Across the country
My sister in law, Katie, who lives on the east coast, decided to buy a car in Seattle, so she could
have a better price on her vehicle. My wife, Sarah, and I suggested driving the car to New York in order
to help Katie avoid costly shipping; it was a good excuse for a vacation. Our first stop was Yellowstone
National Park. We decided to rent a cheap studio in West Yellowstone, MT. After a long twelve-hour,
exhausting day in the car, we finally arrived in town and pulled up to the small, blue, bar-shaped
building where we would be staying. When we opened the door, I was shocked to hear the chug of the
boiler only inches away. A flimsy curtain to the left hid the culprit noise-maker. Near the closet was the
kitchen, with all the convenient amenities: food-crusted silverware, dusty, cracked dishes, and rusty
oven. On the opposite side of the room was the sagging double bed made up with stained rough sheets
and a threadbare blanket. Behind the bed was the bathroom, separated only by a thin wall. The
insulation was nonexistent. The bathroom was barely functional. Sarah had to use the bathroom first,
and when she flushed I could not believe what I just witnessed. I started to shout:
She ran out of the bathroom, worried that something bad happened.
“When you flushed the kitchen sink gurgled! It splashed everywhere!” I said.
“Gross!” we both shouted.
To be honest, I felt sort of lucky I did not see any solid waste coming out of the sink…
After our first sleepless night, we woke up anxious to visit the park. We had to drive thirty miles
to find Old Faithful, the most popular spot. On our way we saw a family of elk leisurely crossing over a
river. A little bit further, we encountered a bison. It was eating peacefully and walking at a slow pace
toward the forest. It is funny how those animals are not scared by the people and the cars driving
around, they just walk right through the park like they own it.
The park was gorgeous and colorful. I was especially mesmerized by the crystal clear hot springs.
The pure and pristine blue water reflected the sky’s tint. The colors around the pool’s surface were
gradually changing from a white lime to a rusty orange. When I saw the quiet hot springs I couldn’t help
thinking, “I want to jump in it.” But when I dipped my hands in the water, I understood that it was even
hotter than hot tap water. Later on, I learned that the different colors are due to the various bacteria
living on the edge of the hole’s surface.
The geysers were the most spectacular. Some of them had minuscule eruptions (less than one
inch), others looked like water boiling in a saucepan. The geysers like Old Faithful have a thirty-foot hot
water jet. Old Faithful’s eruption started with bubbling steamy water, then the bubbles got bigger and
bigger. I could hear the splashes of the blasting bubbles, and gradually a steamy water jet tore through
the air with a high-pitched noise. Then the powerful jet faded gradually to become just a little hot water
spot. I was stunned to see that a quiet water pond could become a harmful and threatening monster.
The next day, we woke up sore. The bed was so uncomfortable and the room so cold that we
didn’t sleep at all. I had a stiff back and my neck was in pain. I was not looking forward to the long drive
ahead of us. On the road, as we were driving through Montana, Sarah saw a sign for The Little Big Horn
Battlefield. She asked me if we could stop, because she had learned about the battle in school. The place
was quiet and the soft golden hills made me feel relaxed. It was hard to believe that terrible events
happened here two centuries ago, involving seven thousand Native Americans and a few hundred
American soldiers. The hills were strewn with grave stones; white for soldiers tombs and reds for the
Our next stop was Mount Rushmore. Frankly, I was disappointed.
“What do you think about the heads?” I said.
“What?! We drove all the way here for that? They are tiny!” Sarah said.
“Actually I was thinking the same think!” I said.
Though the size was disappointing, we were really impressed by the level of detail in the sculpture. The
faces so ornate they seemed to be proud and happy. I admired George Washington’s head; the sculptors
respected all the lines with deep round eye sockets, a big nose attached to a round and friendly
forefront, a small mouth with pursed lips. After gazing at the sculptures, we went down to the museum
and learned more about the country’s history, and the artist’s problems to achieve the project. Then, we
walked on a trail that brought us at the statues’ feet and there we realized that those sculptures are not
tiny at all. After we spent few hours at Mount Rushmore, we had to get back in the car and drive for
another six hours toward Chicago.
I was impressed to see the Chicago’s skyscraper’s concentration. They looked like rockets ready
to fly to another world. The city seemed to be a perfect picture from a modern science fiction movie.
We visited Molly, one of Sarah’s best friends from college, who lives with her boyfriend. The street
where they were living was filled with three stories Victorian buildings made with red bricks. They were
separated from the street by black sharp bars attached to little brick walls, the front yards were paved
with few plants, little statues and sometimes exterior furniture like tables and chairs. And every ten
yards there was a tree, I could visualize people appreciating a tea or a barbeque outside in the shade on
a hot Sunday. Molly’s place was a nice one bedroom apartment, but the E.L., which is the city’s train,
passed just right by their building, and every fifteen minutes the flat literally shook. That day I was
exhausted, Molly and her boyfriend insisted that we sleep in their comfortable bed, and ironically the
noisy train made me feel cradled and I rested like I hadn’t in ages. The following day, we had to wake up
very early because we had to drive nonstop from Chicago to New York City. At some point during the
trip Sarah noticed that we weren’t on the good highway, and we realized that we missed an exit, we
were driving to Detroit instead of New York. Because we didn’t have a map with us, Sarah had to call her
sister. Katie had to figure out, on Google map, where we were, and how we could get back on the
correct route. At this moment, we felt stupid to not have thought about traveling with a map. However,
we made it safe to the Big Apple and I was thrilled to be on the east coast for the first time.
We spent our first day visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The massive sculpture
reminded me some Romanian god, with a neutral face and a pleated dress. Next, we went to Ellis Island
where the immigrants used to stop and be reviewed before going to the United States. That place is
loaded with history, with happy and sad stories of families united or torn apart. The room that
impressed me the most was the main room where everybody was processed. I was standing in the open
walkway upstairs, I had a view of the entire space with two American flags perched in the middle. Later
on, we read that those flags only have forty eight stars because at that time Hawaii and Alaska weren’t
in the U.S.A. I imagined those immigrants in that room, they had crossed the ocean for a new hope and
were then under the huge stress of the review, praying to be let into the country. We spent the entire
afternoon in the museum, and the way they were showing eighty years dusty old artifacts made me
laugh, because it seemed to be from an ancient time, but in Europe even one hundred years is not that
The second day we visited the city with my sister-in-law Katie, and her boyfriend Kevin. I started
my day with a good “pain au chocolat” (chocolate croissant) and a black coffee from a French style
bakery. It made me pleased to bite in this crunchy bread and to feel the tasty chocolate melting on my
tongue; and washing off my mouth with that hot black coffee was just enough to wake me up. We
began our day by renting a rowing boat in Central Park, Kevin and I decided to be the macho men, so we
insisted on rowing. It was surprisingly awkward and hard. Plus, it was ninety five degree outside, so we
were drenched in sweat. Sarah was on the rowing team in high school, and when she finally took a turn
rowing, Kevin and I felt ashamed because she was doing it so well that we had the feeling of flying over
the water. Next we walked in the streets of New York filled with skyscrapers, that was the first time I
almost got a stiff neck trying to see the top of a building. We visited the Empire State Building. From the
top of the building I realized the size of New York, it is so long that I couldn’t see the end of Manhattan,
skyscrapers are everywhere with different heights and shapes. Also I could see the crowded living city,
people and cars are moving like ants, in every direction and at different pace. The life style in New York
seemed to be the same as in Paris, with a boring daily grind, running all the time, being stressed by a
I was excited to see Time Square because I always saw that magic place in pictures. It is an
incredibly vibrant place with a lot of small stores; the walls are covered with colorful billboards, I was
stunned by the screens showing TV advertisements in a crystal clear resolution. It was a fun experience
to live and to feel that energetic place. There we bought tickets for a comedy show for the same night,
and there, we laughed a lot and drank even more. The next day I woke up with a bad hangover. I
couldn’t remember what happened the night before. But I knew I offered to help Sarah to finish her
awful long iced tea island. I drank hers and mine. Then she reminded me that after the show, I and Kevin
were running after a cab and we almost got hit by another one. Therefore, we decided to go easy for the
day and we visited the Museum of Natural History, where we had a chance to learn more about human
history and dinausors. After the museum we went back home and got some rest before diner. For our
fourth and last day, we met another Sarah’s friend from college, Ellen, at Gran Central Station. This
station reminded me of the Napoleon era architecture style, with a lot of little ornaments on a vaulted
ceiling and an immense clock. This place was more remarkable from outside because we could
appreciate the contrast between the old fashion building to the contemporary surrounding ones. We
decided to go to the top of the Rockefeller Center. I preferred the Rockefeller Center to the Empire State
Building because it has a better location and the view of New York and Central Park was perfect. Central
Park is a funny place, because it is surrounded by hundreds of buildings, and it contrasts between the
green from the trees and the grey from the city. It is like a piece of quiet heaven in a huge and vibrant
city. After that, we left Ellen and we had to go back home to get our suitcases, time was running fast and
we had to catch a flight. We went to the airport with a bitter-sweet feeling; we were satisfied with our
vacation across the country but sad to leave it behind us.