O'Sullivan family travels and beyond

Ian’s brief take on the USA

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Alaska was probably my favourite part of the States, a true wilderness and so well preserved.  I don’t imagine that it would have survived in such a pristine condition if in the hands of e.g. the Chinese, given they way they are destroying the coral in the South China Sea.  Our ship had to switch to  a higher grade of fuel to enter the national park, which was 3x more expensive than their usual fuel and their emissions were monitored closely by the Park Rangers.
The year before, near the John Hopkins Glazier, the sea conditions were rough and deck chairs were flying over the sides of the ship.  They still had to lower a tender which circled the ship during the visit picking up any flotsam, so as not to pollute the area.  I was doing my daily 5 mile walk around deck 3 early in the morning as we entered the park and saw dolphins, whales and sea lions as we came in from the open sea.
Cruising was an experience.  The Indonesian and Filipino staff had the patience of Jobe given some of the rudeness they have to tolerate mostly from a limited number of Americans- “I said I want my bacon crispy”,  “don’t overcook my eggs”,  all said with a total absence of please and thank you.  And do people eat?? OMG –  you’d think some of the guests were having their last supper. Entertainment was a much better standard than I’d expected.  All of the reviews that I read praised the staff as the key attribute of the Volendam and we certainly found that to be true.  They were so kind to the children as well.
So, 2880 miles later we are within an hour of Newark Airport where we will spend our final night in the States. We had under-estimated the sheer size of the country and thought that we could easily cross in 10 days at an average of 300 miles a day.
In fact, we tried to put some miles behind us in the early stages in the less populated states, so e.g. in Montana we did 480 miles in one day and still didn’t hit the state line into Wyoming.  Montana is around 147,000 square miles with a population of a little over a million souls, compared to the UK which is 94,000 square miles containing 65 million of us.  It is huge, but only the fourth largest after Alaska, Texas and California.  The kids were great and sat patiently for a minimum of 6 hours each day without once complaining.  No DVD’s or electronics to pass the time, so real heroes.
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The most boring bit was probably the 5 hour straight road between Rapid City and Sioux Falls in South Dakota – a mere 346 miles.
Several times we thought how brave the original settlers had been to make the journey from where they had landed to the Western states in rickety old wagons with no roads, wild animals, disease, bandits, Indians and all sorts of other hazards.  It’s not surprising that the majority of settlers chose to settle within a stone’s throw of New York.
We met some lovely people along the way and the driving was fairly easy, particularly in the Western states.  Drivers were courteous and gave you plenty of space.  Noticed a bit more impatience as we passed Chicago and as the roads got busier in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, there was a lot more tailgating and speeding.
In Montana and Wyoming, almost everyone seemed to have a huge pickup truck, but cars were dominant in the East.  The lorries seem to be super-charged and had no problem doing 70 mph up steep hills.  Petrol/gas is around $2.20 a gallon, so no real incentive to develop a high speed train service like the Japanese.  We didn’t see one passenger train on our entire trip, only huge goods trains.  We counted one at 125 trucks long.
Tomorrow will be the most challenging drive and that’s the 30 miles into Newark Airport to drop the car.
Oh and a quick mention of the beer, which has improved enormously since I was here over 20 years ago.  The craft beer movement has been hugely successful and you can get a tasty brew in most bars and restaurants.  My personal favourite was a pleasant hour or so in the  Kodiak Island Brewery sampling the 12 beers on tap.
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Some of the more unusual sights along the way:
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Author: threekidsintow

We are Caroline and Ian. We recently undertook an adventure, packing up everything and travelling with our three children. Our blog started as a way of capturing our memories of the preparation and interesting aspects of our journey. After a twist of fate, we're back in the UK much sooner than expected so who knows what's next for us now we're back home with our three kids in tow!

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