Archive for the 'Desert' Category
On the morning of Friday,July 24th I left Deadwood South Dakota and within an hour had entered Wyoming on SD 34/ WY 24 . The first stop was Devil’s Tower.
Rising straight out of flat farmland,Devil’s Tower is 867 feet and formed in a short time due to volcanic upthrust. It is very geologically different than the Black Hills over 100 miles away, or the Rockies , more than 200. You can experience it in the video above.
By mid afternoon I settled into Sheridan, at the foot of the Big Horn National Forest. As usual I dined alone on the hotel porch rather than in a lively restaurant .COVID life on the road. Everything closed by 8 anyway.
Big Horn National Park offers hundreds of square miles of hiking, climbing, glacier trekking and ATV trailing. Since it’s not a National Park, it’s not well known except locally. I was the only Florida plate, most were from Wyoming and Montana.
Dropping down a few thousand feet from the Big Horn Range, TotalAdventure explored the Snake River Canyon , traversing the Wyoming Montana border. The canyon had been dry with a seasonal stream until a dam was built in the 1930s.
I then entered my 49th state, Montana ! Just one more to go – Oklahoma, but won’t be there until the return trip East in September.
Before Yellowstone, I overnighted in Billings and Red Lodge Montana. In Billings I enjoyed a big Montana steak, but when I arrived at my hotel in Red Lodge after a day in Snake River, about 7:30 to discover that due to COVID my hotel restaurant was closed and the few restaurants still open in town would be closing at 8. This New York/Miami traveler is not used to small town hours but had to adjust on this trip or face night time starvation. I was the last one served from the line at a Mexican cantina and scored a PBR from the bar/casino across the street. The bars closed at 9 !
From Red Lodge to Yellowstone the winding ,high altitude Beartooth Highway crisscrossed several times between Wyoming and Montana.
The Summer of 2020 was probably one of the best to explore Yellowstone. Though crowds were sizable , they were all American crowds, as most foreigners, not even Canadians, could visit in the COVID summer. The notorious traffic jams did not appear.
Yellowstone sits atop a super volcano. When it does finally blow – anytime between the next 10 minutes to 10,000 years – the park will become a 50 mile wide lake of boiling red lava and will cause global cooling for years to come.
The falls look even more incredible in the video above. Be sure to watch it all.
After a day and a half in Yellowstone ( many people stay a week or more) it was time to head north into Montana. Passing Big Sky on a beautiful highway with a legal speed limit of 80 mph I arrived in Butte around sunset. I would stay there 2 nights, to explore the old mining city , to catch up on work ,do laundry and get the extremely dusty X2 washed.
Gold Copper and silver were mined here. Butte was known as the “Richest Hill On Earth.” Miners came from all over the world. Copper is still mined, but there’s not much left. The old city is quiet but not quite abandoned.
From Butte , a few more hours to the Northwest and I arrived in Whitefish ,gateway to Glacier National Park. Whitefish was full of California ‘refugees”,many who had arrived in private jets ,escaping mask and lockdown restrictions in their home state.
In Glacier , on the first day of August, I swam over a mile in 2 lakes and walked in the snow.
On the morning of August 2nd, I left Whitefish for a day of mostly dirt roads from Montana into Idaho. I missed my westward turn and would up at the Canadian border. When I originally thought of this cross country trip,years ago, I had always meant for it to include Canada. Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Banff would have been on the itinerary. But in March 2020, the Canadian government had shut the borders to all but commercial traffic, due ,of course to disease spread.
All I could do was look into this closed off , beautiful land – in this case the easternmost corner of British Columbia ,near Alberta. The next several hours was on windy isolated dirt roads – into the town of Yaak .
I walked inside the bar, which of course was all bikers . Had a friendly beer and they were amazed I was all the way from Miami. No photos were permitted, probably for very good reasons.
I spent the night in touristy Couer d’Alene, Idaho, another town where restaurants closed at 8 and I had to order pizza by 9 before that closed too. Changed clocks back for the last time. The next day – through Washington State, past Spokane – to Portland ,Oregon – almost completely cross country !
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On Thursday August 20th, after lunch with my son and future daughter in law, I left Portland Oregon and headed south on the the I-5 ,then US 101 before arriving in California’s northernmost town, Crescent City for the evening.
Crescent City is a big fishing port . The water is slightly warmer than nearby Oregon, in the high 50s, so I was able to swim. I had had a delicious seafood soup breakfast before heading to Humboldt County.
Eureka, the county seat, is a funky old town reminiscent of 1960s San Francisco. Most Californians have never visited Humboldt , one of the most remote end unspoiled coastlines in the Lower 48.
I was privileged to spend a night in Shelter Cove, an isolated community at the end of a long and windy road that raises and lowers up to 3000 feet before arriving at sea level.It’s very hard to find a room there.
Incredible black sand beaches with very dangerous surf. The Cove of Shelter Cove is where all water activity takes place. Please see the video at the top of the page. The summer weather is pleasant, about 70 and sunny in the afternoons, but the winter can bring up to 100 inches of rain from December to March.
Northern Humboldt is home to huge legal marijuana farms supplying the California marketplace. One can smell it while driving by the tents used for growing and drying.
After Humboldt it was off to volcanic Lassen National Park. See the video. Night was spent in Reno Nevada – not in the COVID restricted casino but in a huge luxurious suite at $ 90 a night.
2 nights in Tahoe, 2 nights in cold smoky San Francisco and a night in Carmel are all highlighted in the video. The plan was to drive down Big Sur, but again ,closed because of massive fires. I wound up at the farm home of a friend in Ojai. Finally was getting towards Southern California.
TotalAdventure has always been interested in living part time in Los Angeles. A week in an AirBnb as I did in Santa Monica this time, and last year, a week in Beverly Hills.
Although Santa Monica stayed cool, never going over 90, Las Angeles County experienced its’ hottest day in history on September 6th. We drove to Van Nuys to experience it – 121 degrees ! Also the hottest temperature ever recorded west of any mountain range in California.
On September 10th – it was time to head back to the East.
On the morning of September 10th, I awoke for an early morning dip in the Pacific before heading Eastbound the the Atlantic. Pulling out of my AirBnb Santa Monica garage I was soon eastbound on the 10 and then north on 15 to Las Vegas. Most of this TransContinental Adventure has been off interstates, but they will be used into Utah and again in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.
Fires raged in the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, sending thick smoke down to I-10. Some of the smoke from all the California and Oregon fires spread all the way to the East Coast ,dimming sunrises in New Jersey. This southern smoke band would follow me. I managed to always be a day ahead of it, until Colorado where I changed my itinerary because of it.
Normally I would spend a night in Las Vegas, but the wide open fun loving town is a bit clamped down for the moment due to COVID. In the video you can experience a very quick trip up the Strip. I did stop for some video poker at an empty slot hall in Mesquite, Nevada and walked out $ 30 richer. From there it was about 40 miles across extreme Northwest Arizona to St.George Utah where I would spend the night. Changed from Pacific to Mountain Time.
The next morning I was up with the sun and off to Zion National Park. It was an introduction to the the incredible Utah geology. On the way I visited Hilldale, on the Arizona border. Hilldale is the town known for the highest number of polygamous families adhering to the original Book of Mormon. I saw groups of wives out shopping together dressed in 1800s style farm dresses and driving pickups.
Bryce Canyon National Park was the next stop. Now the temperature changed drastically according to elevation. St.George had been expecting a high of 100 degrees and this evening near Bryce the temperature slipped to 32 – I was glad to have a gas fireplace in my cabin for the night.
In the morning I continued through Bryce and then headed Northeast to Teasdale where I would explore Capitol Reef National Park with an old childhood friend I grew up with in Germany. We took a 6 mile hike up a canyon.You can see all the national parks in the video at the top of the page.
The final two nights were in Moab – home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National park. In Canyonlands the X2 did amazingly well on rugged roads, in spite of the warning signs.
Finally I turned around where a spring had flooded a section of road turning it to muck. Without 4WD,I did not want to risk spending $1000 to be towed !
Crossing from Utah into Colorado, the smoke from California finally caught up, turning skies from bright Western blue to greyish white and encasing mountains in haze – diminishing prospects for photo and video acquisition.
Highway 50 climbed rapidly higher into the Rockies and by lunchtime I had reached Telluride, for the first time in 30 years. The big changes are to be expected. What was once a laid back Wild West type town with great skiing with a few bars up and down the main drag was now clogged with tourists even in off season September – looking for parking and lining up for $ 6 lattes. Tourism was higher than in the summer when people had been more cautious of COVID.
The second night in Colorado was spent at the home of an old friend from the East. His wife is an Olympic ski champion.
On Friday September 18th the X2 crossed the Continental Divide. For the next 1000 miles I would be tracking the Arkansas River from its’ glacial small steam origins to the wide river flowing into the Mississippi.
Spent the night in Syracuse,Kansas . The next morning , driving across table top flat land and crossing from Mountain Time to Central Time, I entered my 50th State – Oklahoma !
I stopped for lunch in the Panhandle town of Guymon and then went on to the Texas Panhandle.
Stopping in Amarillo for the night, I stayed next door to the Big Texan. In one of my very few indoor meals of the trip, I dined on Rocky Mountain oysters and delicious Texas T-Bone that was about 20 ounces. The 72 oz steak is free if eaten in an hour. That’s 4 1/2 pounds, 2 kilos of meat. It comes with salad and baked potato which also must be consumed. If not finished in one hour the price is $ 72.
I-40 Eastbound the next morning. Back into Oklahoma. At Oklahoma city, the California smoke finally ended and the skies were clear once again, over the rolling Southern Plains.
Spent Sunday night in quiet Little Rock and toured the Capitol city the next morning. The Clinton Library , on the Arkansas River is an architectural masterpiece but closed by COVID.
In Stuttgart I stopped for perhaps the best BBQ I’ve ever had with chopped ribs in a sauce that tasted like plums, coffee and super hot spice ! I bought a gallon jug to take home, which I carefully rationed over the next month.
From Arkansas into Mississippi I began a straight run back to Miami. Overnighting in Hattiesburg and then through Mobile Alabama to Panama City Florida for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Across the beautiful Panhandle . Though TotalAdventure has been located in Miami for over 18 years, I have never been to the Panhandle. Overnighted in Perry and then to Sarasota, a surprisingly young and thriving town on the Gulf of Mexico.
Back to Miami for a dive into the Atlantic Ocean. Watch the video above !
Click For A Fast Tour Of Dubai !
After leaving Asmara, Eritrea, a city locked in a 1930s Time Warp, TotalAdventure flew to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where it seems already to be 2040. On the first evening we went to the top of 2700 ft. 0.8km Burj Khalifa, formerly known as Burj Dubai.
The view from the top deck, on the 148th floor.
Looking out over the Persian Gulf. ON a clear day you can see Iran.
High Speed dune buggies are a great desert pastime.
In a Land of the Future, echoes of the past.
A view from a Cigarette Boat.
The best choice of Middle East cuisine anywhere. Here is Sheep Head, at an Iraqi restaurant.
Although surrounded by Saudi Arabia, alcohol is served in international hotel bars and nightclubs, but not in public areas. Instead, enjoy a strong hot tea with your meal !
From Dubai ,TotalAdventure returned to the united States. THis was to be the first of may international trips this year, touching every continent except Antartica. The worldwide epidemic has postponed that temporarily and we will be exploring the United States instead.
Axum Is One Of The Holiest Christian Cities On Earth. It Is Home To The Ark Of The Covenant – The Tablets Of The Ten Commandments Held By Moses.
In Middle Ages Europe ,In The Time Of The Crusaders, there was a tale of a paradise called The Land of Prester John. A land of unimaginable riches, and home to the Holy Grail. Somewhere near Ethiopia, though the Crusaders never got beyond Jerusalem.
A Truly Ancient Land.
Egyptian emissaries erected stellae in the Fourth Century, though quite a few have fallen.
Sunrise in the Land of Prester John.
The modern Church of Maryam ( Virgin Mary ) near the Ark Of The Covenant.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant, or Tabot, in Axum. The object is currently kept under guard in a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion.( Wikipedia) Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I with divine assistance, while a forgery was left in the Temple in Jerusalem. ( Wikipedia.) Melenik I was the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba.
A Peaceful Dove – An Apparition ?
An Ancient Stellae Field.
A Cantankerous Camel.
Brutal Punishments For Sinners.
Rugged Trees For the Dry Climate.Tigray only gets a few showers in the summer.
One of the best restaurants in Ethiopia – in Adrigat.
Lamb and Beef so fresh you can eat it raw.
Hotel In Adrigat. Did not stay there.
Captured In Battle.
Debri Damo Monastery. Accessible only by rappelling up the cliff.
Even monks 80 or 90 years. old can do it. Once they can’t, they stay.
Two Fascinating Weeks In Ethiopia then came to an end. TotalAdventure moved on to nearby Eritrea, though it took two flights to get there. TotalAdventure would especially like to thank Awaze Tours for making our private journey possible. Also Special Thanks to our driver Engdu ! Ethiopia is not an easy country to navigate and Awaze helped make all this incredible experience possible.
The Simian Mountains In Northern Amhara State Were Formed By Extreme Volcanoes About 40 Million Years Ago. They Tower West Of The Rift Valley, Which Runs Almost The Whole Length Of Africa.
The Highest Mountain Is 15000 Feet ( 4550 m) . Snow is known to fall in the wet season. TotalAdventure experienced below freezing temperatures in the early mornings.
A Gelada Monkey Family Forages For Dinner. Snacks from tourists are strictly forbidden.
A Guard With An AK-47 Is Mandatory , To Guard Against Hyenas In Simian Mountains National Park. Hyena jaws are so strong they can snap a femur like a small chicken bone.
GeladaMonkeys sleep on the cliffs at night, in order to be inaccessible to hyenas.
A Father is unfazed by his human cousins. They are 5 times as strong !
Sunset From 11,000 Feet ( 3384 m) at the Simian Mountain Lodge.
A Fireplace Keeps The Dining Room Warm. Outside it was 26 F ( -4 C)
Our drive out of the mountain range. Drivers must be careful, with 3000 ft. cliffs on every curve.
After being driven to the Uzbek Border we walked across a no – man’s land strip and presented our visas. From there it was a short taxi ride to Khiva.
Above, The Registan In Samarkand. Watch the Incredible Video above !
Khiva is a self-contained fortress city. Everything of interest is inside the walls . It is fascinating and can be seen in a long day by energetic explorers such as ourselves.
Hotel Orient Star , a former Madrassah, is where we stayed.
In A Tamarlane City
View From Our Balcony
After 24 hours in Khiva, TotalAdventure hired a car with driver to take us 600 km across the Kara Kum Desert to Bukhara. The cost is US $ 50. Most larger transactions are done in USD as it is 8500 Som to the dollar, requiring huge stacks of bills to be used. Watch the video above to experience the desert crossing.
10000 Som is about $ 1.20. The biggest note is 100,000. Difficult to fold the wallet. However, 3 of those notes will get you a hearty meal.
Gates like this are plentiful in Uzbekistan, neighboring . Afghanistan , Iran and Pakistan, as well as Northern India.
An Ancient Koran from the times of Tamerlane.
In The Golden Domes Of Samarkand.
Unlike many other Islamic Nations, the Call To Prayer is not audible.
Uzbekistan is just opening up to the outside world . It’s a great country to explore. TotalAdventure plans a return to explore the western regions of the former Aral Sea later in 2020.
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Tomorrow Evening , June 10,2019, TotalAdventure Boards Turkish Airlines From Miami To Istanbul – After 3 days in Istanbul, we fly to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. We will then tour Turkmenistan – the fabulous desert capital city and the Dharvaza Gas Crater. We move into Uzbekistan and follow the Silk Road – from Khiva to Samarkand and Bukhara. We’ll most likely stop in Almaty, Kazakhstan and finally up into the Tien Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan. TotalAdventure should be posting most days, except from areas with no electricity or telecommunications.
The TotalAdventure Team flew Qatar Airways from Miami to Saigon (HCM) Vietnam .On the way we had an 8 hour layover in Doha. On the way back we stopped over for two days. The above video is a compilation of the two visits.
Qatar is the wealthiest nation in the world, per capita. But tradition prevails in the desert lands outside of Doha.
It’s a 13 hour flight from Miami. 15 hours going back.
Right off the plane from Bangkok , we went riding the high sand dunes south of Doha. You can experience the adventure in the video above.
We went right dawn to the waterway that separates Qatar from Saudi Arabia, other than the narrow land bridge. The border between the two US Allies is currently closed. That’s a Saudi Army post about 3 km in the distance.
Back in the city , we went to Souk Al Waqif.
A delicious lunch of Sheep’s Head.
And Foul – a delicious Fava Bean stew.
Modest, yet colorful fashions.
Saffron and other exotic, expensive spices for sale.
The Architecture is Amazing.
Qatar Grand Mosque .
Al Zubara Fort.
It’s hot outside in July. That’s 117 F !
TotalAdventure would like to Thank Mr.Ahmed Nasser Al Rayes , Chairman of the Al Rayes Group for making our excursion in Qatar so flawless, exploring the majority of the country in a very short time. The Al Rayes Group owns 83 companies ,and is a leader in tourism investment.
Amazing Skyline Of Corporate Towers,
TotalAdventure Team Took Off From Miami on the evening of June 6th. We flew out over the dark Atlantic, across France in the early morning, onwards through Eastern Europe and the Black Sea across to Turkey and then over Iraq. Due to diplomatic problems, Qatar Airways cannot fly over Saudi or Bahraini airspace , adding about 45 minutes to the 14 hour flight.
Over War Zones,Former And Curent.
The Skyline By Night. In Ramadan,Doha comes alive at night.
June 7th was a day in the Holy Month of Ramadan. We did not eat or even have a glass of water while walking around in the the 42 C ( 108 F) heat. But after sundown it was time for Iftar – the Breaking of the Fast. We enjoyed delicious Lamb Kofta along with Iranian bread.
The Holy Quaran.
Sheikh Al-Thani .