- Associated Press - Saturday, October 22, 2016

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) - From sea to shining sea, all in a Honda CRV.

Husband and wife Ron and Helen Mack spent 37 consecutive days on the road headed north, south, east and west. But not in that order.

They covered 10,100 miles in 26 states and one Canadian province. The couple, both 75, circumnavigated the United States, sort of, in their four-door car.

“We’d been thinking about it,” Helen said. “And we decided while we’re still healthy and we’re still able to do something like this, it’s time we start planning.”

The couple love to travel and have taken trips all over the world. During their last trip to Europe is when Helen said she was ready to see her own country.

The Macks decided to make a loop around the United States, stopping to visit friends and take in the views along the way.

They started their journey at their Gainesville home May 22. They traveled west into Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, including veering down to the Gulf Coast for a stop in New Orleans.

Next, they headed west and stopped in Monument Valley. It turned out to be one of their favorite stops.

“Monument Valley was incredible,” Ron said.

A Navajo tribal park, Monument Valley is on the Arizona-Utah border. Sandstone formations tower 400 to 1,000 feet in height.

While there, the Macks took a guided tour. The Navajo guide, Harry, told them about the park and helped Helen take beautiful landscape photos on her iPad.

Then, the Macks pushed west, stopping in Las Vegas, before heading north along the California coastline.

Ron and Helen shared the driving duties of the crossover SUV, never driving more than 8 1/2 hours a day. The 2015 Honda averaged about 35 miles per gallon during the trip.

They worked off an itinerary they planned in advance - only finding one mistake. They saw they would arrive at one of their planned stops a day early. The couple caught it in advance, though, and corrected the situation.

Ron and Helen recalled gas prices were $5.99 a gallon in California, a significant difference compared to Georgia’s prices of less than $2.50. They held out for cheaper gas, but it still cost more than $4 per gallon.

Once out of California, the Macks traveled north.

Before the trip, the Macks hadn’t been to four states. Therefore, this trip deliberately took them through those: Oregon, Washington, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“Oregon was very beautiful. It was very green, very lush,” Helen said.

Ron said Columbia Valley Gorge in Oregon might have been their second favorite part of the trip because of the spectacular waterfalls and beautiful scenery.

After Washington, the Macks turned east through Idaho and Montana. In Big Sky Country, the couple stopped near Glacier National Park where they have a time share and stayed a few day days.

While traveling across the country, the Macks picked up two kinds of beer. They bought four cases of an Alaskan amber ale. And their nephew asked them to buy some of his favorite beer, which is only available in certain regions.

“The back of the CRV, the floor was all beer,” Ron said.

That garnered them some interesting looks as they came and went from the hotels. They couldn’t leave the beer in the car because of the heat, so they’d put it on carts and moved it to their room.

Once a man stared at them and commented they looked like they were going to have a party.

As their driving adventure continued east, the Macks stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“It was just going to be a stopover, one night, to rest between Rapid City and Minneapolis,” Ron said.

After checking into the hotel, the clerk recommended they look at the waterfalls.

“Falls Park, right in the center of Sioux Falls, was amazing,” Ron said. “We were blown away from it.”

The pleasant surprise led the couple to spend almost two hours exploring the area. Ron described it as a mini Niagara Falls.

“That’s one of the things about travel, you never know what you’ll stumble on, good or bad,” he said.

The Macks continued eastbound, stopping in Chicago and Ohio. Then they headed south toward Baltimore. The trip continued through Williamsburg, Virginia, and Greensboro, North Carolina, before heading home to Gainesville.

Visiting family they hadn’t seen in sometime in Struthers, Ohio, was also a high point of the trip.

“We’re 75 years old and you would think that would be so tiring, but it was so pleasant,” Helen said of the trip.

An avid Pandora bracelet and charm collector, Helen picked up as many charms along the route relating to stops on the trip. She nabbed charms from states such as California, New Mexico, Mississippi, North Carolina, Minnesota, Montana, Maryland and Virginia. She also bought them in cities, including Chicago, New Orleans and Mount Rushmore.

“We just had the best time and we would do it all over again,” Helen said. “We got home beat but happy.”

They couple made it home June 29, but more travels are in the works. The couple plans to possibly revisit some of the stops from their round-country trip.

Ron said since they visited many of the country’s highlights over the summer, they may fly back to different areas, pick a central location, rent a car and explore. He said they’d like to see more of Oregon and Washington, as it was rainy and cloudy while they were there. Plus, they weren’t able to see Mount Rainier.

Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is an icon in Washington state. As an active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S., spawning six major rivers.

So, the Macks want to see it at least once, along with several other sites in the United States.

“We will travel, we will continue to do it,” Ron said. “We love to travel and if it’s in the United States and we can do it by car, maybe fly a little bit.”


Information from: The Times, https://www.gainesvilletimes.com

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