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!

Amazing Race – New York

   We participated in our own version of “Amazing Race NYork”, and let me tell you this: it was NOT fun.  Here’s the story:

We had been in NY City all day, close to 9 hours in total, we arrived at the Pier at around 7PM for our return trip to the RV site and there are flashing police lights, motorcycle cops, armed members of the police and helicopters circling the harbor above us.  What is going on?  We have NO idea, so we join some guys at the railing over looking the harbor and we are treated to a futuristic vision of the Osprey tilt-rotor Marine One Helicopter as it lifted off with you know who aboard.

Yes, it was President Trump!

I thought it was fantastic seeing the Osprey lift straight up off the deck, then the rotors tilted and away they went.  2 Ospreys lifted off, one is a decoy.

Cool right?

That was until we discovered that the whole harbor was now shut down for the evening and we are STUCK on the wrong side.  It’s dark, we don’t know the City and the poor young man giving us the bad news is obviously overwhelmed.  He tells us that there is another ferry that goes across to Jersey (that’s good news), we ask him where it leaves from and he points and says “over there”.  (that’s bad news).

Where is over there?

What is over there called?

How far away is over there?

He doesn’t know the answer, just keeps pointing towards NYC.  We find a friendly police man who doesn’t know where “over there” is either.  Seriously?  are you kidding?  (nope, he’s not kidding) (that’s bad news).  Ok, we will flag a cab, except that is impossible because the streets have been closed down by the pier for hours and no one is going anywhere.  We proceed to walk “over there” for a couple of blocks, hop in a cab and ask him to take us to the ferry terminal.  He has NO CLUE where it is, what it is, how to get us there.  Seriously?  Are you kidding?  (nope, he’s not kidding) (that’s bad news).  He eventually manages to contact someone who knows where “over there” is and when he gets there, he drops us off.

Phew..

Where is the terminal?

What is the terminal called?

We can’t see anything anywhere, we are surrounded by office buildings.  We frantically run up to a couple and ask them for directions.  They point us towards the water and say it’s “over there”, just follow the water.  We walk and walk and walk some more and still haven’t seen anything but we can see Jersey City off in the distance so we know we are kind of in the right place.  We stop another person and they tell us to keep following the water and we will see it.  We got there with 3 minutes to spare and ran on to the boat.  (good news).

So what’s the bad news?

We get dropped off at a different terminal which is about a mile from the RV Park.  That would be ok if we had been there before or if it was daylight out (but it’s NOT).  We don’t exactly know how to get to the park but we sort of know its “over there”.. we twist and turn and eventually find our way back to Liberty Harbor.  Stressed, tired, sore feet, but we made it back.

Boston Brown

 

After crossing the border we spent a few days in Bar Harbor, Maine.  What a great seaside town to wander around in.  It’s small on size, but big on tourism.  Cruise ships, restaurants everywhere, tourist trinkets, tshirts, and streets busy with people, so much fun there.  Lobster pounds, BBQ pits and more lobster.  Very similar to eastern Canada which is only a couple of hours away.  The trees are shedding their colors and will soon shed their leaves.  Awesome scenery as we drive to our different campgrounds.

Next stop was Boston.  We stayed at The Minuteman Campground (which is the closest campground to Boston).  You can tell we are not “city folk” as we were kind of shocked when we found out “closest” still means 2 hrs away (give or take) by public transport.  Drive, park, catch the train and return in rush hour traffic which the locals say starts around 4PM but you couldn’t really tell by me.  Holy crap is it busy on the roads.  There’s a good reason I have never lived in a major urban area.  NO THANKS!

Boston is brown, brick brown, red brick, brown brick brown.  It is not a brass and glass city like Vancouver or Toronto.  Rough streets, exposed man hole covers, road construction, old trains, old subway tunnels that need to be cleaned up a tad.  It has the feel of a working man’s city.  Very serious vibe, maybe the fact that is was windy and rainy added to the mood.  We took the Old Towne Trolley Tour which is a great way to see the sights, have a beer at Cheers, go to Quincy Market, or the site of the Boston Tea Party, follow the Freedom Trail, eat chowder, eat cheesecake, just eat something.  Don’t let the color fool you, there’s lots to see and do in this city!

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Busy Boston intersection.

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Boston brick and ornate clock at Quincy Market.

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Boston lights.

Napa Valley “Old Faithful Geyser”

This brings back memories of a trip we took with Bruce and Shelly to Napa when I first met my husband. We drove up to this barren looking “Tourist Attraction” with a bare parking lot and a ticket booth offering a look at this “Old Faithful Geyser”.. we sceptically pulled out $10 each to drive in the parking area and park. We sat beside a dilapidated picnic table and waited for something that we were pretty sure WAS NOT going to be worth $40… we waited, made jokes about how lame this geyser was going to be as we stared at a small pipe hole in the ground.. some of the comments were less than positive. Then we heard the noise of approaching water and as we watched it shoot out of the ground. It more or less looked exactly like this picture.. I guess the impressive part was how long the geyser continued to release this tower of water. Was it worth $40? Probably not.. but the memory is priceless.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/california-s-old-faithful