Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , Virginia
Sunday, October 17, 2010

After over five months of traveling, I'm finally home.  Some of the highlights are:

    -    Visited 22 National Parks
    -    Visited six National Monuments
    -    Visited one National Historic Site
    -    Went to16 State Capitols
    -    Went to three Art Museums
    -    Attended the Telluride Mushroom Festival
    -    Attended Burning Man
    -    Attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
    -    Took two flights on ski planes
    -    Took four flights on float planes
    -    Took two flightseeing trips
    -    Flew in a balloon
    -    Climbed two State Highpoints (only nine left)
    -    Took a four-day defensive handgun class
    -    Took a six-day mountaineering class

The poor state of the economy was visible everywhere I went in my over 20,000 miles of driving.  I saw lots of closed business of all types.  When I'd call hotels, generally about 20% of the numbers had been disconnected.  Nearly every state has closed rest stops to save money.  When I got home the local branch of my bank was closed and the building for sale.  I counted 15 vacant stores in the shopping center where I go grocery shopping vs. the three or four I had noticed before leaving in May.  On the other hand, there was lots of road work being done with stimulus money. 

Another thing that seemed to be universal this year was unusual weather.  Everywhere I went in Alaska I was told it was 10 or 15 degrees colder than usual and most places were getting much more rain than usual.  Albuquerque was warmer than usual for the Balloon Fiesta.  It rained in the desert in Nevada at the start of Burning Man.  There was a lot more snow than usual at Boundary Peak in Nevada in the spring.  The Going--to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park was late opening due to more snow than usual.  My Facebook friends mentioned lots of plants blooming and fruiting and mushrooms fruiting well out of their usual seasons all over the country.  The level of the Rio Grande was well above typical and the news was full of stories about flooding in the midwest and the heat wave in the northeast, which later turned to flooding there too.

Another constant is dying trees.  In the Northeast we have Gypsy Moths and Dutch Elm disease.  Cape Cod has caterpillars killing their oaks while in California Sudden Oak Death is killing theirs.  Rest stops all over the west have signs warning of the dangers of transporting firewood, which can spread Pine Bark beetles or Spruce Bark beetles.  These pests have killed tens of millions of acres of forests in British Columbia resulting in thousands of forest fires this summer.  It's hard to find a healthy forest.

I came home to nearly 2,000 e-mails, huge piles of mail and a full answering machine.  In addition to what didn't get done while I was away there plenty of things that need to get done because I was away, such as backing up and processing over 10,000 pictures, e-mailing some of them to people who requested copies, sending some camera equipment off to be cleaned and repaired, etc.  It's going to take me weeks to get caught up.  Well, unless I go away again first.
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