The CIRCLE HAS CLOSED and I’M SAD

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We are back home on the Island.  We’ve been here since the first week of March.  The cooler weather was a definite shock to our system… yuck.. back to damp clothes.. but yay.. back to the smell of the sea.

People have been asking what the best part of the trip was. You know what I tell them?  I tell them that the best part was just “doing it”..

We had a dream, we hatched a plan, we started driving and here we are.  It feels weird to have driven so far and now we are back where we started.  25,000 km (15,000 miles) and here we are back home again.

So why am I sad?

I’m sad because my sister died a few weeks after we got back from our trip.  She wasn’t feeling well when we left, and throughout the last year she didn’t get any better.  Every month or so another symptom, more medication changes, more unanswered questions, more pain.  She did everything you would expect a sick person to do.  She saw her doctor regularily, she took the medicines they said would make her feel better, she took all the blood tests, scans, MRI’s.  And she died.  She’s gone.  And she’s not coming back and I’M SAD about that.

We took our trip, we crossed it off our bucket list and we have awesome and fun memories from the last year.  The scenery, the stories, the food, the accents, the people, they all added value to the experience.

I guess I can get philosophical and say that this is an example and a reminder of why we should do what we want to do, do it now, because tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.  This is true, very true and it’s good advice to follow.  But I’m still sad, that I missed her last year here.  She didn’t want me to stay, she wanted me to go, but I am still sad.  The CIRCLE HAS CLOSED, our family circle has another hole in it and I’m sad.

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The desert isn’t always Flat and Dry.

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One of many Saguero Cactus near Mesa, Arizona.

We’ve been in the desert now since Christmas.  We’ve been in Mesa where we visited my Uncle Al and Aunt Jean.  We travelled on freeways and other state roads and seen roadrunners, coyotes, and a bobcat.  Different types of cactus appear as you go up in elevation and disappear and change as you descend.

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Along the Salt River near Mesa, Arizona.

 

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Along the Salt River in Arizona.

There are mountains here, more than you would expect.  They have cool names:  The Superstition Mountains (Mesa), Picacho Mountain (Casa Grande), Black Mountains (Oatman) and the Chocolate Mountains (Parker).  There are 194 mountain ranges in the state.  There are lakes created by dams along the Colorado and Salt Rivers.  We’ve seen boats in marina’s along the lakes and rivers and we know there are places to fish in the summer here.

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Mammoth in the rock along Canyon Lake, Arizona.

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Canyon Lake, Arizona.

 

We haven’t done a huge number of tourist attractions (and there are many here).  I guess we are kind of “touristed out” after all our travelling.  We have been to Oatman and seen the burro’s, taken the Dolly boat ride on Canyon Lake, driven to Tortilla Flats and saw the fountain shoot over 500feet in Fountain Hills, and visited The Pima Air & Space Museum all while in Arizona.  There is lots to do here and it sure is nice to be warm and dry.  I miss the green and blues of Campbell River, but I don’t miss the grey winter rain.  We will be home on Vancouver Island in 30 days.  Hard to believe our circle is almost complete!

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at Tortilla Flats, Arizona.

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The Fountain in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Making a Bee-Line to Arizona

It’s hard to believe that it’s time to leave Florida now.

Bye bye beach fishing for pompano, black drum, red drum, whitings and blue runners.  I’m going to miss waiting for you to hit my line.

Bye bye white squeaky sand beaches that stretch for miles and miles.

Bye bye to all the “southerners” (real and transplanted), we loved how friendly you were, what courteous drivers you are and how polite everyone is.

We are making a bee-line to Mesa, Arizona so that we can spend Christmas with my Aunt and Uncle.  We spent 6 weeks in Texas a few years ago, we were in Houston, Galveston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Austin so will basically make a couple of pit stops on our way north and west to Arizona.

First stop was Biloxi, Mississippi.  It is a beautiful small city that has been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and is still recovering.  I saw lots of damaged piers and empty lots along the sea shore and beach highway.  I found The Old Brick House and gravitated towards this MASSIVE oak tree in the back yard.  It was amazing.  Majestic.  Historic in it’s own way.  How old it must be.  Who used you for shade?  Who climbed on you?  What conversations took place under your limbs, leaves and branches?

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I parked down by the Visitors Centre, walked the beach, strolled thru Lighthouse Park and listened to the kids playing on the swings.  Watched the traffic on the Beach Highway negotiate around the Lighthouse that was there long before the road was built.

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Lighthouse in the middle of the beach highway in Biloxi.

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Statue of French Canadian Explorer Pierre d’Iberville outside the Visitors Centre in Biloxi.

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A storm damaged pier in Biloxi.

 

After leaving Biloxi we pointed the nose of the truck towards San Antonio and we were off.

We overnighted in Beaux Bridge, Louisianna and went for dinner at Crawfish USA.  We ate everything “Cajun” on the menu:  oysters, catfish, crawfish, frog legs, crab, shrimp, bread pudding.  I also stopped at the market there and bought cracklins and supplies to make gumbo.

Next evening we landed in Beaumont, Texas.  Didn’t think we were going to make it there safely as we drove thru a thunderstorm that wiped out our visibility and slowed freeway speeds from 75MPH to 45MPG.  I left permanent imprints of my hands and fingernails on the steering wheel.  Not much fun.  It continued to rain thru the night with temperatures in the 40’s F.

Get ready to be entertained:  Now remember it’s been pelting rain and lightening and thundering for the last hour.  2 ladies in a 4 door truck pulling a 30ft travel trailer pulled in beside us.  Lady #1 is unhooking the trailer, putting down jacks etc.  It’s still raining lightly.  Lady #2 opens the door of the truck and this BIG DOG jumps out of the truck, takes 4 steps thru the puddle and jumps back in the truck.

Lady #2 Opens back passenger door (bpd)

Dog jumps in to front passenger seat.

Lady #2 closes bpd – opens fpd.

Dog jumps  in to back passenger seat.

Lady closes fpd and opens bpd

Dog jumps in to front passenger seat

Lady outsmarts the dog (finally) by leaving BOTH doors open.

Dog jumps over to the drivers side of the truck.

Dog 1 – Lady 0.

Lady #1 arrives to help with dog extraction.

Dog bounces back and forth a few more times until he gets too close to Lady #1 who yards him out of the truck by his collar for the win!!

It continued to rain thru the night with temperatures in the 40’s F.  We got up in the morning and continued our trek towards San Antonio.  We drove thru rain all day, but not as heavy as the day before and successfully negotiated 7 lanes of traffic thru Houston, stopped in Schulenberg, Texas for the night.  We were only 100 miles to San Antonio but we are in no hurry to get there (The Riverwalk isn’t going anywhere..)  As we approached San Antonio we got caught up in a 2 hour traffic jam because a car-hauler broke in half and scattered cars all over the highway.

Not everyone has the patience to sit in traffic for that long.  We saw a young Texan who looked like he decided to drive thru a ditch / median and on to an adjacent highway.  Well, he ditched his truck in the weeds and caused lots of damage to his front end.  Not sure how he’s going to explain that to his insurance company!  The temperatures remained cool and well I might as well use the word COLD – it freakn snowed in the late evening.  YES!  SNOWED!.   Very unusual, but it does happen occasionally.

We’ve been to San Antonio before so we didn’t visit the Alamo this time, but we did go down to the Riverwalk in the evening and took the Christmas Light Tour on one of the boats that go back and forth on the Riverwalk.  Very festive.

We have 2 more days of driving to get to Carlsbad, New Mexico.  We will break the trip in half with an overnight stay in Fort Stockton, Texas.  This is one big State, that’s for certain.  We already miss the southern hospitality.  Texans are not near as friendly as their neighbours to the south and they certainly drive more aggressively too.  I feel like I’m back in red-neck country.

We visited Carlsbad Caverns more than 20 years ago and we were so impressed by it that we decided to stop in for another visit on this trip.  When we walked in I was impressed and in awe all over again.  It is amazing, beautiful, the size of the caverns, the different formations, your eyes travel around, up and over.  You have to go there, you just have to add it to your list of things to see if you are in that corner of New Mexico.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Next stop:  Mesa, Arizona.  Get to spend time with the relatives.. YAY!!

Are you a Boondocker or a Resorter?

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Before we started RV’ing we travelled a bit to different places.  When in Mexico, Belize or Thailand we chose to stay in places that were a bit more rustic.  Gaps in the walls, holes in the window screens, basic shelters with handmade furniture, a stove, a sink and rusty appliances.  We’ve travelled to cities in the USA, stayed in Paris, London, Barcelona and Lisbon at places that I refer to as “Brass and Glass”.. they have all the fancy staff, stuff, and all the amenities.

How do you travel?

How do you RV?

Are you a Boondocker who choses to stay in places that are out of the way, a bit rustic, are you comfortable without electricity, wifi and tv?

OR

Are you a Resorter who prefers swimming pools, hot tubs, hot showers, laundry, free cable tv and wifi?

Us?

We’ve certainly tried a bit of each on this trip and stayed at Campgrounds and RV Parks that are a bit of both.

  We’ve overnighted at farms that raised alpaca’s, goats, lambs, or chickens.  We’ve visited wineries in Canada and the USA and tasted wine and bought a few to take with us on the road.  We’ve overnighted in a few driveways of people who are kind, inquisitive and generous with their time and made us feel so welcome.

We’ve been in RV parks that have dirt roads, gravel roads, or paved roads, we’ve dealt with roots, ruts and steep sites from back to front, more often than not the sites are level.  We’ve been in public showers and bathrooms that are spotless, with perfect hot water and great water pressure, and some that are none of the above.  Laundry room machines that function and are spotless., and some that aren’t.

Both choices have their charm and place in any road trip.  It all depends on how you like to roll!

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Alpaca at Wildwood Alpaca’s in Woodford, Virginia.

4 Haircuts!

6 months on the road, we’ve packed and pulled over 12,000 miles and I’ve had 4 haircuts

messy hair1.

My first hair cut was in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.  The lady that cut my hair had short short spiky hair and loved her job, loved meeting people and my haircut was kind of like hers.  Short, Spiky and FUN,  and off I went.

Up to that point of the trip we had left the rainy west coast and travelled to Ft St John in northern BC and visited my family.  We packed and pulled our way thru friends and relatives in Alberta, Saskatchewan and finally across the prairies to Winnipeg and in to norther Ontario.  The weather was rainy, sunny, windy, rainy and sunny in that order every 3 days or so.  We travelled over the Canadian shield full of rocks, trees and views of Lake Superior every once in awhile.  The bugs were bad but not vicious like we were expecting.

2.

My second hair cut was in Miramichi, New Brunswick.  The lady that cut my hair and long shoulder length hair and she was the owner of the business.  She loved our story of what we were doing, she would LOVE to travel but had other responsibilities: her business, her family, her aging parents.  She had a lot going on in her life, but took the time to cut my hair in the style I requested, not too short, not too long,  and off I went.

Up to that point in the trip we visited more family and friends in Ontario, took a side trip to the Queens Plate Horse Race and Niagara Falls too.  We packed and pulled our way thru Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, around The Gaspe Peninsula and crossed the border in to New Brunswick.  We ate lobster poutine, and bought our own lobster and boiled it up.  The French know how to cook EVERYTHING!!  Gravy, sauces, lobster pizza, Danish, smoked meat, bread, cheese and you can buy beer and wine in the grocery stores which was a nice change from Ontario where we had to drive around and find a BEER STORE and then find a Liquor Store if you wanted wine.

3.

My third hair cut was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The lady that cut my hair was sitting around doing nothing when I asked if she had time to cut my hair.  She didn’t look real excited to be put to work, didn’t seem excited about hearing about our travel plans and had to cut my hair twice because she didn’t cut it short enough the first time.  Cut, Chop, Hack, blah, boring, blah, and off I went.


Up to that point of our arrival in Myrtle Beach, we had packed and pulled our way across New Brunswick.  Fished for bass on the Miramichi River and on to Shediac, NB where we fished for mackerel off the pier.  We bought lobster from a lobster fisherman.  We travelled across the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.  Bought more lobster and made our first lobster boil with PEI potatoes and corn.  We found our way to Baddeck, Nova Scotia and drove the Cabot Trail.  We went to Sydney, NS and bent our backs over and explored a coal mine (what a horrible way to make a living).  We drove to Halifax and St John’s and drove the coastline along Peggy’s Cove.  We crossed back in to New Brunswick and visited a friend in Moncton and drove out to Hopewell Rocks.  From there we made our way to Saint John, sat in the sun and waited out our time to cross the border in to the US.  We then got BIG and BUSY by visiting Bar Harbor, Maine, Boston, New York, Atlantic City and Washington, DC.  There’s some big cities in that list and crap are they BIG, they also come with BIG traffic, busy freeways, lots of stressfull packing and pulling.  That’s a lot of places and lots of days passing by and I’m complaining about my hair and how awful it feels, like it got chopped and hacked by someone who wasn’t excited about her life.

4.

My fourth hair cut was in Panama City Beach, Florida where we are now.  The fellow that cut my hair is a widower, he and his wife worked together in their shop at their house for more than 30 years.  He now lives and works alone.  His wife just passed away a few months ago.  He was sad and seemed lost, not quite sure what he was going to do all by himself.  He has lots of time on his hands and he carefully cut my hair, the first time, and it was just the right amount of short.  Except for the back of my head, where I feel a bit like a boy.. haha.   He started out with a razor of some kind and zipped up the back of my head to start.  It wasn’t what I was expecting but I love how my hair feels, I can’t feel it poking around which is just how I like it and off I went.

Up to our arrival in Panama City Beach we packed and pulled our way thru South Carolina.  We boondocked overnight at a Alpaca Farm where I bought the softest fluffiest Alpaca socks (to wear when we get back to Canada).  We overnighted at a Winery (the people are so freakin friendly in the south).  Did the city tour of Charleston, roamed the beaches, watched the fisherman on the pier.  Boondocked at a couples house near Brunswick, Georgia.  They were so friendly, so welcoming, we wished we could have stayed longer.  They were awesome, their friends were awesome.  We stayed at a farm in Monticello, Florida where they raise sheep, goats and chickens.  The farm has towering oak trees covered in spanish moss – so peaceful there.  You’ve heard about “southern charm?”, it is alive and well and practiced in these parts for sure.  Yes Maam it is.  It is truly heart warming!

Washington, DC – the 2 M’s

How do you decide what to do in DC?

Museums?

Monuments?

You can do both, but you can’t do it all in 5 days I’ll tell you that much.   Much like it was in Montreal we took the bus to the train, and the train in to the City.  I loved DC, it’s clean with wide streets, the traffic wasn’t insane, the drivers didn’t seem overly aggressive (like the whole province of Quebec), the streets weren’t filled with honking horns (like New York City).  The history, the monuments, the museums, the overwhelming size of the buildings.  The Capitol Building, The Archives, The Department of Justice, The FBI, The Pentagon, The Smithsonian, and on and on.

 

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The Memorials were impressive:  The FDR Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial Wall, The Korean War Memorial and on and on.

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Martin Luther King Jr’s Memorial in DC with a tourist in the frame to give the photo scale.

 

Our favorite was Franklin D Roosevelt’s.  It’s located next to the Jefferson Memorial and near Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial as well.  FDR’s memorial has no stairs and is wheelchair accessible as you would assume it should be.  It is a large open space with statues of him, his wife Eleanor and their dog, a Scottish terrior named Fala.

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The Soup Kitchen statue at the FDR Memorial in DC. Oct-2017.

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On the wall at FDR Memorial in Washington, DC.

 

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Want to drive in DC? Just pick a lane and go!

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Watching over the Capitol Building and the White House in DC.

 

New York City – Squares and Circles…

I was so excited about our trip to New York City.  It’s been a part of the trip planning since the trip plan began.  Who DOESN’T want to go to New York City?

First step was to find a place to park the RV – that turned out to be an easy decision after we saw a UTube video of a couple on the Looong Honeymoon describe their stay at Liberty Harbor Marina RV Park in Jersey City.  The location is excellent and that is it’s attraction.  It is basically some RV spaces in a parking lot at the Marina.  Gravel pads, electricity and water and a sewer dump on site.  A building with showers and toilets in one corner.  Nothing fancy, but we weren’t planning on sitting around the trailer.. we are talking NEW YORK!!

Driving in to Liberty Harbor and Jersey City was a nightmare for me.  I took up two lanes on some narrow bridge and blocked all the traffic behind me (But like Randy said afterwards ‘no one was honking at you, so it was no big deal’).  Then I got to an intersection under a overpass and was in the wrong lane to go straight thru so I put on my signal light and did another one of my patented “tourist turns” while holding up everyone behind me who wanted to turn right and couldn’t because I was waiting for traffic to clear so I could continue in a straight line.  (still no honking – such polite New Yorkers).  I managed to negotiate thru road construction barrels, squished my way past a bus and navigated narrow bumpy streets to our destination.  No scratches, dents and only a few swear words were heard.

There is a water taxi that runs between the park and Manhatten ( once again location, location, location ).  The cost is $6.50 per person per trip.  It runs in the morning until 9:45 and then begins again in the evening at 4:15 until 9PM.  So you are limited to extended night time stays in the city if that is your mode of travel and when you go over in the morning you are now in NY City all day.  There is a train (the Path) which runs over to NY but we never bothered to figure out it’s path or the schedule.  We heard that the Taxi’s don’t like to go over to Jersey because then they inevitably have to return empty to NYC.  We could have used Uber I suppose, but didn’t try that either.  You can tell we aren’t much for partying with the night owls.. haha.

New York City is HUGE!  It’s MASSIVE! It’s just like you would imagine after seeing it on TV and reading about it.  I discovered quite quickly that it is impossible to capture New York City in a photograph or many photographs.  How can you capture what your eye can see, in a picture?

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A small piece of New York City as seen from the observation tower at the Empire State Building – Sep 2017.

 

It’s a city of Squares & Circles and much more:

Times Square and Union Square (which aren’t really square in shape), the Memorial Pools at the 911 Memorial (which are squares).  Madison Square Garden – is a round arena with a rectangle for a rink.  You get the idea of what I’m saying.  Columbus Circle, traffic circles, archways and angles of the World Trade Centre and Brookfield Place on Vesey Street.  I will include a few pictures that I took that show the complex shapes and overall feel of how BIG the City really is.  I would go back any time and see, walk, eat and be entertained.  What a great City!

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Brookfield Place shopping centre and commercial offices near the 911 Memorial in New York City.

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Reflections around Bookfield Place, with the World Trade Centre spire in the background. New York Sep-2017.

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A piece of the Memorial Wall at the 911 Memorial in New York City.

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A reflection of New York buildings in the water of the 911 Memorial in New York City.