People You Meet, Books You Read.
We crossed into the States from British Columbia after passing through the delightfully named Chilliwack. We were once again given the “going over” at the USA Customs and immigration. The No.1 routine question “Have you got any Oranges”? The No. 2 question is “Does it float”? Referring of course to Wiggy. This particular officer wanted to have a look inside. More out of curiosity (I think!) than what we may be bringing into the States. We still had approximately 25 Kilo of Halibut we caught in Alaska but no questions re. bulk foods being carried. Now this guy was big, 2 proverbial axe handles at the shoulders. He had to climb into Wiggy sideways!
Funny, but quantity of alcohol being taken into the US usually gets asked about. Why? We have no idea because alcohol in Canada costs much more than in the US.
Given the all clear. South we headed to Bellingham, where we had arranged to pick up our new propane stove we had ordered Online and which we first saw at the Overland Expo we attended in Arizona. Stainless Steel and alloy, easy and practical to use. Best we had ever seen.
Our road trip from Bellingham was to St Johns, Newfoundland, some 7500 km’s away, we estimated that with deviations we would travel some 12000kms. (it turned out that our actual journey would cover some 14200km’s.
We had intended to take our Easterly Route through the North Cascades Nat. Park but some pretty intense bush fires had closed the roads in that area, so we took the Southern Route through the Cascades, albeit driving through horrible smoke which would ultimately affect us for some hundreds of kilometres more.
Travelling this path took us through some absolutely beautiful farming country with miles upon miles of stone fruit, pear orchards and farm markets dotted along the roadway. We wondered if the smoke would devastate these crops and make them unusable, as it does grapes for the wine industry stinging eyes and sore throats we came to the town of Leavenworth. Totally bizarre concept but the whole town is a Bavarian village! Beautifully executed with tourism the principal reason. The plan to redesign the rural town was developed during a major financial downturn in the areas economy in the 1980’s by the local community to change the direction of the town so it would survive.
Throughout the US we have found that the change in landscape and scenery across all States to be awesome (in the real sense of the word), and Washington State is no exception, rolling, tree covered hills with highways nestled into valleys running parallel to the superb fast and often white water rivers. We crossed the Missouri River and we entered into Lands that were set aside for the native communities, “Reserves”. Our route took us once again through Missoula, Montana. another landscape change with rolling hills sometimes tree covered other times seas of waving green grass. It was Missoula that we passed through travelling North some 3 months before, heading ultimately to Alaska.
Butte, Montana was an overnight stop for us. It was here that “Evil Knieval” was born and that the local Judge had called him Evil on one of his many appearances in his court!
On this route eastwards, we took the opportunity of meeting with friends who we met on our previous journey to Yellowstone NP. Their home looking out across magnificent Absaroka Mountains, they pointed out underground bunkers that had been built in the 1980’s by the Cult Religion “Church Universal and Triumphant”, who believed their “leader” talked to Angels and that armageddon was to take place in the 1990’s. These bunkers were equipped to house some hundreds of the cult followers for months following the predicted catastrophic event. Families belonging to the cult sold everything, dedicated their whole life savings to the cause. The catastrophe obviously didn’t happen. Cult members still live in the area, but their leader is now hospitalised. New prophets have risen to take her place claiming that the Angels now speak to them!
On our last visit to this area we attempted to travel the Bear Tooth Highway North East of Yellowstone NP, which is a designated “All American Highway” and considered to be the No.1 Scenic Route in the US. The road rose to over 10,000ft over 12 miles with switchbacks and dangerous “drop offs”. Fabulous scenery. Maximum 2nd gear all the way up and down the 13% inclines and declines on the Bear Tooth.
The site of the Battle Of Little Big Horn was not far into the Wyoming Border so a visit was also another one to cross off the “Bucket List” A fabulous visit to the Monument site. Another treachery delivered to the American Indians was the cause of this battle. Although they came out the victors, within 2 years they had become a defeated nation.
The next couple of days was like a trip into the Film Archives with Devil Mountain, which was the main feature of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. Deadwood, famous for “Calamity Jane” and Wild Bill Hickok legendary tales.
The Pinnacles NP, along with the Badlands of Dakota, for Western Films and the “wild west town” of Keystone.
Just 2 miles further on from Keystone is Mt Rushmore featuring Mountain sculptures of 4 of the USA’s past presidents. Nearby Crazy Horse is also a mountain Sculpture currently being worked on with an expected completion date of some 250 years! It is an absolutely huge undertaking and will represent the First Nations significant historical contribution to America. The sculptor who began it was Polish, and well regarded, and not one cent of public money (taxes) has been used to fund it, as he set up a trust which his family now run. They all have a hands on role with the emergence of Crazy Horse on his mount emerging out of a huge mountain. Spectacular.
Also in South Dakota in the town of Watertown, we toured the Terry Redlin Art Gallery and saw fabulous works from this artist who has been voted Americas Favourite many times.
We camped for a couple of very wet nights at Red Wings, Wisconsin. Home to the famous shoe manufactures. So much rain fell over one night that we actually sank into the ground. The Max tracks we carry just for this type of situation afforded us no proper grip so it was another instance where we had to winch our selves free. There is a hill that overlooks Red Wing Township and gives a pretty nice view of the Mississippi River as it flows through the town. Bald Eagles are a common sight along these waters “in season” but here you can see them year round thanks to the warm water outpour from the Nuclear Power Station sitting on the banks of this wonderful river.
Pushing east we made the decision to pass the Great Lakes to the south and take in Chicago with its’ lovely downtown area. A highlight was Chicago’s’ wonderful art gallery. Impossible to even guess at the value of art works, with Monets, Renoirs, Picasso’s and Remington’s bronze sculptures. The Chicago art gallery is home to “American Gothic” by Grant Wood, which is tribute to the American pioneering spirit.
Chicagos’ old rail and transport area fronting Lake Michigan has been transformed into many beautiful acres of gardens featuring Anish Kapoor’s reflective sculpture “The Clouds” more affectionally known as “The Jelly Bean”, and the wonderful Buckingham Fountain.
We could have so easily spent a couple more days in this lovely city but we knew bad weather was imminent and left in torrential rains which stayed with us till we entered again into Canadian Territory North of Detroit on route to visit Niagara Falls to view from the “preferred’ Canadian side. We had 2 days of grey, cloudy and rainy days but the day we were due to leave we had glorious sunshine to showcase the magnificent Falls. 2nd only to the “Ultra Magnificent” Iguazu Falls in Brazil, (In my opinion).
Into Toronto! Wiggy had a service, Pen did battle with the Apple store and Telus again and after a long trip into the CBD on a train, left having accomplished absolutely nothing regarding our communications, or lack of them.
We had confusion regarding an opportunity for bell ringing at the beautiful Anglican Cathedral in the centre of the city which was a shame, so Ian missed that! After catching up with an Australian friends gorgeous daughter and partner living in the city, we headed for Quebec. We arrived and were entering Quebec City late in the afternoon, when our sat nav died. Reverting back to the old fashioned “asking directions” we received them in broken English (in this French speaking Province) which told us “do not cross the bridge”. After having gone across the bridge!! We managed to return to the correct side of the city and find our campground.
The Old City of Quebec, apart from having a tumultuous and fascinating history is quite magnificent architecturally. We took a walking tour with a terrifically knowledgeable guide the first day, and then explored alone the second. Fabulous. There are many tin roofs in the city. These have replaced the old timber shingles which had proved to be a terrible fire risk historically, with at least two huge fires which wiped out buildings of significance. The churches and cathedrals all have shiny pressed tin spires. They add enormously to the look of the city.
There were 2 cruise ships in the harbour so the “old town” was awash with tourists like us, all milling around; a great atmosphere. This was the place we saw our first red house and red roof, which was to become a common sight in Quebec Province and The Maritimes. Ships could recognise and sight the colour from sea, (pre lighthouse days) so it is quite a tradition, apart from looking terrific.
We know we are “following” the “Trans Canadian Highway”, but we are always deviating to explore. So, we decided to leave Quebec City by following the North Shore of the St Lawrence River. We saw on our map that a ferry left Blanc Salbon, Southern Labrador. The ferry went a short distance across the St Lawrence to L’anse aux Meadows on Newfoundland. That’s the way for us we thought. 300 kms into our North Shore adventure we stopped for the night at a campsite. The manager had an intimate knowledge of this part of the coast (he also collected wild herbs which he sold to restaurants back in Quebec City). Anyways he showed us on the map that the road actually finished some 400 kms shy of our goal, Blanc Salbon, and that the only way there was on roads deep into Labrador only mining trucks travelled. His very good suggestion was to catch a ferry 120 klm’s away at Baie Comeau to Matane (one side of the St. Lawrence River to the other), some 120 kms away. That ferry journey would land us on the Gaspe Peninsula on Quebec Eastern Coastline, still some 2500km and 7 days away from Newfoundland.
Homes on the Gaspe are so typical of these eastern areas of Canada. Small, multi coloured “Salt Box” houses usually 2 storey. The lower being partially built below ground level. Following this Gaspe Peninsula coast line we crossed into New Brunswick for a short while where French and English is spoken in equal measure. We entered into Prince Edward Island (PEI) across the 8 Mile Long Confederation Bridge to beautiful and fertile
farming lands where Potatoes are “King”. PEI is birthplace of Lucy Maude Montgomery author of “Anne Of Green Gables” Green Gables is also the name of the trail following Lucy Maude’s’ story locations. This North Shore area of PEI is the perfect spot for story telling and poems.
A Brief visit to the capital Charlottetown we were lucky to catch market day in the Main St. Mid October. We were right at the end of the “Season” and campgrounds were closing en masse across the North East. Walmart, being the Worlds largest store chain actually allows Recreational Vehicles (RV’s) to use their car parks overnight. Not an ideal situation as far as we are concerned but an alternative when all else fails. A bonus is they have free WIFI which can be used from the carpark until the store closes at 10pm. Then opens in the morning at 7am. Fresh Bread. Voila’. We entered PEI by the magnificent Confederation Bridge and left via ferry to Nova Scotia.
Communications (Good and Bad)
We seem to have settled into some sort of normality in this regard. Touch wood. We are relying on prepaid mobile and free wi-fi when we can find it. We have gone minimal and our stress is somewhat relieved. No reliable North American carrier for non residents!
One night we decided to stay in a little park in Montevideo just by the river. which was quite attractive, it had a “disc” golf course through the green grass and the big trees, the first we had seen. We parked on the grass a reasonable distance from a camper trailer already set up. It’s owners not there. Settled for the night, Pen went to bed. Our as yet unseen neighbours returned, claimed we were on their site and threatened us with WW 3 if we didn’t move! Threatened to call the police, we would have been very happy with that, but they didn’t. Things started to get nastier. Using an accelerant they lit a fire only 2 mtrs away from the rear of our vehicle with the intention of smoking us out. Their C&W music was running at about 90 decibels. We were forced literally jump into Wiggy and bolt!!!! This nasty and scary affair is the only time we have really felt threatened.
People You Meet, Books You Read
Travel tips come from the most unlikey places, we were in the middle of the “Badlands” Sth Dakota and one man gave us a Web address that had clever little tidbits and info. It was from that we found the park spot in Central Chicago with just a walk to the City.
Our trip continues to be one of meeting some wonderful people and sharing of information. We also have an invitation to stay in Israel when we eventually get there.
We are still stuck on our CD1 of 6 “Easy Way To Learn Spanish” Lessons.
Books we read on this leg of journey.
The Art of Impossibility A Wahl
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union Michael Chambon
The Lost Symbol Dan Brown
At the time of writing this blog our Facebook Page “Travels In The Earwig” has 162 Friends. Just fabulous.