About Me

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Inukjuak, Quebec, Canada
Always up for a new adventure. I love Musicals, photography, my family, road trips, and beads. So far I have been fortunate enough to teach in Japan, South Korea, Kenya, and the Canadian Arctic. Currently in my 5th year in the frozen North and up for any new adventure.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Return to Canada - July 24-26

Crossed the border this morning. Nice to be back but must remember that we are also back to kms instead of miles..hmm bit of a lead foot it seems. You never know what to expect at the border crossing; sometimes it takes forever as the guards inspect the different vehicles. But luckily today was not one of those days. Some of the cars ahead of us were being questioned very closely but when it got to our turn we just got the standard few. We had decided to stop on our way to Toronto to see our cousins, it has been a while. It was fun catching up with them but too soon we had to get on the road to TO as we have theatre tickets to see Miss Siagon. Ok, it is definitely one I have wanted to see for a long time and luckily the girls were game as well. Despite the construction that seems inevitable during summer in TO we made it to the theatre with time to spare. The show was fantastic! Such a sad, beautiful story. I loved every minute of it. Too soon the show was over and it was time to hit the road again, thankfully not a far drive. We stopped for a visit at Aunt M's, with plans to return to chinatown the next day. Back in TO the next day was full of chinatown with dim sum for lunch, visits to some essential stores (Lush & David's Tea), and a quick stop in koreatown for some kimchi to take home. I love visiting TO but cannot honestly think of having to drive in the city on a permanent basis; the drive to and from the show on saturday was enough to drive a person mad with all the detours due to construction. Spent the evening at M's weeding and then relaxing on the deck, getting ready for our final drive home tomorrow.

Headed north again at last, still construction but interesting to see how far they have gotten since we first drove south three weeks ago. We had almost perfect weather for our drive home, much like what we had when we first set out on this crazy adventure of ours. The last few kms flew by as we got nearer to home, all the familiar sights that scream Sudbury to a local. Home at last, hugs and kisses all around. Now the next adventure: the great unpacking and sorting of everything we accumulated on our trek :)

Wild Weather

Lesson learned about travelling across the USA in July: the weather is very unpredictable. We have had everything from thunderstorms to tornadoes, flooding to dry dessert heat, and even some perfect days. Sometimes we could see the weather coming while other times it was a complete surprise. The tornado weather in South Dakota was a surprise, we knew the weather was bad, we could see the lightening in the distance and luckily decided to pull off the road just in time to take shelter in a roadside rest stop. Rain and sun for Independence Day, just took a change of city. California went from gloomy cool to hot and sultry. We even brought rain with us to Arizona; think sheets of rain at the Grand Canyon and in Flagstaff. To finish the trip: multiple thunder storm crossing Michigan. As we drove towards home it got to the point we had to pull to the side of the highway because I couldn't see the road ahead of me. Don't get me wrong, I do love storms. I love watching them roll in and the lightening streaking across the sky. I do not however like to drive on the highway in them, particularly as many other drivers neglect to turn on their headlights. Oh well despite the storms that plagued us we drove for three weeks across the States, safe and sound, enjoying the sights along the way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Nauvoo IL - July 22

We decided to stop in Nauvoo IL on our way home to see the church pageant that is put on there in the summer. R and KJ have been before but for K and I it was our first time. The weather has been getting steadily hotter and more humid the farther east we go but the scenery had made up for it. Skimming the Mississippi was a beautiful drive but getting to it was interesting due to the flooding in the area. We were rerouted twice on our way to Carthage but manages to finally find it. The area water was really high, you could see it in the rivers and the local ponds that we passed. We finally got to Carthage jail and did the tour of the jail. Such interesting history and there is a solemn feeling to the building. There were quite a few youth and family groups that we passed as we went on our tour and then headed to Nauvoo. The area around the stage in Nauvoo was surrounded with games and music to entertain as you waited for the pageant to start. I was able to dance with a few country boys, saw a log with KJ, do a little highland fling, and piece a quilt. The view of the temple is just beautiful. It sits on the bluff over looking the river, just lovely. The pageant itself was a great presentation of music, dance, and history. The cast had a lot of energy and obviously loved what they were doing. The crowd enjoyed the show under the stars and there was such a peaceful feeling to the evening. Tomorrow will be the long drive towards home. We are aiming to be in TO by saturday.

Bull busting and county fair - July 21

If you have never been to a county fair I highly recommend it. Where else will you find dubious carnival rides, animals of all kinds, a local beauty pageant, all manner of fried eatables, and a rodeo? When we planned to drive all over the USA we looked around to see if there were any state or county fairs happening along the way. We were in luck and there was going to be one in Rolla MO. The tourist info girls told us that events would be happening rain or shine and boy did they mean it. The area had gotten a heavy dousing before we arrived, making parking in the field a concern. The midway that was set up at the grounds had a good array of rides but I am always a little nervous when I see how quickly the can set up and tear down a midway. I swear that the rides set up were on the trucks the night before at a rest stop where we stopped for gas the night before. Despite this we had fun flying through the air on a couple rides and spinning around on others. While we killed time before the beauty pageant we headed into the animal padlocks. I did not realize how many different varieties of rooster there are before I saw the kids exhibits. The beauty pageant was an interesting experience. They had different sections for all ages, with the fair queen round for the over 16's. It was fun watching the little ones try their best to do the dance routines and answer the interview questions. I can't help but wonder whose idea it is to be in the pageants; the girls or the parents. Well whoever decides, they all seemed to be having a good time and the former queen had a good cry when she gave up her crown. After the pageant the sky opened up to give the fair a good soaking before the main bull riding event. You had to feel sorry for the riders because the field was so muddy by the time they got to ride the bulls, anyone who was kicked off the bull had a very wet landing. It also made things difficult for round 2 because all their gear was wet and muddy. It was such fun to watch the bull riding, I haven't seen that since I lived in Alberta and this was the first time for the girls. Once the rain had let up it cooled off a bit and the crowd got into the spirit of the event. Great seats, eye candy, good music, what more could a girls want.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oklahoma!! - July 20

To start, I love this musical. I have heard the music, and watched different film versions but I have never been to see it performed on stage. There is a place near Tulsa OK that performs this musical every year for the tourists, and boy do they ever put on a great show. We did get off to a bit of a rocky start due to slightly lacking directions. We were trying to navigate the outskirts of Tulsa where every town seems to blend into one but we finally found the right road out to the farm. It was one of those country roads that just keeps going up and down over hills, with small lanes leading off from it. As we had been trying to find the farm for so long we were getting a kind of horror movie vibe. The kind you feel when the characters have been driving so long on a country road, not entirely sure of their destination but wanting to get there before dark. That is why we were extremely relieved to finally see the sign for Discoveryland (where they were putting on the show). Yay! As part of our tickets we got to have the cattleman's dinner as well; steak, corn, beans, and potato salad. They had everything set up outside in a welcoming picnic area. After dinner there was native american dancing and a pony express show to entertain before the main show. The musical is shown on an outside amphitheatre stage with the forest as a backdrop. The cast gets the audience warmed up with songs and dance, even going as far as to bring a few people out of the crowd for a little two stepping (KJ said no so I got up). Then while most of the cast is changing one of the characters does a bit of a comedy routine, welcoming the audience and of course finds out where everyone is from and gets them to do big Yeahaw when he calls the name of their home. Not surprisingly we were the only Canadians but we gave a respectable yell for Canada. The show was wonderful, they were such talented performers that the audience couldn't help but sing along and cheer. They incorporated live animals into the show and we were front row for all the action. I must admit the horses had excellent timing, one pair made sure to poop at the beginning of each act, forcing the dancers to move around it, which they did with great skill. The main cast was in excellent voice and just made you fall in love with the music. It was one of those experiences that made you just happy to be there. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see a great show under the stars.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Survivor Tree - July 20

Many of us have seen 'Elizabethtown' and thought about the road trip he takes at the end of the movie. He makes a stop in Oklahoma City to see the survivor tree and then leaves. Now I know that this is just a movie and they can't show everything he might have done there, but there really is so much more. I had heard of the tree before the movie and I admit that the movie reminded me that I would like to see the tree if ever given the chance. The girls and decided to make it a point to stop in OK City just to see the city and the memorial park in which it rests. The park is set where a street once ran alongside a federal building that was destroyed by a bomb in 1995. The city was forever changed on that day. People lost their lives, children and families, and the business centre would never be the same again. A man angry with the government decided to take matters into his own hands. He filled a truck with explosives, parked in front of the federal building, and after setting the fuse calmly drove off. Inside the building were government offices, recruitment offices, and a daycare; just beginning to go about their day when the bomb went off. In total the bomb would cause the deaths of 168 people (adults and children), destroy and fatally damage dozen of other building, and rock the country with shock and horror.

The park is designed to remember the people that died that day and provide a place to try and find some peace. There are town entrances to the park; large black gates with two times inscribed. 9:01 at one end for the time before the bomb went off, and 9:03 at the other end for the minute after the explosion when life was forever changed. In between is a calm, reflective pool that mirrors the park around it. To the side where the building once stood is a field of chairs, some large and others very small. The chairs represent the people that died as a result of the blast. Across the pool is what is now called the "Survivor Tree". It is a large, 80 year old elm tree that had already survived a great deal before the bombing. Transplant to the area from a private home, construction around it, and finally a parking lot. On the day of the bombing it survived the initial blast, flying glass and debris, and fire from the cars burning around it. It is seen as a symbol of hope, renewal, and resilience; to have survived so much and continued to grow. The park has such a peaceful feeling, with the trees surrounding the park, and the water flowing from the pool.

The museum to the side of the park is a wonderful source of information and a chance to learn the story of what happened that day. The city has worked hard to preserve personal items from that day, and the story of those that have gone. They take you through the day of the bombing, the everyday routines and plans of those involved, and the aftermath. They show the response of the city, the country, and the world. You cannot help but be touched by the exhibits and the information that is shared in the museum. We were touched by what we saw and heard, changed for the better I hope. One of the rangers in the park encourages you to place your hand in the reflective pool and then press you hand against one of the gates. He said to hold your hand there for a few seconds and think about what you have seen. Leaving your handprint will leave a piece of you behind as your thoughts and hopes will rest there in the park, with the memories helping to find peace.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

En route from AZ to OK - July 19

HOT! and since we are going east the humidity is rising. It has been interesting watching the landscape change back to what we are more familiar with. New Mexico was beautiful with its red rocks and scrub. Still felt like cowboy country a bit. Texas is flat! Very flat, with a good number of cows just waiting to be turned into hamburgers etc. MOOOOO! Stopped outside Amarillo to see the Cadillac Ranch. For those of you who do not know what that is let me explain. Years ago somebody got the idea to stick ten Cadillacs into the ground, tail up, and paint them. No clue as to why but they still stand today in a field along I-40. Blink and you will miss them but there is something irresistible about going out into that field and adding you painted mark to those cars. We parked and joined the line of cars, headed out to the field, marvelled at the sear 'whyness' of it all, were given a can of paint from another tourist, and got to work. We realized that this is why people stop, it is just silly fun to write your name on those cars in the middle of nowhere. Giggling we posed and painted, and then decided it was time to go our way. A fun moment in our journey. Tomorrow will be Oklahoma City and the Survivor Tree.

Quotes of the day: "Can I have some crack?" all parties at some point
"It is so hot in here I can draw on myself with crayons" R
"I have numb butt" C
"R stop being weird to your sister" C
"I don't need to go anymore" KJ on viewing a dubious gas station that was preluded with signs saying turn back now, guns cowboys, and enter at your own risk

Fav sign: Happy Tracks Horse Motel"

The Glory of the Rest Stop

Ok when you are on the road for long periods of time you really begin to appreciate the 'sometimes' illusion of the rest stop. These little points of interest can be heaven or hell depending on the care given by the state. In AZ unfortunately about half of the rest stops in the state have been closed due to budget, they will be switched out with the open ones probably next year. It is a shame because after miles of desert, rock, and one too many cokes you are often in dire need of a rest stop. There are gas stations and truck stops but it is never a sure thing that you will actually want to stop there. On the whole our rest stop experiences have been very good. There have always been the essentials of tp, soap, and clean stalls (musts in my book). They sometimes come equipped with helpful tourist info people, or at the very least a map in the bathroom. They are also (often) safe places to stop if you need to grab a couple hours of sleep because truckers can be found stopping for the night as well. A trucker once told me that sleeping at a truck stop or rest stop is a pretty safe place to be because almost all of them have something in their cab to protect their load. I am not sure how true this is but I have never had a problem. Just a thought.

Petrification, Monsoons, and Shotguns

There is so much to do in Arizona, especially when you know the locals. A took us out to the petrified forest and the painted desert today. Such a gorgeous sight. It makes you wonder what things looked like a few million years ago; a desert that was once a full forest but now is reduced to huge chunks of solid rock. These old trees are shot with colour and can be polished to a glass like finish by local artisans. The painted desert is exactly that; take your normal orange and brown desert and streak it with blues, reds, purples and black. The further we drove into the park the more we were amazed. It was just so cool. Some locals may take it for granted the way that we forget how amazing our lakes are. We had a great day and were able to find a few presents at one of the local rock shops for people back home.

Another thing about knowing the locals is that they are often willing to take you out shooting. E took the girls out to the family farm to do a little shooting with a pistol and a 22. They had a blast, literally. Apparently the girls are pretty good shots, considering that this was their first time (except KJ). They didn't shoot anything living but just practiced. Afterwards we all decided to head up to Sho low to catch a film and try some fantastic wings. The movie was great and the wings were delicious at the local bar and grill. You could choose whatever kind of wing you wanted to try; anything from suicide to a nice honey mustard. Yum! The only down was watching yet another storm roll in. I swear that I am a rain magnet. While we were at dinner the clouds took on a midnight black look and just as we finished the skies opened up and it started to pour down on us. The lights flickered in the bar but didn't quite go out. A few of the towns we passed on the way home had lost power. E drove us back to Holbrook through the storm as we marvelled over the lightening show happening over the desert. Such an amazing sight, you could see the lightening fork from the clouds to the ground on both sides o the highway. I love storms but not necessarily driving in them.

Quote of the day: "I don't think Arby's counts as an emergency light" A "What? It is to me." E

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grand Canyon AZ - July 16

Ok I don't know what it is about visiting national monuments and snap weather changes. The day was bright and sunny when we left Holbrook and headed to Flagstaff for some quick shopping and lunch. The closer we got to Flag the darker the clouds were becoming, and by the time we sat down to lunch it had started to pour. I am not talking about a fine mist, it was a soaking downpour. But it looked like the rain would ease or pass us over by the time we made it to the Grand Canyon. Well during the drive there it looked as if we were sadly mistaken. The rain had started to come down so hard that we could barely see the road at times but as the skies looked to be clearing closer to the Grand Canyon so we pressed on. By the time we got to the gates the sun was coming out and we were getting excited to be able to see the canyons but apparently going through the gates triggered the rain again. We decided to give the rain another half hour and if it didn't stop enough for us to travel around the rim of the canyon we were going to come back another day. Luckily for us the rain stopped and even though the skies were still pretty dark we would hit the canyon. Beautiful! It is such a cool place to come and visit, the views are amazing. You are literally standing on the edge of the world. The winds from the storm were still blowing, almost hard enough that you felt as if you could blow over the edge of the canyon. Such a terrifying feeling but exhilarating at the same time. We hopped on and off the bus at different look out point, each time awed at how amazing the view is. Even with getting a bit wet from the earlier rain, almost blown off the side of the canyon, and a bit chilled by the wind we had a great day, so glad we pressed on through the weather and decided to stay :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tombstone & Into Arizona - July 14

Hot desert town, doubtful past, a gunfight, and the sound of thunder in the distance. It is definitely a tourist town/trap all focused on the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holiday cowboy showdown. It is such a small, unassuming, dusty town but full of history and interesting facts. We wandered the town before the gun fight, stopping off to get an old style picture done. The girls and A were the saloon girls while E & I were the marshals that were gonna bring them to justice. I love those old style photos, so much fun to dress up and then you have that neat conversation piece for later. While waiting for the gun show to start we had fun looking at the pictures and artifacts from the old time western town. The actors in the show were actually pretty good for amateur performers, the man who played Doc Holiday actually waxed very poetic. The guns shots flew pretty fast and furious during the shoot out, startling the kids and adults alike. It was a neat experience but I don't know if I would go back, it was one of those 'do it once' things. On the way back we had to stop at a border control check. I guess because we were in southern AZ they were concerned about illegal immigrants. It was a very brief stop, I think the ON plates on the van maybe were a clue that we were from a place a bit farther north. The drive up to Holbrook takes you through some very beautiful countryside, desert and scrub with canyons cutting through. The road took us through the Salt River canyon which I can describe as "terrifyingly beautiful'. It is mountain grade driving, very twisting and steep, but beautiful views. E was driving the van with A following in the car behind, they said that the first time through the canyon you should be able to enjoy the view and not worry about going over the side of the cliff. Aptly put, for along the road you can see pieces of old wrecks along the cliff faces. Scary but beautiful. We were all very glad to finally pull into Holbrook for a few days of rest and local touring.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Disneyland!!!! - July 11/12

Ok, are you ready for the happiest place on earth? Got you trainers laced up? Water and sunscreen? Tickets? Are all small and possible lose-able things accounted for (ie small children)? Well then you might be ready for disneyland.

We decided to hit the park for when it opened to get to the more popular rides first before the huge crowds with small children showed up. It worked in our favour because we were able to walk onto a number of rides with virtually no line. It was great! Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted mansion, Astro Blasters and Space Mountain; no waiting. It was as if no one wanted to go to the park on a Sunday, which is odd because that is often one of the busier days. The park only started to get a little busy around lunchtime but the longest we waited for a ride was maybe 45 mins. Teacups, Dumbo, Jungle Cruise we did it all. You can't help but feel excited, like you are twelve years old again and on a sugar high. When the crowds started to get a bit much on the Disneyland side we headed over to California Adventure to play. They have some very cool rides there but my two favourites were the California Screamer and Midway Madness. The Screamer is a fast, high, looped roller coaster, and the Midway is a 3D shootout ride with unlimited ammunition. So much fun!! We bounced around trying different rides and snacks (smoked turkey legs, yum), and made our way over to the Tower of Terror. None of us had ever ridden that ride so we were going in blind. It was creepy, fast, scary and fun all at the same time. Loved it :) We went back to the hotel for a quick rest and swim before our dinner reservations. We had booked a table at the Blue Bayou in the french quarter area, near the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The garden area of the restaurant is actually on the edge of the bayou that the ride passes through on the way to pirate town. The food was amazing and the service was excellent. I had the Jambalaya with just enough of a kick to make you think, but there was also filet mignon, southern chicken, and tasty crab cakes. Our waiter, Aszmar was like a server/ninja, he took such good care of us and he moved so fast that you couldn't help but love him. I can not stress how good the food was and the mint juleps were to die for. After dinner we hit a few more rides to kill time before the fireworks and the Fantasmic show down by the river. We found a sweet spot to watch the fireworks, hidden back by the carousel in Fantasyland. You get to see the fire works that go off around the castle but without the crazy crowds on main street. Also it was very convenient for slipping away to get to Fantasmic before the crowds did. Unfortunately for us the fist show had some difficulties and had not cleared out by the time we got there. After getting separated trying to find a good spot to watch the show, everyone settled in and the lights went dim. Fantasmic is a show that mixes light, live character, robots, and water to take you through Mickey's dreams and nightmares. It was similar to the fantasia film when he is the sorcerer's apprentice. The weather was perfect for sitting outside and watching the show and the crowd was in a great mood. Loved the show, nobody does lights, pyrotechnics and all your favourite characters like Disney. Afterwards a very tired group hit a few more of the smaller kids rides and then headed back to the hotels for some much needed sleep.

The next disney day got off to a bit of a rocky start. It seemed as if we were now paying for our great lines from the day before. A couple of the rides we wanted to go one were having technical difficulties, we couldn't get into toontown to see the characters due to a special event, and we couldn't get fast-passes for the ones that were having difficulty. So we decided to go and meet the princesses and then hit toontown. We were lucky and met Ariel, Belle and the fairy godmother in the priness garden and then met up with Mickey and Minnie at their house. You know you are a kid at heart or a disney geek when you willingly stand in line in the hot sun to get a picture with a cartoon character. :) After toontown we hopped the train back to main street and headed into California to go back to the midway and play on the swings. Aside from the roller coasters, I think I like the sings the best. You just sit back, relax, and fly over the top of the park. Everyone was starting to feel the heat so we decided that seeing Aladdin on stage would be a great idea. There is very little better than Disney on stage. It was a mix of a broadway production and an audience interactive show. The genie was a hoot to watch, all his jokes were up on the latest current events and no one was untouchable. The music and songs were entertaining for the whole audience, many of us sang along without shame. Best part? Air conditioned and comfy seats. After the show we decided to split up for a couple hours to let everyone do their own thing, whether it was shopping, another ride, or a nap. Sopping mid-afternoon is great for avoiding the shopping crowds that appear later in the day, I was able to find everything I wanted. My new teacher mug is a grinning skeleton head. The girls and I headed back towards Pacific Pier to meet up with A & E for our picnic dinner and to pick up our passes for the World of Colour show that night. We took turns waiting to get into the seating area, some going off to the midway for one final spin. A found a perfect viewing spot for the show, right at the waters edge with a dead centre view. There were very friendly families around us, one with a extremely cute little girl who gleefully informed us that we were going to get soaked during the show. She was right but it was well worth it, and the show was so amazing that you barely noticed. About a half hour before the actual show was the pre-show to get the audience warmed up and in a disney mood (as if you could be anything else at that point). They had giant light characters to lead the different seating groups in songs, our section won with Mike Wazowski as our leader. Then the real show began. Words fail me when I try to describe it. The combination of lights, fountains, projected images, and music is indescribable. The whole crowd was singing along, not caring that the water was misting over them. they took images from so many of their cartoon films and blended them perfectly with the pulsing and spraying water. The pictures in the album don't even come close to what we saw. At the end everyone was smiling and cheering, wishing that the show wasn't quite over yet. It was the perfect way to end our time at Disneyland. Tomorrow we are back on the road headed for Phoenix AZ and points beyond.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Santa Monica Pier CA - July 10

Well this morning looked a little grey to us and where we come from that generally means rain. But we were in California and what appears to be overcast is really just smog. Welcome to California, now shop! At least that i what we felt when we drove into CA yesterday. The only tourist information we could find was in a mall, giving us the feeling that while they were welcoming us to their state, they were also making it feel like we were being angled towards the stores. The ladies at the mall/info station were very helpful with directions for the freeways around LA. I don't know who has driven thee before but for me the thought of approaching the LA freeway/highway system was a little daunting. But one of the ladies was nice enough to print out the diurection that would not take me down the 91 which is apparently one of the busier freeways in the afternoon. Thank you! The drive from Las Vegas to La was not as bad as I thought it was going to be and we made it to our hotel in great time. Best thing about arrival was the cool breeze and the pool in the sun. We spent a relaxing evening sunning, swimming, and getting excited to see E & A at Santa Monica tomorrow.

Sanata Monica Pier is one of the older LA attractions, very touristy but still fun. We were a little disappointed with the smog/cloud cover? and the cool wind this morning as we had hopped to maybe swim at the beach but we will take what we can get. The surfers were out in the water when we arrived, with their wetsuits the cold didin't bother them at all. We were content to walk along the shoreline and do a little wading on our way to the pier. There are vendors, trapeeze artists, food stalls, and a midway that opens a little later in the day. The crowds don't start to get bad until closer to lunch when the tour groups come in. We wandered down to the end of the pier to check out the fishermen and the view of the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful! It is dark blue and green, looked deceptiivly calm until you glanced back at the surfing area and saw the waves. We decided to take a ride on the ferris wheel to have a bird's eye view of the park and ocean. Finally we got a buzz from A & E telling us that they were close. We headed back to the parking area to meet up with them. Excitement! Hugs all around :) It has been years since I have seen them and we all missed them. We visited the pier a bit longer together and decided to stop for lunch at "Bubba Gump's". Yum, delicious seafood and a fun atmosphere, complete with a 'Forest Gump' pop quiz at the end.

We had plans to go vist the Getty museum on the hill that evening but were unpleasently surprised by the HUGE amount of traffic and the lousy direction flow of said traffic. It seemed that everyone decided to go to the Getty that night and the guards were ubprepeared for the sheer numbers. We were following A & E, who were using their gsp to find the best way to the museum, unfortunately it didn't know about the backup of traffic. After exiting the expressway we followed the flow of traffic towards the mmuseum, and after waiting in the line forever we get to the turn off to go into the parking lot. But wait... they had it blocked off and we had to drive almost to the next expressway on ramp to find the end of the line to enter thej museum parking lot. By this point we were so disgusted with the traffic and the wait, we figured that we probably wouldn't even be able to find a parking spot if and when we got in. So... we decided to scrap the whole idea and head back to the hotel and stop into Disneyland to pick up our passes for the next day and do a little shopping. Just seeing the lights of the park make you feel a little giddy :) Tomorrow is DISNEY Day :)

Pizzaria Bianco - Phoenix

After much anticipation and salivating we have finally eaten at Pizzeria Bianco. This place is fantastic and well worth the wait. Reservations for this place have to be made a month and a day in advance of the day you want your reservation to be. It is a small, unassuming brick building in downtown Phoenix, almost in the shadow of the baseball stadium. The pizzeria is only open for about 5/6 hours in the evening and without a reservation it can be up to a 4 hour wait for a table in the winter, a bit less time in the summer because it gets a little hot out in the waiting area (which is outside in the sun). The menu is not large but everything on it is handmade at the restaurant and uses fresh ingredients from the back garden or local produce. We arrived about 15 mins before our reservation, which was when the restaurant opened, and there was already a crowd outside the doors. Inside there are maybe a dozen tables that get re-arranged depending on the size of your party. They use an old fashioned brick pizza oven to bake their crusty loaves and thin crust, hand tossed pizzas. Due to the small size and family/friend wait staff the restaurant has a wonderful close and comfortable feeling. The bring fresh bread and bowls of olive oil to your table to start you off while you are waiting for you pizzas. At our table we decided on the fresh tomatoes and hand pressed mozzarella salad and antipasto plate for appetizers. For our pizza choices we ranged from a classic 'margarite' to a 'wise guy'. These pizzas were phenomenal, so fresh and straight from the oven across the room from us. There was a bit of a pizza exchange as everyone traded different slices with each others to get a taste of everything. Despite the fact that people without a reservation are waiting in line outside for your table there is no rush for you to hurry with your meal as you laugh and share. We had a wonderful time and would gladly go back, just have to make our reservations now for next month. Hmmm maybe not, tempting but we won't be here. The owner seems to enjoy the small feeling of the restaurant and has no plans for expansion as making things bigger would cause the pizza to suffer and that simply wouldn't work. In a word delicious :D

Be Aggressive or Freeway Driving 101

Ok as I may have said before, we like to stop at tourist/info booths when we enter any new states. The guides there usually have great advice and a extremely helpful (usually). The one in SD had awesome cowboy sighting and fireworks advice. The tourist info guide at the Nevada state line was a gem with his advice for driving into Las Vegas, he knew what exits we would want and which parts of town to stay out of, as well as being full of tips for just enjoying Vegas. His final words of advice were in regards to the ring road or spaghetti loops that are the way into Vegas. He told us to know what exit we needed, that gps would probably not be of much help as it doesn't always give enough warning, but he really stressed the drivers around Vegas. He repeatedly told us how aggressive the drivers there are, telling us to go for it and be aggressive ourselves or we might never get in. His advice was sound and I have also found it to be applicable to most if not all the freeway driving that we have been doing. So for freeway driving 101 I definitely recommend that you really know what exit you need, not 'I think it is 60B, maybe'. Have a navigator beside you who can read a map or act as a gps for you (thanks KJ). Have confidence in your driving ability or be a little more aggressive than you would normally be. If you are Canadian, make sure you know the difference between kms and miles. And keep and eye on the speedometer and the rearview mirror for anyone who might be coming up on you (ie hwy patrol).

I think my driving has been affected some by having driven on such a wide array of freeways/hwys. 400 and QEW down in TO, Chicago (ie Seven Circles if Hell), Las Vegas, the LA freeways, and many a tourist filled mountain road between them. I have definitely become more, a fan of u-turns where permitted, my right foot seems to have gotten a little heavier as well, and I can sing along to the radio with the champs. So far a great trip.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

It is one of those places that some hope to never see, while others dream of going to. Truth be told it is a rather a mixed bag. We drove down from Utah this morning hoping to get the worst of the driving finished before it got too hot. I know that the east is suffering from a nasty heatwave with some terrible humidity, which makes me happy to be west, but by midmorning we were starting to puddle. As you come down from UT on the I-15 you pass through the upper corner of AZ and this small stretch follows the Virgin River as it cuts it's way through the canyon. It is as twisty and winding as you could imagine, surrounded by varying shades of red and yellow. Above is the bright blue sky, barely a cloud in the sky. I have driven this stretch once before but it was at night. Picture if you will, red rock walls surrounding you and a black blanket studded with white stars above. Not really for the claustrophobic but gorgeous all the same. I did enjoy seeing the contrast between last trip and this one, you can really appreciate the beauty of the countryside. The countryside gets successively drier and a kaleidoscope of brown and red, but striking when one is used to shades of green and forests. The closer we got to Las Vegas the more excited we got, and who wouldn't be. We had stopped at the Nevada tourist info stop just after we got into the state and the man there was an absolute gem. He gave us the perfect instructions for driving into Vegas and finding our hotel. His final word of advice "Drivers down there are aggressive, your gps will not help you. Be aggressive and go for it." I am glad he gave us directions, they were spot on and found our hotel without any trouble, and KJ rocked as navigator. Honestly driving into Vegas wasn't that bad, it was like fast 400 series in TO at rush hour, scary but not impossible. We were staying at one of the older hotels in downtown Vegas, right near the Freemont street experience. It was one of those old style Casino and bar hotels, tons of wooden panelling and soft lights except at the tables or slot machines. The front desk was a sweet old guy who was very helpful and full of info on the area. Our room had a kinda retro feel, dark walls and bright colours, and the window looked right onto Freemont where they do the light show at night.

After everyone got cleaned up we headed out to make our way to the famous Las Vegas Strip. We passed through Freemont, which during the afternoon is pretty quiet but tons of stores and casinos, and caught a bus that would take us to the strip and past all the really big casinos. Unfortunately for us there was a back up of traffic so it took a lot longer than it should have. About an hour after we got to Vegas President Obama landed at the airport. I guess that he was here for some sort of fundraiser rally thing and his motorcade backed traffic us something awful. He was staying at Caesar's Palace but the rally was somewhere else first. It made traffic a mess, there was a guy on the bus near us that was 2hrs late for work by the time we made it down the strip. We stopped at the Bellagio to see the fountain show, so cool, set to music with a definite American theme probably as a 'subtle' hint to Obama. There were a couple of Elvis near the fountains posing with the tourists, very nice guys, like most they pose for photos with tourists for tips. If you are gonna get a picture with Elvis you might as well get it in Vegas :) We worked out way down the strip headed for TI (Treasure Island) and the pirate show. It was just such an interesting feeling to walk down the strip past the casinos and shows, listening to the jumbles of noise pouring out onto the street, cool air and lights coming out from the bars and casinos, and tourists stopping along the way to take pictures. I loved the pirate show at TI, the Sirens lure the Pirates in and the they battle it out on the water. It was a mix of acrobatics, sexy dance show, and pyrotechnics. Caught the bus back to Freemont to watch some of the light show and listen to the music. Walking back we met up with Captain jack Sparrow who was wandering around the street and posing. Smile for the camera Captain :) The music was a mix of Queen, Kiss, and AC/DC with the canopy lit up above and the casinos full of lights and noise. One thing I observed when passing the casinos was people didn't seem very happy, but the people watching the show above were smiling. We could watch the show from our window that opened out onto the street and even though the music was loud till after 1am we were so tired we totally crashed.

Next morning we drove back down the strip on our way out of town. It was amazing how quiet and clean it was in contrast to the night before. The Casinos though open were quiet and almost dark in comparison to the night before. The main reason we chose to drive down the strip was to get a shot of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, cheesy but fun. Next stop: California!

Salt Lake City UT, July 6/7

Leaving cowboy country for a bit and taking on farming areas. There is something I have to ask drivers in Idaho and Utah, now this is not directed at all drivers in these states, "Do you know where your turn signals are?" It was frustrating and nerve wracking at times on the interstate with drivers (pick-ups in particular) who failed to signal in any way there intent. Other than that we thoroughly enjoyed our ride down. Heading towards the Salt Lake Valley and the Great Salt Lake is was cool to see the scenery changing and the impact that farming has had on the valley, parts of which could 'almost' be called lush or at the very least fertile farming.

As we hit the ring road/belt that brings you around Salt Lake we got a little silly playing 'spot the chapel', we had been playing shalopski (spot the horse) but when the field disappeared we switched to chapels. Found the hotel with very little trouble and were extremely happy to see the pool outside and the hot showers inside. We got ourselves cleaned up and did a little laundry and decided to take the train into SLC and see what was happening. We found out about some free concerts they hold in one of the parks during summer. After killing a little time with dinner and shopping we headed back to the park to watch Synergy. Pause for a moment on the name and imagine what you are see.... we were not prepared. Don't get me wrong they were a talented bunch but it just wasn't what we expected. It was a group of high energy, brightly coloured (think neon), young adults who had come together as a dance and song group. They did routines heavily based on broadway musicals, and they could really belt them out. Right before the performance started the announcer asked everyone to remember to take all their belongings with them, and make sure they picked up their spouses. The woman next to me remarked "so if I don't have one does that mean I can pick him out?" I smiled and said it sounded like a fabulous idea. the music was upbeat, the kids were talented, and the weather was great. We really enjoyed our evening and one the way home got to see the cops kick a couple of people off the train for not having tickets. Think a rabbit caught between two dogs :)

Next day was our day at temple square and visiting the historical sights. We had poked our noses into the square the day before but as we were in jeans we didn't feel completely comfortable. There is nothing wrong with wearing jeans or whatever, we just suffer from the compulsion: you dress up for the theatre and church. We had a great time wandering around temple square, stopping in at the various historical sights. We were able to sit in on one of the organ recitals at the tabernacle, wow what a fantastic sound. They finished with "The Ride of the Valkyries" and you can imagine how well that sounds in a hall where you can hear a pin drop from the back of the room. Our tour guides were a nice bunch, ironically we got hooked up with another canadian family for one of the tours. The area around and in temple square is just so beautiful and peaceful, they take such care of the grounds and ensure that you know where you are going. By late afternoon we were ready to head back to our hotel for some goofing off in the pool and downtime before hitting the road tomorrow. We grabbed some pizza and settled in for old movies and sleep. Tomorrow we hit the road for Las Vegas. So excited!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Yellowstone Park WY - July 5th

In a word "Stunning".
The drive from Sheridan towards Yellowstone finds you winding your way higher into the mountains of the Bighorn National forest, steadily climbing higher the views are amazing. The river cuts its way through the rocks leaving a twisting trail and sharp drops, forests give way to red rock and scrub brush and you come into a valley that takes you across the top corner of Wyoming till you start to climb again. Along hwy 14 I found myself driving 3 sleeping beauties across the plains, singing broadway tunes to myself, and enjoying the view. Driving along I kept thinking "This is such a great sight. The pictures in the camera just don't do justice to what we are seeing." But it was definitely small town farm country, we actually passed through a town with a population of 10 people. Getting close to Yellowstone the traffic definitely started to build up, not entirely unexpected as it was still technically a holiday. When we finally got to the gate we found out that there had also been an accident a bit into the park, the guard was actually pretty deadpan about it, said that motorcycle accidents were more common than you would think. The ambulance passed us on the way in and later on farther into the park. I don't think that anyone was too badly hurt, and nothing really looked crumpled. Driving through the park was gorgeous but also sad. They are really having a problem with pine beetles in the national forests, what should be filled with evergreen colours is actually a greyish brown. Mt. Rushmore has also been hit by these beetles and was part of the reason that they decided to not have fireworks over the monument this year, the forest was too dead and dry. As you come up on Yellowstone lake in the middle of the park there is a definite hint of sulphur in the air and the lake is a clear dark bluish/green colour with snow capped mountains in the background.

We finally made it around to the famous "Old Faithful" geyser, where every tourist seems to make their way eventually. They have the time for the geyser down to within 10 minutes. We got there about 230 and the next eruption was due about 3pm. It was kind of funny to look around at all the tourists surrounding and staring a steaming hole in the ground. As soon as the geyser starts to bubble the cameras go up, oops false alarm. Maybe the geyser has stage fright today as it bubbled and subsided about 3 times before it finally erupted. It really does shoot high into the air when it finally erupts, like a water fountain that a kid has jammed the button on. There are several roads that wind around the park that take you past different geyser fields. The last one we stopped at had two beautiful pools that had been a part of an eruption about 30 years ago and has now settled into turquoise pools surrounded by orange and red. Gorgeous!

Just as we were leaving the park we passed over a bridge that had a ton of cars parked on it with a crowd of people taking pictures of something in the woods. As we passed over we could finally see what all the fuss was about, there was a moose just into the bush. Our reaction was "Oh a moose." and we kept driving. You know you are from northern ontario when... I did brake for deer a little while later, but then they were actually crossing the road. I brake for deer or other animals when they are actually in the road, but not necessarily when they are beside it.

Crossing into Idaho we discovered a couple of things: drivers in Idaho, particularly the pickup drivers, like to go fast, very fast. Make sure you ask at least two people for directions as they are not always clear. Trying asian themed dishes in a small town is not always a good thing.

Quotes: "Maybe it ran out of batteries" - a little girls waiting for Old Faithful to erupt
"All I saw was a bunch of steam" - man near the geyser field

Independence Day - Monuments, Cowboys, and Firebombs ...oops I mean fireworks

Bright and early we were on the road to Mt. Rushmore. Everyone that we had talked to had said to be there well before 9am as the parking fills up quick on national holiday. Driving up to the monument takes you through the Black Hills, steep and beautiful. It looked like it would be a nice and sunny day for the holiday and the tourists were starting to come out but not yet in droves so there was still space to meander around. This might sound rude but one of our first thoughts when we pulled up to the monuments was "I thought it was going to be bigger". Now laugh or scold if you must be we weren't the only ones with this opinion. Eavesdropping is a well honed art that has provided many a giggle along our way and throughout our morning we heard our thoughts repeated by several others; from bikers to little girls in their daddy's arms. Big as we thought or not, it was an awe inspiring sight. To have carved them in the time they were done and with the tools available is an amazing feat. Our park ranger/guide was a feisty older lady who liked to focus on the 'conflicts' of the history and the presidents on the rock face. She liked to show the good and the bad about each and even the location of the monument itself. Just at the tail end of our trek around the base of the mountain the wind picked up again and the rain moved in, forcing the tourists into the various shops and welcome centres. While searching for K and KJ I ran into Abraham Lincoln, who was gracious to let me have a picture with him, even though he was late for a speech. I also got George Washington's autograph during my search, it just goes to show you never know who you will run into at a national monument on Independence day. Finally reconnected with the girls after they reminded me of one of the most basic of road rules; if in doubt meet back at the car. Since we had gotten to the monument so early, being able to see all that we wanted before it got too dark we decided to get back on the road before the rain started up again.

Following the advice of one of the park rangers, we headed back to Rapid City to avoid the rainy weather coming up from the south. Lucky thing we did for lo' and behold there was a Sonic in Rapid City, YUUUUUUM, we had an early lunch and if you haven't had a cherry lime-aide from there I suggest you try it. Driving west again we managed to avoid the rain and enjoy a beautiful rolling drive through cowboy/cattle country. Since the weather and roads were so nice we were able to get into Sheridan SD much earlier than we had originally planned. True to form we stopped at the tourist info to see what was happening in town for the 4th of JUly celebrations. Met the most delightful and enthusiastic info lady we have talked to on our trip so far. She was a fountain of information and a hoot to talk to. She told us that there wasn't anything happening in Sheridan but if we wanted to see fireworks we could head back to Big Horn. The town was having a celebration out at the Equestrian Club "where all the Polo players were". She told us if we wanted to see cute guys and some fireworks to head out there. It was excellent advice! The club is set in the foothills and just a beautiful spot. The town had organized food and music to entertain the crowds until the fireworks that night. There was such a small town america feel to the whole night; people greeting each other with a smile or a pat on the back, kids of all ages running around playing football or soccer while their parents visited. There a cowboy back playing for the crowd and the were fairly impressive with foot tapping songs and sad ballads. Did I mention the cute cowboys EVERYWHERE? Honey, I didn't see any of the cute polo players but the cowboys were out in droves. And wow, can some of those boys dance! The later it got in the evening, the more couples got up to dance, some of the couples had obviously been dancing together for years. I don't know when the kids start learning to dance out here but once they hit their late teens they can really move. During the fast numbers there was flipping and spinning all over the place. At times it almost felt as if we could have been on the set of a movie set in a small town with the lights and dancing in the twilight. When dark had finally fallen, the town of Big Horn out on a extremely impressive fireworks show. They had their bursts set to music and for the most part the music suited the fireworks. The shock came for us at the end (or what we thought was the end). There was a fantastic burst of fireworks, fast and furious, and then a pause where we could see dozens of emergency lights flashing in the area where they had been lighting the fireworks. All of a sudden there were these huge blasts of flames exploding, we thought that something had gone wrong with some of the fireworks. Apparently they like to set off firebombs as part of the show, you know the huge blasts of flames you see in the movies when a car explodes? well that is what we were seeing. We were kinda in shock but it was part if the show, and then they followed it up with a frenzied final burst of deafening fireworks. Then came the mayhem of trying to get out of the field, while parking had been easy and organized getting out was anything but. We finally were able to get out the back of the club but it meant following a very dark and winding country back road. It was ok if you had someone to follow, but slightly scary if you weren't, I was actually glad to be stuck in traffic again. We made our way back to Sheridan for the night, watching a few random fireworks as we cruised along the highway, thoroughly pleased with our 4th of July.

Quotes of the day: "Oh the polo players, they are in town and 'oooh' (insert delicious shiver here). Those Argentinians, so dark and ooh" & "North of Toronto, must be mighty cold up there." - from the tourist info lady :)
"Like shootin' fish in a barrel" C "They are everywhere, we can't escape them" KJ
"Ok, so we're finally in cowboy country, all we need now is a rope and duct tape" K
"I think they may be a church group" R "What gave it away? The giant cross they were carrying?" C

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A word about pictures

For anyone that is waiting for more pictures we will be posting a lot over the next 2 days as we are stationary in Salt Lake City and will have a steady internet connection. HUGS and thanks for reading :)

Musical Analogies

What happens when you have had too much sugar, are a little sunburned, and have listened to one too many musicals? You start drawing what if conclusions. What if they made 'Twilight' into a musical (heaven forbid)? While driving through Minnesota the music switched to a more modern mix. When Shawn Desmond's "Shiver" came on I got a little silly. As we listened to the song I couldn't help drawing comparisons to the story from the first Twilight, and thinking if they ever made a musical of it this would fit right in. Uncontrollable giggling ensured for the next 20 miles If anyone has any time to kill and/or is just curious look it up and listen to the words. Or copy and paste the link below


Just a silly moment from our trip across the US.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Eye of the Storm - July 3rd

I would just like to say that this was not my fault. Today started well with the girls taking over driving from me. We found a Wal-Mart just after we stopped for breakfast, at last phone and more food for the road. Junk food is easy to find but healthy stuff takes some time and luck. We continued through Wisc. which was pretty but uneventful but it was starting to heat up outside, hot and humid. Not a good combination. Passing into and through Minnesota we found that even if the town is named after a lake or river, it is not necessarily near a body of water; agony for a car of girls desperate for a swim. The only water we saw were cow ponds and it didn't look as if the cows would like to share. We didn't really want to share with them either as it was a little smelly, we definitely knew we were in cow country. Passing into South Dakota weather was still hot but ok, we had some cloud cover and wind building though. When we stopped at the tourist info booth the sweet old man gave us tons of advice on where to stop for the night, we smiled and said thanks. Meanwhile our plan was still to get as close to Rapid City as we could before stopping so we would be close to MT Rushmore in the morning. Pulled off in MItchell to see the famous Corn Palace. It is a kinda neat old building that they have been covering with corn for the last 100+ years. We were also trying to find a KFC or something to pick up some chicken for a picnic tomorrow. Unfortunately the nice lady at the palace told us that the man who owned the KFC had just finished building it when he died of cancer, ouch, poor guy, and slightly awkward conversation for us. Interesting artwork on the palace though, they put a new design up every year.

Continuing through SD that wind was still very strong, and the humidity level was rising. We all felt as if we were melting in our seats, we were resisting putting the air conditioner on until we hit the really hot states. Watching the clouds darken we were trying to figure out which way they were travelling but not having a lot of luck. Then the lightening started to flash and I was not comfortable driving with that. It looked as if were were following a storm but we going to meet up with it very soon. There was a state rest stop just before a town called Vivian that we decided to stop at to wait and see which way the storm would go and give it a chance to pass. Good thing we did! Just after we pulled into the rest area the clouds started to swirl a bit together and it got very dark. It was just starting to spit a little rain as we grabbed our essentials and ran for the shelter. When we jojned the people inside they told us that a severe thunder storm, bordering on tornado warning had just been issued. K had stayed out side a minute longer to get some pics of the clouds but ran in just as the wind really started to howl. Then the rain hit. It was like a wall of water and wind has hit the shelter. Everyone moved into the cement alcove close to the rest rooms and away from the windows. The lights quickly went out leaving us making new friends and chatting about the storm. It was such a surreal feeling, to be in the heart of the storm like that. Dark in out corner, with muted light coming from the windows and doors, with water being forced in. As few of the truckers who had stopped with us were following the storm with their cells. All we had to so was wait it out and decide if we would continue if and when it let up. We kept peaking out to see if the car was still there and if anything had blown away. We were safe and in pretty good shape. Various travellers kept coming in from the storm, at one point a trucker ran in who said he had just passed two bikers whose bikes had been blown into the ditch. He offered to bring them to the rest area but they didn't want to leave their bikes. It just goes to show how kind strangers can be when there is an emergency, towels and blankets were being readily shared as people made chitchat to pass the time. Finally it seemed as if the storm was passing and the truckers said that we were in the safe zone and they were going to try and make the next town. We decided to follow them and pray. We finally found a radio station that was giving regular storm updates and the rain had eased so we followed the truckers out. Slow driving but we were ok. The storm warning said the storm was moving northeast of us and out of our county. The sky was gorgeous as the rain slowly came to a stop and the sunset became visible. There were still some very dark clouds to our right as we followed the highway west. K was continually checking the storm warning against out map and it showed that the storm was behind us and we were well out of it's path. We decided to press on to Rapid City and despite the construction we made pretty good time.

Finally pulling into a Flying J about 11pm; shower time. I love Flying J's and truck stops in general. They are a fantastic oasis filled with everything a traveller could need, including private showers complete with towels. We got cleaned up, it was bliss to have a hot shower. We got out the sleeping bags and bunked down in the van, to tired to travel any farther today. Tomorrow is July 4th, can't wait to see how the USA really celebrates it at one of their national monuments. And we will continue our search for the elusive Sonic, where one can get the world's best cherry limeaide.

Lessons learned: When your gut says pull off because the clouds and lightening are looking scary, listen to it.

Quotes: "I think I saw a turtle trying to cross the road back there" K "Good luck with that" C

The Search for the Holy Grail and the Descent into Dante's Inferno

We crossed the border on July 2nd to head out cross the USA. Border crossing went well, we had a thorough but pleasant guard. Our first order of business was to find a Wal-Mart to get a US cell phone so that we could stay in contact with A & E out west. Everyone had told us that you couldn't swing a stick around in the US without hitting a Wal-Mart, well....the lied. We spent over an hour fighting with the GSP and the directions from one of the hotels, just circling around trying to find one. Extreme frustration!!!!! Finally we decided that we would just take off and find one later along the road, oh how naive we were. We drove through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin; only seeing one briefly as we passed on the highway in IL unable to exit. There was a definite wail of frustration as we passed, something along the lines of "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!" Feeling at that time was when we see it we'' stop. The search for a Wal-Mart had indeed become our holy grail.

Reminder; when passing by a prison area; ask if they are a hitchhiker or an escaped convict. The signs remind you not to pick up any hitchhikers but it doesn't say anything about convicts.

Back on the road and approaching Chicago; beautiful view of the skyline as you enter the city limits. Unfortunately for us the sun was starting to set, which makes for beautiful pictures but lousy visibility for the driver. As the expressway brings you closer and closer into the city the amount of cars drastically increases, going from 2-4-6 lanes per side. I began to see signs the said we were getting close the the circle, which of course begged the question: "What circle are they talking about?" Response from the driver "We are in hell, the seven circles of hell!" With the sun in my eyes I could barely see the signs I was supposed to follow, and tried desperately to stay in the right lane that would eventually take us to Wisconsin. It was the kind of nail biting traffic you sometimes see around TO but worse due to the lousy visibilty with the sun coming off the lake. Finally past Chicago we stopped for dinner, partly because we were starving by this point but more importantly I just couldn't see at all due to the sun. We were trying to get as far as we could before we had to stop and eventually made it part way into Wisc. before we pulled over for the night. Tomorrow we continue our quest towards Mt Rushmore for the 4th of July.

So.... lessons learned today: Wal-Marts are never as close as they are meant to be, and never travel around Chicago and the lake at sunset if you value your sanity and eyesight.

Quotes: "The first thing I did in Ohio was take off my top.: R
"Set dang you, set!" C "I'm gonna kill it! I'm gonna kill it!" C

Fav plate: SWT RYD on a nice silver convertible.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Niagara Falls to celebrate Canada's B-day; flags are flying along the roadway and it is going to be a clear, sunny day. While car dancing our way there we were stopped by the longest train I have seen in ages: 158 cars and only 3 engines. After scoring a sweet parking deal at the falls ($5 which rose to $20 by the end of the day) we head off to explore. The girls have never been on the Maid of the MIst boat tour so that was one of our first stops. Fabulous!! We had a pretty good spot to the side of the bow and since the boat wasn't too crowed yet we were able to roam. Despite the fact that you are under the illusion that you will remain dry under your raincoat, don't get too comfortable, it is a lie. If you are at the front you will get wet, or soaked in our case. So much fun! I think I am in a dozen pics from a german tourist that was near us, I think he found my twirling antics under the spray amusing. Perfect view of the falls and a clear sky above.

After we decided to walk across the peace bridge and explore the American side of the falls, they have a lovely park there that winds around the rapids. Crossing was fun, after two of us had gone through customs at the USA side they just asked the remaining "Sisters?" and waved them together to the counter. One great thing about the USA side is that you can get really close to the falls, you actually can get pretty wet from the spray, which is perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day. Grabbed a bite at "Denny's', breakfast is great at any time and the Nachos are deliciously cheesy.

By the time we made it back over to the Canadian side it was mid-afternoon, we went to torture ourselves with a quick visit to the Hershey store and drool a little. After fooling around with a handy Mounty 'Fred', we decided to stake out a good spot to watch the fireworks tonight and people watch this afternoon. What trouble can girls with cards and candy get into? Well let's just say there will be no more swedish berries on the trip are certain people like to drop them down various bra's, cards and candy and girls went flying. It was fun to eavesdrop on the people passing by, many remarked with delight that we we playing UNO. We did nap a bit and stroll around the park as we guarded our spot. It was a good thing we were patient enough to spend all that time there cause come night fall, the fire works were going off right in front of us. We got along very well with the family to our right as we worked together to discourage people from standing right in front of us; we were very welcoming, offering them a spot of grass next to us and in one case lending a family from Russia a blanket just so we could keep our great view. Great show!! They really put work into it and the explosions were bright, loud and the crowd loved it.

Lessons learned today: get your cooler back to the van before dusk (so glad we didn't have to fight our way through the crowds after the show), bring and extra blanket to be neighbourly, smile and be fearless when getting out of the parking lot.

fav quotes: "I am not racist against chocolate, if a Belgium chocolate bar walked up to me I would simply rub my stomach and say welcome home" A
"I have become more aggressive in my old age" C
"Our sister, the fearless one" K

Departure (or the beginning of the madness)

Off we go for parts unknown (at least to some of us) and the two most interesting pieces of advice that we have gotten so far are: don't pick u[ any hitch hikers and don't get married in Vegas. Hmmmm... are people trying to tell us something? High point of the raod down was the sighting of a pack of hot OPP officers in Parry Sound. K requests that next time there is such a sighting older sisters must make sure all parties were able to enjoy:)

Road down to TO was perfect; weather was cool, traffic was light and almost non-existant until Barrie, and drivers for the most part considerate. Music in the car depended on who was behind the wheel or who had won the pervious thumb war. Our bobble head moose, newly christened 'Bruce', joining in the car dancing along the way. Soon enough trees and lakes give way to steel and stone, almost there. Made in down and met up with the other long lost sister at Union, hugs and squeals all around.

Decided to head to the harbour to view the tall ships coming in for the 'Race to Save the Lakes'. The sight of them made us want to play pirate, or at least get kidnapped by one, but then you have to remember the cramped conditions on board, sardine hammocks and the head over the bow; maybe not :)

After playing around at the harbour we met up with our uncles to wish them a very happy (early) anniversary). Found out that they had a perfect view for the G20 riots and general mayhem from their apt. Later, we went to the Mongolian BBQ for dinner, so delicious but not quite enough spice. After hugs and kisses all around it was time to navigate our way to A's house in Niagara so we can party for Canada Day.

Quotes of the day: "I have to learn to colour between the lines" R
"Just because it is brown does not mean that it is healthy" & "Hello officer, you don't have to arrest me but feel free to search me" C
"It al sounds like children screaming" KJ

Fav plate on a sweet red convertible "EMPT NEST"