Monday, March 31, 2014

US 2014

There are mixed emotions behind every US trip. On one hand, i do enjoy the long plane ride with back to back movies/dedicated time to read book, enjoy different cuisines, see vast empty lands, run on awesome trails, visit national parks and ofcourse there is work in between. On the other hand, it just disrupts my routine in Bangalore, all my discipline goes for a toss and i have to plan everything around this trip. This time, thankfully it was between RH seasons so i was fine running wise but my AAP contribution was impacted. And there is EB to think of as well.

This US trip was as exciting as others, a little different though. I decided to not go for a long trek but instead visit my relatives in Atlanta and NY. In between, I also got to run the Little Rock Half marathon and as part of my plan, visited the Hot Springs National Park.

Hot Springs National Park is not one of the usual national parks in US. It is one of those "other" parks. Because National parks are not only designed to protect natural resources, then they would be called natural parks. National parks also protect sites of national interest. Hot Springs was added to this list because of its historical significance when it became a favorite tourism/medical destination owing to the therapeutic nature of the natural springs found here.

After getting a tour of the visitor center which is also a Bathhouse, we went for a casual hike just behind it. We went up to a tower and got a good views of surrounding Hot Springs. The trail was ok. Once back, we took a private bath at one of the still operational Bathhouse followed by a small massage. The bath was an experience to remember. There are five stages starting with sitting in a bath tub followed by sitting in a cermaic pot with hot water. The hot water heats up the ceramic and it provides a nice warm feeling to our bare back. Next comes a 5 min sitting in a Sauna followed by a shower and then they just ask you to relax. The whole time we are wrapped under a white bedsheet and we walk like old greeks. During relaxation time, they wrapped me inside that white bedsheet like an Egyptian mummy and i slept. It was inevitable, everybody sleeps. After the massage, it felt like a lump of tiredness has gone away.

 The small town of Hot Springs still has some elegance of its old self. Like any US small town, it is just fascinating to walk. There are still old architecture based buildings around along with shops selling all kinds of stuff related to baths.  I would have liked a longer hike but we had only a day. Two days is good enough to cover this park in its entirety.

Next day was my half marathon, a report of which i had already blogged. There was a snow storm warning in the evening but it was shifted to afternoon. Right after the mid point it started snowing and we were not at all equipped to drive on snow. Ankur did a great job in driving slowly and getting us back safe to our hotel. Next day, it was all covered under snow and practically the whole town had shut down.  This was my first time seeing so much snow. I had seen snowfall both in Atlanta once and once in Seattle but never a six inch snow. It was cold outside, really cold.

During my Bentonville visit, i once went for a run near Bella Vista lake. There is a quite nice trail around the lake and it is definitely worth running again. I attended two performances at Walton Arts Center. One was a circus like performance by Cirque Ziva and it was ok. The other one was a Gospel choir concert by a South African band called Soweto Gospel Choir. It was amazing. They had the whole auditorium dancing and singing by the end of the show. Blend of folk music, folk dance, praise to lord all done with amazing energy and enthu.

Atlanta trip was just for a day and it was great meeting all relatives there. During afternoon, Tayaji took me to a nearby river and it was great to see a nice clean natural body flowing so close by.  During my three day at NY/NJ, I spent one day at Manhattan and in particular at MOMA. I had always wanted to visit NY MOMA and one wish fulfilled. I saw Van Gogh's Starry Night and it is as good in real as it is in pictures. I attended a tour called Picasso's women in which they explained some of the key constructs of Picasso's cubism and why he did what he did. Other exhibitions were interesting, some were above my head and some were just intriguing.

Amit Bhaiya's house is indeed amazing and playing with my nieces is always fun. Annika, out of the blue, asked me a question - Why there is so much pollution in India. Despite having read so much, I could not come with an answer that i could share with her. There lies the art of breaking down complex problems to explain to 8 year olds, literally in some cases :) . Someday I will write a response to this.  As I was heading to airport, the sunset view was breathtaking. Most likely this will be my last trip to US, it felt that the sky was saying good bye.

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