My View of the United States

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From June 22 until July 1, I took a Cross-Country trip from Chicago to California, and from California back to Chicago. I’ve blogged about photos, highlights, and experiences, which you can view on the Traveling Beyond category. This post, however, is a culmination of everything the trip meant to me. It was my first time leaving the East Coast, and boy, has my life changed because of it…

The first part of our trip was a plane ride from Bradley to Chicago. I hadn’t been on a plane in 11 years, but I  really enjoyed it (despite having a fear of heights and the window seat). I was just amazed by the clouds- being over them, in them, and through them. And then, being completely over every cloud, to see nothing but a clear, blue sky, was fascinating. When we weren’t engulfed in clouds, I could see massive rivers (not to mention the massive Lake Michigan), miles and miles of forest and fields, and then coming into Chicago, miles and miles of city. The landscapes changed so quickly, and they differed so much from the type of life I’m used to. The plane rides I took on my trip were something completely different, especially when we took a night one, and saw nothing but endless city lights. It’s a totally different perspective. Throughout the trip, I kept thinking, “Wow. This is my country.” 

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I do have to say, though, that the best part of the trip was the Grand Canyon. In transit to the canyon, though, I was very intrigued by the wildfire happening just outside our window- the smoke from it alone was fascinating (though that’s all we could see of it).

Grand Canyon, sweet canyon. You don’t see anything like this, anywhere. We stayed on the rim, but the scale of the cannon was massive- and to think that it goes on for 277 miles? Wow. The only words that came to my mind were, It’s so beautiful. 

I speak about tear jerkers on this blog a lot- songs, books, but the Grand Canyon is one too. Just the way the colors and layers of rock blend together, and the fact that Nature created all of this… it’s like a blessing from above.

Pictures could never do it justice- you have to see, in person, the endless canyon that fades off into the horizon, the Colorado River that looks massive even from a mile up, and the infinite gorges and hues that make the Grand Canyon, well, the Grand Canyon. Continue reading “My View of the United States”

Chicago Photo Gallery

To finish up the cross country trip I took in June, we stayed in Chicago for a few nights. It was a fascinating experience, and I took many photos, especially of Chicago’s architecture. I’ve put together a photo gallery for the Chicago portion of our trip below. Enjoy! (Also: if you want to read about our time in Chicago, visit here.

THE PHOTOS BELOW ARE THE SOLE PROPERTY OF 12 AND BEYOND AND MAY NOT BE DISTRIBUTED OR USED IN ANY FORM OTHER THAN FOR PERSONAL VIEWING.

Thank you so much for reading my stories of my cross country trip. This is it for photo galleries and highlights! I have two more posts to share, but they’ll be releasing in the coming days, as I transition into a normal post schedule.

Gabe

Photo Gallery: Plane & Train Part 2

The photos that you see below correspond to the highlights found on this post. While taking these pictures, I was either on our return train (California Zephyr) or our return flight (American Airlines- flight #3 of trip). Enjoy!

THE PHOTOS BELOW ARE THE SOLE PROPERTY OF 12 AND BEYOND AND MAY NOT BE DISTRIBUTED, OR USED FOR ANYTHING BUT PERSONAL VIEWING. THANK YOU.

Cross Country Trip Highlights: June 28 – July 1

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The iconic entrance to Navy Pier with the Centennial Wheel in the background.

Good evening! I thought I’d share the last 4 days of highlights from the Cross Country trip I recently returned from. These highlights mostly encompass time on the train, the plane, and in Chicago, and I’ve grouped them by day. Enjoy!

June 28

On June 28, we continued with our return to Chicago on the California Zephyr train. For today, we passed through Colorado, seeing places like Grand Junction, Fraser, Boulder, and Denver. While we mostly saw similar agriculture to that of the first part of our trip, one particular piece of scenery was very different: the Great Plains. Endless trees and grasslands that faded into the horizon created a stunning view (pictures to come very soon). Denver was also a highlight, being able to see the capital of Colorado. In comparison to some other states, parts of Colorado were very flat (Tornado Alley!), while there were often mountain ranges in the background.

June 29

On June 29, we finished our journey on the train. We didn’t see much, but we did pass over the Mississippi River. From the width of the river to the currents below us, I can definitely see why it’s called the ‘Mighty Mississippi’.

Later that night, we arrived in Chicago. We checked into our hotel, and we ate at Gino’s East. I suppose I could call this my first taste at authentic Chicago Deep Dish pizza. The graffiti on the walls and chairs added a very unique atmosphere to the restaurant, too.

June 30

Today was our big day in Chicago- we bought online passes and planned for a day of being good ol’ tourists. We did get to see Chicago from the John Hancock Building, and we took a bus tour around the city, but what I enjoyed most was the architecture tour. First off, just by traveling by river, you get a completely different perspective on the city.

But to learn about the history of the designers and of their buildings, and how they contribute to the history of Chicago, it was fascinating. After seeing some particular buildings, I was amazed by the intricate works of art that these buildings are, and the amount of design and technique needed to design and build one. Personally, my favorite style of buildings were the glass-faced ones (all-glass), and especially ones that had tints to them, like three blue skyscrapers built around the same time (recently) that were curved, built in a y-shape, and one that was rectangular but very interesting (pictures to come).

One other highlight of the day was going to Navy Pier. Yes, it’s one of the most iconic parts of Chicago, one that every tourist needs to go to. We didn’t spend much time there at all, though. We rode once around the Ferris wheel and left, walking all the way the the Bears stadium. If there was any benefit, though, it was that the Ferris wheel provided spectacular views of the Chicago skyline.

July 1

Return day! In the morning, we boarded an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Connecticut. Like the other flights I’d taken this week, I was still amazed at the clouds, the ground, and the horizon. It’s beautiful from up there.

Tomorrow, I’ll try and post the two corresponding photo galleries. And, either tomorrow or Monday, I’ll be releasing a very special post that lives true to the tagline of 12 and Beyond: My View of the World. Look out for all three of these posts!

Thank you for reading! Have a great night!

Gabe

Los Angeles & San Francisco Photo Gallery

Hi there! I have another large photo gallery for you. Want to find out what all of these pictures are about? Read the highlights post that goes along with these pictures here.

Enjoy!

THE PICTURES BELOW ARE THE SOLE PROPERTY OF 12 AND BEYOND AND MAY NOT BE DISTRIBUTED OR REPRODUCED. THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING.

More highlights and pictures to come tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Gabe

Cross Country Trip Highlights: June 25 – 27

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Hi there! Before I share another photo gallery later today, I wanted to share my stories of our stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and aboard the train. I’ve grouped them by date, so please enjoy.

June 25

After passing through towns like San Bernardino and Fullerton, our train (Southwest Chief) arrived in Los Angeles Union Station. There isn’t much to tell up until we arrived at the Dodgers stadium. I’m sure, in different circumstances, I would have enjoyed the game a lot more, had we not had seats out in the open in 100 degree weather (in California, no matter). Even as we moved into the shade, I managed to get pretty burned by the end of the day. We didn’t get to spend much time in L.A., but we were still able to spot different aspects of well-known L.A., like the hills that everyone recognizes in Hollywood films. We didn’t get to see the Hollywood sign, though. That night, we boarded a 9:00 PST flight from LA into Emeryville, where we just stayed in a hotel for the night.

June 26

This day was particularly exciting. We took a taxi out to San Francisco, where we met up with our tour group near San Francisco bay. I was absolutely fascinated by the city. We started out by visiting something most tourists don’t get to see: The Palace of Fine Arts. The giant dome and series of pillars were originally built for the Chicago World’s Fair, and are one of the few remnants of it (though they had to remake the pillars with new material, remember: everything for the World’s Fair was designed to be temporary). You’ll get to see some pictures of it later today, but the dome tells a story: the statues of women crying represent the Great Chicago Fire, etc. It adds to the city’s very unique style of architecture.

After the Palace of Fine Arts, we went on to see the Golden Gate Bridge, which was spectacular. To be able to appreciate everything that went into building the bridge, and see it right before your eyes… wow. It was quite something to see the beams, cables, bolts, stretch out into the horizon (at certain viewpoints). Plus, later in the day, we had a crystal clear sky, which only added to the beauty of the bridge.

Seeing the Redwoods of Muir Woods was something I had most looked forward to when planning our trip to California. The Redwoods really are as massive as people say (photo tip: take a panoramic going up), and in most you can’t even see the tops. Their trunks were humongous, some almost 5-7 feet across. To think that these trees have stood for (some) over a thousand years, I couldn’t believe it. Also, the Redwoods give off their own scent, which was oddly comforting. Like so many things, you can’t describe it. One other note- when feeling a fallen tree, parts of it felt like very smooth plastic. I think it must have to do with the age of the trees, but I was so mystified and beyond impressed with what nature blessed San Francisco with.

As the final part of our day, we took the boat over to Alcatraz. It makes you think, “This is where these criminals lived. This is how they lived. Wow.” You could just imagine exactly how seeing San Francisco across the bay evoked wishes for freedom. The audio tour was so comprehensive too- the details of life and escape were fascinating.

Apart from seeing the wealthiest neighborhood (and admiring the architecture throughout- oh, and seeing the Mrs. Doubtfire house AND Johnny Ive’s house [if you know me, I’m a HUGE Apple fan] were yet another highlight) in San Francisco and walking down the Crooked Street, the last thing we did in San Francisco was enjoy an ice cream sundae at the old Ghirardelli Factory. If you end up going, I recommend you get the “Ocean Beach”, but there’s nothing wrong with getting their World Famous Hot Fudge sundae either. 🍨

Final Note: Kudos to our tour guide, Rolando.

June 27

On June 27, we boarded the train again, but this time, we’d be starting a new route: the California Zephyr. We’d be going East this time, and traveling farther North than the Southwest Chief. This time, instead of traveling Coach, we had a sleeper car! I can’t tell you how much of a relief that was. I was actually able to sleep, and that was the best.

Like other parts of the trip, we saw a lot of farm and grasslands, and lots of cattle of course. But a few other aspects also stood out. First, WE SAW SNOW. I was so shocked, but near Norden, CA, both in the mountains and on the ground, there was actual snow. I can see why skiing is so popular.

Other than that, we were amazed by the force of the rapids from the river the train was following (pictures to come). All in all, I loved seeing San Francisco.

Like I’ve said, I’ll release the photo gallery for these highlights later today, so be sure to check it out. Thank you so much for reading!

Gabe

Photo Gallery: Plane & Train Part 1

Hi there! For this photo gallery, I wanted to share some of the photos I took while traveling on the plane, and while we were on the train (which was the main portion of our trip). I find that you get some really astonishing pictures from an airplane, especially above and within clouds. Unfortunately, the pictures taken from the moving train turned out a bit blurry and have glare, but I tried to pick the best ones out. Click on the images to enlarge them and view a slideshow. Enjoy!

THE PICTURES BELOW ARE THE SOLE PROPERTY OF 12 AND BEYOND AND MAY NOT BE DISTRIBUTED OR REPRODUCED. THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING. 

AMERICAN AIRLINES (FLIGHT #1 OF TRIP)

SOUTHWEST CHIEF (PART 1)

I still have lots more to come (and more highlights later today!) Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading!

Gabe

Cross Country Trip Highlights | June 22-24

Happy 4th of July! Today, I wanted to share with you the highlights of the first part of my trip (June 22-24). This mean’s I’ll share exactly what happened during the day and some of my thoughts about each experience. In this post, I mention my tour of the Grand Canyon. I took a lot of pictures of the Grand Canyon, and you can access them here. Later this week, I’ll also be releasing “Plane & Train” photo galleries, so be sure to check them out.


June 22

I woke at 4 in the morning and headed to Bradley. Once we got onto the plane, the pilot discovered mechanical issues with the left engine, delaying our plane for 30 minutes. We eventually took off, though, and I felt very comfortable as soon as the plane was level. I actually really enjoy the thrill of takeoff too. The views, especially the clouds, were breathtaking.

During our American Airlines plane ride, it felt as if I was in a moving car (just 30,000 feet in the air and a bit bigger), and so I imagined that. It helped, especially with the vibrations beneath me.

We arrived at Union Station in Chicago, and eventually boarded Train 3: Southwest Chief. We passed so much farmland, yet it never got old. We also saw several major bodies of water, including The Mississippi River. We finished the day with a golden sunset, bellies full of thyme-roasted chicken. That night, the train would stop in Kansas City and continue towards New Mexico.

June 23

Somewhere in Kendall, Kansas, we switched time zones! And all that corn from yesterday? We found where it ends up, seeing gigantic silos scattered throughout Kansas. The land is so flat- hardly any trees! We also saw lots of cattle- and I mean LOTS. Ever wonder how burgers are mass produced? Well, we also passed by a meat processing facility… 😬

At some point, nearing entry into Colorado, a front started moving in. The clouds were spectacular, though it only ended up raining for a few minutes.

In Hasty, we saw the Arkansas River, and its dam. The water was a bit choppy, but peaceful amongst the gray sky. I even saw two baby deer running in the grass (no picture though!), along with so many other forms of wildlife that I’d never seen before, like buffalo. We also saw a particular species of New Mexican Cows that are hardly ever seen, and that was exciting.

Besides farming and cattle, coal can also be seen as one of the bigger industries in this area of the country. We passed numerous coal cars on train tracks (pictures to come).

June 24

After a good nights rest (finally), we were picked up for a tour of the Grand Canyon. Our tour guide, Jason, was phenomenal. The scale of the canyon is just so vast, and it brings me to tears at just how beautiful it is. We could track the turquoise Colorado River, search for river boats, and view the canyon from four stunning viewpoints. One of the things I love about the Canyon is the color. We had a crystal clear blue sky, and so it blended off into the horizon of the cannon to form a misty, blue color. With the ages of rock, the colors change (that’s something I’d read up on before, but it was amazing to see them for real), especially with different hues of red. The shadows of the canon, the blue from the horizon, and the faded appearance of the cannon created a light shade of Canyon Purple (I made that up) that I absolutely love. I was also so impressed at the different plants found at the Canyon (some with medicinal benefits), especially when learning about its history and features. Like so many have said before, pictures couldn’t do the Canyon justice. However, if you want to check out some of my own pictures, click here.

We also saw the Painted Desert, though we didn’t get that great a view of it (nor good pictures). But the spectacular array of colors in the background reminded me of an Easter egg- the hues of pink and green, and yellow sand; it really felt like a painted desert.

At night we then boarded a midnight train (delayed again), though I slept well. We couldn’t fall asleep at the station though, as we would have been startled every 10 minutes by a BNSF train coming through. These trains were so long (and the engines loud!), and it gave me an idea of how big the shipping and freight industry is. We noted boxes from companies like Hyundai, but were left wondering at what else the freight trains were carrying, especially moving to and away from the Pacific Ocean.


And to think that all of this was only the beginning… I’ll be continuing these written highlights later this week, so stay tuned. Thank you so much for reading! Have a great holiday!

Gabe

Grand Canyon Photo Gallery

The pictures below are the sole property of 12 and Beyond, and may not be distributed or reproduced in any way. Thank you for understanding.

Click on each picture to enlarge and view their caption. The Grand Canyon is so beautiful, and pictures could never do it justice. We had a crystal clear day, and the views could bring you to tears. Please enjoy my Grand Canyon photo gallery.

Cross Country Train Trip | The Itinerary

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I’ll share more photos like these in several photo galleries, releasing throughout the week. 

Before I go into pictures, written highlights, and more regarding my Cross Country trip that took place in June, I wanted to let you know exactly what we did, day by day. You won’t get details of exactly what happened each day, only the things we had scheduled.

*All times described are in local time.

June 22

We boarded a 7am plane at Bradley airport and flew out to Chicago, where we boarded an Amtrak train (the Southwest Chief), which would take us out to Arizona. We would only be able to view and take pictures from the train, where we would sleep that night.

June 23

We remained on the train and were expected to arrive late in the evening to Flagstaff, Arizona.

June 24

We arrived in Arizona at 1 in the morning (delayed train), where we settled into a hotel before embarking on a tour of the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert. Afterwards, we explored the town of Flagstaff (where we were staying) and ate dinner before boarding a midnight train that night (it was delayed) and sleeping there.

June 25

After de-boarding the train in the morning, we attended an LA Dodgers game in the afternoon before boarding a plane to San Francisco that night.

June 26

In the morning, after having slept at a hotel, we took a guided tour of San Francisco, set to cover the Golden Gate Bridge, the Redwood Forest, and Alcatraz. We would later pick up sundaes from the Ghirardelli factory.

June 27, 28, & 29

We boarded another Amtrak train (the California Zephyr), this time with sleeper car accommodations. We would remain on this train until late in the day on July 28 when we arrived in Chicago and ate dinner that night at Gino’s East (deep dish!)

June 30

We visited several attractions around Chicago, including doing the Chicago 360 from the John Hancock building, an architecture river cruise, Soldier Field, and Navy Pier. We again stayed at a hotel that night.

July 1

Return day! We boarded a plane from Chicago back to Bradley, and arrived in Connecticut in the early afternoon.

I have LOTS more to share. Stay tuned throughout the week!

Gabe