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October 20, 2013

Retired police officers’ 13,000-mile trip includes 31 states, 23 national parks

CUMBERLAND — Two retired Cumberland Police officers returned recently from a seven-week tour of the western United States after traveling more than 13,000 miles and visiting 31 states and 23 national parks. Their last stop, Conagree National Park in South Carolina, was left out due to the recent government shutdown.

“I was surprised by the number of national forests there are and the number of Indian reservations. But there are sure a lot of empty buildings and storefronts, places going out of business in every area we visited,” said Mike Carter, who grew a full beard during the trip since he forgot his razor.

Kevin Ogle, who drove his GMC Terrain SUV all but one day of the trip, said he and Carter planned for the trip for a couple of years.

“It started out we wanted to see nine states but we kept adding things on,” said Ogle.

From Maryland, Ogle and Carter traveled through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska before visiting the Badlands in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore and three national parks.

Both men spent about $6,000 and had planned to spend up to $10,000 each. The highest price they paid for a gallon of gasoline was $4.20.

“That was in Aladdin, Wyoming. It was a town of about 15 people and they had old gas pumps from 1939 that showed the price of 28 cents per gallon. We had to get a 90-year-old woman there who ran the store to show us how to work the pump,” said Carter.

Most of the time they were in sites where the elevation exceeded 6,000 feet. Trail hikes were a part of their visits to the national parks where normal breathing was sometimes hampered by the elevation.

Overnight stays for Carter and Ogle were in motels where next-day breakfasts provided nourishment before daily evening restaurant stops. Stunning sunrises and sunsets escorted them often.

The retired police officers experienced good weather and good health throughout the excursion, “There were only four days of rain the whole time and that affected our visit to the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.”

They observed only two traffic accidents  throughout the entire trip.

Both avid baseball fans, the two men visited numerous major league ballparks out West in 2010 after Ogle retired. Carter retired in 2001.

This trip included a game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. They said this trip was centered on national parks and other tourist sites.

“We saw every animal you can think of, except a wolf and a mountain lion. There were buffalo in the middle of the road in Yellowstone, antelope, caribou, grizzly bears, black bears, you name it,” said Carter.

Another highlight for Carter and Ogle was whitewater rafting on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where they saw bald eagles, moose and mule deer.

Ogle said he was astounded at the open space of the far West. “I kept telling Mike there’s nothing out here. It was unbelievable how much open space there is out West. There are miles and miles of nothing but land in Montana, the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming.”

The men also came upon a movie set of Universal Studios in the Black Canyon area of Colorado where they suddenly heard an eruption of machine gunfire. “We drove through the area later and saw a little blue sports car full of bullet holes that was part of the movie set. We don’t know what movie they were shooting,” said Carter.

Carter spoke about visiting John Wayne’s home place in Winterset, Iowa, and a memorable visit to the True Grits Steakhouse in Alamosa, Colo., that had everything John Wayne as its theme. That stopover involved seven crossings of the Rio Grande River.

Ogle also talked about the magnificence of the tourist sites. “You see photos of these places but they don’t do it justice. For example, you couldn’t believe how blue the water is in Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.”

Ogle and Carter also crossed the U.S. border into Canada in the Alberta area for a stop at the Waterton Lakes National Park prior to heading south for a visit to sites in Oregon and northern California, including the Redwoods National Park at the Pacific Ocean.

“We did so much in a relatively small amount of time. But it was a great trip. I wish we could have made it long enough to see all the parks. We missed 13 national parks that we didn’t get to,” said Ogle.

A 10-day stay in Utah included stops at five national parks and a visit to the Golden Spike National Monument not far from Salt Lake City. The historic site commemorates the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad where the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad met on May 10, 1869.

Ogle was also impressed by the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. “It makes you wonder how did they get here,” he said.

Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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