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Reflections of Travel to the United States

As a four-decade Certified Travel Agent, international airline employee, researcher, writer, teacher, and photographer, travel, whether for pleasure or business purposes, has always been a significant and an integral part of my life. Some 400 trips to every portion of the globe, by means of road, rail, sea, and air, entailed destinations both mundane and exotic. This article focuses on those in the United States.

New York:

Originally accessed by Floyd  product-evaluation  Bennett Field–New York’s first municipal airport–Manhattan, experienced from the water with island-circling boat cruises, was channeled through its museum, theater, and restaurant arteries, and from the heights of its Empire State Building and no-longer existence World Trade Center. It became the threshold to its Lower-, Mid-, and Upper-Hudson Valleys, which were characterized by Bear Mountain, West Point, the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, the vintage aircraft Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, dinners in the Culinary Institute of America, plays at the Rhinebeck Center for the Performing Arts, and visits to the Hudson River School of Painters venues.

The Catskill Mountains, ablaze with autumn, afforded skiing at Hunter Mountain and Ski Windham, and natural scenery, such as its Kaaterskill Falls, and became the next step to the Adirondacks, famous for its glittering blue Lake George, its numerous boat cruises, and Fort Ticonderoga.

Further north and to the west was the Finger Lakes region, with its sculpted, waterfall-lined Watkins Glen chasm, Glenn H. Curtiss and National Soaring Museums, boat cruises on Keuka Lake, where Curtiss himself tested his seaplane designs, and outdoor lunches at area vineyards.

New England:

The New England area encompassed six states.

Maine, the first of them, provided an epicurean experience with its Atlantic-caught lobster and shrimp, but its topographical duality included Bangor, Bar Harbor, and Acadia National Park on the coast’s Mount Desert Island and the lodges and forests at Rangeley Lake inland.

Neighboring New Hampshire was equated with knotty pine cabins on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, the vessels, such as the MS Mount Washington and US Mail Boat which plied it, and the tiny motorboats from which fishing lines hung to catch what later became dinner. The White Mountains, with their main North Conway entry point and numerous notches, was accessed by a myriad of ski lifts and gondolas, including those up triumphant Mount Washington, the crown of its peaks.

Vermont, with its mirror-image Green Mountains, was characterized by a crossing of Lake Champlain, the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Green Mountain National Forest, the Mount Snow Ski Resort’s Grand Summit Lodge, an ascent of Mount Snow itself on the Bluebird Express Scenic Chairlift, Benington Battlefield State Historic Site, the Covered Bridges Museum, the Grafton Village cheese making facility, Plummer’s Sugar House for maple syrup, and the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, whose setting provided inspiration for his poetry. The Molly Stark Trail afforded a 48-mile scenic drive through the southern region.

Massachusetts, slightly further south, offered the major city of Boston with its Freedom Trail and its harbor-moored USS Constitution; the smaller towns of Plymouth, where the Mayflower first touched its now-famous rock; Salem, with its House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birthplace, and Witch Dungeon Museum; the battle sites of Lexington and Concord; and the Berkshires on the state’s western side. Sights here included the historic Red Lion Inn, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Herman Melville home from whose window the mountain that inspired his classic, Moby Dick, was visible, and a drive up Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’s highest point, for spectacular views and lunch.

The gilded mansions hugging the Newport, Rhode Island, shore gave way to the casinos in eastern Connecticut, the Essex Steam Train in the Connecticut River Valley, the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine in Groton, the Connecticut Coast with its Mystic Seaport, Yale University and the Broadway “try-out” Shubert Theater, and the Long Island Sound crossing ferries.

The Mid-Atlantic States:

The seven Mid-Atlantic States, descending from New Jersey to North Carolina, included the District of Columbia.

New Jersey’s beach-lined shore, with Cape May and its Victorian architecture, and its Atlantic City casino complex, was balanced inland by numerous aviation sights, such as those of Naval Air Station Lakehurst, location of the 1937 Hindenburg airship disaster, and Naval Air Station Wildwood.

Pennsylvania offered considerable sight and geographical variation. Scranton, in its northeastern portion, provided opportunities to sample early, track-based transportation modes at the Steamtown National Historic Site and at the Electric City Trolley Museum. Further south, after a cross of the Delaware Water Gap, were the winter ski resorts, such as Big Boulder and Jack Frost, in the Pocono Mountains. And still further south was Pennsylvania Dutch Country, accessed by Reading and Lancaster, which offered aviation exposure through its Mid-Atlantic Aviation Museum and glimpses into simple, natural life with its horse-drawn buggies, lack of electricity, Good n’ Plenty Restaurant, and shoofly pie.

A tour of the extensive Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and a ride on the Strasburg Railroad, the oldest steam train in the United States, rounded out the area’s attractions.

Philadelphia, in the southeastern corner, served as the threshold to Valley Forge National Historic Park, while Pittsburgh, in the state’s western portion, was punctuated by its hill-hugging inclined planes.

Rich rail history was experienced in the Allegheny Mountains, with its steam railroad lines, Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark, and Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in and around Altoona.

Johnstown’s flood history was recounted in its appropriately named Johnstown Flood Museum, and a ride up its included plane, the world’s steepest vehicular railway, satisfied hunger for lunch and city-overlooking views.

Raystown Lake was plied by a houseboat and skiing opportunities were abundant at the Seven Springs Resort in the Laurel Highlands.

The Omni Bedford Springs Resort, with its elegant afternoon teas, was a national historic landmark.

Delaware, synonymous with DuPont, offered glimpses into his wealth-amassing life with the Hagley Museum, Library, and Eleutherian Mills, the 235-acre site of his gunpowder works on the banks of the Brandywine River in the north, and the Dover Downs Hotel, Casino, and Racetrack, Dover Air Force Base, the Air Mobility Command Museum, and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in the south.

Lunch in a bake shop, the Dutch architecture of the Zwaanendael Museum, and a tour of Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, one of the state’s numerous Atlantic coast towns, were highlights of a day trip from Dover.

Maryland, with its Baltimore Harbor and College Park Airport–considered the nation’s first and the location of considerable Wright Brothers training activity–was itself the threshold to the District of Columbia, whose monument- and Smithsonian Institution museum-lined National Mall provided multifaceted, experiential education. Dinners in nearby Georgetown restaurants were also highlights.

Virginia, synonymous with Colonial Williamsburg, afforded other sightseeing opportunities, including those of the Jamestown Settlement, a cruise on the Miss Hampton II to Fort Wool and the Norfolk Naval Air Base, and an open-cockpit biplane flight from Bealeton’s Flying Circus, grass-field aerodrome.

Charleston, with its domed Capitol Building, served as the gateway to West Virginia, which afforded vintage railroad rides, such as those on the Cass Scenic Railroad, a national historic landmark, dinner in the Graceland Inn, located on the grounds of Davis and Elkins College and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, glimpses beyond the planet at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, and winter sports at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.

Although only moderate in size, North Carolina offered numerous, diverse sights, depending upon region, which was either accessed by its Raleigh/Durham or Charlotte gateways. The Outer Banks, for example, were synonymous with Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, the latter the location of the Wright Brothers’ first powered, sustained, controlled, and heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer, as interpreted at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Both a drive and ferry negotiation of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, spawning ground of the nor’easters, enabled me to thread down the famous-or, perhaps, not-so-famous-hurricane alley, whose natural beauty far usurped its negative reputation.

Western North Carolina was marked by Ashville, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Biltmore Estate, Chimney Rock Park, and the Nantahala Gorge in the state’s Piedmont section.

The South:

Known for its southern cuisine, antebellum mansions, and country music, southern state travel entailed a say at the Opryland Hotel with its homemade biscuits, and a tour of the Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville, Tennessee; a tour of Rainbow Row and a boat cruise on the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in Charleston, South Carolina; a stay in upscale Buckhead, and a tour of Stone Mountain, the world’s largest granite relief carving, in Atlanta, Georgia; visits to Birmingham and Huntsville in Alabama, the latter with its US Space and Rocket Center; a pass through Biloxi, Mississippi; and a tour of New Orleans’ Jackson Square and French Quarter, followed by a day cruise on the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

Florida:

Long in length and attractions was Florida, which received state blanketing coverage.

Aviation took center stage on its panhandle with visits to Naval Air Station Pensacola, its National Naval Aviation Museum, and Gulf Islands National Seashore, while Jacksonville, Florida’s northern gateway, led down to Orlando, its Walt Disney World and Epcot Center theme parks, and Cypress Gardens. Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center resulted in contemplative focus on launch pad 39A, literally the threshold to space, and Tampa and St. Petersburg, on the Gold Coast, were characterized by surgery sand beaches.

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