Our fifth wheel and the truck

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the season.

Hey y'all

We are still in Texas. Well at least for another 11 hours at which time we will be departing the warmer weather of Texas for the very much cooler temperatures of Connecticut! Once again it is put the shorts away and break out the winter woolies and thermal underwear!

We are spending Christmas with Bryce's host parents (from when he was at high school over here) and their family and of course, Bryce. The boy flew over earlier in December and has been catching up with old friends.

We will be returning to Texas on 28th so my post for the last week is going to have to wait till then and will include a blow by blow description of our first white Christmas (if it snows!!!)

Until then my dear family and friends Norm and I wish you a wonderful merry Christmas and may your holiday be warm, safe and full of the joys of the season.

To all, our love and best wishes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Break out the shorts!!!

Hi all and a warm welcome back.

Where is the time going? We have now been in America for nearly five months and at the moment I just can't contemplate going home. Not that I don't miss my wonderful family and friends, I do, it is just that I have really fallen in love with this country and there is still so much to see that another seven months doesn't seem long enough! But who knows. by the time seven months has come and gone I might be well and truly ready and have seen all I want to.

In the mean time let me tell you of the wonderful places that we see and the lovely people that we seem to meet everywhere we go. So stick around there is still so much to come!

The beginning of this week found us still in San Antonio, Tx. We went off to explore the Japanese Tea Garden and the Tower of the Americas in the Hemisfair Park.

The Japanese Tea Gardens were absolutely beautiful. The ponds, bridges, waterfall and gardens were lovely. It was a pity that the Jingu House was closed for repairs and renovations but the gardens more than made up for it. We really enjoyed our time and the peace and tranquility of the place as there weren't a lot of other people there.

On to the Tower of the Americas. The Tower has external lifts that take you to the top where there is an observation deck, bar and revolving restaurant. The view is gorgeous and in fact you can actually see the curve of the earth you are so high up.

A highlight of our visit to the Tower was the short 4D video that we watched about Texas. We wore 3D glasses for the show but it was the other effects that really made it so worthwhile. When the crocodile comes out of the water everyone gets sprayed in the face with a mist of water and when we were in the middle of a high school football match and we got bumped by the other players the seats jolted. We loved it and the only complaint was that it was far too short!

From the Tower we went back to the Riverwalk. While we were there before, Norm had lost his wedding ring in a restaurant so we went back just to see if it had turned up. No such luck. We stayed for lunch and it was just beautiful and while we enjoyed the visit on Saturday it was so much quieter and less frenetic. We sat and enjoyed a marguerita (I could really develop a taste for them) with our lunch without the crowds that were evident on Saturday.

After lunch we took a walk in La Villita, a very old part of San Antonio where the old houses and buildings have been retained and converted to artists' studios, craft outlets and art galleries. There is so much history to this country it is mind blowing!

From San Antonio we headed further south to San Benito in the Rio Grande Valley. We have heard so much of this area that we decided we needed to have a look. we arrived at the RV park on Friday afternoon - just in time for happy hour!! And it was a wonderful happy hour. The only problem - I need to change from my normal diet coke to margueritas!!!!

Saturday morning saw us up early to attend the breakfast in the club room. Wonderful people at this park and such a social group. We sat talking till about 10.30 when we decided we better head off for another day of exploring. Our destination was South Padre Island of which we have heard so many positive things. But.... before we headed off there was a need to change the outfit from jeans to shorts. The weather down here is just wonderful and I am going to thoroughly enjoy the warmer days.

It has been very rare that I have been disappointed by a destination since we started this odyssey but I have to be honest and say that S. Padre Island didn't do it for me.

Maybe it was because we visited in the winter (off season), but it seemed to me, that unless you wanted to be fishing, surfing, parasailing or other water related activity there really wasn't that much to do. The Gulf of Mexico side of the island is dominated by high rise hotels with very limited public access to the beach while the access to the water on the other side of the island is also restricted by the residential properties that have water front properties.

We went for a walk along the beach and both of us put our hands in the Gulf but that was about it for S. Padre Island.

We did stop at Port Isabel on the other side of the bridge to SPI and had lunch and a wander around.

One stop that we made was great. We stopped at some store that had all these amazing sea creatures and shells outside. Inside was just mind boggling. They must have had millions of shells, shell products and corals. I just loved it.

We stopped at Bobz Place on the way home and that was also pretty unique. The sculptures on the outside of the building were brilliant. It was also filled with shells, corals, knick knacks and clothes but the best part was outside. In the photos you can see that they are building a statue of King Kong which is still in the construction stage. The effort that has gone into making this attractive to the consumers is awesome!

Our last 'excursion' while in San Benito was to the Edinburgh Birdwatching Park. Bad luck that it was closed but we still got to walk around and see some beautiful birds. It is a truly gorgeous spot and we would have liked to visit when the visitor centre was open.

From Edinburgh we headed down to Hidalgo near the Mexican border however we didn't go across. There is a great deal of trouble in the border towns on the Mexican side because of the drug cartels and we just think we will stay well away from there.

From here we will be heading to Houston and then on to Livingston to get organised for our trip to Connecticut.

So... until next time a fond farewell to one and all. We hope you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. We will enjoy a marguerita (or two) and think of you all.

Take care our dear family and wonderful friends. Look out for each other and stay safe.

Love and hugs from both of us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Mexico into Texas - getting warmer

G'day All

I am back! We have had a great time during the last week and have been to some awe inspiring places.

When I left you last week we were in Deming, New Mexico and heading for warmer climes in Texas. Well, we didn't quite make it right away. We did have to drive into Texas, for a short while, and then back into NM as I really, really wanted to see the caverns in Carlsbad, NM, so we took a short detour to have a sticky beak.

The drive from Deming to Carlsbad was very interesting on a number of fronts.

Firstly, the Border Patrol. The drive took us by El Paso and, between Deming and El Paso we passed a border patrol station. The traffic on the other side of the road was banked up for miles as they went through the inspection. On our side of the road there was no station just cameras - about ten of them! After we travelled by El Paso we headed north to Carlsbad we came across another station. We were stopped at this one but then allowed to go straight through. Given we had the RV and could have had it full of illegals I was very surprised. It must have been the innocent faces!

Secondly, the drive through Mt Franklin Park was amazing. There were 'Wind Advisory' warnings particularly for high profile vehicles! Yep that is us, well we did reconsider our route but went ahead anyway as trucks were coming through the pass. It was really windy and when we stopped for morning tea we just about got blown away as we stepped from the truck!

The drive through the pass was interesting as you leave the flat area of El Paso behind and climb through the mountains and then out the other side to see more of El Paso laid out in front of you in another valley. I continue to be surprised by this country.

Anyway, we got to Carlsbad safely and the next day we went to the caverns. I have been to Mammoth Cave in Margaret River, Australia and that was just beautiful however I was certainly not prepared for the size of 'The Big Room'. It is humungous! In fact the size of 14 football fields! It was just amazing! The caverns were discovered by a 16 year old boy, Jim White, who thought he saw smoke and went to investigate. The smoke turned out to be thousands of bats exiting the bat cave. He went on to investigate the caverns over a long period of time using a kettle filled with lamp oil as his only light!

We spent a couple of hours exploring the 'Big Room' which was absolutely gorgeous. The formations in the cavern were so diverse. The only problem with caverns is that it is difficult to take good photos because of the lack of light and the restrictive length of the flash light on the camera. Anyway I hope you get the idea of how amazing these caverns were from the few photos I have included.

We would have liked to explore some of the other caverns but the need for safety hats with batteries was a little off-putting.

After the caverns we decided to take the 'Christmas on the Pecos' tour. The tour is at night by ferry up the Pecos River to see the Christmas lights by the folks living along the river's edge. And it was c-c-cold. So cold in fact that they provide blankets for everyone on the ferry. Norm and I had to break out the Alaska jackets, the beanies and the gloves as well as the blanket!

One thing that I found interesting was the river itself. The river has been dammed to provide a recreation area for the residents of Carlsbad. It is really lovely with beach areas, boats and fishing. I didn't quite understand it but apparently above the town there is no water in the river as it has been diverted to agriculture. I figure there still has to be some water flowing into the river otherwise it would evaporate or soak into the river bed.

Anyway, apart from that the lights were beautiful. The home owners had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to light their homes. One home had the lights sychronized to music! The reflections in the river certainly made it even lovelier. BUT COLD!!!

Our next destination was San Antonio, Texas with an overnight boondock in Sonora. We were so lucky in Sonora. We went to the Visitor Centre to ask about boondocking and they directed us to the Comfort Inn who were really helpful and allowed us to spend the night in their parking area.

On to San Antonio! You can't come to SA without visiting the Riverwalk and the Alamo so.... off we go to visit. We were with friends Christine and John who we had met at the Boot Camp in Indiana and who made a detour to come and visit us. W

We had an awesome time! We visited the Alamo which, surprisingly is in the heart of SA. I always imagine it would be in the desert somewhere. It was an amazing example of the architecture of the time and has been beautifully preserved . The history of Texas and in particular the Alamo is so interesting.

From the Alamo we wandered over to the Riverwalk. Not the sort of riverwalk I had imagined. You know the trees, playgrounds, seats for quietly contemplating the flowing river and grass and the meandering path along the edge of a river!

The Riverwalk in SA is in the heart of the city and is more like a moat with walkways around it. It was originally constructed to address concerns with the flooding of the San Antonio River.

There are restaurants all along the Riverwalk with hotels overlooking it and you can take a ride on a barge around the entire circle of the Riverwalk. It was really lovely as we sat and had lunch at one of the Mexican restaurants and watched the people walking by. We even got serenaded by a trio of Mexican singers/guitarists. We took the barge ride and explored the whole walk - although we only gave the mall a quick look. A shopping mall is a shopping mall wherever it is!!!!

We stayed long enough to see the lights at night and have dinner at an Irish pub - go figure!! We really had a wonderful day and returned home pretty tired.

Only downer of the day was that Norm has lost his wedding ring! He couldn't wear it when he was working and now I have got him to wear it at last and guess what ! he loses it!! Is this telling me something? LOL

We are just having such a wonderful time in America, and discovering some beautiful places but, the best part is the people we are meeting. The generosity and friendliness of the people is always the same wherever we have gone and we are enormously grateful for that. We have made friends with some really lovely people.

We are staying a week in San Antonio and then heading further south to the Rio Grande valley so our next post will also be from Texas and the warmer weather. Cold nights, lovely warm days - I just love it!

Until I am back, please take care of yourselves and your family and friends. Stay healthy and happy and please, please leave a comment when you visit next.

Our love and hugs to you all.

PS You note I didn't mention about when we lost Norm on the Riverwalk!!!!! LOL

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Change of Continent

Hey y'all

I put so many amazing, spectacular, beautiful photos on my blog from America that I thought I would show you another one in West Australia. I put one on of our son Bryce in Esperance some time ago.

This one is of a place called Turquoise Bay near Exmouth. Bryce and two of his friends from Connecticut went on a 'road trip' to Monkey Mia (there are no monkeys there) and Exmouth last week to celebrate the end of uni for the year.

Please ignore the long, hairy legs - they belong to Bryce!

Turquoise Bay is a beautiful spot. You get in the water with mask, snorkel and fins on the south side of the bay and just float and the current will take you to the north side with only minor adjustments with the fins. The fish and corals are spectacular. We were there some years ago.

Just a little piece of another amazing country!

Cheers till next week.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold, Colder, Bl**&^ Freezing!

Welcome back one and all. This week’s blog is marginally more interesting than last week’s one. At least we did more than sit around!

We stayed in Casa Grande till Friday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We had some errands to run and had to pick up the quilt top. Now that was a bit of a hoot! Unbeknownst to me, the phone had run out of minutes and I couldn’t receive or make a call. And it wasn’t until I tried to call Barbara to find out if she had finished the quilt that I realized that we had no minutes left.

The quilt was supposed to be finished on Saturday but as I hadn’t heard from Barbara I thought it wasn’t finished. So, on Tuesday I decided to ring her myself and that’s when I discovered the problem. I immediately put time back on the phone and rang Barbara. I didn’t even get a chance to say hello before she started. She was going to ring the police because we were missing and no one knew where we were and someone might have done something nasty to us and no one would be any the wiser. She was frantic as she had been trying to ring since Saturday with no joy of course. Anyway she calmed down when I reassured her we were safe and unhurt. Needless to say when we went to get the quilt she got stuck into me again. She really had been very worried about us and I really do appreciate her concern.

Lesson learned! Family wouldn’t have been able to contact us by phone so needless to say I will be keeping an eye on the phone in the future!

Thursday was our first experience of Thanksgiving and a very sincere thanks to all the residents in Casa Grande who made us feel so welcome.

It was an interesting experience! Did you know that you can have pumpkin pie and baked pumpkin as vegetables with your main meal and then you can have pumpkin pie as your dessert? This is so different. Yes I know we can have baked pumpkin and some sweet things like pumpkin scones but this is so weird! Regardless of that however, the food was really lovely and soooo much of it. The company was wonderful and a good time was had by all.

For the shopaholics amongst you, I have to tell you. The shops were opening the day after Thanksgiving and some were opening at 6.00am, some then said 4.00am while others chimed in with opening at 3.00am. It was absolute madness when one shop said they would be opening at 12.01am. Apparently, the day after Thanksgiving is called ‘Black Friday’ even though it isn’t the 13th. It is called that because the shops hope that with the start of the Christmas spending they will be in the ‘black’!

Friday we set off again, a bit late by the time we had said all our farewells, for Deming in New Mexico. We have been assured that it will be warmer there than in Casa Grande which was in Arizona. Yeah right!!!!! Oh yeah, we passed three buses with Andre Rieu & the Johann Straus Orchestra written on the side on our way from Arizona. I had a look on the internet and discovered they were doing a concert in Glendale, AZ on Monday night. Had I known, I would have begged Norm to go. Having been to their concert in Perth last year, I would have loved to go again. Oh well - another time.

We arrived Friday afternoon just in time for social hour in the bunkhouse at the RV park and made ourselves known. The conversation got around to the weather and it was with absolute horror that Norm and I learned that we should disconnect the water hose from the tap and our RV as it was going to get down to 17F overnight and the water in the hose would freeze causing burst hoses and possible damage to the RV! Shock! Horror! It is supposed to be warmer than Casa Grande!!!!

Well we did as told and, sure enough, the next morning the water in the tap was frozen solid. So no water for the RV and no shower till the ground warmed up enough to thaw the water.

We headed off for a day of sightseeing and as Norm went to have a drink from his water bottle, we discovered that the water in the bottle was frozen solid. The bottles had been in the truck all night!!!

Our destination for Saturday was to make it to the City of Rocks State Park and also to the Gila (pronounced Heela) Cliff Dwellings.

What always amazes me as we drive through this country is the diversity that seems to be just around each bend in the road.

We left Deming surrounded by flat country (with the inevitable mountains in the distance) covered with low, sparse vegetation with lots of yuccas. There was some farming and some cattle.

We turned off for the City of Rocks and were absolutely amazed at these monoliths stuck in the middle of nowhere and just sticking out of the desert. While nowhere near as big as Uluru they were, none-the-less, absolutely fascinating. Picnic and camping areas had been located in amongst the rocks and provided private little camping areas. An absolutely great place for kids! Of course the camera was very busy the whole time we were there. You take one photo and then another one and then another one. I was fascinated by the shapes and arrangements of the rocks.

From the City of Rocks we headed north through more desert like country when we came upon what looked like a water course with lots of trees that looked like they were dead. (We figured it out that they were deciduous and had just lost all their leaves for the winter.) The road seemed to follow the line of trees and eventually we were able to catch a glimpse of a small creek. We continued along the creek and without warning found ourselves in the Gila National Forest and we were climbing mountains.

It is absolutely amazing how the countryside can change so dramatically in such a short space of time! The next thing we came around a bend to a sign saying Lake Robert. Yep we thought that would be just right, driving through what can only be described as desert and then the next thing there is a lake. We took a half mile drive down to the lake and it was just gorgeous. One of the guys fishing, assured me that they catch trout in there although he wasn’t having much luck that day!

We continued through the mountains to the cliff dwellings. It is believed that the dwellings were built and then only inhabited for about thirty years but I tell you what! Whoever built them or used them had to have mountain goat in their blood because getting to them was really difficult and we had the advantage of some bridges across a stream. The cliff face is nigh on vertical with no undergrowth or trees to assist a climber. And the way down is just as bad! Archaeologists believe the caves have been used since the 1200’s however the smoke on the roof of the cave has been carbon dated as far back as 30,000 years.

Most (80%) of the construction that remains is authentic however small parts have been repaired with respect to the traditional methods of construction. There are small parts that you can tell are not original simply because of the colour. The original construction has weathered and changed colour a little while the new parts are still very clean looking. It certainly does not detract from the amazing detail in the dwellings or from the awesome effort that must have been put into building the dwellings in the first place.

I just love this country!!!!!

Today (Sunday) we decided to visit the Rockhound and Spring Canyon State Parks and to go south to Columbus (3 miles from the Mexican/USA border) Museum. The weather forecast for today is windy so we have been warned about the dust! What is a little dust you say! Wait till you see the photos!!!!!

The bag limit at the Rockhound park is 15lbs per car or per person, I am not sure. But just to reassure you all, neither Norm or I reached the bag limit! The bag limit is on the rocks that you can remove from the park!!!!!!

We took a hike around the park and as I said to Norm, I could have stepped on a diamond in the dust for all I know about gemstones! The park was fascinating but I think that if you were a serious rockhound you would leave the trail as it has probably been picked over by thousands of other rock hounds before you. We stayed on the trail!

From there we headed for Spring Canyon and took the half mile (hahahahaha) walk to Lovers’ Leap. After about a mile along a really, really rough, single lane goat track I had had enough, and while we didn’t make it to the Leap, it was a nice stroll - NOT and the views were really beautiful!

If I ever, ever forget again, please, please remind me that the Americans have real difficulty measuring distances for hike trails!!!! We have had this problem before but had forgotten - lulled into a false sense of security! It is probably half a mile as the crow flies which is great if you happen to be a crow!!!

We made it to Columbus - only just! As we were driving down State Highway 11 there were sections of the road where the visibility was down to next to nothing because of the dust whipped up by the wind. In fact, I tried to take a photo at one point and the only way I could give any indication of the visibility was to take a photo of the white line on the edge of the road! I have included it and some of the other photos especially the ones with the tumbling tumbleweeds! They really do dance across the road, and in many places, the only thing that stops them are the fences along the highway. The fences are piled high with them.

We stopped at the Columbus museum which was very interesting especially the things relating to Pancho Villa, a Mexican who achieved some status as a leader in the Mexican army but who ended up being a brigand and attacked the town of Columbus in 1916 in search of horses, food, clothing etc for his small band of outlaws I guess you would call them. We decided not to stay too long as the wind was picking up and the dust was getting thicker if that was possible so we headed home.

We are heading off again tomorrow back into Texas so my next report will see us having come full circle. Or maybe that is a figure eight?

Anyway whatever! We are having such a wonderful time and do you know something? We don’t ever have to go back to work and can live like this as long as our health will allow because that will fail before we get sick of this nomadic life. There is just so much to see in this country and the world in fact! We are just so lucky to be able to live this life.

Take care my dear family and friends. We think of you all often and wish you all health and happiness. Be kind to you.

Love and hugs from both of us.

P.S. We have learned to work the furnace while here in Deming!!! Had to, it has been so cold!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One less on the 'Bucket List'.

G'day folks

We have been having a pretty quiet time of it for the last week or so. Since we left Pahrump and all the good folk there we have stayed in Phoenix and Casa Grande, Arizona.

We left Congress on Monday morning as I was fortunate enough to be able to buy two brilliant seats for the Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets, NBA game. To see an NBA game was on Norm's 'Bucket' list as well as mine.

We were able to get seats in row eleven right on the centre line!! Couldn't have asked for better seats if we had tried. They put a dent in the budget but.. eh.. we were only planning on doing it once! We took a train into Phoenix (we were staying in Mesa) and grabbed something to eat before the game. I was so excited Norm kept telling me it was just like an NBL game back home. News Flash Norm!!!! No it wasn't! The whole atmosphere was different. More people, more entertainment, more of everything! It was just awesome and to make it a top night, Phoenix were down most of the game and came up to win so the Phoenix crowd was really pleased!

We took the train back to the car. Now that was another experience! Talk about sardines in a can! People were jammed in to the point that I was standing and had nothing to hang onto except Norm's jacket but it didn't matter because I couldn't have fallen over anyway! You really got 'up close and personal' with the person next to you or at least their armpit!

A quiet day followed and we made plans to leave for Casa Grande on Wednesday. We are not going to the Grand Canyon as they have had some snow falls and we don't really want to be driving in those conditions.

Have you ever noticed that I never detail any of my faux pas? I only ever tell you when Norm stuffs up! I write this so I control the content - so there Norm!

And of course this comment precedes another stuff up by Norm. I had decided that one of the footstools would look good with some perspex (acrylic sheeting) on the top of it with some photos underneath. The idea was that it could double as a coffee table. Well we went of to the Home Depot and after much explanation with the salesperson we were able to find what we were looking for! We got some and headed home. Norm wasn't sure how he was going to mold it but it needed to be heated so it could be bent over.

The Barbeque was to be our salvation as the piece wouldn't fit into the oven. So Norm heated the bbq and came inside and set the time. Beep beep and out Norm goes to check to see how it is going. The next second I hear him saying "oh Sh*&, oh sh*&'. I rush outside to see Norm trying to remove the melted perspex from the hotplate on the bbq. I would have laughed but I knew that my life wouldn't be worth living. We got it all off but that project has been put on hold for the time being. It would work just with a shorter time frame!

Because we were staying in one place I was able to get the top of my quilt finished and took it to a lady in Arizona City (just south of Casa Grande) to be quilted. Barbara was a really interesting lady. She has a complete four bedroom house set up as her quilting/scrapbooking place. It is unreal! What I wouldn't give to have the space she has. When we get home I might be able to talk Norm into building me a studio for my quilting! And pigs fly!!!!

The weather in Casa Grande has been wonderful. Lovely warm days and cold nights. So warm in fact that Norm and I have had to break out the shorts again. But it has been bl*^%$ cold at night. The polar fleece sheets are so warm it is great!

Remember back when we were in Kansas and I was describing the sea of yellow from the sunflowers? Well I have seen a sea of white here in Casa Grande! I always thought that cotton only grew in the south eastern states of the USA where there is lots of rain. Got that wrong didn't I - cotton is grown in Arizona! It is amazing and they are harvesting at the moment so there are these giant cotton packs the size of a shipping container, in the paddocks around here.

Can't wait for the next, and final, Harry Potter movie. We went to see the first part of the Deathly Hallows and it was soooo good.

We have really had a quiet time here in Casa Grande. We have been waiting for another parcel through the postal service and while we were planning on leaving on Saturday it still hadn't arrived. So we have decided to stay here till after Thanksgiving. The folks here at Casa Grande are so lovely and have really taken us into their group. We thoroughly enjoy the coffee hour in the morning and the happy hour in the afternoon. It is all really good fun.

This is a pretty short blog (and no saying thank goodness for that anyone!) as we have really been taking some time off from running around.

Take care everyone and stay healthy and happy. And I will see you back next week and maybe we will have some interesting places to report on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Natural wonders and then man made wonders!

Hi everyone and welcome back.

As predicted in my last blog, this week, one of the highlights was Death Valley. What an absolutely stunningly diverse part of the world! It really blows you away - literally, when you visit Ubehebe Crater.

But wait,I am getting ahead of myself. The road into Death Valley is an interesting drive on its own. We were heading back the way we had arrived yesterday but had to turn off towards the Valley. The Amargosa Opera House was right on the corner as we turned off. Talk about out in the middle of nowhere or at least it seemed that way. This beautifully painted building was surrounded by many derelict and deserted buildings. Then as we continued down the road we were surprised, to say the least, when we saw a sign warning us that the road was subject to flooding! As there had been a few drops of rain in the Valley the previous night it made us hesitate- NOT!

Death Valley is part of the Mojave Desert and includes the hottest, lowest and driest places in North America. The lowest point is only 86 miles from Mt McKinlay which is the highest point in the US.

We stopped at Zabriskie Point on the way in and the view was just stunning. The mud hills are just so interesting. We were also able to see the 'track' that was used by the miners when mining was still permitted in the park. I for one wouldn't want to work there!

We entered the Valley past the Furnace Creek Resort. This was a beautiful resort with palm trees and beautiful gardens just as you enter the park. Talk about an oasis in the desert!

Then we arrived at Furnace Creek Village where we went to the visitor's centre only to be told that if we wanted to see everything (just like every other national park I guess) it would take us more than one day!!!

So we decided to take the drive up to Ubehebe Crater and then on the way back we could do all the stops we wanted to. Ubehebe Crater was formed by a volcano many years ago. It was a long drive up there but so worth it. When we got out of the car we were just about blown away by the wind. We literally had to stand with one foot in front of the other so that we weren't blown backwards. Just as well the wind was coming across the crater. If it had been going the other way who knows Norm might have been blown in! Oh well!

On the way back towards Furnace Creek Village we stopped at a number of fascinating views and even started to drive up to a canyon but after about 1/2 mile on a loose stone track we decided not to proceed. The only trouble with that was trying to turn around as on each side of the road there was a 2 feet high bank of large rocks! So we found the widest part we could, I hopped out of the truck and did my usual trick of running from the front to the back of the truck guiding Norm forward and backwards till he could drive back the way we had come. Not more than a seven point turn and we were right.

The desert was so beautiful but oh so inhospitable. There were parts where nothing was growing in what looked like a salt lake, there were sections where nothing could grow because the ground was just covered with rocks and then there were places where very low shrubby bushes were clinging to life in very sandy areas.

Before reaching the Village we took a turn off to have a look at the sand dunes. As we drove along we passed an area that looked like corn bushells that had been tied together and then right next to that, were the sand dunes. It was so unexpected and I hope the photo does it justice. People can walk all over the sand dunes and I just wonder how long it will be before so much damage is done that no one is allowed to walk there.

It is so hard to reconcile all the different geological features and land forms in Death Valley.

I have to tell you about Furnace Creek Village. This is an oasis with a motel, golf course and a lovely village but what really amazed me was the number of motorhomes, travel trailers (caravans), tents and fifth wheelers that were parked everywhere! I kid you not, there were RV's all over the place - some were in parks but many were just parked in the desert. There were thousands of them!!!! Obviously this is one of the snowbirds' favourite places to spend the winter. Even as we were leaving the park there were so many RV's driving in. And they certainly weren't cutting through, there is nothing on the other side of the park in California. If it is the hottest place in North America I don't think the summer would be a good time to stop there!

Why aren't the days long enough to see everything you want to? Because daylight saving has just finished (last night)and the sun sets in this part of the world at 4.30pm.

That is another thing I can't come to grips with - by 5.00pm it is pitch black. It really throws the body clock out of whack! You think it is 8.00pm and then you realise it is only 6.00pm - feels really weird!

Our next excursion was to drive through Las Vegas (we didn't stop) to Hoover Dam and the new O'Callaghan - Tillman bridge that has only just been completed.

When we were here in 2007 they were constructing the bridge and had put in some gigantic pylons that we saw. Because the drive across the dam was the only way to get from Nevada to Arizona and was very crowded we didn't stop. With the completion of the new bridge there is no through traffic across the dam so it is much more pedestrian friendly.

Hoover Dam has been built across the Colorado River and forms the state line between Nevada and Arizona. Lake Mead has been formed as a result of the dam and the surprising thing is that it took 6 years for the dam to fill after completion so that may give you some idea of how big it is.

We had a lovely day. We walked across the bridge and then the dam - both are brilliant constructions.

Some of the residents of the SKP park where we are staying told us that we HAD to go to have a look at the China Ranch Date Farm so our next excursion was back out into the Mojave Desert to locate the date farm.

You actually have to see the desert and the land formations on the drive to actually believe it. The date farm is in the middle of one of the most uninviting and driest landscapes that I have seen. We had to drive down a one vehicle track (slowly) into a valley where, when you drive around the last corner, there before you is a beautiful oasis with hundreds of date palms.

It had been suggested that we should buy a date smoothie and I was all ready to try one although Norm decided that he didn't want one. The trouble is I ended up with Norm eating most of mine because they were so yummy! I told him he should get one for himself but he didn't take the hint. He was happy just to eat mine! They also sold fresh dates, date biscuits and cakes. We were able to go for a walk in amongst the date trees and in the photo the things on the trees are items of clothing that are used to protect the dates from birds. Quite a sad story about the farm and the lady who planted the first dates but the current owners are certainly doing some terrific stuff. All the goodies tasted really lovely too.

We have had a great stay at the Pahrump,SKP park in Nevada and the folks there have been so lovely. We have really enjoyed the coffee time each morning and the happy hour every afternoon. Norm had lunch out with the fellas and I had lunch at the golf club with all the ladies and we had dinner out a couple of times when happy hour went a bit longer than 4.00 - 5.00pm. They were a fantastic group and we will be sorry to be moving on but we know that we will catch up with some of them on the road.

Our next stop will be in Congress, Arizona as we continue to move further south to stay warm.

I hope that you are all staying healthy and happy and would love you to leave me a comment. And thank you to Therapy Passion who has left quite a few comments! You are a wonder Penny!

Till next week I say farewell, take care and stay safe.

P.S. I took too many photos this week so you may need to scroll a bit further down to see the few I have put on the blog. Usually I can pick just a few but Death Valley was just so wonderful I kept taking photo after photo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There's a bear in there!!!

G’day y’all. Welcome to the ongoing (mis)adventures of the real Gray Nomads.

This has been a relatively uneventful week as we traveled on Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday. I am just joking! We did travel on those days but the events on the other days more than made up for it!!!

We are staying in the Yosemite Westlake RV Park about 25 miles from Yosemite and while the entrance to the park is a bit interesting and the drive here was a bit (read very) hair raising, it was a gorgeous place to stay. Beautiful trees in their fall colours and just so quiet. It probably helps that we are the only ‘non-permanent’ RV. It will provide us with an easy drive to Yosemite on Monday. One downside of this park is no TV and no WiFi. Is that a downside??? Nah!!!

What an amazing place Yosemite is! We had a lovely time. The sheer faces of the granite cliffs, the beautiful waterfalls and bubbling creeks. The gorgeous walks among the trees were just stunning and because it is the end of the summer there weren’t too many other folks. Of course I had forgotten (??) to pack some lunch so we stopped at the store and bought some crackers, cheese, dip and sliced meat and then sat out on the deck on our own enjoying the squirrels and the peace and quiet.

A bit later we were driving along a road and there was a little mule deer on the side of the road absolutely oblivious to the cars driving by. I asked Norm to stop and of course that took a while and I was sure that by the time I got back the deer would be gone but I got lucky as it was still there. As we approached it, it wasn’t the slightest bit phased by our presence and just kept eating. I wanted it to lift it’s head so Norm coughed and it looked up, looked at us and went back to eating. It must have been there for half an hour as cars stopped to take photos and people wandered by. It was just the best.

As there was no WiFi connection we drove into the bustling (NOT) town of Greeley Hill. The park manager told us that we could use the computers at the town library or if we wanted to we could park outside the real estate office and piggy back onto his WiFi. We went to the library! It was so busy - all four computers were in use and we had to wait till someone else finished as long as they finished before 3.00pm because that is when the library closed. We made it at about 2.40pm!!! And still had to be off by 2.55pm so the computers could be shut down!!!!!

Wednesday saw us on the road again heading to Tulare, still in California, which will be our base for visiting the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.

On arrival we met another couple, Robert and Mary, who pulled in right behind us and we got to chatting later. We arranged to have drinks and nibbles the next evening when we got back from the Parks. Again the best laid plans of mice and men!!!

Greg Wright told me that after seeing the giant Sequoia’s, the Redwoods would look like toothpicks. And oh boy, was he wright!!!!! To try to describe the immensity of these giants is virtually impossible. To really understand you have to stand at the base of one and look up. It is probably better if you could lie on the ground and look up. Saying they are huge or ginormous or immense is so lame.

We arrived in the park to discover that there were road works going on and that the road through the forest was only open for a short time to let the cars through every two hours. To fill the time we stopped at Hospital Rock. Now I can’t tell you why it is called Hospital Rock and it bears (remember that word - bear) no resemblance to a hospital although it is a rock. Two interesting features are the American Indian paintings on the face of the rock and the small cave underneath the rock. I was madly taking photos of the drawings when Norm called me to have a look in the cave. Lying in there and certainly not moving for anyone was a male deer with antlers. Just like the mule deer, this one wasn’t interested in us at all and I did learn later that some other people who were staying in the same RV park had also been taking photos of it about two hours before us!

Eventually we got past the road works and stopped at the visitor centre for a sticky beak and then moved on to a trail at the Big Trees Meadow. Wandering along the walk path and reading the information on the signs we were having a lovely time until some bloke yelled out, “There’s a bear in front of you!” Norm immediately turned on his heel and started retreating but I wasn’t quite so interested in turning around. The thought of getting a photo of a wild bear was sort of appealing. Another couple behind us joined us and we started edging our way forward trying to spot this bear. Finally we saw the black back of the bear foraging in the meadow just in front of us.

Norm thought it looked fairly small and was keeping a sharp eye out in case it was a cub and the mother bear was close by. As we got closer we decided it wasn’t really that small so mum probably wasn’t around so we kept on following it for about 15 minutes as it moved its way through the meadow and on to the path and then off into the forest again. It was so exciting and I couldn’t get enough pictures. Most of them were pretty ordinary but a few were okay. So that was one of the most exciting things to happen to us so far.

We spent the rest of the day wandering among the Sequoias. At one point we walked down to General Sherman tree. The sign said the walk was only about 0.6 miles so we decided to have a wander down and have a look. The only concern was that while the walk was short it was also downhill all the way and of course, when you walk downhill to get somewhere, on the way back it is all uphill. In actual fact the walk dropped 212 feet in the space of the 0.6 miles. Norm did offer to get the car and pick me up from the disabled parking area which was downhill from the tree but I declined and struggled back up the hill. Of course the altitude was around 7,000 feet which also increases the degree of difficulty. I made it!!!

Because of the road works we decided that our best bet, instead of going back and having to wait for the road to be opened at 6.00pm, we would continue through the Sequoia NP and then through Kings Canyon NP and then head back via another highway. So much for drinks and nibbles with Robert and Mary, we didn’t get back till about 6.30pm. Postponed for another day.

Kings Canyon is a really interesting place although you can’t get to most of it. It is the second largest ‘no road’ wilderness area in the US. There are places in there that no one can access.

Saturday we leave California for Pahrump in Nevada. Although we will be back in California on Sunday because we are going to be visiting Death Valley. It is just easier to get into the Valley from the Nevada side.

Norm wasn’t that fussed about visiting the valley but I really want to see it so guess what? We are going to drive into Death Valley.

I think that we will stay in Pahrump for a week or so just so our mail can catch up with us and besides, we are going to stay at an Escapees Park and may be able to catch up with some of the people we met on the ’Boot Camp’ in Indiana earlier. Even if we can’t it will be nice to stay in one place for more than a day or two and Escapees are such lovely people.

Next installment - Death Valley! so be sure to come and find out all about it. Can’t wait!

Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you find it interesting and once again I urge you to leave a quick comment. I would love to hear from you even if it is just to tell me that I talk too much!! You wouldn’t be the first and I doubt that you would be the last. LOL

To all our family and friends, wherever you may be, take care and stay healthy and happy. We think of you often but we are not coming home yet!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Giant Redwoods, Napa Valley and San Francisco - how amazing!

Hello family and friends.

Does anyone else have a blog? If you have, have you ever looked at your ‘Stats’? Interesting that! I thought that I would have family and friends reading this here story but the stats tell me otherwise! I have people all over the world reading this soooo….. if you are reading this please, please leave me a comment or message so I can get to know you and include you among my friends.

Just a note about last week. We left the Crater Lake area with the weather threatening and the next day five feet of snow fell up at the crater!! Is our timing pretty good or what?

We are in Eureka, California now, having driven down from Oregon through those amazing redwood forests.

Let’s skip Monday as it was totally boring and wet and Norm had to get the truck serviced. Don’t get me wrong I love the rain but I have got used to having some sort of extraordinary experience nearly every day.

So, the plan for Tuesday was to drive south from Eureka along the Redwood Highway and through the Avenue of the Giants. So the new superlatives for this week! This was one of the most wonderful tours with the most majestic examples of Mother Nature’s handiwork. Every time you drive around a bend there are more new and gigantic specimens of these magnificent trees.

We spoke to a ranger who explained that when a giant redwood falls it can take centuries for them to decompose completely. I am not sure how he knows that because I don’t think he has been around to watch but science may have the answer. One of the walk trails we took was just stunning! It was dark due to the canopy of leaves and branches and the sun would be streaming through a gap in the canopy and lighting up the fall colours beneath. It was really quiet with the only noise - the occasional drop of water landing on a leaf or the leaf litter on the ground. Awe-inspiring!

Reluctantly we came to the end of the Avenue and made our way back to the highway towards the quaint Victoriana town of Ferndale. Once again we were greeted by Tsunami warnings but we know now you don’t worry about that until you feel the earthquake!!!!

Ferndale is the cutest little town with buildings that are absolutely gorgeous. They are painted in an array of beautifully coordinated colours with lots of fretwork - otherwise called ‘gingerbread’. Obviously the people of Ferndale are extremely house proud. We wandered around for a while before deciding to head home via somewhere for dinner. Just as an aside - we still haven’t christened the barbeque!!!!

We headed towards Eureka for something to eat and ended up at the Samoa Cookhouse. What an awesome place. The building is an original cookhouse where all the lumber workers used to eat. Much of it has been maintained including the long tables and plain wooden chairs. The walls are covered with old photos of the time the timber industry was in its hey day. Some of the trees that were felled were unimaginably huge.

There isn’t a menu to choose from. There is a set menu. We sat down to the lunch meal as it was about 4.30pm. For $11.95 we started with huge slabs of home made bread and butter followed by chicken and vegetable soup. Then we were served a garden salad with beans and dressing. Then the main meal arrived - ribs with potatoes, baked beans corn. And finally, for dessert we had strawberry cake. Oh and don’t forget the bottomless cup of coffee! I think that Norm just about had to roll me out of there I was so full. Mind you he certainly put quite a bit away.

Wednesday we left for our next stop at Santa Rosa, about fifty miles north of San Francisco where we stayed in the Sonoma County fairground. I know we have avoided many of the larger cities along our way but I really want to visit San Francisco while we are in the area.

A quiet start to the day on Thursday didn’t last long as we headed off to the Napa Valley at lunch time. We drove to St Helena which is at the northern end of the valley.

St Helena is the most beautiful old town. Lovely old buildings and the wineries - well need I say more? One of the wineries we stopped at was so beautiful and they had a picnic ground where you could sit and consume the gourmet food and yummy cheeses that they sold along with some great wines and liquors.

And how lucky am I? On the way home we stopped at the Culinary Institute of America. The building was constructed in the 1800’s and has been maintained beautifully. The garden’s are spectacular with an interesting twist - many of the gardens have herbs and vegetables growing amongst the roses and other flowering plants. In fact while we were out the front we saw a couple of people in chef’s outfits running out to the garden to pick something. I just had to buy myself a souvenir so came away with a mortar and pestle with the Institute’s name on. I may never use it but never mind.

We decided to have a day off on Friday so Norm did some reading and I got some time to sort some cupboards and do some patchwork. Tomorrow is my day in San Francisco and I am so looking forward to it.

Early start today as we are not sure how long it will take to get to SF. We got up and left while it was still dark at 7.00am, thinking that if the traffic was heavy or there were road works we could take up to two hours to get there. Wouldn’t you know, limited roadwork’s and no heavy traffic. So by 8.00am we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a bit of rain threatening but no fog. Woo Hoo no fog! We managed to get some terrific photos before heading down to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We had booked on a tour and had a bit of time to fill in so we went for a walk. And wouldn’t you know there was a camera shop where I stopped to get another battery for the little digital camera I have. Well I walked out of there with a fabulous new Canon camera. It wasn’t the one we were looking for - it is so much better! So while the photos may not look any different for a while when I get used to it, just look out.

Okay, so we jumped on the tour trolley and went to the Golden Gate Bridge (a bit foggy so the other passengers didn’t get such great photos - hmmm). From there we crossed the Bridge where we had a ‘photo opportunity’ before coming back across. The tour took us through the Presidio, Nob Hill, China Town and close to the Crookedest Street in the world. It was a bit rushed but I got to see some of the touristy things everyone sees in SF. After the tour we walked along the wharf, looked in some museums and had some lunch on Pier 41½. Did you know that all the SF wharves have odd numbers so when they needed to name the wharf between Pier 41 and 43 they wouldn’t be able to use 42 hence 41½? Well that is my rationale!!!

I just loved San Francisco and would love to go back there but I think that living there would be fairly expensive. The rents are pretty steep with some of the houses in the Presidio rented out for $4000per month. No way!

Our next stop will be close to Yosemite where we will spend a couple of days.

So till my next episode I wish you all health and happiness. Please take the time to leave a comment as I would love to hear from you. Take care and I will catch you next week. Hugs from me.

PS: I was very late adding this post, so I know some of what is going in next week's chapter so hurry back. It was really exciting.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Moving South - only a little way though!

Well as I predicted, the area around Roseburg, OR was my sort of place - well Norm’s too. We stopped in Tri-City for two nights and it was from here that we visited some lovely wineries.

Famous last words! Norm to Paula as we pulled in the first winery “ You know we can’t buy any wine, we don’t have anywhere to put it.” Well, we tried the wine and some of it was really nice so Norm walked out of that one with two bottles! We visited five on the day and Norm brought home about ten bottles in total. But they were really nice ones!!!!

What was really good about the day was driving through the vineyards with the autumn colours just everywhere throughout the whole area. Mind you I didn’t take too many photos - that sort of got lost in the other major activity - wine tasting!!!!

We drove to Crater Lake on Wednesday, unpacked and as it was still early we decided to go up to the crater and have a look around. It is just unbelievable! You drive up the road and don’t even realise how high you are ascending until you get a glimpse of this dirty great side of the crater and then you get out of the car and go to the edge and look over! It is absolutely breathtaking! The water has got to be the most unimaginable colour of blue and is just so still. The crater was formed when the volcano, Mt Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago and collapsed in on itself. There is no river or stream or spring feeding the lake, the water comes solely from the rain and the average snow fall of ….. Wait for it…. 44 feet of snow!!!!!

We drove all around the crater and got some wonderful photos including some of Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship - the only two bits that stick up out of the lake. As the day progressed and we made our way around the crater it began to get very misty and foggy and it wasn’t until we were about ¾ of the way around that we saw a huge bushfire. We were told it was probably a controlled burn but of course it was the smoke that was settling in the crater that was causing the misty appearance. The only good thing out of it was that when I took some photos of the Phantom Ship the smoky haze gave it an even more spooky look.

On Thursday we had a day of falls! No, not the splat type of fall but waterfalls. Around the Crater Lake area there are quite a few absolutely beautiful waterfalls so we spent the day visiting them. The Pearsony Falls were not high but were in an area more like a fairy glen with moss covered rocks and trees, fungi and shady trees. Just so beautiful and, as we were the only ones there, it was really peaceful.

Our next destination was Thompson Bridge and as we approached this very ordinary looking bridge wondering what was so special about it, we looked down and the most amazing waterfall, still ponds, beautiful autumn colours were evident. It was really lovely and as we explored - climbing over rocks, clambering under the bridge and pushing our way along a bush track, we were continually amazed by how beautiful it all was.

From there we made our way to the Natural Bridge which was gorgeous and pretty interesting for the geologically inclined (me). The river actually disappears into a ’lava tube’ at one point in its path and 70 feet downstream reappears out of the lava tube. This is how the bridge has been formed. The photos may give some idea of how beautiful it all is. The falls in this area are, for the most part, on the Rogue River.

We followed the Rogue River to the Rogue Gorge which was just stunning. Just upstream from the Gorge were more falls - again - so beautiful. The amount of water in this country blows me away. Coming from a continent as dry as Australia I can’t understand how America could ever suffer from a drought. I am sure there must be places where there is a lack of water but all the places we have been so far have certainly not appeared to lack water.

We continued up Highway 62 to Diamond Lake and although the weather had come over very cold and windy with rain threatening it was easy to see how it would be a wonderful place to spend the summer. It was the end of the season and the only people left were some hunters (now that is another story), some fishermen and the staff who were closing up for the winter. I would love to go back in the summer to just be able to sit and fish and cogitate. With the weather closing in we headed back to the park to pack up for Friday’s drive to north California.

And so much for sunny California! As we headed down through the redwood forests it became really cloudy and miserable. We did get a glimpse of some of these gigantic trees but I believe there are better to come. The California coast up here is a continuation of the Oregon coast so is very similar with craggy outcrops and today, a grey, angry ocean. Mind you, the first beach I saw had dark gray sand although they did seem to lighten as we moved a little further south.

Saturday was another grey, cloudy day so we took a drive down to the historical section of Eureka. Well that is where we planned on going but a missed turn saw us take a bridge to Woodley Island, just off the coast. Interesting island - I am sure at its uppermost point it must be all of 1 yard above sea level. Seriously! And the Tsunami warnings along the coast do not inspire a lot of confidence in staying! We had a lovely lunch on the island and then took a stroll around the Victorian inspired area of Eureka.

We are planning on staying around here for a few days or even a week as Norm is really keen to spend some time in the redwood and sequoia forests. He also wants to visit Ferndale - a town that apparently has managed to preserve itself as a town from the Victorian era.

Till the next episode in the chronicles of our adventure I will bid you farewell. If you do drop in, please leave a comment as we would love to hear from you.

Keep yourselves safe and well and hugs to family and friends. You are all so important to us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's week twelve already!!!!

One of the problems with our lives is that we spend so much time anticipating and looking forward to events and they come and go so quickly. It is amazing to think that we have been on the road in this wonderful country for three months.

As I said at the end of my last blog, when we left Kelli and Don’s the plan was to go to Olympic Nat’l Park for a few days then head south so we could visit Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens before heading down the west coast to the southern states for winter. Weeelllll we got on the road and before we even got anywhere we change our minds (mainly because the weather was not looking too flash) and decided to give Olympic Park a miss and head straight to Randle, WA which is halfway between Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens.

We headed to the Shady Firs RV Park and didn’t bother booking. We have discovered that all the RV parks in the north are either closed or closing for the winter or, if they are open all year they have lots of empty spaces. Shady Firs is a beautiful spot and had lots of empty spaces - in fact - we were the only ones there when we pulled in.

The weather on Monday wasn’t flash - lots of cloud around - but we decided to go to Mt Rainier anyway. We entered the park from the east at Ohanapecosh and headed west. Ohanapecosh has the most magnificent old growth forest. I almost laid on my back on the ground just to soak in the enormity of these giants. You will certainly get a crick in your neck looking up all the time. As it was the last day of the summer season for the visitor centre and the camp ground, the walks were extremely quiet and sort of surreal. We found ourselves whispering so as not to disturb the serenity of it.

We wound our way through the park as we headed to ‘Paradise' which is the closest that you can get by car to the mountain itself. Did you know that Mt Rainier has more named glaciers than any other mountain? Anyway, we arrived in Paradise after waterfalls, creeks, glaciers, beautiful autumn colours, majestic forests and breathtaking views, only to find that the summit was covered in cloud. Never mind, we had an incredible day and decided that as we had only seen one side of the park we would come back on again so that we could see the west side of the park and maybe get a better view of the summit - weather permitting.

That decision was one of the best that we have made because Tuesday dawned with amazing clear skies and was just a beautiful autumn day. Keeping in mind that the weather could change very quickly up there, we headed straight up to Paradise to take advantage of the clear skies. If I say that it was amazing, brilliant and breathtaking would that give you some idea of how absolutely beautiful it was. If I could add all the photos that I took, you may get some idea. And it doesn’t matter that I am not a photographer or that I have a little inexpensive digital camera, the views and sites are so amazing you would think I was a professional!! Seriously, the views are so lovely they make even me look good!

There are so many hiking trails in the park but I have to tell you, if the sign says 1.2miles then ignore the one and the decimal point because the trail will be at least two miles. And if it says 0.4miles then double that! We took the walk to Nisqually Glacier Lookout and then on the all down-hill trail to Nisqually Falls (oh yes and it is all up hill going back to the car!). But they are so worth the effort!

We had a very late lunch at the Lodge at the entry to the park and then enjoyed a leisurely wander through the ‘Trail of the Shadows”. We saw evidence of beavers, the hot springs and once again the most amazing old growth forest. Do I overuse the word amazing? I will have to expand my use of superlatives so that I can adequately describe what we see!

We come away from a day like today both physically and emotionally spent. There is just so much to take in that you end up with SOD ( for newbies to this blog that is the acronym for Sensory Overload Disorder) once again.

But, come the morning, we are up and eager to do the whole lot all over again as we planned on heading to Mt St Helens. It seems incredible that it is 30 years since the eruption.

The drive to the east side of Mt St Helens is truly lovely with beautiful forests and it isn’t until you get closer to the mountain that you actually come face to face with the results of that catastrophe.

There are areas that have been replanted and are beginning to cover the scars however there are significant areas that have been left and there is very little sign of recovery. One of the things that is hard to accept is that there are areas close to the mountain that appear untouched by the blast while other areas much further away were completely erased. Spirit Lake, which is on the north (?) side of the mountain, is just the most beautiful lake except that there are huge expanses of fallen logs floating - from a distance it was hard to know what was on the surface of the lake but as we got closer (and used the binoculars - oh duhh) you could see that they were dead trees. There are huge areas where the logs have just bottled-necked.

We sat in the shadow of Mt St Helens to have lunch and contemplated the amazing forces of nature that could bring such devastation to people’s lives and the whole area surrounding the mountain. Quite a sobering moment.

We have a new plan!! From now on we will take at least one day a week when we do not go sightseeing or rushing around. It is the only way I am going to get any ‘jobs’ done! We have realized that we have plenty of time and we don’t need to see everything right now!! I don’t know how long it will last but we will see!!!! Maybe just for this week, so tomorrow is the day.

It is Friday and off we go again! This time we are headed to the Oregon coast of which we have heard so many wonderful things. It will have to be good given that the beaches at home (West Aust.) are magnificent! I will attach a photo of a beach at Esperance (south coast) just to give those of you who haven’t seen a West Aussie beach, some idea of how magnificent they really are. The kid in the photo is our youngest son who was on a ‘road trip’ with one of his friends from Connecticut.

We are staying in Lincoln City, OR at a beautiful RV park on the banks of the Selitz River. It is the most gorgeous setting and is a good start to our exploration of the Oregon coast. We headed south to Newport and the following day went north towards Tillamook stopping along the way at some of the scenic outlooks.

Depoe Bay is the cutest place with its harbour. I don’t know that it is the smallest harbour in the world but it is cute. One thing I didn’t know was that Captain James Cook landed at Cape Foulweather on the Oregon Coast!! We stopped at some beautiful places and I actually saw a whale (from a long way away!) I think if I had to compare the Oregon coast I would have to say it was more like the Great Ocean Road in Victoria than the beaches of WA. It is certainly beautiful and some of the little bays, the huge outcrops of rock and the Sand Lake were stunning. The Tillamook Cheese and Ice Cream Company was a wonderful stop too. They have 38 different flavours of icecream. Yummy!!!

Our next move will be towards Crater Lake but I think we may do a small detour as I believe that around Roseburg there are some wonderful wineries!!! My sort of place is Roseburg. The only problem is, that unlike our visits to Margaret River (back home), we won’t be able to buy a couple of dozen bottles to take home with us. No room in the RV - bummer!!!!!!

Take care of you and yours and happiness and good health to all our friends and family.

Till the next, hopefully not so long, episode in this saga I will say ooroo and catch you again soon!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Week Eleven - Seattle

The plan for this week was to stay with Kelli and Don for a couple of days then to head down south as the weather cools. Well you know the saying about the best laid plans of mice and men!

Unfortunately I brought a cold with me off the cruise so we decided to hang around Seattle for a bit longer before moving to Olympic National Park however, Kelli and Don invited us to stay with them for a while. (No one had told them that that was a fatal mistake!!) As it turned out we stayed a week and had a fabulous time with two lovely people and two gorgeous dogs. Greta is a two year old St Bernard and Guinness is an eleven month old black Labrador. It was such fun!

Don and Kelli took us down to the locks on the river in Seattle on Sunday. We also visited Pikes Place Market which is pretty famous and has appeared in several movies including Sleepless in Seattle. Whatever you may want to buy you can just about guarantee you will find it at the markets. Norm bought a Chicken Hombow - interesting taste. The pastry is a bit sweet with the savoury chicken inside. Then we went for a stroll along the water front. Guinness needed some practise!

Monday, Kelli took us up to Snoqualmie (pronounced Snow-kwol-me) Falls just out of Seattle. A really lovely spot although the work being done to improve the hydro electric program was a bit of a mess and we couldn’t walk down to the bottom of the falls (can’t help bad luck)!

We had dinner with Sandra and Bruce (Sandra is the other Bruce’s sister - Bruce and Mary) on Tuesday night. Mary had forwarded all the books Norm had ordered on line to Sandra’s home so we picked all of them up. We had a lovely dinner and met their grandson Indy.

Wednesday night we had dinner out with Kelli and Don and their daughter Amy and five month old grandson Mason - gorgeous little boy. It was Amy’s birthday and we ate at Red Robin. All you Aussies out there if you get a chance to have a burger at Red Robin I urge you to do so. I have tried two of their offerings and their burgers are to die for!!! Just beautiful - you could call them gourmet burgers - they are sooooo good!

WOW!!! Kelli had agreed to feed Greta’s puppies for the breeder while they were away so on Friday Norm and I accompanied her. WOW!!! Greta had had two puppies about seven weeks ago and had adopted an Irish Wolfhound pup as well. The puppies were just gorgeous except for the wolfhound which is quite ugly really. Kelli and Don are keeping one of the St Bernard puppies for themselves when the pups are old enough. BUT the thing is that these people had three St. Bernard puppies, an Irish Wolfhound pup and ….. wait for it….. five full grown St Bernards and two small terriers!!!!!! Dedication with a capital D!!

After feeding the pups and ‘relieving’ the two ‘inside’ St Bernards and the terriers we set off for the Oktoberfest!!!! We visited the Puyallup Fairgrounds and had a wander around. Norm had a dark ale - he is really developing a taste for the stuff and we had some lunch. Norm and I weren’t game to try the sauerkraut and played it very safe with some clam chowder - not very German at all! But still very yummy!

And Don, you have really started something! Norm bought a pack of that 'Black Butte Beer' you gave him the other night! But he is still only allowed to have two in the fridge at any one time!

Saturday was the highlight of the week for me. Kelli and Don train guide dogs for the blind and Guinness is part of the program. I can’t remember where we went but it was somewhere in Oregon where there is a Guide Dogs for the Blind program. We had front row seats for the Graduation Ceremony - but wait - it is the graduation for the dogs.

It was a very emotional ceremony with the people receiving the dogs telling how they became blind and what it would mean to them to have a guide dog and then the trainers would speak. I have to say it was with a great deal of admiration for all these people that I sat there. To take a puppy and train it for more than a year and then to have to hand it on would be so difficult and I know they are being trained for that purpose but I would find it very hard to give up a dog that had been such a huge part of your life for that time. What the trainers have to do in that time is amazing. Don takes Guinness to work with him everyday! It is a 24/7 task to ensure these dogs are ready to work with a blind person. I have a new found admiration for the work these volunteers do in getting these dogs ready. They are an amazing and selfless group of people.

Anyway, Sunday Norm backed the fiver out the driveway while we stopped traffic both ways and we headed off to Olympic National Park. OOPS sorry changed that! Before we got to interstate 5 we changed our minds and decided to go to Mt Rainier National Park and Mt. St. Helen but that is next weeks episode so………

See you all next week for the ongoing adventures (or otherwise) of two very fortunate Aussies who are having the time of their lives.

And thanks to Sandra and Bruce and Kelli and Don for their hospitality and kindness.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

ALASKA !!!!!!

I have been hanging out for this week. Norm and I have never been on a cruise before so we are really, really looking forward to it.

Thanks to Kelli and Don who have so kindly offered to have the rig and the truck in their driveway for the next week and to take us to the pier and pick us up again. Such wonderful people.

Saturday morning Kelli dropped us off at the pier and we got all our luggage and stuff on board. We went for a walk around and then had some lunch. I love the ‘Free Style’ dining which means you can eat in one of four restaurants on board whenever you feel like eating. After sorting out the bags we went up on deck to watch the ship leave Seattle.

We went to the gym first thing Sunday morning and used some of the equipment. Sunday was spent at sea so we had lots of time to have a good look around. We made the mistake of going to the art auction and walked out with a fabulous piece of art. It will have to be shipped home as it is way too big to go on one of the walls in the fiver!

Monday morning saw us dock in the Alaskan town of Ketchikan. Amazing town - much of it is built over the water. We saw some salmon making their run up the streams and went to a native village where there were so many totems. I will have to post some of the photos when we get back - I forgot to bring the gizmo to download the photos from the camera to the computer. Although we went up the coast a bit to see bears none made an appearance so we lucked out there. Very wet and cloudy day today so it wasn’t a really good day for sightseeing. But who cares - never let the rain spoil an otherwise wonderful day!

We got up early on Tuesday morning as the ship was heading up a fioord to the Tracy Arm Glacier. What an incredible sight. The ship was able to get quite close to the glacier. We were surrounded by small (?) icebergs. The hot coffee (with liquor added) was enough to warm the insides very well! We proceeded north to Juneau which is the capital of Alaska and would you believe the only ways of getting into Juneau are by ship or air - there is no road in/out of Juneau!!

We spent the morning with our guide, August, as we did a trip around the town and then went up to the Mendenhall Glacier. Once again I run out of superlatives. The scenery is absolutely amazing. You take some photos and put the camera down only to find yourself lifting it to take more! The colours in the leaves are just gorgeous!

If we haven’t put on any weight on our holiday before we will certainly do so during this cruise! The Norwegian Cruise Line has what they call ‘Freestyle Dining’. It just means that you can choose to eat where and when you feel like it. No set tables or times! And the food is lovely - so many choices! I have tried to be good and eat salads but have to admit that I have slipped once or twice or thrice and it is only day three!!!!

Wednesday we arrived in Skagway in the morning and Norm and I took a tour with our guide, Missy, around town then went into British Columbia and then into the Yukon! Just magical scenery with snow covered mountains and pristine lakes. I can’t wait till Norm and I drive Alaska in the summer of 2012. Oh sorry forgot to tell anyone that this is now part of the plan!!!!

As the ship was leaving Skagway, we were farewelled by the locals in the traditional manner given to the last cruise ship of the season. Quite a few of them came down to the wharf to wave us off and give us the final goodbye BY MOONING the ship. For those of you who are a bit naïve (if there are any of you??) they lined up on the wharf, dropped their pants and bared their butts at us! It was just so funny !! I have some really good photos but they will need to be censored before I can put them on the blog!

A nice quiet day on Thursday with a late stop in Prince Rupert, British Columbia (Canada). An absolute gem of a town. We went for a walk around the town and then stopped at a park above the ship where some of the locals put on a performance for us. The singing was lovely and you couldn't imagine a lovelier setting. As the sun set, the water was like glass with a cruise ship in the background, it was just glorious.

We left Prince Rupert about 9.30pm on Thursday for the final haul back to Vancouver where we will disembark on Saturday morning. It has been an amazing experience that I will never forget and will just have to wait till 2012 to spend more time exploring Alaska!

From Vancouver it was a bus trip back to Seattle to have Kelli and Don pick us up - wonderful people!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Week nine

And I thought this would be a fairly mundane week with nothing but driving! What I didn’t figure was the countryside that we would be driving through.

On Sunday morning we reluctantly left Mary & Bruce in Wisconsin to start our trek across to Seattle. A journey through seven states and about 2000 miles.

Sunday we drove about 400 miles, 616 miles on Monday and Tuesday we covered 656 miles. Tired? You bet! I was exhausted!

Sunday we drove through Wisconsin and into Minnesota. WI is the dairy state and all around us were green paddocks and rolling hills with lots of cows. Minnesota is the state with 10,000 lakes and is really beautiful as you drive you see why it has been given this description. Sunday night we stayed at the R & R RV Park in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Monday we drove through SD and it was amazing what two weeks had done to the landscape. On our way over to Indiana the sunflowers were all standing upright facing the sun. It was like a sea of yellow. On our return the sunflowers were all standing with their heads bent looking so dejected. SD from I90 is fairly flat until you get close to Rapid City and the Black Hills make their appearance. We reached Wyoming and the landscape changed again. WY had a dry flat landscape except when you drive around a bend in the road and there in front of you is a beautiful, green valley. We boon docked somewhere in WY - I was too tired to remember!

Tuesday was another long day but as we left WY and reached Montana it was just amazing. MT was one of my favourite places on our previous trip in 2007. I just love the valleys, the mountains and the rivers. Just one of the most amazing landscapes. We reached Idaho and I was disappointed to see that there was not a potato in sight!! Interstate 90 winds its way through north Idaho through the Bitteroot Mountain Range. It is spectacular and we will have to go there again as I would love to have stopped to take in some of the scenery. We kept driving and reached Washington state before it got too dark. WA was the real surprise of the journey. I had always envisaged WA to be mountains and green trees and lush growth. Wow was I way off! Western WA is wheat growing country and is reasonably flat and dry. I was blown away by the giant sprinkler systems that are used to water the wheat. Tuesday night we stayed at a lovely RV Park in Moses Lake, WA - the only problem was that it was right next to the Interstate and the noise of the traffic was really loud.

I was hoping to spend a couple of nights in Moses Lake but with the noise of the Interstate, Norm decided that we would push on about 130 miles which would put us close to Seattle.

So on Wednesday we moved on through WA to Lake Sawyer where we stayed for two nights. I finally found the WA state that I had pictured. Ginormous lakes, mountains, fir trees and lush undergrowth! Just my sort of country!

Today (Friday) we packed up (once again) and drove about 25 miles down to Seattle where we have arranged with friends of friends to leave the rig at their home while we are on the cruise. Kelli and Don have kindly offered to drive us to the pier as well as picking us up when we get back.

Norm did an amazing job of getting the rig into the space. It was really squeezy! I will make sure I take some photos just to prove he can reverse the rig! No more pull thrus for him!

Tomorrow we start our cruise so until next week bye and hugs from us.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week Eight

‘Boot Camp’ on Goshen, Indiana this week.

Sunday we started looking around the Fairground for another couple that we had been chatting with on the Escapees forum and eventually found them. Only about 800 RVs in the place!!!

They took us on an excursion around the Fairground and we eventually located about eleven couples who are also members of the Class of 2010. For the uninitiated the Class of 2010 is made up of those people who take up full time RVing during the year of 2010.

By general consensus, the decision was made, that as we had the largest grassed area around our RV that the group would have a ‘pot luck supper’ at our place on the Monday evening. It was a really good night. More food than you could possibly eat and a beautiful evening to make it just lovely. Everyone came prepared with food and drinks, chairs, tables, cutlery and the best thing was that when they had all packed up and gone home there was nothing for Norm and I to do. Great way to have a large group over for a meal!

The whole week was very busy with workshops and seminars and both Norm and I learned an awful lot - especially some really important things that we were not aware of. Like not pulling into a service station with the fridge and water heater turned on as they both run on gas when we are on the road. They both have a pilot light which, if you are really unlucky, can ignite any petrol fumes around. Needless to say that now, before we pull in for fuel, we pull over and turn them both off!

Norm has a new mantra. He has become a bit of a story teller. But for those of you who know the man, I am sure you can just imagine him embellishing any story he is telling. His new mantra is ’Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story’! Boy does he do some embellishing! Some times I don’t even recognise the story!!!! He has often had his audience in stitches as he retells some of the more gruesome moments on our trip.

Wednesday was an early start as we were going on a bus tour of the Amish area of Indiana. It was really interesting and we were both so impressed by the attitude of the people to living their lives as simply as possible. In this day and age we had to admire that simplicity. We finished the tour off by having dinner in the home of a gentleman who, at the age of 25, converted from his Catholic upbringing, to Amish. He has married an Amish lady and has brought up three sons and established a successful horse breeding program. It was a fascinating day.

Finally on Thursday we had a chance to catch up with the ‘TrashQuiltLady’ and her husband Dick. I had met Nita on a quilt forum quite a while before we left home. The only problem was that the time was way too short but I am sure that we will meet again somewhere on the road.

The only positive about the end of the boot camp was that we would no longer have to listen to the numerous trains that moved around the perimeter of the Fairground at all times of the day and night! Apparently Goshen has the record for being the third busiest train depot in the US. And we heard every one!!!

We had decided to leave the boot camp after the closing ceremony on the Thursday evening. The thought behind this was to try to get through Chicago some time early in the night (8.30 - 9.00pm) and avoid some of the traffic problems for which Chicago is infamous.

It was very sad saying our farewells to the Class of 2010. We have been so lucky to meet such an amazing group of wonderful people and we will certainly miss them but will always have the opportunity to meet again somewhere in the great outdoor. Some have even said they may even come to Australia in the future. I have a list of those who said they would so they better watch out because I don’t forget!

We did manage to get through Chicago without too many problems - except for running a toll way. Oops we didn’t see it coming up and went straight through! Isn’t modern technology amazing. I got online straight away (as we continued driving down the Interstate) and using the computer and the credit card paid the exorbitant fee of $1.70 LOL! Norm thought I was mad but if you don’t pay it they add $20.00 to the fee to cover chasing you down!

We did witness the problems Chicago has with its traffic. For about five miles, the east bound traffic (thank goodness we were west bound) was at a stand still. There were probably two trucks for every car and they were just sitting in the biggest parking area you have ever seen. Four lanes of traffic standing stock still and not going anywhere!

We pulled off at a truck stop later in the evening and had a meal and then crawled between the sheets to have a sleep. Early to rise we headed north to Wisconsin where we are spending a couple of nights with Mary and Bruce. They have reliably informed us that we must not miss the ‘Cheese Days’ in Monroe, about half an hours drive from their home.

We arrived way to early - we had forgotten that we needed to put our watches back an hour!! Mary was trying to tidy the house before we got there and Bruce was still working but anyway it gave them both an excuse not to continue.

Back to the saga of the connection for the barbeque!! Mary had rung several times during the week to be told that it was in the mail!!! (US Postal Service again!) On Thursday she was told that it would be here Friday so I got on the phone to be informed that yes it had arrived!! Woo Hoo - Norm can start cooking now!!!!

The four of us climbed in the truck - the back seat is not a good place to sit for any length of time - and went to Camping World. Oops sorry Norm but the piece you need, and that they told you was all you needed for $25.00, was not all you needed and now you have to pay about $70.00 oh and that includes $22.00 for delivery because it was a special delivery. Not happy Jan!! To cut a very long story short they refunded us the delivery and we took home the two pieces so now at least we can have a barbie!

Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you that just after we arrived at Mary’s, Norm was leveling the fiver while I stood and gave him directions and all of a sudden there is this almighty bang followed by a prolonged hiss! Scared the proverbial out of me! I walked around the fiver to discover that one of the tires was flat on the bottom! LOL. Made Norm’s day as you can imagine. Anyway we did some ringing around and found someone to fit a new tire on Saturday. Very fortunate as it turned out that the tire place was also in Monroe which is where we were headed for the Cheese Days.

Now to tell you about the Cheese Days. Wisconsin is the dairy state of the US and they have a three day festival every second year to celebrate the cheese makers and their products. And we just happened to be able to fit it in to our itinerary!!!

There are tents around the town square of Monroe that are full of cheese to be sampled. As well as many food vendors and entertainment. The big thing is cheese curds! The only problem is that if they are any good as you eat them they squeak which puts my teeth on edge. Monroe has a Swiss heritage with buildings resembling those found in Switzerland. In fact Bruce has a Swiss heritage. We had a great day and, as always when we are with Mary and Bruce, spent much of the time laughing.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we will be getting an early start to our trip to Seattle because next Saturday we will be getting on board the Norwegian Cruise liner Star Princess for our cruise to Alaska. Week nine will be pretty boring as we have to cover 1877miles from Wisconsin to Seattle, Washington in about five days.

Take care and love to all our family and friends.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week seven

Week Seven

Welcome back!

Monday and I finally got to cut out all the pieces for the quilt I am making for the fiver. Norm spent a constructive time washing down the fiver and Bruce got the lawn mown (huge lawn - split between a push mower and a ride on) and then sat on the front verandah watching Norm!!! We had a quiet day which was much appreciated by yours truly.

Back to the saga of the connection for the barbeque on Tuesday morning. Well, as you can guess, when Mary and I got to Camping World we were informed that it hadn’t arrived and they expected in on Wednesday morning. Needless to say we weren’t impressed! And neither was Norm as he had already hooked the fiver and truck ready to leave. As it was far too windy to be driving the fiver anywhere, Mary and I decided some retail therapy was in order!! Norm was left at the house watching some TV as Bruce was already back at work.

On Wednesday we left for Bass Lake in Indiana. Well that was the destination when we left. We had planned a route that would see us avoid all contact with Chicago. Apparently Chicago is a nightmare to drive through!

Along the way our plans changed and we ended up in South Bend, Indiana not far from Elkhart and Goshen. We were getting some warranty work done on the fiver in Elkhart on Friday . So Thursday was spent doing boring stuff that has to be done no matter where you are.

This whole week was a bit on the tame side really - no amazing sites at all. But we are really looking forward to the ‘boot camp’ in Goshen. Hopefully we will meet up with some of the folks we have meet on the forum and especially the Class of 2010.

We arrived in Goshen on Saturday and were taken to our “back in” site! Yeah right!! Norm’s reversing skills with the fiver are not that flash yet so we pleaded for assistance and the parking people took pity on us and got us to drive straight in to the bay. The poor people behind us had to wait till we were in before they were asked to back in behind us. They were probably better at reversing than we are just yet!

Next morning we were up early. I wanted to finish making the cauliflower pickles I had started (only because I couldn’t find them anywhere and I like my piccalilli!!) Norm is a bit worried, he thinks he will be eating piccalilli every day for the rest of our stay. I made 13 x 1 pint jars! (Can’t translate to metric for the Aussies)

Next job, head off to the welcome ceremony and see if we can locate some members of the Class of 2010. We finally found one couple and then walked over the Fairgrounds in search of others. We are all spread out all over the Fairground. There is somewhere in the vicinity of 800 RV’s at the Escapade! So it could be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Week seven - a slower pace but very enjoyable. After all the running around we have done it will be a pleasure to spend a week in one place. Week eight here in Goshen then at the end of the week a cross country run ( >2000miles) to get to Seattle for our cruise to Alaska.

Bye all and take care of you and yours.

Week Six

Okay, so now we are on our way to Goshen for the Escapade on September 11th. Just a nice leisurely trip - if that is possible with Norm at the wheel? Just kidding.

We left Custer and headed east. Along the way we were going to visit the Badlands but unfortunately there was a severe weather report and as we traveled it was coming up behind us very quickly. We got caught in a bit of rain along the way but decided that our best bet was to get to our next stop in Mitchell before the worst of it hit. It was just as well because at about 7.00pm there was a tornado warning in Mitchell. It appeared to just pass to the North of us but was pretty awesome. The rain pelted down and the wind, thunder and lightning were brilliant. We sat in the fiver with all the blinds up just watching it.

Tuesday saw us still in Mitchell as Norm wanted to get the first service on the truck done before we moved on. And of course I had housewife duties to perform, namely the laundry! We met a really nice young couple and hope to catch up with them through the winter when we are in the southern states away from the snow.

Wednesday we took off again to make it to the Eagle Cliff Campground in Lanesboro, Minnesota for a two night stop over. Lanesboro was the most beautiful little town. Really picturesque with beautiful homes and lots of character. Thursday was a bit rainy and cold so we stayed around the campground and only went out for dinner.

Friday morning it was pack up again and point ourselves in an easterly direction heading for Wisconsin to stay with Mary and Bruce who we met in Leadville. It was a long weekend so the plan was to stay with them for a few days and then on Tuesday to go to Bass Lake in Indiana for four days before the Escapade. You all know about the best laid plans of mice and men!!!!

We had an excellent time with Mary and Bruce. We arrived on Friday evening much to Bruce’s surprise. Because we were so late I think he had given up on us! We went out for dinner with some other friends of M & B, Margaret and David. Dined at the Grumpy Troll in Mt Horeb. One of Mt Horeb’s claims to fame is the many trolls that dot the area. When the government put the interstate highway around Mt Horeb instead of through the town businesses came up with a tourist attraction that would draw visitors to the town - hence the many troll statues.

Saturday we went to Camping World where Norm finally bought a barbeque!!! Woo Hoo! But don’t get too excited - yes we have the barbeque but unfortunately the connection for the barbeque to the fiver wasn’t available. Finally got the young sales assistant to order one so it would arrive Tuesday morning, we would pick it up then and head off to Goshen! Haha - another plan gone awry!

After Camping World we went to Madison to visit the ‘Taste of Madison’ festival. Around the town square (?) all the local restaurants were serving food so patrons could sample their menu for a small price ($1 -$4). All proceeds went to charity. Norm and I sampled a ‘Corn Dog’ (Hot dog covered with corn meal and deep fried) and while we were reliably informed that restaurant corn dogs are better (So say Mary and Bruce!), we were not that fussed about them. We also sampled deep fried cheese curds and while Norm turned up his nose (cheese AGAIN) I thought they were great except as Norm said he could feel his arteries hardening just looking at them! We finished off our visit with cream puffs - really yummy. Norm didn't turn up his nose to cream puffs!

Sunday we stayed at Mary and Bruce’s home and had a lovely lunch with the whole family. Sons Hans and Tom and Han’s wife Emily. We had our first taste of Bruce’s famous Brat sausages. They are boiled in beer for a short time and then put on the grill (Aussies read barbeque for grill). Sound horrible? They were great really!

That evening we went to Margaret and Dave’s for a bonfire. Dave thought it was time he got rid of the Christmas trees from 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 which had been waiting to be burned off! Mary took a jaffle iron and made cherry and blueberry pies on the bonfire. I had marshmallow and blueberries in mine - made an awful mess but tasted really scrummy! Norm also discovered that dark brown ale doesn’t cause hangovers!!!!! Need I say more!

Another brilliant week over - at this rate it will take us more than a year to see all the places we want to visit .. Oh well such is life…….

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week Five

Hi again,

We arrived in Loveland on Monday afternoon and set up the van and then went out for dinner. We seem to be eating out a lot and I keep nagging Norm to buy a barbecue so we can have some steak or chicken or something that doesn't have some sort of sauce over it. It just seems that so much that you order has some sort of sauce over it or it is smoked or it is covered with cheese! Still as one lady told me when I asked for no cheese on my chicken and salad sandwich, you are in America now and we eat cheese! So maybe while in Rome I do as the Romans! LOL

On Tuesday we went up into the RMNP for the day and once again I run out of superlatives to describe it. Hair raising would be one when you look out of the truck window and you can see a drop off that must be 100metres - STRAIGHT DOWN! Forget the white knuckles I have chewed my nails down to the knuckles!

Even this late in the summer there is still snow in some parts of the mountains. The valleys between the mountains are just beautiful and around every bend in the road is a new vista that takes your breath away. We went up into the alpine tundra area - and while we were standing on the top of a mountain in Colorado we ran into a couple from Wollongong in NSW. The tundra is an amazing example of how nature can adapt to extremely harsh conditions.

On Wednesday we went back to the RMNP to take another road through however we ended up taking a one way dirt road with so many hairpin bends that Norm was a little stressed when we got to the end of it. One of the bends was so tight that he had to do a three point turn to get around it. Not fun when you are sitting in the passenger seat looking straight down the mountain - not fun for the driver either!

Thursday we spent just looking around Loveland, me getting a pedicure (so lovely) and doing some shopping. I love outlet stores!! Mind you, having said that, I didn't buy anything for me but Norm certainly got some good deals on a jacket and some t-shirts.

After we left the park, we wandered around the gorgeous town of Estes Park for a while and then headed home. We were suffering from what I have diagnosed as SOD! Sensory Overload Disorder!!!!! But you do get to a point where you just can't take any more in.

I love Colorado but there comes a time when you have to move on and we need to be in Goshen Indiana for the boot camp on 12th September so on Thursday we left CO. and went north east to Custer in South Dakota.

I can now understand why that song talks about 'The Black Hills of Dakota' because from a distance they really do appear black.

Enroute to Custer the GPS took us down a narrow,gravel track to a dead end. Whoa!!! Norm had to do a twenty point turn inbetween a farmer's gateway (equipped with a cattle grate) to get us out of there. He certainly got lots of practise at reversing the rig! We can laugh about it now but at the time it was pretty hard work. Mind you it probably looked really stupid with me running to the back of the rig to make sure it didn't hit anything then running to the other side and back again and Norm trying to get this thing backwards through a narrow gate! I had a pair of low heeled sandals on and nearly broke my ankle on the cattle grid a couple of times. The farmer was probably sitting somewhere having a good laugh at these hopeless tourists!

So a very valuable lesson - Don't trust your TOMTOM completely!

While in Custer we visited Bear Park USA. It is like a zoo the only difference is the people are in cages - not really. But you have to stay in your car with the windows up especially in the bear enclosure as the bears and wolves in the same enclosure can wander wherever they wish. We really enjoyed the close up and personal view of the animals living in an almost natural environment.

We then went to the Mt Rushmore NP with the mountain carvings of the four presidents. It really is an amazing achievement the way it has been done and the size of it.

After Mt Rushmore we went to see the Crazy Horse Memorial that is currently being carved from a mountain. The guy who started it took two years just to construct the steps to get him and his gear to the top of the mountain. It has already taken 50-60years just to get the face carved from the mountain. This is a family thing as the man who started it has died and now his wife and seven of his ten children are carrying out the rest of the carving. They are using his original measurements and the models that he made to complete the work.

The next day (Sunday) we just went for a walk through the town of Custer and had an easy day as we were taking off on the next leg of our trip to Goshen.

The next instalment will be from Wisconsin. See y'all later.