USATourist News MagazineDecember 2001
In this issue:
In the middle of December the weather in the northeastern USA was still warm. We should of had cold weather and snow, but we had nice warm weather and sunshine. The temperature was nearly 15 C every day instead of the normal 0 C. It was great for hiking and bike riding but terrible for skiing. This was very unusual weather.
It was all caused by the high-altitude, jet-stream winds that pass over the USA. In the winter, they usually curve northward over the cold artic lands of northern Canada and dip back down to the eastern coast of the USA. This usually brings us much cold air and freezing winter weather in the eastern part of our country. This year, the jet stream was curving south over Texas and the Gulf of Mexico then back up the eastern coast of the US. That brings us nice warm weather in the winter months. It did change week, and our expected winter chill arrived a bit later than usual.
Christmas is the big holiday that we celebrate on December 25. The local custom of decorating homes with colored lights had begun weeks ago. It is really pleasant to drive through neighborhoods in the evening and see thousands of multicolored lights on homes and trees along every road and street. It would look much better if there was a blanket of new snow on the ground. Although the weather is finally cold, we do not have much snow.
The number of tourists in the USA is still very low. Since the September 11 attack, the number of people visiting the USA has been much lower than usual. Because of this, airlines are flying fewer flights. Foreign tourists are avoiding the USA, and few Americans are traveling far from home.
You can find some really good travel bargains in the USA right now. Airlines are offering cheap fares, hotels have very attractive prices and most tourist attractions are selling bargain priced packages. Gasoline is at decade-low prices and car rental bargains abound.
Travel is slowly picking up as Americans begin to take advantage of the travel bargains, but few foreign travelers are yet returning to the USA. I think travel will begin to increase in the spring as visitors slowly regain their confidence. Unfortunately, the bargains will probably disappear once the volume increases.
If you are flying in the USA, make sure you have your photo identification and your airline ticket with you at all times. If you are using an e-ticket, carry your receipt at all times. Security has become much more tense at all US airports since September 11. They will not allow you to board an airplane or even go to the gate unless you have a valid ticket and photo identification.
In Atlanta, Georgia, one poor man forgot his ticket when he left the gate area to retrieve a lost bag. He ran back through the security check without showing a ticket. The police shut down the airline terminal for nearly an hour, until they located the man, arrested him and ascertained that he was not a terrorist.
The US government has offered an unusual reward for information about terrorists. They are willing to provide an immediate residency visa to any person that provides useful information that helps them find or capture any terrorists. Such visas can be very difficult to obtain and normally require decades of wait.
We just added a new page about Atlanta, Georgia. www.usatourist.com/english/places/georgia/atlanta.html
We also added some new images to our free USA wallpaper page including an image of the World Trade Center towers taken before September 11. www.usatourist.com/english/wallpaper2.html
Unlike many of our friends in other parts of the world who wait until after the big day, super sales before Christmas Day are a tradition here in the USA. And the sales after Christmas are a shopper's delight as well --- so if shopping gets you hopping into an airplane now is one of the best times for a trek to the states.
New York City shopping is the best in the world. A quick glance through the New York newspapers shows that almost all the stores and malls are offering deep discounts in the lead up to December 25th.
In October, we had a chance to visit the Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona. The Navajo Nation covers more than 25,000 square miles and is larger than some of our smaller states. It is larger than a few small countries. The land is sparsely populated and quite arid but intensely beautiful. This desert landscape contains strange and spectacular scenery like the colorful Painted Desert, the massive rock formations in Monument Valley and many delicately carved slot canyons like Antelope Canyon.
Harold Simpson, Navajo guide and owner of Simpson's Trailhandler Tours, showed us his ancestral homeland in Monument Valley. He took us to parts of the valley seldom seen by outsiders and showed us many beautiful things. We met Susie, an 81-year-old Navajo rug weaver and matriarch of seven generations of Navajo. She showed us how she spun, dyed and wove raw wool into colorful rugs. Harold led us into the nearly inaccessible reaches of Mystery Valley with its ancient Anasazi ruins and many strange rock formations.
At sunset, Harold sat on a boulder, beneath the cliffside ruins of an Anasazi pueblo, and began chanting a Navajo ceremonial song. The sound reverberated off of the rock wall, until a chorus of ghostly echoes joined him. He serenaded us with Indian chants for nearly an hour.
We spent the night in a traditional Navajo hogan. These round huts were once the primary dwelling of all Navajo families. Today, they are still used for spiritual gatherings and ceremonies. We slept on the sand floor with only a small fire in the center of the single room to provide scant warmth.
I awoke once in the middle of the night and stepped outside into the cool desert air. The wind was blowing wisps of sand across the ground. A lone tumbleweed rolled by, and the stars extended a glorious display across the clear desert sky. I felt like I had been transported back into an earlier time before the white man had entered this beautiful country. It was a wonderful experience.
Harold can offer these same experiences to a limited number of adventuresome visitors that wish to experience life among the Navajo Indians. We will create a page on our USATourist.com web site with information about this unique adventure opportunity very soon.
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