CAPE HATTERAS OUTER BANKS NORTH CAROLINA: HOT AND HUMID!

HOT AND HUMID!

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Our new sun shade: I love it.

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Kayaking on the Sound

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I could stop there with just hot and humid, but there is a lot more to the Outer Banks than just the weather.  The Outer Banks are a long stretch of barrier islands and sand dunes that separate the Atlantic from the coast and the Pamlico Sound.  They are almost 200 miles long.   You can find wild mustangs near Corolla, fishing, crabbing, sailing, kayaking, kite sailing, wind surfing, dolphins, whales, off-roading on beaches and sand dunes, Light Houses, the Wright Brothers Memorial, the North Carolina Aquarium, swimming, hang gliding on famous Jockey Ridge, and Cape Hatteras National park.  We didn’t do all of those activities, but did see quite a lot of the Cape Hatteras area and Ocracoke Island.

We camped at Frisco Woods Camping for RV’s and tents.  It was a nice campground, but so crowded during Labor Day you were squeezed in like sardines.  But, that was probably true of most campgrounds over the Labor Day weekend.

Our first venture was to Ocracoke Island, only accessible by an hour’s ferry ride.  It is a quaint little island that reminds one of Hawaii many years ago.  There is a lighthouse there, first lit in 1854. It is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina and is in the National Register of Historic Places.  Most people on the island get around by golf cart.  We spent the better part of the day there and had lunch at the marina.  (Dogs allowed on the deck)

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After a day of hanging around the campground, the next day we drove to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  It is 210 feet tall and the tallest brick lighthouse in America.  Lennard walked to the top while I waited with the dogs.  The heat that day was about 92 degrees with 90 % humidity.

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Next we drove to the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC.  It is located near where Wilbur and Orville Wright first flew in a powered, heavier-than-air machine, for a sustained distance.  The focal point of the memorial is a spectacular stone monument. There is also a life size sculpture of the first flight and the famous photograph by John T. Daniels.  It is really something to see.

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To end the day we walked across part of the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.  Not too far though, as the sand was hot that day for little four footed girls.  It is the largest sand dune on the East Coast.  It is also the most visited park in the North Carolina parks system.  And that is a lot of sand!

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We decided to have a crab fest with our neighbors, Billy and Susan from Virginia. Well, the great crab catchers, Lennard and Billy used crab nets for several hours and what did they catch…nothing.  But, the crabs got away with a lot of chicken necks for sure.  Fortunately our other neighbor, Roy, felt sorry for us and brought us 2 crabs so we would have something to eat.

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Lennard learning how to crack and eat crab.

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The next morning Billy and Susan took us for a ride on the beach in their 4X4.  Did we get stuck? Of course!  What would a day on the beach be without getting stuck?  We did get out quickly, as Billy is an expert on the sand.

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We met a lot of nice people here including Billy and Susan, Rob and Kendra, Donna and Rick, and Diane, Steve and Roy.

We are ready for the next part of our journey…a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokey Mountains and our Tiffin Ralley.

PENNSYLVANIA AMISH COUNTRY AND HERSHEY PENNSYLVANIA

During our travels, we have had the privilege to run into all types of people with backgrounds, jobs and history different from our own.  That has been what has made our journey so much more interesting than just seeing the country… although that has been pretty spectacular.  We have met Alaskan natives, Harley riders, crab and lobster fishermen, truck drivers, environmentalists, shop owners, bicycle riders, beach goers, mountain climbers, pot smokers, campers and of course RV’ers. Among the most different and kindest were the Amish in Pennsylvania.

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We stopped in a suburb of Lancaster, PA right in the middle of Amish farming country, next to the small community of Bird in Hand.  The farms were beautifully manicured for miles around the towns, and each farm had a huge variety of flowers in their yards.  The Amish drove their horse drawn carriages along the roads and shopped in the local stores.  That gave us the opportunity to have conversations with them and we found them outgoing and good natured.

There were vegetable and fruit stands along the roads and most of them were operated on a trust basis. Signs would let you know how much the produce was, so you just took what you wanted and left the cash.  What a great way to shop and it was so delicious.

We did take two tours. One was on a shuttle that showed us around the farming countryside and stopped at a couple of Amish farms.  One for local quilts and one for local candles. The second tour was at an old Amish farm and house where we were able to see the inside of a typical Amish home and learn a little more about their culture and history.

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Most of the time they are referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch, but in reality they are mostly descendants of Swiss Germans and speak German in their church.  Their religion is Christian and they are usually  baptized between the ages of 16 to 25.  They are allowed to choose their own partner, but can never divorce.  They wear plain clothing and do not utilize most modern conveniences such as automobiles, electricity or telephones.  Most families do have a telephone on the premises for emergencies, but it is not kept in the house. They only go to school through 8th grade and are schooled in one room schools for all grades.  They do pay taxes, but don’t participate in social security or contribute to it.

Frankly, there is a lot to be said for some of their customs, and there is a lot we can learn from how they are living and how they treat others. IMG_0916 P1030706 P1030714 P1030729

Hershey Pennsylvania was only about an hour away, so we took one day to see that famous town. Even the street lights were shaped like Hershey kisses.  We learned how to taste chocolate and became cholate connoisseurs.  You just have to use your five senses, as you let the chocolate melt on your tongue.  Difficult job!

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The most important thing we learned about Hershey was that Milton Hershey, who developed Hershey Chocolate, was the benefactor of the Milton Hershey School for orphans and the underprivileged.   This private school serves over two thousand students every year and none of the families have to pay a dime for it.  Most of the graduates end up going to college and if their grades are good, they get scholarships towards the University of their choice.  Mr. Hershey and his wife, Kitty, who died at an early age, left a legacy of several million dollars to keep the school going.

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Milton and Kitty Hershey

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Since we had three weeks before our ralley in the Smokey Mountains, we decided to head for the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Cape Hatteras.  Woo Hoo!  Tell you about that next time.

LOBSTER, LOBSTER AND MORE LOBSTER!

IMG_2485Before heading down towards Portland and Boston, we stopped for the night in Rockland, Maine.  The nearby town of Rockport has a quaint downtown shopping area and a breakwater path built out into the bay about a mile.  At the end of the breakwater there is a lovely lighthouse.  A walk along this in the early evening was just the ticket to wind down.

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While in Rockport, I was able to meet and buy a book from a local author, Carl Howe Hansen.  His book, Destiny, is the story of two brothers who have been brought up in the area to appreciate sustainability on nearby Pine Island.  When one of them creates a bacteria to dissolve oil spills and the other comes home after years of dropping out, the story comes together in a crisis of monumental proportions.  You will love this story set on Maine’s coast.  His characters are well developed and the story should be one we think about, because it is not that far out of possibility! I loved this book.

Scott and Donna along with Donna’s sister, Debbie and her husband, Tom met us at Bayley’s Camping Resort in Portland Maine.  It was so nice to meet up with friends.  The next day we had a late brunch at Lily’s on the beach, Lobster Benedict of course, and in the evening Lobster at Houts; also on the beach side.

As some of you may know, our kayaking on the marsh the next day cost a little more than Lennard anticipated, as he fell in trying to get out and had his I-phone in his pocket…uh oh! At least he was able to replace it for the minimal cost at the local I-phone store.

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Seen on the marsh

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Touring downtown Portland and the Portland Head light took most of the next day.  We even did a little shopping and had lunch.  That called for margaritas at the pool in the afternoon. Gosh, life is tough these days.

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Bella and Gypsy got a spa day while we toured the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport.  What an amazing place.  All the nearby stores are geared toward outdoor living, and the flagship store was the largest outdoor clothing and gear store I have ever seen.

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Debbie and Tom were kind enough to allow us to park in their long driveway in Haverhill, Mass. That allowed us to not only get to know them better, but to see a Red Sox game at Fenway Field and walk the Freedom Trail in Boston.  We are grateful to them for the opportunity.

The Red Sox lost, but the experience of seeing the game at Fenway Park was wonderful.  A once in a lifetime experience for us.

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Walking the Freedom Trial in Boston is like a living history lesson.  You can see where the Boston Massacre took place, see Old Ironsides, and visit Paul Revere’s House and lots more.  It is a 2.5 mile walk, but because it is so interesting, you don’t realize you are walking that far. Along the way you will see tour guides dressed in costumes depicting the day.  In the museum at the Old State House, one of the deacons gave a presentation, in character of a merchant of the day.  It was informative and enjoyable. Then we got to have lunch at Cheers. No one knew our name.  That’s not fair!

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We took the City ferry from the Wharf back to downtown Boston for $1.60 each.  What a bargain that was!

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The best dinner we had in Boston was at the “Debbie and Tom Restaurant” with lobster, steak and chops along with fresh corn and homegrown tomatoes.  Excellent.  Thanks Tom, Debbie and Donna for the great meal.  Scott and Donna… we will catch you in Vegas in the fall!

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Our next stop is in Amish country in Pennsylvania.  It will be an entirely different experience.

LOBSTER ROLLS IN BAR HARBOR MAINE!

We took the scenic route towards Maine through Vermont.  Unfortunately, we took one wrong turn and ended up on a road that had a 10 foot covered bridge.  Yes, we had to unhook and backtrack about five miles.  I don’t need to repeat some of the language my husband uttered.

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No it didn’t come to this…yet!

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We spent the first night at Camping on the Battenkill, which was a lovely, forested campground. The second night we stayed at Alpine Mountain RV Park.  The water there was contaminated so we did not hookup.  Our winding mountain route took us through small towns like Woodstock, Manchester and Bridgewater, where everyone seemed to be having a garage sale.

We arrived in Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, at the Desert Narrows Encore RV Resort by early afternoon on the third day. I had booked a space facing the bay and it was a stunning view.

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After getting settled, the next day we drove to Acadia National Park, one of the most famous National Parks in our nation.  Our first stop was Cadillac Mountain, which afords you an expansive, stunning view of the entire valley and the ocean below.

P1030207 P1030201 P1030199Then we headed to Bubble Rock. I thought it would be a view of a rock in the ocean, but it really was a huge rock on the edge of a cliff where everyone one takes a photo of themselves looking like they are pushing it off the cliff.  Tourists are funny that way! And we hiked UP about half a mile to do that!

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Lobster rolls were on the agenda for lunch. We drove into Bar Harbor and found it so crowded there was hardly room on the sidewalk to pass by.  Fortunately, Stewman’s Lobster Pound allowed dogs on their terrace and we had a delicious lunch there.  Practically all the casual restaurants that serve lobster in this area are called Ponds.  A pound is a large holding area in the ocean to keep lobsters in.  In the evening we chatted with our new neighbors, Steve and Tara from Long Island in our new mosquito net, dining tent. We love that tent!

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Because we were disappointed with the crowds in Bar Harbor, the next day we drove south to Deer Isle and the small fishing village of Stonington.  The setting was idyllic and after a lunch on the terrace of Fisherman’s Friend Restaurant, we took the mail boat to the Isle Au Haut, part of the Acadia National Park, just for the ride through the off lying islands.

P1030253 P1030244 P1030234 P1030230 P1030250That night we spent the evening chatting with our friends, Steve and Tara again, sharing stories of the day’s travels. Tara is hilarious when she tells stories about her life.  She should write a book!

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Steve’s beautiful Harley

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Schoodic Point called our name the next morning.  It is also a part of Acadia National Park, but about a 45 minute drive north.  There were very few tourists, so we were able to just drive and stop to take photos of the spectacular coast line as we wished.  We continued up the coast line to the Quoddy Head State Park to see the Quoddy East lighthouse. Then drove to the Eastern most point in the United States, Lubec, Maine. And on to New Brunswick after having a lobster roll at McDonalds of all places.  Lennard said it was actually great.

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We crossed the Roosevelt International Bridge into Canada to Campobello Island and stopped at the Roosevelt Summer Home.  We took the self-guided tour and found the home was maintained with impeccable taste, keeping almost all of the original furniture and décor.  I had forgotten how important Eleanor Roosevelt was to human rights and FDR’s New Deal.  I had also forgotten he contracted polio after visiting a Boy Scout camp. He only returned to his beloved summer home three times after that. The home and the view of Funday Bay was spectacular.  The Bay of Funday was formed about 200 million years ago when Europe broke off from North America and the Atlantic poured through.

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The sister lighthouse is to the Quoddy East lighthouse is Quoddy Head West Lighthouse on Campobello Island. It is only accessible when the tide is out.  We were lucky to get there when we cold cross over to it. When I say lucky, I say it lightly, as it is a dangerous trek through rocks covered with seaweed and up and down three high metal ladders and across one bridge.  We had to carry Bella and Gypsy up the ladders. It was worth it.  The view was beautiful and the lighthouse was a historical monument in working order.  We loved walking around it.

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Not my best side!

P1030406 P1030404 P1030402The weather which had been threatening to rain all day, began pouring down just as we reached the car and continued all night.  We had dinner on the way home at a quaint little lobster pound of course. Not just raining, but pouring.  We were glad we weren’t in a tent! No chatting in our dining tent tonight.

August 12…our anniversary.  We decided to go back to Acadia Park, and after a drive down the ocean side of the park to see Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, we had an exquisite lunch at Jordan Pond on the lawn overlooking the pond.  It was a foggy day and we could see the fog settling over the pond among the forest.  It was just like Downtown Abbey except there were other people there.  We finished the day at the other end of the island at Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  In the evening we had dinner in our tent and then sat with Tara and Steve telling stories in their new dining tent.  (Like ours, they ordered theirs from Amazon and had it delivered here at the RV Park.) Satisfied our Amazon crave for a while!

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Okay, laundry and cleanup before we head down to Rockport for a night and then Portland Maine where we will meet Scott and Donna Yea!

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As we were driving around the Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island.

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The cloudy day made for lovely views on the last day of our sightseeing on Mount Desert Island. This was on the far side from Bar Harbor, away from the maddening crowds!

BUFFALO WINGS AND THUNDERING FALLS

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Arriving in Buffalo, we pulled into the KOA on Grand Island.  What a great camping spot with ponds, a lease-free dog park, and a little creek running through the camp.  After two days of regrouping, we took a short trip to downtown Buffalo to see the new Canalside Park.  It is a redevelopment area next to the Military Remembrance Park.  It was hot, but we managed to cool down with a few minutes sitting in the shade and a beer. The next day we took the RV in to get the back air conditioner repaired.  While it was being worked on we went to Lewistown.

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Lewiston is a historical village and the site of the first European settlement in Western New York.  It was also the site from which the US invaded Canada in the first major battle of the War of 1812.  It sits just across the Niagara River from Canada.  We spoke to the Harbor Master there, who told us they have a couple of people a week try to cross over to the US from Canada every week.  You could almost throw a rock across the river it is so close. In fact, it is also an area where slaves were ferried over to Canada so they could be free.  A lot of history for a small town.

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Pointing the way to freedom

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We retrieved the RV and got ready to meet our good friends, Jim and Joanne, at their hotel for dinner at the Left Bank restaurant downtown Buffalo.  The next morning my cousins, Darlene and Rick, from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada joined us at the KOA. Jim and Joanne joined all of us for a sightseeing tour of the American side of the Falls, led by Rick, who seems to know every road in the nation!  We also saw the Whirlpool where the river has currents that can take you 150 feet under in a second.  That night we had a BBQ at our RV in perfect weather.

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The next day Rick took us to the Canadian side of Niagara, where we saw the US and Canadian falls, and the view is much more magnificent.  Then we drove to Niagara On The Lake for lunch.  This quaint, British style, town has so many beautiful flowers on the streets and near the stores and restaurants, you would think you were in a magnificent garden.  There were horse and carriages on the streets and old buildings with ornate facades from another century.  It was just beautiful.

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That night we went to the Anchor Bar for Buffalo Wings.  This restaurant was started by a family and still is owned by the same family.  One night the kids came in late with some friends and wanted something to eat.  Mom had some leftover wings so she fried them up, added some spicy sauce and Voila, Buffalo Wings were born.

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Sunday we took the morning Bedore tour of the American Falls.  Our first stop was back at the whirlpool and then we went to the Cave of the Winds.  What an experience.  You wear a poncho and traverse stairs until you are right next to the falls with the water cascading down and the wind carrying the water over you until you are drenched.  It was hilarious and so much fun!  We then went on the Maid of the Mist boat that takes you right next to the falls.  We of course wore the fashionable ponchos again to keep us sort of dry. It was very exciting as the falls thundered down above us.  You can’t imagine the power of the water and the thunderous noise unless you actually experience it.

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We were sorry to see Rick and Darlene leave that afternoon. That evening we took the tour to the Canadian side and went on the Journey Behind the Falls.  You take an elevator down about 150 feet and traverse a tunnel under the falls until you can see out a cave to the falls from the inside.  You can also go to a viewing station to get up close to the falls again.  Not quite as exciting as the morning, but great too. Then we drove to the Flower Clock and the Canadian Hydroelectric power station.  The hydroelectric power dam is not a large as Hoover Dam, but generates more electricity.

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After dark we went up the Skylon Tower to view the falls with the lights on them, and then to a parking spot to see the fireworks over the falls.  Both were exquisite.

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The next day we had lunch with Jim and Joanne before they left for Las Vegas.  Now we are getting ready to travel to Maine over the next couple of days. We are looking forward to visiting Bar Harbor before we travel down to Portland to meet up with Scott and Donna, who are making their way across country right now.  Stay tuned!

THE MARATHON DRIVE CROSS COUNTRY TO BUFFALO, NEW YORK

As I said in an earlier blog, Lennard jokes that I am a slave driver, making him drive hundreds of miles across country. But in reality, he is participating in the decisions…it’s just that he forgets he said, “Oh sure, lets drive four hundred miles tomorrow.”

So we are now only driving, not sightseeing, so we can get to Buffalo, New York and meet up with my cousins, Darlene, Rick and Doreen, as well as our dear friends from Las Vegas, Jim and Joanne. We will be seeing Niagara Falls and staying at the Grand Island KOA. We would like to have a day or so “down time” before we start sightseeing again.

During all our travels, I have booked some Passport America RV Parks, some KOA RV Parks and some Good Sam RV Parks. All of them have turned out to be great and have adhered to their advertising as far as cost. I have been pleasantly surprised that even when I book the day before or the day of, I have been able to get space every time except for once. That time I just booked a different RV park.

For gas we have looked for Flying J or Pilot stations to get the Good Sam discount. They are also easy to navigate in and out of, which is important. Even a three cent per gallon helps when you are buying 100 gallons or more. Lennard likes to make sure he has about ½ tank at all times.

We run the generator when we stop at rest stops to make coffee and cool down the rig a bit. It helps a lot to take a little break even for 20 minutes or so. The microwave runs on the generator too. My stove and oven run on propane. We filled the propane tank up when we first left and I still have plenty left. No, it’s not that I haven’t cooked, it’s because they don’t use much propane. Hopefully it will be cooler when we arrive. It has been blistering hot and humid across South Dakota and Minnesota so far.

Since we aren’t seeing much but the freeway now, I’m posting some photos we took along our trip that I did not post and should have. Please enjoy!!

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Gypsy loved Tom

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Moon over Homer

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Our view in Homer

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MT RUSHMORE AND THE 75TH ANNUAL STURGIS MOTORCYCLE RALLY

Okay, I admit it. Maybe I did schedule a little too far to drive. We drove from Spokane to Billings Montana in one day. About 508 miles. Stayed in Walmart parking lot again, but then who doesn’t?

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Our neighbors in the RV Park bikes. George and Debra and JR and Tina were the best.

The next day we arrived just outside Sturgis, South Dakota at the Rush No More RV Park. It is in a lovely setting in the woods. Our aim was to be near Mt. Rushmore, but we found out we had arrived the week before the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. How lucky was that? Now we don’t know much about motorcycles, but we learned a lot there. That night there was a Jam session at the RV Park meeting room. About ten local musicians showed up to jam. Bluegrass was the basic theme. What a nice evening to end this marathon lap of the trip.

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Sturgis is a town of about 6,080 people and this year, because it of the 75th anniversary, August 3rd – 9th, they are expecting over a million people. Over a million? Where are they going to put everyone? It seems every square foot of land and every hotel and every home and yard that could be rented out is… for miles around. We took a quick trip into Sturgis the next evening just to see what was going on. Tents for vendors were everywhere, lining the streets like a new city being erected out of nothing. We even saw a huge drone being used to scan the streets. I’m sure it was practice for the real deal the next week.

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We met King and Red at the Knuckle Saloon, and they were helpful in guiding us in our plans for sightseeing the next day.

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King and Red

The scenery in this part of South Dakota is absolutely beautiful. There are rolling hills, mountains, pine trees, limestone cliffs and waterfalls at every turn. We took the road through Vanocker canyon to Mt Rushmore.

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Pactola Lake

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We stopped at the old mining town of Keystone along the way.

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Mt. Rushmore is simply spectacular. There are no other words to aptly describe it. Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum between 1927 and 1941 it is a monument to his vision and dedication. He said:

“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away.”

The four presidents depicted are:

George Washington, our first president and the Father of our country who said, “Government is not a reason; it is not eloquent; it is a force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. He said, “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”

Theodore Roosevelt who worked to ensure the rights of the common man. He said, “The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get rich quick theory of life.”

Abraham Lincoln, who held our nation together during the civil war who said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms; it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Thinking about these great men and their words, I wish we had just one person in politics who holds these beliefs to be true and who could bring our nation back from the precipice I feel we are on. Just a bit of opinion!

There is no entrance fee, but it costs $11.00 to park. Dogs are not allowed at the memorial, so I waited at the entrance while Lennard went up and then vice versa. While we were there it began to rain and then hailed. It made the day even better as far as we were concerned. It was an inspiring morning.

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Hail at Mt Rushmore

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Next we traveled back north through Hill City and Lead to Spearfish Canyon. Stopping at Spearfish Falls, we hiked the short trail to the falls. Set among the trees, the falls cascade down creating a light mist across the small lake at the bottom. We had lunch at Chute Rooster, an old mining camp building.

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Early evening found us traveling through famous Deadwood with its casinos and on to Sturgis and then back to camp.

Our neighbors in the camp came for the rally. George and Debra brought their brand new Harley trike, and Tina and JR brought their Harley bike. These lovely people saw how tired we were and gave us dinner, prepared by George, the chef. We were floored by their kindness. Over the next two days we would see them in and out of camp and became friends. They of course, tried to talk Lennard into getting a Harley. I, of course am abstaining. We have enough toys at the moment.

On our last day we travelled into Sturgis again to see the famous Buffalo Chip Saloon and the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. Because it was the week prior to the event we were able to drive right in and see the horses up close and personal. Bella and Gypsy got held and did not utter a sound when they saw those great horses. As they were being groomed, the handler let us take photos of the horses, pet Chip the Dalmatian, and see the new Dalmatian puppy. He told us there were ten horses there of the more than 200 Clysdales they now have.

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We also stopped at Full Throttle, the three story, largest bar in the world. As we talked to the staff preparing for the event next week, we were blown away by the scope and size of the plans. Police and EMT service are being brought in. Stages, bars, zip lines, and small cities for workers are being erected from the ground up. About fifteen famous bands will be playing including Lynard Skynryd, Dan Lawson Band, and Def Leppard. There will also be the first Mixed Martial Arts professionally sanctioned Caged Aggression event. Although the rally will be amazing, we were happy to have been there the week before!

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FINALLY: BACK IN THE USA AGAIN

It’s great to be back in the USA again. As beautiful as Canada was, we are happy to be home. We will be changing our trip route to stay in the US the rest of the time, so we have our phone and internet service.

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Entering the US

We met our good friends, Tim and Jan, from the Sun City Anthem RV club along with their dog, Star at the Spokane, Washington KOA. It felt like home to meet up with friends.

Since Bella and Gypsy were literally “dirty dogs” we took them to PetSmart for grooming and when we picked them up we hardly recognized them they looked so good. I almost thought we got different dogs back.

Lennard’s great neighbors from his old neighborhood, Tom and Joanne, live in Coeur d’Alene, which is only 30 miles from Spokane. They invited us over to their home for a barbeque, and what a spectacular home they have. Tom designed it himself and put most of the living space in the kitchen and family rooms. We were lucky enough that two of their three children were there that night and their nephew. Trevor, Juliana and Greg made the evening more interesting just by being there. Their eldest son, Taylor will be getting married in a week and they were preparing to receive 80 guests for an outdoor reception in their back yard. With five acres, they have the space and what a fabulous setting with lots of trees and grass. Now that’s what I call taking on a project!

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Tom at the barbeque

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The beautiful Yard.

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Lennard and Tom relived some fond memories and we said goodbye with promises to return to beautiful Coeur d’Alene someday.

The next day we took Joanne’s advice and visited downtown Coeur d’Alene. It’s a quaint and lovely town set right on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Next to the lovely Coeur d’Alene Resort and Marina is Tubbs Hill. The city has provided a 2.2 mile hiking trail around it. Normally 2.2 miles would be easy, but in 85 degree weather with 60% humidity…not so much. And that was at 10AM! I of course got way too hot, but Lennard and the dogs just got warm. In spite of the heat, it was a great hike with extraordinary vistas of the marina and the clear, blue waters of the lake. We had lunch and several glasses of cold water to cool down before returning back to the RV Park for a little housekeeping.

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Tim is a master of barbeque and along with Jan, they made a lovely dinner the next evening. Sitting outside in the RV Park with the three dogs and good friends was something we enjoyed so much. Needless to say, dinner was delicious and the company even better.

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Tim and Jan

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The plan now is for us to travel towards Grand Rapids, South Dakota to see the iconic Mt. Rushmore. I saw it about 50 years ago, and still remember being awed by it.

THE BEAUTIFUL NATIONAL PARKS OF CANADA

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Elk were often seen in the evening.

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Totem in Jasper

The RV parks in Canada Parks are crowded, so we decided to stay just outside Jasper National Park in Hinton at a lovely KOA. We arrived early and took a walk at nearby Beaver Boardwalk. The boardwalk is a marshy area where you traverse the marsh on boardwalks, built by the local lumber company and volunteers. As we arrived, there was a quartet playing music out in the marsh. Can you imagine that? We walked over about a half mile of boardwalk, but did not see a beaver just their houses. I guess everyone went to bed early that night after the concert.

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The next day was filled with Jasper and its beautiful and unique areas. Pyramid Lake is a jewel in the mountains, perfect for kayaking and canoeing with its clear calm waters. Athabasca Falls is a thunderous waterfall with a walkway around it for viewing. It can take your breath away.

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Loaded for Bear!

Our last foray of the day was a 2.5 Km hike to the Five Lakes Valley. These lakes are known for their vibrant blue / green color and they did not disappoint us. The color was magnificent. The forest around them was dark green and filled with birds, squirrels and bears. The hike was moderate and I was all tired out until the very end, when we met up with a group of ladies just finishing their hike too… and one of them was 84. They have been making the hike every year. Was I embarrassed!

At least Bella and Gypsy were exhausted too.P1020297 P1020306 P1020312 P1020314 P1020318

On the way to Banff and Lake Louise we drove through the Icefield Parkway, which is just one stunning glacier shrouded mountain after another, and each more beautiful than the last.

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We camped at Tunnel Mountain Provincial Trailer Camping area in Banff, and were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was. The first afternoon we toured the elegant Banff Springs Hotel, which is now owned by Fairmont.   I was afraid it would not be as lovely as I remembered, but it was even more beautiful. However, the number of visitors had multiplied by thousands, and I mean thousands.

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We still had a few hours of daylight, so we drove to Bow Falls, which was stunning, and then to the Bow River Lookout to see the Hoodoos. I couldn’t help but think of the outstanding hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

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Our aim was to see Lake Louise and surrounding area the next day. We started out at the Lake Louise Chateau and found that parking was a momentous problem even in the Honda Fit. To say parking was limited would be an understatement. The number of tourists was unbelievable. Cars, trucks and RVs and busses full. The lake and the Chateau were as magnificent as I remembered, and we were able to take a hike along side of the lake for about 1.5 Km. We were blessed with clear skies and sunshine. The color of the lake was opaque blue; the surrounding mountains varied colors of green, and grey.

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Roof top view from the Chateau Lake Louise

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View of Chateau Lake Louise from trail around the lake.

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From there we went to beautiful Moraine Lake and found the same parking problems. The color of the lakes comes from the rock sediment of the glaciers that feed the lakes, from which all the colors are reflected but blue, which gives them their indescribably beautiful blue color. We were able to hike along this lake too.

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On our way home we decided to take the 1A scenic loop. We couldn’t have made a better decision. We left the maddening crowds behind and had the road almost to ourselves, bringing back memories of Alaska.The route had many little stops where you could look over beautiful rivers or hike down trails.   We stopped at Johnston Falls and took the trail to the lower falls. (A little over ½ mile.) The hard part was the dogs were afraid of the narrow bridges over the canyons, so they had to be carried over the bridges. The good news was, I was so worried about them, I didn’t have trouble with the height myself. The falls were spectacular. The water curses through the canyon with such vengeance it carves out the canyon, leaving layers of multicolored sediment on the walls. It was a spectacular hike.

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We were famished by then and it was almost seven at night, so we ate a lovely dinner at the small restaurant at the bottom of the falls. Later as dusk settled, we saw buck elk in the meadow and even got a glimpse of a huge black bear.   It could not have been a better day and we counted our blessings once again.

On our last day in Banff National Park we awoke to gray skies and rain. We had planned to take a float trip on the Bow River, so we hoped for the skies to clear and they did. The float trip was serene and relaxing until the end when the rain started again. To make up for that, Lennard took me to the Banff Springs Hotel for a lovely lunch in the upper grill room, and we had a table looking out at the river and mountains.

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At the end of this last day, we drove to the Vermillion lakes. We hoped to see the sunset turn the lakes vermillion, but the clouds came and it rained off and on. We were able to hike a bit and then sat on a bench to watch the birds on the marsh and the colors of the lake change by the minute. No, they weren’t vermillion, but they were beautiful shades of blue, grey and gold. We even saw a rainbow over the famous Mount Rundle.

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Tomorrow we head back into the US and will be ecstatic to have our phones back and the internet. It has been problematic trying to get a few things done without our usual services. We are also looking forward to meeting up with our friends Jan and Tim, and Lennard’s former neighbors and good friends, Tom and Joanne. It will be a nice peaceful time before we begin our trip across the US to the east coast. Yes, we are still talking to each other and have not yet resorted to the boxing gloves.

THE DANCING GIRLS, THE PETRIFIED TOE AND THE ALASKAN HIGHWAY MILE ZERO

P1020106Dawson City was at one time a bustling gold mining town of about 30,000. Now it has a population of about 1,800, but there are still some mines being worked. The town’s buildings are painted pastel colors, giving it a personality of its own. We took the walking history tour in the morning and then looked around the rest of the city in the afternoon including the local cemeteries on the top of the hill.

P1020054 P1020032 P1020036 We had met Jamie, a friendly Aussie, in Chicken who told us about the “Drunken Goat” Greek Restaurant in Dawson City. We had dinner there and saw Jamie again. Later we went to the “Follies” show at Diamond Tooth Gerties. We shared a table with some people from Montreal including a local miner, who told us about current mining in the Dawson City area. The dancers were very professional and the show entertaining.

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THE TOE!

Later, Lennard continued his tradition of participating in whatever crazy scheme the bars have dreamed up to sell liquor, at the Sourdough Saloon. This one took the cake though. You buy a shot of at least 40 percent alcohol and then you actually pay to have them put a real, petrified toe in the shot and then you drink the shot, but not the toe of course. It was disgusting! And…he survived the Sourtoe drink. The toe is black and I guess has been in formaldehyde. Anyway, I hope it has. We may have to take Lennard to the vet too. P1020126 P1020129

The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake has approximately 80,000 signs put there by visitors. It started in 1942 and has grown since then. We met Jay and Sherrie at the RV Park and together Lennard and Jay made signs so we could contribute to the forest. Ours is near the iron picnic table in the grove of 7 pine trees if you ever go there. We will be giving Jay and Sherrie a call the next time we are in San Diego, as we had a great time with them.

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Now we are on our way down through British Columbia towards Dawson Creek and Jasper National Park. We will be traveling some long days, so I will be writing again in a few days, as we approach Jasper National Park, Banff and Lake Louise.

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Preparation for the Top of the World Highway

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Bison along the highway are “normal”

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Update. There is a raging fire in Jasper National Park, so we will have to see what our options are. We had to travel though one fire on our way to Dawson Creek. The smoke was thick and stifling. To see the devastation of hundreds of acres of forest hurts your soul.P1020204

Before we got to Fort Nelson and Dawson Creek, we were able to stop at Liard Hot Springs for an hours dip in the river hot springs used by the men and women who constructed the Alaskan Highway. It was a marvelous stop and sooo refreshing, even though the temperatures were from a 100 to 116. You pay just $5.00 and follow a boardwalk through a marsh, where we saw a moose by the way, to the springs.

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Dawson Creek is mile zero on the Alaska Highway. Most people start here, but we went the opposite way and ended here. Either way, we can say we traveled the entire Alaskan Highway. Hopefully, the fire will be contained and we can proceed from here tomorrow.P1020219 P1020221