We drove off of the Digby (Nova Scotia) ferry with the Moose Hunters and into Saint John, New Brunswick.
Weather now was getting colder, and the days much shorter. Camp Grounds still open were a rarity so we were Walmartians again for a night. We woke to a frosty but gloriously sunny morning. We picked up Highway 1, crossed the CANADA/USA border for the final time at Calais and continued South following the Autumn russet colours down through Maine, New Hampshire and into Massachusetts.
Walmartians once again at Worcester. Not much fun here when at 11pm the Walmart night crew began shifting boxes of stuff with a fork lift truck from our end of the carpark to the other. At 1.30am we went and asked how long they would be working. We moved!
From Worcester, Massachusetts to our goal of Rochester in up State New York. We travelled on Interstate 90 which seemingly had a continuos series of expensive toll roads. Tolls Gates appeared throughout our journey every second mile it seemed and varied in price from $4 to $18. Didn’t seem to be rhyme or reason. Perhaps it depends on who owns which bit of road!
That night we camped in an empty State Park on the banks of Lake Ontario called Fairhaven. The wing blew a gale all night, but once a gain we woke to a beautiful sunny but cold morning.
In upstate NY we stayed with friends we met in Alaska. A wonderful time! Thank you Terry and Cindy.
Time for a haircut and trim for the both of us and the hairdresser said to us in a broad New York drawl, “I wish I had an accent”. “You do”! We replied. “Yeah”, she said “but not like y’all”.
Visited Palmyra and Rochester, the 5 Finger Lakes District and the Cool Climate wineries. It is a truly beautiful area. We were fascinated to see Amish horse drawn buggies with families going off to church.
Backtracked across New York State again and headed for Boston. This time mostly off the Interstate freeways. We travelled East via the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. Autumn Colours were fast disappearing. We passed through some magnificent scenery and towns (the University town of Williamstown was a sheer delight). Late into the afternoon and in pouring rain we parked Wiggie outside the parental home of a friend of ours in Australia. Thank you to Larry and Elaine. As Wiggie buried herself in piles of falling Autumn leaves we “abandoned” her for a Hotel in downtown “Old Boston”, for one night.
We found a little hotel right in the middle of the old town on the waterfront near the famous Quincy markets. From that position we could walk “Old Town” Boston including the “Freedom Trail”.
Boston architecture and it’s important history felt just beautiful; old , stately, conservative, just as one would imagine. USS Constitution was in dry dock so couldn’t go aboard.
Jumped on a “Hop on Hop Off ” bus for a circuit and glimpsed Harvard, Tea Party dock and all the other “must see” historic spots.
Collected Wiggie after being treated to a wonderful meal by our hosts, and headed for the Big Apple, New York.
We knew parking our RV in New York was not going to be easy. We had been told about some New Jersey streets where people had parked. There was always Walmart, (not for us in New York we decided). A travelling Swiss couple we met in Nova Scotia told us about an abandoned airfield (now State Park) in Brooklyn. We booked online, very surprised they could fit us in. When we arrived we were told that the next day the park was closing for the winter but we could stay if we liked. We liked!
We were soon to find that we were camped directly under the take off flight path for the jets flying out of Kennedy International Airport, every two minutes!!!! Except for a flight curfew from 1am until 4am!! We had to move, somewhere, anywhere! We headed towards a far flung corner of this old airfield as far from the flight path as possible.
We learnt that the training and Home base for the NYPD Helicopter Wing occupies part of the old airfield, so we felt safe, secure though totally isolated.
Next day a short walk, to catch the bus to the Brooklyn Metro and 45 minutes later we were in Lower Manhattan. Perfect. Returned to our new camp site from our first day exploring Manhattan Island. Pretty tired but happy that take off noise was down to a manageable rumble. At 11pm, In our new, you beaut campsite we were surrounded by NYPD police cars, lights flashing. Helicopters, returning to base had spotted our “weird” looking vehicle sitting in total darkness. Very suspicious, check ’em out! I, very meekly walked out into the blinding lights, explained quickly why we were there and all was well.
Personally, I suspect that Infra red heat detection equipment onboard the Black Hawk Helicopters had picked up the glow from either:-
1. My glass of Kentucky’s finest blended Whiskey.
2. The Heat from my iPad whilst working on our latest blog instalment.
3. Our warm personalities!!
We just about covered everything we wanted to in New York given the time we had set ourselves. We had a plan to tackle Manhattan Island by Quarters. Lower, Greenwich Village/Soho, Times Square/Central and Central Park including the Met/ Guggenheim.
We visited The World Trade Centre and went down into the New Museum. A deeply moving experience. Can’t express what it was like.
I had the pleasure of ringing the Bells at Trinity Church on Wall Street. Lovely group of ringers, as always. Another Tower that welcomes ringers from any where around the world. Stunning architecture.
Walking up 5th Avenue we had to push our way through queues waiting the arrival of Donald Trump for a book signing session, we kept walking.
We spent 5 hrs inside the incredible Metropolitan Museum of Art. In reality we needed many more hours.
We had decided to take Wiggy through Times Square so, on the morning we were leaving New York we got up at 4 am and headed into the core of the “Big Apple”. Over Brooklyn Bridge our GPS got a bit lost and took us through the New Jersey Tunnel. As soon as we reached New Jersey, GPS told us to make a “U” turn and go back through the tunnel, and pay a $20 toll. Finally we made it to Times Square at 5.30am. Pen was photographer and leapt out while Ian did a few circuits in the already busy streets, (New York truly does not sleep). Lots of police cars. Nearly lost the photographer, but mission completed. “High Fives”!
Next stop, Philadelphia. Up and Down the “Nutty” Streets, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall. Museum of American Jewish History. Wonderful statue commemorating the Irish immigration. Tough people those Irish! A lesser Statue (in size) celebrating the Scottish migrants.
Memorable Reading Market with the Amish roast chickens, homemade breads and produce. Philly Cheese Steak Burger for breakfast, fries with that? Of course!
Out through the suburbs to St. Martins in the Field church to ring the bells. Aborted 2nd church ring due to inner city Philadelphia congestion of Veterans Day March. Very difficult to find a route out of the congested city. Finally we were free and bolted to cold and pretty miserable Washington DC.
We camped at an RV park and Bussed/train into DC. The Smithsonian Art Museum has both a Portrait Gallery and Presidents Portrait Gallery. We spent almost an entire day here and voted this our Favourite USA art Gallery to date. We, we have decided are Gallery tragics.
Hop on and Off buses are wonderful in large cities for getting and idea of where you are and where you may want to get back to. Washington DC is no exception.
We got off at one stop and were told that the buses were unable to go to Arlington Cemetery. No reason given. It was Remembrance Day. So we jumped in a cab to take us the short distance to Arlington and just sat there in the terrible traffic. Sirens started blazing, lights flashing, Zoom!
Here comes the cause of the traffic snarl.
President Obama’s Cavalcade was on its way back from Arlington after he gave a Remembrance Day Address at the National Cemetery. Finally at the surprisingly hilly Arlington Cemetery we were able to see the Kennedy’s and many of Americas finest, final resting place. It was really very moving. Thousands of white markers and headstones in rows upon rows, upon rows stop you in your tracks.
The night tour of DC was terrific; all the major monuments ablaze with light. Lincoln’s Memorial very grand in white marble. The remarkable memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. The Korean War sculpture garden and the Vietnam “Wall”.
The White House is right in the middle of town! We had hoped we might get a photo of Wiggy in front of the Garden Fence. Absolutely no chance with all the barriers and security around.
Gettysburg… Next on the list. The turning Point in Americas Civil war The battlefield has been restored to its original (almost) condition when this horrific battle took place. Everything that is possible has been restored and looks just as it was including the wooden fences, barns, homes etc. All the cannons, and statues commemorating both sides of the battle are impressive.
The Confederates were doomed to lose this tragic war after this famed battle even though hostilities continued for another 5 yrs.
The museum at Gettysburg Is world class. With its highly emotive Circularama depicting Picketts Charge, folly was its attempt and brutal was its punishment. A Sound and Light Spectacular.
Heading South again. Took off for the stunning Appalachian Mts and the Skyline and Blue Ridge Parkways. Our first night in the mountains we camped amongst many tents. In the morning it was minus 6 degrees Celsius. Hardy folks these Virginians.
What a fabulous drive through these impressive ranges. Autumn leaves almost all gone so we had a wonderful view of the extent of the mountains and valleys. Black Bear and Deer that would have been impossible to spot in foliage.
From Fort Royal through West Virginia along back country roads along Beautiful Shenandoah Valley we crossed into Tennessee.
Into north East Tennessee to Kingsport to catch up with the family Pen lived with for some of the time she was in the States as a young student in 1967. We had a really wonderful few hours catching up with Pens American ‘parents’ and two of the 5 children (not now!) who were part of Pens American High School experience. Pen was thrilled to be able to do this and we hope to catch up again later.
Then to Nashville for 5 nights. That is 5 nights of Country Music, deep velvety whiskey laced voices. Fingers picking and flying over frets. These incredibly talented musicians and singers playing for tips and selling home made CD’s. Bars with three floors and a fabulous band on each. We had a little boast (to squeals of delight), that where we live in Australia Keith Urban, Nic and the kids live only 5 klm’s away. WooHoo!!
We went to the Grand Ol Oprey live radio show that’s been broadcasting before radio was invented, (well almost). Must admit we had not the faintest idea who the Octogenarians hosting the show were, but we enjoyed the music, being there and the atmosphere in the wonderful old theatre.
With a couple more Country CD’s on board to join our complete music library travelling with us we headed for Lynchburg Tennessee and the famed Jack Daniels Distillery. 30 Gallons of Whiskey pour through Maple Charcoal filters every minute. That filtering turns (mere!!) whiskey into the worlds No1 selling brand of Bourbon, Jack Daniels No 7.
On the road again, (I feel a song coming on here!) south into Alabama and to Huntsville. Huntsville is where the brains behind USA Space Travel operates. Here they invent it. At Cape Canaveral they hit “ignite” and watch it disappear towards the Heavens at 2 miles per second! The NASA Space Centre visitor complex at Huntsville, was truly inspiring. They even have a Space Camp for kids to feed and nurture, curiosity!!
It was in Hunstville that we again caught up with Warren and Karen who we had met while on Cape Breton Island while attending a Celtic Colours Music concert. They invited us into their home for a night of great food, terrific travel conversation, and a fabulous bed.
From Huntsville Alabama, where we had experienced our coldest night yet of -7 Celcius, (if it’s -7 outside, , it’s -6 inside!!) to Tallahassee, Florida we decided we would cancel our Xmas booking at Las Vegas. Much too cold for us we decided. Florida was looking very inviting. We would spend Xmas in the Sun.
On the Interstate South we sped past Florida Billboards, promising to save our souls. Get us megga $’s should we have an accident. Informing that a heart beats at just 24 days after conception. Then coming up every 5 miles was an outlet selling 3 pair of cowboy boots for the price of one. A “gentleman’s” club was always fast approaching where no doubt you could slip off them boots and not relax at all, y’all!!
Searching the Internet we booked a (last minute fabulously priced), 4 day pre Xmas Cruise. Out of Miami, bound for the Bahamas. First cruise for either of us. It was a superbly decadent way to spend 4 days, Coca Key and Nassau.
“Is that food you have there Sir? Would you care for a whole lot more?”.
Pool side line dancing lessons every afternoon at 4pm. World Champion Belly Flop Championship and Sexiest man in the Universe contest. Now, that was really funny, hope the guy is OK after trying a hand stand on the “Wet Floor” Sign and landing flat on his face. That wasn’t funny. Well it was really!!
So, Florida. Beautiful warm weather was to be ours for the next 7 weeks!
Firstly we went to Okeechobee and the Lake by the same name, a huge wetland and natural drain that fed the Everglades. Remarkable birdlife, alligators and fish. 780 square miles of marsh, wetland and maximum water depth of 15 ft. Lots of air boats skimming along and hunters in pursuit of the shooting ducks, as it was duck season. Boat Locks and levies.
We then shot off to the West Coast and stayed on the Gulf of Mexico at Sanibel and Fort de Soto, both fabulous parks on the water. Up further north we saw the Manatees at CrystaL River.
We then DID DISNEY! Only one day and that was enough, but it had to be done! This was outside Orlando and Kissemee.
Back down to Okeechobee to see our friend Mike again, (who we first met in Fairbanks. Alaska.) on the way through to the Florida Keys.
The Everglades National Park down past Homestead is wonderfully full of all sorts of birdlife, we managed to get down to a place called Flamingo right at the southern tip of the park. One road in, one road out! Ospreys sighted with breakfast catch of fish. We had 2 nights at Flamingo, which was a feat in itself as the Mosquitos were attacking us relentlessly in Squadrons.
Christmas Day for us was at Key Largo. Christmas dinner in a Seafood restaurant. All in all a very relaxed albeit different Xmas.
Another goal for us was Key West, the most Southern point of The USA. It took a morning to get right down to Key West which was charming. Ernest Hemingway’s house was really interesting with the history and part of his life attached to that, and the 57 cats, now called Hemingway’s cats. Which is quite bizarre because when Hemingway lived in the house he only had the one cat, which had 6 front toes, now all of the cats are 6 toed!!!
Our achievement on reaching Key West was that now, in the North American Continent, we have driven to: the most Westerly (Homer, Alaska) the most Northerly, (Yellowknife, North West Territories), most Easterly (Cape Spear. Newfoundland) And now at Key West (the most Southerly) points on the North American Continent. We didn’t start our journey intending to achieve these milestones. We wonder how many others have actually achieved the same.
On the road then to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Centre. Fascinating, and fabulous.
Tomoka State Park for on the way to St. Augustine, the oldest continuously settled town on the American continents.
Rockefeller’s partner in the oil business, Mr Flagler, built a beautiful hotel and some other impressive buildings here . He then built a railway down to Key West!
Settled by the Spanish 200 yrs before the Pilgrims hit the shore in the Mayflower way up north, it is really the only settlement which goes back to feudal times. The fort is built from Coquina a soft stone which will eventually become limestone, but is sand, shells and water compressed over millions of years.
The good thing about it is that if a cannonball hits it, it absorbs the impact, and doesn’t shatter, so the Fort has never been conquered, (defenders have been blockaded and starved out)! Everyone tried, the Brits, the French, Spanish again the Americans, all to no avail. As with everything else in American history 3 or 4 countries have occupied it, given it away to another country, and then claimed it back again over the centuries!!!
We have 3 months left of our Visa for the USA. Time to start thinking of Mexico and Central America.
Stay tuned friends. Best wishes and thanks for following us and the Wiggie.