Monday, December 28, 2009

Central Florida





Central Florida

MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL! We hope that your day was half as much fun as ours was! We’ve been here in Ross Prairie Campground for a week now and H says I need to blog.

The weather has been cool (50’s and 60’s during the day) and the heater has run all night on most nights. Wednesday, the 23rd, was projected to be the warmest and sunniest day of the week so we joined Jim and Nancy – you know - the folks from NC – and went canoeing up the Silver River which is one of our favorite rivers to venture up and back on. We strapped the two sturdy vessels together and had the little 2 horsepower motor in between. Picture a tiny but mighty tug boat pushing two passenger barges up the Ohio River! Since Nancy and I didn’t have to paddle, our cameras were busy – trying to capture for memory sake all the neat things and animals that we saw. Jim and H were busy navigating and spotting all the creatures for us - otters, pileated woodpeckers, kingfishers, herons (white, great blue, green, little blue and the one with the tuff on top!), egrets, coots, wood storks, lots of turtles, bunches of really big fish, MONKEYS and, of course, alligators!! Check out the baby one sitting proudly on top of Momma’s head!! There are otters actually under the roots of the tree in the one picture that H has posted! We tried to follow the glass bottom boat and listen to the tour driver tell about each spring that they went over but we were too far and it was harder to do with 2 canoes involved. But the springs are still deep blue and still amazing! On our way back down river, we each drifted and paddled on our own with a stop at the State Park canoe entrance. That’s when it happened. J & N’s canoe flipped over as they tried to re-enter it. Poor Nancy was drenched from top to bottom. Instead of finishing up the ride, she wisely chose to walk the half-mile back up the canoe path and return to their campsite in the Silver River State Park while Jim finished paddling back to the launch site with us. Yes, we have heard from them since and she is fine. We’ll canoe again someday!

Christmas Eve we went to worship with D&S at the church they attend and then joined a group of their friends to enjoy snacks and fun conversation afterwards. One of the couples is from Long Island NY so they were fun to chat with since we were just there in May! Wish I could have written with her accent when I wrote about eating hotdogs at Nathan’s last spring!

Christmas Day we were graciously invited to join Dick’s family at his daughter’s home again. And again we were treated as family! I didn’t get the coal this year - Dick did! Yee hah! H got his “Beer of the World” and the 4 guys all shared the Blueberry one and one of the Orange and Honeybee ones. That is - after we all had toasted each other with the Champaign and orange juice mixed drinks that Terry served in the large “Reindeer Juice” styrofoam cups! Before we all sat down to a wonderful dinner the poppers were passed out and all “popped”! Inside each was a paper crown and a small horn/whistle/kazoo kinda thing. H took the prestigious place of the conductor and between all the guffaws and giggles we each attempted to toot our whistle when our distinguished mystro pointed his baton our way. H plays a better dulcimer than we played our whistles but we had way more fun!

We’ll be staying here in Ross Prairie till the end of the year (?!) and then we will move over towards the Gulf. We have only visited with Jerry and Ruth twice and I hope to see them yet again before we leave. Monday is laundry day and hopefully Sharon and I will get some “Girl’s Only” shopping in.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Central Florida





Central Florida

Time to do laundry and time to move! Both accomplished and we moved the “motel” to another one of our favorite spots in the forest – Juniper Springs! Look back at last December’s blogs to read all about the springs and the campground itself!

H treated us to a wonderful bacon and eggs with cheese breakfast on Thursday and off we went to find the sinkhole that he had been told about when we were parked in Salt Springs. By the forest maps, it was way closer to Juniper Springs so cross country we went. Now, I suppose that if you had never seen Hocking Hills or the Red River Gorge that this phenomenon would be something to see. The half-mile hike was interesting and H kept me amused by his incessant fussings about bears and how far it was! The actual “hole” was 120 some feet deep, which by Florida standards is pretty deep, however in the last 100 years it has become overgrown with trees and scrub. There was a wide, well spaced set of stairs going down to the bottom and we went part way down and had no trouble getting back to the top. Also on that exploration venture we parked and watched a gorgeous bald eagle soar overhead and then land in the top of a dead tree! Sweet! At one point of our wanderings, it looked as though the yellow sand road just disappeared into the dark green trees in front of us and then in the distance you could see it reappear and climb the far hill! As we got close the road made a sharp left turn and took us around an isolated little lake and surrounding prairie land. Then up the far hill we went! H even dared to turn onto a couple of two track roads but soon turned back when they got too “scratchy” for the sides of his “still almost new” Jeep.

Back in camp we walked the grounds and trails to see if we could see any changes from last year when the campground was closed due to forest fires. At the beginning of the camping circle we were parked in was an older couple in a motorhome from Holland Michigan. They had a flagpole made out of pvc pipe – sorta like the neat one that Bud had made for us several years ago. It drove me nuts because it was put together backwards! We HAD to stop and ask the man if it had come in a kit and he replied that his niece had made it for them. The next time we went by their site and they were not there - - we HAD to fix it! Was it a “random act of kindness” on our part or did it just plain drive us nuts to see it that way?

Friday morning started out with rain and it continued all the way as we drove to Ocala. We are now parked in Ross Prairie on Rt 200, just south of Ocala, for the next week. We’ve put 1500 miles on the Jeep since we left home and H has already had its oil changed since we’ve been in Florida. We’ve been eating from the stash of goods we brought in the freezer, refrigerator and cupboards so next we need to go find some groceries. And we’ll be meeting Dick and Sharon for burgers tonight! It seems like forever since I got to see my sister! It was last March when we bid them fond goodbye and started our trek home! Dick’s birthday is Monday and I MUST sing to him - again!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Central Florida



Central Florida

We’ve turned lazy since we’ve settled in at Salt Springs! We’ve gone out exploring forest back roads a few times. Lots of signs about bears! We’ve heard there is one in the camp but have not seen it. Last night we heard the call of an owl and this afternoon we watched a hawk soaring high over the trees. We’ve ridden the bikes out and around a few times.

We’ve met some great folks! We’re sad that they have moved on to their next location but after Christmas we’ll be in the same area again and are hoping to get the canoes in the same river at the same time! Jim and Nancy are from North Carolina so of course have that wonderful southern accent and all the cool “isms” that go with it! Nancy is a crafter like me and we spent an afternoon sharing “projects”. I now have a sweet crocheted angel and she has a Christmas potholder. We’ve shared a campfire and a bag of marshmallows. Jim and H found plenty to gab about – boats, guns, planes, cars and travel stories!

Across the way from us is an older fella, Joe who is a novice camper. I mean NOVICE! H had to help him finish setting up his tent because he didn’t know that the poles go into the little pockets at the bottom of the tent and he wondered why his tent wouldn’t stay standing up straight. He has a laptop but was having trouble getting the wifi that’s across the way. He didn’t realize you had to scroll down to see them when there are more than 3 on his screen.

Monday has come and gone. The temps were in the mid 80’s and again – mostly sunny! Our big adventure was to venture down the highway to go snorkeling at Silver Glen Springs. Thankfully they have not “improved” that beautiful spring! Silver Glen is rustic and still the way it was a long time ago. Even the split rail fence that encompasses the deep area is RUSTIC! A large oval spring with plenty of swimming and snorkeling areas!! And fish!!! We thought they were mullet but a gentleman there said they were “lady fish”. He was out there swimming and caught a catfish with his bare hands! He called out whenever he saw a different fish – catfish, gar, ladyfish, mullet, tilapia and even a ray! We started to follow a hiking trail thru the “jungle” and forest near the springs but once H saw the FRESH pile of bear scat – we didn’t walk much further. As we walked we played kindergarten kids and clapped our hands till we were back at the picnic area!

Tuesday had a VERY froggy start. The fog was so wet it was dripping off the awning. Five miles on the bikes with a run to the grocery store and then another run to the post office and thru the resort across the road. After a light lunch we finally donned our snorkel stuff and counted fish in the springs here in this park. Since the springs have been closed to the public for the last 2 years, it is now clogged with all kinds of grasses and weeds making it difficult to get around. Luckily there were a couple of folks down there who were pulling up weeds by the handfuls, thus creating “paths” to paddle from one rock clustered deep spring to the other. One of the new “improvements” to the swimming area was to remove the picnic tables so there was no place to sit and soak up some sun so we climbed back on our trusty 2 wheels and came back home so we could soak up the sun in our own easy chairs. But a pleasant surprise greeted us!. While at Silver Glen we chatted with a delightful couple from Ontario who are circling the states in their compact size motorhome. We ran into them while on our bike ride and they came over to investigate the park and visit with us!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Northern Florida




Northern Florida

It’s pouring down rain and 52 degrees! This morning, Friday the 11th, we joined the rest of the campers in Salt Springs National Forest Campground for a pancake breakfast in the “barn”. Pretty good fixin’s! This afternoon we went out exploring more backwoods when a young VERY black bear loped across the roadway! We were looking for a large sinkhole that someone told H about but we never found any. The “lakes” we saw on the maps were actually just overgrown water spots in vast wild swamps. By the time we returned to the trailer it was pouring down rain, which was a perfect time to get out the sewing machine and work on some Christmas potholders. 4 are done so now I can get you caught up on what’s been going on since our last visit.

From Blythe Island Georgia, we moved on down to Amelia Island, Florida and got a nice spot in Little Talbot State Park for the night. Of course, before we parked at the State Park, we had to make a stop and do some shopping in the touristy town of Ferdindina at the north end of the island. Nothing has changed there!! Even the shark is still hanging high on the dock in the harbor. (H had his picture taken with it several years ago!) On our way early Monday morning, the schedule for the day included (finally) a stop at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Our Toledo Zoo membership didn’t get us in free but even half price was well worth the experience. African elephants, a small herd of giraffes, Bongo’s, a pretty neat reptile building with ACTIVE inhabitants, a pair of cougars and several domed aviaries were among our favorites there. NO polar bears and only one nervously pacing cheetah! In one of the jungle aviaries there was a pair of extremely colorful ducks who took turns preening themselves whenever I attempted to take their pictures. Snap – one duck was swiveling his neck. Snap- the other one was! Oh well! Our feet and legs were soon wore out and after a sandwich in the trailer we were back on the road south to St Augustine and 2 nights at Anastasia State Park. This time we parked in the loop that was nearest to the beach but STILL never made it out to walk on it. Way too windy! Tuesday morning we headed to the beach - to drive on it! It was a bit foggy and still windy. The waves were rolling in hard and the beach was fairly empty of vehicles or foot traffic but there were plenty of bobbing little shorebirds. And plenty of gulls and “bad hair” terns! After going slow for nearly 10 miles we turned inland and found ourselves across from the Fort Matanzas National Historic Site. We HAD to visit! Our free boat ride took us out onto an island down river from St Augustine. The island originally was only an acre and the size of the tiny restored fort matched that island in size! The 8 soldiers who once manned the fort never saw any battles but spent 30 days at a time serving as lookouts – protecting the city of St Augustine from the mouth of the river to the south. The Jeep was parked next at the “Castillo De San Marcos “ near historic downtown St Augustine and we spent an hour going in and out of the shops that lined the pedestrian mall. Since we STILL had time on the meter we entered the fort and took our own private tour there. Up on the walls of the fort, the view of the harbor below offered moored pleasure sailboats instead of Spanish war ships. The roads buzzed with vehicle traffic instead of marching soldiers or civilians going about their business in the nearby town.

Wednesday morning the road before us led us inland to the Ocala National Forest and here in Salt Springs we parked in the same site as last year. This will be our home for the next week. The awning is out and Christmas lights are hung on it. Our American flag is flying on our pole that Bud made for us! The Christmas tree is on the dining room table and our two little blue velvet stockings are hung. The radio station is called “The River” and Christmas Carols play all day. The wifi is still across the road in the small strip mall there! The temperature on Thursday was 84 degrees and today it only made it up to 52. Then there is the rain – it’s now gone and the temps are to be back up in the 70’s and 80’s for the weekend.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Georgia




Georgia

Saturday, December 5 – we have moved south from the wet, swampy state park just outside Savannah to a wet county park on Blythe Island, just SW from Brunswick Ga. The sun has finally come out for a while this afternoon and the temps are above 50 degrees. It poured down ALL night long and the “mobile motel” should now be called the “Aerolite Ark” because we woke up this morning parked in the middle of a HUGE puddle! H had to pull out onto the roadway before he could finish the chore of hooking up and putting everything away. It has rained everyday since we left Michigan and twice was an all night, steady downpour of rain. Last night the sound of the rain on the roof was like being inside of a popcorn popper that never ran out of exploding kernels.

Historic Savannah was decorated for Christmas and we walked thru the shops, both down on the riverfront and on the upper street level. Poinsettias were plentiful and festive wreaths were hung on most doors! The cobblestone streets and the gas lamps flickering on the various storefronts easily took us back in time. All that was needed were the ladies in their long dresses and the gentlemen in their waistcoats! Christmas music floated on the air from different areas and at one small waterside park there was an elderly gentleman playing carols on his clarinet. I spoke a “Good Morning” to a man who was weaving roses and intricate crosses from reeds and he handed me one and said it was a gift. I tried to decline and teased him that it was one way to make a sale! He said – no- it was a gift because I was nice to him. Yeah, I gave him a dollar. I’m a softy and H fussed that I am. Two brightly decorated paddlewheel boats were secured to the seawall and just up from them was a grand dame of a tall ship named Peacemaker. The sign at the boarding ramp said “free tours” and up we went! She was 150 ft long and stood 126 ft tall. A big girl – she weighed 380 tons! A beautiful lady! As we visited with a gentleman who seemed to be in charge, we watched 2 mammoth ocean freighters cross by each other – one coming down river and the other – one of the largest ocean going cargo container ships from China going up river. The upriver vessel was guided by a tugboat that was bigger than any we see on the Maumee! As they passed close by the moored tall ship, we felt the power of their engines.

From downtown Savannah we crossed over to Tybee Island and had to stop for a side trip to Cockspur Island to visit Fort Pulaski National Monument. We arrived just in time for a guided tour and learned all about her 18 year building process and the short Civil War battle that ended her short career as a fort. We continued out onto Tybee Island, hoping to be present for their lighted Christmas parade but the rains came and we went - - back to the campground and out of the downpour.

This morning we followed Rt 17 past several plantations and thru swamps and mixed forests of both hardwoods and tall skinny pines. All along the way the roads were lined with fall colors of bright yellows, reds, oranges and dark greens of the live oaks. Oh yeah - - - palm trees and Spanish moss, too!!! Northern Georgia has snow and this area still has fall colors!

At 2 30pm, H says its now 55 degrees and the sun is STILL shining! He’s had his nap and we’ll be heading to Historic Downtown to find some more Christmas decorations! May visit another island while we’re out!

Heading South Again

December 2nd - we’re on the road again! Going places that we’ve never been!!! Our “mobile motel” pulled out on Wednesday morning just before 8am and got in the long line of vehicles who had to go to work that morning. HA! We kept going and ended up at a rustic little campground just after 5 o’clock in Camp Creek State Park on Rt 77, just south of Beckley W Va. Glad to be off the windy and wet road, we really didn’t mind that it rained all night – we were safe and dry -- and slept well, inspite of our colds.

Back up on the road again, thru Virginia and into North Carolina. Our 1st stop for the morning was breakfast in Elkins. On the menu was something that neither of us had ever seen, so I HAD to try it. Livermush! A molded mixture of ground liver and cornmeal fried to a crispy brown– so said the waitress. And whatever else was in it, I will never know! It was interesting but will never force bacon off my list of favorite pork items. We left the 4-lane expressway in Columbia, South Carolina and drove the rest of the way thru the state on 2 laned Rt 321, past several cotton growing areas and slowed down for the many small towns complete with cop cars sitting at the 1st speed sign of each town. 5 o’clock traffic in Savannah, Georgia is just like 5 o’clock traffic in ANY city!! Stop. Go. Stop again! But what a good way to see the restored old southern buildings and neighborhoods! Ok, so H didn’t think so either. We are parked at Skidaway Island State Park just SE of Savannah for the next day or so. Just enough time to see the town decorated for Christmas. All the local parades and festivals are tonight and tomorrow. We have a lot of things to cover in the next day so we’ll chat again later. Wifi is up at the park office!

Monday, November 2, 2009

October Colors



October Colors

Ah, that elusive Wifi! After traveling the dark roads of the State Park, looking for the Lodge where there SHOULD HAVE BEEN Wifi - - - we discovered that the “Lodge” was just a restaurant/meeting room/ swimming pool structure with NO lodging for the night and NO Wifi! Obviously to the most casual observer – our next Wifi encounter was at home - - where we now are.

Sunday morning was cool and partly cloudy and the campground was emptying fast so we thought the trails to Old Man’s Cave would be fairly quiet. We parked in the campground entrance parking lot and walked from the very beginning of the trail, across the old arched bridge and then down into the damp, deep gorge that was blanketed with newly fallen golden leaves. We criss-crossed numerous bridges over the narrow ribbon of cold water that was trickling down along the valley floor after falling from under the arched old bridge that we had previously crossed over. We trekked up and across the new pedestal bridge – an addition since the last flood removed several other old bridges. Neat bridge! Individual platforms/pedestals at various heights, which stepped up and over the stream. And I marveled at the Devils Bathtub – a swirl of a basin in the shape of an oval tub! The further we walked, the more crowded the paths became - with both pedestrians and their assortment of yapping dogs. I love dogs – but NOT in crowded public places – especially if the animals have not been taught how to behave. Old Man’s Cave is always an amazing sight with its deep-set cave and its own set of bridges and the multitude of climbing and then descending steps!

Back at the campground, it was time to finish packing the trailer for travel and be on our way. Sunday afternoon was a pleasant ride as we meandered north, up thru Mount Vernon to park for the evening in Mt Gilead at the state park there. No facilities to speak of except electricity but for one night we were just fine. What the park lacked in amenities it made up for in the rich orange views overlooking the small lake at the bottom of the hill. On Monday morning the reflections on the still water were quiet glowing!

Lily, H’s handheld GPS (Lola is the GPS in the minivan) took us right to the driveway of a friend of H’s who used to live in Swanton and now lives just north of Mt Gilead. Jerry was out working in his garage and welcomed us in to sit and chat awhile with he and his wife Barb. The conversation varied from living in Swanton Ohio to living down in Florida and working vs retirement! On the road again, H HAD to take a side trip up to Shelby for a stop at the local sporting goods store there. It’s a good thing I was there to help him carry him carry his purchases to the car! From there it was on up Rt 20 to US 23 and finally home.

It is now just about one week later. The trailer is spit shined once more and tucked back under its protective covering of silver gray tarp. We’ve had rain and wind since we’ve been back in Michigan so the yard has been mowed and the leaves are either raked into the flowerbeds or hauled off to the vegetable garden to be tilled in once spring arrives in 5 more months. My newly purchased tulip and daffodil bulbs have been deposited deep in their new resting places in the various flowerbeds out in the yard - also awaiting warmer, sunnier weather. Doctor and dentist appointments have been made and preparations for our next departure have begun. Reservations for favorite campgrounds have been secured. The packing has started. The Christmas cards are even down out of the attic – stacked and ready for addresses. After Thanksgiving the push will be on! Soon after that, we’ll be “On the Road Again”! Be sure to come with us!

Monday, October 26, 2009

October Colors




October Colors

COLORS! Fall colors of reds, oranges, golds, electric yellow, Girl Scout green and deep fir tree green! Bright beige fields of field corn with mammoth green combines chasing up and down the rows, chewing up the rows of corn and spitting out huge clouds of dust, trying to beat the time clock of the approaching rain. They are all out this weekend!! Bud, Carol, H and I are down in Circleville Ohio to soak up all the bright hues before they are all gone till next year!

Thursday morning we hooked up the “mobile motel” behind the Jeep and the guys played leapfrog down I75 then Rt 68 thru the rolling hills and valleys of Ohio. As we went along we watched the racing combines, knowing the weather forecast that was to come would cut short their hurried harvest attempts. The rains arrived that night and stayed in Central Ohio for the days to come. Thursday afternoon we were parked side by side in AW Marion State Park, just a few miles east of Circleville and “The Greatest Free Show on Earth”! The renowned Circleville Pumpkin Show started in 1903 and was just the storefront pumpkin display put on by the Mayor of the city. It has grown to cover blocks and blocks of downtown streets. There are 2 parades a day from Wednesday thru Saturday each with a different theme. Several streets are totally blocked off from vehicle traffic and are filled with food vendors of anything and everything pumpkin - from burgers, pancakes, and donuts to cheesecake, fudge and ice cream! You’ll find games, rides, crafts, and pumpkin souvenirs. H took us all out to dinner that evening – out to the picnic table and the fire ring behind our trailer! The menu included baby back ribs finished there on the fire, mashed potatoes and green beans brought from our garden. We were too full to enjoy them so the Applesauce spice cupcakes had to wait for another day! We mellowed out and settled in to watch the mesmerizing fire of the campfire until it dwindled to just red coals before we each bid the other a good night and good rest.

That night the rains did come and pattered on the roofs of our shelters most of the time. And it rained on and off all Friday, sometimes quite hard. There were no farmers in the fields today. We had breakfast out and then went exploring the area, including Deer Creek State Park, 20 miles west of Circleville. Back in town we donned our rain jackets and sloshed thru a now and again puddle to see what was going on at the Pumpkin Show. Inspite of the drizzle and dampness – the streets were still full of festival goers. The streets were full but the rides were not! Enough was enough and we headed back to the quietness of our “mobile homes”. Drinks and hor ‘doovers were shared in the patch of dryness under the canopy of the trailer until it was time to go in for dinner at Bud and Carol’s motorhome. Then it was Bud’s turn to win at dominos!

Saturday morning was still wet and the ground is now covered with golden leaves that just yesterday all looked securely glued to the tops of the trees. We hugged our dear friends goodbye and waved them on their way back home and we slowly finished packing up. We moved on southeast towards Hocking Hills State Park via another one of H’s shortcuts - cross country and around back fields and colorful woods. Not too many trailers wander thru those winding, curvy, narrow roads but we did find a good place for breakfast. Just don’t ask where! We don’t have a clue! On our way thru the forest and the hills of the park, we stopped at several points and walked the rims of several deep wet gorges. Way too slippery with inches of newly fallen leaves covering slimy brown mud to attempt any ventures for us old folks to go down the myriad of steep steps to view the caves and cliffs from the bottom. Then there would have been the return climb back up those trails!

There is no wifi in the campground so we are now off again to find the Lodge and will borrow some of their wifi to send emails and to post this! We’ll chat again soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Westward Ho - Home

Westward Ho - Home

A little slow getting this chapter of the west trip posted. In fact Bobbi is still busy and I have to try my hand at writing this final chapter of Westward Ho.
We made it home Tuesday Sept.29th 10:45 p.m. We pushed it from Wisconsin to make it home and sleep in our comfortable waterbed. It sure seemed like a treat to sleep in our own bed for a change. One of our few stops on our push was in the Upper Peninsula for home made pasties (pronounced pah stees) for lunch near the city of Escanaba. We passed thru the state of Michigan in rain from morning till we got home.
Now that we are home, and winter feels like it is fast approaching, we have a lot of work to catch up. Bobbi has been busy with closing down her gardens, picking the vegetables, trimming back plants and storing her flowers bulbs for the winter. She also had a lot of inside work to do like washing curtains and drapes after we had new windows installed in the three bedrooms. With that project completed the whole house now has updated windows. I started on my projects, winterizing the boats and motorcycles, closing down the hot tub and yard work.
We have a long weekend trip planned to central Ohio for Oct. 22nd. This will be like a little pre check of the trailer, then it is time to get serious about packing it up and getting ready to close the house up for the winter so we can head to Florida. The time is approaching fast; it looks like it is about six weeks from now.
Will keep you posted

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Westward Ho Eastbound




Westward Ho Eastbound

When we were up in Glacier National Park, Lola (the GPS) got so dizzy that she quit talking to H and the compass was so disoriented that it took till Saturday to unwind itself. So, Saturday, the cruise was set and the automatic pilot was on. It must have been set, because the road was straight as an arrow, due east thru brownish gray grasslands of north central and northeast Montana on Rt 2. It took us a week to get across the state that afternoon! We were following an east/west railroad track that had more traffic on it than the road we were on! Long, long trains with 2 and 3 engines pulling miles and miles of grain cars or cars stacked 2 high with semi truck boxes! There was very little truck traffic on Rt 2 which was a relief after being on all those 2 lane winding roads in Washington state, crossing traffic with all those double trailered semis and log trucks! Down Rt 13 to pick up the intrastate Rt 94 and North Dakota was our only change in direction.

North Dakota faired just a bit better - the grasslands changed to sunflower fields and grain fields, some harvested and some still waiting. Only at the oasis of a small town were there any green trees. Bismarck is the state capital but the only part we explored was the Select Inn Motel and the American Steak Buffet across the highway!

Sunday morning and not only has the time changed but the season certainly has also! Yesterday was capri and short sleeve, sunny summer weather. This morning is heavy gray clouds, wet pavement and STRONG tailwinds. It’s definitely fall. No worries about sun in the eyes as we headed on our way - just ahead of the next storm! Due east we flew again and with the tailwind the gas mileage improved, too. H’s navigation system is pointed towards home now! He wants to sleep in his own bed – SOON! Rt 94 in Minnesota changed direction to southeast once we rounded the curve in the road just past Fargo. The colors at the edge of the road, out to the horizon changed to green grass and darker green trees and red barns! Yellow aspen changed to deep red sumac. The occasional vehicle or truck changed to a steady stream of traffic and then heavy traffic as we reached Minneapolis. The Mall of America just south of Minneapolis was the intended port of call for the afternoon. The bypass around to the south of Minneapolis itself was lined with shopping centers and we were heading for the BIGGIE! One of the parking garages was even bigger than the entire Franklin Park Mall in Toledo. We entered the mall at the Bloomingdale entrance on the 4th level of the mall but never did find Bloomingdale’s! We saw it from the pedestrian walkway tho!! We’ve been told that there was an amusement park on the lower level of the mall. Since it was a Sunday afternoon the Nickelodeon, Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues, SpongeBob Squarepants themed mega park was a cacophony of noise, electric colors, amazing rides and KIDS! Talk about sensory overload! There were roller coasters in orange, yellows, purples and lime green. A Demon Drop ride for bigger kids and one for the little ones also! ( I thought about Raegan!) A merry-go-round like the one at the Toledo Zoo and a ferris wheel almost as big as at Cedar Point! There was a swinging ride that was a mammoth skateboard where the passengers were in rotating seats that twirled around and around on top of the skateboard as the giant board swung high like a huge pendulum. AND – the Cedar Point ride that takes you straight up and then zooms straight down - - - it was there too! In bright turquoise! It reached almost to the glass windows in the ceiling! The food court was up on the 3rd level and we ate our Orange Chicken with chow mein from Panda Express at a table right by the railing overlooking the “park”, so we could watch the action below. We did not ‘shop” but we did walk some of the many levels, amazed at all the stairs, escalators and cross over walkways. The Mall of America needs a girlfriend to shop with – not H! We did go into Sears - does that count? Lola was confused with all the layers of the parking garage but she did catch up once we were back out on the street and we quickly wove thru traffic and back up onto the interstate. We made it over the Mississippi River into Wisconsin with fond memories about the start of our journey and our stay downriver in LaCrosse. Menomonie is one town west of Eau Claire and thanks to yet another traveler’s coupon we’ve got a place to “camp” for the night at one more Econo Lodge for a reasonable price. Monday we will see Michigan once more!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Westward Ho Eastbound





Westward Ho Eastbound

Our room at the Crown Motel was very nice and clean with pretty hardwood floors! The outside was a sunny yellow and the ½ dozen units on either side in the front all had cute little cement front porches with plastic chairs and a small table. Before we left town we took a few pictures of the lake with the road to Summerland and the yellow cliffs that we had gone by the evening before. Barbee and Terry live in such a gorgeous area! The orchards south of Penticton take up the entire valley and stretch out like Midwest cornfields! While we headed south to the US border, anticipating the stern, stoic customs agent demeanor that we had been warned about, I “strongly suggested” that H keep his sometimes sarcastic humor in check and JUST answer the agent’s questions. Did he, you ask? If you know H, you already know that answer. We were the 10th vehicle in line. One or two of them took a bit longer than the 2 or 3 normal questions. A small motorhome was even pulled over. Those nine vehicles took 10 minutes. It took us 5 minutes to get thru! Luckily, as she opened things, she left them strewn over the back interior of the van and nothing was removed to the pavement. Thankfully, we/I endured and off we drove south, safely back in the US of A. From British Columbia, across the corner of Washington, across the panhandle of Idaho and into Montana we drove. Libbey Montana is the Eagle City of Montana and I did see a lot of high nesting perches all along the way. The center of town has a hugh big statue of an eagle that hangs above the street! The time had changed but I was still tired!

Friday the 25th we passed thru the foothills and “Native American” areas before entering the gate at West Glacier National Park only to find out that the Road to the Sun was closed 16 miles up the road. We turned around and took the long route around the entire south end of the park on Rt 2. Another delightful road that we have never been on and it gave new beautiful views of the peaks and rivers and the ribbon of railroad track that clung to the side of the mountain or nestled in the valley next to the ever present babbling brook. Up the other side and we finally entered into East Glacier. The last time we were in the park was in 1997 on our way to Alaska and nothing that we saw on our way up this time looked familiar. Last time, the world there was much greener - this time the southeast area just across the lake was totally destroyed by fire and the devastation looked fairly recent. We had driven miles and miles thru acres and acres of tall, thin, gray and black sentinels waiting forlornly to be blown over. Once up at Logan’s Pass, the parking lot had a long row of porta johns lined up like toy soldiers, as the visitor center was just as closed as the road at its feet! Coming back down from the top, the memories of our past trips, finally came back to us - the square chunks of boulders at the edge of the roadway instead of guardrails, the trickling waterfalls that dribbled under the roadway before seeping down the valley below, the magnificent deep dark blue St Mary’s Lake and her dainty island in the middle! The receding glaciers on the far jagged peaks! This time we passed thru big patches of yellow golden aspens with faded white or soft pink wildflowers at their feet or waving at us from the sides of the road as we sped downhill. There was less water in the streams now and more curves in the narrow almost 2 lane road. This time we (almost) ran into cattle on the roadway and several tourists taking pictures of some grazing horses next to the roadway! 50 miles east of the park the land is flat and mostly golden or tan, but you can still see the rise of the majestic mountain range behind us! I remember that view from years past! Just east of a “Native American” area and we are parked at another unusual “out west” motel! Saturday morning will be into the sun again!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Westward Ho British Columbia





Westward Ho British Columbia

Today is Wednesday evening. It’s been a fast 2 days! We left Port Angeles and headed into the morning sun – the first time on our journey that we’ve had to look into the sun coming up in the EAST! Today we were heading to Bellingham Washington as our last stop before we head for Vancouver BC. H chose to take the Seattle bypass, which took us up the peninsula on Rt 20 to Port Townsend where we put the van on a 50 vehicle ferry and took it for a boat ride. On the island we headed north up the island thru several historic/tourist towns and stopped for lunch in Oak Harbor! Zorba’s proved a good choice with a delicious combination of a gyro (H had beef and I had lamb!) and a Greek salad. At the north end of the island was a picturesque bridge, high up on opposite cliffs joining the island to the mainland at a spot called Deception Pass. In the NE distance was a beautiful view of a snow-capped mountain that we used as a compass to guide us the rest of the way to Bellingham. It was Mt Baker and is 10,000 plus ft elevation! In Bellingham we stayed at a very large, very nice Econo Lodge and then took some time to explore the downtown, the waterfront and then walked thru the biggest mall in the area where the Canadians come down to shop. We were looking for our daily fix of ice cream and they had a McD’s in the food court!

Today, Wednesday we were crossing the US/Canadian border at the Peace Arch at 9am. The very nice young man at the customs booth asked H what he doing in that area and H said that when we pulled out of the driveway at home, we were going to Nova Scotia but made a wrong turn. The fella LAUGHED!! Good thing, eh??!! But he did know that we were in Victoria just the day or so before - computers and passports!! On to Vancouver and straight downtown to where the 2010 Winter Olympic ceremonies are going to be held. There is lots and lots of new building going on all around the Canada Place Convention Center. Down in that part of the harbor is the seaplane docking area and a bunch of planes were landing and taking off – possibly going to the Inner Harbor at Victoria. Thru downtown and out thru Stanley Park, over another pretty bridge to West Vancouver to a park on the north side with a view of the bay, river and distant lighthouse. Up and onto Rt 1, completed the circle via North Vancouver. Back across the only expressway bridge and we were out of town. Mt Baker was on our south side now and we are really heading east. Each group of mountain ranges that we’ve crossed or drove thru has had it’s own personality. From Vancouver to Hope and then from Hope on Rt 3 to
Keremeos was no exception. Sometimes when the sun was behind the range of peaks and layers of opposing valleys, there was layer on layer of shades of purple/blue haze getting lighter and lighter the farther away they were. As we passed from one to the other, the pines, and cliffs and rough bare jagged outcropping of rocks came into clear view. In the flat valleys were orchards of apples and peaches next to rows of vegetables and patches of pumpkins and squash and then vineyards of grapes and of course the wineries that go with them.

North out of Penticton to Summerland the 4 lane highway wound between yellow cliffs and the 80-mile long Okanagan Lake. We tried to call our friends Barbee and Terry on H’s cell phone but even after we pulled in their driveway and rang the doorbell (cell phone in hand) we still had NO bars!! Hugs all around and our friendships were quickly renewed while sipping Black Currant Tea (me!) and her pretty red wine on their back deck. The road to their home winds up and around thru orchards and vineyards and the view from the deck is phenomenal! Barbee pointed where the past forest fires scalped the sides of the mountains, answered questions about the gauze covered grapes in the distance and explained about the small apple trees growing in ladder trained shapes in tight lines like vines on fences. H and Terry chatted about the lake and their trailers. It was good to see sweet little Charlie (the elderly little dog that we made diapers for in Florida) and we met their charcoal gray cat, Shade. Then all too soon it was time to head back down the road and find a place to park for the night. Penticton was the town and the spot we chose was the Crown Motel – right across from the beach. Once settled we took our evening stroll on the sidewalk lined with benches along the beach and back on the street side past open-air restaurants and other “resorts”. Thursday we’ll see the area a bit better in the daylight before heading south to the border.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Westward Ho Victoria






Westward Ho Victoria

Who needs an alarm clock when you have H?! We had the van parked and were one of the 1st to see the travel agent at the visitor center and booked our room at the Huntingdon Inn just one block from the ferry docks out on the island. We were on the first crossing from Port Angeles to Victoria that day! Our trip over was on the Victoria Express (the red boat in the picture) and the trip back was on the Coho Vehicle and Passenger ferry (the BIG gray boat!). The Huntingdon can be seen in the picture with the seaplane at the dock. It is the immense expanse of white building across the water, just above the gray building pictured on the dock. The Huntingdon is also listed on the historic register along with her sister buildings which are a bed & breakfast and a restaurant. Seaplane tours was a very popular attraction and there was a plane taking off, right out thru the entry channel, every few minutes during the day. The little green boat also at that dock is the Harbor Ferry boat that was both a shuttle and tour boat. There was a big bunch of those little water beetles! Yes, H wants one for Wamplers Lake. The Empress Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Victoria and is adjoined by the convention center. Yes, it also has a beautiful garden! EVERYWHERE in Victoria there is a beautiful garden. The Parliament building is right around the corner of the harbor from the Empress but unfortunately it was closed on Sunday. We found a cute little cafĂ©, tucked into the corner of an old square that was a passageway between two buildings and had a delightful breakfast and conversation with the owner/chef, Suzy. Up and down the old streets, in and out of shops, a mini Eaton Center Mall, a Sunday marketplace and up and down the steps of the Empress, the Parliament and around the busy harbor which was lined with native people selling their wares and crafts. H’s feet, legs and back gave out before mine and we rested back at our very comfortable room. Once rested it was off again to walk to the Fisherman’s Wharf that was an odd collection of houses, shacks, fishing boats and tourist shops all floating and moored to creaking docks. Barb’s Fish and Chips served up a tasty basket of fish and fries which we gobbled up while sitting at a picnic table on the dock watching the Harbor water beetles come and go along with a lot of people and their pets. The buildings down at the harbor were lit up at night but our body clocks are still on Toledo time and it’s 3 hours difference here so we never saw them.

The 100-year-old Butchart Gardens is also a National Historic Site and we took the public transit buses to get there Monday morning. The garden is 13 miles from Victoria and covers 55 acres. The Butcharts took a worked out limestone quarry and turned it into a mixture of rare and exotic shrubs, trees and flowers collected during their extensive world travels. There is a sunken garden, a Japanese garden, a rose garden, a dahlia garden, a shade garden, a greenhouse, a Star pond, an Italian Garden, the original residence of the Bucharts, switchback stairs, winding brick pathways, ponds, fountains, scenic overlooks, numerous benches to rest and try to take in the all the views, bronze statues and FLOWERS! All kinds, colors and shades of the rainbow from the palest pinks and yellows to the most vibrant reds, oranges and deep purples! Annuals and perennials! Every shape and size of dahlia (some that even I have at home!) and roses – has to be every named rose in every catalog! Back on the bus and back downtown in time to purchase tickets for our afternoon “cruise” on the Coho - back across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles. As always, H wanted to be down inside where it was warm and out of the wind but I spent most of my time up on the top deck! As usual, H’s eyes caught the sight of the seals and the whales and by the time my eyes found the spot where they were - - they weren’t. Back on shore, in the USA, we moved quickly thru customs and across the street to the patiently waiting van. We had unplugged the small refrigerator that we take with us on trips and had filled it with ice while we were to be gone. It was no surprise that the interior of the van was very warm since it had been a sunny day and no sun visor in the front windshield. It was a very great surprise to find that the refrig, now just a cooler, still had a good-sized chunk of ice in it and our milk was still cold! We returned back to the same Riviera Motel for the night and preparations for the next days journey ahead!

Saturday, September 19, 2009