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Keeping On Keeping On-29--The United States of America Mini Trips 2007-2017

Keeping On Keeping On—- 29 The United States of America Mini Trips 2007-2017

By Michael E. Farquhar

Published by Michael E. Farquhar at Shakespir

Copyright 2017 Michael E. Farquhar














In 2004 I compiled a book entitled “I Remember It Well”, comprised of letters home, travel essays and extracts from my diaries covering a twenty month period, following the completion of my university studies, from 1965-1967, during which time I hitchhiked, youth-hostelled and worked my way throughout most of Western Europe. I concluded that document by noting that over the intervening years I continued to travel abroad and indicated that I was planning a five week trip to Australia in November, 2004. I did take that trip, preceded the year before by a trip to Morocco and Egypt.


During these trips I began to write periodic travelogues which I e-mailed home to members of my family and a few friends, reflecting my impressions of the people and the sites that I experienced in the various places that I visited. By 2006 I had fallen into the pleasant practise of usually taking one major trip abroad every year and I began seriously and regularly to write travelogues of my day-to-day activities and impressions of the diverse locales that I had visited. In addition, during the past decade, I also traveled extensively in the United States of America taking shorter mini trips.


I have retained copies of those travelogues, covering my travels abroad during the period 2006-2017, and have incorporated into them numerous photographs which I took with my point and shoot camera during those trips. This series of books, “Keeping On Keeping On”, demonstrates that, if you are comfortably retired and in good health, there is nothing to stop you from keeping on keeping on traveling until you can no longer keep on.traveling, which is something I hope to continue to do for quite some time.


I have often been asked what stands out in terms of the most memorable places I have visited. Over the years it has become increasingly clear to me that what scenes are most etched in my travel memories are the natural beauty and unspoilt wildlife in so many parts of the world. Amongst my favourites are Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the Iguassu Falls in Argentina and Brazil, the desert near Wadi Rhum in Jordan, the Ngorongoro and the Serengeti National Parks in Tanzania, the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, the Joshua Tree National Park in California and the Acadia National Park in Maine, U.S.A..


I would like to extend a particular note of thanks to my many travel companions over the past many years, most particularly brother Robin and sister-in-law Fran and friends Bert, Doug, David, Scott and Hoan. Their companionship on these many exciting adventures has only served to make my travels that much more enjoyable


Michael (Mike) E. Farquhar

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

June, 2017







This mini book, covering Palm Springs, California mad Sedona. Arizona; the American Pacific Coast; the State of Maine; the Great Smoky Mountains and North and South Carolina; San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Austin, Texas; and the American South-Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, is one in a series of twenty-nine mini books recounting my travel adventures over the period 2006-2017. They describe, with photographs, my personal travels, to such such diverse places as Antarctica, South America, New Zealand, China, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, European River Cruises, an African Safari in Kenya and Tanzania and mini trips in various parts of the United States. The series covers the following individual trips.


































Over the past decade or so my friend Scott, an American citizen living in Connecticut, and I have set out every year or two to explore for a week or so a different part of the vast and diverse countryside of the United States. This travelogue highlights some of our favourite places from California to Louisiana to North Carolina to Maine.


Palm Springs, Mount San Jacinto, Joshua Tree National Park, Salton Sea, California; Sedona, Arizona


Just a stone’s throw from downtown Palm Springs, California is Mount San Jacinto whose snow-capped peak rises some 3,302 metres (10,834 feet) above this vacation town in the heart of the California desert. Some four decades ago I first visited this area with my mother and father and took the chair lift to the summit. In those days the chair seated just four people but today the lift has been completely modernized and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can whisk upwards of fifty visitors to the peak at one time.


Mount San Jacinto, California Mount San Jacinto, California U pun exiting the tramway one is greeted by the most beautiful scene of evergreen trees dripping in mounds of pure white snow, hiking trails, a restaurant and magnificent views. Looking down to the valley below one can see the many small towns nestled in green oases sprinkled among the desert sands. Also one can view the unique picture of a forest of giant windmills lazily turning in the hot sun. While strolling around we encountered two ardent middle aged hikers who were setting out for an overnight hiking and camping adventure…this being their 27th annual San Jacinto hiking and camping adventure…and they remained as enthusiastic about the beauty of the area as they were the first time they explored it.


Joshua Tree National Park, California Joshua Tree National Park, California

The contrast between the quiet cold snowy beauty of the peak and the hot sunny sandy desert below is quite striking. The ascent to the peak, and more particularly the descent, are not for the faint of heart, especially for those that suffer from a fear of heights but the visit is well worth making the effort. One of the other magical natural attractions of Palm Springs is to view the surrounding mountains at sunrise as they turn a magnificent brilliant reddish brown colour in the early morning light.


Another delightful day trip not far afield from Palm Springs is a drive through Joshua Tree National Park. There is something in the starkness of the scenery, the bold clean rock formations, the distinctive shape of the Joshua tree, sometimes in full bloom, and the bejewelled reflecting lake that grabs at one and becomes etched in one’s memory. Throughout the park one can find the occasional camper enjoying the serene beauty of nature and especially the silence. While we were wandering around just slightly off a trail we very quickly found ourselves completely disoriented as there are no directional signs and few dramatic landmarks to guide you along the way. At one and the same time this can be both somewhat scary yet exhilarating. Once again, however, this just reinforced my fundamental belief that what stays with you long after a trip has been completed, besides the unique individuals you meet along the way, are the extraordinary images of nature’s beauty in all its forms. The explosive and unpredictable aspects of nature are also brought to mind on the drive back to Palm Springs as one visually can overlook the San Andreas Fault Line.


Back in the heart of touristy Palm Springs one can enjoy a delightful weekly custom on a Thursday evening when some sixteen blocks of the main street are closed to traffic and the area comes alive with food sellers, musicians and artisans selling an extraordinary array of unique and colourful handicrafts. On my second visit to Palm Springs some five years or so ago we enjoyed meandering along the promenade enjoying some of the delightful works of art. One particular booth caught my attention as the gentleman was selling four by four inch decorative tiles with eclectic modern and very colourful designs on them. He was an artist in Palm Desert who specialized in large colourful canvases which would brighten any large room. What he had done was reproduce these canvases on the tiles to great effect. I purchased four of the tiles and continue to enjoy them today. During my most recent visit just a few months ago, my friend Scott and I again wandered down the promenade and suddenly to our great delight Scott came across the same artist selling his tiles. With little hesitation, following a friendly conversation with the artist and his wife and reminiscing about how much I was enjoying the tiles I had previously purchased, Scott picked out four wonderfully colourful tiles for his own home.


Artist’s Paintings on Tiles, Palm Springs, California

One of the most unique short trips outside Palm Springs is to the Salton Sea, not so much for its natural beauty as for its uniqueness both in terms of the body of water itself and its history and the surrounding communities. The sea as it exists today resulted from the accidental flooding of the Colorado River in the early 1900s which filled up the dried basin of what was for millions of years, depending on the river flows and flooding of the valley, cyclically every few hundred years a freshwater lake, a saline sea and a dried up sea basin. In the mid 1950s in was the hub of a vibrant sailing, fishing, camping and holiday resort area but today it is a dying very salty body of water deeply discoloured with the dried out white skeletons of thousands of tilapia fish on its once sandy shores.


Several of the small communities on either side of the sea are bedraggled and dilapidated mere shadows of their former glory. Not far away one finds the unique Salvation Mountain which is a visionary monument made from adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of lead-free paint. Created by local resident Leonard Knight (1931–2014) it comprises numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses as well as ancient vehicles festooned with similar colourful graffiti. Nearby is Slab City where a small community of about 200 of civilization’s drop outs are living in campers and other rudimentary accommodations of all descriptions and just wanting to be left alone.


Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California

Slab City, California Slab City, California

Mike, Salton Sea, California Near the Salton Sea, California

Another worthwhile side trip from Palm Springs is to Arizona and a visit to Phoenix, Scottsdale and especially Sedona. One could easily spend a week and no doubt considerably more exploring the desert state. However, we were only making a brief side trip so our visit was limited to a drive around Phoenix, which is a bustling fast- growing modern attractive city, and then a little more time in Scottsdale and Sedona as I had been there nearly two decades earlier for my eldest niece’s wedding.


Scottsdale is a fascinating town, filled with upscale shops depicting the flavour of the old west and its Indian heritage. Not far from Scottsdale is the beautiful town of Sedona, nestled amongst magnificent giant red sandstone rock formations. The day we were there the area experienced one of its extremely rare snowfalls and very chilly temperatures. The effect of the snow on the red rocky landscape was breathtaking and made for an explosion of mother nature’s beauty.


Scottsdale, Arizona Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona Mike, Sedona, Arizona

The American Pacific Coast—-Washington, Oregon and California


As a young teenager I first travelled down the Pacific Coastal Highway from the Canadian border to San Francisco with my parents back in the mid-fifties. Even then I appreciated the unspoilt beauty of the rugged Pacific coast and the crash of the waves on the rocky shoreline. Only recently did I make that same journey starting in Seattle.


Seattle is one of the most beautiful and people-friendly cities in the United States during the warm summer months…the long winter months are grey and rainy and best avoided. Situated on Lake Washington and surrounded by the beautiful mountain peaks of Mount Baker and Mount Rainer, the city is a seafood lover’s paradise with many fine restaurants, including Ivar’s Acres of Clams…a Seattle institution for over seven decades. But perhaps the most interesting place in Seattle is its world famous Pike Place Market and the surrounding streets filled with cafes and quaint shops. The farmers’ market is without a doubt one of the best anywhere, most notable for the fish toss at the outstanding fish market. The selection of fresh west coast salmon, crabs, oysters and clams is without equal and the tossing of the salmon between clerks in the market is the best free entertainment there is. One other eye catching highlight of the market is the expansive display of fresh cut flowers of every colour and variety.


Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Ivar’s Restaurant, Seattle, Washington Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington Mount Rainier, Seattle, Washington

From the market one can explore the immediate area on foot and indeed can walk all along the shore of the lake as far as the Space Needle. A city bus tour is also an ideal way to visit this hilly city and especially to get views of the beautiful skyline. A short drive to Everett, Washington takes you to the Boeing Plant where you can tour the facilities and see where many of the giant jets are assembled…well worth the visit.


From Seattle one can drive south either through Central Washington or along the Pacific Coast Highway towards the Oregon border. We drove down to the attractive town of Vancouver, Washington, almost a suburb of Portland, Oregon, located on the shores of the Columbia River. From there it was just a short drive to Portland, Oregon where, much to our surprise, we found a city filled with hundreds of seemingly homeless people lying about on the grassy banks of the Willamette River that flows through the city. In addition, the traffic design in the downtown was unique if not baffling. The main street, which was one way like most streets in the urban core, seemed to have half a dozen lanes with each lane having a single purpose designation…bicycles, buses, cars, streetcars, etc. To say it was one of the most challenging if not confusing places we had ever driven through would be an understatement.


Seattle, Washington Rainbow South of Seattle, Washington

Heading further south one passes through the very attractive capital city of Salem, Oregon, situated in the heart of the Willamette Valley. A short drive south of Salem one comes to Albany, Oregon where one can then head west to Newport on the Oregon Coast and meet up with the iconic Pacific Coast Highway 101, from where one can head south along one of the most beautiful scenic drives anywhere in the world. The southern half of Highway 101 in Oregon is perhaps the most beautiful stretch of the entire route as one is treated to magnificent ocean views and numerous laybys where one can stop and admire the view and wander along the sandy shores. Heading south one crosses into California and driving slightly inland one comes to the magnificent Redwood forests and the famous Avenue of the Giant Redwoods.



Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport, Oregon Mike on the Pacific Ocean Shores Near Newport, Oregon

Successful Catch….Catchy T-Shirt, Highway 101, Oregon Local Fish Restaurant, Highway 101, Oregon

Oregon Coast

The last time I visited the giant redwoods was some sixty years ago as a young teenager. It was thrilling to see these magnificent trees standing taller, straighter and prouder than ever before.


Giant Redwoods, Northern C California

Giant Redwoods, Northern California

It is one of those wonderful experiences in nature to drive through the forest of these giants, park on the side of the road and wander among them admiring their majestic beauty and craning one’s neck to see the top of these behemoths. These trees can live to over 2000 years, can reach heights of over 370 feet (115 metres) and diameters of over 24 feet (7 metres).


Heading back to the coast one comes to the city of Eureka with its outstanding examples of Victorian architecture including the Carson Mansion, built in 1884 and considered to be “the most grand Victorian home in America”.


Mike in Front of an Upended Redwood Tree, California Carson Mansion, Eureka, California

Driving further south towards Fort Bragg, one follows coastal route one which is perhaps one of the most challenging drives anywhere along the American Pacific coast with its hair pin turns, lack of guard rails, roller coaster winding bends, occasional fog and bright sun shining directly into the driver’s eyes. The views of the ocean are outstanding although the laybys for getting a better look are few and far between compared to the southern Oregon coastal route.

Coastal Route in Northern California Coastal Route in Northern California

After the stressful demanding drive along the northern California coastal route we headed inland for the faster more direct route to San Francisco. The day we arrived in San Francisco it was incredibly and unusually hot, such that one was very limited in the amount of walking one had the energy to do in what is probably the hilliest but one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. I observed that the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf had become more touristy and less appealing than when I had first visited there many years ago.


Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California Haight Ashbury District, San Francisco, California

A short drive from San Francisco takes one into the beautiful wine country of Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, both of which are well worth visiting. There are any number of beautiful scenic drives and attractions just south of San Francisco including the magnificent Pebble Beach Golf Course, the beautiful town of Carmel and the iconic Monterey Peninsula, the setting for Cannery Row by the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature winning author John Steinbeck.


A visit to Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach is a colourful experience and a contrast to the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles. Venice Beach is a fascinating throw back to the 1960s as one can see any number of characters selling beads and baubles along the boardwalk, all looking like they had just stepped out of a movie set from the hippy days of the 1960s and some probably were from that era. Also noteworthy were the numerous examples of outstanding colourful walls of graffiti which livened up the boardwalk area, not to mention the numerous marijuana dispensaries.


Driving along the California Coastal Highway between Oceanside and San Diego is another beautiful drive highlighted by a string of small seemingly affluent communities that are extremely attractive and ones about which it is very easy to say “I could live here”. Each one appears to have its own unique quality with wonderful ocean vistas and sandy beaches from the delightfully upscale community of La Jolla to the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and the majestic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean through the beach village of Del Mar north to the old beach town of Encinitas and on to Carlsbad, the fifth richest city in California.


Venice Beach Skate Park, Santa Monica, California Venice Beach Skate Park, Santa Monica, California

Mike, Venice Beach, California Graffiti, Venice Beach, California

Scott, Medical Marijuana Dispensary, Venice Beach, California Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California

San Diego itself is a vibrant city with a wonderful skyline, west coast home of the U.S. naval fleet, haven for ardent weekend sailors and the best climate in the country. . When we were there we experienced hours of torrential downpours which were most unusual but still did not entirely detract from the many attractions of this city, which, of course, is also home of the world famous San Diego Zoo which I visited on a previous occasion.

One final noteworthy attraction on this Pacific Coast adventure is a visit to the world renown Queen Mary 1 anchored in the port of Long Beach. The storied history of this iconic ship before, during and after the Second World War is well worth studying. We stayed overnight on board this huge vessel, parts of which have been lovingly restored, most notably Sir Winston’s dining room and a number of the staterooms. One can tour many parts of the ship, which still maintains echoes of its former glory as well as its well documented ghosts. Having seen the Queen Mary 2 anchored in New York City after its maiden voyage some fifteen years ago and then again offshore of Punta Arenas, Chili at the southern tip of South America in 2016 I felt a certain affinity for the old ship.

Mike On Board Queen Mary 1, Long Beach, California


Yacht Basin, San Diego, California Pacific Coast North of San Diego, California

The State of Maine

I have visited the beautiful north-eastern State of Maine several times over the years but most recently I spent several days there in early spring and had an opportunity to really enjoy exploring its coastal fishing ports and magnificent ocean views. It is particularly pleasant in early May before the hordes of summer tourists arrive and one can drive the winding coastal roads and explore the small towns at a very leisurely pace.


Just north of the New Hampshire-Maine border is the tiny town of Ogunquit which boasts a lovely beach, excellent accommodation of every description, lovely restaurants and enticing shops full of intriguing collectibles. Of particular note is a wonderfully happy and lively piano bar right at the centre of the town called the Front Porch Piano Bar and Restaurant. Here one can find excellent singing pianists belting out a huge repertoire of songs from the fifties to the current hits with Broadway favourites sprinkled in between. The place is always bright and cheery and filled with a wide range of happy travellers eager to join in the sing song.


The Front Porch. Ogunquit, Maine Ogunquit, Maine Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Spring Flowers in Ogunquit, Maine

Heading north one comes to the coastal tourist town of Old Orchard Beach which boasts a beautiful sandy beach and a long pier stretching out into the ocean. The pier itself is filled with tiny shops and small eateries, one of which we comfortably settled into to enjoy steamed butter clams and a beer while overlooking the water. Old Orchard Beach, like Ogunquit, boasts many beautiful large mansions, many with lovely sea views, which have been converted to Bed and Breakfasts. Depending on one’s time, the next stop heading north is the city of Portland after which one can follow the coastal road towards the delightful town of Bar Harbour, made famous by the television show, Murder She Wrote. Along the way there are many small fishing ports and villages each one of which is a worthy photo opportunity.


We stopped and visited in and around Booth Bay which is a beautiful fishing port and sailing centre.


Booth Bay, Maine Coastal Maine Near Booth Bay, Maine

Heading further north along the coast we reached the small town of Belfast in the late afternoon and found a delightful very modern motel overlooking the oceans. Down the hillside from the motel to the ocean were scattered perhaps three dozen small cottages that one could rent for the season. It was a lovely spot to spend the night.


Near Belfast, Maine

From Belfast we drove north to Bar Harbour, Maine, which is a very attractive small tourist town with many lovely Bed and Breakfasts, centrally located motels, lively restaurants and bars and a perfect base for touring not only the immediate areas surrounding the town but also further north into the magnificent Acadia National Park.


The weather was not ideal upon our arrival as it ;was cool, grey and drizzly and not particularly conducive for driving around. Nonetheless, we decided to wander along the main street where some of the shops were open for the season and a few tourists were braving the cool temperatures. After checking in to a lovely centrally located motel we drove a little further north and along the sixteen mile circle route in the Acadia National Park. This is a magnificent scenic easy drive over winding hilly roads overlooking the ocean on one side and rocky treed hillsides on the other side. We ascended Mount Cadillac to its summit at about 1500 feet (500 metres) only to find it shrouded in heavy thick fog which made it impossible to see the lovely ocean views far below. However, we were not disappointed with the drive as we still got lovely ocean views along the way to the summit and we were able to proceed at a very leisurely pace, stopping frequently owing to the very few number of tourists at this time of year. It was a treat to avoid the traffic congestion, no doubt very prevalent during the summer months.


Bar Harbour, Maine Bar Harbour, Maine

Acadia National Park, Mane Acadia National Park, Maine

In the evening back in Bar Harbour we meandered down the main street to the water browsing through the shops that were still open at dinner time, despite the scarcity of tourists. We were able to find a few bar and grills open where we dropped in for a bite to eat and a drink finishing up at a very quiet Irish Pub just across the road from the waterfront. The next morning we planned to head inland towards Bangor, Maine and then drive south down the centre of the state through the major cities along the way as we headed back to Connecticut. However, our plans quickly changed the next morning when we awoke to the most glorious sunny clear day imaginable. Every single trace of the gray, damp, misty weather of the two previous days had completely disappeared to be replaced by warm temperatures and brilliant blues skies and seas. We immediately made the decision to retrace our steps from the day before and drive the 16 mile scenic loop in Acadia National Park including Mount Cadillac. We were not disappointed as one could see for miles in every direction. This drive was one of the most beautiful drives I have experienced, with smooth winding roads, easy access to the viewpoints and lots of parking areas along the way, only enhanced by the presence of very few cars and tourists.




Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

At the southwest corner of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, is the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay where can be found the historic Bass Harbor Head Light, dating back to 1876. The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Bass Harbor Head Light Station on January 21, 1988. The house of the lightkeeper remains in its original configuration with the exception of a 10-foot addition that was added in 1900. Today, the house is a private residence for a local Coast Guard member and his family.


Bass Harbor Head Light Station

Our last stop on the coast was also on Desert Island and that was beside the Coast Guard Station in Southwest Harbour. Here we found Beal’s Lobster Pier which has been at the same location since 1932 and is a family owned working fish and lobster pier. In 1969 a small casual restaurant was added on the pier where one can order inside and then sit out at picnic tables on the pier overlooking the harbour and eat a wide variety of fresh seafood. We tried a bowl of lobster stew which was full of generous chunks of fresh lobster and tasted delicious.


Beal’s Lobster Pier, Southwest Harbour, Maine Beal’s Lobster Pier, Southwest Harbour, Maine

We then headed inland to Bangor, Maine, a hilly bustling town on the Penobscot River, which was incorporated in 1791 and was a centre in the next two centuries for lumbering, manufacturing and shipping, and in 1860 was the world’s largest lumber port. In recent years, after a serious economic decline, Bangor has undergone a redevelopment of its waterfront and its urban core as a centre of culture and tourism.


Further south one comes to Waterville, a small town on the Kennebuc River. Originally inhabited by the Abenaki Indians back in the 1600s, it became a major centre for shipbuilding, lumbering and manufacturing, including as a major cotton textile manufacturing centre. In 2002, the C. F. Hathaway Company, founded in 1837, one of the last remaining factories in the United States producing high-end quality dress shirts, was purchased by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company and was closed after over 160 years of operation in the city. Today its old manufacturing buildings have been or are in the process of being reborn as modern renovated office buildings and upscale condominiums. It was of particular interest to us to know this history and to see the old manufacturing facilities because a close friend of my travel companion Scott is a direct descendant of the founders of the Hathaway shirt company back in 1837.


From Waterville we drove through Augusta, Maine down to Freeport, a lovely small town which is the headquarters of the well known clothing and outdoor recreation equipment company, L.L. Bean, founded over a century ago. From here you can pass by the largest city in Maine, Portland, a major fishing port and tourist centre and head directly south through New Hampshire and Massachusetts down to Connecticut and the end of a delightful tour of the State of Maine.


C.F. Hathaway Textile Facility (1837), Waterville, Maine Typical Small Town New England Church, Coastal Maine

The Great Smoky Mountains, North and South Carolina


We flew into Charlotte, the state capital of North Carolina., and immediately drove in a south-easterly direction to the Atlantic coast to the charming city of Charleston, South Carolina. Having visited Savannah, Georgia a few years earlier and found it to be a delightful and charming southern city we were anxious to tour the other very popular southern city of Charleston and we were not disappointed. Charleston is a walking city in its core and one can enjoy the delightful old world charm of its many older buildings, shops and churches.


It is a particularly emotional time when one visits the site of the Charleston church massacre at the downtown Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, built starting in 1891, in which nine people were killed.


Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina

Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina

The historic Charleston City Market is a marvellous vast market noted above all else for its lady sweet grass basket weavers, carrying on a local tradition of more than 300 years. The market itself, filled with local crafts, souvenirs, food stalls, etc., was built in 1841 and completely renovated in 2011 and is a wonderful place to spend time. It is just a short walk from the market to the waterfront.


Filled with reminders of the history of slavery in the American South, Charleston is blessed with magnificent southern homes with their large columns and extensive porches, especially along its waterfront and on the beautiful outer islands.


Main Street, Charleston, South Carolina Sweet Grass Baskets, Charleston City Market, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is also famous for The Citadel, the prestigious Military College of South Carolina, founded in 1842 and housed in its present location since 1922. It has a student body of about 3500. Situated in a beautiful spacious campus the Citadel has a colourful history and was at the heart of the American Civil War.

Charleston, South Carolina Charleston, South Carolina


The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina

Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina is well known for its many BBQs so we visited Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ and found it tasty but it didn’t entirely wow us. However, it was great to experience a traditional southern BBQ where you placed your order for your chicken and meat and individual side dishes and then waited until it was served to you in a flimsy plastic basket with plastic utensils and a glass of ice tea. The tables were sparse with benches and everything was very basic from the food to the room itself…a fun experience. The menu from Fiery Ron’s will certainly get your taste bud juices flowing.



Menu at Fiery Ron’s BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina

A short drive outside of Charleston on the Ashley River is the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens which has been honoured as “one of America’s most beautiful gardens” and is the oldest public garden in the United States, having opened in 1870. Unfortunately, we visited it after the magnolias had finished blooming and few flowers were on display.

One could appreciate the grandeur of one of the great southern plantations when it was in its prime with its extensive natural gardens and waterways, picturesque scenes of stone bridges crossing over small bodies of water and the great plantation mansions. However, to us this popular attraction had the air of neglect and a sense of being rather unkempt. It had a small very minimal, if not shabby, petting zoo and the gardens themselves were, in places sloppy, with plastic seedling containers just strewn around. In addition, the signage was less than ideal. It did not compare at all favourably with the world famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C., Canada, which at any time of the year is truly spectacular.


Nonetheless, we did see some beautiful peaceful scenes on the plantation grounds as well as admire the plantation houses. The gardens date back several centuries and undoubtedly when the magnolias are in bloom the sight must be very colourful.


The Main Plantation House and Garden Bridge, Magnolia Plantation Near Charleston, South Carolina

Magnolia Gardens Near Charleston, South Carolina A Sign of the South Near Charleston, South Carolina

We headed north to North Carolina and the famous Biltmore Estate, nestled in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and opened in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, grandson of William Cornelius Vanderbilt, an iconic American industrialist and philanthropist. This magnificent home of 250 rooms is modelled after the great French Renaissance Chateaus. Over the decades different generations of Vanderbilt’s added an estate winery and hotels as well as opening the house and extensive gardens to the public. If one has never toured the innumerable magnificent castles, chateaus and palaces throughout Europe, then the Biltmore Estate is well worth a visit.


We overnighted in the very charming hilly city of Asheville, North Carolina, city population of 87,000, in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and the venue for live music shows in almost every corner pub in the delightful city core. Of interest, it is the home of the United States National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the world’s largest active archive of weather data.



The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Mike at Entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Near Asheville, North Carolina

Pub Musicians, Asheville, North Carolina Pub Musicians, Asheville, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina

The Smokies get their name from the light fog that seems to shroud the hills giving them an almost ethereal spiritual feel. It is a very beautiful part of the country, largely remaining in its natural state with well maintained highways snaking their way through the undulating terrain. The Smokies bridge the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. One crosses into Tennessee at the town of Gatlinburg, population of about 4,000, gateway to the the Great Smoky Mountains and the entrance to Pigeon Forge and the Dollywood amusement park, created by country superstar Dolly Parton. Gatlinburg was struck by a devastating forest fire which caused considerable damage in the surrounding areas of Gatlinburg. The town itself is a tourist town with about a mile of wall to wall touristy shops of every description imaginable. It is a sharp contrast to all the unspoilt natural beauty of the surrounding lush green hills and mountains.


Amusement Parks Near Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Before leaving the Carolina mountain region we tried another BBQ called Moe’s just on the outskirts of Asheville. It had live music and really delicious food in an enjoyable but very rustic environment.

Moe’s BBQ, Asheville, North Carolina


San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Austin, Texas


One trip that stands out was a visit to Texas a few years ago but not so much for its delights as for our impressions of its unique characteristics. Undoubtedly, the fact that I was ill for several days during the trip coloured my impression of the places we visited. Austin is a delightful city with a very compact downtown filled with bars and live music and warm friendly people, especially during the South By Southwest Music Festival, which was not on at the time we were there. The area is marked by some magnificent homes meandering up and down through hills overlooking a large lake dotted with boats. It has the feel of a very livable people place. Just on the outskirts of Austin is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This is described as the botanic garden of Texas and “home of sustainable, native plant gardens and education, conservation, research and consulting programs”. Although when we were there it wasn’t the season for blooming flowers the center with its diverse and colourful grasses is certainly a worthy tribute to the former First Lady’s contribution to her state.


Scott, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center, Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas Austin, Texas

I had always found Corpus Christi to be a unique and intriguing name for a city and because it was not a long distance away we decided to drive to the coast and take a look. There was considerable evidence of recent hurricane damage which had been left almost as a reminder of the destructiveness of nature. The city seemed to be abandoned although we found one basic restaurant open which was a place your order and grab a seat type of eatery in a large noisy room. The food was southern comfort food which served our purposes. The place was overflowing with people, most likely because it seemed to be the only place open within blocks and blocks. When we left to walk back to our hotel we were confronted with the most dense fog I have ever seen in my entire life. You literally could not see your hand in front of you. This was the most eerie feeling being enveloped in a thick mist in a strange city after dark. Fortunately, Scott has an extraordinarily good sense of direction and was able to guide us back to our hotel, without any misadventure, and a strong drink.


Our Texas meanderings took us to Gruene, New Braunfels which is a tiny German settlement dating back to the 1840s. By the turn of the century it had become a busy business and farming centre and the heart of innumerable cotton plantations. However, by the late 1920s the town was decimated by a double blow of bad luck…the boll weevil and the Great Depression…and within a couple of decades it had become a ghost town. In the mid-1970s Gruene almost miraculously rose from the ashes through the vision of a few intrepid explorers and developers and has reinvented itself as a delightful little tourist town with many of its original buildings lovingly restored and repaired. Gruene is now on the National Register of Historic Places.


Gruene Hall, Texas Old Main Street and General Store, Gruene, Texas

One building in particular is really quite extraordinary and that is Gruene Hall built in 1878. It is self proclaimed as the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas. It is a sight to see and if one closes one’s eyes one is quickly transported back a century ago to the sights and sounds of the old south-west. What is so fantastic is that today on their billboard of upcoming artists scheduled to perform at Gruene Hall is a list of the who’s who of modern and traditional country music. How I would have loved to be in the audience for one of those concerts! Also in the Gruene area was one very enterprising gentleman who manufactured giant wind chimes several feet in length which were both eye and ear catching.


Scott Inside Gruene Hall, Texas Wind Chimes, Gruene, Texas

Another city we visited was San Antonio which has a certain cache to it. It is a place that many people absolutely love whereas I found it somewhat disappointing. Our entry to the city was through rather down in the mouth residential areas which were not very appealing, to be kind. The artistic nature of this modern cultural city is marked by the San Antonio River, lined with outdoor cafes, which meanders through the core of the city, reminding one somewhat of parts of Venice. It was very attractive on the one hand but on the other hand there was a less than natural feel about it which seemed to detract from what was certainly a crowd pleasing area of the city.


San Antonio, Texas Mike, The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was a visit to the Alamo, not for its historic importance but more for its location. It is situated virtually in the downtown core rather than all alone on the vast plains, which had always been what my imagination had lead me to believe. It reminded me of my first impression of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. When one looks in one direction one sees the magnificent structures with nothing but desert beyond. However, when one looks in the opposite direction one is virtually in downtown Giza, Egypt with its streets packed with shops and all the trappings of modern life. This is one of the realities of modern travel…one’s imagination is often confronted with the stark realities of human progress.


The American South—-Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia


One can cover a lot of territory in the course of ten days of driving and that’s what we did starting in New Orleans. Clearly, to visit Mardi Gras is on many intrepid travelers bucket list and so it was with me. We met up with our friend Bert right in the middle of the colourful, crowded and bustling streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans for an extra sensory experience. This district with its unique architecture and colourful balconies, outstanding restaurants and extraordinary music is appealing no matter what time of year but during Mardi Gras it is something else.



Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana

During the day there is a steady stream of floats festooned with every imaginable colourful decoration and ebullient people with one float passing up one side of the street and another going in the opposite direction. After dark the parade procession continues unabated but is a kaleidoscope of colourful lights, costumes and decorations…a feast for the eyes. Throughout the day and night strings of beads are tossed from the floats and the balconies on Bourbon Street to the greedy bystanders below. We quickly learned the three stages of bead gathering…the first time one holds back and if a string of beads flies in your direction and you can grab it that feels like success; the second time one tentatively steps out into the street towards the floats and starts picking up strings of beads piling up on the pavement; and the third time one elbows one’s way as close as possible to the float and grabs at every string of beads within sight. What a fantastic fun time!


Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana

In between the day and night parades we enjoyed an outstanding meal at one of the Latin Quarter’s great restaurants, including trying the alligator meatballs…delicious. Regrettably while we were there the famous Preservation Hall was closed but we did enjoy exploring the nearby neighbourhoods with their great ancient southern mansions.


No visit to this part of the world, however, would have been complete without a swamp boat ride through the Louisiana bayou. It was a beautiful experience through the very lush tropical swamp land where we did see the occasional alligator but only very small ones. A year or two later I was to see monstrous 12-14 foot crocodiles during my East African safari, not something one would want to experience really close up especially in a swamp boat. Our tour guide on the swamp boat ride was a young fellow that had the gift of the gab and had many the tall tale to tell.


We left our friend Bert at the New Orleans airport and we headed east towards Mississippi, perhaps the poorest state in the Union. We overnighted in Biloxi on the Gulf Coast at one of the very modern casino hotels. There was little to see here although what was notable here and further east along the gulf coast was the evidence of past hurricanes where the water rose many feet and flooded much of the low lying area. We decided to head north to the town of Hattiesburg which proved to be an enlightening drive ending at what we anticipated to be a charming historic district of one of the state’s larger towns. What we found was a burned out seemingly war ravaged small area of dilapidated and burnt out buildings…not at all what we expected.


Scott, Swamp Boat Tour, Louisiana

We drove on to the Mississippi-Alabama border where we dropped in to Lulu’s beachfront eatery owned and operated by Lulu Buffet sister of singer Jimmy Buffet…a very colourful lively and eclectic spot right on the coast. From there we drove through Mobile, Alabama which is a beautiful city but we were hit by a torrential rainstorm which somewhat dampened our spirits. Nonetheless, we found the store fronts in the heart of the city very attractive and inviting. We moved across Mobile Bay on to Florida and headed to the Atlantic Coast to the charming southern city of Savannah, Georgia.


Our weather was less than ideal but it was easy to fall in love with the charm of the town, its magnificent old southern homes and its relaxed atmosphere. The drive along the southern United States‘ coastal route was both beautiful and fascinating. Listening to the car radio throughout the trip we were exposed to dozens of southern radio stations. Remarkably, however, they seemed to be restricted primarily to two main formats. One format featured nothing by evangelical “Christian” talk radio which expressed only one very particular specific religious point of view. The second format featured nothing but very conservative talk radio which again featured only one very specific political point of view. As a consequence, on the radio stations we heard, one was only exposed to this single perspective on life and politics to the exclusion of all others. In addition, as one drove through the small coastal towns almost at every crossroad there was at least one “church” of some description or other, from garages to mega structures. These churches seemed to be more prevalent than corner coffee shops in most northern and western cities and towns. In sum, this trip proved to be wonderfully educational for both American and foreigner alike.


Mike, Biloxi, Mississippi Mike, Savannah, Georgia

Scott. Hurricane Flood Marker, Gulf Coast Savannah, Georgia

Mississippi-Alabama Gulf Coast Mississippi-Alabama Gulf Coast


Savannah, Georgia Savannah, Georgia




Keeping On Keeping On-29--The United States of America Mini Trips 2007-2017

In 2004 I compiled a book entitled “I Remember It Well”, comprised of letters home, travel essays and extracts from my diaries covering a twenty month period, following the completion of my university studies, from 1965-1967, during which time I hitchhiked, youth-hosteled and worked my way throughout most of Western Europe. I concluded that document by noting that over the intervening years I continued to travel abroad and indicated that I was planning a five week trip to Australia in November, 2004. I did take that trip, preceded the year before by a trip to Morocco and Egypt. During these trips I began to write periodic travelogues which I e-mailed home to members of my family and a few friends, reflecting my impressions of the people and the sites that I experienced in the various places that I visited. By 2006 I had fallen into the pleasant practice of usually taking one major trip abroad every year and I began seriously and regularly to write travelogues of my day-to-day activities and impressions of the diverse locales that I had visited. In addition, during the past decade, I also traveled extensively in the United States of America taking shorter mini trips. I have retained copies of those travelogues, covering my travels abroad during the period 2006-2017, and have incorporated into them numerous photographs which I took with my point and shoot camera during those trips. This series of books, “Keeping On Keeping On”, demonstrates that, if you are comfortably retired and in good health, there is nothing to stop you from keeping on keeping on traveling until you can no longer keep on.traveling, which is something I hope to continue to do for quite some time. I have often been asked what stands out in terms of the most memorable places I have visited. Over the years it has become increasingly clear to me that what scenes are most etched in my travel memories are the natural beauty and unspoiled wildlife in so many parts of the world. Among my favourites are Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the Iguassu Falls in Argentina and Brazil, the desert near Wadi Rhum in Jordan, the Ngorongoro and the Serengeti National Parks in Tanzania, the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, the Joshua Tree National Park in California and the Acadia National Park in Maine, U.S.A..

  • ISBN: 9781370264605
  • Author: Michael Farquhar
  • Published: 2017-06-07 03:20:22
  • Words: 8095
Keeping On Keeping On-29--The United States of America Mini Trips 2007-2017 Keeping On Keeping On-29--The United States of America Mini Trips 2007-2017