TRAVEL REPORT USA 2000

Hello everybody!

This is the story of our holidays in the United States of America, from Sept. 3-25, 2000. We decided to write one full report and send it to all our friends and family, so we don’t have to write it over and over again. And now it's also available on my internet site.

Sunday, Sept. 3rd, 2000.
We started our trip on Sunday morning, when we drove up to Schiphol Airport and checked in. No problems here and everything went very smoothly. It was finally time to spend our holidays in the US. The flight was quite OK, although we had a delay of about one hour and fifteen minutes. They entertain you very well on such a long flight (nine hours). After you’ve finished your drinks, they give you a newspaper. And when you’ve finished reading that, they serve your dinner, coffee and a light snack. Inbetween, we watched the movie ‘The Flintstones In Las Vegas”, which was kinda boring actually. The other Flinstones movie was much more enjoyable, I think. We also filled out our green cards. We finally arrived at Newark (airport) in the afternoon. After collecting our bags, we had to go through customs. No problems here either. The weather however wasn’t that great. Lots of rain showers and haevy thunder storms. We ordered a shuttle but that would bring us to 45th Street. At the Ramada Inn (where we would stay the first two nights) in New York City, we met Freddy de Preter, our ‘Dutch speaking’ tour guide for the whole trip. The man was born in Belgium, but lived in Los Angeles right now. He was quite OK as a guide. He took care of most of the arrangements, but his Dutch ‘slang’ was a bit funny. Freddy gave us an envelope full of information and told us when we were about to leave for our city trip the next day. Our luggage was brought upstairs. And after this long trip, we decided to sleep for about an hour or so and then go into town. New York is really beautiful! At times Times Square even looks like Picadilly Circus in London, only a lot more impressive and with lots of neon light. The streets were crowded but it was really nice just to walk around a bit. After an hour or so we decided it was time to go to bed, because the next day we would see the city with a guide and we would have the rest of the day off to do a bit a shopping (or look around) in this large city.

Monday, Sept. 4th, 2000.
We woke up quite early already. It’s the positive thing of travelling in Western direction. It was about 5 o’clock and we were ready to roll! At about 8 o’clock, we met our busdriver Robert (still don’t know his last name). He was a very quiet man, who never made any contact with the people, but he was one helluva driver! During our trip, we got two ‘guest’ guides. One in New York and the other one in Washington D.C. Reason for that was that Freddy wasn’t authorized (yet) to guide in these two cities. This morning we were handed over to Robin. An older guy, who spoke fluently Dutch. He showed us a lot of nice places. And sometimes we could leave the bus to take some pictures. He took us to the Opera House, 42nd Street, Times Square, Broadway, Central Park, Harlem (which is being renovated at the moment and looks pretty well now), Battery Park (from where we could see the Statue of Liberty), Wall Street and in a coffee shop near Third Street, we had our first cup of coffee. They charged us US$6 (which is around Hfl. 15,--) for a piece of Tiramish cake!!! Welcome to America! The coffee shop was in the Italian area of the city. And after this, the first people started mugging already because of the very high prices. It wasn’t so bad however. Robin had just chosen the most expensive coffee shop in the whole neighbourhood – that was all. Although I must say, that America is very expensive country for us Dutch people. 1 US$ - Hfl. 2,60; but we should have counted more on a 1:1 base, otherwise we’d have never bought anything, I guess. Oh well, the bus dropped us off at the hotel again and we decided to take a walk. From 42nd Street to Central Park and then through Broadway to the Tower Record store on Third Street. We also make a stop at the Hard Rock Café on 57th Street. A long walk with lots of rain, but we saw a lot of nice stores inbetween. We didn’t buy anything at all. After all, we still had a long way to go. When we arrived back at the hotel, we watched a STYX special on VH-1, containing a lot of rare footage. I missed my video recorder a lot, when that happened!

Tuesday, Sept. 5th, 2000.
It’s time to say goodbye to New York. But on our way to Philadelphia, we still get an excellent view of the beautiful skyline of New York with the Empire State Building. Philadelphia is next on the list. We get to see the famous Liberty Bell, which is very important in the American history. We walk through a part of Philadelphia that is important because it was there that the foundations of the United Nations were laid by famous former American Presidents such us Washington, Roosevelt and Franklin. We use the sparetime that we’ve got, to pay a visit to our second Hard Rock Café on this trip. This looks much better than the one in New York. Especially, since it has memorabillia of THE RUNAWAYS and Randy Rhoads – two of our favourite artists. After a good meal there, we continue our trip to Baltimore. This place looks real cosy. They dropped us there to take a look at the harbour and to watch the sealions, who were swimming in a water basin near the harbour. Or to pay a visit to the third Hard Rock Café on our list. In the meantime, we already became very good friends with Edwin and Sabinje from Hunsel in Limburg. They were married for six years and resp. twenty-nine and twenty-six years old. But they both liked hardrock music and had a great sense of humour as well. A perfect match for us – so to speak. What’s the use of visiting all these Hard Rock Cafes? You might wonder. Well, besides playing good music and serving good food, they always treat you like a king (or queen). The people are very friendly and very helpful. In fact, it’s just a very cool place to hang out and eat or drink something. The temperature was rising as we were heading for Washington. We stayed at the Washington Hilton, which was in the NW part of the city. The city is divided into four quarters. Take the White House, put a cross over it and name the four quarters: NW, SW, NE and SE (NW means North West of course). Some people of our group went to see this city at night with all the lights shining on these old buildings. But as we had planned a long tour to this beautiful place tomorrow, we decided to skip it and get something to eat instead. Just around the corner of our hotel there was a long street full with different restaurants varying from French to Egyptian, Korean to Gambian food. Anyone who liked to taste an exotic dish came there. We decided just to take a sandwitch and come back here tomorrow for a more exclusive dinner. The next day we were about to see the city of Washington under the guidance of our second ‘guest’ tour guide, Anne.

Wednesday, Sept. 6th, 2000.
The capitol of America is Washington D.C. It shows some resemblance with London in a certain way. There are a lot of beautiful old buildings. The most important part of the town is the North Western part. Almost all the major activities take place there and actually it’s the only quarter that we’ve visited with our guide Anne. Originally born in Breda, my hometown. She gave a very clear explanation and showed us all the interesting buildings in the morning. The obelisk, opposite to the White House. You can climb inside it and get a good view over the city. The White House itself, where Bill Clinton is settled at the moment. But either Bush or Gore will replace him soon and take over his duties for the next four year. A rule that says that in these four years they will at least have to visit the church, which is opposite to the White House. No matter what religion they have. We can see the row of people that want to do a tour through a few rooms of the White House. Every museum and/or public place are free to visit. So is the White House. They even do a guided tour for one hour, for which they supply free tickets for the (very) early visotors. While the people are waiting to get inside, they get to hear what they may do and what they may not do inside. On the South side there’s a street with no traffic, except pedestrians. But Washington is more than the White House. In front of the White House, there are more than six different museums. The ministries and some other official buildings are there, too. The Capitol, the Pentagon and the headquarters of the F.B.I .– It’s all there. The F.B.I. building can be visited by tourists as well. For what I heard, it must be quite interesting to do so. But Anne also showed us some black pages in the American history. Monuments for people that fought in the various Wars with Korea and Vietnam. This made me quiet for a while. We also visited the Arlington National Cemetary, where John F. Kenedy and Martin Luther King are burried. At the end of her presentation, we said goodbye to Anne. She drops us off at The Mall. The only negative aspect of this extra long guiding tour is that Anne forgot to take a coffee break, but her stories were very impressive. Ten minutes later, everybody was to be found at the restaurant of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We had a short look around in the hall of the museum and went straight to the Museum of Natural History, to spend most of the afternoon. Then we realized that the Hard Rock Café was just around the corner, so we went there as well and drank a small coke. Afterwards, we went to the hotel and then back to the street with all those nice restaurants. We choose the Indian restaurant. You can easily try the Chicken Tandoor in America. It’s by far not as spicy as in Holland, but it was very delicious and not too expensive.

Thursday, Sept. 7th, 2000.
We leave the capitol of America and soon we will arrive at another black page in the American history. Because in Gettysburg, we visit the battlefield of the Civil War. A lot of people died here at a war between general Meade (North) on one hand and Robert E. Lee (South) on the other hand. We see the monuments in this beautiful but sad parc. In the visitors centre, there’s a museum full of drawings, pictures, weapons, etc. of this war. Opposite the visitors centre there’s a small cemetary with the grave of the ‘Unknown Soldier’. And although there has been a terrible war going on here, Gettysburg looked like a very peaceful city now. We had our lunch in a small shopping centre nearby. The shopping centre is owned by a group of Amish people. A religious group who can be recognised by their clothing. The men wear a straw hat and the women always wear skirts. Some of them don’t even have electricity, a car or whatever. It’s forbidden. The people are very friendly, but they don’t want you to take a picture of them. Their spaghetti meatballs were delicious! We continue our trip amd we drive parallel to the Susquehanna River. This might ring a bell to some of you people. Why??? Because the famous Three Miles Island is an island in the Susquehanna river. It was in 1979, that there happened a nuclear accident at that place. America closely escaped from a real disaster! The nuclear factory is still there but the safety rules have been sharpened a lot since the accident. Finally I see big power generators. Two on each side of the river. Water and power generators bring us to our final distination that day – Niagara Falls. But before we enter the city of Niagara Falls, we have to cross the Canadian border. They kindly ask us to come out of the bus to get a mark in our passport. We can continue our trip afterwards. We see the falls from a distance, but we move on to the hotel. We would visit them the next day. Except for some people, who couldn’t wait, they went to “The Falls” to watch them at night. They would look very beautiful with all the coloured lights shining on them. But we decided to get something to eat instead. Together with Edwin and Sabinje, we walked downtown and we got to know each other a bit better this way. The falls are on our list tomorrow.

Friday, Sept. 8th, 2000.
During our ride to Niagara Falls, we pass a few streets full with haunted houses, a wax museum and some other inside fun exhibitions. But first we go to the impressive Niagara Falls. The Fall is down for thirty miles, but their width is even more impressive with its 500 miles!!! Best thing to do there is to be quiet and watch this wonder of nature real closely. The feeling you get can not be described! Most of the people from our touring group step on a boat, that takes them right in front of the waterfalls. It’s called ‘The Maid Of The Mist’. Afterwards they’ll have lunch in the Skylon Tower. This tower is about hundred and eighty miles high and rises high above the city. I’m sure you’ve got a splendid view over the falls from there, but we decided to have fun and check out the street with all the fun palaces. These streets are like one big fair. One long street full of fun palaces and haunted houses as far as your eues can reach. It’s just cool to walk around there and check out a few souvenir shops. On the ground they’ve created a walk of fame. The rockstars (OZZY, HEART, ALICE COOPER, VAN HALEN) lead you to the Hard Rock Café, while the moviestars lead you to Planet Hollywood. We had our lunch at the Hard Rock Café. A good choice, because they have a small Randy Rhoads section here with some nice pix. I’m getting quiet, when I see a picture of his coffin with thousands of flowers. It’s been eighteen and a half years ago that he died in a plane crash, but I still remember his death like it was yesterday! It was one day after my own birthday. But enough said about this! After our lunch we had a walk through the beautiful parc that leads us right to the Skylon Tower, where we meet the rest of the group. They tell us that the service at the lunch was very bad and the food wasn’t too well either. I am glad we ate at the Hard Rock Café! We continue our trip to Toronto now. Toronto made a great impression on us. There’s so much to do and to see. In the afternoon we do a tour through the city. We walk around the neighbourhood of the CN Tower – the highest, freestanding building of the world. Then we go to the stadium of the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s one of the newest stadiums, completed with shops on all sides of the stadium. The Hard Rock Café is also situated there. At the end of our walk we miss two people of the group. We find them back soon and drive through the shopping streets of Toronto to make a stop at the City Hall. A rather new building, designed by the Finnish architect Viljo Revell. Here we also see a lot of statues of mooses. There are a lot of different statues of mooses in the whole city. The tour has ended here and we go to our hotel, which is opposite to the Maple Leaf Gardens. In about five minutes we’re outside again, ready to check out the city of Toronto. There’s a lot going on in the city. When you’re there you must definitely check out Sam the Recordman – a huge record store. The Hard Rock Café – the second one in this city – is completely full and so we decide to eat in the new mall. We spend the rest of the evening shopping. What a shame we will leave this city tomorrow again.

Saturday, Sept. 9th, 2000.
Today we leave Canada again. But first we can spend our last Canadian Dollars at the MacDonalds in Windsor. The last Canadian town we pass on our way to the American border. At the border they come in the bus the check our passports. Everything is allright, but one of the people from our group is caught filming while this lady entered our bus. She made quite a lot of difficulties about it. Finally, the man has to errase the stuff from his videotape. When everything is allright again, we continue our way to Detroit Rock City. We see the skyline from the other side of the river that connects Lake Eerie with Lake St Claire. It looks very impressive! When we arrive in Detroit, we drive directly to the mall where we can have our lunch. There’s not much time left to go downtown. What a shame, because it’s here where we could meet people of my all-time favourite metal band HALLOWEEN. A bit disappointed we decide to do a monorail drive, which will give us a short view over the city. A fifteen minutes look at Detroit for only fifty cents!!! This ride becomes our second disappointment. Detroit is a dead city. There’s nothing happening there anymore. A lot of big buildings are deserted and with the broken windows and cracked doors, it looks like Dteroit has survived a war…yesterday. There’s a stop at the world famous Cobo Hall , where TED NUGENT and BOB SEGER used to play for a sold-out audience. Now it’s only used where it was build for in the first place: the sports events. One pretty look at the river shows us the place where we saw the amazing skyline of this dull city. Detroit Shock City looks like a mess! Half of our touring group will visit the Henry Ford museum. It is situated in Dearborn – one of the suburbs of Detroit. The museum tells the important history of the huge automobile industry in this part of America. Detroit is Ford and Ford is Detroit. But I drive Toyota and Rita Peugeot, so we decide to go to the hotel, which is a few miles away from there. The hotel invites us with a welcome salad and drinks! It tasted good and we get to know a few older people from our group a little better. When we go to sleep, we don’t know what we would get a rather unpleasant surprise in the middle of the night. What happened was that the fire alarm went off at about 03.30 hrs. We jumped out of bed and got together on the parking lot in front of our room. Nothing really happened however. In the rush, Miranda (one of the people from our group) misstepped herself. Later it seemed that she broke a bone in her foot. She continues the trip in a wheel chair. But where was the fire? When we take a walk around the hotel, we see that we’re the only ones standing outside (a group of twelve persons!). The man in the lobby tells us that some kids were smoking in their room and the alarm went off. At 04.10 we go to bed again. This night was perfectly matching with the city of Detroit: rather disappointing! Trick or treat…….no HALLOWEEN tonight (and no pleasant dreams either!).

Sunday, Sept. 10th, 2000.
After reading the story of yesterday, you won’t be surprised that the next day started with rain and heavy thunderstorms. Today we’re going to Chicago. The city of Al Capone. The city of the highest skyscraper – the Sears Tower. The city of the blues and the city of the band TROUBLE. I didn’t know what to think of Chicago at first, but we were in for a very positive surprise. Nothing world-shattering, but Chicago is a very cosy and beautiful city. The first view, we get of this city is the skyline. Our bus is parked in the Lake Shore Drive. On the corner there’s a big Planetarium. From there, you have a nice view of the city skyline and the pier. The bus brings us to the pier. He passes a beautiful fountain – a real monument that caught my eye. We have our lunch on the pier. There are also a lot of shops in a big mall. In this mall there’s an old style jazz band playing on a stage. The pier is full of bikers, skeelers and skaters. Everybody was just enjoying the beautiful weather. In the afternoon, we make a trip through the city. It looks impressive. The city even has a small beach. There are lots of old buildings, beautiful old bridges, lots of shops and a cool Hard Rock Café. We have dinner there, while the rest of the group go to the Sears Tower and have dinner at a barbecue grill while listening to blues music. The Hard Rock Café was reorganising, so we had to wait for a while. A photographer makes a picture of us there. We should be able to download it from the internet in about a week or two, so he tells us (and he’s right – it looks very nice!!!). Next to the Hard Rock Café there’s a third big chain rising. After Planet Hollywood, you can also eat at the Rainforrest Café now. You see them in a lot of American cities and two years ago, we also saw them in London. It’s like you’re eating a steak in a real rainforrest with all the animals and even a real aquarium, etc. On our way to the hotel, we pass a record store, which is called “Chicago Blues”. You can buy old blues records there and teeshirts with their logo on. Even 78 rpm records! In the store you can see a few wax figures of people enjoying blues music. Chicago really has got the blues but we are moving on towards Sioux City.

Monday, Sept. 11th, 2000.
We can easily call this ‘the river day’ or something like that. Today we will cross two very important rivers in the American history. First up, we’ll cross ‘the father of all rivers’, the mighty Mississippi (spelled with its four s’ses and two p’s). The tour will take us through a landscape which is full of cornfields. As far as your eyes can reach, you will see them. Our trip will end at the borders of the second big river in this part of the US, namely the Missouri. It’s gonna be a long drive today and also tomorrow. And after a hundred miles of cornfields, you’ve seen it all! Today we will see about six hundred miles of cornfields. It's hot outside, when we reach the visitors center of Illinois. A place where we can get a cup of coffee. On the first floor of the building you have a nice view over the Mississippi. Then we continue our trip again, leaving behind the cornfields on both sides. Reason enough for Freddy to show us a video. We get to see “Dances With Wolves” with Kevin Kostner – a million selling movie, which everybody probably still remembers….. Right before the end, we reach a parking lot. It’s time to stretch our legs. While we see the end of the movie, we slowly reach the area where the Missouri is flowing. At the border of the river, we pass a floating casino. It’s build in a giant boat and covered with a lot of coloured lights. Straight over the bridge that crosses the Missouri, we enter the state of Nebraska. Our hotel is at the bank of the river. After we went to the local McDonalds, we decide to take a walk over the bridge and back. Just to be in Illinois for the last time, I think.

Tuesday, Sept. 12th, 2000.
Today we leave Nebraska. We go over the bridge and take the road that runs next to the Missouri. It will lead us to some more cornfields and more cornfields…. After the plains and prairies, we slowly move our way to the Wild West. But because we couldn’t get enough of the cornfields, we decided to stop at the Corn Palace. The building is fully covered with different figures – all made out of corn. Inside the building there’s an exhibition about corn (what else?). They also use it for theatre shows and sport events. Some people buy a bag of popcorn or drink a very very sweet cappucino, which tasted more like sugar water according to some of them. The next stop on our trip is at the Badlands. The Badlands owe their name to the fact that the farmers weren’t able to use the ground for their activities. Too many rocks and mountains. It was ‘Bad Land’, but for tourists like us it surely looks beautiful. You see the most exciting forms and colour changing in the rocks. We go to the visitors centre. There’s an exhibition of animals that live in the Badlands. Somewhere at the end of our trip through this National Park, we see the first three deer, which was highly impressive! We leave the Badlands after our first impression of the real ‘Wild West’ and we drive on through the Black Hills. Our next stop will be at the masterpiece of Gutzom Borglum. The four faces of the American presidents are carved in a rock. George Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Rossevelt look down at you from this mighty rock that we all know as Mount Rushmore. We take a walk through the parc, which leads us to a sight just under these four faces. It’s like ‘Deep Purple in Rock” with one face missing. The workplace of Borgum is also in the parc, but it’s closed at the moment we arrive. Instead of this, we see a mountain goat climbing on the hills, looking for food. The visitors centre has a wide range of souvenirs and snacks. It seems that they’re working on the face of an indian in the rocks right now, which will be ready somewhere in 2001. The face will be situated a bit away from the four faces, that stare at us when we leave the parc. We spend the night in a town called Rapid City. The entrance of the hotel looks really beautiful. Bears are climbing upon wooden trees in the front of the hall. The food in the restaurant tastes very good. I was a bit afraid that the waitress would throw us out, because we were constantly joking, laughing very loud and making fun at everybody, who dared to get near to our table. There must’ve been something in the drinks. However, the tip we gave her will make her forgive and forget us, I hope.

Wednesday, Sept. 13th, 2000.
Nature will also be a very important issue on the next day of our trip. We’re going to the Black Hills and across them. The Black Hills are huge and it all looks very impressive. The highest hill we’ll reach is about 1800 miles (2700 meters) high! We decide to make a stop at a town called Wyoming. Cowboy hats, leather boots, post coaches, a gate made of deer horns and if you have good ears you can almost hear the cowboys chase the Indians. Welcome to the Wild West as we know it from the many cowboy movies on television. From the outside, it looks like the time stood still for a couple of hundred years, but hey, that wooden building over there is the “Ripleys believe it or not’ museum. It looks like an old wooden saloon, but it’s a decent restaurant. Glad that we weren’t caught by the Indians, we leave Wyoming and continue our trip to the Bighorn Mountains. We will also get the chance to make a walk there and see a giant waterfall. It’s a long walk down, but that’s really not a problem. The climbing back is much more difficult and that’s why a lot of people decide to stay at the top of the mountain. They can enjoy the nice view and buy some souvenirs. However, the walk wasn’t as difficult as we thought and the waterfall was very impressive indeed! The end of todays tour is in Cody. Some people are visiting the Buffalo Bill museum there. But after the long walk in the Bighorn Mountains, we decided to take a short walk downtown only. The cabins where we spend the night were very cozy. The wooden cabins made us look like we were hunters, like the good old Buffalo Bill. It seemed like we’d stepped into a timemachine, when walking on the streets in Cody. You wouldn’t say that it’s the year 2000, when seeing all these wooden houses. But a lot of those houses were in fact used as very expensive souvenir shops, where you could buy your leather cowboy boots or Indian feathers. It was nice to see the diversity in cowboy hats (and all in very good quality of course), but everything was way too expensive for us poor European tourists! ; 0 ) We decided to have dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. As it was quite hectic there, we were put on a waiting list, which is a very normal situation in the US. After about twenty minutes we decided to just take a seat and we were served almost at once by a kind staff member. Then we went back to our wooden cabins…..waiting for the big bad wolf to knock on our door!!!!!!

Thursday, Sept. 14th, 2000.
Our next day, we spend almost the whole day in the mighty Yellowstone Parc. When you look at a detailed map, we entered the parc from the West entrance. We will do the complete tour except the Southside of the parc. We will go there tomorrow and leave this mighthy piece of nature through the South entrance. Words cannot describe the magic you see in Yellowstone! Mudpots, fumaroles and geysers seem to be daily routine there. It also looks like the people are constantly working on the roads. Throughout the year there’s so much traffic that they need to keep them in good shape! We arrive already very early in the parc and it’s not that crowded yet. And then it happens. After five minutes, we spot a Grizzly bear in the woods. The bus stops immediately. We see the bear very clearly and he’s slowly walking towards the bus. In fact, he approaches the bus real closely, but then he decides to go back into the woods and disappears. But it’s enough to make some nice pictures!!! This won’t be the last time that we’ll see wild animals on our trip. Just think about the deer, bison, coyote, a mountain lion and blue birds. We will all get to see them in this parc. The first walk that we take is to see some mudpots. It’s like the mud is cooking and it smells a lot like sulphur. It seems to be very healthy. The colors and the fact that the earth is boiling – it looks really amazing! At the end of our trail, we arrive at a small cave called ‘The Dragons Mouth’. It looks like a big mouth and the boiling water inside the cave constantly makes a dark roaring sound, which reminds of a dragon. A very appropriate name! I cannot describe the beauty of nature – You have to be there yourself! And even then, you just can’t comprehense what’s going on there. The second walk will bring us some more amazing moments. The colors are so unreal. A mountain; half white, half brown; very clear white pools with beautiful blue water in it. Dried mud, cracked into a thousand pieces, spreading itself over a landscape for miles like a huge jigsaw puzzle. The colors are so bright that it’s hard to believe to find them back in nature. But the the nature is protected here and unspoiled. Again I must say that all the things you get to see are very hard to believe unless you’ve been there yourself! At the end of the day, we make a trip to one of the most famous geysers of the lot; ‘Old Faithfull’. Its name already indicates where it’s so famous for. It explodes every hour. People can take a seat and they know exactly when the ‘show’ is about to start. It’s almost like a clockwork made in Switzerland. How does a geyser work exactly? Well, the water inside the earth is heating up at this place until it boils. It slowly boils up like a destilation until it reaches the surface of the earth. But the heating goes on and with an enormous power it explodes until the well is dry. The water reaches a certain hight, cools down and falls down in the well again. There it’s heated up for another hour and it starts all over again. The well is being filled up with rain water and will never dry up. Although ‘Old Faithfull’ presents us its program on the automatic pilot, it still looks unbelievable. Walk to the left before ‘Old Faithfull’ and you’ll find a beautiful walkway through some more mudpots, geysers and waterfalls. It’s better to take a look there than to wait at the visitors centre. This is a big wooden house with a shop and a place where you can sit and wait for ‘Old Faithfull’ to do his magic trick. The piano music is boring there, while the beautiful nature is waiting outside for more visitors. Our hotel is just outside the parc. On our way to the hotel we see the Yogi Bear Parc….aahh, we missed the old fellow already in the parc. I bet he was stealing a few picnic baskets!! We’re really in the Wild West now. Our hotel is on the opposite of a ‘wolf camp’. Here they keep about thirty wolves, who are too sick to be out there in the parc. There are a few bears there as well. In a bookstore near our hotel, we buy some travelling guides. The Indian lady of the store, whose man is a real hunter, tells us that it was very rare to see a Grizzly bear in the parc. The hunters biggest fear however, is the buffalo. With a bear you can always pretend that you’re dead and he might leave you alone. A buffalo looks very innocent. He lets you come near him, simply because those animals can hardly see a thing. Then they’ll hear you and he might start running all of a sudden. When you’re in his surroundings, hiding is useless then. Most of the time, those animals live in a tribe. After a good meal, we return to the hotel. It’s dark and cold. The traffic lights are hanging on wires over the very broad roads. The moon is full today and when we approach the hotel, we can hear the wolfs howl, ‘Bark at the moon’ so to speak. Thanks for this magic moment, OZZY! Yellowstone was certainly one of the highlights of the whole trip for me.

Friday, Sept. 15th, 2000.
From Yellowstone, we go to another beautiful piece of nature – the Grand Teton. But first we have to drive through the parc again to leave it on the southbound. There’s a botanical garden there and a beautiful big clock made of flowers. There’s also a place where you can play golf. It’s all there in this huge parc. When we leave the parc, it’s only a very short drive to the Grand Tetons, which can be translated very freely into ‘great big tits’. That’s what they looked like according to Davey Jackson –the man who gave them this name. It’s a chain of mountains, surrounded by lakes. It looks realy nice with its huge variation of colors. The road goes on and we see that the mountains can be recognized by the letters that are printed on them. Those letters represent the first letter of the city they are to be found in. We also cross the very last part of the Rocky Mountains until we reach the city of the Mormons, Salt Lake City. Build upon the foot of the Asatch Mountains, it became the city of spiritual leader Bingham Young. The temple of the Mormons is situated here in the city near the Salt Lake. It is indeed a lake, where you can find natural salt. We can see the lake from a distance. In the city, we will visit the beautiful Town Hall first. A huge building with beautiful paintings on the wall and the ceiling. In front of the Town Hall, you have a lovely view over the city. Next we visit the temple of the Mormons. Well not really the temple, because this is a sacred place that cannot be visited by tourists. We are welcomed by some Mormons and divided into two groups for a guided tour around their complex. The people are very friendly and they kindly have a talk with you and ask you some questions. However, we’re not allowed to go into a few buildings… What are they hiding for us? I don’t want to know. I want to get out of here! I cannot become a religious minded person in one hour. But the Mormons try real hard and at some point they even become a bit irritating. They keep on trying to make us believe that their religion is the best on earth. Please buy our Holy Bible. Listen to what we have to say. No matter how heard they try. And the harder they try, the more I get the intention to get out of this place. The complex of the Mormons is an oasis of peace. But these people must understand that you simply can’t change or manipulate someones mind in a few minutes. We enjoyed our dinner at the restaurant of the hotel in Salt Lake City. Oh… and our toilet needs to be fixed two times, before we finally can go to sleep in the city of the Mormons.

Saturday, Sept. 16th, 2000.
This day we will discover some new treasures of ‘mother nature’ at the end of the day. But first we’re travelling from Salt Lake City to the Red Rocks. Inbetween we pass by a little town called Provo – a place where they build the biggest private University. In the early afternoon, we make a short stop at the Red Rocks. The beautiful red color of the mountains here make the perfect combination with the blue sky. We take a few pictures of the beautiful rocks. We notice that the season must have been very dry here. It’s obvious that there must have been a ‘big’ river here. You can clearly see the marks that thewater left behind through the years. But the place is completely dry now. And there must fall a lot of rain before the water level will reach the level that it once had. After the Red Rocks we arrive at the first place where we can have a look over the Bryce Canyon. Again it’s hard to describe such a beautiful landscape. The rocks have got the most weird shapes and colors. It all looks really amazing. Sometimes it even looks like there are hundreds of caves in the rocks and mountains there. The landscape is structured into different levels and paths leading you through it all. Sometimes going up and sometimes going down. At our second stop, we will get the opportunity to make a long walk from one lookout post to the other, but this time with the chance to really discover this beautiful landscape. We buy some mineral water and divide ourselves into two groups. One group will go down into the canyon, while the other one will have a shorter walk on top of the canyon. At the start of our tour however, a terrible thing happens. A woman in our group stumbles over a piece of rock and the first thing that I see is her face fully covered with blood. I have to run back to Freddy to let him get some medical help. Two rangers are on their way down after about fifteen minutes or so and the woman is brought to a hospital nearby. The rest of the group is terribly shocked of course, but after a while we do decide to walk down the canyon after all, although we keep on thinking of what just happened a few minutes ago. Those, who went down the canyon with us, can tell you how amazing it is to take this walk. Every time and again we are astonished by the bright colors and the beautiful shapes, the arches and the trees that grow in the strangest places. Some trees climb their way to the sunlight for miles and miles, in an atmosphere where you would expect them the least. I have no words for it all. I think you must have been there to believe it. You must see it for yourself to comprehense the beauty of it all. At the end of the our walk, the bus takes us to the hotel. We have to rush because this evening we are going to the Bryce Canyon Cookout. It’s an entertainment dinner which is organized by a Mormon cowboy family. In a covered wagon they will bring us to the party. We sing old country and western songs together. And of course they also play a trick with us. On our way there we’re attacked by the Indians and end up in a shooting. A bit later, the Indians return and one of our group members has to negotiate with them. He has to wear a skirt and give them some furs of foxes to let us through. However, our hero doesn’t understand nor speak a word English, so he thinks has has to fight with those Indians. Laughs all over and although Rita isn’t feeling too well after the long intensive walk we did earlier, we arrive quite safely at the barbecue place. After a good and very tasty meal, it is time for some song and dance. I get another view of the Mormons now. It’s an evening that is very joyfull. The musicians and dancers are constantly looking for volunteers to dance or sing with them. Then they approach me and ask if I would like to join them in a play. I have to play John Wayne….and oh my God, you don’t want to read any further….. We’re playing that I’m going to the movies with my girlfriend and I’ve got no money to buy her any popcorn. She doesn’t mind. At the movies there are two other couples. One rich couple with a bag full of popcorn and another couple just like us with no popcorn at all. The other poor couple tries to steal some popcorn from the rich couple. The men end up into a fight and the poor fellow gets thrown out of the cinema eventually. Next, my girlfriend wants to steal some popcorn, too. I try to get some for her and we also get into a fight. The rich guy pulls me backstage, gives me the popcorn and his jacket. The play ends with me as a hero and three (!!) ladies looking at the movies with a bag full of popcorn. A great evening, which ends with a ride back to the hotel. The people who drive us back in the covered wagon ask us if we want to sing another song. Of course we want to, but only this time it’s our turn! We start to sing Dutch folk tunes like “Dat gaat naar Den Bosch toe” and “We gaan nog niet naar huis”. I think that this was not quite the idea of these people but we sing so loud that they simply can’t start their own songs. We’re real party animals right now, but our mood will soon change us back to ‘normal’ people again. When we arrive at the hotel we meet Freddy and he gives us an update of what happened with the woman, who fell and got hurt at Bryce Canyon. Thank heavens, she was doing allright and she would continue the trip with us despite of everything. Very brave! We are very glad to hear this and prepare ourselves on the trip we are going to do at the Grand Canyon tomorrow.

Sunday, Sept. 17th, 2000.
The Grand Canyon is probably the most well-known parc in the United States of America. Before we arrive there, we have to travel through Kansas – a city where they made a lot of cowboy and western movies. Then we get to the Grand Canyon Dam, a big complex with a visitors centre. It’s a much too short visit to watch the movie about this big dam. The dam is bigger, but not as famous as the Hoover Dam, which we will see in a few days. We walk our way over the bridge that stretches over the Colorado river. It’s marvellous to see the big difference of the height of the water before and after the dam. After the dam, we continue our way through the Navajo reserve and the so-called ‘Painted Dessert’. We drive along the Colorado river, where Indians try to sell their self-made jewellery. We stop for a few minutes to see the jewels of these native Americans. The Grand Canyon is formed by the Colorado river thousand and thousand of years ago. It’s an impressive sight to see the different layers and different colors. It’s wide, it’s open and it’s another treasure from mother nature herself. We can have a view from the top of the canyon down to the bottom of the canyon. Which is in fact the road that we drove on this very morning. When you have a good look you can even see the Colorado river way down below us. The view is beautiful but Bryce Canyon and Yellowstone made a bit more of an impression to the both of us. The bus brings us to a place where we can buy something to drink. A few people of our group will now fly in a helicopter over the canyon, while we will have a walk to the visitors centre. From there we will watch the sun go down. The walk to the visitors centre is beautiful. We even see a few deer underway. All together we watch the sun go down. A constant change of colors makes this a beautiful ending of another long day. At the hotel we decide to check out the three or four restaurants in the neighbourhood, but there’s not much happening at all and the prices are ridiculous high! We decide to eat something at the local MacDonalds instead. Walking through the canyon has made us quite hungry!! We return to the hotel not long after that and go to sleep almost at once. Tomorrow would become a very special day for us!

Monday, Sept. 18th, 2000.
When we left the Grand Canyon we knew that this would be a special and a very hot day. We already saw the Grand Canyon Dam, but today we would go and visit the Hoover Dam. It is a bit more famous than any other dam in the US, but it’s not that big though. It’s the whole history behind it that makes it so famous. The way we travel looks kinda strange to us. It’s a road that runs through a desert. You can see the town and you’ll think you’ll be there in about fifteen minutes, or at least within half an hour. But you’re so wrong. The roads go up and down and because there’s almost nothing inbetween, the city looks so close to where you are at that point. It took us about one hour and a half to finally arrive in Vegas…. Viva Las Legas, as Elvis would say!!! This is what America is all about. Think big….no better say, think mega big. The hotels are huge. The casinos are big. And the hotels do almost everything to get you in and stay for the night. Rooms are very cheap, because they know that you’ll bring your money to the casinos. Shows, neon lights, black jack, slots, hotels, fast weddings and a whole lotta sex. It’s all there. America is conservative! Come to Vegas. People almost beg you to accept their flyers and folders full with telephone numbers and websites of horny women, men and goats (if you’re into beastiality!). If they don’t approach you and you still want these folders, you can just pick them up from the big plastic boxes on the side of the street. We have our lunch in the big Pyramid of the Luxor. Pay your price and you can eat as much as you like. There’s so much food that it is almost impossible to choose. No problem, just take your plate and go for a refill and again and again until you finally explode! (literally!). After our extensive lunch, we decide to check out some of the hotels – each having their own theme. New York, Egypt, Paris, Circus, Venetia, Ceasar’s Palace. We start in the Pyramid of the Luxor hotel. We check out the casinos and arrive at a floor where we see a hall called “The House Of The Blues”. It’s there where bands like FOREIGNER, ALICE COOPER and APRIL WINE play. Do I really need to go home or can I stay here….forever….please!!?? But there’s a lot more stuff to see. Some hotels are connected to eachother by long halls or simply can be reached by mono rail. At hotel New York it’s like you’re back in the Big Apple again. It has Broadway with its theatres and shops, smoke coming out of the floors and the statue of Liberty proudly standing up against the world. It feels really nice to wander around all the hotels a bit, but we realize that it’s impossible to see it all. Besides, we’ll get a huge guided tour this evening and visit a few shows, too. We decide to have a walk back to the bus. We spend three hours walking in Vegas and all that we got to see were three hotels. Can you dig it?? Back at our own hotel, which was called ‘Circus, Circus’ by the way, we changed clothes and prepared ourselves for our evening trip through some of the hotels and their marvellous shows. On the bus trip back to the hotel, we missed four people from our group. They had walked with us to the bus stop and all of the sudden, they were gone. Later that evening, we found out that they had been wandering around for hours until our driver found them back. After this incident, they would never be late again for the rest of the trip! Las Vegas is beautiful by night. Especially the millions of lights that you see. We started our evening trip at an hotel called Treasure Island. The show they gave there was amazing. Ships were sailing in a small canal, in front of the hotel. They fought in a battle there, complete with lots of explosion. And one of the ships was really sinking. After the show it came back out of the water, just like that. Magic was happening there at that place. Then we walked to La Venetian, an impressive hotel which looked like Venetia inside. Boats were sailing on a canal again, but this time inside the hotel......amazing! There were a lot of shops and you could also eat real Italian ice there. Then we came in a big open space........or was this still inside. The blue sky with clouds proved that we were outside. But wait, the sprinklers in the ceiling proved us that we were still inside. But it looked so real. At Caesars’s Palace we saw our last show of the evening in this street. It was a fabulous show again with fire and lasers and mythological figures that looked very real indeed. It lasted for about ten minutes but there’s so much happening in these ten minutes. That you must actually see it for two or three times to comprehense everything that is happening there. After this show, the bus took us to the old part of Las Vegas. It’s the part of the city where the glamorous life began. There are not too many casino’s and hotels there. There were more shops and in the big shopping street there was a ceiling on which they projected a ten minute neon light show that was unforgettable. With thousands of flashing neon nights, telling a whole story. It’s a bit hard to explain it when you haven’t seen it, but you can believe me, it looked great. Las Vegas is impressive and mighty hot. We were there at about 40 degrees Celsius. But after all you’re in the middle of the dessert here. When we got back in the hotel we had one little surprise left. But that was a surprise that was only for us two. We decided to renew our wedding vouche. There was a chappel across the street, and even long before we decided to do this trip we had decided that we would do this if we were going to Las Vegas. And now the time was finally there, we still fell like it the same way. We went through a lot of great times together, but we also went through some really bad time together. And we always came out stronger. Reason enough for us to marry for the third time. The first time was in Gretna Green in Scotland. The second time was the most official time, in Leerdam with both our families. And this would be the third time. No photographers, no partying, no viewers, just the two of us. You get a nice drawing of the wedding chappel and the ceremony took us about ten minutes. It’s very touristic for some of us maybe, but for us it meant a lot. Is there another place on earth, where I can marry Rita for the fourth time? I would do it again, without thinking twice. She means everything to me. And I proved that by marrying her for the third time in a row.....without getting divorced inbetween. Not too many people can say this, I guess. That’s what happens when you love somebody a lot, like I do. But we’re getting away from the story here. It was time to get to sleep (???????????????), because tomorrow we would be saying goodbye to Vegas again and continue our trip to LA. Viva Las Vegas!

Tuesday, September 19th, 2000.
We say goodbye to Las Vegas. Everybody kept its money in his pocket. Nobody was broke after the intensive gambling. Most of the people were impressed by this city. What would LA bring us? Well, first we reived a lot of congratulations of the whole group. We got a card, that was given to us from our friends from Limburg. All the people of our group had signed it and all the people wanted to know how it was to get married again. Well, you could definately say that we are experienced right now. We liked the attention very much. And in the meantime, the bus drove us through the Mojave Dessert. It’s here that we got to see the well known Joshua Tree. Which became famous through the U2 album with the same name. It’s a beautiful tree, that only seems to grow on dry ground. Then we drove through San Bernardino, the place where Randy Rhoads (ex OZZY OSBOURNE guitarist) is burried. I couldn’t show my emotions at that time, but it really fell hard for me to be so close to my all time hero. Our trip continued and slowly we reached the second biggest city in America, Los Angeles. But first we reached a small suburb where we used our lunch. There was a small Mexican market where we could buy some food. It was a cozy market but very crowded. Reason enough for us to find a Mexican restaurant and eat some tortillas. After that we moved on to Los Angeles. We also saw the big letters HOLLYWOOD in the mountains, but only from a distance. It was impossible to take a picture of them. But you can’t have it all. When we came in the heart of Los Angeles we fell a little bit disappointed. The magic was not there for us. Except on Hollywood Boulevard. To us it looked like all the action came together on this place. This was mainly caused through the fact that we only took a bus ride through the city, and the only place where we could leave the freaking buss was on Hollywood Boulevard. So we could only smell the atmosphere from there. The heart of the film industry is there. The Walk Of Fame, with all the stars in the ground. And the place where you can see all the hand prints of the stars, even Donald Duck’s handprint was there. I’m not kidding you......can you imagine that.....the handprint of the one and only Donald Duck! There is a lot of memorabilia to be found in these streets. And it looks like everybody wants to look like a filmstar. A lot of people look like they can be discovered within a few minutes. Fast cars, sexy colourfull clothing, it’s life in the fast lane here. But after Las Vegas, it all seemed so normal to us. After our stop on Hollywood Boulevard we moved on through Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. We were not allowed to go out of the bus here. I think they would hold us from spending tonz of dollars here. Everything is just a little bit more expensive here. The houses look like little castles sometimes. You can almost smell the money here. To me, it stinks and I’m glad we didn’t stay here too long. People are living in a much higher standard as we are, and they act like it too. Too me, they’re just a bunch of snobs. When they go to the toilet, they stink, too! The end of our trip was in Anaheim, where we had our hotel. It was right next to the parking place of Disneyland. Oh yeah, we had to make a choice between Disneyland and the Universal Studios for the next day. We choose to go to the Universal Studios, because Disneyland L.A. is almost the same as the one in Paris, they told us. And we’ve been there for our wedding trip, five years ago. This evening we would be eating with our friends from Limburg again. This time it was pizza time. But first we were enjoying the view from out of our hotelroom. We could see the swimming pool, with the palm trees and the parking place of Disneyland. The pizza place was at the opposite of the hotel. You order the pizza you like the best and when they call your number, your order is ready. I decided to go for a delicious meal of spaghetti bolognese. Some pizzas are so extremely large, that they have to put it on an extra table for you. Can you dig that? Domino Pizza’s Holland, eat your heart out! We ate late, so when we ended our meal, the personnel of the place had already cleaned the whole place. We were the last ones that left the place. It was a nice evening, so we decided to end this evening with a soda at the bar of the hotel. We had a drink or two and went upstairs for a good night sleep, ‘cause tomorrow we would go to the Universal Studios. But then suddenly there was a huge panic. Rita had left her purse at the bar of the hotel. I have never seen someone walk so fast to the bar:-)). Now I can laugh about it, but at that time I was scared to death. Everything was in her purse. All her money, her drivers license, her passport, everything. When she got downstairs, she saw that her purse was gone. But the bartender waved with it already. He had found it, while cleaning our table. It was a good thing, that I’d given the man a big tip, when we left that evening:-))

Wednesday, September 20th, 2000.
Universal Studios, here we come!! But first we still had to travel a couple of miles. Some people of the group went to Disneyland, which was right across the street. We had to travel for about an half an hour. The roads to Los Angeles City are very crowded. Five or six roads next to each other. And it was completely full. Now that’s what I call a traffic jam. Nonetheless, we arrived at the Universal Studios in time, even before they opened. At the same time a bus full of Japanese school children entered the square before the complex. Hundreds of cameras started flashing for the big globe that is in front of the Studios. And on top of that there was a group picture of course. In the meantime Freddy had arranged the tickets and it was party time. We set our clock back for about twenty-five years or so and we started to behave like little children again. Pictures were taken with heroes like “The Flintstones”, “Lucille Ball”, “Woody Woodpecker” etc. etc. There were a few fun rides also, that we decided to do. The complex is huge there, but I think that we saw everything. The “Jurassic Park Ride”, The “Back To The Future Ride”, a 3D film, a flight simulator ride, it was all there. There were demonstrations of how the sound was added to a movie. A demonstration of how it looks when they record a movie that is full of explosions and stuff. Optical effects were explained, which was all very interesting of course. There were also showcases of THE BLUES BROTHERS, which was a real rock and roll happening, in which they involved the crowd pretty much. And there also was a magnificent show called “Waterworld”. When you entered that show, it was amazingly funny already. There was a huge film set reproduced at a sort of outside swimming pool. And the contributors of this spectacular show with explosions, boat rides, kidnappings and gun fightings were taking the people to their seats. A part of the tribunes were marked. When you were sitting there in that area, you knew that you would be wet at the end of the show. But a lot of people didn’t care about that too much, ‘cause it was rather hot that day. But even if you decided to stay in the ‘dry area’, you were not safe. The contributors had sprayers with them, and when people were just walking around, not knowing what happened behind their backs, they got sprayed wet all over. The contributors who did this, looked like they didn’t know where this water was coming from. They looked up, maybe it was coming from above? And when the victims looked up also, to see what was happening there, they got a second shot of cool water. Try to stay dry then. I couldn’t and almost wet my pants. It was very funny to see these old people, Japanese peole, young girls or children take a bath, that they didn’t really expect to take. The show was amazing and the people loved it. A private show that I loved very much was the show of THE MARX BROTHERS. They were there, when we went to eat something in the parc. These guys were amazingly funny and they looked like the real MARX BROTHERS. Especially Groucho on his bike and Hippo with his horn. He got really attracted to a fake MARILYN MONROE, who was there, too. He pinched his horn and a few other things by MARYLIN. That smile on his face, I will probably never forget. And also the discussions that Groucho had with visitors, who were too astonished to say something back. Especially children or beautiful ladies were his favorite ‘victims’. In the meantime, ‘Spiderman” came by too, and of course he also became a victim of Groucho’s word jokes. I love this early version of MONTY PYTHON and it was to see them at the Universal Studios today. The most important thing today however was a trip to the studios itself. In fact, that was the ride that we started with in the first place, but I wanted to save the best part for later. This ride is a look behind the scenes of the film industry. Richie of the TV serie “Happy Days”, with The Fonz, is one of the big names that is an important man there right now. He intoduces you when it’s your turn to step in the train. But before you can step in the train, you’ll have to wait for quite some time. And because they know that you have to wait for a while, they entertain you inbetween, too. There are a lot of boards, on which you can read the history of the film industry. You can see fragments of films and you might also get bit by a fake DRACULA that was walking around there. This man looked right through you and popped up behind you, when you would expect it the least. Rita was also one of his victims. But because she’s married to Dracula’s brother, she knew how to scare him off at first, by making a cross with her fingers. He played the game, that Rita started, and he disappeared immediately. But he was a tough guy, and we had forgotten to put on our garlic chains, so he returned after a few minutes. Now Rita couldn’t reject him anymore, and just before we entered our ride, he attacked her. Pretty scary, or just a lot of fun. See for yourself. The ride itself was interesting and fun at the same time. The special effects were nice. There was a part of “return Of The Mummy” which was very good. We saw JAWS coming out of the water, which pretty amateuristic. You see the house that was used in “Psycho” of Alfred Hitchcock. There was a Mexican village, where it started raining so hard that a river was formed pretty soon. it floated through the streets, and after a few secconds time it was gone again. You could see a bridge break down, and reform itself right after that. One of the most amazing things was the reproduction of an earthquake, in which the whole ground was shaking, electricity wires broke, etc. etc. It was all so real, and again pretty scary when you didn’t expect things to happen. If you ever go to LA, be sure to go to the Universal Studios and make this ride. Don’t miss it. Not only the studios are nice to visit. The street or lane, next to the studios is pretty cool to visit too. We spend an hour there and it’s a world on its own. Record stores, bars, cinemas, food stores, the Hard Rock café (with a guitar of Diamond Darrel of PANTERA), it’s all there. On a huge video screen, in front of the Hard Rock café, they showed videos of bands that are long forgotten by most of the people like JIMI HENRIX, JANIS JOPLIN and CREAM. Very cool. We did the 3D tour, after we visited this street. Afterwards, the bus was already waiting for us. On the way back, we were very tired. And it also makes you hungry. We went to eat in Anaheim again. This time the Chinese food store was our focuss. But a lot of people told us that Chinese food would be not so good and totally different from Chinese food over here. Reason enough for us to check this place out. We never follow the advise of the majority and we go our own way. The Chinese food was delicious. You could make a choice out of all different meals. I took three different choices, and they add some noodles or rice to it then. I got so much food that I couldn’t eat it all, and Rita, too. And we only spend half the amount of money that we usually spend on our evening diners. So if you see a Chinese food store, check it out. It’s cheap and delicious. Oh, we almost forgot to turn the clock up for twenty-five years again. After we did this, the night fell over Anaheim. Next thing we would see is Santa Barbara, which means BAYWATCH. (For the gentlemen among us BABEWATCH, where BABE is not the speaking pig, you dumb fools!!)

Thursday, Spetember 21st, 2000.
From Anaheim, we drove to the beach. Leaving Los Angeles County behind us, we were in for a sort of trip opposite the coast line now. All the beaches are there, and our first stop of today would be on the same beach where “Baywatch” was filmed, and that’s Santa Barbara. The villas became bigger and I think they also became more expensive and more expensive, every mile we came nearer to this place. But the biggest disappointment came, when we got out of the bus. The beach looked filthy, the rain was falling down from the sky. And the only ‘babes’ you could see were vagabonds that were lying on the beach. Because they don’t have a home, they lay on the beach. It’s no fun walking there. This had probably something to do with the weather maybe. The combination was also kinda funny. The beach, palm trees on one side, vagabonds and pouring rain on the other side. The shops made up for this disappointment. There were a few shopping streets there and we spend most of the time there. Okay, you can’t have it all. I certainly didn’t expect to see Pamela Anderson there. But it’s a shame that on that one day it’s raining there, we had to be there too. You may call it exclusive, I will call it bad luck if I may. There was also a sign at the side of the road there, that marked the end of Route 66. We took a short stop at a missions house that was located there by the Dutch. But that was only relevant for the more religious people in the group. I only believe in Santa Claus, because he fills my stockings with presents every year! The next destination was Solvang. This is a Danish village at the Western Coast of America. In this small village you got the idea that you were in Denmark, with its little shops, windmill and beautiful coloured houses. Our hotel was not in Pismo Beach, but in Santa Maria. It’s in an area with a lot of woods and a highway right through it. The choices were not too big, you could see that right from the start. The rooms looked good, and our friends from Limburg asked us to meet them in ten minutes to check out the dinner facilities. After looking around in the area, we found a good looking restaurant. We sat down in a rocking chair outside the restaurant, while Ed was checking out the prices and the waitresses of the restaurant. But it was much too expensive and not meeting our budget. So we decided to check out the Italian restaurant instead, that was at the hotel. Apparantly, a lot of the people of our group got the same idea. The food was good, but also expensive. And the service was really slow. So slow, that our two female friends from The Hague left the place without giving a tip. It really pissed off the waitress. Our tip was also restricted to a minimum, and I decided to take an American flag as a souvenir, which was standing on the information desk of the restaurant. A cheap souvenir, so to speak. Our friends from Limburg invited us for a cop of coffee at their appartment. We had a nice chat, a good cup of coffee and a good night sleep, because San Francisco was waiting for us the next day already.

Friday, September 22nd, 2000.
We still had to make a long drive before we would arrive in San Francisco. One stop was planned inbetween. And that was at a nice fishermens village, called Monterrey. Yes, the same place as the big Monterrey festival, where JIMI HENDRIX once played, many years ago. And again it was raining, but the place was nice to hang out for a while. There were many little shops and (lucky for us) there was an outside exposition of old American cars. T-Fords, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, and even the Batmobile was there. This was certainly the highlight of our visit to Monterrey. The smell of the sea made you aware of the fact, that you were near the coast now. After Monterrey we drove through, what you will know as Sillicon Valley, the place where computer Giants like Hewlett Packard, and Apple Macintosh have their factories. Our last stop would be San Francisco. Our hotel was in the centre of town, near the Chinatown part. But before we went to our hotel we spend a long time in the centre and near the pier. Freddy offered to reserve our tickets for our visit to Alcatraz there. We checked out the many shops. We were not in a hurry, because we still had a few days to explore this great city. Other people would leave the next day already, but we had booked a few extra days, which was a good decision anyway. There’s so much to see there. See the pelicans and hundred of seals near the coast line. When we arrived there, it was lunch time. San Francisco was ours now, and we decided to order to some fish and chips and have a view on the coast line. See the all day life in a big city. Suddenly our eye caught something that was extremely funny to see. There was a vagabond sitting behind a bush, hidden very well. When people came his way (not knowing what would happen the next minute), he scared them off and jumped from behind these bushes shouting ‘boo’ real loud. What an amazing view! He really scared the shit out of some people. Others just ignored him and some even got furious at him. But he was having the time of his life, and so did we. Tower records was our next destination, just a flew blocks away from the piers. They had a good collection of CDs and magazines. But we didn’t have whole day and time flies when you’re having fun. Before we knew it, it was time to return to the bus again. Some people had gone to Alcatraz or made a boat trip under the Golden Gate Bridge. When we went to our hotel, we decided that we certainly had to make a trip with the well known cable cars there. But first we had to say goodbye to the first people already. We had a great time with these people, and what looked like a long time was over before we knew it. Time for a group picture, the exchanging from some addressess and hand shaking all over. Our room was small, but we didn’t expect mucho more in such a big city. It was also our last night with the Corstjens family from Limburg. they had to get back to their garage again tomorrow. We walked around in the city that evening. Through Chinatown and of course we ended up at the........MacDonalds for a quick bite. After that we walked around a bit more. The only negative thing was that people were constantly begging for money. It was never that bad anywhere around as it in San Francisco. They almost smell that you’re on holidays in their city and they constantly beg you for money. We watched the changing of the trolley. The end of the rails was somewhere in the neighbourhood of our hotel and I thought it was interresting to see the people stop the trolley and make it change direction. They place it on a wooden platform and then they change the direction of the trolley by turning the platform 180 degrees. It’s a heavy job to do this. And after we’d seen it, we were attacked by three or four people again. One guy even had a cardboard around his neck that said you could visit his website at: www.givemeyourmoney.com. You have to follow the trends, even when you’re sleeping on the streets. After we said goodbye to our friends, we knew that we could still spend two more days in ths mighty town. And the next day would start early again with a bus trip through the town.

Saturday, September 23rd, 2000.
The bus trip took us all along the beautiful places in San Francisco. What a beautiful town. It’s a shame that we didn’t make a stop at Haight Ashbury, but we went through the hippy centre of this town. San Fancisco is a melting pot of different nationalities. But they even have a sort of centre for all the gay people in their community. They have their own flag, which has all colours of the rainbow, and you can see it all over the places. It’s no shame to walk around in your leather underwear, or in silk net stockings, or on a leach of your master. It’s all pretty normal in ‘gay city’ here. Next to that there are a lot of shops, and you have Chinatown, Japan Center and loads more. The Japanese part of the town is really different than the rest, with its beautiful Japanese churches and pagodas. There’s also a big park in which you can sport or relax. It’s huge and it’s situated in the area of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is red instead of gold. But it forms the gate to a golden city so to say. We walked over the bridge for a short while. Of course we also saw important buildings in the area. One of the highlights was the view we had on this great city from Twin Peaks, a mountain just outside the city that gives you an amazing view over San Francisco. The tour ended at the hotel. There we said goodbye to the rest of the group and to Freddy and the bus driver, because they had to go back home again, too. We were on our own now, and the cable car was waiting already for a tour downtown. Buy a ticket, queue up and try to get into the cable car as fast as you can, when they’ve turned these cars. That’s the only thing that you have to do. We went to the piers again, which was down the hill. Try to stop these cable cars in time, when you’re going down the hill. I think that you won’t make it without getting into trouble. And I realise myself that you must be very skilled to drive these cable cars. These guys are very friendly though and some of them sing the names of the stations that they stop at. What a great experience! We passed Lombard Street, which is also a street that is on the planning of many visitors of San Francisco. It’s a very small street that is winding itself into many curves, like a snake in the bush. On our way back, we had to get up the hill which goes a bit slower. Which gives you the time to look around real good. In the neighbourhood of our hotel we stopped to see some more shops like another Virgin Megastore.....of course. It’s also nice to visit one of the big book stores in the city. Just go there, pick up some magazines, grab a cup of coffee and start to read something. Everybody does it and you can just make yourself comfortabel. When you take a look at a magazine over here in Holland, you must first buy it, before you can look into it. There you can first read it, with a cup of coffee, and then buy it. And if you don’t like it, just put it back and come back the next day to read it again. Life is so simple there. The Indian food in the restaurant that we visited there that evening was very good. The meat vindaloo was very hot and spicy again. I just can’t stop eating this delicious dish. The next day would be the end of our American trip, and on this very last day something terrible happened. We were send to prison......and we liked it! Silly people these Dutchies - aren’t they????

Sunday, September 24th, 2000.
Being sent to prison on a Sunday wasn’t such a good idea actually, but we couldn’t foresee this when we planned this trip. If we would have known this before, we would have made this trip to Alcatraz on Saturday afternoon. But okay, here’s what happened. We had ordered our ticketts through Freddy, and we decided to make the trip to the coast line by cable car again. At Pier 46, we could collect our tickets. We had to queue up for the boat trip to Alcatraz, which is on an island near the coast of San Francisco City. The boat brought us to the island where we were welcomed by one of the guides. She explained what we were about to see on the complex of Alcatraz Island. But in the meantime it was half past ten already and our boat back to the continent would leave at noon already. So we only had about one and a half hour to explore this huge complex. You get a headphone and a tape recorder, and you can walk around the site listening to what this ‘magnetic guide’ has got to tell you. You can see the cell blocks, the isolation cells, the dining place and before you know it you are released from prison and we were free again. Our plane would leave in a couple of hours already. We went back with the cable car and we ordered a cab to the airfield. Saying goodbye to this beautiful country. I can’t tell you the real highlights of our trip, because to us it was one big highlight and we will certainly will go back again, whenever we get the chance. New York was great, and we had a great time in beautiful cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Toronto, Niagara Falls and Los Angeles. But it was mother nature who also had some great surprises for us ranging from the Niagarra Falls, to geysers, mud pots, wild animals, mountains, canyons, Mount Rushmoor and the beautiful woods in which you could drive along for hours without seeing one single human being. While in the big cities, there were millions of peopel. It might sound a bit clammy and yacky to some of the people who read this story. But I think that getting married to Rita for the third time was the highlight for me. Saying ‘yes’ again to each other in such a beautiful country was a dream come true for the both of us, I think. The flight back to Amsterdam was the opposite of this highlight. It was cold and the film was absolutely dull. But we didn’t have to much place to stretch our legs and go to sleep. We arrived at Schiphol airport on Monday, September 25th. We collected our lugage and we got our train back to Leerdam. Of course we missed our connection, which was (of course!) the result of another delay. Welcome back to Holland. I think, we’d go back there immediately, if we could. I end this story exactly one year after we got back from this trip to America. A lot has changed inbetween. We saw the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, but at the time that I wrote these lines they’re not there anymore. But when I look at the many pictures we made and when I look in the many travel books that we bought in America, the memories easily come back to live again. A trip that we will never forget again, and we will hopefully make again within a few years from now. Because there’s still so much to explore there like Florida, New Orleans, Texas and Seattle, which we didn’t see on this trip. Three and a half weeks in America is much too short, but it’s a good start. And herewith we’ve come to the end of our story about The Great American Crossing 2000. I hope you enjoyed it. I really do, everytime I read it. It brings back nice memories of our trip to a very beautiful country. And it also makes you long to our next trip to America in the (hopefully near) future. See you then!

Text by: Toine van Poorten.

[Note: more pictures will follow soon!!!]