California – the National Parks

California is one of those ‘dream holiday’ destinations for a lot of people in Europe. However, we noticed that a lot people, traveling the Pan American Highway either skip California or really quickly drive through it to other American States or to Mexico. We also considered skipping the state but in the end we didn’t and we are happy we didn’t. We would have missed some amazing nature, wildlife and Caro would not have had that chat with that celebrity rock singer. But it is true that travelling in a van in California comes with some challenges. Continue reading

Arizona & Nevada

After an amazing month in Utah, we got off to a false start in Arizona. Just a couple of miles into the state of Arizona is ‘Horseshoe bend’ where the Colorado river  makes a strange bend in the shape of, you guessed it, a horseshoe. It’s one of those classic ‘South West USA images’ that appears in all travel guides and other publications. But it feels a bit like a ‘tourist trap’. There is an expensive parking lot and hundreds of visitors at all time of day.  The view is nice but it really is just that: one view, one image. After all the amazing things we saw in Utah, we were a bit disappointed and started to wonder if that other classic the ‘Grand Canyon’ would be as ‘over hyped’ as this site. Continue reading

Utah part 2

Beside this website we also have an Instagram page where we share pictures and stories of our travels. I have very mixed feelings about these social media. I don’t like at all how they force you to spend time on their platform in return for exposure of your pictures to the people who want to follow your travels. However, the platform has also been a great source of inspiration for us. And this has definitely been the case in Utah where there is so much to see that there are still amazing places to be found that are not yet in guide books or travel brochures. But they do pop up on Instagram pages of other travellers that are doing a similar trip. And if you ask politely most of them are very willing to let you in on the secret.

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Utah: on the path of the eclipse

“It’s nice but it’s a lot of rocks”, dixit Caro after our first full day in Utah…and I had planned a full month in Utah with essentially ‘rocks’. Even though I knew that the variety of rocks, canyons, arches, bridges, hoodoos, etc. was almost endless in Utah, I must admit that I also had some doubts whether at some point we would not get a ‘rock bore out’. But I shouldn’t have worried because when we left the state over 4 weeks later it was with a bit of sadness and with a promise to come back one day (with a 4×4 vehicle). 

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Side trip to South Dakota

In our van, we have a map of the USA from Leon’s kids atlas. It has plenty of background on the country but also has some nice drawings of the major attractions. We use it to help the kids track our trip. But of course they also look at other places beyond the route we had in mind. And one evening they announced that they wanted to go to “the faces in the mountain”. Of course we had also looked at Mount Rushmore when we were reading up for this trip. But it was quite a detour (about 400 km) on the route we had in mind…AND we were a bit afraid that it would be one of these “that’s it?” tourist traps. But since the kids really wanted to see it (and we were a bit curious too), we decided to make the detour. And we soon discovered that there were quite some other interesting things in this area. Continue reading

Back to Yellowstone and over the Beartooth pass

The ‘Lamar Valley wolfs’, subject of several documentaries and dozens of books are arguably the most famous residents of Yellowstone National Park. Wolves had been hunted to extinction in the 1920’s in the region but were reintroduced, in the midst of great controversy in 1995. Today there is a healthy population and the Lamar Valley is now one of the best places in the USA to see wolves in the wild. That is if you know what you are doing. There may now be about 100 wolves in Yellowstone but this park is gigantic so seeing a wolf is considered a ‘big bonus’. After our quest for the bull moose we now had a new mission ‘find a wolf’. But from our Grand Teton experience, we also learned that spotting specific animals is very hard and requires a lot of luck. However, it helps a lot if you can spot a good wildlife spotter. So the question was not so much “are we going to spot a wolf?” but rather “Will we find the right wolf spotter?”. Continue reading

Grand Teton National Park

We thought that Grand Teton was going to be a quick side trip from Yellowstone but we stayed a bit longer than foreseen. To be honest we really did not know too well what to expect. In this region it’s usually the big brother,Yellowstone, that gets all the attention. But we did know one thing; this park was going to be our last realistic chance to see moose on this trip. And it was now end of September so the bulls would finally have their famous big antlers. Male moose lose their antlers every spring but they grow back by fall, just in time to be used in the mating season clashes with other bulls. The weeks before getting to Grand Teton we had been on the look out but without success. As we were about to leave ‘moose habitat’ it was ‘now or never’. Continue reading

Yellowstone part 1

After seeing the BBC documentaries (there are several) on Yellowstone, this park had been very high on my list. But… I was not the only one who had the park on his list. Summer has always been busy here. But it seems that since Covid a lot of people in the US to the ‘great outdoors. So now some parks are really being overrun during the holidays. We were there in the second part of September and had hoped that things would have calmed down a bit. But from other travelers, that it was still “horribly busy”: no camp spots, traffic jams for hours, no parking, fighting for pictures… We were bracing ourselves for the ‘worst’ and started working on a plan. In the end it was even better than expected. Continue reading