way between Amarillo to Dallas – from 4000 feet down to 600 feet. And, we saw the first oil pumps and oil refineries – well expected for Texas.
First thing at Dallas – to go to DFW airport and change the car again. Next surprise – they had luxury cars available, but they did not give one of them to us as we do not return it to Dallas as we head to Miami. So we got a Volvo V60 instead – also not bad at all, quite a nice one actually, but I am afraid, not in the class I have booked.
So we continued with it until we reached the outskirts of Houston – where we found another Hilton Garden Inn.
We left Flagstaff around 0900 after a true american breakfast in the Ramada Motel on the I-40 eastbound.
Our first and only tourist stop was the Meteor Crater. It is easily accessible from the Interstate, just five miles away with an own exit. Some 50000 years ago, a Nickel-Iron piece of 50 meter of diameter made a hole of 3/4 mile and 1000 feet after hitting earth with 26000 mph. Pieces of molten metal and earth crust were thrown out up to a distance of seven miles. Must have been a major event for this region at that time.
Afterwards, our trip continued on I-40 East.
When passing the border to New Mexico, we changed our time for the first time.
Passing the mountain planes is incredible. You are always between 5000 and 7400 feet of altitude – and you rarely see a city, village or people living there. It is more or less empty.
The only bigger city we passed by was Albuquerque, New Mexico.
When passing the border to Texas, we changed our watches for the second time. So we lost two hours in one day – and the time difference to Europe went down from nine hours to seven.
More or less with the NM-TX-border, we left the mountains and entered the high plains. Still at 4000 feet, but with loads of cattle around now… and not a single hill somewhere.
This night we stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn in Amarillo, Texas after this amazing nine hour drive.
(More pictures, also from Las Vegas the day before to come later)
We restarted our trip in the morning after having had a good breakfast in the Holiday Inn Express near the newly built Outlet center west of the actual city.
Following I-15 northbound via Baker and the Mojave desert, we reached the Nevada state line after a two hours drive and Las Vegas another 30 minutes later. For sure, a ride on the Las Vegas Boulevard, also called “The Strip” is absolutely obligatory. In comparison with my earlier visits in town, I have to say that a lot of renovation has been done – and most of the casino hotels were transformed into expensive holiday resorts. Even so, loads of people were there ready to spend all their money… I met several German, French and Spanish families.
After riding several times on the New York New York roller coaster and having lunch in an “all american Hot Dog restaurant”, we continued our trip southeast-bound. Hoover dam is now closed to pass over by car, a bypass bridge has been built, so we actually did not see the dam, but Lake Mead very well before. The bridge is also the border between Nevada and Arizona. So, for the first time we passed through three states of the US in one day.
The weather started to get windy, cold and rainy in heavy showers – unfortunately it stayed as such until Flagstaff.
In Kingman, we joined I-40 eastbound, exiting it again after 1.5 hours in Wheeler. It is quite interesting that we climbed from 3000 feet altitude in Kingman to nearly 7000 feet on this path.
Facing Northbound, we joined the Grand Canyon National Park an hour later. 12 degrees C, heavy rain showers – but luckily we got enough time to take some photos without getting wet.
To finalize our day, we decided to go to Flagstaff to spend the night there. Bad decision money-wise as it has been the weekend of the students moving in for University – prices in the motels were astronomically.
Drive on I-15 towards Las Vegas in the Mojave desert, descend towards Baker:
We left our friends’ house at 0630 in the morning as they got out of the house at approximately the same time.
Our trajectory was South, to meet California Highway 1 at Half Moon Bay.
We continued to drive down the coastal path towards San Luis Obispo and rejoined US-101 not much later. Some kilometres before actually reaching the Ocean again, we changed our plans and took California Highway 166 eastbound, just north of the mountain ridge of Santa Barbara. Eventually, we rejoined US-101 and continued on it until reaching Los Angeles city perimeters.
Sven asked to take a short bath at Venice Beach – time for the last photos of the Pacific Ocean during this trip. In Venice, the life on the beach seems to be very colorful, however… is it a really safe and trustworthy area? – No, it is not. It is rather a commercial devil’s place with threats you better don’t think of. Well, I don’t like LA because of this, however, having a dip at Venice beach once in a life time is a priceless thing to do.
We continued through abnormal dense traffic in LA – as expected. Required task: We needed to reach the other side of the Greater Los Angeles area as the new direction target is Las Vegas. Not quite the best idea if you do that at 1700 local time – absolutely awful! For 70 – 80km, we saw Stop and Go all the time and it took us 2.5 hours.
Shortly after 2030, we finally reached Barstow in the Mojave desert where we found a relaxing HolidayInn Express hotel to spend the night.
We tried hard to get some more sleep in Gualala, but both of us were wide awake again at 0430… Nevertheless, the night in the hotel on the ocean was great.
We finally took some more time in our trip plan as we are scheduled to meet our friends in the bay area later today and the distance is not so far. So we had time to go for a nice breakfast in our hotel. Sven took self-made waffles – not easy!
We started driving around 1030. Sven took the steering until we reached San Francisco.
We followed strictly Highway 1 and crossed the San Andreas fault line for the first time near Point Reyes Station. Shortly thereafter, we rejoined US-101 and crossed the Golden Gate bridge.
We parked our car in a lot near Fisherman’s Wharf to visit some places there, take pictures and to have a good lunch in the city of San Francisco.
After taking some more pictures from the Coit Tower telegraph hill, our friends reached us by phone to organize dinner with them in a top class American steak house in their home town Los Gatos – located in the south western area of Greater San Jose, 1 hour south of San Francisco.
We stayed finally at their house over night in the hills of Summit Road in Los Gatos and had a very relaxing and quiet sleep.
What a fantastic drive along the Pacific coast line on US-101 and later the northern part of the famous Highway 1 of California! Sometimes, we passed through small towns of 500 inhabitants in distances of 20-30 km… only rarely a larger city, like Eureka, CA – in between nature pure, even the forests, lakes and river valleys seem to be untouched ever since they exist.
We left Tillamook, OR early in the morning as we realised that we will have a very long drive through narrow roads with low velocity. It was not as bad as I thought at the beginning, so we were able to go quite a long way – 924 kilometers today.
Most interesting were the views on the beaches and the passes through the forests – both with all its fauna and flora included.
Along the Pacific coast line, we followed US-101 highway down to the Oregon – California state border. We continued on it through Redwood National Park (see the video of these enormous trees) and the lands of the Yurok American-Natives people with its Klamath river. In Leggett, we left US-101 eventually, turned right and joined California Highway 1 which led us through forest mountains and hills on a very curvy and adventurous drive. Sven is very happy having taken this particular route on our drive. We have recorded two videos here.
After several small stops to enjoy the countryside at vista points, we arrived in Gualala, CA – approximately 185km north of San Francisco, CA – in the early evening.
We went quickly in a Home made Pizza shop next door to our hotel and enjoyed a glass of beer in front of our chimney while having a look over the Ocean.
We have also made three videos.
Passing through Redwood National Park – These trees are amazing!
California Highway 1 between Leggett, CA and Rockport, CA – Part 1
California Highway 1 between Leggett, CA and Rockport, CA – Part 2
After waking up way too early in our hotel at Seattle Tacoma airport – thanks to the ever present jet lag of nine hours – we went to have an all American breakfast at Denny’s.
Then off to collect our rental car. There was a problem with the computer data transmission as one of the main data servers failed over night. The poor lady behind the booth had to fill in everything in manual as our valid voucher was not fully accessible – it was in the system and confirmed, however the rental details did not show up.
In National’s VIP range of vehicles, we were invited to have a look at all available ones, at the end we too a 2014 Chrysler 300. Good engine, XM satellite radio and nice audio system, leather interior… not to bad, however, incomparable with Bretzelmobil. 🙂
After checking out from our Radisson hotel, we drove to Boeing Paine Field in Snohomish and Everett. This is the main production site of the big Boeing airplanes, such as 777, 747 and 787. Even on Sunday, they did some tests, a Turkish B777 in Primer colours made an RTO. In the information center, we had a look around and bought some cups to remember our visit.
Then we returned to Seattle and went on the Space Needle. What a crowded place and tourist trap – however, we made it in the end and were rewarded with a nice view over Seattle.
At last… we were able to start the main part of our trip – our journey through the States. Following I-5 southbound, it did not take very long to recognize that we are in heavy traffic… this has been far to stressful. So we exited I-5 at Olympia and joined US-101 near Aberdeen along the Pacific coast. This is what I have been looking for. Nature, a calm ride, good streets – and wonderful sunny cloudless weather. Time for Sven to take the steering. These views are so priceless, the nature seems to be widely untouched. Signs on the road to watch out for “elk crossing” were seen a lot. 🙂
At Astoria, we went over the border from Washington to Oregon. This is a sea bridge over the local fjord, so it has been an interesting and high crossing.
Already late afternoon, our friend – the jetlag – called in quite substantially. So we continued until Tillamook, still on US-101, where we stayed the night in a friendly and simple roadside motel.
A short video of the beach at Rockaway Beach can be seen here:
The bridge crossing in Astoria, Oregon:
One minute with us on the US-101 in Washington State:
Shortly before 2300 Pacific Summer Time, means 0800 on the 17AUG2014 in Europe, we touched down in Seattle on runway 16C. 20 hours of travelling came to an end eventually. The investment in the business class travel was worth it, albeit the connection from Frankfurt via Amsterdam and Minneapolis to Seattle has been very long.
Resting in the Radisson Airport Hotel just outside Seattle Tacoma airport for a night. The hardest thing will be the time adjustment for us – Nine hours of time difference are not so easy to cope with.
This morning, we will go and rent our car for the next 12 days. Lets have a look which one we get and if Sven will be allowed to drive. Going to be another interesting day – looking forward. 🙂
Just landed in Amsterdam Schiphol airport… Bus transfer to the terminal, all fine, no problem!
After Passport control, Euro to Dollar cash exchange and a check where our departure gate is, we went to the KLM crown lounge. A name which is absolutely appropriate to this place. I have never been in such a nice airport lounge… spaceous, quiet, a vast selection of food and drinks… including even hot spaghetti bolognese and the finest wines, beers, spirits… I feel very welcome and special at this place.
Our flight to Minneapolis is on time, boarding starts in 50 minutes.
So we have some time to relax and enjoy this also important part of our vacation trip.