The Great American Solar Eclipse lasted only 2min 17sec, that’s how long the fragment of totality on August 21st was. The main goal was to see the eclipse.. But as the USA is a vast territory with many challenges and attractions, the eclipse turned out to be only one of the many attractions of the tour on the North American continent. Thus, the “Great American Expedition” took us through 8 states, from one ocean to another, through more than 6 national parks, 5000 km of driving and 3 domestic flights. It was a very dense tour in objectives, in which I discovered an America that was nothing exaggerated compared to the movies, as I understood them, and far beyond the opinions of those who had been there before me and shared my a priori viewpoints.
I left Bucharest on August 15 with the main objective of documenting and thus photographing the 2017 solar eclipse, from the central-western part of the USA, the state of Idaho. I walked around the States for 17 days in total (September 15 – 2). Some even stayed for a month, in addition to the official schedule. In total, I did about 30K km, flights RO – USA and domestic USA.
We first arrived in NY where we stayed 3 nights, then flew to Salt Lake City (to the Mormons), near the eclipse site and near Yellowstone Park. The car tour followed, about 5000 km through parks such as Arches, Antelope, Grand Canyon, Route 66 and Las Vegas and then back to Salt Lake. After which plane to San Francisco, plane to LA and plane to Bucharest, arriving in Romania on September 2.
The tour was organized by Valentin Grigore – SARM (Romanian Meteorite Astronomical Society). I’m saying it here so I won’t come back. If you ever have the opportunity to go with Valentin Grigore, anywhere, go. I also went to the Canary Islands with Vali two years in a row. This man is an atypical character, an interesting, special spirit, traditionalist but exotic, he takes photography to the level of art, and in the field of amateur astronomy and the popularization of astronomy he is perhaps the most effective. Compared to what was included in the trip, the cost was a very good one, given that accommodation prices have increased significantly during the eclipse (hint 1, see below).
We went on the road 27 people, a motley, heterogeneous group. Since NY, we split up quite quickly according to preferences (astronomers with astronomers, families with families, the rest with the rest, etc. .. in fact, that’s how we did it throughout the tour, with the strict meetings at the airport and the places to stay .That doesn’t mean we didn’t get along well.
Every American city has its own separate charm. The USA is a continent and you cannot characterize this country correctly in a few sentences. But I can summarize that the general impression is more than positive. First of all, people, ordinary people, always open, communicative, polite and stress-free. Another positive impression is the infrastructure – everything works flawlessly, on vast territories. Although the network is huge, it is very efficient. Contrary to public opinion, I did not get the impression that the Americans were wasting resources. With a few exceptions – and here again keep in mind that the USA is a state – a continent – ordinary people do not waste. Being there, those big machines seem really necessary to cover enormous distances, traverse difficult terrains and manage farmland or simple properties. For example, only in the US have I seen freeway express lane, free only for 3+ in the car. Or wooden electric poles but very well cared for and generally a lot of wooden constructions, houses, fences, infrastructure even construction scaffolding. And in the national parks we have seen more wildlife and attention, more efforts to protect it, than anywhere else in the world.
The rules are generally very clear. The authorities got involved regardless of the situation, for example the rangers came out of the forest and directed traffic when needed. The sheriff was a traffic cop if needed.
In other words, you have to see a place with your own eyes and then form an opinion, because many things, especially those in the spotlight, can be misrepresented, seen through different eyes by people with different prejudices and filters of mind and eyes than yours.
The first flight took us to New York, after a stopover in Paris. On the way to the States, I had the first contact of the trip with the American citizens, with the mother and daughter next door. That’s when I first processed that Americans are not as stupid as I had heard. A lady and her daughter were coming from Armenia, from vacation. Yes, the peak, they knew where Romania and Europe were and much more, about many things. I think that our problem, when we make comparisons between the citizens of various Western states and Romanians – as we have the mania to do it permanently – is that we are not comparing apples with apples and apples with raisins.. but that is another discussion.
NY is an urban jungle. It’s a megacity, and it goes beyond what you might imagine from the movies – a fabulous megametropolis. Well, if you have a developed culture of movies and reality in general, you can position yourself close to the truth without setting foot on American soil. Although I prefer nature in general, NY has a special charm for me.
In the Big Apple we stayed 3 nights staying at the Roosevelt Hotel. There are several stories related to the origin of the phrase Big Apple: one is that the farmers in the area said that there are many apples in a tree and NY seems like an apple of a different variety among a dozen other apples.. another that only NY is the biggest apple, the prize prizes – it seems that the story appeared in a context of equestrian competitions. The debate was launched by the old and funny storyteller of the Hudscon evil boat tour around Manhattan. Anyway, this story mattered less to me but it’s nice background noise.
We stayed in the heart of the apple tree, in Manhattan, and the Roosevelt Hotel is officialy rated at four stars… well, maybe it’s three, but its location and patina don’t make you complain that it’s 4. Conditions excellent and a typical American breakfast, omelettes, hams, coffee. But that didn’t matter that much either. New York is as you see it in the movies: busy but not congested streets, huge buildings, big old buildings, patina, a unique air literally and figuratively, those neighborhood houses with cool entrances, people idling on the steps and fire escapes in side or back.. a sea of people in the streets, the streets at right angles and logically numbered.
It’s very easy to find your way around NY. The N-S streets are named with numbers that decrease towards the South and the indication East/West. For example, the hotel is on 45 West Avenue, near the famous Madison Avenue (which would take the place of 4th Avenue, but Madison sounds better).
The first dilemma when you arrive in NY is what to spend your money on. One of the pitfalls of the NY small business and supplier community is that if you’re not careful, it drains you of money fair and square at every opportunity. Don’t take your NY Pass, you don’t have the physical time to check off enough sights included in the $200 to make it worth it, as opposed to buying the tickets separately. And yes, buy your home power adapter, in NY it’s $20 a plug.
Damn, I thought I got it with the prepaid card that I paid $70 for in NY. But it worked pretty well in other cities, even though 3G didn’t really work in NY. (hint 5 below).
Honestly, I’ve seen so much in the US that I can’t remember the exact order in which I visited the sights in each city. I could make an effort but I don’t know how useful this is to the readers. I could go into the order of the pictures… but this is a touchy subject: I took so many pictures (over 1000) that it took me weeks in my free time to sort and select them. In December, I was still posting photos from August on the blog’s fb page :)). Plus, halfway through the tour, I lost the pictures on a card, pictures that I recovered only at home with a paid software (hint 2 see below).
It’s like we started with Empire. I went to get a card like everyone else, but only for one day. At least the peg is smaller. The building was quite close to the hotel.. ok, relatively close to the hotel. Distances are very large in NY as in all of America for that matter. During the 3 days in NY, I didn’t manage to leave Manhattan and moved around the whole time. It’s very big and I didn’t even see everything, I missed interesting sights (space shuttle in Intrepid museum, art museums, other neighborhoods outside of Manhattan) but there just wasn’t enough time. NY can be a trip in itself.
The Empire is worth it for the panorama of the metropolis by day just as The Rock (Rockefeller Center) is worth it for the panorama of the city at night (it’s worth it because you can get into the Rock relatively cheap, at night))). From the Empire during the day, you can see all the way to the Statue of Liberty if your vision is ok. But the queues are hellish..
A highlight is the ‘excursion’ with the Empire State elevator. If the elevator operator is in the mood, he can show you the performance of the (hydraulic, electric?) stop/start/acceleration system. I don’t know exactly how it’s done and I decided to document myself, but it works instantly and the elevator becomes a kind of giant yoyo that moves with maximum ease and you are inside. And it’s fast.
On the second day of NY we did the boat tour. After Empire I simply took it to the Hudson River, at the pass and I could see from below what I had seen from above. Everywhere, the objectives present in the films are easily identifiable.
Although on this tour we had an individual schedule except for the transport and eclipse stages, we sometimes did small groups. So a few others from the group followed me. On the way I passed the famous (for photographers) B&H Photo and noted the location. I would return to this photo equipment mall each of the three days I spent in NY. (hint 3 see below). In the boat I photographed a girl with a gorgeous tattoo done by her friend, by hand, without any particular meaning.
The tour took us under 19 of the 20 bridges that surround Manhattan.
I followed the directions of friends in NY and gave up the joint visit to the Statue of Liberty and the group photo at that place. It was the right decision. We saw the statue in all its glory from the boat, the ideal place for both pictures and the overall view. What can I say, the boat tour is really worth it. Take the ferry from the Intrepid museum, close to where a famous pilot (not Tom Hanks) landed the damaged plane on the Hudson River. It goes around Manhattan island completely and from the boat you can see almost all the important sights from the shore but you can see them from the boat seat.. yey: the statue, famous bridges (including Brooklyn Bridge), One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) , part of the Bronx.
As I already said, I missed the entrance to the Intrepid Intrepid Museum – Sea, Air & Space Complex.
It closed when we finished with the boat and then we never got there. Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum – is the museum set up on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, active in WW2. The museum also houses the space shuttle Enterprise (the real one not the movie one, the first shuttle ever).
Near the docks I saw all kinds of futuristic, interesting buildings. One building had a gigantic promo on it that said apartments, for rent – 10k / month rent. Buuun.. Super offer. For this price, I work for half a year to stay there for a month, good..not.
Besides, I have missed a few objectives – the September 11 Memorial and the interior of the Intrepid museum, but also the bicycle rental in Central Park. But you can’t do everything.. especially with the queues everywhere in NY. Queue at the pass, queue at the tickets, queue at the entrance, queue at the exit, queue at the crossing, queue at the lift, queue at the plane, queue at the queue. It’s good sometimes to mark the win (like on Wallstreet) and say ‘that was good, that was enough’.
I’ve seen Central Station before (actually Grand Central Terminal, as it’s officially called) – laid out millimeter by millimeter, with luxury materials, like Casa Poporului, but without the Rușchița marble.
The NY subway is as I expected, very deep and very cool. Not fain meaning new and sf but fain meaning old and with a fine patina. I went a long way on the famous subway (which is very easy to use by the way) and ended up on Wall Street.
The bull on WallStreet is mobbed by tourists, the poor guy. There is no room for a picture of just you with the bull.. notice to the little ones. At the end of the article I also have a picture of the bull attacked by tourists.
There are about 25k restaurants in NY City.
I didn’t find who knows what restaurants. But where I was, I felt good. And as I like Ireland I targeted Irish pubs. On 46th and 11th avenue Labsmark, Irish restaurant.
There are also many Italian restaurants, just about everywhere.
One of the evenings I went to the Rock, the place I said earlier was worth the night. Deserve! Rockefeller Center, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, USA. Just bring spare batteries and a DSLR for night shots. They don’t let you with a tripod, unfortunately, but you can rest the camera on something dahh.
The elevator in the building is sensational. There it is..
Images from and on Rockefeller Center or Top of the Rock:
I would like to highlight two more experiences: the play and the natural history museum in Central Park.
I got to the theater thanks to the ticket bought by Ghiță, a friend from the USA of my parents. The man has extensive knowledge about all of America, being a top tourist, and moreover a Romanian successfully acclimatized in the homeland of the free. The Hudson Theatre, about the size of a big movie theater here, but boy… the play… slap my face and call me Sally. So.. I haven’t seen theater until this play.
A play with Big Screen actors who acted so well, maybe better than in the movies. I always had the impression that in the theater, the acting of the actors does not measure up to the performance in the movies, maybe because in the movies the double, the director, the attention to every word, expression intervenes.
But in this play (1984, adaptation of Orwell’s novel), gee.
Special effects, like in the movies. The only thing I didn’t like was the flash effect where without warning, some lights went off like lightning, and while the world was dizzy they completely changed the scenery… Good, smart, but not smart afterall. .. The eyes suffered. Other than that… I’d say kudos as snobs but let’s say cool. Worth it, for $50?? what? Definitely, thumbs up.
About Central Park, a little bigger than Herăstrău (which is quite big for a city park), but with more alleys around the lake, very very cool. The Museum of Natural History, you know, the one in the movie with the exhibits that come to life…huge. It’s just that in the movie it looks like toy exhibits, reproductions, and looks cheap in general.
Well, it’s not, It’s perhaps the richest and most serious museum.. heavy.. that I’ve seen. Think of something.. it’s there.
Poți intra cam fără bilet (hint 4 mai jos) nu că asta ar fi important. Estimez că ți-ar lua cam trei zile să vezi tot din muzeu.. Au orice, partea de astronomy și spectacol 3D, de la aur aztec, la Inca, la fosile de Lucy, la cei mai mari și mai anonimi meteoriți pe care i-am văzut, cele mai rare minereuri și bijuterii.
Animale, de la cei mai ciudați crabi la o balenă în mărime naturală (din plastic probabil). You say it, they’ve got it… Merită.
China Town – în fiecare oraș american, dar o sa revin mai târziu pe acest subiect.
Mai merită și Times Square, mereu vezi ceva trăsnit pe acolo. Am stat aproape și ne-am intersectat cu tot felul de eventuri în Times Square, printre care niște domnișoare goale complet pictate în culorile americane.
Complet goale și complet pictate. De cine? Nu știu, nu contează, doar pentru el, cred că e un el, așa mi-ar plăcea să cred..În fine.. :)).
Seara merită să mergi în Brooklyn pentru a prinde Manhattanul la apus, în apropierea Brooklyn Bridge.
Dacă nu asta, atunci turul cu barca, aproape de apus.
During the boat tour, past the bridge, we also got to see Trump’s entourage probably coming to inaugurate something. It came with a suite of helicopter-plane aircraft, as can be seen in one of the pictures above. All over the States I have seen large letters painted on the ground. I still haven’t documented myself in this regard, but the curiosity remains, I’ll be back..
Also above you can see the pictures of the bull and the rat on Wallstreet, which I was talking about. And above and to the right, some other pictures from wallstreet. Among them, Trump Building, NY Stock Exchange, Deutsche Bank NY.
In conclusion, in NY you walk a lot, the advice is to see as much as you can from what I wrote above. And if you can, get out of Manhattan, visit smartly, without tourist traps and pitzi pictures.
And if you go to NY you have to go in style. There are places in the world and in life (in space-time) where you can enjoy the open sky, where you can let loose, and there are places where you fit in better if you adopt an elegant style – to get 100/100 experience points. That is if you are the type of person who can be many things and yet only one.
Salt Lake – first encounter
I flew to Salt Lake to be as close as possible to the centrality of the eclipse’s band of totality. Before taking the plane to Salt Lake City, I caught the coolest airport sunset ever. There it is.
The first meeting with Salt Lake was very short, just one night’s sleep, as we picked up the rental cars early the next day. I liked it in the car (apart from the automatic gearbox which unfortunately is not used in Romania – unfortunately I don’t have an automatic gearbox and unfortunately I live in Romania..:)) ) and satellite radio – brilliant. But the tank is strangely small for what I imagined it should be in the states – about 50l only – and mine is not an SUV and has 65.. it had to be filled quite often.
We were going to drive a total of approx. 5000 km through reaching the states of Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada. If I add NY and California to the list, in total we reached 8 American states. Dense enough for even 3 weeks.
From Salt Lake we went north to Yellowstone, the famous park with geysers, forests, animals and colored waters. The park would sit on the largest and most dangerous volcano (inactive for now) in the world.
Until we got to visit Yellowstone, we focused on choosing where to eat popcorn during the eclipse.
We moved to Island Park (270 inhabitants), somewhere 470 km from Salt Lake and at almost 2K altitude on the edge of the Snake River. There I spent 3 nights, on the edge of the river and at the edge of the forest, in a cabin, at a distance of almost 40 km from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Relatively close to Island Park, we found one of the best possible places for the eclipse: a lakeside RV/campground (swimmable) in the town of Beaver Dick.
Funny as it sounds, it’s not what you think. Beaver Dick was a real character, a respectable English citizen, who settled near Yellowstone toward the end of the frenzied beaver hunting period in the region. We marked our reserved area with chalk on the grass, and the next day one of us would practice with the equipment and the other would visit the surroundings.
I chose to visit even though I had no experience with the new sh lens taken from NY and neither with any eclipse nor with the solar filter. But it turned out well in the end, I think.. as you can appreciate below.
SARM Romania – Great American Eclipse 2017 was the official name of the tour in the USA, a project that the organizers started working on since 2015, reasons for which we had very good costs for the entire period and accommodation conditions in the band of totality, for the period the eclipse.
The main objective of the tour was to document and thus photograph the 2017 solar eclipse in the Midwest USA, Idaho, Idaho Falls area. The target town was Rexburg, in an arid, volcanic area. But as I said, I finally found much better conditions in Beaver Dick (yes.. ), the caravan park near a gorgeous lake where it was clearly stated: No weapons!
In the campground, we got a small price for our grass lot where we set up the equipment. There were many teams from all over the world, next to us was a Japanese team. And one of the Japanese people knew each other, he was Valentin Grigore. Is the world of astronomy small or big? We Romanians, as we said at the beginning, were a heterogeneous group of 27, the largest group in Romania for this eclipse. A team organized by the magazine Science and Technology was also in the States: Cătălin Beldea, Dumitru Prunariu and Alexandru Mironov.
So the band of totality crossed the North American continent across the US from west to east.
It was a remarkable eclipse and we had very good observation conditions from an organizational point of view as well as the weather.
It was a heavily publicized event, a fact that generated an important influx of tourists with effects on the availability of accommodation and also on prices.
I, wanting to make the most of Yellowstone and not having who knows what equipment with me, did not exercise with the machine the day before and went to visit.
The night is quite cool in the park area, about 6 degrees, but during the day it is about 25 degrees.
On the day of the eclipse, the sky was perfect, not a cloud. But we had prepared plan B 70 km away, also in the eclipse band, in case we had no visibility where we were.
After the eclipse, all those tourists who piled into the band of totality had to leave too. Although it is said that there was a traffic jam after the end of the eclipse, compared to Bucharest it was nothing. I didn’t see any traffic jams, but I’m from Bucharest. Maybe the alternative routes helped and certainly the traffic management by the authorities, which, there, were not taken by surprise.
Some details about the Eclipse of August 21, 2017:
– Eclipse visibility period: 10:15-13:00 LT
– Maximum eclipse at 11:33 a.m. LT (17:33 UT). Duration of totality: 2min 17 sec.
– Eclipse viewing location: Midwestern USA, Idaho, Beaver Dick.
For the coronal eclipse shot below, I used my old Nikon D5200 crop camera with the 300 lens from NY plus a focal length extender. I got to the 420mm f11 1/25 settings. The star Regulus (low left) can also be seen in the photo. August 21, 2017, Beaver Dick, US..
In the other eclipse photos I tried to capture the sun, the sun “bitten” by the moon, Baily’s beads and the “diamond ring”:
The group being heterogeneous – not all of the group were amateur astronomers, as I said at the beginning – we were about a third who took photos of the eclipse. One accidentally caught a cool frame with an airplane. Another also mounted a GoPro in the auxiliary on an improvised tripod made of ..sticks. At first I was trying to photograph an eclipse with equipment under 600 euros. Next to us were the Japanese who had stayed overnight in the cold and with equipment worth tens of thousands of euros. However, I think that our pictures (mine above) also came out honorably.
In fact, throughout the trip, we tried to popularize the Bucharest Astroclub (AB) with banners specially designed for this event. We were a total of 5 members of the Bucharest Astroclub in the tour of the States occasioned by the solar eclipse. This fact was due to the fact that in Romania the community of amateur astronomers is really small, so that many of us know each other and cross paths often. I gave this explanation because it must be stated that the trip was organized by SARM – the Romanian Astronomical Society of Meteors. But gathering by chance and 5 members of AB, we took this opportunity to popularize the club there but also to popularize what we experienced there, here..
The banners made by the effort of an AB member (Florin Micu – thanks) have achieved their goal, we say. I have used the banners for both eclipse and night astrophotography with the arch near Page, or on various occasions in Monument Valley and other interesting locations.
At the first opportunity since returning to the country, I told the club members about the solar experience in the States. On this occasion, I presented the pictures from the American tour on the club’s projector.
I think the memory of the American eclipse will stay in our heads for a long time. However, I also received somewhat more material memories. Already in America and then, in addition, at the Sci-Fi Fest in Bucharest, Vali handed us photosensitive stamps with the eclipse – a very appropriate souvenir after this fantastic trip.
Yellowstone is probably the first officially established national park. It has an area roughly the size of two Romanian counties. Every day while we were in the area, we traveled about 200 km to see different parts of this park full of objectives. You are over 2000m altitude, but being a plateau, there is vegetation like anywhere below and you don’t feel like you are that high.
Highlightul sunt animalele, geyserele și izvoarele termale în culori rasta. Grand Prismatic Spring e cel mai mare izvor de apă fierbite din SUA și poate al 3 lea din lume cu un debit de peste 2o00 l/minut.
Este situat la o altitudine de 2.216 m în platoul Yellostone iar temperatura apei are 70C.
Culorile sale deosebite sunt însă cel mai impresionant lucru – dispersia curcubeului. Și aici, ca și în alte cazuri, mai bine las imaginile să transmită informația.
Grand Prismatic is part of Yellowstone along with the famous geysers of which perhaps the most famous is Old Faithful. For Old Faithful we were waiting for it to erupt at the scheduled time. It is a very predictable natural geyser. It’s fascinating! It has been erupting at regular intervals (about every 90 minutes) since 2000. The eruption lasts a few minutes and can reach between 30 and 50 m.
As fascinating as it is, the old geyser was used for washing clothes before 1900 :))). Not that it doesn’t do the job well, hot water, regular, high pressure, free. How not to do your laundry if there were no tourists? Then I read that it’s not even the biggest geyser in the park, but it’s the most famous. Maybe because of the laundry from 150 years ago.
Its eruption launches up to 32k liters of boiling water up to 50m into the air for several minutes…
The time between eruptions has a bimodal distribution and depends on the size of the previous eruption. It can be estimated with a margin of error of a few minutes. Its predictability is given by the pressure build-up mode but is not known exactly. It’s so predictable they put a clock on it. I was convinced that it was regular by someone. No, it’s as natural as it gets.
In Yellowstone I went a lot, by car, but also on foot, on the paths. We walked for several hours through the woods to a lake and were almost attacked by squirrels. Wild animals do not shy away from humans. We saw foxes, deer, elk, bison and many birds. I also saw a trail sign for the rider. You don’t know what to make of it when you first see it. What does it mean. Then you process. You are in America.
In the Teton mountains there is a bike path at 2000 m altitude and exemplary cleanliness everywhere.
It’s a fascinating and very big park and I don’t have enough words to describe it.
I better let the pictures do the talking.
In the US parks, especially in Yellowstone, you will find a completely different fauna than in Romania, especially in terms of behavior.
First of all, compared to Romania, American parks (because that’s why they are parks) are not made of shape, but you actually see animals everywhere, from the deer family, bison, small animals, large animals, warning signs, cougars, etc.
The first time we saw a deer we stopped the cars suddenly, we got out in a hurry to get some pictures. Surprise, the deer seemed rather surprised by our surprise. He didn’t take her away, and he wasn’t the only one I saw. Then we also got used to so many animals that it didn’t seem strange to us anymore.
And that’s what I’m saying about the roads, probably deeper in the woods there are even more. The bison were coaxed off the road by the rangers, who pushed them gently with their truck. Whole herds of bison in the fields.
We walked at one point on a trail that had signs, trail for riders, beware of cougars, etc. We arrived at a beautiful lake flanked by mountains.
On the way back, the squirrels seemed to have gone crazy, launching a real concert, or rather they were preparing for an attack.
I admit that I’m more afraid of small and mean animals than big and shy ones.
Related to Yellowstone, we should also mention the visitor centers that should not be missed and can’t really be missed because they are everywhere, at all entrances to the park. At these centers you can take a wifi break, souvenirs, food, coffee, information, maps, free stuff, badges for bookies. Btw, kids can fill out a questionnaire in each such center, and if they answer the questions well they get a badge. If I collect nush as many badges I get an even rarer one. All to encourage the gathering of information, the learning process, etc.
In Yellowstone and America in general (as I was saying earlier everything seems to be bigger) you see a multitude of gigantic waterfalls unlike in Europe. We passed by these waterfalls.
And even the road itself through these parks is not a chore but a pleasure.
The road winds through waterfalls, mountains, rivers, lakes, geysers. Everywhere there are places where you can stop and visit organized.
The road itself is fine.
I don’t know why, in some places the forests were dry and you could see some kind of avalanche of trees.
Someone said it would be landslides, someone else that a disease of the trees, maybe a little bit of everything.
In the localities around the park you can find things specific to mountain Americans, from hides, beaver furs, cowboy boots, minerals,
I got magnets (normally I have a collection), an animal tail, a cowboy hat, a knife with a deer heart handle and an obisdian blade (dragon glass for those who watched Game of Thrones). However, the fur is ecological, i.e. fake, and the handle is probably from a lost deer antler and not cut from the deer. The deer are shedding their antlers.
Salt Lake City
I passed through Salt Lake twice. First time since Yellowstone when I stayed just one night then rented the cars for what was to become a 5000km adventure through the southern parks, Route 66, Las Vegas and back.
The second time we left the cars and then took the plane to San Francisco.
Salt Lake is a more American city than other international and cosmopolitan megametropolises or tourist attractions. It is a small city of about 200k inhabitants, in the middle of some greenish-yellow mountains, near the lakes.
People seem very but extremely polite, the city is strangely clean and full of public buildings, underground parking, infrastructure works very useful to the residents. It is a Mormon city and has many such temples with gilded statues on the roof. The Mormon religion would be interesting to read. I would not like to make too many references to religion, but I personally was puzzled how such a clean and well-functioning city, so welcoming and with such polite people, is the capital of such a cretinous religion.
On our second visit to Salt Lake, in the airport, we caught a gorgeous sunset.
Arches, Moab, Dead Horse
After the Eclipse stage and the Yellowstone stage, we moved on to other fascinating places, that we just couldn’t stay there, no matter how beautiful it was and how clean the air was. I drove almost 900 km south southwest to Arches National Park near the town of Moab.
We traveled through the Colorado Plateau, having a maximum of 12 hours allotted for the journey with many stops along the way. Here other wonders, arches carved by water and wind. We stayed at the Super 8 Hotel Moab 23/24 and 24/25.08, one of the main objectives being the photo outings in the area, in the evening or at night.
Apart from the rather high daytime temperatures, the place is incredible. The sky was a pure, mesmerizing blue. And also the perfect place for night astrophotography.
Unfortunately for us, the Arches was under renovation and after 7pm traffic was no longer allowed in the park. So I changed the nighttime photography plans of the Famous Arch near Moab with plan B – plan B identified at the moment.. Fortunately I found out about Corona Arch, also near Moab but a little further than the most famous arch. Corona Arch is outside Arches Park.
Of course, in the States everything has directions and is set up for tourists. You even have the impression that the whole country is made to be visited.
Visitor centers everywhere, signs, paths, roads, etc. But I arrived at Corona Arch the first time at night, so I walked about 3 km at night without knowing the exact road but only approximately the direction… and the meaning.
At the destinations we were going to meet other members of the group but at first we didn’t know that. It was me and another colleague with whom we decided to venture into the dark. This adventure was interesting in itself, with night fronts on the edge of the canyon dug by the evil Colorado. With steps among the rocks, on smooth rocks, in the dark, under the sky full of stars.
I arrived and did not regret it. . Here are the pictures taken of the Corona Arch.
Unfortunately, I don’t have very good equipment for astrophotography. A wide and bright lens was required and ideally a mount or star tracker. I only had the 17-55 (f 3.5) plastic lens kit lens of the Nikon 5200 entry DSLR. It deserves a wide.. but csf ncsf.
On the 24th, we visited Dead Horse Point State Park in the morning and then headed to Arches National Park during the day. I can’t say more about the monuments in Arches than I can say about the pictures, which by the way didn’t need any color editing, the contrast being so interesting between the blue of the sky and the red of the rocks.
In front of me, at one point, two Americans, she and he, had been trying for some time to get a good picture frame with his abdomen. This meant that she adopted certain positions.. less orthodox. The equipment didn’t help him much either.
So I took the initiative, took pictures of them without them knowing (with the initial thought of having a fun memory with two tweens) and then gave them my contact for photo exchange. I later found out that the guy was an actor, he’d been on a few hit HBO series.
The sights to visit in Arches are something like this:
- La Sal Mountains Viewpoint,
- Courthouse Towers (just a short stop),
- Balanced Rock,
- Turret Arch,
- North Window,
- Double Arch,
- Parade of Elephants,
- Cove of Caves,
- Delicate Arc Parking + a long walk,
- Delicate Arch – most important,
- Fiery Furnace Viewpoint – (if time),
- Sand Dune Arch,
- Skyline Arch (can be admired from the car),
- Devil’s Garden Trailhead (parking), walk on foot,
- Pine Tree Arch,
- Tunel Arch,
- Wall Arch,
- Partition Arch,
- Navajo Arch,
- Landscape Arch,
- Double O Arch,
- Devils Garden,
- Private Arch,
- Top Story Window,
- Dark Angel + return to Double O Arch or go around on the opposite side.
Canyonlands National Park (not to be confused with the Grand Canyon, Arizona) is located in southeastern Utah, a dramatic landscape carved by the same Colorado River. The park was established later than the others, in the 20th century, and is located somewhat near the Arches.
Although I didn’t stay long and I can’t write nush what memorable adventures, the best pictures seem to have come out here.
More photos from Canyonlands and Dead Horse State Park
The Moab – Monument Valley trail is approx. 240 km. For Monument Valley you need to set aside a good few hours if not a whole day.. as there would also be worth horse riding and much more than we did in a few hours.
Monument Valley is also on Indian land (Nabajo and others) and is made up of those incredible formations carved by water, wind and gods that you’ve probably seen in Marlboro Country cigarette commercials. (those born in the 80s or earlier must have seen them).
You drive through this park, if you don’t want to stop at the Visitors Center or the restaurants there and look at the monuments with binoculars.
As he said, there are options for horseback riding as well, and I managed to get some pictures of real cowboys. In the park, the horses were clearly for tourists, but I have to remember here the fact that everywhere in the west/southwest (and we were not in Texas) I saw on the road the places specially set up for the Rodeo and they didn’t necessarily seem touristic to me, but for Americans in the area.
In fact, in Monument Valley it seems to me that I took the most successful pictures in terms of contrast and colors. They didn’t require much editing either, that’s how vivid the colors were in reality.
The contrast between the reddish of the rocks, the sudden breaks in form against the background of the painted blue sky or against the background of the white clouds..
Page and Horseshoe Bend
After Monument Valley, we continued the route for another 195 km to the town of Page, on the banks of the Colorado River. In Page I had, in the evening, the surprise of a formidable double rainbow, clear and complete. We were at Danny’s at the table, watching it rain a little and a rabbit was on the other side of the big window munching on something. Then I saw the rainbow and went outside. In the pictures obviously.
Moreover, one of the characteristics of most areas in the USA should be mentioned here. Always see great things. See the horizon, in its entirety. There are not many elements to block your view, outside the big metropolises. You see far into the horizon, all around, and maybe for this reason you have the impression that everything is magnificent, grander. So we saw the double rainbow in the parking lot of Danny’s in Page, from one end to the other, almost above us, in all its glory.
By the way, it’s worth stopping at Cindy’s or Danny’s on the way. They are fast food or roadside restaurant, but they are so good. Especially Cindy’s Baconator and Son of Baconator or Danny’s Pork Ribs.
On 25/26.08. we made various visits around: Lake Powell (the lake caused by the dam on the Colorado River), 4 km away, and Horseshoe Bend 10 km away. From here you can see a fine sunset.
The Colorado River Horseshow Bend we visited both day and night. I first arrived at night, at astrophoto. I walked the sand and stone path until I could no longer go forward easily (but I walked a little less than in the Corona Arch episode). And I did well, my intuition dictated me correctly. During the day I returned to the same place and saw that it was actually the edge of the huge canyon dug by the Colorado River.
Here are the night pictures taken on the edge of the canyon, with the Milky Way.
The horseshoe itself is magnificent. Besides, I think I’ll use the words magnificent, fascinating, incredible quite often. But I can’t help it, that’s how it is. By the way, Horseshoe is good for both sunset and sunrise. I mean the pictures again.
Antelope Canyon, like Monument Valley, is on Indian land, and all, if not all, of the facilities in the area are operated by Indians who identify with various tribes as origin. Most of them seem to be Nabajo, our guides also being from this nation. With this canyon are those famous images especially for Windows wallpapers. And again it is nothing exaggerated. I thought that what I was seeing in the pictures was heavily edited or maybe only certain portions were like that, not all. It is spectacular.. there is not much difference between the images and the reality.
The rock is quite fragile, sedimentary rock, eroded by water. Although it has the name of a canyon, it does not compare at all in size with the established canyons. It is more of a kind of cave without a ceiling, narrow, reddish, with glasspapier walls. But fascinating. And dangerous. A few years ago, a flood surprised a group of people who otherwise lost their lives in this mini-canyon.
After lunch we left on Highway 89 towards Grand Canyon Village. I walked about 200 km and arrived in the afternoon at the Hotel Yavapai Lodge East where I stayed for 2 nights.
Thus, I arrived at the Grand Canyon after traveling thousands of km between Yellowstone and Las Vegas. The largest canyon in the world is the effect of an erosion phenomenon of the Colorado River and maybe not only (along with theories of huge floods) over geological time periods.
We were lucky to find accommodation in the Grand Canyon Village, a resort built specifically for the Grand Canyon. He could just stay here in the area for weeks. That’s how big and fascinating the area is.
We stayed for 2 days in one of the mini-hotels in the ‘village’. Excursions can be made going down into the Canyon, on the tracks wherever you want, excursions that can last for whole days.
In Grand Canyon Village, the sunset is worth it, in August it is somewhere around 7 p.m., but also night photography.
As it is shown everywhere (I remind you here that any major American tourist attraction has at least 3 visitor centers, but that’s not what you see here), the first modern Europeans to see the canyon were the Spanish.
They didn’t stay, he was probably more interested in South America… The town is connected to the rest by rail. inaugurated in 1901.
In Grand Canyon Village I saw for the first time half a store (several rows) dedicated to food solutions for hiking/trekking. Dehydrated food bags, water filtration, cooking utensils.
Moreover, the Americans, including the Canadians, have an outdoor culture at a level that cannot be found in most European states.
There are hardly any people, rich or poor, artists or technicians, strong or frail, who have not been out on the mountain, with a tent or fishing at least as a child.
Hoover Dam was for us on the way to Las Vegas, on the border between Nevada and Arizona. I can say that it is totally worth visiting. Like everywhere else, as you are already used to, they have very well set up visitor centers. It can be seen from the outside, you can walk on the dam, after a small security check, and you can enter the museum set up inside obviously.
Without enumerating the history of the dam here, it is worth mentioning that this man-made monster was made in just 5 years, during the great crisis of overproduction between 1931 and 1936 with all that entails the design and construction of a dam.
Over a hundred men died to build this imposing dam which is said to be almost as thick at the base as it is wide.
Efforts to prospect and tame the Colorado River, however, had begun even before 1900, about the same historical period when other Americans were doing their laundry in Old Faithful and we were gaining independence from the Turks, not that these things were related.
Next to the Hoover Dam is, as usual, a lake. Lake Powell. Here the Americans go in boats. You see them coming in their pickups or Japanese cars (very fashionable in the states), cars that don’t betray any wealth (although the pickups hide huge engines under the hood), super luxurious boats.
Route 66 and Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a nighttime experience par excellence. However, I arrived during the day, after 433 km of the Grand Canyon Village – Las Vegas route. To ride the famous Route 66 (actually Historic Route 66, a small portion of what it originally was), you exit Highway 66 and replace a distance of 139 km on the highway with a distance of 166 km on the Route 66.
What is interesting to note, in this part of the States, I have noticed many times, from the car, the smell of hemp, for whole kilometers, intermittently. Now I don’t know what kind of hemp, but it sure smelled like hemp. I don’t have much experience with hemp but I know what it smells like. I also noticed the irrigation networks. they have irrigation everywhere, even on the plateau at over 2000m altitude, they cultivate and irrigate gigantic areas. They are clearly self sustainable.
On Historic Route 66 the interesting parts are the ends of this section – Seligman and Kingman – and a few points along the route (I identified only one – an old gas station or better said “preserved” and touristized). Although you can find authentic places around. But these points I was telling you about, right on the road, are no longer authentic. However, you will find authentic items and many Americana memorabilia. We caught a nice atmosphere in a gas station created by the decor (old cars, old gas pumps, old advertisements like Coca-Cola), a blues singer playing a pipe organ and a group of bikers on Harleys, the peak of Germans (tourists more special).
The Germans had apparently already traveled about 5,000 km on motorcycles and were on their second attempt of this type. But they looked exactly like American Hell’s Angels bikers. If we didn’t talk to them, we wouldn’t have found out where they were from.
Las Vegas… stars in the middle of the desert. We expected it to be warm. And it was. You can cross almost the entire center going from one casino to another and from hotel to hotel. And it’s good, they have air conditioning. And so much energy that I often don’t even put a screen between the 20-degree air-conditioned zone and the 45-degree zone. It’s Vegas, there’s waste par excellence. But it is not a characteristic of Americans. Only in Vegas and a few similar areas.
It should be noted that Macau is several times larger than Vegas in terms of revenue.
But back to Vegas, when I stepped out of the air conditioning, it felt like someone put a hair dryer in my face. A must-see is the famous Bellagio fountain.
It’s also technologically impressive. Something bigger like old Faithful. and more precise, but certainly not more old. Kitschul does not last as long as nature. Well, that is if they don’t blow up all of Yellowstone. And then the predictability of the geyser ends.
The luxury of bad taste, luxury stores are everywhere but it is assumed. And for this reason it is not disturbing.
Ohh but our pitzipoances would be in heaven there. (Probably that’s where the pitzipoances go when they die before the slave wives of the cocals and smardos arrive..)
Well, it’s kitsch there, but without sardonic and with some technical marvels, all against a background of about 1000 times more lights than the Christmas ones in Bucharest.
As I said, you can cross almost the entire center going from one casino to another and from hotel to hotel, and the girl in the picture was doing exactly that, in a bathing suit, coming out of a hotel pool, she probably had work in another casino.
To get from Vegas to San Francisco, I went back to Salt Lake City about 700 km :)) thus marking a total of about 5,000 km through the United States. We handed in the cars and got ready for the domestic flight to San Francisco. I had August 29th and 30th set aside for San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge sunset in mind.
Golden Gate Bridge.. it may be old but it is huge. And a red work of art. American red wedding, a little paler than the Soviet one, softer. Bigger than our bridges over the Danube. It was built between 1933 and 1937, about the same time as the Hoover Dam, when the Americans started building to get out of the overproduction crisis, about the same time the Germans were they also built and made weapons. About 60 years since the rest of the Americans were doing laundry in Old Faithful.
The Golden Gate, big, red and beautiful. In SF we rented bikes and it was one of the best ideas of the American tour. I think I did about 40 km in total, on the sloping streets you pedal only 10 meters, at first, until you run out of gas, that’s how big the angle of the slope is. At least we, that’s all we managed. I was thinking that if, in SF, you leave your house for the market or a meeting, on foot and you forget your card or something at home you put it. To leave, if you’re going downhill and you forgot your card at home, you’d better beg for something than go up that slope again :))).
Then the docks are the main element. There you can eat seafood and cuddle with noisy sea lions or take pictures at sunset. In SF we went to the docks and had lunch at a BUba Gump restaurant – themed restaurant from the famous movie Forest Gump. The action of the film is completely fictional and Bubba Gump restaurants are found almost everywhere in the states where there is a coast. Funny, I ordered shrimp with potatoes. Potatoes also had gravy. I received a fork only on request with a comment and a smile – sorry, you are from Europe, we here eat more with our hands. :). They have a special appreciation for Europeans, in SF.
I thought San Francisco’s slanted streets were rare. But I am not the exception, I am the rule. Almost every street in SF is on a slope.
It’s incredible how cars stop at crosswalks and park. And they even stop at the crossing no matter how steep the slope, without honking. Maybe the vending machines help, or maybe common sense.
I thought San Francisco’s slanted streets were rare. But I am not the exception, I am the rule. Almost every street in SF is on a slope.
It’s incredible how cars stop at crosswalks and park. And they even stop at the crossing no matter how steep the slope, without honking. Maybe the vending machines help, or maybe common sense.
In all major American cities, China Towns exist and are expanding. But I had no idea they were so big and so china.. In SF, China Town is close to the most visited area, the docks. (By the way, it is also in the center in LA, only with us they hid in Colentina). But the demarcation is very sharp.
China Town – everyone is Asian, one street away, outside the area, it’s not anymore. Without being politically correct I can say that the difference in cleanliness and civilization is obvious to the detriment of areas populated by Asians.
In China Town everything from the prices to the policemen to the advertisements to the newspapers to the old kids are all Chinese except for some tourists and the cable company workers (who probably brought the cable from another area and had to go over there as well). The shops are weirder – like they were here in communism (I don’t know why), poorer and more dirty. You look at the cars and the drivers are mostly Chinese. Where do they go, just from one street to another?
This is the city.. permanently in a fog state. And so it is but not all the city, not all the time. But you could see in the distance how the fog or very low clouds covered the taller buildings in various parts of the city. Low clouds rather than fog.
The bridge is worth seeing by day, and it is worth doing so from one of the adjacent hills, until sunset and beyond. But arm yourself with windproof and waterproof clothing. I’ll let the pictures describe the atmosphere better.
What else should be noted is that the famous Berkley is in the SF bay, that SF seems like a crazy city, a hippie loving city, that it is the most European-like city in the States and the most democratic.
I’ve heard they tend to apologize for not being European.
They have slightly smaller cars than the rest of the United States. Also of note is the cucumber juice I’ve seen in stores, although I haven’t tried it. And the fact that they don’t really have curtains in their houses, like in Amsterdam.
For Los Angeles we had August 31st and September 1st.
The first word is Stretch. Very stretched. In LA, I also saw the first area in the US with a slightly higher density of luxury cars, higher than in the North of Bucharest. Yes, contrary to rumors, Americans, although they have money, are very frugal.
You mainly see cheap, American or Japanese cars. Or big and expensive trucks that they probably really need (as I was saying earlier about farmland and large tracts of land).
On the first day, we scheduled a bus trip with a Romanian guide through Los Angeles. We then stayed at Hotel Metro Plaza for two nights, right in the center, but right in the Chinese/Hispanic quarter.
In LA you feel the wealth and luxury but also the poverty of those who chose not to do anything constructive.
It is hard to believe that you can end up homeless somewhere in the US if you are not somehow mentally or psychologically affected and if you have some schooling. But the point is that in the States the locals seem polite and go about their business, you don’t feel assaulted by mythocanism like in Romania. Or maybe the Eastern European expression, that reflex frown that we display in public places after decades of experience in the bottom of Europe, was pushing them aside :)).
I ran into an old friend from high school in LA. He had some luck 15 years ago and took advantage of the opportunity to get to the US. From just ‘arriving’ and ‘living’ in her own house, on the beach in Long Beach, it was her personal karma but also this environment in which I quote, if you have a mind and work you can’t help but get something, somewhere .
The transport company that drove us around LA was also owned by a Romanian. From a simple driver he became a small entrepreneur.
He brought the Eastern European balkanise bad taste but posh concept to LA, where the potential demand was high but they didn’t realize it. Thus he made money from luxury transport for Arabs, Russians, etc.
Basically, he bought a few minibuses that are also here, but black, with leather and air conditioning, he wrote something about luxury in gold color on them and voila money money money.
In LA, I took the subway, which is similar to the one in Bucharest, it is less branched than in other big American cities like NY and newer. That’s why it looks a bit like the one in Bucharest (because it’s less branched, more on the surface and more in the style of the 70s-80s). I walked for about 1 hour to a beach, I saw the Pacific.
We also saw the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Surprisingly, I didn’t expect the Pacific to be the most similar of the waters I’ve seen to the Black Sea, at least from where I was. I don’t know from other parts.
In Santa Monica, the beach is like in Mamaia, but more normal people without pitzipoance (some would say poorer than here), the water is about the same color, the taste is about the same (salinity). I expected it to be different. The only difference was the dock in Santa Monica, the American policemen and the lifeguard houses like in Baywatch, otherwise I would have said they were in Costinești.
LA commutes are measured in hours. Between parts of LA, the distances are about the same as between cities close to us.
I took the subway for about 1h30 to the other beach, Long Beach, to my high school friend, and that’s because I got off earlier and she took me by car.
From their lovely beach house that shares a lot with other millionaires, home with kids and a gorgeous ocean view, I Ubered back to the hotel. I still did about 1h30 and paid 22 dollars.
Uber can be super cheap in the States because gasoline costs about 3 lei per liter. The black Uber driver once again disproved the opinion of many that Americans are stupid or uneducated.
I’ve said before, we’re not comparing apples to apples. I’m not like that at all. But I won’t go into details.
In LA, the mess is, at its peak, in the center, where the surprise is the Chinese neighborhood combined with the Latino one. In fact Latinas are everywhere because they were there first. Relatively first, meaning after the Aztecs or whatever. It doesn’t matter who was first, the dinosaurs were first. It matters who it is now. However, the civic center is undergoing some renovation. They also have a downtown with a skyscraper, but few relative to other American cities. That’s why LA is stretched horizontally, maybe the fear of earthquakes, the whole fault being an area exposed to earthquakes.
We had two and a half days to visit LA. I stayed in the center, in Chinatown somewhat, but near the subway hub. Half day car tour, walking in Beverly Hills and other famous areas like Rodeo Drive, then the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Another day I visited the beaches and friends. Another day of rest and walking at the mall (the Glendale galleries where I saw Tim Robbins at the mall) and it seems that this took me all day.
That’s how big the city is. I went to look for a cap, the same model as the one lost on the Salt Lake – SF plane, along with the tripod, I couldn’t find it, it’s only made in Utah (I later ordered from Romania). Then we walked the streets, you can walk for hours
egi and you can’t find a kiosk. Luckily I stumbled upon a Subway but where they didn’t speak English like I understood English – I said I didn’t understand what they were saying they gave me Chinese and Spanish. Finally with the signs.. And luckily there were some who gave out ice cream at the promotion.
I went with Uber again, cool and cheap. I also tried to buy some food near the hotel, together with a colleague. Apart from strange, communist shops and creepy bail lending places, I didn’t find anything in the area, even though it is theoretically the geographical center.
Heading for home:
The flight home took us from LA straight to Amsterdam and then Bucharest, but via Greenland. I didn’t feel any discomfort neither on the way there nor back, on the flight. Big planes are like ships, 12 rows of seats. With many movies available and plenty of space, you don’t feel discomfort, especially as you get used to long flights and long transit after a while.
Valentin Grigore got a fantastic picture of the aurora borealis, from the plane, but for that he prepared, he constantly observed the sky from the plane, and he took a picture but under certain special improvised conditions (but not with the phone). But we were no longer with them then because they – Valentin and Nelu – stayed another week in the states and thus managed to visit Yosemite Park, a regret of this tour for the rest of us in the group.
America is number 1 now in the world economically, militarily and politically. America produced modern art, it made the movies, but the movies also made America. They shaped society. The result is that the USA is like in the movies. It’s nothing over the top.
Hint 1: The price was interesting: 3000 Euros for the whole trip, including flights. I’ve also spent money on gas for rental cars, lunch/dinner meals, national park entrance fees and shopping. I also bought SH lenses from B&H Photo, some clothes and a lot of souvenirs so that I reached a total cost of about 5000 Euros. Okay.. I took a cap twice, I forgot it with a tripod and everything on the plane, things that cost me about 400 Euros to replace, but that was the bill for my carelessness.
Hint 2: Hetman Recovery, pay attention to the subscription, do not pay monthly for unnecessary updates.
Hint 3: B&H Photo have excellent prices for some things (about the price that would be in euros for us there is in dollars and the department of SH tested by them, very high. I don’t think it’s worth it for new equipment. The difference is not that much big to be worth compared to the cheap sites in Europe. The difference with F64, maybe but not so much that you run after it. Here the balance is like this, in the middle..
Hint 4: In many museums in the US, admission is actually a donation. If you want you pay, if you don’t you don’t. But it’s nice to pay, especially since they are some of the best museums ever, especially on the technology side, natural history, history of any kind, art and anything else, especially anything else.
Hint 5: It seems obvious, but I’ll say it: I recommend you get a prepaid card with internet included, AT&T or Lyca Mobile. The AT&T one is cheaper and works better in NY.
Hint 6 – National Parks visited:
Moab Area – http://www.discovermoab.com
Arches National Park – www.nps.gov/arch
Distance from Moab = 8 km, open all year round, 24 hours / day,
Canyonlands National Park – nps.gov/cany
Dead Horse Point State Park
Page Area: Antelope Canyon
Monument Valley – Nabajo
Hint 7: You need good sunglasses for the States, possibly factor 4 and sunscreen. And, after options, Hawaiian shirts.
Other interesting photos, random:
Videos from the road: