29 JULY - 19 NOVEMBER, 1998

[15,000 miles in 113 days!]

This travelogue details our US trip in 1998. We were five of us - my parents, my sister Uma, my brother-in-law Manoj, and me. We landed in Washington D.C., rented a car, drove cross country and back, saw a lot of places and gained many experiences along the way. It was a spectacular trip as you can see from the details in this travelogue.

First of all, I would like to dedicate this travelogue to my father who planned this entire trip from start to end and made it so wonderful for all of us. I do not know ANYONE who had made a trip like this one - we basically just rented a car and roamed around the entire country as we liked. It was a lot of fun with Papa and Manoj doing the driving, Mom and Uma diligently reading all the tour books, and me studying for my GRE and occasionally navigating :) (Okay, I did drive once!). It was really a free-spirit experience which I have not had since then. It took a lot of guts (not to mention money) on his part to make this trip happen. Papa had always wanted to take his family to the US - back where he had spent five happy years in school including his undergrad years. He had envisioned the trip for many many many years, and I am glad that it came to fruition in good time. I am not sure that the country lived up to his fond memories and expectations but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me that I will forever cherish. I cannot thank him for this trip because one cannot ever thank one's parents enough; I can only hope to pass on the experience to some one else if I get such a chance in life.

Trip Route Map

Detailed journey:

I wrote the original travelogue as we were traveling when I was 22 years old. For some odd reason, it seems to focus a lot of the food we ate and the movies I saw every evening in our hotels on HBO :). I guess it was a whole new and exciting concept to be able to watch so many Hollywood movies for free. I'll skip those details in this log.

July 29-July 30, Wednesday-Thursday, Mumbai-Frankfurt-Washington D.C.

We left India from Mumbai on Lufthansa and flew to Washington D.C. via Frankfurt. Just the routine journey from Pune to Mumbai Sahar airport, all the immigration formalities such as customs control, security checks, etc., and duty-free shopping at Frankfurt. Iqbal Uncle, Dad's friend from undergrad, picked us at the D.C. Dulles airport and drove us through D.C. to the Days Inn in Lanham, Maryland (40 miles from D.C.). Mummy slept through most of the drive due to jet lag, and she is still embarassed that she slept through her first drive in the USA :). She still can't believe that she slept so much! We ate fries for dinner and crashed.


July 31-August 12, Friday-Wednesday, Washington D.C.-Luray Caverns-Baltimore

July 31-August 1, Friday-Saturday, Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. was the first and the longest stay of our entire trip - we bookended the trip with stays in DC. It was here that we saw the initial things in the US - freeways, supermarkets, car rentals, public transport, extra-large-sized drinks when refills are free, pecan pie, AAA, maps, driving directions, etc. The Days Inn at Lanham was owned by a Gujju Patel - the first of our many stays at Gujju-owned motels. We switched rooms to get two rooms with an interconnecting door and shopped in the local supermarket Safeway for tea. There was a pizza parlor - Jerry's - right next to our motel and we ate there a lot of times including our first meal. Iqbal Uncle drove us around to look for a rental car or to buy one for our trip. We ate chocolate donuts and pecan pie for dinner - enjoyed a lot of desserts in the entire trip. On the second day too, we checked out a lot of cars - GM, Jeep, Chrysler, VW, and Honda! We also roamed around a bit and saw an Asian Grocery Store and Muslim Community Center. It all sounds a tad routine after spending 10 years in the US subsequently but at that time, it was all new and exciting :). Lunch was at Pizza Hut - quite a let-down from the fancy ones in India. In the evening, we walked to the nearby Metro station and had a merry ride back via wrong buses to our motel.

August 2, Sunday, Washington D.C.
We cruised all over the pretty DC metro. Iqbal Uncle dropped us at the nearby New Carrollton station where we picked up day fare cards and travelled along the different metro lines. From various points we saw the Patents' Office, the Potomac river, and the Reagan Airport.

We stopped at the Arlington Cemetery where we saw the Memorial for Women in the US Military, the graves of Jackie and John F. Kennedy, and the Washington House.


While traveling along the various metro lines, we saw the Pentagon at Pentagon Station. We encountered a nice mall - Pentagon City - and shopped for an iron and a tea maker in its shopping centre. We stopped at a station close to the Capitol and took a long view of the Capitol and the Mall. Finally, we took the metro back to New Carrollton station where Rehana Aunty picked us up and dropped us back to the Days Inn. We had dinner at Iqbal Uncle's place which had a cool backyard.


August 3, Monday, Lanham
We had a peaceful lunch at Iqbal Uncle's place eating the earlier day's leftovers. Ended up discussing the GRE and LSAT exams which I planned to give while I was in the US. We checked out some more car rentals and were considering renting a Ford Taurus although we finally took a Buick Century. At night, we chalked out a rough itinerary of our trip and planned our visit to the D.C. Mall.

August 4, Tuesday, Washington D.C.

We spent the entire day at the Capitol Mall. We took an early-morning metro train to downtown D.C. We took a guided tour of the US Capitol, and saw the Senate and the House of representatives, which was luckily in session. I had to show my passport to get an international permit for the latter. We then walked along the mall to the Washington Monument which is a huge obelisk with a lift inside it. There were no tickets available until 8pm so we walked over to the White House and saw it from outside. Tickets to see the White House from inside were only given at 6AM every morning. As Mummy wished, we checked out the Youth Hostel which offered bunk beds in dormitories for $19 per person. With five of us, this option did not make sense for us and we just stayed in motels for our entire trip. We ate lunch at an old Post Office which had been converted to a shopping mall. We also bought postcards and stamps there. Back to the mall, we saw the Lincoln Memorial and read the Gettysburg address engraved there. We then walked back to the Smithsonian Museums and saw the Museum of Natural History. This museum had a lot of animals and plant fossils. The coolest section was Gems and Minerals where we saw the Hope Diamond which was mentioned in the movie 'Titanic'. We took a metro back to New Carrollton and ate dinner from the Big Mac in our rooms. For the first time, we ate hot pancakes and syrup - totally loved it!

August 5, Wednesday, Washington D.C.
Papa and Iqbal Uncle had to go to DC to finalize our car for the trip so they dropped us off at the Canadian Embassy. We saw the National Gallery of Art where I loved all the beautiful pictures, especially those of Gare St. Lazare by Manet. We then went to the Air and Space Museum and ate lunch there. We also saw the Smithsonian Castle, Museum of Art and Industries, and the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden. We met a sweet old lady there who wanted to visit India some day. We met Papa at the Canadian Embassy and enquired about getting a visa. Uma, Manoj, and Papa went to Howard University to see if there was any course there for Dental Mechanics. Mummy and I roamed around Chinatown and the National Portrait Gallery. We walked back to the Washington Monument where we met Uma and Manoj, and took the 6:30PM trip up to the top. The monument is 555 feet high, it takes 70 seconds to go up and 60 seconds to come down. We got great views of all of DC from the top. Iqbal Uncle and Papa picked us up in a Buick Le Sabre which they had rented for our trip the next day to the Skyline Drive. Dinner at McDonald's!

August 6, Thursday, Skyline Drive
We left early in the morning in the rented Buick and drove up the beautiful Skyline Drive in the Appalachian Mountains. We visited the Luray Caverns which were spectacular with the calcium stalactites and stalagmites. A couple of especially nice formations were the stalagcites reflected in a shallow 1" pool to look like stalagmites. Happened to just meet Vishu from COEP over there! We drove around in the area along some other pretty routes. Dropped off the car at DC and took a metro back to New Carrollton. Also traveled for the first time in a taxi from the station to the motel.

August 7, Friday, Washington D.C.
Today was a long long day. First, we went to Iqbal Uncle's house and drove off to the University of Maryland to look for study books for the GRE and the LSAT but found nothing worthwhile there. We all got off at the metro station at UMCP. We wanted to go to Mt. Vernon, Virginia by boat so we got off at the waterfront and took a long walk enquiring about boats. However, the one we wanted was far off from where we were and it was too late to walk all the way over there. So we went to the Smithsonian and ate lunch at Pentagon City Mall. Then we reached the George Washington University book store. Found no books there too but we got the addresses for a few other book stores. We walked down to one of these book stores but no luck there either. So we took the metro to Foggy Bottom station and a shuttle to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts - a grander version of NCPA, Mumbai. We caught a free show at 6pm, after which we went to the Safeway grocery store on the waterfront. We got a membership card in Mummy's name and bought a few groceries for dinner. Got back to the motel and ate there.
August 8, Saturday, Baltimore
We operated the 'Laundromat' for the first time this morning, and then we left for Baltimore - 30 miles from Washington D.C. First, we visited Iqbal Uncle's son Mehmood who was a student of Johns Hopkins University there. We drove through the university campus too. We bought tickets to the Baltimore Aquarium and ate lunch at a mall along the Inner Harbor. We first saw a dolphin show and the aquarium thereafter. As Iqbal Uncle has already gone home in the afternoon, we walked to the Penn Station and took an Amtrak train back to New Carrollton. Again, we took a taxi back home and ate dinner there itself.

August 9, Sunday, Washington D.C.
For the first time, we went to McDonald's for an 'eat-all-you-can' breakfast for $4.50. We ate cereal, potato fries, hot pancakes, buns, gravy, fruit punch, etc. Then we came back to the motel and relaxed all day long. We spent the afternoon at the house of Iqbal Uncle's friend whose name was Sikander-E-Azam! We ate some lovely Indian food - cake, chhole, dahi vada, fruits, sweets, etc. Ice-cream at Iqbal Uncle's place. So basically just ate and slept all day long!

August 10, Monday, Washington D.C.
Car rental day! We went with Iqbal Uncle to rent our trip car from 1722 M Street - Avis Rental Agency and picked up our white Buick Century. We then went to AAA to get our membership letter, a detailed route of our trip, and traveller's cheques. We also tried to get an additional set of keys cut but it was unsuccessful since the GM key had some sort of special electronic chip in it. I also bought some cool paper scratch pads and then we navigated back through town to Avis for the car rental manual. We ate pizza at Pizzeria Uno on Connecticut Avenue with an ultimate brownie dessert (clearly I was very fascinated by all the food we ate because I have written about it every day in the original travelogue!). To get back home, we got on to the wrong side of the belt way and ended up taking a long long way home by going anticlockwise instead of clockwise. But it was a nice long drive - the first of many to come :).

August 11, Tuesday, Mt. Vernon, Washington D.C.
We left early in the morning for Mt. Vernon - President George Washington's House and we navigated perfectly to it. We saw the mansion, the slave rooms, and the gardens - nothing special. We drove over to the Pentagon Center where we ate Mexican food at Chevy's. We purchased some boxes to keep our medicines and my study books. Drank terrible (!) Starbucks coffee. We collected our maps from AAA and came back to the motel after roaming around for quite some time since we missed our exit. We ate pizza at Jerry's where they were apparently offering both large and medium pizzas for $7 so obviously we took the large one. We also had coke with unlimited refills and birch beer which tasted like Benadryl. I spoke to Aseem Joshi but was unable to meet him.

August 12, Wednesday, Washington D.C.
We didn't do much today because Iqbal Uncle was admitted to Prince George's Hospital the day before so we went to see him in the morning. Came back to the hotel and ate sandwiches. Then we went to the GM dealer and got an additional ignition key cut. Dad got a really really expensive hair cut. In the evening, we went to a huge departmental store 'Montgomery' and ate Mexican food for dinner there itself.

August 13-August 18, Thursday-Tuesday, Philadelphia-Atlantic City-Princeton-North Wales

August 13, Thursday, Philadelphia
We got ready early in the morning, packed our stuff, and left Washington D.C. for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA). We visited Iqbal Uncle on our way out. We hit I-95 - the highway bordering the entire East Coast. We stopped on the highway for lunch and reached the town around 3:30PM. We enquired for hotels at the Visitors' Center and finally checked into the Comfort Inn, 100 N. Columbus Blvd. We washed up and took the hotel shuttle to downtown Philly. We walked around the shopping mall on South Street and ate at Pizzeria Uno. Philly was a very quaint city with a neatly-organized grid of streets, cobbled brick paths, famous cheese steaks, and was much more homely than D.C. We called the hotel shuttle to take us back and operated the Laundromat again before crashing. I think this was the most expensive hotel we stayed at in our entire trip - $200/night!

August 14, Friday, Philadelphia-Atlantic City
We drove around Philadelphia and saw the University of Pennsylvania from outside. We checked out the local YMCA to stay there but it turned out to be a fraud. We also went to the airport and enquired about the hotels there. As we crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge, we suddenly saw the route to Atlantic City so we went there and reached in abut 60-90 minutes! We played Blackjack and the slot machines and lost $70. We saw all the casinos along the 3.5 mile boardwalk along the sea. The main casino was the Trump Taj Mahal Plaza modeled on the lines of the Taj (!). As we had eaten a very heavy breakfast in the morning, we just ate some peanuts, pecans, and apples. We drove back to Philadelphia and took the same shuttle downtown as the earlier night. We ate at the same restaurant and packed some stuff back for Papa. At night, we checked out the maps to decide our further itinerary.

August 15, Saturday, Philadelphia-Princeton
We ate a hearty breakfast at the Comfort Inn, and then headed to town. We first visited the Independence Historical Park and they gave us a guided tour of the Pennsylvania State House back in the 19th century. It included the assembly/independence hall where the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed. We also saw the then Supreme Court and the cracked Liberty Bell. Finally, we just drove around downtown, saw the new City Hall and left for Newtown, PA. We found the Law School Admission Council but it was closed for the weekend. We proceeded to see Princeton University, and we ate some cool breads and rice pudding at a local bakery there. We walked around the campus for a while, and then drove over to the Educational Testing Service (ETS) campus on the outskirts of the town. It was a really huge and nice set up. We got back and stayed in Levittown, PA. I swam in the pool and then we ate stuff that we had packed in Princeton.
August 16, Sunday, Philadelphia
We woke up at leisure and ate a lousy breakfast of just doughnuts, juice, and coffee. But then I think that this breakfast became more the norm than the exception. We met this Hungarian family from Long Island, NY who was staying next door to us and we had met them the earlier day at the pool. They were going to a water park - Sesame Place - so we also decided to go with them. We took a look from outside but did not go inside as it looked like a place for kids. We spent 2-3 hours at a local mall - saw shops like JC Penney, Sears, and Macy's. I studied for the LSAT after coming back. It was the time of President Clinton's grand jury testimony for his impeachment trial so it was interesting time to watch the news in the US.

August 17, Monday, Philadelphia-Newtown
We left early for Newtown where I filled my LSAT forms and picked up some preparation materials. In the meanwhile, Manoj went to 'Dentaurum' which he had seen on Saturday itself. They directed him to a Gujarati dental laboratory. We then went to Princeton and filled forms for GRE, AGRE, and TOEFL, and picked up more books for study. We ate lunch at the Princeton University cafeteria and I emailed a bunch of people from there itself. We met the graduate admissions coordinator Melissa at the Computer Science department and left my transcripts with her. We also met an IITM graduate - Ganesh - who was doing his Ph.D. in EE there, and got the email addresses of some professors from him. Since the admission forms for the next year had not been printed, I could not get them at that time. We left Princeton for North Wales to the dental lab. We first saw the lab, and met the family that runs it. Then we went to their house for dinner - met the entire family which consisted of three brothers - Vinod, Jagdish, and Dilip who live with their families and their parents. It was really odd meeting these people there and going to their house etc. I find it very amusing now that this happened given how isolated and wary-of-strangers people really are in the US :).

August 18, Tuesday, Philadelphia-Newtown
Another relaxing day studying for the LSAT. Manoj spent the entire day at the dental lab. Mummy, Papa, and Uma went to Dilipbhai's clinic to fix her broken crown. Did the usual chores like laundry, ironing, etc. We went for a drive in the evening and bought an 'ex-cargo' or a carrier at the Sears Auto division. After dinner, Vinodbhai and Manoj came back and had a long discussion with Papa. They decided that Manoj would spend up time working at the lab to gain some experience and go for a dental conference in NYC before joining us again.

August 19-August 25, Wednesday-Tuesday, New York City

August 19, Wednesday, New York City
We dropped off Manoj at the dental lab early in the morning. We called Iqbal Uncle to check on his health as he was still unwell at that time. We said bye to Manoj as he was to stay here for at least a month and visited the rest of the family at their home. We took the Penn Turnpike to New Jersey Turnpike to Econolodge in Jersey City, New Jersey. We lost the turnpike ticket some where in the middle so we had to stop to find it. We rested for a while and then left for New York City at night. We took the Lincoln Tunnel which had a $4 toll to go to the city but was it was free when using it to return on the way back. We drove along the West River Drive i.e. New York Harbor and then to the East River Drive, and drove all around Manhattan. Then we drove over to Times Square where 5th Avenue and Broadway Avenue cross and it was a cool cool place! All lit up and bubbling with life. We ate hotcakes and potato pancakes (which tasted just like batata wada) at Lindy's and ice-cream at Hagen-Daaz. We walked around Times Square for a while watching ads, shops, listening to bagpipes, etc. We drove over to the Rockefeller Center and Radio City Hall. We then reached the Empire State building at 11:40PM and just missed the last lift at 11:30PM. We drove back to Jersey City and saw a lot of NYC along the way.

August 20, Thursday, New York City-Coney Island
We roamed around all the five boroughs of New York City - Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. From Jersey City, we crossed Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island where we visited Coney Island. It had an amusement park right on the beach. We ate Mexican food and sat in a lift-like ride from where we could see the whole island. We crossed the Verrazano bridge and saw the Statue of Liberty from a distance. We then drove over to Bronx to Fordham University to see if we could locate an old friend of Papa's - Harini Patel but to no avail. We walked around at a nearby cheap shopping area but we did not like it too much. We drove back to Manhattan and parked near the Empire State Building. We were told that the observation deck at the 102th floor was closed so we would only be able to go till the 86th floor. So we decided to go to the World Trade Center and come back here another time. Ate tacos and burritos at Taco Bell, and enquired about phone cards. Finally we drove back to Jersey after being stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel for 45 minutes! We lost the film rolls when we were in New York so we don't have too many pictures of this part of the trip :(.

August 21, Friday, New York City
We decided to skip the car and go by the subway today. First, we bought phone cards, parked our car in a parking lot opposite the subway station Journal Square. We took the PATH train between New Jersey and New York to 33rd Street. From there, Papa called up their old Mumbai neighbor Ramesh Mehta and we walked over to his office on 5th Avenue. We sat there till late in the afternoon and ate Pizza Hut pizzas. Also met Dr. Chabbria from Jain Clinic there. Papa walked over to Fordham University Alumni Association to get the number for Harini Patel. Then we went to Rockefeller Center and Rodin's sculptures on display. We also saw a ton of 5th Avenue stores like Saks, GM, Coca Cola, Disney World, Gucci, Banana Republic, Tiffany's, and of course Central Park at the end. Then we walked over to Harini Aunty's place and sat there for a while before heading back via the PATH train to Jersey and driving back to our hotel. Dinner was Indian food for a change - paneer, rice, roti, and dal.

August 22, Saturday, New York City
We called up a bunch of people in the morning - India, Iqbal Uncle, Harriet Aunty, Damu Uncle, etc. Then we took the NJ Turnpike to Liberty State Park where we gathered information to see the Statue of Liberty, and we also saw the Liberty Monument and the Liberty Walk. Drove over to the ferry service and took the 1PM ferry. The first stop was Ellis Island which was the immigration center at New York from 1852 to 1954. It had a bunch of immigration statistics about different people. The ferry then took us to the Statue of Liberty; we got a grand view from the ferry itself. We did not climb up to the crown of the status because (1) only folks from the first ferry at 8:30AM are allowed to go to the crown, and (2) there was a huge line just go inside. We bought some souvenirs and took the ferry back to the Liberty State Park. After eating doughnuts and tortilla chips, we went to the World Trade Center and purchased tickets for the observatory deck. Our car was parked at a spot with a 1-hour limit so we parked it elsewhere and came back to the Twin Towers. We got spectacular views from the top - Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, George Washington Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, Verrazano Bridge, Liberty State Park and the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor's Island, Empire State Building, NYSE, Trinity Church, Jersey City, etc, etc. They had multiple interactive screens with information for all these places of interest. We also sat for a simulated helicopter ride through the streets of NY; we actually felt that the theater was going up and down. We engraved some pennies as souvenirs, and saw our photo taken at the bottom but did not purchase it. All this took so much time that we saw the city in day light as well as lit up at night. Drove back home and ate pancakes at IHOP for the first time. NYC is THE place to be. [Its very interesting how I thought like that even during that trip - some things do not change :).].

August 23, Sunday, New York City
Early in the morning, we went to the United Nations where they took us around the building in a guided tour. The UN is made up of four buildings - the Secretariat, the Conference Hall, the Assembly Hall, and a library. In the tour, we were shown the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the General Assembly Halls. The UN land belongs to the UN and we bought special stamps which can only be used inside the UN. Then we drove over to Tarrytown, north of Bronx to Damodar Gujarati's place. He is Mummy's old friend; we ate good home food there and emailed a bunch of people. In the evening, we walked along Broadway looking for tickets to a musical. Ate mini burgers and milk shakes at White Castle. Its cool how we ate so much different local food in the entire trip :).

August 24, Monday, New York City
I did an LSAT practice paper in the morning. We drove over to the subway station and ate at the local 'delicatessen' which was 'kosher' - a first time learning these concepts :). We bought tickets for an off-Broadway production 'Perfect Crime'. We dropped off my resume at Ramesh Uncle's office while Mummy and Uma did some shopping. We took a guided tour of the Radio City Hall which is a grand grand entertainment theater with a seating capacity of 6000! Also met a 'Rockette' who is a dance girl in the shows at the hall itself. In the evening we saw 'Perfect Crime' for a couple of hours in a tiny theater! Usual journey back home - subway to Journal Square and drive back to the motel.

August 25, Tuesday, New York City
We suddenly decided to move out of NYC. We left for West Point - the US Military Academy where Damu Uncle works. We ate at the Hayes Hotel there which was delicious and majorly stylish. We roamed around the Academy seeing barracks, cadets, statues, posh lawns et al. This was quite a highlight - I am not sure how many people have seen the inside of West Point in a US trip! We decided to go to Boston but as it was far away, we stopped in Hartford, CT. For the night, we drove over to Providence and stayed with my first cousin Sameer.

August 26-August 30, Wednesday-Sunday, Providence-Boston-Cambridge-Salem

August 26, Wednesday, Providence-Boston
We drove around Providence with Sameer and saw the state capitol, Benefit Street with old colonial houses, and the river walk. We dropped him off at his office and left for Boston. We stopped half-way to see my other first cousin Sonalben, her husband Jayeshbhai, and her daughters Ami and Vaishaki. We ate lunch with them and then Mummy went for Paryushan Samwadsari Pratikraman. Uma, Papa, and I drove 25 miles to Lexington to book a room there. We drove back to pick up Mummy and slept late.

August 27, Thursday, Cambridge-Boston
After eating breakfast in the morning, we left for Cambridge. Our first stop was Harvard Law School and we enquired there about admissions to the law program. We also saw the Harvard and Radcliffe 'Yards', and the Computer Science admissions department. Then we drove along River Charles seeing Cambridge and MIT. Boston and Cambridge are on two sides of River Charles, MIT is on the Cambridge side and some parts of Harvard are on the Boston side. We ate lunch at the MIT cafeteria and then drove around Boston.

August 28, Friday, Boston
We ate breakfast and went to downtown Boston by the Metro. We parked our car at the Alewife station at the end of the Red line. I also sent my Harvard forms to Pooja in the morning. We then went to the South Station and saw the Boston Tea Party Museum. We walked around in that area and ate fried dough! We took the metro back to Symphony, walked around quite a bit, and saw the original Christian Scientists' Church, Prudential Plaza with a Saks Fifth Avenue store, Hancock Towers, Symphony Hall, Trinity Church, Boston Public Library, and the Boston Commons Garden. We ate some donuts at Dunkin Donuts and saw the gold domed State House. Got back to Alewife station and drove home. Spoke to Kamlesh at night.

August 29, Saturday, Boston-Salem
We ate breakfast and waited for Sameer to come over. We decided to go to Salem - a nearby witch village. We messed up the route so it took a long time to reach there. At Salem, we saw a live re-enactment of a witch trial and a tour of a recreated dungeon. Then we generally walked down the mall looking at all sorts of witch apparel and magic tricks. We drove up to the USS Constitution, a decommissioned US navy ship; we took a 45-min guided tour of the two decks. Then we drove around the Freedom Trail in Charlestown. We parked nearby and roamed around in the cute Quincy Market. We ate ice-cream there and drove along the sea back to the hotel. Washed up and went to Sonalben's place for dinner where we had really nice patras, and kadhi. We bought batteries at a nearby store which was owned by a Pakistani fellow. I emailed everyone from Sonalben's place, took a lot of pictures, bid good bye to Sameer and Sonalben, and drove back late to the hotel by midnight.

August 30, Sunday, Boston
I was studying for my LSAT and my GRE in the trip so I completed half an LSAT test paper in the morning, and operated the Laundromat. We then left to visit Kala mavshi's daughter Gauri who lived in Woburn. We met her husband Anil and their son Akhil; I also checked my email at her place and we all ate puri bhaji. We then went to downtown Boston and saw the Fenway Park baseball stadium where a Red Sox game had just finished. We drove around the Boston University campus; we also went to Iqbal Uncle's son Faoud's place but he was not there so we just left a note for him. Same thing happened at Nitasha's place! We picked up a pizza on the way back and ate at the hotel itself. I ironed my clothes and we packed our bags as we had to leave for Buffalo the next day. Manoj had called to say that he was fine.

August 31-September 4, Monday-Friday, Ithaca-Buffalo-Niagara Falls

August 31, Monday, Ithaca
I completed yet another half LSAT paper in the morning, and then we left for Albany. As we reached there pretty early, we decided to directly go to Cornell University in Ithaca. We stopped at Utica for food; I caught up on some sleep, corrected my paper, and did some word lists in the car. In Ithaca, we drove around Cornell University and then went to the Computer Science department at Upson Hall. We spoke to a professor who had worked with Dijkstra (!) and he suggested to come by again around 9am. So we checked out the Statler Hotel on the campus but it was $250/night! So we just went to the local Best Western Inn :). We drove around town and bought some supplies for dinner. I chatted with Kamlesh to inform him that we would visit him tomorrow itself.

September 1, Tuesday, Ithaca
As usual, I got up and did some sections of a LSAT paper. Papa dropped me off at Cornell. The Director for Graduate Studies - Ken Briman - and his secretary Liz were not in. I waited around for a while and then spoke to the secretary but she was a tad rude and not helpful so I just picked up an application form. I also went to the Human Ecology Computer Lab to check email but was unable to do so as a class was going on at that time. Mummy, Papa, and Uma came to pick me up and we walked around Ithaca for a while. As we had a lot of time on hand, we took an inner road to Buffalo driving along beautiful Lake Kayuga and the wine trail. We saw the 215-feet high Taughannock Falls (higher than the Niagara Falls) and a couple of nice wineries. We stopped at a Pizza Hut for lunch and then reached Buffalo around 5:30pm. We chatted for a while, saw Kamlesh's office, and ate dinner at home. We ate ice-cream sandwich for dinner and filled the Canadian visa forms before sleeping.

September 2, Wednesday, Buffalo-Niagara Falls
I completed my LSAT paper, corrected it, and studied some more word lists. By then, Kamlesh got back from his office, and we all went to the Canadian Embassy on Main Street in downtown Buffalo. We submitted our forms and fees and were asked to wait for an hour for the interview. Kamlesh took the car back to his office. As the consulate was closed for lunch from noon to 1:00pm, we went and ate subs for lunch. Our interviews were at 1:30pm and we got the visas half an hour later. Then we walked along Main Street which was very pretty with shops on both sides, arches between buildings on either side, and trams running along the street. We walked a little bit but we could not find a working ticket machine, so we just took the tram back downtown which was in the free-fare zone. There we exchanged for quarters, and bought tickets from the Auditorium to the South Campus. After the tram ride to South Campus, we went to Kamlesh's office by bus 48C. I checked emails there; then we went home and freshened up. We ate yummy pancakes for dinner, and then took off for Niagara Falls by night. We parked in the US and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge which is the international boundary between USA and Canada, indicated by the flags of both countries. We paid the 25c toll and got our visas stamped. We took the spectacular 2km walk along the US and Canadian falls, with the beautiful lights changing from time to time. We saw Casino Niagara in Canada, got our passports stamped again, and got back to the US. We got home late and ate more ice-cream sandwiches for dessert.

September 3, Thursday, Buffalo-Niagara Falls
After Kamlesh left for office, we got ready, ate breakfast, and left for Niagara Falls again. We parked the car at the mall, and walked along the American Falls pathway. Then we took the elevator to the observation point in the US. The same elevator took us down to the Niagara river and the 'Maid of the Mist' boat. We were given blue plastic raincoats and the boat went along the American Falls to the Horseshoe Falls. We waited there for a couple of minutes to enjoy the mist. It was simply fabulous! Then we drove over to the Canadian side across the Rainbow Bridge after the regular visa checks. We drove along the Canadian driveway. We parked at the Skylon Tower which is a tower with a revolving restaurant at the top. Thought that we would eat there but it was a buffet with too much non-veg food and quite expensive. So we ate at a cafe below and took the lift to the open-air observatory deck for a break-taking view of the falls and the US-Canada border. Mummy and Uma did not come for this as well as the cable car ride later on. Then we drove along river Niagara on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge in Canada. We took the ride in the cable car shown in the diagram. This ride was used to fool potential illegal immigrants; they were promised to be taken to the US but both sides of the cable car, across River Niagara are in Canada itself :). It was great and we got wet due to a drizzle. We drove back home, and freshened up. Then we ate dinner at an Indian restaurant. We shopped for some groceries at a local super-market 'Tops'.


September 4, Friday, Buffalo-Niagara Falls
We spent quite some time doing random time-pass. After getting ready, Deepti and I left for Kamlesh's office which was a stone's throw away from his home. I emailed everyone and fixed up to see a baseball match with Rakesh. I also went to the post office with Kamlesh and mailed some post cards. We ate a heavy lunch of chhole and sheera. In the afternoon, we got back to his office to check more emails and to try to see if Rakesh could book us in a hotel some where but to no avail. Then all of us except Kamlesh left for Niagara; Kamlesh waited around to receive calls for his car sale. We took the Cave of the Winds tour to the Hurricane Deck at the bottom of the Bridal Falls - it was wild! The force of the water was absolutely incredible. I got totally wet and then spent half an hour trying to dry myself with the dryer in the restroom. We drove over to the Whirlpool Park near the Spanish Cable Car. We crossed over to Canada, and had pizzas and milk shakes. Then we went to Casino Niagara and watched Roulette for some time. We saw the fireworks over Niagara around 10pm. Dad gave Deepti and me $20CDN for gambling so we pitched in and played for one and a half hours leaving with $32 CDN :). We drove around some more and came home around 1:00am.

September 5-September 9, Saturday-Wednesday, Toronto

September 5, Saturday, Toronto
We got ready and then checked email at Kamlesh's office - Amit had received the forms that I had mailed to him. We bid goodbye to Kamlesh and Deepti, and left for Toronto. We reached Toronto very fast by around 12:30pm and checked into a motel which we found in our AAA books as usual. I spoke to Rakesh Shah and we ate lunch at Pizza Hut. Mummy, Papa, and Uma left separately and I met Rakesh. We went to his office in downtown where we parked his Toyota Corolla, and then took the subway to the Skywalk. It was a walkway above the street with glass windows. We walked along the Skywalk to the baseball stadium - Sky Dome. It has a dome exterior which can be closed in case of rain. We saw a baseball match between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox - the Blue Jays won, and the match finished around 7pm. We ate dinner of a burger and a milkshake at the Hard Rock Cafe in the stadium itself. We also saw an air show and a laser beam show as a part of the Labor Day weekend celebrations for the Canadian National Exhibition. After dinner, we walked downtown and saw the CN Tower, Eaton Center which is a big shopping market with a lovely restaurant called Marche's, other office buildings, etc. We took the subway back to the car and he dropped me back at my motel.

September 6, Sunday, Toronto
I did 3 sections of a LSAT paper in the morning. We ate breakfast in the room and left for downtown to spend the whole day at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). They have a huge permanent ground for the CNE but the exhibition runs only from August 21 to September 7 annually so we were there just in time to see it. First, we saw a hundred cars on display to be voted (online) as the 'Car of the Century'; included the likes of Rolls Royce, Silver Ghost, Volkswagen Beetle, Fiat, Mini, Austin, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Saab, Volvo, Chrysler's concept for a future car, etc. We took a ride of the entire exhibition in a trolley. We got off at the casino after seeing the Dufferin Gates. We wanted to exchange money but the rate was very bad so we did not. We then saw many different stalls such as Medieval Times, Spirit of Mickey, Convention Center with music, Kiddies Corner with rides, and an air show of F16s. I bought some cosmetics at a local mall there. We visited the Arts and Crafts section where I saw glass blowing, and bought a lovely set of ribbon decoration. We saw the Garden Show, the International Pavilion with stalls from countries all over the world including Israel celebrating 50 years of independence, excellent skating, and sent email from the stall for free Internet Books. We played typical fair games and I won a soft toy. Papa won a play band in place of Uma so we sat on various rides together. I chickened out on the first one as it looked very scary but sat in the other ones happily. I managed to convince Uma to sit in one of the rides with me and as soon as we sat in it, it started pouring. We got thoroughly drenched from sitting in the ride in the middle of a thunder storm with no signs of abating! After another half an hour, it reduced a bit so we ran to the car and dried off in the heater. Reached home only at midnight!

September 7, Monday, Toronto
We got ready at ease and went to Ontario Place. We did not want to sit in any of the water rides, so we drove over to see the Labor Day Parade but we got a bit late for it. We saw all the participants hanging around, and then left for the Sky Dome. We ate at McDonald's and looked the CN Towers shopping area. We then visited Nirupa bhabhi's brother's place. We ate some stuff and sat around for some time. Then they took us to the Indian street called Gerard Street. We ate terrible Punjabi food and got back home by 10pm.

September 8, Tuesday, Toronto
We drove downtown and parked near the Bata Shoe Museum. We saw the museum and bought cute blue walking shoes (wind-up toy). We ate dosas at an Indian restaurant called "Sreedevi", and visited a discount shop "Honest Ed's". We drove around the provincial parliament buildings and Queen Park. We went to Gerard Street, and saw Chinatown and the Indian market. We stopped at the Woodbine Park near the Lake Ontario Beach which was beautiful but terribly cold. Then we went to the Harbor front; we did not take the boat ride to Toronto Islands but walked around the shopping mall and saw beautiful embossing works, and glass and ceramic workshops. We ate lasagna and decided to go see the 'Titanic' movie at the I-Max theater at Ontario Place but a traffic jam prevented us from going there. We bought pizza and spaghetti for dinner from a local Walmart, and ate ice-cream sandwich for dessert.

September 9, Wednesday, Toronto
I did an LSAT paper early in the morning. We drove over to the Colborne Lodge - a 19th century mansion, and then on to Casa Loma - a museum. The Lodge looked very simple so we just drove around High Park where it is located. At Casa Loma, the car attendant was a Gujju who told us that there was not much to see inside. So we just picked up some evening tickets for the Sky Dome. Then Mummy, Papa, and Uma took a round of the Eaton Center while I waited in the car as the parking meter was not working. We went back to the Harbor front where I tried roller blading but I did not buy the skates. We went to the Sky Dome and ate at the McDonald's. We watched a match between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians game for five innings. Then we proceeded to the CN Tower and went to the lookout on the 114th floor. We got a beautiful view of lit-up Toronto at night. We also went up another 330 feet to the 147th floor Sky Pod - the highest point in the world. When we came back down, we walked on the glass floor from where we could see straight down to the street! We walked on the outside where I loved the cold wind! Got back home by 11pm.

September 10-September 18, Thursday-Friday, Detroit-Columbus

September 10, Thursday, Detroit
We left for Detroit early in the morning; I left a message for Rakesh as he was not at his desk. We stopped on the way at a McDonald's for some breakfast. We reached Detroit around 3pm. We took a tax refund of GST (not PST) at a duty-free shop having returned from Canada, and bought some more stuff. We also went to a local AAA to get the Detroit city map. We drove to Dearborn and checked into a Mercury Motor Inn; washed up and emailed a bunch of people from a nearby computer sales shop. We spoke to Manoj's friend Amol as he was supposed to meet him. We walked around town and saw a fabulous decorations shop. We ate pancakes at an IHOP and shifted our luggage in the inn to a new room with a kitchenette.

September 11, Friday, Detroit
Early in the morning, Manoj called to say that he had arrived from North Wales by Greyhound bus. Amol was unable to come to Detroit as he was busy. We went to Greenfield Village and the Ford museum but did not go inside as it did not look too appealing. We drove around the Ford World headquarters and the Ford Motor Company. We met a Babylonian shop owner who liked Hindi movies and sang Shammi Kapoor's 'Aaja Aaja' song for us- it was very cool :). We ate pizza for lunch and then left for downtown Detroit. There we saw the Detroit river drive, the Ambassador bridge to Canada, and the Renaissance Towers - the future global GM headquarters. We then took the 'People Mover' train on a round trip; it is a train with two bogies running at a height of two floors on a circular route in one direction. It was nice and gave a good idea of the dilapidated downtown (hence the name 'Renaissance' for the new building!). We got back to the Renaissance Towers and tried to call Vasufoi's mother Bhabhi but she had already left for India. We tried (but eventually did not) go up to the 73rd floor Summit restaurant. We drove around Wayne State University, Fox theater, and Grand Circus Park before we got back home, and I emailed people again from the same computer sales shop. Off to Columbus tomorrow!

September 12, Saturday, Columbus

I checked my LSAT paper; then got ready and left for Columbus. We reached Amol's place around 1pm and chatted around for a while. We lugged our bags to his second floor apartment and then grabbed lunch at Pizza Hut. We washed Amol's car and ours too. We washed up and went to Pep Boys and Sears to install an ex-cargo (basically a covered carrier) on the top of our car. We drove around Columbus and walked along the river where we met an immigrated Gujju Haribhakti! Dinner was Mexican food at Don Pablo's. We shopped for some groceries before getting back home.

September 13, Sunday, Columbus
We basically spend the next week or so chilling out at Amol's place not doing much. It was a good break in the middle of the trip. I ate 'Frosted Flakes' for breakfast - I think it was the love of a lifetime ;). I did an LSAT paper and ate lunch prepared by Mummy after a very long time! After sleeping for three hours, I checked my paper and did a GRE word list. We also fixed the ex-cargo that we had purchased for our car. Ate simple daal-rice for dinner.

September 14, Monday, Columbus
I emailed a bunch of people from a nearby computer sales shop. I did yet another LSAT paper in the afternoon. In the evening, we all went to Amol's friend Sanjay's place to drop off his monitor, groceries from Big Bear, Sachin Shringarpure to get pillows etc. (There was some ambiguity if Gauri Shringi was his sister or not.) We ate Ravioli and ice-cream sandwiches at night.

September 15, Tuesday, Columbus
Today we spent some time in the Columbus Zoo. We saw koalas, kangaroos, coral reefs, and a couple of sharks mating. We ate pizza for lunch and I did an LSAT paper in the evening. I played some disastrous racquetball in the evening too!

September 16, Wednesday, Columbus
We checked out a local store called Mayer's for roller blades and a sleeping bag but did not end up buying anything. Yet another LSAT paper! We walked to Saw Mill Road and mailed people from Circuit City. Pooja had mailed my Harvard forms on Sept. 15th. I also sent a letter to Harshal from

September 17, Thursday, Columbus
I called up the numbers for GRE, LSAT, and TOEFL to correct my address mistake on the forms. GRE and LSAT guys said that they would re-mail my admission tickets whereas the TOEFL guys gave me my receipt number. So I set up my LSAT for 28th Sept. at 8:30AM in Chicago. We decided to try for India test dates if possible so I emailed Pooja about it. I checked the Peterson's guide for Graduate Studies, and I sent a letter to Moushumi. We ate Undhiyu and Paneer Matar for dinner.

September 18, Friday, Columbus

Another LSAT paper! I emailed Pooja for my India GRE confirmation. After lunch, we planned our further itinerary. We slept for a while and then drove around town. We checked a modem at Sun Computers but it was not to our liking as it was an internal modem. We drove around Germantown, saw Columbus downtown, and Amol's office at night. Last home dinner at Amol's place!

September 19-September 30, Saturday-Wednesday, Chicago

September 19, Saturday, Chicago
Got up early in the morning and ate yummy waffles for breakfast before leaving for Chicago. Stopped along the way: Columbus - Indianapolis - Chicago. We drove along Lake Shore Drive seeing downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan before we went to Aunt Harriet's house in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. We met Harriet Aunty, David Uncle, their son Micah, and Uncle David's niece Jenny . We talked for a while, played magic cards with Micah, and played some ball with their Yorkshire Terrier Shemish. We ate Mexican food at Gulliver's which was also filled with a lot of antiques. We parked our car in their garage and got all our luggage out before hitting the bed. In general, Chicago was a lot of studying and the LSAT exam for me. The rest of the junta saw a lot more of the city which is not covered in this travelogue.

September 20, Sunday, Chicago
Got off to a late start to the day. We ate breakfast of coffee and bagels. I chatted with Aseem and Pooja on Yahoo! for a while. Then we went with Harriet Aunty to a couple of kosher bakeries to buy bread and sweetmeats for the the Jewish New Year. We got stuck in a slight downpour; ate peanut-butter-jelly sandwiches for lunch. I studied for a while and checked the TOEFL CD. I helped Harriet Aunty for dinner. Mummy, Papa, Uma, and Manoj visited Rupafoi so she also joined us for dinner. We all sat at a long table covered with a white table cloth and three candles. Harriet Aunty said some prayers and we toasted with wine and lemonade. We ate their special bread, and thanked God for the grapes and bread. We ate a vegetable soup and egg dumplings. The next course was oatmeal spaghetti and falafel meatballs (bhajiyas of daal). Dessert was apples and pears dipped in honey, lemonade, honey cake, and fried sweet dough.

September 21, Monday, Chicago
I got up early, emailed a bunch of people, and did an LSAT paper. I went to the Evanston post office which took a long time to find; I requested the supervisor there to redirect the postal mail for me. Then we left for the Museum of Science and Industry in downtown Chicago where we purchased a family ticket. We saw a coal mine and equipment used for coal mining. We ate lunch at a Pizza Hut in the museum itself. After lunch we saw the Energy Hall, the fairy tale castle, and the movie 'Everest' on OmniMax (like IMAX). OmniMax is a special screen which gives a 3D effect - very cool! We then drove over to Rahul Shah's place in Skokie where I played with his son Naman. After dinner, we came home and I received my LSAT tickets.

September 22, Tuesday, Chicago
I did one of my last boring LSAT papers early in the morning. Emailed a bunch of friends and sent pre-applications to CMU, Cornell, and Yale. Then we attended a Rosh Hashanah service at the Jewish synagogue where people recited stories and verses from the Torah. They walked around with two rolls of the Torah, and we all touched and kissed it. We also saw an official Rabbi recitation, and Papa had to wear a 'kippah' (head cap). We then visited Papa's Junior College - Wilbur Wright City Junior College where we took a lot of photos. First we mistook some random building for the college but then we eventually found the right building. We went to the home of Papa's old friends Pat and Harry Michalski but they had moved so we spoke to their neighbors and got their new numbers. We drove over to the Chicago O'Hare airport and parked at an economy parking lot. We took a free shuttle to the train and then took the train to Terminal 1 where we saw the tunnels, baggage, trains to the city and everything else there. We walked over to Terminal 2 though the Skyway. We ate Mexican dinner at Lupita's. Generally had a really good time today.

September 23, Wednesday, Chicago
I spent the whole day studying - I have no idea what the others did! I read some application forms early in the morning and then chatted with Pooja for some time. I emailed Cornell and Mohan for some materials, and did yet another LSAT paper. Harriet Aunty and I picked up Jenny from the Jewish Community Center. I did some TOEFL samples and then played 'Stratego' with Micah. Haresh Kriplani had called me so I talked to him. We ate veggie burgers for dinner. Jenny was going to go back home to Nebraska for a week.

September 24, Thursday, Chicago
Well today was relaxation. I got an email from Cornell saying that I should send in a pre-application so they could tell me whether I should go through the effort of the application or not! We all took a boat ride in downtown Chicago; the Chicago river flows bang in the middle of the town. We rode in the boat and identified various buildings like the Sears Towers, Wrigley Towers, Chicago Tribune, Mercantile Mart, and lots of other buildings along with their architectural specifications. We then went to Lake Michigan. The lake and the river are at different water levels - the natural flow being that of the river flowing into the lake. In order to prevent the pollution of the river going to the lake which provides drinking water to the city of Chicago, the flow of the river is reversed using two locks one of which is opened at a time to let a boat pass between the lake and the river. We also saw the building which has stones in its walls from various countries and places all over the world.


After the boat ride, we walked a part of Michigan Avenue - The Magnificent Mile. We ate some donuts and coffee at Dunkin Donuts. We visited Papa's friend Patricia Michalski who worked in the Governor's office. It is a grand hollow building with a glass roof. We saw the Governor's office and received a personally-signed welcome card from him. After that, we bought some bags at a place and umbrellas at Marshall Fields. We got back home using the 'El'. We had some Gujarati guests over for dinner - Kamlesh Trivedi from Uncle David's previous office, his wife Eesha, and their son Kishan - we ate Macaroni salad and some brownies for dessert.

September 25, Friday, Chicago
I did my last LSAT paper before the exam. Mummy, Papa, and Uma had gone shopping with Rupafoi. I did the TOEFL CD and then chatted with Pooja and Manju for a while. I received the Harvard forms filled by Pooja and I filled the rest myself. We left in the evening to go to the Michalski's place. There we met Pat and Harry Michalski, and Raymond and Diane Blaige. Got back early and slept in time for my LSAT the next day!

September 26, Saturday, Chicago
We got up early this morning and went to Northwestern University FISK Hall 1845 Sheridan Road for my LSAT exam. They checked my admission ticket and passport, and took a thumb print of my right hand on the ticket which I then submitted. I had to do three sections of 35 minutes each, a 10 minute break, two sections of 35 minutes each, a 5 minute break and then a writing sample for 30 minutes. After we were done, we ate pancakes at IHOP. We saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa model which is a water storage tank attached to the YMCA. We drove around Devon Street which has Indian and Jewish markets. I rested at home for a while, slept, emailed people, and watched part of the movie 'Ten Commandments'. We went to eat South Indian food at Dasprakash on Devon Street - dosa, idli, chaas, rassam, besi bili bhaat, gajar halwa, ras malai, and gulab jamun. I played Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe, and Dots with Micah at the restaurant. I read some Sherlock Holmes before crashing for the night.

September 27, Sunday, Chicago
Today I completed my Harvard application form, and started on the Stanford one. I mailed and chatted with Aseem for a while - seem to have done a lot of chatting while in Chicago! Uma, Mummy, and Papa had gone shopping. When they got back, we all left for Raymond Blaige's house. There we met Raymond, his wife Diane, their daughters Marilyn (children Audrey and Christopher), Judy (son Tomei), and their son Thomas. We also met Pat and Harry Michalski, and Manoj and Shobhana Sanghvi (their Indian neighbors). We had a good time at their place - lovely food (awesome poppy seed cake) and great house.

September 28, Monday, Chicago
I gave the TOEFL exam at Rotary Center, 1560 Sherman Avenue, and got 230-287/300. We ate a trattoria outside. There we met a gentleman from Salem, TN and we took a few of his snaps. We went shopping to downtown Evanston; we bought some winter slippers and sweaters for Uma and Papa, and a sleeping bag for me. The famous sleeping bag that I used to sleep on for the rest of the trip :). I still have it! Ate dinner at a Buddhist sort of place called Amitabul.

September 29, Tuesday, Chicago
We went with Micah and Harriet Aunty to the Museum of Science and Industry. We saw the Burlington Zephyr - the fastest train from Denver to Chicago in 1934. We saw the movie 'Mysteries of Egypt' at the OmniMax theater. We ate lunch at the Pizza Hut, and then Harriet Aunty left to pick up Jenny from the Greyhound terminal. At the museum, we saw 747 planes, an AIDS display, and the human heart. We also saw communications, computer graphics, virtual reality, and the German US-captured submarine U-505 from inside. We bought Micah a T-shirt and a game at the gift shop there. Then we came to see the Bahai Temple in Wilmette on Ridge Avenue and Sherman Avenue. We came home for Yom Kippur - the day of the atonement. There was rice pudding for dessert.

September 30, Wednesday, Chicago
I finished my Harvard application and read all the books that David Uncle had given me. At 5:30pm, I took the 'El' from South Blvd. to Howard Chicago. We met Rupafoi and the rest at an Indian restaurant at 247 E. Ontario. We ate Punjabi food. We paid the highest rate in our entire trip for parking here. Manoj joined us in Chicago - Mummy, Papa, and Uma picked him up by Greyhound at 1:30pm; they roamed around town and saw 'Egypt' at the Museum of Science and Industry again. After dinner, we took snaps of Chicago by night. When we got back, I chatted with David Uncle about schools and recommendation letters. I also slept in my sleeping bag for the first time.

October 1-October 5, Thursday-Monday, St. Louis

October 1, Thursday, St. Louis
I got print outs of my Harvard application form. We clicked a lot of snaps and bid good bye to Harriet Aunty, Micah, and Jenny. We ate lunch at Pizza Hut before Bloomington and then drove to St. Louis. We saw some old houses that Papa had lived in when he was a student here. We also saw the famous McDonald's Arch along the river and Washington University. We enquired about some old friends of Papa - the Wolfes but they were both no more, survived by a son who lived in Cincinnati. We checked in at a local Super 8 motel (paid only $38 per night!). Ate burgers at the American classic White castle.

October 2, Friday, St. Louis
I lazed around in the morning and then did some GRE studying. We ate some 'Bataka powa' made by the owner Manhar's wife Bindu. We also washed our clothes at the Laundromat, and xeroxed and mailed in my Harvard application form. After checking some photo developing charges, we ate at the St. Louis Bread Company and got more AAA maps. At about 6:30pm, Papa's old friend Bob Leudde and his wife came over. We chatted in the room for about an hour and then we went to a Greek Gyro downtown near Washington University. We ate lovely Greek salad, humus with pita bread, spinach rice, Mediterranean vegetable platter, and baklava pastry. We got back late and then there was a false fire alarm at 4:00am! Some black people who were refused accommodation at the motel did it on purpose and they apologized to the residents of the motel for the disturbance they had caused.

October 3, Saturday, St. Louis
I did some GRE studying in the morning, and then we left for the home of Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue is Washington, Missouri. We sat around for a while and then we went to see the Shaw Arboretum where we saw a variety of prairie plants, a manor house with species and stories, and a couple of pretty ponds. We returned to go for bowling in St. Clair. It was $1.50 to rent shoes and $2.50 for a game per person. We sat around for a while and went to the river front Missouri. Saw an antique shop there. We got home for a delicious dinner of stuffed shell salad, biscuits, lentils, and ice-cream.
October 4, Sunday, St. Louis
Early morning was for the Barron's Diagnostic Test. We left for downtown St. Louis where we saw the Gateway Arch (now called the McDonald's Arch) but we could not ride up in it as it was closed for some maintenance due to a recent fire. Then we saw the Robert Lee 1-hour cruises, McDonald's shore ship, LeClade's landing, and the President Casino on the grounded ship Admiral. We drove around the Busch baseball stadium and the TWA football field. We walked and passed the war museum and shopped for postcards at a local mall. We went to the Union Station which has now been converted to a huge mall. We ate lunch and ice-cream there. We drove over to Forest Park - saw the Muni (the free municipal opera) and a geodesic dome. Walked around the Washington University quadrangle. Then we went to the Apte's place - met Colonel Dhumale, his wife, Sunil Apte (Ashutosh Tambe's uncle), his wife Anjali and their kids Archana (who is a dancer but did not come for the dinner), Serina, and Rohan.

October 5, Monday, St. Louis
Yet another Barron's paper for GRE. We ate breakfast and left for Washington University. First we went to the Alumni office and saw the alumni directory. We got some souvenirs from the vice chancellor and then went to the department of Mechanical Engineering to meet David Jolly. He showed us around and then we spoke to Professor Gardner. We walked around the campus - saw the Bears' football field, sororities, fraternities, Chapel, etc. We then went to see the Budweiser Brewery. First we saw their purebred horses - Clydesdales previously used for drawing beer carriages but now only rented out for parades and festivals. We learnt that beer is made up of barley, malt, hops, water, rice and a specific Busch yeast made by the Anheuser-Busch company. We also saw the various stages of manufacture :
  1. Mashing (excess used for animal feeding).
  2. Draining.
  3. Brew Kettle.
  4. Cooling.
  5. Primary fermentation.
  6. Beechwood ageing (pieces of wood strewn on the floor of the barrel for fermentation).
  7. Final finishing.
We saw the actual packaging of the bottles as well as the storage tanks of 111,600 gallon capacity each! Finally, we went to the 'Hospitality Room' where they gave us free samples of beer, soft drinks, and pretzels. We ate pav bhaji for dinner made by the motel owner's wife at their home (which was a room in the motel itself).

October 6-October 9, Tuesday-Friday, Denver-Colorado Springs

October 6, Tuesday, Denver
Today was a lot of driving, driving, and driving. We left St. Louis at 9:15am; we stopped in Kansas City, MO for gas and had lunch at V's italiano ristorante - excellent food! We reached Salina, Kansas very early at around 4pm so we went ahead to Colby, KS which we reached at 6:30pm. I was actually allowed to drive here! So I drove for about 100 miles in 90 minutes. We reached Burlington, Colorado by 8:30pm so we ate dinner there and headed to Denver, Colorado. We reached at midnight and then set our clocks back by an hour to adjust for the Mountain Time Zone. After we checked into a Super 8 motel, we dried Papa's clothes which got wet because it was raining and his bag was in the ex-cargo above the car. On this day, we drove 840 miles = 1352 kms! Almost like Bombay to Delhi. I also got Pooja's GRE fax in the morning.

October 7, Wednesday, Denver
We got ready peacefully in the morning after ironing Papa's clothes and eating breakfast at the Waffle House. We left for downtown Denver where we saw the US mint with lots of pennies. We walked around the State Capitol and Civic Center and took the free shuttle ride down the 16th street mall. We went to the Visitors' Center and got information about Denver and its vicinity. Then we went to the Capitol and climbed 93 steps to its dome where we got a beautiful view of the city. While we were in the car driving back, I studied for a bit and filled some forms. Then we went to South Syracuse for dinner at an Indian restaurant and had Butter Pecan for dessert at the motel. (Butter Pecan is still one of my favorite ice cream flavors :)). I also faxed some forms back to Pooja after some difficulties.

October 8, Thursday, Colorado Springs-Denver
I did a GRE paper in the morning. Then my cousin Amiben and her husband Darrell came to meet us and we all ate breakfast at IHOP. They insisted that we stay with them so we checked out of the motel. We then proceeded to spend the day in Colorado Springs. We drove up a mountain called Pike's Peak at a height of 14,110 feet (twice as high as Darjeeling)! There was some left-over snow at the top so we played a little in it. After we drove back down to the foothills, we saw the 'Garden of the Gods' which had a lot of natural rock formations. Finally, we went to a factory outlet with many shops such as Nike, Reebok, Gap, Saks, Lee, etc although we didn't buy anything; we had decided to leave shopping to the end to avoid carrying it all around during the trip. At night we got to Amiben's place which is a beautiful 5-acre plot with a 5-bedroom 3-storey house in Aurora, outside of Denver. She has two kids - Cole and Benjamin. We ordered pizzas from Pizza Hut and ate dinner at home.

October 9, Friday, Denver
I filled out my GRE form to be mailed to Pooja and gave it along with the TOEFL CD to Papa for posting. Mummy, Papa, Uma, and Manoj went to a local mall called Park Meadows while I did a couple of word lists and a GRE paper. I also went with Darrell to pick up Ben and Cole from school. In the evening, we went to a great Mexican place for dinner and then watched an ice hockey game where Cole was playing defence (though he practices as a goalie). We talked for a while at home, emailed some people, and clicked a bunch of snaps before sleeping.

October 10-October 12, Saturday-Monday, Salt Lake City-Bonneville-Reno

October 10, Saturday, Salt Lake City
We said good-bye to the Hackmans and left for Salt Lake City, Utah. We drove along the scenic highway I-70 right across Colorado through Glenwood Springs Canyon. It was a beautiful curvy drive along the river with mountains on both sides displaying all sorts of various fall colors - red, yellow, brown, green. We stopped at Glenwood Springs Village and saw the hot water springs swimming pool there. We ate pizza for lunch at Domino's. As we continued on to Salt Lake City, our ex-cargo broke and my sleeping bag fell out of it! So we reversed and luckily, we were able to retrieve it. We got a nylon cord to tie it up temporarily but we had to drive slowly to avoid it from opening up again. We reached Salt Lake City at 8:45pm and checked into the downtown Royal Executive Inn. We drove a little around the city and saw the Mormon Temple Square, the church, the tabernacle, and the Visitors' Center. We also saw the State Capitol, Main Street, State Street, and the Civic Auditorium. It was very very cold in the city! We ordered pizza for dinner in the room. I called and left a message for Ashutosh Mehndiratta.

October 11, Sunday, Salt Lake City-Bonneville
We got up and went to see the choir at the Mormon Temple. It was a grand two-level theater called the Tabernacle i.e. the meeting place. The choir was about 150 people with ladies dressed in red and men in black. A huge organ was the backdrop. It was a very formal ceremony with all sort of typical opera songs. There were tours in various languages after the program but we skipped on it. Since our ex-cargo was giving problems, Papa and Manoj had gone to a Sears shop for repairs. After they got back, we checked out and accidentally packed the pliers of the hotel in the ex-cargo while fixing it. We went to a shop to look for belts to lock up the ex-cargo. I spoke to Ashutosh in the morning but we were unable to meet up. We started off to go to Reno, Nevada but there was some humming sound in the car so we went to the Avis rentals at Salt Lake City airport. Papa, Manoj, and the mechanic went for a drive but figured out that only the belt was causing the noise so we got back on the road. On our way, we saw the Salt Flat Plains - Bonneville Speedway which has a 850 feet x 10 miles open space where a lot of car speed records have been set. We stopped at Winnemucca, Nevada for dinner and reached Reno at midnight. We saw the grand casino lights by night and checked in the Miner's Inn to be converted to a Super 8 motel soon.

October 12, Monday, Reno
I did a GRE paper early in the morning and then we left to see Reno downtown. We saw two casinos - the Silver Legacy which had a huge token collector, and Circus Circus with large live circus displays. At the latter casino, we saw a Japanese lady juggling beautifully with umbrellas and rugs. We gambled $3-4 on 5c slot machines and did some general time pass. Then we left for San Francisco. On the way, we drove around Berkeley for a while and then downtown San Francisco after crossing the Bay Bridge and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from a distance. The streets had very sharp slopes in both directions! We drove all over the city and then looked at seven motels before finally checking into the Economy Inn in South San Francisco. Dinner was pizza in the motel room.

October 13-October 15, Tuesday-Thursday, San Francisco Bay Area

October 13, Tuesday, San Francisco Bay Area
I did a GRE xerox paper in the morning. We ate breakfast, then I called Mayur and left a message for him, and also spoke to Mohan. We drove around downtown San Francisco and decided to go to Golden Gate Bridge. However we saw Chinatown on the way so we stopped and walked around those 8x2 = 16 blocks for a while. Then we decided to pick up the 49-mile scenic drive map from the California State Automobile Association on Van Ness Street. We started driving along that route, and we saw St. Mary's Cathedral, Japanese Cultural Center (shaped like a pagoda), drove around all sorts of hilly areas, and reached Fisherman's Wharf. It has an underground aquarium and regular ferries to the Alcatraz Jail. We walked along the wharf which was like a fair and then drove down 7 levels of downslope streets! We saw the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which was a beautiful garden. We went to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge and saw the 4250 feet span. It was grand with a lot of waves! We also saw a historic point - Fort Point - which had a fort with canon windows. We crossed over the bridge after eating at a cafe there. We then drove up to Berkeley to see the university campus. We met Amol Deshpande (GATE topper) and Mohan. We saw the entire campus - Tower Clock, schools of law, management, mining, science, et al. I emailed a bunch of people. We walked up a small hill to see the night view of Berkeley and Golden Gate Bridge. Above the hills are the US national laboratories. We drove across the bay bridge back to South San Francisco downtown where we ate Italian food. We were home by 10pm after which I called Mayur as he had called me earlier. But no incoming calls from 10pm to 8am so no reply back from him.


October 14, Wednesday, San Francisco Bay Area
We did a lot of driving today. I did a couple of word lists in the morning. Then we checked out of San Francisco. First, we drove up 101N to Lombard Street which has 8 hairpin bends in one block. It is a cobbled street with lots of beautiful flower beds - it was fabulous! Then we continued on our 49-mile scenic drive. We saw the common beach, and a cliff house gift shop. Then we drove along the western end of San Francisco lining the Pacific Ocean and circled a big lake to go to the Golden Gate Park which was a beautiful drive and we also saw the Japanese Tea Garden. On to the Twin Peaks hills. There were two adjacent hills 904 and 922 feet high and we saw a grand view of San Francisco, especially Market Street. Finally, we drove along the Eastern Harbor, the base of the TransAmerica (pyramid-shaped) building to 101S Palo Alto and got off at Stanford University. I called Amit Bhargava but he was not at home. So I called Mayur and fixed up meeting with him at the Stanford quadrangle where we met him and Kameshwar. We saw the Computer Science department called the Gates building, the main quadrangle, the church, the Stanford bookstore, and Sweet Hall - the computer complex. Then we went to Mayur's home and met his third room-mate Dhananjay Gore from Poornima apartments in Malabar Hill! I mailed a bunch of people and spoke for some time. Then we headed to Uma's friend Nishu's place in Sunnyvale. We ate dinner and I also spoke to Amit Bhargava. Really enjoyed seeing the beautiful Stanford campus!


October 15, Thursday, San Francisco Bay Area
Did yet another GRE paper in the morning. Then Amit called up to say that he was coming over to see me so I got ready. He sat for a while and then I went with him to his office. Then he dropped me in his car to Stanford University where Mayur and Kamesh were waiting for me. We went up the Hoover Tower and saw a beautiful view of the campus, San Francisco bay, and bridges to Oakland and Fremont. We walked around the campus and ate pizza and doughnuts at the Medical Center cafeteria. We saw the Students' Activity Center - Tressider Union - where a career fair was on. Then we went to the hospital as Mayur had a checkup for some stomach problems. Then they dropped me to the main quad where Amit picked me up again. We picked up his mother and went to the hospital (!). He had an accident a couple of months ago so he had to go for a routine checkup. Then we went to his house where I met his Nani and other cousins. We ate some stuff and he dropped me home. Premal and Janki (Dr. Desai's son and daughter-in-law) came over, and all of us along with Prashantbhai and Nishu went for dinner to an Indian restaurant called Amber. Off to Los Angeles tomorrow!

October 16-October 20, Friday-Tuesday, Los Angeles

October 16, Friday, Los Angeles
We got ready early and left for Los Angeles by the scenic Route 1 which runs along the Pacific Ocean. I was not too well and slept most of the time. The others saw a scenic 17-mile drive and the outside of the Hearst Castle on the way there. We stopped for lunch at Big Sur and had dinner in Ventura near Santa Barbara. We checked into an Econolodge 3 miles from Hollywood with 2 king-sized beds for a change and an additional luggage room!

October 17, Saturday, Los Angeles
I mailed in some letters to CMU and some other letters of recommendation to Uncle David. We ate breakfast and left for downtown Los Angeles. We drove around a lot of streets, and saw the high-rise buildings of LA. We parked and walked around the Spanish and Mexican markets. We took the Angel's Flight (for 25 cents) which was a one-minute ride up a 45 degree slope track. We ate at the top and got back down. We then drove along Melrose Avenue with some exotic shops to Beverly Hills with posh homes. We walked down Rodeo Drive and saw the likes of shops such as Chanel, Gucci, etc. Then down to Sunset Strip which had typical Hollywood lights and hip joints. Finally, we drove down Hollywood Avenue; we stopped to see the Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not museum, the Chinese theatre with signs, hand prints and footprints of famous Hollywood stars along the sidewalk, Guinness book museum, and a wax museum. We generally walked around, had dinner, and drove around the Hollywood Bowl amphitheatre before heading home.

October 18, Sunday, Los Angeles
I spoke to Pooja's Rashmi Mausi in the morning and we may go see them if we go to visit San Diego. We ate breakfast and left for Pasadena-Glendale. We saw the white 'Hollywood' sign on the hills on the way there. Then we stopped inside the Hollywood Bowl - a large pit-like amphitheatre from the top of which we could again see the 'Hollywood's sign. Then we saw Pasadena, Caltech, Rose Bowl - football stadium of UCLA, and a posh hilly residential area. We had lunch at an IHOP, and then we went to Anaheim where Disneyland is located. We generally saw it from the outside and got an idea of the tickets ($38, $68, $95 + $7 stroller). Then we went to Long Beach where we saw the grounded RMS Queen Mary - a huge ship like the Titanic. We drove along the coastal way towards Santa Monica but as it was quite late, we just returned after seeing the LAX airport. We saw 15-20 planes landing almost one after the other - looked just like very bright stars at night.

October 19, Monday, Universal Studios, Los Angeles
We spent the whole day at Universal Studios today. The tickets were $38 per person and $35 with the AAA discount. First, we saw the huge globe with 'Universal Studios' written on it, rotating right at the entrance. Then we went to the studio area where we saw the 'Back to the Future' special effects (with people hanging and falling from the Statue of Liberty by erasing and substituting a background of the required choice). They also asked people from the audience itself to volunteer. We saw the sound effects for a King Kong look-alike movie. Each person was given one job at a time to get the spooky effect. Then we took a trip in a cable car in a setup like ET with all these ET types of creatures in fluorescent colors. An exhibition tracing the life of Lucille Ball was also on display. We took a ride in Jurassic Park which was just like the movie with the car fall, a boat ride through the river with authentic Jurassic plants and moving dinosaurs on either side. There was a final drop down slide to a water pool and we all got wet except Uma who bought a raincoat for 50c!

After a 30-minute wait, we took the Back lot Tram Tour where we saw various street settings. We went to an indoor street set which had a chaotic street with a news helicopter crash down followed by King Kong shaking the tram from all over. We saw the house of the Flintstones - Bedrock, and the vehicles used in the Lost World. Then we stopped at a bridge where we experienced rain, thunder, and a zoom-zoom flash flood. We saw sets for Mexico, Jerusalem, the wild west, and an underground transparent tank for shooting underwater scenes. We saw water mines which explode underwater to give spurts of water. We crossed a bridge normally covered with water. It gave a nice effect of the parting of the Red Sea by Moses. We saw a subway station where we experienced a 8.3 Richter scale earthquake. It had a ceiling crash in, a cylinder of gas explode, other actual fires, and a train crash. Then to Amity Island where a Jaws shark ate up a fake boat passenger. We also saw various sets such as 'Murder She Wrote' as well as the houses of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, House of the Seven Gables, Psycho Hill and motel, Lost World dilapidated houses, and the world's largest sky backdrop. The last stop on the tram tour was a mine whose surrounding hollow cylinder rotated really fast giving a feeling of giddiness.


We went to the 'Back to the Future' virtual reality show where we sat in a car that really shook and on a screen in front of us, we saw ourselves go through city streets crashing into billboards, polar ice caps, volcanoes, and valleys; the temperatures varied as the scenes we saw. The next stop was the Wild West Show with all sorts of stunts with horses and guns (it was a story about a mother with her two sons). There was a 'Double Date' show with two couples singing in a red car. The next show was 'Water World' which was an actual replica of the movie with trapeze, explosions of real fire, water scooters, and even a small airplane. We got free tickets for a TV show recording at Warner Brothers' Studio at 3:30pm but since it was canceled, we got other tickets for the next day. Our last stop at Universal Studios was the Animal Show consisting of a bird getting a $1 bill, the hawk of 'Lady Hawk', a macaw floating in a gust of wind, Babe the pig, a dog doing normal Tommy tricks, Beethoven - a St. Bernard who got clothes as requested by a kid, a chimp playing around with his trainer, a horse who gave a demo of 'Braveheart', and an orangutan as a trapeze artist, and birds who flew to eat when whistled. We took a walk down the Universal Street with shops and then left. We drove down Santa Monica and Malibu beaches. We tried unsuccessfully to contact Aparna Shah. We ate dinner at an Indian restaurant for Diwali. The owner was a really nice guy called Manjeet Singh.


October 20, Tuesday, Los Angeles
Again I spoke to Rashmi Mausi and told her that we would not be visiting San Diego. I changed my GRE exam center to Orlando as well as the address to India. We got a phone card and a money order for applications to Yale and Berlekey. Washed our clothes in the Laundromat. Posted my ASRs, a correction stub, and a postcard to Aseem Joshi. Checked email and got a lot of Diwali cards. Pooja also received my GRE forms and TOEFL CD. We drove around UCLA and Bel Air. We stopped in Hollywood for coffee and then when to the Warner Brothers' Studio for the shooting of the 'Drew Carey Show'. We had a shuttle take us to the studio and the compere also spoke to Papa before the show. They filmed an episode for China. We had dinner in the room; I spoke to Haresh and wished Aseem. Major GRE crack of 2320!

October 21-October 24, Wednesday-Saturday, Las Vegas-Hoover Dam-Grand Canyon

October 21, Wednesday, Las Vegas
After eating breakfast, we left for Las Vegas. We stopped for gas on the way and won a free buffet so we went to a casino and ate four more ($4) buffets with soup, salads, pastas, bread, drinks, and desserts. We drove around the Las Vegas 'Strip' and finally checked into the La Concha Inn. We rested for a while and then set off to walk along the strip at night. We walked almost 3 miles one way of the strip. We saw 'Circus Circus' from outside as we had already seen it in Reno; it was bang opposite our lodge. We saw the end of the 'Treasure Island' show as we just missed it. We then saw the 'Mirage' where a huge volcano erupts from a waterfall. The next stop was 'Caesar's Palace' with a typical Roman decor, especially the toga-clad Roman statues. At 'Bellagio' we saw the dancing water fountains from a bridge overhead. We crossed over the bridge to 'Bally's', and then saw the Coca Cola museum and the huge transparent Coke bottle. Next we went across to 'New York-New York' with the New York city skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and the biggest roller coaster. Then on to 'MGM Grand' which has a hotel of 5000 rooms! We thought that there was a 7-storey setup of 'Wizard of Oz' but it was closed. So we just saw the big gold lion there and off to 'Excalibur'. In its moat, we saw the huge dinosaur show; the casino itself was shaped like a fairy castle. The last couple of stops were 'Mandalay' and 'Luxor' with the impassive Sphinx and a miniature pyramid. Then we just took the bus back to the hotel as we were too tired to walk. Along the way, we also saw the Flamingo-Hilton with a huge lotus and a Harrah's poster.

October 22, Thursday, Las Vegas
We all got up quite late and then went to the 'Fremont Street Experience'. We checked out 'Fitzgeralds' and tried some free stunts unsuccessfully. The Fremont street has a covering with a huge show of moving lights and sound projected on the ceiling. It was an old-time musical of the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. We ate at a nearby Denny's and then checked out the 'Stratosphere' casino. It had a 1149 feet tower for observation at the top of which is a roller coaster and a high ride (see image). We went up the tower and got a grand view of 'The Brightest Spot on Earth'. We drove some more around town and then relaxed at the motel. In the evening, we parked at Treasure Island, and took the tram to the Mirage to see the white lions there. We got back early for the Treasure Island show so we played on the slot machines for some time. The Treasure Island show was nice with all sorts of fireworks in a mock buccaneer fight and one ship fully sank too! We also saw the Mirage volcano eruption again before we got back home.
October 23, Friday, Hoover Dam
We left for Grand Canyon early in the morning and stopped at the Hoover Dam on the way there. We had lunch on Route 66 which we took for a short part of our way. We checked out the railway at Williams but we did not like it too much so we just drove to Grand Canyon. We saw a bit of it from the South Rim. We checked into the Yavapai Lodge as El Tovar was full up. We saw a rafter slide show called 'Shine of the Ages' and had dinner at the Grand Canyon cafe. It was pretty cold there!

October 24, Saturday, Grand Canyon
Early in the morning, we left to see the 'Grand Canyon'. First we traveled to the East Rim and then the West Rim (28 and 8 miles respectively). At the West Rim, we first went to the 'Desert View' where we could see the Arizona Desert beyond, and also got a higher view from a stone tower decorated with Indian motifs. Then to Lipan Point where we saw Hance Rapids, Umkar Delta, and the inner gorge from a distance. Then to the Museum of Tusayan ruins and the remains of a 30-people settlement. The next stop was Moran Point and the Grand View Point where I went down some distance on the trail. On our way, we saw some seniors doing sketches and water colors of the canyon. Then we went to Yaki Point where we saw flats and kaibals trail, and the widest view at Mather Point. Finally, we went to Yavapai Point, El Tovar, and the Hopi House which had Red Indian arts and crafts. East Rim had similar viewpoints of Manicopa Point, Powell Memorial, Hopi Point, Pima Point, and Hermit's rest and trail. We ate again at the Yavapai Lodge, posted some Grand Canyon cards, and off to Dallas. We stopped in Santa Rosa, New Mexico after crossing the Arizona Desert and had dinner in Pizza Hut. I did some GRE studying in the car. We called Manoj's friend JoJo (Jayashree) who lives in Dallas but she was out. Also we bypassed visiting Chirag Shah who lived in Mesa, Arizona.


October 25-October 27, Sunday-Tuesday, Dallas-Houston

October 25, Sunday, Dallas

We left Santa Rosa and stopped at a Pizza Hut for lunch. We crossed over to Texas and called JoJo again. This time we reached her sister and took instructions to reach their place. We reached there by about 5pm and met their huge family with JoJo, her sister Selvi, brother-in-law Srini, his father, niece Nisha, her parents, and then the five of us too! I played with the kid for a while. JoJo was out for her computer class and got back at 6:30pm. I emailed some folks and got the Yale forms. We ate dinner and then for a walk around the subdivision.

October 26, Monday, Dallas-Houston
We got ready early and said bye to everyone to leave for Dallas downtown. We saw the JFK Memorial as well as a replica of the car he had been shot in. We did not go inside the museum which had a lot of snaps and films. The museum is housed in the building from whose sixth floor the shot was fired. The memorial was just four walls with no ceiling and a granite stone with JFK inscribed on it. It is supposed to be an empty tomb. We walked over to Thanksgiving Square with a big gold ring and three huge bells in a garden. We left for Houston and got an oil change done along the way. We ate at Subway and reached at 6:45pm. We met Yogenmama, Umamami, Ashwin (6), and Neeraj (4). We ate dinner and then I emailed for some time. The GRE admission ticket reached Harriet Aunty. I studied some word lists before sleeping.

October 27, Tuesday, Houston
We all ate breakfast and after the kids left for school, we left for NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It was 35 miles away from Yogenmama's place and the tickets were $13 per person. We could not take their family pass as it had a photo ID. First we took a tram tour; we saw the Rocket Garden, Mission Control Center, X-38 Crew Return Vehicle, Assembly, Training, and Acoustic centers, and space environment cold simulation using liquid nitrogen from outside. Then we went to the Mission Status Center which had a robot EVA talking about interplanetary communications in the next century. They also showed a film about the launch to take place the next Thursday featuring John Glen who was an astronaut earlier and is now a senator (70-80 years old). We saw a live demonstration of 'Living in Space' which showed how astronauts keep their clothes, use the bathroom, shower, eat their food, and sleep in the absence of gravity. We ate lunch and then saw the IMAX movie 'Mission to Mir'. We looked at some exhibits such as aureoles, plasma, astronaut attires, etc. At the Mission Control Center, we saw the flight director (FLID), surgeon, Captain of Communications (CAPCOM), screens tracking weather and orbits, and plaques to mark the different launches. Then we got home and ironed some clothes. In the evening, we went to a waterfront shaped like a horse shoe with arches in the front. As you walked towards it, you felt that the water was coming on to you. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant called 'Olive Garden'. We got home, talked for some time, emailed a few people and then slept off.

October 28-October 29, Wednesday-Thursday, New Orleans

October 28, Wednesday, New Orleans

We bid goodbye to everyone and left for New Orleans, Louisiana. We took a scenic river route part of the way, and a detour to see a 28-mile long bridge across a lake. Checked into the LaMothe house hotel in the French Quarters in New Orleans - a 2-room and living room apartment. We freshened up and left to see Bourbon Street. It was quite wild with pubs, taverns, wild shows, jazz, beads, first-floor restaurants, video shooting et al. We ate dinner at a local vegetarian restaurant before walking back home.

October 29, Thursday, New Orleans
The French Quarters cover a few blocks (see the diagram) so we drove around for a while. Then we went to Garden Court to see a couple of cemeteries that were non-existent so we got back to the riverfront. We saw the bridge to the other side and took the Mississippi river walk. We crossed the tram rails to the street and walked down an arcade of shops in the French Market selling all sorts of food, clothes, jewelry, and knick knacks. We saw the chapel of Jackson Square, and buggies to roam around the old quarters. We ate food at a food court at the Jackson Brewery. We drove across the river (there is also a ferry to the other side that ports cars too), and along the river road to see plantations but we only saw some cattle farms and stud farms. We came back and rested at the hotel for a while. In the evening, we walked down Bourbon Street again from Esplanade to Canal. We ate at the Burger King on Canal Street, walked back home, and slept.

October 30-November 9, Friday-Monday, Florida: Fort Lauderdale-Key West-Everglades-Miami-Orlando

October 30, Friday, Fort Lauderdale
We got up late and left for Miami. We stopped at Pensacola for lunch and thrice for gas. We reached Fort Lauderdale-by-the-sea and hunted for an hour before we checked into a suite. Dinner was at Denny's before bed. I did a lot of GRE revision in the car.

October 31, Saturday, Fort Lauderdale
We got up peacefully and had breakfast delivered to our room - bagels, juice, and coffee. We looked for an email connection to tell Dinesh Bhaiyya to arrange for a car to pick us up from Bombay on 21st Nov. Finally we found it in the Fort Lauderdale public library. We walked down the main mall towards the sea and saw the 'Boat Show' from outside. Then we drove along the beaches to Palm Beach; the beaches from North to South are Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Lauderdale-by-the-sea, and lastly Fort Lauderdale. On the way we got some directions from a gas station and went to see Padmakar Karve Uncle. They had some major security when we spoke to his wife Geeta Aunty from the gate, and she opened the gate for us after authorization. We met their son Anish. Uncle was out for a haircut and he got back after we called him on his cell phone. We talked for a while and then saw his house with a pool et al. We went to a nearby mall for Starbucks coffee. We got to Oakland Blvd. for dinner at 'Punjab - Indian cuisine'.

November 1, Sunday, Key West
We left early for Key West - the southernmost point of USA. We took a beautiful route to a collection of islands called the keys linked by reclaimed isthmus or bridges. We saw Bahia Mar Key, Key West, Honda Key, etc. We drove around Key West and then went to the southernmost point as well as the Main Street. There I bought a t-shirt and a pair of shorts for $5; then Manoj and I went water scootering. He wore a scuba suit (rented $68 per hour) We both went for 30 mins; then he took Uma for 15 minutes and I took Mummy for 15 minutes in the water. It was great fun! We had lunch at Pizza Hut and dinner in Oakland at Big Louie's pizzeria. I revised some GRE word lists in the car.

November 2, Monday, Miami
After breakfast, we drove along the shore on Route 1 to Miami Beach. We traveled down Washington Blvd. in the free 'Wave' shuttle and saw the main mall. We walked down Columbus Blvd. as there was no entry for vehicles. We bought a video camera and a bag from a Canadian named Michael. Mummy and I went to extend the parking meter as our car was parked near the South Miami Beach, and we took a long time for shopping. We changed in some public restrooms into our swimsuits. We waded in the water only for some time as we did not like the crowd around us too much. By the time we got back, the restrooms were locked. So we went as we were to Ray Uncle's daughter Linda's place where we met her (Linda), her husband Scott, son Logan (10), and daughter Ariel (8). We listened to him play the trumpet after we changed our clothes. I played 'Princess' with the girl, had a pillow fight, and also did a JC Penney show. We ate salad first, followed by spaghetti, salad and sauce for dinner, and chocolate mousse for dessert. I took Logan's history lessons for his test the next day. I emailed some people and got the GRE admission ticket that Harriet Aunty had mailed to Linda. I mailed the recommendation letters that she had sent too. I borrowed a book - Sidney Sheldon's 'Doomsday Conspiracy'.


November 3, Tuesday, Everglades National Park
We left early in the morning for Everglades National Park. First we went to the Royal Palm Visitor Center to collect some maps. Then to Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo Trails where we saw a variety of plants, birds, and animals. Next stop was the Pineland Trail with pines maintained by fire! The pines need fire to exist or they are replaced by hardwoods. The Pa-hay Okee overlook gave a beautiful view of the entire Everglades. Mahogany Hammock was a 1/2 mile walk through Mahogany trees. Our last stop was the Flamingo Trail where they offer boat rides through the swamps although we did not go. Manoj was busy with the JVC video camera on its first day. Then we went to the Alligator Park - we saw plenty of alligators of all shapes and sizes. We saw the 'Alligator Show' at 4pm where I held one in my hand. The guide showed us how Indians used to catch alligators. We went for an air boat ride which was initially slow to see alligators, birds, turtles, and fish in the water. Then we went fast and skidded to turn all around, and also got a bit wet. We had to wear cotton buds to avoid the harsh sound of the boat. The last show there was the 'Snake Show', and again I held one in my hand. We took quite some time to get back and had dinner at IHOP. I did some more GRE revision, Laundromat, and spoke to Aseem.

November 4, Wednesday, Orlando
We visited the beach in the morning and waded for a while. We got ready and left for Orlando; reached there by 1:30pm. We saw the University of Central Florida for my GRE centre. Ate lunch at Denny's and then checked in the very first Howard Johnson motel (at $31/day, it was the cheapest motel in this trip!). I revised more GRE word lists. We had Pizza Hut pizza for dinner in the room itself. It was pouring heavily due to Hurricane Mitch.

November 5, Thursday, Orlando
We spent most of the day driving around Orlando. It was pouring due to the hurricane Mitch, and it cleared only in the afternoon. We saw the International Drive with all the attractions - Wonder Works was an upside-down building - and hotels. We saw Sea World from outside. We drove down to Walt Disney Resort; parked at Epcot Center and found out that Disney World has four theme parks - Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Disney MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Disney World also had water parks like Blizzard Beach, resorts, clubs, night clubs, the works. As it was too late to go to any park, we just went to Downtown Disney. We walked around seeing shops, souvenirs, and ate some croissants. We did quite a bit of shopping at World of Disney. Then we took a ferry to Magic Kingdom where we saw fireworks at 7:00pm from outside itself. We also saw Cinderella's castle lit up at night in Magic Kingdom. Dinner was typical Gujju food at an Indian restaurant 'Taste of India' which was close to our hotel.

November 6, Friday, Magic Kingdom, Disney World, Orlando
Today was Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. First we parked and took a tram small ride in the railroad train. Magic Kingdom had 7 major parts - Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown, and Tomorrowland. As we took the train ride straight from the entrance of Main Street to Frontierland, we completely bypassed Adventureland. The first stop was a small roller coaster - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, followed by a water splash ride called Splash Mountain. We also saw some cabins and rafts in a setting of Tom Sawyer's Island. There were some singing bears at Country Bear Jamboree. We saw the Frontierland Shooting Arcade.

Next, we went to Liberty Square where we saw 'The Diamond Horseshoe Saloon Revue' - a show of the Wild West with ladies doing tap dance. We saw the 'Hall of Presidents', and a replica of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA. We skipped the Haunted Mansion and went to the Cinderella castle fore court stage to see a live presentation of dance and music of Disney characters and professional dancers. Then onto Snow White's scary adventure, It's a Small World by Leo Mattel, Legend of the Lion King - the first two were car rides through setups with appropriate decor, while the latter was a live enactment of scenes from the movie itself. We also saw a merry-go-round called Cinderella's Carousel, a children's ride called Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Ariel - the mermaid's grotto, and a character festival where we could get autographs and snaps of sidey characters. We skipped Peter Pan's Flight and ate some food along the way.

Uma, Manoj, and Papa took the Skyway to Tomorrowland while Mom and I walked to sit in the 'Mad Tea Party' cup and saucer ride along the way. Then we went to see the parade walking down Main Street. It had all sorts of characters in fancy vehicles dancing and singing all the way. Then there was another Disney character show with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Baloo the bear, Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast and many many more. Then Mom, Manoj and I went to Mickey's Toontown. We saw Mickey and Minnie's country houses and Donald's boat home. We posed for snaps with Tigger and Winnie but there was a long line for Mickey so we did not wait.

At Tomorrowland, we saw Space Mountain - a roller coaster from outside, Speedway, Transit Authority which was a drive through Tomorrowland, Carousel of Progress with the changing face of America on a moving stage, and the Astro Orbiter ride up in the air. We missed a couple of attractions. Then we saw the lit-up parade with fish, fancy chariots, bats et al. The last attraction was Tinker Bell's rope flight from the castle followed by fireworks. Finally, we met Mummy outside the park as we had earlier parted when Dad was too tired to walk. Took a long time to get home as it was very crowded and dinner was at Denny's.

November 7, Saturday, GRE, Orlando
In the morning, we went to the University of Central Florida, Alafaya Trail, Health and Physics Building for my GRE exam. I did well overall but messed up one analytical section. During the break, I tried to check email but I could not as I was not a student there. My subject GRE was not too good either. People had come for the exam on standby registration without forms, and even pencils! Dad and all picked me up at 5:30pm. We roamed around for a while and checked email at Circuit City. We had dinner at Main Gate Pizza and saw Universal Studios from outside - all lit up and with powerful lasers.

November 8, Sunday, Sea World, Orlando
Today was Sea World Day. Our first show was the dolphin show at the Key West Dolphin Stadium. There were some really cool tricks , especially the one where the trainer acted like a kid's father, and fell into the water only to come up riding a couple of dolphins! On the way, we saw Turtle Point, Stingray Lagoon, and the dolphins at Key West. The next show was Manatees - The Last Generation - a show on the endangered manatee species. We also saw the sluggish manatees from an underwater enclosure.

The next show was the killer whale Shamu show at the Shamu Stadium where people in the first few rows got very wet. After the show, we saw the Clydesdale chariot all set up.

Next we saw 'Intensity Games' of water skiing and gymnastics at Atlantis Bay Stadium. It was a pseudo-contest of two teams - Pepsi and Mountain Dew. The show had skis, scooters, acrobats et al.

Dad and I went for a helicopter simulated ride through the 'Wild Arctic' while Mummy, Uma, and Manoj walked through it. We saw polar bears, a walrus, penguins, and whales in a simulated arctic environment; it was very cold but pretty.

We walked around Shamu's Happy Harbor - a place for kids to play, a games area where we won a small key chain, an arcade of shops, a cafe at the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center, Clydesdale hamlet, and an Inca show at the Nautilus Theatre. It had a mind-blowing single mimic who entertained us before the show and conducted a boxing match with volunteers from the audience. It also had very fine acrobats - two brothers with amazing feats, and a flying couple. Then we saw 'Terrors of the Deep' with sharks and sting rays.

After eating some food, we went for a Hawaiian show at Luau Terrace. There were four dances, magic tricks, and drum beating by three volunteers - a cool one from Pakistan. There was also a bird show at the Bird Garden. We also saw the 'Journey to Atlantis' - a water splash ride, a penguin encounter, and the Pacific Point Preserve of otters, seals, walruses, and sea lions. The next show was an animal show at Sea World Theater of cats, dogs, pigs, and birds. We also shopped for some bauble. The last show was 'Shamu by Night' - similar to the day show but with lights. Dinner was at the 'Taste of India' again.

November 9, Monday, Epcot, Disney World, Orlando
Today was EPCOT at Disney World. We got ready very early and actually entered the park at 9:00am - its opening time. It had 2 parts - Future World and World Showcase. First, we went inside a huge geodesic dome - Spaceship Earth to see the development of communication. It had an exhibit of simulation games, voice-activated video, and family phones. Next stop was Innovention with internet, its future, wrist phone, video games, a talk on efficiency, and lots of technical stuff. We took a general walk around Wonders of Life - all biological stuff, and Horizons - a train ride into life in the 21st century with global communications and spaceships. We saw the Test Track from outside as it had not yet opened.

Then we went to the Living Seas where we saw a film on the formation of Earth. We descended to a pseudo underwater base alpha by a rattling lift. There was a train ride through some aquarium exhibits where we saw various rooms of a base station, fish, and manatees. Next we went to the Land which was another train ride with shows of land, and a greenhouse tour. Journey into Imagination had a 3D show of 'Honey I Shrunk the Audience' where we got this feeling of being miniscule; we had a python, a lion, and some rats attack us. Also a big dog sneezed all over us and some glass shattered on top of us. We took a break to eat before heading towards the World Showcase.

In World Showcase, we saw the countries listed below; each country stall had its own decor, food, and shops in addition to various displays. As there was a special food and wine festivals going on, there were wine stalls of countries all over and wine seminars as well.
  • Canada: An 18-minute film on screen arranged circularly all around us. Grand opening with a horse parade moving all around followed by clips from all over Canada.
  • United Kingdom: Shops and food.
  • France: We saw a guy miming inside a big balloon, a show of 'Living Statues' where a guy pretended to be a statue but occasionally moved. We ate French croissants and palmiers, and saw a mini model of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Morocco: Designed as if in Morocco with stone buildings, and people dressed in kaftans. It even had a minaret for Muslim Namaaz time.
  • Japan: Pagoda building with lots and lots of Japanese artifacts. We saw the preparation of Sushi
  • America: A parade proclaiming liberty. We took photos with Mickey, Tigger, Eeyore, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. There were some American food stuffs and clothes.
  • Italy: Just briefly looked around. We took a brief ride around the central lake and got back.
  • Germany: Saw some very pretty crystal ware.
  • China: Another grand exhibit of Chinese goods. We saw an acrobat show of Chinese kids. We also saw another 18-minute movie just like in Canada.
  • Norway: Saw a movie about Norway. Also sat in a very interesting water ride about the Vikings fighting against the raging seas.
  • Mexico: It was our last stop. We took a boat ride through Mexico and bought a souvenir hat
Finally we saw 'Illuminations' - a grand finale of laser lights and fireworks. As usual, we had dinner at Denny's.

November 10-November 19, Tuesday-Thursday, Washington D.C.

November 10, Tuesday, Washington D.C.
We left Florida early for Washington D.C.. We had lunch at Waffle House. We passed Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. We checked into a Days Inn and had dinner at McDonald's.

November 11, Wednesday, Washington D.C.
Chilled out all day and saw the movie 'Vegas Vacation' on HBO. Emailed some people from Kinko's but for a short time as it was quite expensive at 20c/min. We went to one Sears shop but he refused to change the ex-cargo. So I was dropped back to the hotel, and Papa, Uncle, and Manoj went to another Sears. We had lunch at Jerry's Pizza and slept for a while. We drove around the lit-up DC Mall at night and had dinner at home with stuff from Safeway. I watched 'Speed 2'.

November 12, Thursday, Washington D.C.
I saw a couple of movies, emailed people, and took a printout of my statement of purpose at New Carrollton library. We had lunch at Denny's, and then went to enquire about tours at the White House. We also saw a play - 'The Magic Fire' - at the Eisenhower Theatre in the JFK Centre of Arts.

November 13, Friday, Washington D.C.
We went to Pentagon City and Pentagon Centre for shopping. I completed my Stanford application, and got my scores and university applications by mail from Iqbal Uncle. Dinner was at Pizza Hut.

November 14-November 19, Saturday-Thursday, Washington D.C.
These last few days were relaxing in DC, shopping, and packing to go back home. My travelogue does not list the details of these last few days but I remember taking a White House tour which are now closed to the public. All in all - a fantabulous trip! Too good to be true! I really enjoyed, and will cherish the unique experience for the rest of my life! Thanks Papa!

States visited (29 out of 51):

  1. Alabama - Yellowhammer State
  2. Arizona - Grand Canyon State
  3. California - Golden State
  4. Colorado - Centennial State
  5. Connecticut - Constitution State; Nutmeg State
  6. Florida - Sunshine State
  7. Georgia - Peach State, Empire State of the South
  8. Illinois - Prairie State
  9. Indiana - Hoosier State
  10. Kansas - Sunflower State; Jayhawk State
  11. Louisiana - Pelican State
  12. Maryland - Free State; Old Line State
  13. Massachusetts - Bay State; Old Colony State
  14. Michigan - Wolverine State
  15. Mississippi - Magnolia State
  16. Missouri - Show-me State
  17. Nevada - Sagebrush State; Silver State; Battle Born State
  18. New Hampshire - Granite State
  19. New Jersey - Garden State
  20. New Mexico - Land of Enchantment
  21. New York - Empire State
  22. North Carolina - Tar Heel State
  23. Ohio - Buckeye State
  24. Pennsylvania - Keystone State
  25. Rhode Island - The Ocean State
  26. South Carolina - Palmetto State
  27. Texas - Lone Star State
  28. Utah - Beehive State
  29. Virginia - The Old Dominion; Mother of Presidents
  30. Washington D.C.

Hotels stayed in:

Washington D.C.
30th July - 12th August
Days Inn
9023 Annapolis Road
Lanham, MD 20706
13th August - 14th August
Comfort Inn - Penn's Landing
100 N. Christopher Columbus Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
15th August - 16th August
6201 Bristol Pike
Levittown, PA 19057
  North Wales
17th August - 18th August
Best Western
969 Bethlehem Pike
Montgomeryville, PA 18936
New York City
19th August - 24th August
750-760 Tonnele Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07306
25th August
Sameer's place
630 Smithfield Road, Apt. 101
North Providence, RI 02904
26th August - 30th August
Battle Green Motor Inn
1720 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, MA 02173
31st August
Best Western University Inn
1020 Ellis Hollow Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
1st September - 4th September
Kamlesh and Deepti's place
44 Wellington Court, Apt A
Williamsville, NY 14221
5th September - 9th September
Super 5 Motel
2171 Dundas Street East
Mississauga, Ontario, L4X IM3
10th September - 11th September
Mercury Motor Inn
22361 Michigan Avenue
Dearborn, MI 48124
12th September - 18th September
Amol's place
7087 Saw Mill Village Drive
Columbus, OH 43235
19th September - 30th September
Harriet Aunty's place
802 South Blvd.
Evanston, IL 60202
  St. Louis
1st October - 5th October
Super 8 Motel
2790 Target Drive
St. Louis, MO 63136
6th October - 7th October
Super 8 Motel
3850 Peoria Street
Denver, CO 80239
8th October - 9th October
Amiben's place
7402 South Odessa Circle
Aurora, CO 80016
Salt Lake City
10th October
Royal Executive Inn
121 North 300 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84103
11th October
Miner's Inn
1651 N. Virginia Street
Reno, NV 89503
  San Francisco
12th October - 13th October
Economy Inn
701 Airport Blvd.
South San Francisco, CA 94080
14th October - 15th October
Monisha's place
1035 Aster Avenue, #2217
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

Los Angeles
16th October - 20th October
3400 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020
  Las Vegas
21st October - 22nd October
La Concha Inn
2955 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
  Grand Canyon National Park
23rd October
Yavapai Lodge
South Rim
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
  Santa Rosa
24th October
American Inn
924 Will Rogers Drive
Santa Rosa, NM 88435
25th October
Jayashree's place
1928 Shumard Oak
Irving, TX 75063
26th October - 27th October
Yogendra Mama's place
12230 Ravenmoor Drive
Houston, TX 77077
  New Orleans
28th October - 29th October
LaMothe House Hotel
621 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70116
  Miami/Fort Lauderdale
30th October - 3rd November
Budgetel Inns
3800 W. Commercial Blvd.
Tamarac, FL 33309
4th November - 9th November
Howard Johnson Inn
8700 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32809
  Washington D.C.
10th November - 18th November
Days Inn
9023 Annapolis Road
Lanham, MD 20706