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Family Road Trip – Day 5

Happy birthday to Sue & Peter

To accomplish our “monster” driving day of 700+ miles, we got an early start at 630am. Heading east out of the Black Hills to the seemingly endless Prairie of flat corn and soy fields – Interstate 94 due East took us to Sioux Falls for a quick stop and then on to Minnesota.

Tourism in the age if Covid-19
Minnesota state line

We had looked at both the southern route via Chicago and the longer northern one over the top of Lake Michigan in preparation for this trip. Today was decisision day on the selection and we opted for the northern one due to weather and for a special stop.

George Floyd shrine on 38th and Chicago ave

It dawned on us that the only way to balance out Mt. Rushmore is to stop and spend a moment of silence at the George Floyd shrine in Minneapolis.

It is hard to put the horrible 8:46 minutes of suffering at the corner of Chicago Ave & 38th street in perspective and yet, being here in person helped. Documented on video, we all bared witness to a horrendous injustice to a fellow citizen and the event challenges us all to reflect on our own humanity. I was profoundly taken by standing myself at the scene of the crime.

With a heavy heart we drove the rest of the way to Eau Claire, WI for another hotel overnight. Along the route, we stopped along the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis to walk to the middle of the river. A symbolic gesture to commemorate Greg’s first drive across the dividing line of the eastern and western US.

US Army Corps of engineers lock along the Mississippi
Mill district at waterfront in Minneapolis

A cozy bed and air conditioning awaited us for the night courtesy of Best Western Plus in Eau Claire where dogs are welcome. stay tuned for more adventures and details on our lodging experiences tomorrow.

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Family Road Trip – Day 4

Ambivalence is the word we both settled on to describe our feelings about visiting this patriotic national monument in the South Dakota Black Hills. Just a few miles of twists and turns from our overnight stay, we reached Mt. Rushmore.

Mt. Rushmore

Originally designed to attract tourists to this remote out of the way corner of the US, it has gained more attention of late. Since George Floyd, the nation is gripped by renewed focus on racial justice and these four white men carved in rock considered sacred by native tribes symbolize inequality. Add to that the planned rally on July 3rd by he “who shall not be named” and you get the air of awkwardness we both felt.

BTW the renovation sign is not accurate – it was closed off for a power wash of the walkway and terrace at tax payer expense for a presidential photo op for a guy whom brags about not having paid any taxes. How ironic is that!

The Pig Tails – Wooden clover leaf for cars

On to less charged items. We continued our exploration of the Black Hills with a scenic driving loop including the towns of Deadwood, Sturgis of Harley Davidson meeting fame, and Rapid City. Then we chilled out with a peaceful happy hour on a rock outcropping before we returning to Mt. Rushmore in the dark which afforded us views in a very different light.

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Family Road Trip – Day 3

Scenic Colorado Bi-Way 1

A strong cup of coffee got us going quickly as we had an ambitious plan to make it all the way to Hill City, SD. Of course, we never make it easy on ourselves as we added a stop at my former co-worker Natalie’s new house in Granby, CO. That led us through some spectacular scenery off the beaten path.

Our route for the day

The first 80 miles kicked off smooth along I-70 winding itself along the twists and turns of the Colorado River. Then we turned off the interstate and headed into the mountains on unpaved but so worth it scenic bi-ways. in fact, this stunning road took us along the head waters of the Colorado River and the railroad tracks running along in parallel. I had traveled on those tracks back in 1990 on my first trip out west.

A freight train snaking along the Colorado River

A bit of history is in order here to make sense of it. I don’t often share family memories but this was a key trip. Not only was it my last time traveling with my parents, it was also their last trip together as they divorced shortly after that. We had flown from Florida where I had gone to school to Denver to catch the Amtrak train to Oakland. Suffice it to say, it was an epic journey aboard the train which made it very special for me to drive along the same tracks so many years later.

Natalie, Stella and I in her back yard

Our lovely visit in Granby was made even more special by Natalie’ home baked scones and coffee to keep us fueled for the ride that followed. Scenery and mountains soon gave way to endless flat stretches of open road as we crossed into Wyoming and eventually South Dakota to reach our two night home base in Hill City, SD. A well earned night sleep awaited us there. Happiest of all was Stella as she couldn’t wait to jump on a bed.

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Family Road Trip – Day 2

Our co-pilot

With a first hotel stay in the Covid-19 era completed, I am happy to report that the experience was not much different from before. Stepped up hygiene was visible in the room and in the lobby area. No more breakfast self serve, instead guests get a care package for the road. Not bad at all.

Our route today
Arches National Park

We ate the contents of the care package driving along I-80 across the Great Salt Lake to Utah’s capital. Then we continued our journey south through Provo to connect with I-70 and Arches National Park for a stop over. It’s been almost three decades for me and a first for Greg. The memories were strong and the sights did not disappoint even though the crowds were much bigger than offcseason 26 years ago.

The highlight is definitely Delicate Arch which I hiked up to back in 94. This time, due to excessive heat of 102 degrees and concern for Stella in the car (dogs are not allowed on trails at this park), we chose the drive in viewpoint. Still cool and if you zoom in enough you can actually see the arch.

I-70 through the George of the Colorado

Then came out last 3 hours of driving to reach Greg’s cousin Danny’s house which was all gorgeous canyon driving along the Colorado River to Glenwood Springs. A restful night amidst aspens 🌳 and a cool breeze awaited us as did family catch up time.

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Family Road Trip – Day 1

After weeks of planning and evaluations of the various state regulations regarding Covid-19 measures, we finally packed the last items into our car early this morning before we hit the road. Local June gloom soon gave way to bright blue skies and warm temperatures as we climbed into the Sierra foothills.

Today’s stage

Our vehicle is? As is customary for us, we try to pick an exciting car at the Presidents Club lot at Hertz. This time the choice was rather limited and we sort of settled for a 3 row highway cruiser as our best option. The available base BMW X3 felt too finicky and the Cadillac XT5 was the underpowered 4-cylinder model which we knew wouldn’t satisfy our petrolhead desires for power. That left us with an Infiniti QX60 with its V6 3.5 liter engine and three rows of seats. So far so good is our verdict after day one.

With Stella at Donner Pass scenic lookout

Several observations right off the bat. Traffic was heavier than expected – all the way to Reno. It finally thinned out across Nevada after our lunch stop at Noble Pie Parlor (thanks Diner, Drive-ins & Dives) in historic downtown Reno.

Fennel sausage onion and apple pizza 5*

Paired with fewer cars on the road, gas prices dropped to as low as $2.09. Of course we saw that rate after we filled up in Winnemucca for a good $2.22 – Murphy’s law is never far. This stop was interesting for two reasons. For one, ever since reading Tales of the City, I have wanted to stop here one day. Now I can check it off my “to do list.” Secondly, it was a first opportunity observe mask wearing in a rural area. At this Pilot Travel Plaza, staff wore them but 2/3 of patrons did not. A telling sign of what’s to come I am afraid. No wonder then that Nevada tops the new infections list in the west.

Stella on Salt

On to the sights of today. Undoubtedly the highlight was a drive to the Bonneville salt flats with Stella having a chance to run on the salt. She loved it even though she figured out quickly how strong the salt tastes. The experience was magical.

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Family Road Trip – here we come…

National lampoons – Griswold family vacation

Growing up, I looked forward every summer to packing our family car (some Renault or another) to the gills for summer road trips. These past weeks of safely sheltering in place have allowed me to reminisce of those childhood memories. Granted our trips did not entail a dog but everything else was just about as chaotic as the Griswolds – minus the station wagon.

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The World starts moving again – slowly

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No, no it isn’t mine – just a dream – so far

The “unprecedented times” we are all experiencing feel both unnerving and reflective to me.  Never in a million years would I have thought that the skies would be empty of planes for weeks on end.  Never would I have ventured to foresee a day where no cruise ship churns through the worlds oceans and rivers. Never would I have forecast open freeways in the Bay Area as we see them today.

Yet, there is peace and a sense of calm to be gained from this momentary stop to human activity.  

Did you hear the birds chirping?  Are you breathing cleaner air?  I certainly am taking it all in.  I am also dreaming of what is yet to come…

Dream On Video

Enjoy this amazing and aspirational video of travel dreams to come and allow your mind to open toward what comes next.

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The day the world stood still

Lake Brienz

You have undoubtedly noticed the silence on my part as my travel adventures stopped abruptly in late February. What followed were 4 weeks of crisis management unlike any I have ever witnessed in my life.

Golden Princess passes under Golden Gate

I am pleased to report that all our clients have been accounted for and all have safely returned home.

The term “Sheltered in place” has been dusted off to become the term to describe what none of us have physically experienced since World War II and yet, within just a few short days we have all been forced to embrace.

I truly hope all of my readers heed the order and rise to the challenge. It is the only way to return to the life we knew as fast as possible. Trust that I follow the harrowing news out of Italy, Spain and my homeland of Switzerland daily. I admit it feels surreal and the experience threatens all I love about my industry and life in it’s entirety.

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I know that this too shall pass and the urge for adventure, the desire to meet other people, and the lust for travel is alive in all of us and it will burst into the open in a few weeks time.

Stay safe, stay strong and draw from the many memories of trips past to remind your soul that better times lie ahead.

I am Connecting with all of you in spirit and passion till the day arises when the world starts moving again…

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Regent Seven Seas Splendor – bye bye Miami – finally

Miami skyline

A further 24 hours delayed due to 21 foot swells, the Splendor remained docked in Miami till 11pm Saturday night. Once out of the protective safety from the Port of Miami, we could immediately tell that it was a smart decision by the Splendor’ female captain Serena Melani to delay our departure.

Production show

The delay allowed us to enjoy the production show in the Regent Theatre without movement back and fort. Themed Paris and Bohemia, the mini-musical featured songs from Cher, the Gipsy Kings, Enrique Iglesias and others. It was nicely done and 45 minutes long which was perfect for a packed day.

Culinary center cooking class

This newest vessel in Regent’s fleet entertains guests with lavish lounges, a peaceful library, and the culinary center where small group hands on classes are offered. While I didn’t participate myself, I peeked in the door and watched the class prepare an Italian dish.

Industry panel

Among the activities I look forward the most on such ship events is the executive update and industry panel. NCL holdings CEO Frank DelRio delivered an upbeat message about the state of the industry and his three brands (Regent, Norwegian, and Oceania) which are delivering strong performance despite the recent turbulence of virus and global uncertainty. We also learned about an as-of-yet unnamed ship #3 coming in 2023.

Stay tuned for more from aboard Spkendor. My next blog will showcase the myriad choices of suites.

Key Blogs

Regent Seven Seas Splendor – new heights of luxury

Sister ship to RSSC Explorer, the brand new Splendor was officially christened last night in Miami and I was there. Follow me as I discover the many aspects of this ship which Regent says “perfected luxury.”

Beverly Vickers & Gilett Brescia – RSSC BDM friends

February in Miami and all you think of is sunny and warm weather. Yet we arrived with deep dark clouds, a chilly 70 degrees (for Florida) and gale force winds which meant the outdoor christening celebration had to be canceled for the enjoyment and safety of all attending dignitaries and guests.

Above is the skeleton of the outdoor stage that was to be the venue for godmother Kristie Brinkley and performing artist SEAL. As a result, the show moved indoors aboard the theatre which was too small to hold all guests. That meant rather disappointingly we had to be seated in the observation lounge to watch the proceedings on TV. Not as impressive and thus no pictures.

Smokestack of RSSC Splendor

Christening out of the way – with a massive bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne smashed against the hull for good luck – the sailing was ready to start. Stay tuned for more on the ship and our 4-night voyage coming up.