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.
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.
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!
The ‘bags’ are on the next pages before you reach an erroneous conclusion!!!
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, “Opendoors, 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.
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 for 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.
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 sign 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 called, “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!
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.
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 Ilooked 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.
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…
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
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 that 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. 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 monster trains 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
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 for renewable energy generation…
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.
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.
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.)
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,
We were reminded of the Native American heritage with the street sign where we’re staying.
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.
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.
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!
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. segued 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 almost falling off her seat 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!
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 was invented. 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!
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.
Sign for Temple Square, Utah
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
When I put tonight’s hotel into the sat nav, it was somewhat disconcerting to note that the Roosevelt Inn was situated on Cemetery Road. I guess the neighbours will be a quiet bunch!However, we left Cody under brilliant blue skies which stayed with us to the end of our journey. Having left the magnificent mountains of Montana, we set off into the wide wilderness of Wyoming.It was impossible to photograph this relatively flat prairie and it was somewhat disconcerting to see almost nothing else on the road. I confess to checking my phone to make sure we had a signal and reassuring myself that on this trip we had a spare tyre.
After about 50 miles of this vast empty plain, with hardly another car on the road, we were back with the mountains which had loomed from beneath a heat haze. What mountains they were too!We stopped for gas at Grey Bull (where there were signs to Little Big Horn) and just outside the town we began to climb. Our journey took us past various historic sites (Big Horn Basin, General Custer references, etc), such that you were looking to see if there were smoke signals. The route was advertised as ‘scenic’ and that it was.Granite cliffs, sandstone stacks, boulders which appeared to be on the point of tumbling down sheer rock faces, all added to the drama. Even the roadworks completed the picture. Mile after mile of work is happening on these passes. It doesn’t impede progress on the whole, although we were stopped briefly to wait for a pilot car to escort us through the construction.That way the workers aren’t held up and nor are the road users.
Eventually, we began our long descent through the thickly wooded wilderness. There were dramatic run-offs for lorries which couldn’t make the bends and regular instructions to test brakes. We had already begun our descent when I noticed that the elevation was over 9000 ft.It took 7 miles of hairpin bends, travelling at 40 mph to finally descend to another vast plateau. The mountain rocks were declared to be over 300 million years old but we were too busy trying to unblock our ears to compare them with others that were merely 200 million years old.
We had lunch in Buffalo (more memories of cowboy films) and took a very fast road for the next 200 miles to arrive at Mt Rushmore. This place had been on my personal bucket list for some time, so I was very pleased to see George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln looking down on me.
I watched the information film with interest and learned why these Presidents were chosen, about the man who had the original idea, the sculptor who brought the vision into being and the methods he used. Fascinating and worth seeing. Maybe we will even go back in the morning to see them in a different light….and then again, maybe Cheyenne, our next stop, will beckon.
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
Today was full of… well, roads! Our Road Trip this year is more road than trip and today’s 379 miles is only the third longest of our journey. It seems a long way but the miles went by quickly. The journey covered mile after mile with ever changing yet, in the main, similar features. The 360 degree vista varied from scrub to arable land, to mountains, passes, inclines and declines. Phew, what a journey.
I chose the short straw as Kath’s drive after lunch was her preferred 80 mph straight road with the cruise control set. It varied slightly as we neared our destination of Mount Rushmore with a few downward bends but a relatively easy drive. The morning? Well,…
We, and by this I mean ‘me’, had a disappointing breakfast time with no waffles available. I don’t usually eat breakfast at home (I know I should) let alone waffles. But, when in America, waffles are my obligatory choice. Not this morning.
However, putting that behind me, I sat in the driver’s seat and the day’s ‘road’ trip began. Being blasé about ‘Whatever!’, I didn’t know what was to face us until we started climbing. Up and up. The hills became mountains and, as we wound round the bends ascending the mountain, enormous cliffs, stacks, buttes etc, reared before us. Onwards and upwards, we proceeded. The road was carved into the rocks but even that didn’t ease the gradient. Our ears started popping and we weren’t surprised to find that the height of the Pass – note: not the mountains – was over 9000 feet high! Fabulous views (Kath told me! And her photos show it) when I briefly glanced off the road ahead. Seriously, it was the scenery filmmakers would want so frequently.
Added to the spectacle were the enormous trucks with their trailers coming down the mountain and facing us. What I also found interesting were the frequent roadworks on the narrow, almost vertiginous carriageways. Not merely the top surface was stripped but the whole tarmac/concrete structure. We were driving on dirt! Clouds of dust from oncoming traffic had to be negotiated addIng to our fun. We continued although there were no edge barriers today even on the downward hairpins which, at one time, ran for seven miles at a stretch!
We smile at difficulties and laugh at danger! (Yeah, right!)
So, we lunched at Buffalo (and ate a Buffalo steak for my evening meal!) and journeyed through Dayton which described itself as ‘A little piece of heaven’; onwards past Moorcroft; over Crazy Woman Creek (which resonated with us!) through Big Horn (signs to Little Bighorn), Sundance,Custer and Crazy Horse. Those of us who were brought up on comics and cowboy films know the story of Custer’s Last Stand at Little Bighorn where Crazy Horse and the Native Americans inflicted a major defeat on the 7th Cavalry in 1876. We didn’t see any battles today and the only bloodshed was from the several roadkills which we passed by on the roadside. Talking of cowboys, we have entered South Dakota which is home to the Badlands and the Black Hills of Dakota.
Visions of the early settlers crossing the Pass we went over in makeshift wagons instead of our hired Nissan Rogue. Pushing their family goods (and their families) across unknown territory to who knew what. Fearful of attack from Native Americans or bandits. What a journey they must have endured.
Now we have a road, vegetation and… the occasional (rare!) industry.
Kath and I decided that, had we been outlaws, we wouldn’t have chased after the stage coaches but would have lain in wait for them! Be assured these were idle thoughts not contemplations for a future career!
The Badlands were home to ‘The Hole in the Wall Gang’ (Jesse James et al.) and we saw the various caves where they could have hidden. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were also from these parts and didn’t ride a bicycle with ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’ playing in the background.
And, so, we dropped down into Rushmore View to visit Mount Rushmore. To be honest – as I always am – the carvings of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln weren’t as impressive as I’d anticipated but watching a film about how and why they were carved added interest for me. It’s a very important monument for Americans and blends some commercialism with appropriate solemnity well.
The United States’ history is nowhere near as long as Britain’s but they take it more seriously. Perhaps, because it’s shorter and the beginnings are more recent,
As we travelled in Wyoming we didn’t see many people. A house with two storeys was incongruous and the scattered homesteads were sometimes miles from their neighbours. Urban it is not! It has the second lowest population density (6 per square mile) of all the States with only Alaska below it. For comparison, England has a population density of 1023 per square mile!
Tonight, we are staying at the Roosevelt Hotel with Theodore’s (Teddy’s!) quotes on the walls and, of course, a stuffed Teddy Bear in every room. Americans, eh?!
After yesterday’s long, long drive, today’s appeared shorter but, given the very different scenarios along the route, it was like driving through different countries.We started off in brilliant sunshine with temperatures in the 20s but, 50 miles or so along the way, a peculiar haze covered the sun and the temperature began to fall. We were once again in agricultural country but mainly arable. A further 50 miles and we appeared to be driving through a very flat, very wide basin with mountains all around, albeit some considerable distance away. Was that ‘cloud’ on the tops of one part of the range or was it snow?That particular example was, indeed, cloud but we did see bits of the white stuff amidst the crags.The temperature was now only 10 degrees and falling.
The sky had darkened a bit more, although there were no rainclouds, just a rather dark and ominous haze. Pollution? Certainly the last time I saw this sort of thing was in China, but although agriculture had given way to mining, there appeared to be no major industry.It felt as though we were at altitude (blocked ears), but suddenly we were climbing fast and encountered a sign telling us we were crossing the Continental Divide.Having looked it up since, we discover this is at about 8,000 ft in Montana. Strangely, the temperature also began to climb, the sun broke through and we switched from the car heater back to air conditioning.We followed a river for miles. Sometimes it meandered gently and people fished, but sometimes it was much more aggressive as it swept over boulders.
Finally we arrived. Yellowstone Park beckoned us in and we duly paid for a 7 day pass for the princely sum of $35. Bargain – even if we only have 2 days. So on we went, encountering a pair of elks in the rutting season. The bull wasn’t having the cow stray anywhere he couldn’t see her and the rangers were doing their best to keep people away from them!We moved on to Mammoth Springs to marvel at the hot springs and the burbling pools, the salt formations and the permanent smell of rotten eggs. Let the photographs provide a sample of the majesty here and we will crack on with our exploring tomorrow.
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
Ok, so I don’t have high culture. As a teenager, instead of reading books and listening to Classical Music, I played in a rock band, endlessly repeated pop 45s (and 78s!) on my Dansette record player and… watched cartoons on TV! And here, dear reader, is where this story begins.
A long time ago, when summers were always sunny, my interest in nature – especially mountainous forests – began. At first, I thought that the place I was watching was referred to by its correct name but, as I grew older and wiser, I understood the error of my ways. Jellystone?!
It was really called Yellowstone National Park and… here I am. We’ve seen real elks, stuffed eagles and beavers, mountain lions and coyotes, both post-taxidermy, but not my childhood idol.
Where is Yogi?!
Yogi Bear, created and anthropomorphised by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, was a smart-mouthed, lovable rogue who stole picnic baskets from tourists in the humorously named ‘Jellystone National Park’. The creators of Yogi Bear fought a law suit from famous baseball player, Yogi Berra, that my Yogi wasn’t named after him. I suspect Yellowstone/Jellystone didn’t have a connection either!!!
Yogi was always playful and had a friend, Boo-Boo, who tried to keep Yogi on the straight and narrow. Albeit, without success.
The Park was patrolled, then and now, by Rangers and, of course, Ranger Smith (referred to by Yogi as ‘Mr Ranger, Sir’) chased after Yogi trying to protect the visitors from the ‘wild’ animals who may steal their “Pic-a-nic” baskets.
I liked Yogi. Self-deprecating, he wasn’t. His catchphrase still reverberates round my memory recalls… “Smarter than the av-er-age bear, Boo-Boo”.
No, not that I ‘liked’ Yogi (past tense); I still like Yogi!
Smart-mouthed? Lovable? Fun loving? What’s not to like?!
However, we’re not in Jellystone; we’re in Yellowstone. No Yogi or Boo-Boo or ‘Mr Ranger, Sir’; we’ve not even seen any pic-a-nic baskets but we have seen some incredible sights with more to see tomorrow.
(But, I would like to see Yogi! I miss him. CTMQ.)
LATE NEWS: I found Jellystone Park but I think its not the real one! Seriously! Its address is 9900 Jellystone Avenue, Missoula, MT 598086
It doesn’t sound far when you say it quickly but by the time we had crossed state lines (Washington/Idaho/Montana) and lost an hour into the bargain by crossing into a new time zone, you appreciate the vastness of this country.
It was a brilliant morning and we appreciated the ‘big skies’ we encountered. As you take in the 360 degree vista, you quickly recognise that there can be numerous weather patterns as you turn in each direction.Once again we saw that the warm days will not be here for much longer when fresh signs are being erected with ice warnings, stopping places for snow chains and miles of snow poles.I don’t usually like the white stuff but a log cabin in the woods with lots of deep snow might be appealing, well it might for about five minutes!
So what did we see on the journey?Mile after mile of agricultural land with names of crops on the fences so you at least know what you are looking at, lots of mountains, beautiful lakes with resort areas for campers, and some incredible roads that appear endless.I was very excited to drive up and down some of the mountains at 80 mph – seriously, that was the speed limit.I don’t think I have ever seen road signs in America with such a high speed limit before, so it would be rude to disobey.
We are actually heading for Yellowstone National Park but today have passed loads of national parks, and the great outdoors is very much on offer here.Sadly, in a way, we didn’t have time to stop and explore and, fortunately, we had pushed ourselves to arrive at the hotel in good time. Less fortunate was the discovery there was no room at the Inn and Booking.com had mucked up.It took some time and some persistence but we got a decent alternative and went to celebrate with a hot dog and a frozen custard.That was after introducing Carolyn to Denny’s at lunchtime. My goodness we know how to live!
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
Today, as Kath indicated, we began the road part of our Road Trip in earnest. So,… my part of our blog today will be about the roads.
There is a scale about North American roads which impresses and disturbs. ‘Round the corner’ could be several miles and ‘down the road’ could be a hundred or so!
Sally, our Sat Nav, gave us our first instructions and, as it was my turn to drive, I listened carefully. She told me, “Continue on the I90 for 174 miles”. Nothing else was said by ‘her’ for over two hours! Obediently, on this occasion, I set cruise control at the speed limit for that road of 70 mph and… 172 miles later had touched the brake once and accelerator twice. The road was long, straight, low traffic, relatively high speed and totally trouble free.
After stopping for lunch at Denny’s, Kath and I swapped seats and Sally’s instruction for her changed to “Continue on the I90 for 185 miles”. Simple so far but… within two miles we hit a traffic jam! This was followed by someone’s breakdown, bend after bend, hill after hill, numerous road works and a five lorry pile-up with one trailer on its side. (I tried not to smile when I saw that the third truck involved had ‘Jesus saves’ on the cab and was plastered with Biblical quotes. Denny’s was next to Victory Church, a fundamentalist organisation who still believe that Creation took place in 4004 BC. I make no apology for saying they’re wrong… and dangerously so!)
Kath’s bonus for the afternoon came when the speed limits changed and she could legally do 80 mph for the first time. ‘Legally’ do it, note! Needless to say, every road works we encountered after that increased her frustration (and verbal outbursts as she blamed the world for stopping her driving at 80!). She’s a frustrated F1 driver deep down!
And, on the road, we passed: signs to the Grand Coulee Dam, which brought back memories for me of the Woody Guthrie song; in Idaho, signs for the Purple Heart Trail; Road signs warning of Abrupt Lane Edges; the beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene and its eponymous feeder river. Snow poles and ice warnings reminded us that a pleasant Fall day heralded a much harsher winter to come. Idaho’s Panhandle National Forest echoed days gone by and the little town of Kellogg was named after a prospector not a Cornflakes salesman. Cristal Gold Mine in Silver Valley also mentioned something of the area’s history.
And, when we arrived in Missoula, there was no room at the Inn!
We have really enjoyed this lovely city on the lake and tried to make the most of our few days here, but sadly the time has come to move on and begin the serious stuff. The open road beckons and we are off to Vancouver to pick up a car, apply ourselves to new discoveries, and to pit ourselves against the queues to cross the border into the USA. Please let it not take 3 hours like last year!! I might feel Mr Trump doesn’t want us.
Although it is fair to say we were somewhat done in after the epic trip to Niagara, we set off on a boat trip, courtesy of the Big Red Bus tour we had done earlier in the week. We were not expecting it to be a big deal, just a quick trip out and around some of the islands nearby, and that is exactly what it was. Pleasant and mindless seemed appropriate on a number of levels. What we hadn’t accounted for was the huge drop in temperature, so ‘playing out’ on the top deck may not have been the most sensible option. But it did enable me to get some nice photos of Toronto’s beautiful skyline. The islands teem with wildlife too… so Carolyn and I felt quite at home!
We also happened upon a Vegan Food Festival along the waterfront with some good live music, such that we were even tempted back in the evening. The evening’s music came from a very good trio and the combination of swing and jazz was excellent, although it appeared slightly less popular with the young people, families, and the sort of folks who might better appreciate a music festival. But the kids ran around and played, the families enjoyed the food from the many stalls and we resisted sitting on the grass in case we couldn’t get up!!
So, goodbye Toronto, and I will now take more interest in baseball when I hear the Blue Jays are playing.
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
We had always planned an easier day today. Recovering from a lengthy – time and distance – day with a late arrival back had taken something out of our relatively old bones and muscles. However, we weren’t going to waste it… nor the free boat trip!
Despite walking somewhat stiffly after the ‘marathon’ at Niagara, we set out with pace and lots of smiles. Chatting to ‘natives’ is always a bonus and the staff at the boat queue couldn’t have been nicer. Young and intelligent people who take service seriously is the norm here.
Even when we got back after my obligatory ribs with BarBQ sauce, planning for our flight onwards to Vancouver was a priority. As those who know me realise, ‘Planning’ is important to me! I can do improvisation and responding to circumstances but… ‘Planning’, I like! Although heights and underground are not my favourites (N.B. Kath – CN Tower and tunnels behind the Falls, albeit agreed to voluntarily, took effort! Chuckle!).
We haven’t done much listening to music yet but have managed a duo at Niagara and a jazz/blues trio this evening.
The trio tonight – keyboard/vocalist, bass and drums were very professional and performed well. Actually, better to say played well. The performance would have been more appropriate for a jazz club rather than the open air bandstand despite the excellent sound system.
We were ‘tempted’ by another music venue but decided even the quirky name, ‘Bovine Sex Club’ wasn’t colourfully appealing enough for having to endure a punk venue!
Kath mentioned the views from the boat – they really were the archetypal postcard photos. Such a pleasing vista as we scanned the skyline.
My ribs and a couple of chilled Coors Light rounded off the day.
I had some apprehension about returning to a city which had had such a seminal impact on my life but… it was great seeing you again, Toronto. Thank you.