Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day

It doesn't generate the media storm of Super Bowl Sunday, so in case you missed the news: today, Feb 2nd, is Groundhog Day! So,

Happy Groundhog Day!

Gardeners and sun-worshippers may not want to hear this, but according to Punxsatawney Phil, the nation's semi-official rodent weather forecaster, we still have six more weeks of winter ahead. For details on his prognostications for 2010, click here:

And here's a post I wrote earlier:

Phil Says Six More Weeks of Winter

Okay, folks – it’s that time again: February 2nd, better known as Groundhog Day. One of the quirkier traditions in our quirky old country, Groundhog Day is the mid-winter holiday when, according to legends promulgated by the kind folks in Punxsutawney PA, a small rodent named Phil wakes up from his winter sleep to forecast the coming of spring.

Probably rooted in the German folk traditions of Candlemas, Groundhog Day is much more secular (and silly!). This morning, February 2nd, “Punxsutawney Phil”, the famous groundhog, ascended from his winter hibernation and saw his shadow. The official interpretation of all this is somewhat counter-intuitive: Since Phil-the-Groundhog saw his shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks; but if he'd emerged and not seen his shadow, then spring would have been just around the corner.

(Exactly how we know whether or not Phil has seen his shadow is just one of the many intriguing questions surrounding this midwinter event -- he has a dedicated crew of caretakers and interpreters who look after him and share his wisdom with the world.)

This morning at sunrise, Punxsutawney Phil pointed his handlers toward the proper prognosticatory scroll, which was then read out to the assembled throng:

"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!"

The original and official Groundhog Day celebration takes place every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (which is about 90 minutes northeast of Pittsburgh). Though people come to Punxsutawny from all over the world, many more people prefer to stay indoors (where it’s warm) and celebrate by watching the wonderful Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney but filmed in Woodstock Illinois, (which is about an hour northwest of Chicago…).

Woodstock (home of the Dick Tracy museum) is a worthwhile detour north from our US-20 road trip route across Illinois.

Happy Groundhog Day!


Blogger Vanessa, Florida, USA said...

Hi Jamie!

My hubby and I are planning a road trip starting in Arizona or Las Vegas, going through the Rockies and Yellowstone, and ending in Seattle. We're just not sure of the exact route yet... Do you have a suggestion for a specific route that we should take to see the most beautiful scenery? Also, what time of the year is best for this drive?

Vanessa from Miami

6:57 PM  
Blogger Jamie Jensen said...

Hi Vanessa --

Thanks for writing (and btw, I enjoyed looking at your blog -- scrapbooking is not something I'm any good at, but I always intend to make a journal or diary of my trips, which seems way healthier than sitting in a motel watching ESPN...)

Anyway, about your road trip -- the country between Utah and Yellowstone is one of my favorite places on the planet, and wherever you go you'll have an amazing time. It's all at a pretty high elevation (more than a mile above sea level!), so summer is really best, extending thru October when you can get some nice "fall color", especially in the canyons of Zion National Park.

You didn't give me a time-frame, but for an outline route, how this: head out of Vegas (after winning big bucks!), taking the I-15 freeway for about 2 hours to gorgeous Zion Nat'l Park, maybe staying just outside in the town of Springdale. Admire the stunning red-rock (Zion is Sedona on steroids!), and if you feel brave, walk up the canyon to the "Narrows".

Then hop back in the car to wind south, to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (stay a night or two at the lovely old lodge here). Enjoy the views, hike down into the canyon, breathe deeply.

Then back on the road again: Glen Canyon / Lake Powell is spectacular, as is the entire swath of northern Arizona -- Monument Valley, the cliff palaces of Canyon de Chelley, Betatakin, also Mesa Verde Nat'l Park over the Colorado border. Fantastic places all!

You could spend a month here and not get bored, or have a fab time in 3 or 4 days.

After that, you have a big choice: head north via yet-more red-rock wonders of the Colorado Plateau (Canyonlands & Arches National Park, in Utah); or, wind up the Rocky Mountains via Colorado's "Million Dollar Highway", Hwy-550 north from Durango.

Destination: Yellowstone, which is a 600-mile 2-day drive (it's faster if you bomb up I-15 via Salt Lake City, which would only take one very long day from AZ).

You need at least a lifetime in Yellowstone to really "get" it, but 2 days / 2 nights would be magic. And be sure to enter Yellowstone from the south, via the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

After Yellowstone, head west to Seattle? I-90 seems the best bet (and Missoula MT makes a great stop-off), but if you have time there are many lovely winding scenic roads up here (US-93 across Idaho, for example).

Hope this helps whet your travel appetite -- let us know what you get up to!

-- Jamie J.

12:09 PM  

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