DNA X #28 The Road Home

February 22nd, 2011 by

DNA-XWe aim Blackie south from North Carolina to our final destination: Florida. We have seen some amazing things and learned a lot on our epic expedition to Discover North America. This latest adventure started from Key West, FL the southern most point in the US in June 2010.  We traveled to the four corners of the US and returned in November 2010. In all we covered 36 states and over 13,000 miles. From the steamy south and temperatures of 98F to the snowy Colorado Rockies and 20F, the terrain and climate covered the spectrum. On the cruise home we had some time to assess the highs and lows of our trip. Over all the weather was exceptional! Somehow we managed to avoid most storms and had clear sailing 90% of the time. Our trusty steed, Blackie, was absolutely flawless!  Our intrepid DNA X crew of Pip (the Prairie Dog), Bag (Bag O’ Snacks) and Pad (I-Pad the Great) provided guidance, food and humor to the some times weary Captain Jay and me. We discovered numerous places we want to revisit and others we would like to avoid. For a taste of those check out the blogs of DNA X #’s 1-27. It is almost impossible to sum up everything in detail but here goes a brief list of superlatives to bush-league, the views expressed here are not necessarily those of the management.

Our Favorites:

Hotel- St Julien, Boulder CO (incredible service, great restaurant/bar/spa)

Most High Tech Hotel – 41 North, Newport RI (electronics fuse with luxury)

Food- Restaurant Beck, Depoe Bay OR (creative cuisine, beautiful view)

Coffee- Café La Strada, Monterey CA (downstairs at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa – worth a stay)

Road- California Highway 1 (wow – hold on to your hat!)

National Park- (all of them!) especially Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, WY

State Park- Custer State Park, Custer SD & Humboldt Redwoods State Park CA (many more to investigate)

National Seashore – Assateague Island National Seashore, MD (where the wild horses run free)

National Wildlife Refuge – Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, FL (sea turtles & more)

Government Food Service- State Game Lodge, Custer SD (a pleasant surprise!)

Cleanest National Park – Grand Canyon National Park (a 10 in a class of 2’s)

Roadside Bathroom – None! (pathetic & scary!)

Roadside Attraction- Carhenge, Alliance NE (almost worth the detour)

National Monument- Devils Tower, Sundance WY (no aliens but very impressive!)

Hideaway Resort- Triple Creek Ranch, Darby MT (incredible 5 star experience)

Beach- Zuma Beach, Malibu CA (as cool as the locals think they are)

Winery- Wellington Vineyards, Glen Ellen CA (refreshingly unpretentious, family run)

Romantic Spot- Whale Cove Inn, Depoe Bay OR (the whales will be watching you!)

Scenic View- Big Sur, CA & Jackson Hole WY (you choose)

Best Drink- The Bagatelle, Key West FL (martinis & margaritas)

Best Music – the Hog’s Breath Saloon, Key West FL (the action overflows into the parking lot)

Friendliest People- Boulder, CO (they should give lessons!)

Best Land Rover – Blackie (ok, we’re spoiled)

Best Land Rover Dealer – LR Palm Beach & Flatirons LR (CO)

Best Prairie Dog – Pip (of course!)

 The Bush-League Bunch-

Hotel – The Victorian Inn, CA (bring your own maid & linens)

Bumbling B&B – Miss Molly’s Inn, VA (AC the size of your wallet, room the size of your closet)

Creepiest B&B- Greystone Inn, NC (The Adams Family were waiting to check in but couldn’t find a place to park)

Food Foul Out- Cattleman’s Steakhouse & Fish (?) SD (bad food, bad attitude, bad idea)

Rot Gut Coffee- Hotel in-room machines (those coffee bags must be pre-1990)

Scariest Road- Mt. Washington Auto Road, NH (acrophobic motorists stay away!)

Most Run Down Park Hotels- Yosemite National Park, CA (from “cabins”(sheds) to “luxury rooms”(The Bates Motel) it’s an overpriced national disgrace)Most Disgusting Bathroom- Yosemite National Park, CA (haz-mat suits required)

Most Horrible Roadside Attraction- Prairie Dog Town, KA (no doubt there are others)

Winery with an Attitude- Ledson Winery, CA (a stony, stuck-up vintage)

Hotel Total Deception- Wequassett Resort & Golf Club, MA (no course or club)

Rip Off Ruse – Wequassett Resort & Golf Club, MA – (most expensive hotel, free mold & stains, paper thin walls, ice extra)

DNA-X

We spent a lot of this trip in the National Parks and noticed a common thread; the National Parks are in disarray. Several factors are contributing to this. The parks budget has been meager for the last 10 years and this year it will be cut by 51 million dollars. This may not seem like much but the parks have a maintenance backlog of nine billion dollars. That explains why most of the beautiful old buildings are crumbling to the ground. Throw in the fact that the parks facilities are managed by outside companies that want to make a profit and the result is rundown, dirty, overpriced rooms and restaurants that serve cafeteria fodder and struggle to keep up with service. There are a few exceptions as noted and we hope to find others. Another factor in the crisis is visitor volume.In 2009 there were over 285 million visitors to the National Parks. Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon each entertain 3.5 – 4 million visitors each year and the numbers are increasing. This colossal traffic jam occurs on narrow winding roads that used to accommodate horse trails. The bumper-to-bumper assemblage produces pollution, noise and chaos that stress the wildlife and environment. The visitor “experience” is reduced to barely survivable. What to do? Keep on top of legislators to make sure the parks move forward to renovation not ruin. It may even be necessary to limit visitor numbers. These magnificent parks deserve our best efforts to protect them for future generations. As for when to go visit these jewels, we recommend off-season, early spring, later in the fall or even in winter but do go visit them and don’t forget your park pass. We only scratched the surface of the 58 National Parks and 74 National Monuments. There are also 530 National Wildlife Refuges. We have future plans to continue our Discover North America Expedition (DNA-X) the question is where to next? We thank all the readers who followed us so far and made comments, we hoped you enjoyed the adventure!

DNA-X