(JFK-Columbus,OH-Grand Rapids,MI-Chicago,IL-St.Louis, MO-Indy,IN-Cincy, OH)
We chose to fly to JFK because Brussels Airlines had a starting-promotion we couldn’t refuse: 840€ for a direct flight for 2 people Brussels-JFK. (we are Southern-Dutch, so Brussels Airport(Belgium)is the closest Major airport to where we live).
Comparing this to the 1400€ flying to Chicago( with a transfer at Heathrow), our minds where made up pretty quikly. We love to drive, and even with 1000 miles extra we would have saved 400€.
Day 1: After a 7,5 hour flight with Brussels Airlines we arrived at JFK. where we had to wait almost 2 hours to go through customs…. Next to the Airtrain, which took us from Terminal 1 to Federal Circle where all the Car Rental Offices are.
At National i asked for, and was given, a Crown Vic, which they considered a Premium Car…Hmmm last year we had the very same car at a different office, and they considered it a Full Size.
We were on our way for our 4 week roadtrip within 30 minutes.
Elements Hotel, Ewing, NJ---9 out of 10 points!!
Day 2: The next morning we were going to drive 500 miles on the Interstate to Columbus, OH.
First on to a Walmart to buy a styrofoame cooler, Coke and some snacks for on the road. This our 5th 4-week roadtrip through the US, and we always thought such a cooler is very handy.
Meanwhile strange things happened with our carradio: out of the blue, it turned itself on, or while on, it reset completly.
Courtyard by Marriot, Columbus Airport.---6,5 out of 10 points
Day 3: We parked our car at the COSI, and crossed the Scioto River and walked into Battelle River Park where the Santa Maria replica from C. Columbus is open for visitors. We followed the riverwalk and next walked into downtown where we admired the Ohio State Capital.
When back at our car we drove to German Village, which we thought, was nothing special, since we live 20 minutes from the real thing. Our next stop was North Market which was another disappointment because we were about the only people there. However, around the corner was Short North which was very nice stroll.
Day 4: The next day we drove to nearby open air Easton Mall, which we enjoyed very much. We spend a couple of hours shopping, and my CC came in very handy…..
From there we drove through Hilliard, where the Old Hilliardfest with food and music gave us another great hour or so.
We also took some pics of The Field of Corn and Chief Leatherlips, before heading to a Giant Eagle Supermarket(a must visit, i was told) and the Polaris Fashion Mall. Close to the Mall we ate a delicious, giant Greek pita Gyros at Greek Express.
To finish the day of, we had a very nice walk in Inniswood Metro Gardens.
Day 5: We drove to the Kenyon Uni. in Gambier where i talked to some Amish people who where selling their goods there. Very nice campus!! On our tour through Amish Country we were planning to eat at Boyd & Wurthmann in Berlin, but we stopped at Hershberger Farm & Bakery, where i had a huge cinnamin role and my wife a piece of pie….yummie!! I’me glad we ate at Hershberger, because Berlin was very crowded due to some BBQ-fest, and there was just no place o park the car.
The last hour we drove the Ohio Turnpike to our hotel.
Hampton Inn & Suites Toledo-Perrysburg—8,5 out of 10 points.
Day 6: We drove through some scenic roads through small villages with British names like Manchester, Chelsea and ended up at Pinckney State Recreation Area which was very nice to walk around and have a picknick. The weather is still very nice!
We passed through the town of Lansing(birthplace of Steven Seagal) which we didn’t like very much, and then passed Jordan Lake on to Wyoming, MI where i celebrated my birthday at a TGI Friday’s(i’me glad they didn’t sing for me ;-)) and a Cold Stone Creamery……oh God, the calories…
Hyatt Place Grand Rapids South---8,5 out of 10 points
Day 7: Today we’re going to explore the eastcoast of Lake Michigan and the Grand Rapids surroundings. First on to the lovely Reeds Lake where we parked our car at Rose's On Reeds Lake and had a wonderfull morningwalk. Then on to Rockford with it’s nice parks, dam and rapids, and Grand Haven where we walked up the pier and into downtown. It’s hot today, so icecream is required!
On our way from Grand Haven to Holland we had a tip from RoNo on this forum to stop at the Rosy Mound Natural Area and walk to the beach from there, which we did. It was a great walk indeed, and we had the entire white sandy beach almost to ourselves. Great tip, thanks for that!!
Then on to Holland, which, since coming from the Motherland, we had to see. It’s a tourist trap pur sang, but it was still kind of fun to see Dutch houses, Dutch flags and the typical stereotypes like wooden shoes, Gouda cheese and kroketten(not even close to the real thing) in Michigan, USA.
I sure hope the Americans don’t think we still live like that. It’s The Netherlands 100 years ago.
During our trip I noticed a lot people drinking Dutch beers like Heineken and Amstel. Does it taste better than the US-beers?
As last we visit the town of Saugatuck before falling asleep like babies in our comfortable Hyatt beds.
Day 8: Today were heading to what we considered the highlight of our journey: Chicago. We drove the Blue Star - and Red Arrow Hwy to Lake Shore Drive, and passed Soldier Field Stadium in Chicago. We had a beautifull view of the skyline from there.
There was a 100.000 people tech-convention in Chicago so we had one of the few rooms left.
Wynham Garden Hotel Buffalo Grove—6,5 out of 10 points
Day 9: We parked the car at the Rosemont station and took the Blue Line into downtown. The wethar is great, and Chicago was indeed the highlight of our trip!! What a fantastic city.
We strolled down the Mag Mile and visited the Signature Lounge of the Hancock Building on the 95th floor. I heard of people having to wait fora n hour to get a seating. Well, we were almost alone and had a great table next to a window…wow, what a view. Here we met the only other European (German)people on our trip.
We were also searching in vain for the statue of Marylin Monroe, but i was told she was removed. Pitty!
After visiting Navy Pier we walked along Lakefront and over Randolph Str to the Cultural Museum. (We did some great shopping and eating at Mariano’s: 333 East Benton Place).
Day 10: Time to visit The Loop. We got of the Blue Line at LaSalle and walked toward Willis Tower, which is an impressive sight. We admired the Chicago Theatre, Macy’s, James R. Thompson Center and Daley Plaza. Next we walked towards the START sign of Route 66 in Jackson Str and walked into Millenium Park, which we enjoyed a lot. Buckingham Fountain, Crown Fountain and of course The Bean aswell as several weddings, were all-in front of our camera.
Day 11: Again we took the Blue Line, and transfered to the Brown Line and exited at the Diversey stop. From there we had a great walk past Wrigley Field (where a game was on) and several nice streets with lots of shops and restaurants to Bryn Mawr where we took the Red Line back to The Loop. We walked about 7 miles this day, but it was worth it!
Day 12: Today we decided to shift a gear down, so we visited the Schaumburg Mall, and relaxed at he hotel. We had diner at the Cheesecake Factory in the Mall. Very good food!
Day 13: We visited some Route 66 landmarks on our way to St.Louis, MO: Rich & Creamy in Joliet,IL, Old Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, Il, Gemini Man, Shea’s Gasstation and we admired the wonderfull murals in Pontiac. We also visited the WW2 museum which is next to the old Fire Department, and we enjoyed talking tos ome WW2 vets. Very nice town, this Pontiac.
On our way to Bloomington, there was a dashboardlight flashing which indicated the trunk was open, which was not the case. Arriving at the Oak Ridge Cemetery with the tumb of abe Lincoln the cars interiorlight wouldn’t turn of. I decided to drive to the nearest National Office to switch cars which was at the Springfield Airport. I could pick any car from their fleet, but since this is a small airport, no big cars were available. I picked a Chevy Malibu with 10.000 miles on the clock, and that did the job just fine. A had plans to visit the State Capitol and Lincolns house, but had to skip those because of the carswitch.
Doubletree by Hilton Collinsville/St. Louis---8,5 out of 10 points.
Day 14: We parked the car and took Metrolink towards downtown St. Louis and exited at Arch/Lacledes. We walked towards the Arch and were amazed by it’s size and the strict security which resembled an airport, to enter it. We walked aroung the museum in the basement, but didn’t go up, because the wait was to long. We enjoyed our walk through the downtown area, Gateway Mall and Union Station with the amazing Marriot Hotel.
Day 15: We drove to The Loop at Delmar with their own Walk of Fame and Blueberry Hills(Chuck Berry). We had lunch at the Noodle Factory which was ok.
Next to Forest Park, where we walked for 4 hours including a visit to the beautifull and free Zoo and Art Museum.
Day 16: Today we planned a visit to the Chain of Rocks Bridge. Great to see this landmark. I made lots of pics. Next on to the Brussels Ferry at Grafton, IL and the Golden Eagle Ferry to O’Fallon with it’s coblestone streets. Nice! Made me think about Europe.
From here we headed for Augusta and it’s wineries. This was a lovely drive through hillcountry and the wineries with their mansions!
Next stop was the World Bird Sanctuary in Lone elk Park, which was free, but we donted a couple of bucks. Great to watch eagles, owls, vultares and even a cookabaroo closeby.
We drove by the Teppanyaki Grill & Buffet on Watson Rd (Chinese Buffet for 10$)and we thought we’de give it a go. Huge disappointment!!
Day 17: We parked our car at the St.Louis Basilica and made some beautifull pics inside. From there we walked up Maryland Avn and back to the Basilica. We stopped at Shapiros on Newstead Avn where we ate some great subs! Must!
The visit to The Botanical Gardens was nice aswell, although in september few things are blooming.
At the de Soulard Farmers Market we had some nice cherry turnovers, and our “must” visit to Ted Drewes we had some delicious concretes!!
Day 18: From St.Louis we took INT-64 and exited at Saint Croix, IN. From there we headed north via Hoosier N.F. , French Lick , West Baden Springs(fantastic renovated hotel) to Nashville, In. We walked for an hour or so through this lovely village.
Hyatt Place Indianapolis, IN--- 8 out of 10 points
Day 19: We parked our car at the Zoo and walked towards downtown while passing NCAA Hall of Champions, Medal of Honor Monument, State Library and the Indiana State House before entering Circle Center. Next we walked on to Soldiers Monument where we took the elevator to the top to enjoy a nice view. Then we heade on to the Indiana War Memorial Plaza, American Legion Mal land the Central Library.
We walked the Canal Walk, which is a very nice walk, back to our car.
Day 20: First thing this morning was to drive to Carmel, and we had a great time there because of the Fancy Fair that was going on there. We ate some great BBQ burgers!
We also enjoyed the open air mall Clay Terrace, where my wife did some serious shopping. After visiting the amazing het Indianapolis Museum of Art another great day had passed.
We ate a Pappa John’s pizza. We enjoyed the large hand tossed The Works pizza a lot!
Day 21: Another gorgious morning, and we headed towards Clifty Falls State Park which was very nice, even though the waterfall was dried up duet to the drougth period in the midwest. Madison was a bit of a disappointment. The town was completly deserted.
We followed the Ohio River to Cincinnati, and picknicked in a park just before entering Aurora, IN.
Courtyard by Marriot Hamilton, OH---7,5 out of 10 points.
Day 22: First thing we visited in Cincy was Findlays Market, but we were about the only people there. I took a Belgian waffle at the Taste of Belgium which was disgusting.
We walked through Washington Park to visit downtown. Some very nice murals on the way there. We also visited the Library and Fountain Square with the Carew Tower.
We walked to the Purple People Bridge which we crossed to end up in Newport on the Levee in Kentucky with it’s shopping center and Imax. After 2 hours we took the Tank Bus for 1$ each, who dropped us of at Fountain Square.
Day 23: After breakfast we headed for Ault Park. A very nice park with lots of wedding foto shoots. Next on to Hyde Park where we had some great(ers) icecream. We also enjoyed our visit to the free Cincinnati Art Museum, and the birthplace of 27st president: William Howard Taft.
We also visited Jungle Jims; my God, how big can a supermarket get?? We Europeans think Walmarts are big, but this one beats them all by a mile.
Tonight we had Thai Food.
Day 24: We visited Mount Adams for a fantastic view on Cincy although parking can be difficult. Next a very scenic drive through Mariemont, Milford(loved it), Mason, West Chester and last but not least Caesar Creek State Park where we spotted some deer. We thought Cincy’s downtown and it’s surroundings were kind of “shabby”, but the “outer” suburbs mentioned above, were one of the nicest area’s of our tour. We ate at the Texas Roadhouse in Milford which we enjoyed a lot.
Day 25: Today we had a long drive from Hamilton to Audubon in PA.(550miles). We enjoyed this drive because of the folliage colors. We thought we were driving through a painting, almost the whole route!!
Homewood Suites Valley Forge---8,5 points out of 10.
Day 26: This day we visited the Mall of Prussia, and again OMG, how huge can a Mall get. We visited lots of malls during our US visits, but this one…wow. We even couldn’t find our car when leaving. We went back to our hotel to relax and do some organising of our suitcases.
Day 27: Today we headed to our last hotel which was the same as our first: The Elements Hotel in Ewing, NJ which was the best hotel on our roadtrip although most of our hotels were very nice.
On our way to Ewing we visited the town of Princeton, wellknown for it’s wonderfull Uni and Campus.
At 3 pm we could check in online at Brussels Airlines, and again, we had the best seats.
Day 28: We left our hotel at 10am to ensure plenty of time to get to JFK. We had to return our car before 2 pm., so we had 4 hours to cover the 80 miles. I forgot to enter the Verrazzano bridge in my GPS and ended up in the Holland Tunnel….grrrrr i wanted to avoid that at all cost, and it still happened.
The short trip through NYC went reasonably fast, so we still were in time at the National Office at JFK.
I made a planning upfront with the help of several people on this forum, and we almost visited all things on our bucket list.
Chicago was supposted to be the highlight of this visit, and it realy was!
We had very nice weather overall. An occasional shower in Cincy, that was it.
Almost all of our hotels were very nice.
We ate at TGI, Red Robin, Texas Roadhouse, Cheesecake Factory, Pappa John which we all enjoyed.
Scoops of icecream are very expensive in the US compared to Europe, while pints of icecream are much cheaper than in Europe…strange!
After 5 years of driving in the USA, i still hesitate at intersections and have the impression that even the Americans sometimes don’t know when a right turn is allowed on red light, or at what trafficlight to look when turning left. The 4-way stopsigns are strange for Europeans, but it works great in the US. US drivers are much more relaxed than European ones. I drove in NYC, LA, Chicago and a lot in Europe, so i can compare things quiet well, in my opnion.
We’re always amazed by the size of quiet a lot of American people. We have big people in Holland, but in the USA obesitas is a huge problem. We sometimes ordered food, and only managed half of it. We took the leftovers in a doggy-bag which we often gave to a homeless guy.
You think your gasprices are high! Think again; you pay half of what i pay in The Netherlands.
We always meet a lot of friendly people on our roadtrips, and this year was no exception.
You don’tnow what service is untill you’ve visited the US. We Europeans could learn a lot from the Americans.
We will visit the USA again next year…fors ure!!
Please excuse some grammatical and typo errors.
A special thanks to TranscendentalEye, RONO and all others who helped us to make this roadtrip an unforgettable one!