Sunday, 30 October 2011

October 19-31, 2011

October 19,2011  Reno, NV to Medford, OR
We departed Reno at our standard time of about 0900 to head north up to Oregon via HWY 395 and 89 via Susanville.  Part of the drive was through the Lassen National Forest as we wended our way towards Shasta.  This is a very picturesque drive well worth another look one day.  Lots of at this time inactive volcanoes along the route to view.  Stopped by in Shasta for a few provisions, back into the land of organic food consciousness and west coast prices.  Back onto the interstate up to Medford to spend the night at a KOA campground...consistent services, but not a special spot to stop.  The evening was mild, so Elaine got to serenade us for a while on the guitar before turning in for the night.

October 20-21,2011
Last night cooled off down to about 3 degrees, but no ice in the water pail; the air bed stayed inflated and nice and toasting and warm until we had to roll out the rack.  We stopped in Eugene to pick up a few items for our travel to take advantage of 0% sales tax and some good pricing on our way to Lincoln City on the coast.  We must be back on the Wet Coast as the clouds have dominated since our arrival to Oregon and the rain threatens....not to worry we have a Yurt booked for the next 2 nights at Devil's Lake State Park.  What a cool idea at a reasonable cost to give you some decent comfort with the whole camping experience....warm, dry, and funky.  Holey smokes, wine is a bargain in Oregon...a $21 dollar bottle in BC goes for about $6.50!  We were happy campers.  The first night in the Yurt a group of wild University students partied to the wee hours and kept the entire camp up...this was remedied for the next night.  Elaine got her fill of wandering the various crafty shops and factory outlet stores.  The beach here is a great stroll.  A short drive from town brought us to a series of artisan glass forges that were making the most incredible pieces.

October 22,2011
The drive up to Vancouver via I5 was an insane white knuckle trek with pouring rain, heavy traffic and 75 mph.  Entry into Canada was a snap, feels good to be back on home soil.  We spent the evening with our fiend Dianne, with a wander through Granville Island and dinner.  Our travel stories of the summer were exchanged--our and hers from Greece....another place on the list.  We made plans to have her join us in Portugal next year--likely with Mina.

October 23, 2011
On our way to the ferry, we stopped by to see Uncle Herman and Aunt Sadie in Surrey to get information on Grandpa Schuetze's hometown of Joinville, Brazil.  We are not likely going to bump into any long lost relatives, but they encouraged us to make the stop.  They are both looking and sounding very well and had a nice visit.  
No ferry line ups, so we are on the 2pm back to home....wait a minute we are homeless; to our temporary home at Rick and Wendy's.  Very warm welcome and visit with the McBride clan.

October 24-31,2011
Our timing to be home for what ever reason, proved providential.  Tony's father had taken a turn for the worse at the care home with a bout of pneumonia and passed away early Tuesday morning.  All the family was able to see and be with Gilles before his passing, so although it was a very sad day, he is now at peace after many difficult years with dementia.
ETHIER, Gilles December 11, 1931 October 26, 2011 Gilles passed away peacefully at Oak Bay Lodge after a lengthy illness. He was predeceased by his wife Leone in 2005. He is loving remembered by his children Tony (Elaine), Leslie (Ken) Wilson and Janet (Frank) Sorensen, and his grandchildren Nick, Jessica, Valerie, Sam, Andrew and Tony. Gilles was a kind and happy man who loved his family, travel and golf. Special thanks to the caring staff of 3 Dogwood over the past several years. 

The week was very full of all the details of my dad's affairs, along with all the visiting of friends and family and the last details of our onward travel.  Wendy and Rick were the most amazing hosts--even pulling together a golf game and a campfire/BBQ.  We will really miss them when we head off on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

October 13-18, 2011

October 13, 2011: Sante Fe, NM to Chaco Canyon, NM

What a beautiful OLD city Sante Fe is.  According to the markers we read last night, it has the oldest church, oldest house and oldest government offices in the US.  The government offices were in operation before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock!  

Alas for more time to spend, but we needed to be in Chaco Canyon before noon to hit the tours.  We arrived there just in time to set up tent next to some cliff dwellings and then join a very knowledgeable volunteer guide (retired teacher). What an unbelievable amount of construction took place 
here in 800-1150 AD!  

Of course there is controversy--already renamed “ancestral puebloan” territory from Anasazi Ruins--some suggest that they shouldn’t be open to the public at all.  Glad to be seeing them now.  In the evening, it feels a little like a pilgrimage site with the tents under the stars and people playing music around campfires. 

October 14, 2011: Chaco Canyon, NM to Cortez, Co
Well, it got cold enough last night to freeze the first few inches of the water in our canteen.  Almost everyone waited for the sun to strike the camp before rising.  We spent the morning chatting with new friends (who told us about the best hike!) and then took to the hills--squeezing through the sandstone cliffs and up the chipped paths to view Pueblo Alto and the sites we had wandered through the day before.     Quite the complex and easy to see how it could have been the hub of this civilization.  After a quick lunch, we were off to Cortez, Colorado in order to see Mesa Verde tomorrow.  Another long afternoon of driving (at 75 miles/hour) and we set up at the KOA with a lovely fire to warm us.

October 15, 2011: Cortez, Co and Mesa Verde
We were up early (warmer this morning) and on the road to Mesa Verde.  We followed our Chaco friends’ recommendations and signed up to take part in both tours--including the more rigorous “Balcony House tour”.  Very, very interesting to hear how the theories have changed about why these buildings are here and why they were abandoned.  Cliff Palace is fascinating, 

but Balcony House more attractive--especially for the children on the tour.  They ask to repeat the climb up the death-defying ladder and through the claustrophobic tunnel.

After a visit to the informative museum, we check out more “self-guided” sites and talk with a KAO camp-neighbour who is longing for the land of malls.  Tomorrow, they and we are off to the Grand Canyon. Fall has arrived in this high country and the drive down is spectacular.

October 16, 2011: Cortez, Co to  The Grand Canyon, AZ
And...on to The Grand Canyon, Arizona.  We decided not to do the quieter northern route, hoping that the traffic had slowed to the southern route.   Luckily, most drivers were heading for a fair enroute.  

*Is there anything that says “welcome” quite like a pit bull with a barbed collar?

This seemed to be a Navajo or Hopi gathering with roping competitions and roadside craft/food stalls. 

Once on the rim, we were treated to the amazing vistas that this area promises and then spent a very interesting evening swapping stories with two Spanish-American couples from New Mexico.  We were trying to figure out the sleeping arrangements as there was only 1 small pup tent, 4 chairs and a large Tacoma truck.  Turns out that the one gentleman is a fan of motorcycle/tent camping and has been all the way through to Alaska in that manner.  The rest of his gang opted for a motel.  

October 17, 2011: The Grand Canyon, AZ to Los Vegas, NV
After one last look at the canyons, we headed for LV, a cheap room, a cheap buffet dinner (no campfire cooking tonight) and cheaper margaritas.  We managed to confuse the GPS, but eventually found all of the above on the outskirts of the city.  We even managed to play the one-armed bandits in Janet and Dad’s honour.
October 18, 2011: Los Vegas, NV to Reno, NV
Yes, it is going to be a long, long day of driving, but soon we will be closer to Oregon.  There sure is a lot of desert and nothing much in Nevada.  Pretty interesting to find a gas station/outpost of earth--section 51/brothel/museum.  Not sure how that looks to the interplanetary visitors.  There seems to be a lot of mining activity up near the mountains and one green town (Fallen).  

Thursday, 13 October 2011

October 6-12, 2011

October 6, 2011 Marion, VA to Nashville, TN

And now folks, we come to the musical section of our exploration.
After leaving “Hungry Mother Park”, we found ourselves deep in the heartland of Bluegrass/Country roots.  I had no idea that Bristol, VA was supposed to be “Nashville” (at least that is what the service station attendant stated), as it was in nearby Marion that the Carter family and others were first recorded. 

What a lot of musical history in this and the next few states.  We arrived in Nashville just in time to have dinner, wander over to the “Grand Ole Opry” and stand in line for a “Opry Christmas broadcast” for the US military.  Despite huge lineups, we scored some tickets along with a couple of local girls and watched the Airforce band back up Clay Walker (host, along with Nan?), Little Big Town (who played their own music plus some fabulous accapella renditions of Christmas carols ) and Leanne Womack.  What was more interesting was watching the whole production as this was a network taping with all the various retakes, gaffs and all.

October 7, 2011: Nashville, TN
And today, a whole day in Nashville!  After a bit of internet planning, we wandered downtown and checked out the original (2nd) Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium (aka the Mother Church of country music) and guided ourselves through

“Nashborough”--the original fort on the waterfront.  

We entertained ourselves by checking out famous bars and not-so-famous (with great local country/bluegrass performers) before returning to get ready for an evening at the Opry.  

And...the Opry did not disappoint.  We forgot this is a live radio show with breaks for commercials.  Between radio commercials, older hosts alternated with older (some ancient) country music stars and younger/hopeful country music stars.  Ricky Skaggs played some great bluegrass  and Charlie Pride really got the older crowd behind him.  The best of the night--we both agreed--was exAmerican Idol’s non-comforist/Janis Joplinesque personality, Crystal Bowersox.  Man, that girl can sing and write!  She sure doesn’t fit the country music female-star-mold though, so we’ll cross our fingers that she reaches her potential.  On to Memphis tomorrow!
October 8, 2011: Memphis, TN
And now, for something completely different, Memphis--home of the Blues.  Although we were warned about a few parts of Memphis (don’t wander near Graceland after dark and stay in the busy areas of Beale St.), this town is concentrated music.  A quick drive-by to Elvis’ address and we were in downtown Memphis.  Okay, they did exaggerate the deliciousness of the food in the cafes, but that great, great blues music poured out from the bars onto the street for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.  And they did, wandering along, drinks in hand while watching street performers and eating in street-side cafes.  A smaller verson of Bourbon Street (New Orleans), but equally engaging.  All the world seems to pass by on the streets (bikers, Japanese tourists, waking musicans, local civic types,...) What a great day!  I can’t forget to mention that we did watch the duck parade at the Peabody Hotel.  Only in Memphis could a drunken prank become a world-famous event.

October 9, 2011: Memphis, TN to Branson, MO
We had a great driving up the absolutely gorgeous back roads of Arkansas and Missouri (think Ozark Mountains) on our way to Branson.  On arrival to this city it was quite a revelation to find a town dedicated to entertaining..we originally thought small, but think bigger much like Los Vegas. 

Branson is like a musical Disneyland.  Performers and performances of every sort can be found here (from the Lennon Sisters to Dolly Parton’s Dixieland Stampede).  Pretty incredible to think that it grew out of musical performances by Ozark Mt. entertainers (sometimes recorded/presented in the areas limestone caves).  Although  the majority of guests seem to be retirees, there are ziplines, mini-golf and golf courses, along with cooking courses and just about everything you can name.  We took in a “a tribute to Hank Williams” .  After fumbling our way through the National Anthem and not bothering with  the Pledge of Allegiance, we sat down to some fabulous Hank songs.  Halfway through an unexpected revival meeting broke out with lots of Hallelujahs and Amens--see Tony for details. Luckly it got back on track and finished up with some good music.    Tomorrow we tackle Oklahoma.

October 10, 2011: Branson, MO to Woodward, OK 
Monday morning, we were on the road again.  This time we travelled through Missouri and into Oklahoma.  Many long kilometers/miles later, we made it to “Boiling Springs Park” in Oklahoma (near Woodward).  In late fall, OK has been harvested and the endless prairie landscape is dotted with black cattle near silvered windmills (for water) and weathered, small oil-pumps.  it is easy to imagine the cold winds whipping across these plains in a month or so.  Boiling Springs is an Oasis.  Most of the campers appear to be long-term, but the pool and trails sit waiting for next summer’s guests (a little cold for us).  I am going to be very careful walking to the washrooms after reading the sign re: snakes!

October 11, 2011: Woodward, OK to Clayton, NM
We make a brief stop at historic Fort Supply near Woodward, but are careful to stay inside the “visitor’s lines”.  The Fort has been recreated a few times, psychiatric institute and is now a prison.

Big business has taken note of the winds whipping across the prairies and the small, water-wind mills are juxtaposed against very large modern ones (we saw many in transport).  

It takes a long, long time to drive across those open plains--even at 70 miles per hour.

Finally, we reach New Mexico and drive into another small Oasis.  Clayton State Park is full of surprises.  Right on a small reservoir lake, stocked with trout, you can imagine cowboys breathed a sigh of relief when they bumped into this.  There doesn’t seem to be a drop of water anywhere else.  Not only are the facilities great (every single site has a beautiful view), but it has one of the best dinosaur track sites in North America. is right near the historic Sante Fe Trail.   One of our best campsites yet.

October 12, 2011: Clayton, NM to Sante Fe, NM
Okay, the great horned owls calling, the deer wandering by the tent and the coyotes barking to their friends made sleeping a little difficult, but the camp was still fabulous and the rangers very friendly.  We ventured on gravel roads to bike the Sante Fe trail (you can still see indentations from wagon trains and the limestone markers to keep them on track).  Hard to imagine that there was an estimated 3.5 million $ of trade passing through in one year circa 1840s. 

After trying to coax some range horses to eat carrots (no go!) we headed off to Sante Fe (the city, that is).  Nearing the mountains, we could see fresh snow on the peaks and water in the fields.  Definitely where the deer and the antelope play.  Once settled into our hotel, we went out for dinner and to explore the town.  I love this town--pueblo architecture and the oldest church/house/administrative buildings in North America.  As one of the rangers pointed out--Sante Fe was a centre of government by the time the Quakers landed in Plymouth.  Crazy!

Off to Chaco Canyon National Park and the ancient ruins.