Cody to Mt Rushmore – 379 miles

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 the tops of the stacks to see if there were smoke signals. The route was advertised as ‘scenic’ and that it was.  Granite cliffs, sandstone stacks, boulders which appeared 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, 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.

Were we downhearted? No, siree, Bob!


We smile at difficulties and laugh at danger! (Yeah, right!)

18D4FE1C-4B4B-47EC-9E8F-04A97B63A34DWe are, after all, the modern day ‘Thelma and Louise’ albeit without the stealing… and shooting… oh, and without the driving off a cliff! Although there were no edge barriers today even on the downward hairpins which, at one time, ran for seven miles at a stretch!

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.028EF86B-B481-4B07-B3D7-071AE0331630

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.C64E9F6A-36AB-4EE1-89AF-C6291A699867

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 we carved added interest for me. It’s a very important monument for Americans and blends some commercialism with appropriate solemnity well. It also has regard for safety – should be used elsewhere!54F9BE5F-4F24-445B-B534-39C99D5E36FA

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?! 


Gardiner to Cody – 131 plus heaven knows how many extra in Yellowstone




I didn’t mention our hotel for last night…it was actually an apartment in a fairly old clapboard house. Situated right on the Main Street in the middle of what you might expect from a ‘cowboy town’, it was very spacious but somewhat twee with hot water that came from the cold side (and for a shower that is tricky), a full range of kitchen equipment, a front porch with a rocking chair but no darned hairdryer!!  No breakfast either – DIY all the way – so wet hair and empty stomachs was the way to go!


I thought yesterday’s experience of Yellowstone was immense, so today I hadn’t necessarily bargained for practically being blown away by its sheer magnificence. We started with overcast skies but were viewing waterfalls, canyons and rivers which had carved their way through massive cliffs. The sun made its appearance as we moved on (fortified by sticky buns and hot chocolate and coffee – doesn’t everybody?) and we started to see the geo-thermal part of the park in earnest. Spectacular is a word that fails to do justice to the vast number of geysers, bubbling mud pools, calcified rocks, pools of many colours and the all pervading smell of sulphur. We found them stretching as far as the eye could see with boardwalks and platforms crossing the terrain for miles. We saw them by the roadside as we drove by, with steam wafting across the cars. We climbed hills to see more (no easy feat at this altitude) and we trekked across terrain you had to watch very carefully that you didn’t stray into somewhere that boiled beneath your feet. We marvelled at Old Faithful as we caught one of his ‘performances’ and saw the steam projected high into the air. We then followed the steaming eruptions of many other old geysers for miles to the huge lake, and still the lake shore was erupting. 


As for the wildlife en route…we saw no bears but found a bison ambling along the road towards us. It was a bit unnerving when he decided to cross the road about a foot from our car.  A pair of very fat crows hopped on and off cars at one of our stops, some deer skittered across the road as we left and a magnificent eagle soared above the huge cliffs enjoying the thermals in the late afternoon sun. We hadn’t gone to the part of the park where many wild animals roam, so we were very lucky. 

Our drive out of the park was no less breathtaking and I must have worn out my camera and phone trying to capture the various vistas. However, one particular sight which occurred in a number of places was of thousands of dead pine trees, some collapsed but many still standing and producing the sort of eerie effect you might imagine from a nuclear holocaust.  I have yet to find a cause. 


We motored on to our resting point for the night, Cody, which is another Wyoming town featuring a regular rodeo and a Buffalo Bill Center of the West. We had dinner in an all-American bar, just as they appear in the movies, and I encountered a toilet like no other. The ‘Ladies’ consisted of two cubicles without doors but with half curtains you simply pulled across. Why bother? You could probably see everything anyway. I confess here, I scarpered without availing myself of the facilities, simply crossed my legs and limited my intake of beer. Don’t ever let it be said we don’t have fun on our road trips!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

I had some apprehension about today’s scheduled visit to Yellowstone and, especially, the Old Faithful Geyser. What’s to like about a water spout which squirts into the air every 90 minutes or so? Particularly, when I’ve seen the Jet d’eau in Geneva which propels a water to 460 feet.

However, I was wrong. Yellowstone is almost four times the size of the Lake District National Park and is regarded as the first National Park in the world – established by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. It spreads across parts of three States: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – the State where we are spending tonight.

I thought of describing Yellowstone as the ‘Lake District on steroids’ but it’s much more than that. It is big… area, height, features, popularity, variety etc. But, it deserves its incredible reputation by tastefully allowing tourists to visit easily and productively. The road system and parking are superb around the Park despite the heavy usage. Speed limits on the roads help safety but also encourage viewing the natural beauty and ‘Awesome’ is not misplaced for the many elements. Odd facts like Yellowstone has between 1000 and 3000 earthquakes each year, and, it used to be one of the biggest volcanoes on the planet but had a cataclysmic explosion 640 000 years ago with the last lava flow being about 70000 years ago. Between fifty million and forty million years ago, multiple volcanoes continued erupting. (How do the fundamentalists square this with the earth only being – they say – 4000 years old?!) All that history with clear visible reminders.

So, some tremendous memories of a very special place. We can’t let you hear the sounds nor smell the aromas but you can see the photos.





Other curios – we crossed another Continental Divide which, this time, was about a mile and a half above sea level. High!

Tonight we’re in Cody. Trying to impress Kath with my childhood cowboy knowledge, I said how strange us having seen a bison (buffalo) that we’re going to Cody. “Why strange?”, asked Kath in an oddly relatively disinterested way which typifies the usual reaction from others when I say, “Isn’t it interesting?!’ Anyway, the point I was making was that Buffalo Bill, of Wild West fame, was really called Colonel William Frederick Cody. QI, I thought. However, it transpires that the town was named after him as he helped found it! Even more QI, I reckon. 

Talking of bison and buffalo – (attempt at joke follows): 

Q. What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison?

A. You can wash your hands in a bison but not a buffalo!


Seriously, they’re the same animal but this one came close… within arm’s reach of the car but not near the speed limit indicated. Slow, steady and, somehow, menacing. I closed my window!

Fnally, I suppose I should repost my two Old Faithful(l)s from Facebook…

Two Old Faithful(l)s

I’m not being disparaging because Marianne is only 6 months older than I am – and spells her name with a double L. However, I couldn’t resist posting two photos of ‘Old Faithful(l)’. The reason being that her Top Ten record from 1964, ‘As Tears Go By’, was playing today in the Tourist Centre (along with Donovan and other 60s tracks)! I’ll also post a photo of her when she recorded it to make some amends. 😀



Missoula to Yellowstone – 280 miles plus a good few more in the Park


After yesterday’s long, long drive, today 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 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 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.

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!!!

Anyway, back to the story…706B545E-3DAC-4DE2-89C4-C8C66B102285

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


“Smarter than the av-er-age bear!”

From Ellensburg to Missoula – 369 miles

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 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 lunch time. 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 for over two hours! Obediently, on this occasion, I set cruise control at the speed limit 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 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.



I had one of my CTMQ (Chuckle To Myself Quietly) moments when a sign said, “Two Mile Road 1 Mile” which was followed some junctions later by the more confusing, “Nine Mile Road 1 Mile”. Regrettably, we passed both original signs at speed but I snapped the junction sign itself. 




Similarly, the “C’mon Inn” was a clever name for a business but I didn’t smile at the “Wildlife Crossing” sign in Montana which had been “Game Crossing” in Washington State. 


And, when we arrived in Missoula, there was no room at the Inn!

The Road Trip begins…

Was it only yesterday that we packed up our belongings in Toronto and flew to Vancouver?  We got a real bucket shop flight at a low cost and reckoned it worked on quite a few levels. In the first instance our road trip is based more on the western side of the country which is over 2000 miles of driving, secondly the quote for the cost of hiring in one city and returning the car to the other side of the country was, on this occasion, $1500 CD, and finally we drove a lot of the Eastern seaboard side last year.  So, our time clocks took a hit (again) and we reached our very smart hotel in Vancouver at 11.30 or 2.30 by our body clocks left somewhere in Toronto.

That said, we were up and away in good time to go back to the airport and pick up the hire car. There are two parts to this story: the doorman at our posh hotel was helping to load our cases onto the courtesy shuttle, and being British we talked about the weather, the fact it was raining and there was a sharp fall in the temperature. He shrugged himself further into his cosy fleece and proclaimed that winter was on its way. Flappetty flippers, not yet!  But he did think we might avoid the first snow. Give me a break!  Second part of this story concerns picking up our hire car. We had already driven a monster truck this week, had booked a Jeep and wondered what was coming. Lovely guy said he had a nice SUV for us…promising. Turned out to be a very small Chevrolet SUV which would just about take one case but not both. Who was going to go without clothes?!  Carolyn declared this would not do, the man wanted to charge us for something bigger and Carolyn wasn’t having it!!  Who won?  Who do you think?  We now have a Nissan Rogue which takes all our stuff, no extra cost. Humph!

Next stop Ellensburg, but first we had to go and chat to the nice border people to cross from Canada into the USA. Now last year we queued at JFK for 3 hours to get in and I really thought that was a bit off. This time I hoped we might flash our passports and be waved on our way.  Don’t swear in print, don’t say it, don’t even think it!! We chatted to the nice lady at the kiosk (who had a very fine haircut) but smiles and compliments got us as far as something called “a secondary immigration check”, allegedly to put a stamp into our passports. A man with a gun and sunglasses (indoors on a cloudy day??) seemed impressed we had our ESTAs but he still made us queue for yet another Homeland Security Stamp in our passports. Blow me, we had to pay for the privilege too. $6 each!  So, an hour and a half later we were back on the road.

We had been asked where we were going. I said we were heading to Ellensburg, to which the quick response was, “Why?”.  It was the sort of comment which implied, “I wouldn’t if I were you”. Well, we had to stop somewhere as it is a lot further to Yellowstone Park.  Having arrived and driven around, it is OK. Turning off the southerly road at Seattle, we had headed east across some pretty impressive mountains. The rain and mist across the tops clung to the fir trees and mountain sides.  I swear the rain at the top was sleet and the temperature dropped to 10 degrees. Fortunately, once on the way down, the sun came out, the temperature climbed a bit and Ellensburg looked just fine, even the contrasting cheap and cheerful hotel is good enough without the joyful experience last night of sinking into the carpets!

Onwards tomorrow and another 300 miles to get nearer to Old Faithful – some geyser in Yellowstone!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Yesterday was a strange day. We had planned that, instead of driving the 2700 or so miles from a Toronto to Vancouver, we would fly 2090 miles and begin our road miles in Vancouver allowing more time later in the trip.

From our pick up by Conroy, our quiet but capable Uber driver, the day dragged. We had to leave our hotel by 11 in the morning but our flight out was about 8 in the evening. We contemplated leaving our luggage at Union Station but, as our luck would have it, the whole service on that line was longer and less frequent that weekend. Never mind, we decided, we can leave our cases at Pearson Airport as the website indicated was possible. You’ve probably guessed that it wasn’t! So,… several hours with our cases and three more having gone through security guaranteed a somewhat potentially wasted day. However, we read, talked, had coffee and downright refused to be bored. It was, though, a strange day. 

Today was the 239 mile drive from Vancouver to Ellensburg which began in kilometres and ended in miles.

Now, here’s a thing, Canada measures distance and speed using kilometres, our car – hired in Canada – does the same. Our Sat Nav, nicknamed Sally for alliterative reasons, uses Imperial miles. Clash! Having recognised and adjusted my thinking to this quirk, crossing the border today into the U.S., the roads went back to Imperial but the car did not. Trying to adhere rigidly to speed limits from Sally Sat Nav on my car speedo in KPH was an interesting test of my mental arithmetic in conversion. Needless to say, it added to the interest! As did road signs: “Chain up parking only” and, one I’d seen before, “Keep off the median”. Place names littered with Native American derivations and Wild West references like ‘John Wayne Trail’ and ‘Custer’.


So, another fun day ended with a Chinese meal and a local beer tonight after a Subway lunch. Well, when I say a beer, I didn’t drink half of it. Take a look at the ABV!

Goodbye Toronto


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!). The warning was heeded!


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.

Niagara Falls-ing in love!

What a fabulous adventure this was and the bucket list has another huge tick. The day started with lots of laughs with our car hire escapade. Having gone for a cheap option of ‘you click, we pick’, which meant they choose the vehicle to give us, the Manager apologised for the lack of choice between a very small car and some very large ones. “Don’t worry about me, I can drive a truck”, said Carolyn. Guess what we got? A huge behemoth of a truck! One of those massive monsters that sits miles off the ground with a 5.7 litre engine. Thank heavens for the grab handles which allowed me to heave my vertically challenged frame up into the huge seat! We were still laughing when we dropped it off at 11.30 pm.


But the Falls were no laughing matter. They were simply awesome and demanded to be respected and appreciated. We walked for miles seeing them from all angles and loved the boat trip aboard the Hornblower but thought the walk behind the falls was somewhat disappointing and definitely not what we had expected. We had started with the boat trip and I was amazed at how close we got to the millions of gallons of water cascading around us. Getting a soaking was not an option, in spite of the coloured capes provided (pink for the Hornblower, blue for the Maid of the Mist and yellow for the walk behind the falls). But the day was hot and sunny, so we simply dried as we walked and then got wet again!

It felt churlish to be disappointed with anything amidst such magnificence but walking the long tunnels behind the falls to view two small areas of actual cascading water felt just that. The viewing platform right beside the falls did provide that overwhelming feeling of awe and made you realise that fear is very real just standing so close when your imagination takes you to the exploits of people going over the falls in barrels and crossing them on a tightrope wire!

We took some time out to visit the very beautiful little town of Niagara on the Lake. It is so charming and a real heritage experience with its beautiful buildings housing a real collection of appealing small businesses, shops and lovely eateries. We had a great fish and chips meal with home made coleslaw thankfully substituting for the ubiquitous mushy peas we are served at home! Carolyn was delighted to experience blueberry frozen yogurt from possibly the same store where she had first encountered this frozen treat some 25 years previously.

Meanwhile, back at the Falls we waited for darkness to descend and the falls to light up. They did, but not in such vibrant colours as some of the poster adverts had predicted. Nevertheless, we stood and watched for a very long time although waiting a further hour for the fireworks felt like a step too far… speaking of which, my total steps for the day were 20,490!

It was such a wonderful day and, once again, I was left wondering how I had managed to take so long to get here!

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

‘Driven by desire and propelled by passion…

My first, and only, trip to Toronto was 25 years ago until this year. Our second full day here and I retraced my steps of those years ago and visited Niagara. 

It is wise, were you to make a mistake, not to make the same mistake again, I’ve learned. So, my mistake of 25 years ago? Wearing non-waterproof mascara! Not this time. 

It is obligatory to get wet. Three quarters of a million gallons a second come over the Horseshoe Falls and some of it, inevitably, sprays you and every one within… spitting distance! Laughing and grinning throughout the experience said it all really. Well worth a second trip despite the disappointment of walking behind the waterfall (not done last time) and the relatively bland illumination of the Falls in the evening. Blackpool Illuminations, it is not, despite the funfair attractions in the town itself. 

Kath has mentioned our ‘truck’ – a monster. Having driven a six-ton lorry in the UK, albeit many years ago, I didn’t doubt my ability to drive it. What proved to be more difficult was getting in and out! Grab handles helped us get in but parachutes weren’t provided for the exit. It’s a long way down from the cab, we found.

I like ice cream but love frozen yoghurt especially blueberry. I’ve managed to find it made freshly only once over the quarter of a century since my first mouthful in Niagara. Found again and it tasted just as good. In fact, better because of the rekindled memory. 

It was a long day and my 19500 steps were only marginally fewer than Kath’s. We began by walking to pick up our ‘car’; passing the old SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) home of the local baseball team, Toronto Blue Jays, and the still inspiring CN Tower. Passing the Conference Centre, where I learned about Policy Governance and the North American system of community education, we paused to check our online map to the car hire garage. A passing lady immediately stopped to ask if we needed any help. As it happened, we didn’t but thanked her, as you would expect. However, that brief incident exemplified what we have found in Toronto and Niagara – so many races, nationalities, languages but no sense of tension or anything other than helpfulness and acceptance.

Anecdotally, I had to smile in the tunnels behind the Falls when an Imam, in traditional dress under his plastic poncho, pointed to a warning sign and, with a big grin, said, “But, it’s always wet!” It just seemed to me to emphasise the oneness, as well as the diversity, of humans and humanity. 

Just before the car hire garage, we came to a memorial to workers who had been killed doing their jobs as a reminder about the need for protection and health & safety. A caring city. 

The Falls are famous worldwide hence attracting people from so many countries and you can see why. They are not the tallest by any means but the volume and scale are impressive. Not just visually appealing but extremely useful as a major hydroelectric power provider as well.

Bearing in mind my road trip companion, I can’t help but notice rainbow references when we see them. Rainbow Bridge and Rainbow Gardens this time.

My time in Toronto those years ago gave me my title for today. In some ways, I was apprehensive about returning; wondering whether revisiting would emphasise previous difficulties, desperation or subsequent delights. I’m pleased to record that the visit has been more than I could have hoped for and I will continue to be, ‘Driven by desire and propelled by passion’. Thank you, Toronto, for then and now.

Aloha from Honolulu…

Aloha from Honolulu…

When I discovered that our return journey was routing us via Los Angeles, it seemed like a good opportunity to take in 3 days’ worth of R&R in Honolulu; the place I first came to way back in 1990. My children were teenagers and for many reasons it was a special holiday. In the intervening years, Waikiki Beach has changed somewhat and ‘grown up’. The hotels have obviously multiplied and grown in size and when you find all the major chains in one place you know tourism is a massive business. Our choice this time was the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. It is a huge village, more of a town, which is still growing, and on my third day there are large parts I have yet to discover. Similarly, every brand and fashion house is present too, and judging by the number of bags people carry, the dollars are pouring in. And yet……


Our days had “chilled and lazy” written all over them. Our first day was spent simply getting over an overnight flight and we were happy to laze by the pool in the hot sun (or, in Ann’s case, in the hot shade). By the second day, we were ready to step outside the complex and explore. First a beach walk (sand you sink right into), breakfast and a swim. The time just slips away, but plenty of time left for more of an expedition. Thanks to an unfortunate “loss” in Auckland, I needed to replace my missing iPad and research found that the cost here was the same in dollars as in pounds at home. That took us on a pleasant walk to an Apple shop, situated in a beautiful shopping mall. Job done (as well as a drink and early evening meal), so we wandered off to walk back but found a trolley bus service which, for $2 each, took customers to the major hotels on Waikiki Beach. Therefore, for a very small amount, we got a real Cook’s tour as well as a ride back.


Storms were threatened for today but, although hot and overcast, there was no rain, as yet. Our trolley ride had inspired us to investigate the original Waikiki Beach where, in the early 20th century, legendary surfer, Olympic swimmer and Waikiki native, Duke Kahanamoku, introduced the sport to the world. There stands his monument, complete with fresh lei, and we filled our shoes with sand as we watched today’s surfers take to the waves.




Just along the road is what last night’s fabulous trolley driver, Nina, described as “the concrete jungle”. Shops, galleries and everything to tempt the wealthy hedonists who come to Honolulu for things of a more materialistic kind than the mighty surf. We found the Maui Brewing Company just after marvelling at a rarely seen Tesla showroom. The beer we could afford….just!

I really believed it was heaven on earth the last time I came but now the visitors seem to swamp the lovely, smiley, warm-hearted local people. It really is the 50th State of America and the Polynesian Villages seem to be just places for the tourists. I have had a lovely time but find my memories perhaps a little flawed. Maybe I left it too long to return and missed the changes during the intervening years.

It’s been lovely to see you, Hawaii, but now we are homeward bound. 5 am departure from the hotel and then flights to Los Angeles, Heathrow and Manchester. It’s been an amazing adventure over the last month and I can’t believe it is coming to an end…..until the next time.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Let’s get the jokes out of the way first… Hawai’i (note the apostrophe) makes me think of a Geordie asking, “How are yi?” Similarly, #sorry, Waikiki prompts me inwardly to ask, “Why not kiki?!”

Enough, we all cry.

We are towards the end of the longest holiday I’ve ever been on. Until last year but one, my longest holiday was a fortnight. However, when Ann and Kath mulled over this trip, I went along with it. Good decision? Yes, certainly!

This is our final holiday destination as we begin our flight back early tomorrow morning. The thrill of crossing the International Date Line masked the crossing of the Equator back into the Northern Hemisphere. To be honest, I only realised this when I suddenly recovered my sense of direction walking along the beach here. The position of the Sun is more important to me than I thought. Similarly, it’s a tick-off for me in that, when we get back to Manchester, we will have circumnavigated the globe!

So, what of Hawai’i…

I don’t think I had a clear expectation. Other than Hawaii Five-0 (the original!) and Elvis’ Blue Hawaii etc., I didn’t have much idea of what the place was like.

However, it’s somewhat akin to those memories except they’ve commercialised, gone bigger, brasher and, frankly, lost some of the tropical magic. Of course, we are greeted everywhere with, “Aloha!” but I wonder whether even that is just for the tourists. Waiters and waitresses alternate, after you’ve ordered with, “You got it!” or “My pleasure!” Talking of tourists, predominantly they are from the Far East – Japan, China and South Korea – with a much larger proportion of teenage girls than would be found in most resorts. Honolulu has a strong historical connection with those countries and, certainly, this U.S. State is very different from all 49 others.

Our ‘hotel’ is, genuinely, a village. Aptly called Hilton Hawaiian Village, it has more shops than St. Anne’s, I’m sure. It runs like clockwork and covers all 24 hours on the clock. So much to see and do without going off the campus. But, we did… on campus, we fo7nd Rainbow Tower (with the tallest mosaic in the world), Rainbow Lenai and Rainbow Bazaar with our own relatively tame Rainbow!

We walked along the beach, paddled in the Pacific, swam in one of the pools and indulged in laying in the sun. As we, also, needed to visit an Apple shop down the road, we found the most impressive Mall I’ve seen. The quality of the shops, eateries etc. was cosmopolitan and upmarket, indeed. We had spotted, whilst walking in the midday sun some quirky trolley buses and we decided to get one to return to the hotel. After missing the first call for our hotel, we stayed on board and had a great trip round nighttime Waikiki. Serendipity and worthwhile.

On the beach, we spotted an outrigger, Honolulu Police (without an Hawaii Five-0 sign and more. As we return to the UK, the memories will stay fresh for many years and these blog posts and photos will help. We, also, saw Diamond Head the name of the volcano and the hotel block we stayed in. Compare Elvis’ backdrop to my own photo.

Curiosity – the smell. We couldn’t place it. Possibly vegetable, flowers? Not floral, though. But, could be something else. Not sure.