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  • Writer's pictureBrian Thacker


Okay, I'm getting a bit carried away there, but I have been living in the U.S. now for almost four years. And golly gee whizz did that just fly. Mind you, it was a very strange introduction to life here in the U.S. of A. I don't know if you heard about the virus that was going around, but not long after I moved to Minnesota the Corona Virus reared it's ugly spiky head. And we were all locked up inside. For a long time. So, my dreams of gallivanting around the country came to a sudden halt.

Then, after ten months of travelling not much further than the supermarket, we were finally set free to travel domestically. And lucky for me, no Australian journalists could leave Fortress Australia, so I was getting sent all around the country. In the space of two years I went to Wyoming (twice), Colorado (three times), Utah (twice), Idaho (twice), Nevada, Florida, California, South Dakota, Wisconsin and South Carolina. There have been many highlights, but in no particular order here are my ten highlights (so far!):

Rocky Mountaineer Colorado to Utah I do love a train journey - particularly when it includes three course meals delivered to your seat and free cocktails. Oh, and the incredibly spectacular views help, too. The new Rocky Mountaineer 'Rockies to the Red Rocks' route, travels for two days from Denver to the red canyon country of Moab, Utah. The first day is eight hours on the train, but you don't want to miss a minute looking out the window.

Read my story about the Rocky Mountaineer in Vacations & Travel magazine here.

Elvis & Frank's House Palm Springs, California I'm a big Elvis and Frank Sinatra fan, so it was such a buzz stepping into homes that they both lived in when they resided in Palm Springs. I was in Palm Springs for Modernism Week and their former homes, plus many more, were open to the public. It was surreal standing in Elvis and Priscilla's bedroom knowing that they conceived Lisa Marie here on the first night of their honeymoon, while over at Frankie's house standing by the piano-shaped pool imagining him having a cocktail or seven by the pool with Dean Martin and Humphry Bogart.

Skiing with Olympic Gold medallist Tommy Moe Jackson Hole, Wyoming The skiing at Jackson Hole is phenomenal, but it was made even better when I had day skiing with Tommy Moe, Jackson Hole ambassador and double Olympic gold medallist (at the '94 Lillehammer games). We started an hour before the lifts were open to the public and headed out to ski some Cowboy Powder. What is Cowboy Powder? I didn't know either, but I soon discovered it's some of the best skiing you can do. It's when there has been a big snowfall after the groomers have groomed the runs the night before and you get to ski powder runs on ski runs. The rest of the day was a blur - but that was mostly me just trying to keep up with Tommy! You can book a day skiing with Tommy Moe here.

Neon Museum Las Vegas, Nevada I'd seen pics of the 'neon museum' (also known as the 'Neon Graveyard') and always wanted to see it, so I was very excited when I actually go to visit it. I went there during the day and night, but it was at night when it was the most magical. It's actually quite a small space, but there are 800 old signs from around 200 Las Vegas properties. If you go to Vegas don't miss the Neon Museum.

Snowcat skiing Soldier Mountain, Idaho "Yippe-Kai-Yay!"That's what I was hollering out when I was skiing the untracked and untouched bowls of Soldier Mountain on a cat skiing day out. I was hollering that because until recently, Bruce Willis used to own this little know ski mountain that's tucked away in the middle of Idaho. I skied down a wide-open, serenely undulating valley, then jumped back in the snowcat and did another nine times, and each time in a new valley. Pretty much skiing heaven. Check out Cat skiing at Soldier Mountain.

Yurt dinner Midway, Utah I could go on about the incredible skiing I had at the Utah resorts Snowbird, Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Deer Valley on this trip, but I really did love this unique experience we had where we hiked (normally you snow shoe in winter, but there wasn't quite enough snow) to a yurt for dinner. We hiked two kilometres through the star lit forest of Soldier Hollow to a warm and inviting yurt where we had a delicious 4-course fine-dining meal. And of course there were marshmallows on the open fire outside. The WAO Yurt Dinner is

Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup Custer State Park, South Dakota Every September, the ground rumbles and dust flies as 60 cowboys and cowgirls saddle up to bring in a thundering herd of over a thousand buffalo (or bison). Around 20,000 people watch this spectacular event, but I didn't just watch it. I was in it. On a back of a truck getting thrown around while we were recording a podcast for South Dakota tourism. You can take a sneak peak (or is that a sneak listen?) of the podcast here and hear how crazy it is! Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

First family holiday after Covid Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Not only was it nice to take our first family holiday for over two years, it had also been almost three years since the kids had seen a beach (it's around 2,000 kilometres from our place in Minnesota to the nearest ocean). Myrtle Beach in South Carolina has over 100 kilometres of beach, so it wasn't hard to find a place right on the beachfront. It was wonderfull - although we did almost lose a kid to a crocodile.

Sun Valley Lodge Sun Valley, Idaho You can't escape the history and understated glamour of Sun Valley ski resort in Idaho, and from the moment I walked in the 1930's-inspired foyer of Sun Valley Lodge, I felt like I was walking onto a classic Hollywood set. It was (and still is) a hot spot for A-list celebrities, including Clark Gable. Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Bing Crosby, and Ernest Hemingway - who wrote, For Whom the Bells Toll, while staying in room 206. I spent ages wandering the corridors of the hotel gazing at framed photos of stars living it up at this grand hotel.

Snowmobile tour Telluride, Colorado I almost wet my pants a few times on my first ever go on a snowmobile, but what a fun (and fast!) adventure. I went on a twilight tour with guide Matt who went at ridiculous speeds along narrow tracks that twisted and turned through a thick forest. The wetting the pants part was me trying to keep up with him. I loved every minute of it, though and our reward at the end was a spectacular alpine sunset. Snowmobile Tour

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