All posts by kathrainbow

And that is it – our last hurrah for this Road Trip after 3945 miles and even more smiles

Although we had agreed to have a late(r) breakfast and a leisurely run up to hotel check out, the morning began, rather rudely in my opinion, with a persistent fire alarm at 04.40. The hotel was definitely being evacuated, albeit in a rather relaxed fashion, and there we stood on the roadside enjoying (!!) the early morning chill.  Information? Reassurance?  I think not. The hotel staff looked as confused as their guests and I wonder how many fire drills they had undertaken. But along came the flashing lights and the sirens with Vancouver’s bravest and finest firefighters. I would like to say that I knew the cause of the problem but we heard nothing.  It was only when we noticed other guests slinking back upstairs that we asked a fireman if we could re-enter the building. We Brits know the correct procedure!  Anyway, not a snowball’s chance in hell of another wink of sleep for me, so something of a lethargic day.

AEC36B9D-E597-454D-8C49-13CE31A18863

We did want to do something as our flight is an overnighter… another night of minimal sleep… so we enjoyed a lovely return to Stanley Park for the waterside views and the Fall colours. This was followed by a leisurely lunch at the Botanical Gardens, simply because it was on our way to the airport.  

The car is now returned and at this point I want to record our trip mileage. It is a rather impressive 3945 miles. Gosh. It has been a fabulous trip and once we learned not to stop for leisurely lunches we had plenty of time to see and do.  We have seen magnificent vistas, enjoyed the panorama of huge skies, seen/done everything on our “to do” list. It was truly awesome.

59A73042-2D68-4D61-A86D-7FD8EB0C6B74

On that note, I think that is a good place to stop. Thank you to those who have followed our exploits, we have loved your comments too.  Here’s to the next adventure, wherever it may be. 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

And, it’s a last ‘hurrah’ from me, too! A great trip, once more – thanks to Kath for sharing the ideas, aspirations and driving. I have to end with two shopping bags I spotted in Vancouver Airport. Good to smile and laugh!

Vancouver to Whistler (and back) – 168 miles

08B650DA-8A42-41C3-9B94-48C7409338B9

Last full day today and, with a good weather forecast, what better place to visit than the mountains which have been hiding themselves since we arrived. Surprisingly, at least to us, was to find constant notices as we climbed the mountains demanding that snow tyres should be used and snow chains carried from 1st October to 31st March.  Crikey, that’s next week!  We had been asked by the car rental people whether we intended driving in the Rockies, so clearly there might have been a concern to ensure we had the right kit.

 

Our first stop was Shannon Falls, the third highest waterfall in British Columbia.  What?  OK, it’s high and impressive and it made a nice stop, but I have no idea where to find the two higher ones. There were various hiking trails which took you through dense forestry, no thanks, as well as a trail to the gondolas which took you to the top of the mountain. I think there was snow up there but the morning cloud was still clinging steadfastly to the mountain and who knew when/if it might lift.  Even for seniors it was a $40 ride and with the risk of being unable to see anything, it was ‘no thanks’ again and we simply carried on up the fabulous Sea to Sky Highway.

 

We passed by Squamish, another small mountainside town, which helps to service the better known Whistler. You could see that the 2010 Winter Olympics had demanded service requirements to those going up the mountain, so many of the usual culprits were there, including McDonald’s, Subway, etc.  By this time the sun was breaking through, the views ahead were becoming increasingly spectacular and the prospect of coffee at Whistler provided the impetus to continue.

 

We knew we were nearing when the electricity pylons became almost as dense as the trees.  Somewhere a huge amount of electricity was being used.  Smart lodges and hotels, clearly ski related, were much in evidence and then we saw the ski lifts and the hillsides which will soon be pistes, deep with snow and full of brightly clad skiers.  We turned into Whistler, discovered the Tourist Information Centre, found loads of huge hotels, chalets, drop offs for the gondolas, but no coffee.  Come on, this is silly, there must be a village. Of course there was, and eventually we found everything we needed, all overlooked by the still proudly displayed Olympic Rings.  In fact we found a large slice of pizza each at a cafe quaintly named ‘Gnarlyroots’ and enjoyed the sun in the village square sitting in huge adirondacks.  The Fall is much in evidence in Whistler but the maples are already shedding their bright red leaves ready to reclothe their branches in thick snow. Were I ever tempted to slide down a mountain on cold white stuff, I would certainly come here.  Luxury and convenience are everywhere, but I confess that sliding onto a sunbed on a hot white beach is more to my liking, so perhaps not, Whistler. You did your best and I loved the visit, but……

 

The scenery was, of course, spectacular.  The high mountains already have snowy tops and the sea views during our descent were equally breathtaking.  Such a wonderful day for our last full day of the 2018 Road Trip. What entertainment can we come up with for the evening?  Cinema, music, a nice meal?  Something to sustain us for the packing!!

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

A final full day of our Road Trip and we were… on the Road, again. (Apologies to Willy Nelson and Canned Heat as we sang both versions – albeit briefly!)

 

The Sea to Sky Highway (aka BC-99) took us through some of the most beautiful countryside with mountains (some snow capped) on one side and the Strait of Georgia on the other. The road wasn’t devoid of bends or hills so it was also interesting to drive. Signage was in English and Squamish which added another dimension. Researching led me to find out that, in 2014, there were only 7 native speakers but now there are University courses in it as they try to preserve that part of their First Nation heritage.

 

I found Shannon Falls quite impressive but resorted to one of my appalling attempts at humour by mentally singing “Oh, Shenandoah” when I saw a Shannon door! #trulysorry

EA2969F3-553C-4A3D-9F5C-4988ADD4A878

Onto Whistler. It wasn’t our first choice of destination for today but coming on as a substitute, it scored!

Again, looking at some research, Until the 1960s, this quiet area was without basic infrastructure; there were no sewage facilities, water, or electricity, and no road from Squamish or Vancouver. In 1962, four Vancouver businessmen began to explore the area with the intent of building a ski resort and bidding for the 1968 Winter Olympics. Garibaldi Lift Company was formed, shares were sold, and in 1966, Whistler Mountain opened to the public.

Later, the town, then still known as Alta Lake, was offered the 1976 Winter Olympics after the selected host city Denver declined the games due to funding issues. Alta Lake (Whistler) declined as well, after elections ushered in a local government less enthusiastic about the Olympics. The 1976 Winter Olympics were ultimately held in Innsbruck, Austria.

However, Whistler was the Host Mountain Resort of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, the first time the IOC has bestowed that designation on a community. Whistler hosted the alpine technical and speed events.

 

There is money about in the ‘resort’. Impressive, indeed. However, the Olympic Ring ‘statue’ is inaccurate, in my view, as the rings should show linking to form a chain of friendship between the continents. The colours are indicated on the ‘statue’ but not the chain, I suggest. Anyway,… the place was still impressive – as was the pizza slice!

On the way back to Vancouver, I had the enviable task of finding appropriate picturesque opportunities for our resident roving photo-journalist (aka Kath!). Looking for viewing points (which often didn’t have much of a view) and driving down ‘No thru roads’ (sic) to find the best shot of a mountain or water focussed my mind and enabled me to have a ‘task’. I like tasks! Genuinely, give me a task to do for someone and I’m like a dog with two tails! Chuckle! 

80B7BB5B-D15E-491C-ACF2-2B116079C1CD

I, also, like rocks. Having read Rudkin’s ‘Ethics of the Dust’ many years ago, the longevity, history, sight and feel of rock impresses and intrigues me. So, when I overheard that a rock close by was the biggest monolith on Earth, my ears pricked up.

If the rock (approx. 100 million years old) had been around for the equivalent of one day, I would have been around for 0.06 seconds of it! Wow!

Stawamus Chief (Mountain) is not the highest nor has the greatest volume despite standing some 2297 feet (700 metres) above the Howe Sound. Looking at World Rankings, The Chief came in 12th which is still impressive but has often been claimed to be the second largest GRANITE monolith in the World and I can’t dispute that claim. Hail to The Chief – Stawamus (not Trump). 

We’ve had Ribs and Baked Potato (not ‘Jacket’!) for dinner. Very North American and very tasty, too. 

Tomorrow is another day and our 2018 adventure is almost over. 

Vancouver – no miles driven!

D981732F-8418-498A-A6CB-80947480CADD

Yesterday was merely a travel day, a day for crossing the border once more and arriving back into British Columbia for the final leg of our tour.  We opted to have today as a general sightseeing day and to use one of our favourite resources to see Vancouver, the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour.  But first the challenge of getting downtown to pick up said tour as we had opted to stay a little way out of the city.  No Uber cars here, apparently, so being worldly travellers we would take the bus. We checked on how much it would cost ($1.95 each for Seniors, no matter how long the journey) and found you needed the exact change.  Off we went to hotel reception and emerged with $15 in bits!! No matter, we were good to go.

Along came the bus in a matter of seconds and we were off for our 20 minute ride.  A few stops into the journey, the area began to look a little down at heel, as did the large number of passengers joining us.  I thought very little of it at the time as the minute we alighted we were only a couple of blocks from our tour bus. Our tour was a game of two halves, with the choices of a tour of the city, a tour of the parkland surrounding it, or both.  Well, we had all day, so why not both?!

The city was vaguely interesting, but not exactly enthralling.  An interesting fact is that the city’s oldest church is in the heart of the financial area. God and Mammon and all that. But I loved that church’s slogan, “Open  doors, open hearts, open minds”.

I really thought the best bit of the city was the Gastown area, Vancouver’s oldest area. It certainly had character, notably in the form of the statue of the man who had arrived with just his wife and a barrel of whisky. His name was John Deighton, nicknamed Gassy Jack, as his ambition was to brew alcohol in Gastown to quench the thirst of the thousands of immigrants who had come to build both the city and the railroad.  Or it might have been the steam clock that intrigued me when it blew a tune on the quarter hours and blew copious amounts of steam on the hour.  Whatever, but it certainly wasn’t my first introduction in that area to the distressing state of vast numbers of people that had me photographing madly. I have never come across anything quite like this anywhere in the world. An ambulance had stopped in the street and the queue snaked on for a fair distance with people looking for some sort of fix.  More of this to come.

Duly fortified with coffee and a sandwich, courtesy of Starbucks, we were off on the park part of the tour.  The morning bus had been rather uncomfortable when we sat at the back, where we thought we might get better photographs. The noise of the engine was ‘unusual’ and reminiscent of the old two-stroke, but the driver seemed to need to take a bit of a run at the hills and we found ourselves well and truly bounced around.  So, for the afternoon trip, it was seats at the front.

The outer part of the city features the really beautiful Stanley Park and as The Fall is arriving in Vancouver the constant variation in colour, to say nothing of the views of the city across the water, added immensely to our pleasure. The sun was slow to emerge today and low cloud hung tenaciously to the mighty Rockies beyond, but it was a mild, calm day and we were mostly pleased with what we saw.  That was until we walked the couple of blocks back to the point where we would get our bus back to the hotel.

I have already mentioned the problem in Gastown, but here the issue was everywhere we looked.  I have never seen so many distressed folks in one place, whether it be through drug abuse, alcohol, mental issues, abject poverty or a combination of all four.  People were selling their worldly goods on the pavements and begging for money.  They were in such a poor state I could not imagine how many might survive for many years.  I am sure they are not all homeless but here is a problem of some considerable magnitude.  We remained safe, but it is not a journey I would want to take either alone or at night.  Next time a city centre hotel might be the answer, or maybe not!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

In 2017, Vancouver was voted the third best city in the world to live! And, I could see why. But, I could also see ‘why not’ as well!

The history of this city stretches back to 1792 when Captain George Vancouver from his ship, HMS Discovery, spent time on the site. How long? A day! And yet, in 1886, it bore his name. Ironically, it was named because people in Montreal and Toronto knew the name of Vancouver Island but not the name of the town to where the new railroad was joining them. The old name was Granville (also called Gastown – an area still remaining). The Trans-Continental railroad arrived in 1887. That year, Vancouver’s population was 1,000, by 1891 it reached 14,000 and by 1901 it was 26,000. The population increased to 120,000 by 1911.

But, what of today?

The bustling, glass, steel, shiny, new parts of Vancouver match any city. These, together with parks like Stanley Park alongside the many expensive boats moored in the harbour emphasise affluence, style, sophistication etc. However, just a few blocks away, ‘Downtown East Side’ (DTES) says the opposite. Homelessness, drug abuse, sex workers are obvious on almost every corner and along the blocks between.

The growth of drug use with contamination is clear and the deaths caused by it makes a salutary read.

DB1382A6-3787-4F64-AE4F-BC134300C541

The causes are many but include the reasons expressed by a local physician, “In my 12 years of work as a physician in the DTES, I never met a female patient who had not been sexually abused as a child or adolescent, nor a male who had not suffered some form of severe trauma… Addictions are attempts to escape pain.”

Mental health issues were obvious and the present reality was at variance with previous aspirations. “When we deinstitutionalized, we promised [mentally ill] people that we would put them into the community and give them the support they needed. But we lied. I think it’s one of the worst things we ever did.” Senator Larry Campbell, former Mayor of Vancouver. 

The population of DTES has a higher proportion of Canadian Aboriginals than other areas of the city. I had to check that ‘Aboriginals’ was the correct term as I had been pleased to hear several references on our tour bus to ‘First Nation’ people. However, First Nation people, together with Inuit and Métis, are referred to by that term. They are not the problem; they are the victims, in my view.

As we stood waiting at the bus stop, a stocky Black guy staggered towards us. We smelt the alcohol before we saw the bottle he was carrying. He spoke to us but other than “Hello, ladies” we understood very little else other than a casual invitation to have sex with him! My senses were on red alert but he turned away towards others close by. His speech, and that of others, was not merely punctuated by crude swear words; it was dominated by them. He spotted a woman being helped down the street who was wearing a surgical gown and, seemingly, little else. He propositioned her and, when he was rebuffed, his stock phrase was repeated ad nauseam. I’ve seen many towns and cities where I have inwardly cried at those unfortunate people who, for whatever reason, are addicted in some way and, through it, indicted to a life of hell.

Not all go down that road. The area has some strong community feeling and a lot of work is going on to try to turn the tide of misery. They deserve applause and help.

Would I come back to the city or recommend it to others? Yes, certainly, but the memory of DTES will stay with me. ‘Down’ town, at the moment but, hopefully, on the way up. 

Footnotes:

1. Lord Stanley, when he officially opened Stanley Park in September 1888, said it was dedicated “to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time.” It’s even engraved on his statue. So, why, 130 years on are we still needing this on the door of Starbucks. Why?!

2. There is a Jimi Hendrix Memorial in Vancouver (as well as the statute in his birth town of Seattle, our previous stop) – interesting coincidence. The reason is that young James spent time here with his grandmother. 

3. Our driver on the tour bus was, what my mum would have said, “a character”! The bus was a trolley car design (and age!) which she handled with some aplomb and strength. She was unerringly helpful and polite but sent useful (and firm) reminders about the fines she would have to pay by letting people on other than at the designated stopping point. We had two hours of her and wouldn’t have missed a minute!

4. Interesting sign outside Vancouver Library…

376D2367-D91E-473D-8D51-0391983056B7

Seattle – no driving today

Seattle – no driving today

I said in a Facebook post today that I hadn’t fallen in love with Seattle, but that certainly didn’t prevent me from having a very good day.  I can’t actually put my finger on what makes me feel a bit lukewarm about the place, or whether it is a set of circumstances conspiring to make me feel this way. We started off the day heading downtown to book ourselves in for a Segway ride. The taxi took us through some very industrial areas towards the docks and then swung onto the seafront with its piers and entertainment areas. The Segway company was closed and the roadworks in that area, together with the rather dilapidated looking flyovers, added to a rather rundown look. We did hear that the whole area was in process of renovation and in a couple of years there will be parks and a grand seafront. So, what to do when you can’t chase around on two wheels?

We headed off to the Space Needle for a bird’s eye view of the city. The Needle has been done very well and has, very recently, had installed a revolving glass floor at a level just below the top lookout deck.  This is my 3rd ‘Tower experience’ this year (Auckland and Toronto previously) and it was just as much fun. Included in the price of the ticket was a virtual reality bungee jump from the top of the tower.  Virtual is quite good enough for me but I did welcome an opportunity to don the mask and enjoy this strange gaming world.

After lunch at the top of the Needle we strolled the exhibition area before deciding not to spend hours in one of them, so jumped on the monorail for a short and different experience. This took us within a walk of Pike Place market, and after some refreshing ginger beer we were off to marvel at the magnificent creations by the flower sellers, the fish stalls piled high with crabs, every kind of fish and seafood, including some of the largest prawns I have ever seen, and stalls with a vast range of retail opportunities! 

By this time we were wilting a little, so to give our legs a break, we went back to the piers and booked onto a harbour cruise. We were a bit lucky with the weather as the forecast rain held off and we enjoyed the views and commentary from the top deck.  I commented that the skyline was not as impressive as Toronto but we did get a glimpse of Mt Rainier, which only shows itself through the cloud on 95 days a year.  Seattle is one of the wettest places in the USA, which confirmed it would never be one of my favourites. Wet? We can show them wet!!!

Back on dry land there seemed only one way to finish – dinner at Elliott’s Oyster Restaurant. The oysters were superb, as was the clam chowder but our main course of fish left no room for anything else. Wot no ice cream?!

It’s a strange day tomorrow. We are off back to Canada. Will the USA let us out and will Canada have us back?

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Sleepless in Seattle it is. A busy day with little down time until now. The day began with our Segway disappointment but we are not travellers to be trifled with! Plans B, C,… etc. are all ready being formed when a diversion is required.

So, onwards and upwards… literally. It is well known with family and friends that I don’t like heights. I go up them to show I won’t be frightened by them but it takes its toll. I’m not concerned about heights merely I don’t want to fall from them. Seems logical! And, that’s the key. I stress the logic for myself. Despite being 605 feet above the ground, I will not fall. It’s been tested. Other people are here. Get a Grip!

Once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, it is 605 ft (184 m) high, 138 ft (42 m) wide, and weighs 9,550 tons (8,660 tonnes). It is built to withstand winds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h) and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude, as strong as the 1700 Cascadia earthquake. It also has 25 lightning rods.

The Space Needle has an observation deck at 520 ft (160 m) and the rotating SkyCity restaurant at 500 ft (150 m). The downtown Seattle skyline, as well as the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and surrounding islands can be viewed from the top of the Needle. Photographs of the Seattle skyline often show the Space Needle prominently, above skyscrapers and Mount Rainier.

Admission paid and we’re in. The notice said ‘Your admission ticket includes complimentary bungee jump from the top of the Needle, queue here.’ Yeah, right, I thought. No!!! I saw people being strapped in and, I assumed, they would be then hoisted somehow to the top. What I hadn’t realised was this bungee jump was through virtual reality headsets. So, ‘it can’t go wrong!’ philosophy applied and I sat on the chair in the booth, headset fitted and the only instruction was, ‘Make sure you look around’. And, I did. I looked up at the sky and then at Seattle’s virtual skyline and then down to the ground. Suddenly, 3 – 2 – 1 flashed into my vision and the ground started coming closer as I descended in my virtual reality experience. And, of course, I then ‘bounced’ as would happen with a real bungee jump. Clever! I’d planted my feet firmly and my hands were holding my chair (in real reality) but neither were needed.

5DEB9C54-CAE3-4FCE-A33E-DE9401D27202

Next, we went up… to the top. Walked around in the fresh air gazing down at Seattle. I smiled inwardly at one building whose painted roof said what I was thinking. Down two short flights of stairs was the new revolving glass floor. Bravely stepping onto it, I watched the cogs moving this enormous platform whilst I  looked downwards. Strangely, it was difficult to work out which part was moving at first but we did it. Stepping on the moving glass was initially tentative but, almost immediately, we got blasé about it. Clearly helped by seeing one of the staff walking with a rotary cleaning machine towards us – also, of course, on the glass. Lots of photographs were taken by us and the other tourists but I then saw a guy proposing to his girlfriend, take out a ring and place it on her finger in front of us whilst we were having lunch. I spotted them later in the shop and offered my congratulations! I was probably the first to do it. Made me feel a little special. Lunch was special, too, with toasted sourdough bread, salt beef with a thousand island dip.

We had contemplated MoPOP – Museum of Pop Culture – but changed our minds. We wandered through their shop where I was reminded that one of their most famous stars was Jimi Hendrix. They now have statue of him at the Capitol building and posters, plectrums and mini-guitars, with his iconic image, were much in evidence. I’d seen where he had lived when we’d been in San Francisco so I didn’t visit the statue or anywhere else connected.

A4217BF4-3DF4-466E-B40C-2DB5F0C1DB04.jpeg

Next, the monorail – don’t we get about a lot?!

Onto the market via a less than useful map but with help from Apple map directions. Well worth visiting. And, we had a nice ginger beer…

ABC43416-7122-4C5E-869D-1F8176A544F2

Next, the cruise – don’t we get about a lot?! (I’ve said that! Chuckle!)

Our female Captain was superb and managed to reverse the boat out whilst giving us a running commentary on the cruise we were about to do. She then introduced Billy who was excellent in his lengthy, fact-filled and very well presented travelogue as we sailed round the harbour – sorry, ‘harbor’.

Next, the oysters – don’t we… (you know the rest!)

The oysters were truly the best I’ve tasted. Thank you! A very good meal which required no dessert at all.

What was next? An Uber back to the hotel with Russell who had worked in Beijing with clients in the UK and proceeded to tell me he was wanted by the Lincolnshire Police for offering to personate for a former colleague/employee’s speeding offence. I felt at this time I ought to confess my voluntary role with Lancashire Police and point out it was an offence punishable by prison. I’m not sure I believed his story, fortunately, and I gave him a small tip as well as the legal advice!

Tomorrow, a return to Canada and our last few days exploring Vancouver before we fly home. 

Finally, the oysters didn’t last long between us (4 for me and 2 for Kath – her choice!); the floor in the market was paved with… names! Presumably donors? And, look what I found in a shop window. You have to smile!

 

Finally, finally… the monorail ticket had an excellent message from Bill and Melinda Gates

E775CE5F-F806-4130-9958-5B448C513D5E

Cascade Locks to Seattle (via Multnomah Falls and Mt St Helens) – 295 miles

We had tried to visit Multnomah Falls before checking in to our hotel at Cascade Locks but had found the road closed. Some research suggested it may be one of two reasons; firstly, that the car park may have been full and they used this tactic to avoid queues on the main highway, but, secondly, last year’s major wildfire in the area caused huge swathes of hiking trails to be closed. This morning we discovered it was the latter reason, but were directed to another exit, which was right by the Falls.  What a great start to the day (well, only if you ignore breakfast of superb pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon).  So, to the Falls. According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. It is said the falls are arguably ‘the granddaddy’ of the 77 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. At 620 feet, it is named in virtually every World Book and Almanac under the “tallest waterfalls of the world” and more than 2 million visitors stop by each year to take in the views. I know it is not Niagara but it really is beautiful and well worth the visit.

From there it was a mere 100 mile detour to visit the famous Mt St Helens volcano. I think this road trip has made us somewhat blasé about mileage and we have started thinking like Americans in terms of time rather than distance. On that basis it seemed a good idea, and so it was. I had read that it was better to ignore the Mt St Helens Visitors’ Centre and drive right up into the mountains to the Johnston Observatory with its clear view of the crater, left by the blast, and the valley which was obliterated by the lava flow. To me, the memory was clear of that fateful day in May 1980 when the conical shape of the mountain was blasted from the side and in the space of 10 minutes the area had been changed forever. But then I think that my own children would have been too young to remember so, in this case, age was an advantage…I think!!

Once I had glimpsed the mountain, the peak and the crater played a game of hide and seek, using clouds which tantalisingly moved to reveal key parts of the summit but not the entirety.  Just when one face was revealed, it disappeared as another face showed itself. We paid our $8 admission, which is really a contribution to the work which goes on into seismic research, post explosion flora, fauna and wildlife, etc, and went to see the film. Really fascinating and well worth 15 minutes. By the time we had toured the exhibitions, eaten a hot dog, espied a cheeky chipmunk trying to share visitors’ picnics, the sun was seeing off the clouds. Mt St Helens was on show! Snow featured and, in spite of the reasonably warm day at 4,000+ ft, you could appreciate that so much higher up might well be starting to look a bit wintery. I now have scores of photos at every stage of the ‘big reveal’. Truly fascinating. 

The ride back down the mountains and on to Seattle was smooth, albeit with rather more traffic than our travels over the last 10 days or so. Tomorrow is under discussion, but with a general plan to make a full day of sightseeing. Legs to be shortened by much walking, methinks!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

I try to do the research elements for my bits of the blog. It’s always ‘a challenge’ for me trying to predict what Kath is going to include in her section of the blog as we tend to write them concurrently. However, this evening, Kath has finished hers and I’ve just jotted down notes. I’ll try not to be repetitive. 

Finding things out is always interesting for me. Whatever it is. But, what happens when, with the legendary story of Multnomah Falls, you get conflicting stories. The Falls’ website talks of a “a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe.” whilst Wikipedia suggests, “the waterfall was formed after a young woman sacrificed herself to the Great Spirit to save Multnomah village from a plague by jumping from the cliff, and the Multnomah peoples were saved. After her death, water began to flow from above the cliff, creating the waterfall.” Now then. What to believe?! It really doesn’t matter, does it? Just looking at the Falls and marvelling at the geological reasons for its existence is enough. 

3096D7C6-8FFB-4CA0-8683-A7B0C53E496A

Now, onto ‘our’ volcano. Kath and I both remember the 1980 explosion being shown on television and the cloud of smoke and ash seemed to be around for a long time.

Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,363 ft (2,549 m), leaving a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.9 km3) in volume. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the volcano and allow for its aftermath to be scientifically studied.

Mount St. Helens takes its English name not from any religious icon but from the British diplomat Lord St Helens, a friend of explorer George Vancouver who made a survey of the area in the late 18th century and, of course, after whom, the city of Vancouver was named. 

It’s also called Louwala-Clough (also known as Lawetlat’la to the indigenous Cowlitz people, and Loowit to the Klickitat)  Klikitat is said to derive from a Chinookan word meaning “beyond,” in reference to the Rocky Mountains. The Klickitat, however, call themselves Qwû’lh-hwai-pûm or χwálχwaypam, meaning “prairie people” (X̣ʷáɬx̣ʷaypam)

Fascinating? Not especially but the mountain volcano certainly is! Kath talked about trying to find the correct shot of it with as few clouds as possible. We went up to about 4000 feet looking all the way up; spent an hour or so at the top but, despite waiting that time (albeit not idly!), we saw it most clearly on the way down.

981D5460-15EA-4F37-96D1-49E14B5DC7A4

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is sited where volcanologist David A. Johnstone was camping on the day (18 May 1980) the eruption took place. He radioed the news but, as he was doing it, the lateral explosion killed him and his body has never been found. The Observatory was opened in 1993.

Another ‘fascinating’ note (for me, anyway) is that Mt. St. Helens is the youngest volcano here being only 300000 years old! Fundamentalists read carefully!

Silly comment next… as we drove towards Seattle, we came to a town called Puyallup. Love its name! ‘Puyallup’ means “the generous people.” However, my mind worked on ‘Poo! Y’all up?!’ #sorry

348110C9-362B-48D9-AD8E-51E05553D60B

Now a serious bit. As we walked from the hotel in Georgetown to find somewhere to eat, we walked past Georgetown Records which has a phenomenal stock of vinyl – LPs, EPs and the odd Single. Now, for those too young to know, LP means Long Play  and are now called ‘Albums’. They have about 30 minutes music on each side and are played on a turntable at 33 1/3 rpm (revolutions per minute). EPs (Extended Play) have about 10 minutes each side at 45 rpm. So many memories and it was surprising seeing some of the prices now being charged for these collectors’ items. (My own collection at home needs some research, I think.)

But, that wasn’t the reason for the mention. This poster on their door drew my eye and I had to say ‘Thank you’ to them. Needless to say, I didn’t need their reassurance and offer of safety but I know many who would welcome it.

 

And the meal? We wandered into the quirky bar/restaurant ‘9lb Hammer’ and, being Brits, ordered Fish and Chips which came with an excellent coleslaw and a far from poor tartar sauce. All washed down with a Coors Light. Great bar with pinball machines and ‘interesting decor! Fun. We also noticed the beer mats for R-town! ‘Rainbow town’ or just ‘our town’? Again, fun!

C4DB9737-B94A-4F9A-B977-967CAB50ADEE

 

Twin Falls to Cascade Locks – 527 miles

This was our longest journey of the trip, but certainly not the most arduous!  We picked up the I-84 a couple of miles down the road and just stayed on it, mile after mile until we turned off at Cascade Locks to find our hotel was less than a quarter of a mile away.  Let’s not confuse this journey with something similar in England; much of the time the traffic was light and our speed only varied when a change in the speed limit demanded we actually did something more than point the car in the right direction and adjust the steering occasionally.  Needless to say the scenery was spectacular and you just run out of superlatives. Forget the daft politics and politicians, the jaundiced opinions people utter about the American folks and all the negatives spoken from a basis of little knowledge…this is a spectacularly beautiful country!  Its vastness offers so many facets and today we experienced a few hours of genuine appreciation for the offerings we met. 

 

We began the day in Idaho and enjoyed a mixture of farming country with its pastures and arable lands and an odd Correction Centre in the middle of nowhere. We climbed the mountains into Oregon and two things happened; our watches shot back an hour and we were back on Pacific time and we crossed the 45th Parallel half way between the Equator and the North Pole.  We then watched in amazement as The Columbia River Gorge came into view and the road followed it for mile after mile. It was neither small nor meandering but bold and wide. There were dams at different points, so hydroelectricity, wind farms along the tops of the steep gorge and various industrial plants along the way.  But some spectacular camp sites and hiking trails were also much in evidence. Something for everyone!  Carolyn has the details of the size and distances of this beautiful State but for me it is all about the visuals. Watching the sides of the vast gorge change from volcanic basalt pillars to smooth contours and then to densely wooded hillsides was beautiful.

 

Our hotel is also lovely with views of Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods. How do places get their names?  In this case Native American folklore!  We went out for dinner this evening to a riverside hostelry offering beer brewed on the premises, excellent food, tables offering views of the sunset over the Locks and a very good country singer who played a mean guitar. People at the next table, from Seattle, were intrigued by our accents and fascinated by our road trip exploits, not the distances covered but more our choice of routes. They recommended Victoria rather than Seattle, which was interesting. We had to walk a little distance to find a tunnel under the train track and caught one of these seemingly endless monsters crossing above our heads as we returned. Only 130 carriages counted tonight, so not too long!!

 

Another great day and more tomorrow. Just a few miles away are the Multnomah Falls and from there we will take a look at the volcano Mt St Helens before going on to our next destination, which is Seattle. 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

B08ABB37-F084-4EC5-8AB7-2FAEF82A46A5

 

We’re in Oregon. The drive from Idaho was beautiful. Varied, interesting and every bend had a new potential photograph. However, it was over 500 miles but completed by 3.00 pm aided by another Time Zone change. We are now setting our clocks to Pacific Time although our bodies aren’t sure what day of the week it is, let alone the Time Zone! 

Most of the journey was rural but I smiled at this industrial plant. Wonder what they make? The address may give a clue.

 

 The distance is challenging but it was always predicted to be. This one State, Oregon, has a bigger area than the whole of the UK! In fact, 11 of the 50 States have an area larger than the UK. Large size and good example…

07D17188-2A7F-40FF-8876-EE5BACC23068

One of the interesting aspects of the journey today was to see the utilisation of renewable energy sources in Oregon. We drove past a hillside of solar panels, a skyline of wind turbines and three significant hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. I was surprised to see three on the same river. However, look how many this monster of a river has. 

5CDFFD58-2B01-4ECB-B4E1-6FF86A2CE023

It’s basin is the size of France and it is the greatest flow of water in North America which goes into the Pacific. It is 1243 miles long and our ‘friend’ from yesterday, Snake River, is its most significant tributary. The gorge it has carved is up to (down to?!) 4000 feet. In perspective, it would hide almost eight Blackpool Towers stacked one on top of the other! 

Another, for me, interesting aspect of the journey today was a sign telling us we were half way between the Equator and the North Pole, i.e. crossing the 45th Parallel.1F4FC28A-FC8D-4448-8C9D-CAA3D61BEBFB

Spelling! I’ve come to terms with American (mis)spelling (just!) of ‘color’, ‘center’, ‘flavor’, ‘traveler’ etc. but today… ‘snowplow’?! Why, for goodness sake? (The signage is to remind us that almost everywhere we’ve been has had warnings of snow to come. Hard to believe in the warmth we’ve experienced this month but mental images of the wild winters round here are prompted frequently with snow poles and signage insisting on snow chains being fixed.) 

42AE9EEC-C4FD-49DF-BB1B-1E1B4242FFA1

And, another thing… which you may already have known but I came across it courtesy of Dan Brown’s ‘Origin’ (airport and plane reading). The FedEx sign has a subliminal arrow to illustrate speed and accuracy. We’ve seen so many trucks with this logo on and can’t, now, help but see the arrow every time. Subliminal messages are in a number of logos, of course. The Amazon A to Z arrow with a smile and dimple is another. 

 

A brief exploration of a ‘back road’ reminded us of our first Road Trip two years ago on the Historic Route 66 – this time we were on Historic Route 30,

 

Final quirk, this evening was when we were reminded of the Native American heritage with the street sign where we’re staying.

Not quirky but serendipitous as we noted that some live music was going to be played down the road. Good food, decent beer and a tremendous writer, guitarist, vocalist called Matt Coughlin! He reminded me of a young Ralph McTell and I told him so. He appreciated the compliment. He was so honest and real. He’d brought his wife and two children with him – they played with toy dinosaurs. After the first two songs, his moccasins were removed and his bare feet stood on outdoor paving as, I suspect they often do. 

 

Another good day.

Seattle tomorrow. 

Salt Lake City to Twin Falls (via Bonneville Flats) 316 miles

Another hot sunny day across the salt plains as we set off in search of the speedway at Bonneville Flats, home of past land speed records. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t quite what was there. For much of the journey from the city, salt was definitely the constant visual; sometimes in vast piles, sometimes in mini pyramids and sometimes like snow or permafrost on either side of the road. But as we turned off the main highway and neared the site, the road petered out into a vast and sparkling white wilderness. The glare was immense and suddenly we were on the actual racetrack going more slowly than at any point on this trip. Carolyn resisted all urges to do a donut spin or a hand break turn, probably because of the uncertainty of the surface. It was certainly like no other.  The sense of times past was immense and enthusiasts were plentiful, clearly set on enjoying the moment and the ability to say, “We were there”. 

From there we were off to Twin Falls. Interestingly, Nevada was having its final say just before the State Line, when up went the billboards advertising Casinos (Rainbow Casino no less), escort services, and some of less salubrious offerings of a casino based town. Over into Idaho we went and gained back the hour we lost earlier in the trip. Once again we were in wilderness country, so guess who needed a bathroom stop? I had relaxed over the frequent service offerings on this part of the i80 but going north was different.  The sat nav told me we were still 50 miles from a gas station but some 20 miles on we found a hillside rest stop. I only recount this rather tawdry tale because I was about to experience a loo like no other!  A shack which contained a very large pipe rising from the ground with a toilet seat perched on top, below which was a very long drop to the ground below. No plumbing, perfectly clean and no smell either.  The things I find!j

Eventually we found Shoshone Lake and Falls, billed as ‘the Niagara of the West’. Unfortunately, someone had turned off the tap (it is seriously dry here) and the erstwhile mighty Falls were a mere trickle.  The lake was beautiful, people swam and a pair of turkey vultures chased a flock of birds. It was still a beautiful spot and well worth the couple of miles detour from our hotel. 

It’s a huge day tomorrow and over 500 miles to complete. Early start we think!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Another day, another few hundred miles!

However, as usual, it was punctuated with incredible sights and an awareness of how vast this country is.

We travelled from Utah, through Nevada and we’re now in Idaho with Oregon beckoning tomorrow.

So what of today. I posted on Facebook that my ‘choices’ were:

1. Attempt Land Speed Record at Bonneville Salt Flats

8ABD622B-DAC4-49FC-908B-C47556103B34

2. Attempt to do the ‘jump’ which Evil Knievel attempted (and failed!) over Snake Canyon near the Shoshone Falls

B5586CA0-7F87-400D-8407-9DB9DC09BEA3

Or

3. Enjoy the views!

F6322FB8-5826-4B03-BFF4-1031834323EA

2070667F-8DC6-44E9-9F6E-F98B6916664C

Needless to say, the later won. Triumph of experience over imagination!

9E64B1B3-012A-4798-806B-CE3725D7F9B8On the way, we came across the most eye-catching (and rather crude) advert I’ve seen. I was driving but both Kath and I found it hard to believe it and then photograph it. However,… I found it online! Chuckle!

Interestingly, as we crossed State Lines we were nudged into remembering that States have different laws and, of course, in films like Smokey and The Bandit, State Police couldn’t cross State Lines. The different laws meant, as Kath said, Nevada could have more lax gambling laws etc. – and does. Frequent signs to Reno indicate past more lax laws on marriage as well.

It is a strange coincidence that Kath’s Facebook memory today was from two years ago and reminded us that, then, we were also in Utah.

Lake Bonneville was a massive lake in far gone history but is now a dried salt lake. It’s over 4000 feet above sea level and covers an enormous 40 square miles. No wonder Land Speed Records have been set here since 1935 when Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird reaches a staggering 301.129 mph. The first over 300 mph.

FF8A4566-26B9-444E-B111-D2CD9B52C7C6More recently, American Gary Gabelich, in October 1970, raised the record to over 600 mph. That was the last World Land Speed Record (overall) set at Bonneville but the Record returned to UK hands over in Black Rock Desert with Richard Noble and then in drives by Andy Green. The Record is now 760.343 mph – faster than the speed of sound.

Electric car speed records have also been set at Bonneville with the most recent achievement being 341.4 mph! Wow!

I did up to 45 mph as instructed by the official signs although Bonneville Speedway is still held for many types of vehicle with the World Finals in October. 

A couple of signs on the way. The first distressed me a little but the other said all that public services should be about. Well done, Twin Falls!

Onto Twin Falls, our next resting place, but via Shoshone Falls. Not as impressive a Falls as expected but, were the river to have been in full flood, it would have been! It was a beautiful place with few people and a very low ($3) entrance fee per car. Great value and the Hot Dog ($2) was only surpassed by adding Chilli and Cheese for an addition 25c!

I rounded off my day with a salad and a mouthful of Kath’s chosen Cherry Pie dessert at ‘Shari’s Cafe and Pies’. When in America…!

Footnote

This just popped into my head and I couldn’t resist posting it…

When we arrived at Shoshone – billed as the ‘Niagara of the West’, it was clear that the water level was so low that little, if any, would be flowing over the cliff side.

Question: Where’s the effin’ Falls?

Answer: At the beginning of the word!

#sorry 

 

Day 2 Salt Lake City – about 50 miles

It felt like a ‘tidy up’ day as there were a couple of things I was keen to do and also wanted to benefit from a good hotel laundry. Unlike on board cruise ships, there have been no facilities for sending washing to be done overnight and, equally, today there was no crush for the washing machines!

First things first. Apparently some people come to Salt Lake City and never visit the vast lake itself. Not us, but I have to confess it was something of a surreal experience. The visitors’ centre and the harbour were officially closed as they were without electricity, apparently because of a fire. You could drive through the barriers, you could walk along the lake shore, paddle and presumably swim, but you couldn’t get any information, buy a drink, or a souvenir, or use the rest rooms!  We walked the shore right up to the waters edge but the salt flats which make up the ‘beach’ were teeming with thousands of tiny flies. With each step clouds of them flew up, magnified by their shadows from the brilliant sunshine. Offputting? Definitely. There was no way I was going in that water and was keen to return to the concrete based car park. The flies are part of the appeal for wildlife. The lake is far too salty for fish, so there are none at all here, and the only organisms that can tolerate the environment are brine shrimp, brine flies and bacteria. The shrimp and flies eat the algae and keep the lake clean and in turn they are eaten by nesting and breeding birds. I just wasn’t up for being eaten by anything, so back to the City.

We did a bit of a tour and found ourselves wandering around the very grand Capitol buildings. You just wouldn’t have the freedom to wander around our public sites like that and the whole complex was truly magnificent, as was looking down on the city from overlooks amongst some very lovely (and luxurious) homes.

By this time we were very much in need of coffee, so took ourselves off to a truly beautiful shopping mall. Amazing…fountains that dance to music, water jet areas where children try to stop the water and water arches surrounded by flowers. All this and an Apple shop to boot!

Ah well, time for domestic endeavours.  We now have suitcases once again full of clean clothes but in exchange for our ‘working’ afternoon (hardly!), we took ourselves to an evening of live jazz and great food.  Back on the road tomorrow and off to Twin Falls. 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Tomorrow is National Cheeseburger Day and, apparently, 50 billion cheeseburgers are eaten in the U.S. each year! Tonight I had one. Actually, it was a very tasty Wagyu Burger at Gracie’s. Washed down with a local beer, listening to live jazz and watching American Football (Seahawks @ Bears) – very American and a very pleasant evening. 

6CE54EE9-F647-4AC4-8A92-93F9C0602E51

Our day today was always planned – I like plans – to be a restful day but we, needless to say, did ‘stuff’. A leisurely breakfast followed by a drive to the Great Salt Lake where the Visitors’ Centre and Rest Rooms were closed because of a recent fire. That worked ok for us in that we could still go and the charges were waived. Free always works well for us!

At first, we were disappointed that the ‘tide had gone out’(there isn’t a tide!) as the water was quite some way from the shore. Moving further down the lakeside, we achieved our goal and got to the water’s edge. Fascinating. 

B4EA04D9-A75E-49E4-9BF6-8DEA21AC76D4

B43B96FD-F567-4316-A571-09EA69CB15F2

Next? The Capitol Building which is very impressive but has steps. The climb reminded us that we are at the height of Ben Nevis above sea level with temperatures high and humidity low. We felt a little breathless but it was worth the journey. However, it wasn’t a high enough view for one of us! On and up we drove until the best ‘aerial’ view was achieved amidst very salubrious private roads and very expensive grand houses. 

Then,… coffee and shopping. The City Creek Center (sic) is the most attractive shopping centre I’ve seen. Greenery, musical water displays, outdoor and indoor spaces and even a retractable roof. Parking was free for two hours and moving around the area was easy with escalators and lifts – clean, well-serviced – big tick ✔️

7EA1D705-48FD-4DA5-ABC1-5EDBE404E73B

The Apple shop was the planned destination – both of us looking to take advantage of Apple’s selling policy of setting prices at the same numeric level for dollar and sterling purchases. Great value for us… and we took advantage of it.

Then back to the hotel where the plan changed. It was intended that we were going to have a swim in the pool here but late housekeeping for the room and Kath kindly supervising the washing whilst I idled updating my improved ‘phone changed that. Despite some problems, I know I had the best of deal! I did ensure that Kath was rewarded with a couple of fresh cookies, though!

And so, tomorrow appears on the spreadsheet as 293 miles but a detour is intended to Bonneville Salt Flats which was always the idea so the journey distance and time will be a little more. Onwards but now northwards towards Seattle and Vanvouver. 

Cheyenne to Salt Lake City – 440 miles

One of the first instructions we got from Sally Sat Nav was, “Stay on the i80 for the next 429 miles”.  From that instruction we hoped we were in for a reasonably fast run on a decent road, and, true to form, we completed the journey in slightly over 6 hours, including two petrol stops and a bathroom break. We left Cheyenne in hot sunshine and brilliant blue skies and nothing changed the whole way…lovely.

 

For much of the journey we were in Wyoming, so the long dusty plains and the soaring mountains came as no surprise. What was a bit of a surprise was the number of trucks on the road. Maybe Sunday is their day? They are very speedy on the down slopes and swing in and out to pass each other at about 70 mph (although the regulation is 65 for trucks) but much slower on the inclines. Our aim was always to get beyond a bunching group before the climb, and ensure we had squatters’ rights in the fast lane. Not that we could stay there for too long as, unbelievably, people wanted to exceed the speed limit!!  The other surprise was the distance between civilisation and services.  We passed one stopping place with a loo, which declared the next stopping point to be in another 102 miles. OMG…even if you didn’t need a bathroom at the first point, the thought of having to wait for another 102 miles was painful. And, no, there were no trees, no hiding places off the roadside just the pain of trying to focus on something else.

The scenery changed as we crossed into Utah. In addition to the sandstone cliffs, there were verdant valleys with occasional houses, which grew in numbers and size.  Before long we were doing a fast cruise down the mountains with the number of lanes on the highway growing quickly.  Lots of exits loomed and almost without us realising, we were nearing the end of our journey.  It was the first city we had really experienced since leaving Vancouver and although the traffic was plentiful, the hurried pace of city life was noticeably calmer on a Sunday afternoon.

Having booked into another nice hotel, we decided some exercise was on the cards and Temple Square was about a 30 minute walk.  The Mormon Tabernacles in Salt Lake City are world famous, so of course we went to look. The setting and the two temples are quite spectacular, but of course you can only enter if you are of the Mormon faith. There is a visitors centre and lots of kind and friendly members who want to share their “unusual” brand of the Christian faith.  It would not be appropriate for me to be critical in any way, but suffice to say I was uncomfortable and happy to leave Temple Square. Dinner in a restaurant where we were the only customers was our next surprise. No music, no alcohol, blimey that was the situation last time we visited the State of Utah. However, further down the street on our walk back we found bars selling alcohol and one with live music.  We know where to go next time!  

 

We now have the luxury of another full day here tomorrow. Perhaps a visit to the lake that gives the city its name?  Perhaps some exploration of the city, and perhaps even via the electric scooters you log into via an app, sign off when you are done, and leave by the roadside.  Cool!

 

 

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

It is very tempting merely to write…

“Set Sat. Nav.

Left Cheyenne

Set Cruise Control 

Drove 440 miles on the I80 

Arrived Salt Lake City”

However, I am renowned for never using a word when a paragraph will do!

So,…

As we travelled, we listened to an odd playlist which had found its way, somehow, onto my iPhone. The tracks seemed to be a shuffle from albums I had purchased for some reason in the past. Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, Ian Dury, The Hollies etc. rubbed segues with Snow Patrol, Adele and In The Night Garden Dance! Wot?! The best inner smile for me came with Kath’s facial reaction to hearing Barbie Girl by Aqua for the first time (No.1 in the UK for three weeks) and her falling off her seat almost laughing to ‘Dogging’ by the incredible Fascinating Aida! The Hollies brought a wry smile from me when the lyrics, “The road is long; with many a winding turn” seemed particularly inappropriate in one aspect. Long, it was; winding, it wasn’t!

DAD7C263-A49A-415A-B50F-5CD3C60476BF31922378-5472-446D-BCA5-4C7FA453D492

Another smile along the way was the sight of a three wheeled motorcycle. Not humorous in any way… usually. Ours today featured a guy in full leathers driving at variable speeds and blocking overtaking by changing lanes. Not funny, neither.

On the pillion, though, was a woman who was not a ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ but one of older years who was wearing a pair of baggy cotton shorts and waved to us as we overtook them and then they accelerated past us at our cruise controlled steady speed. The speed was 75 mph and she must have had the wind blowing very hard in places the wind shouldn’t be blowing. 

Several curios occurred to me on the journey:

Imagine sending a letter before the telegraph arrived. Stagecoach? Pony Express? During the Pony Express’ “18 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days. From April 3, 1860 to October 1861, it became the West’s most direct means of east–west communication before the transcontinental telegraph was established (October 24, 1861), and was vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the United States.”

The enormous distance required travelling across this country is mind blowing. Even crossing one State, Wyoming, is demanding even using modern means.

Talking of distances, today was the second longest distance we are travelling and you may ask, “Why?”. We did! The reason is that there are almost no staging posts on the journey. Mile after mile of countryside and… well, almost nothing else. Hints for tourists from these two travellers: go to the toilet before you set off, fully fill up with fuel whenever you can, carry water and the odd snack.

Oh, and be aware of ‘Semis’. (Stop chuckling!) Warning signs told us that Semis need the length of two football pitches to stop. As Kath indicated, they’re agile in changing lanes but not as agile climbing hills or accelerating. Seemingly, not as agile at stopping, either! Yes, this is a Semi!

0E692FCF-59FA-4291-93A7-CC33EFAACD2F

So, we arrived in Salt Lake City. As we walked to Temple Square in a very dry heat we felt a little breathless and checked to find we are 4226 feet above sea level. For comparison, the height of the highest mountain in the UK stands at 4413 feet. Only four mountains in Scotland are higher than we are and there are none as high in England or Wales! No wonder we felt a little breathless. 

Kath wanted to see the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) temples but felt uncomfortable when we got there and I can understand why. Again, I had a couple of events from my past which resonated. The Mormon Church mission to the UK started in our home town of Preston which now (actually in Chorley) has a brand new temple.

14A9312A-BE4A-41AF-8F72-99F63E387C9A

Of course, that was way before either of us was born but I remember going to a Mormon youth club as a teenager. Indeed, I played my drums on the stage which was above and hid the baptismal font – full body baptism – underneath. Adding to that, my dad had tiled the font! The young men who did their two year obligatory missionary service were polite, well-dressed and suited and… chewed gum. No alcohol; no tobacco. What’s not to like, we thought. What’s not to like is the hugely mistaken beliefs they have, in my view. I suggest, the premise and practice of their religion is deeply misguided and potentially dangerous in a number of ways. I don’t want to dissuade anyone from their personal belief unless it will do them harm. If their views don’t correspond to my own, that’s fine but I will object strongly if their beliefs interfere with my basic human rights. I’ll leave it there.

Tomorrow is another day. Planning is already underway with live jazz a possible for tomorrow evening.

Keystone (Mt Rushmore) to Cheyenne – 268 miles

I think today might be designated our official “be kind to ourselves” day.  Having created the plan to see all these wonderful places there is no doubt that we have been arriving at our various destinations ready to collapse in a heap after an evening meal. Today is something of a staging post (pardon the pun) as a mere 268 miles on open roads is now small fry to these intrepid travellers. Salt Lake City is the main event another 440 miles down the road.

It is difficult to say anything different about our journey, except for me it was particularly frustrating. My youngest grandson was 3 years old today and I wanted to FaceTime and wish him a happy birthday.  We couldn’t make it work from the hotel at Mt Rushmore so set off intending to stop off at somewhere with WiFi and catch him at what would have been his teatime.  So off we went and experienced the wilderness of South Dakota, which is very much like the wilderness of Wyoming…mile after mile of nothing.  No houses, no service areas, no gas stations, nothing.  Well, there were sporadic herds of cattle but no civilisation.  Not even a phone signal, never mind WiFi.  It makes you realise how much you rely on technology and how frustrating it is when it is not there.  Sorry Oliver, I will try tomorrow.  I did, eventually, manage to speak with his Mummy. 

The most exciting part of this particular journey (!) was coming face to face with the most abnormal load I have ever seen.  It needed various escorting vehicles, special flag wavers to slow down the traffic and most of the road.  Miles into the distance you could see this large object and wondered what it was.  I still don’t know. It was a huge truck carrying something twice its width and forcing cars going towards it onto the non-existent hard shoulder (a soft dusty track). 

05EDC202-1775-4D2C-A725-6D9EC4C6D66564B68DA1-5C01-4C7C-ADF9-2270AD9C9D30

So here we are in Cheyenne, the capital city of Wyoming, wallowing in the luxury of a nice hotel, having had a very nice lunch and wondering whether to explore the place, have a swim (it is very hot and sunny but the pool is indoors), or whether to just sit and chill. Apparently, Cheyenne is home to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, with exhibits about early rodeos and artifacts like 19th-century passenger wagons. The landscaped Cheyenne Botanic Gardens includes a labyrinth. Collections at the Wyoming State Museum include dinosaur fossils. Wot?  I think not. It’s a long drive tomorrow!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

So, we checked out from Rushmore and decided that we wouldn’t visit the monument again. Partly, as we wanted to ‘hit the road’ but, mainly, because we couldn’t see it! We drove off through a cloud – literally!

However, the Sun powered its way through, dried up all the rain and then dispersed the clouds as we sped across South Dakota back into Wyoming. Different roads but similar scenery and lack of both habitation and cultivation. Long, straight seemingly endless roads bereft of other vehicles for much of the time but a 70 mph limit which allowed great progress. Fortunately, we’d filled with fuel, taken some fruit from breakfast and had water and cola cans in the car. Fortunately? At one stage, we drove for an hour and a half (100 miles) without seeing a garage, café or human being. Strange. Wide, wild wilderness with new vistas appearing after each small crest you rise as the road stretches beyond the present, then towards every new, horizon. What a State!

Driving towards Cheyenne, we passed through a couple of ‘cowboy’ towns and Kath and I reminisced about TV and film Westerns: ‘Maverick’ (James Garner with an English cousin played by Roger Moore), ‘Wagon Train’ (Ward Bond and Robert Horton), ‘Rifleman’ (Chuck Connors), ‘Bonanza’… etc. and, of course, ‘Cheyenne’ itself with Clint Walker playing the eponymous Cheyenne Bodie. 

As we passed through Laramie, the TV (me) and Film (Kath) came up in song! As did Davy Crockett, Roy Roger’s Four legged Friend (aka Trigger) and others. I scored bragging points because I’d had a Davy Crockett hat (as a child!) and had had Roy’s record played for me on Uncle Mac’s Children’s Favourites (also, as a child!!!).

After driving over several ungated and unguarded level crossings, we, again, marvelled at the length of the trains as we overtook one. 

On Route 66, two years ago, I counted the number of wagons on a passing train. Today, it was Kath’s turn to count.

148 coal wagons with two engines at the front and three at the back. Doing some calculations,…

Each truck loaded weighs 286000 lbs

Each engine weighs approx 400000lbs

Therefore, the train weighed 44,679,936 lbs

Or,… 19946 tons (20266 tonnes)

Which is the equivalent of 199460 16 stone people. 

Wow!

So, we drove into Cheyenne. It’s bigger than I thought and, after lunch at Applebee’s, we checked into a very pleasant and inexpensive hotel… early for once!

We’d covered the 268 miles and got here by lunchtime. Yes!

Now relax.