29/07/2009

Unfortunately this blog has fallen by the wayside. 

For all you folk who would like to read what I have been up to and what I will be up to next, here is a link where you should be able to read/see a lot more – http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?t=20603.

Lifey who found keeping this going as well, just too much work


Further Across Rural America

30/05/2009

22nd – 24th May Iowa and Nebraska

Three enjoyhable days spent driving through the plains of Iowa and Nebraska, despite the fact that most of it was on the Interstates. Having made my way to Cedar Rapids, I headed south through Iowa City to Kalona and the Amish communities.

True to my luck, I arrived at the visitor centre some ten minutes after their tour had left… and there would not be another for two hours.

Since that was going to leave me very late for anything else, I headed off to the Fair Ground in Des Moines to see the magnificent round barn there. Photo opportunities were limited as once again it was raining.

The rain continued overnight, and next morning it was still grey and wet. In this miserable weather I decided to give Winterset, Madison County and it’s covered bridges a miss, satisfied in the knowledge that ahead of me lay yet another covered bridge, the bridge over I-80, though I did not know exactly where on I-80…. suffice to say that it was sorta in the middle of the State.

In Dubuque, my friend had told me about Cabela Sport Stores, and how some of them have facilities and allow campers to park on their turf overnight. I had planned to check out some of these. There are three of these stores along I-80 in NE.

Traffic was fairly heavy when I passed through Omaha, but further along I-80 there was a large sign, Cabela’s Exit 279. Here was my opportumity to check out one of their establishments – which I did – before continuing on I-80 Exit 272 west. Some hundred miles further on I called in at the visitor centre at North Platte, where the lovely lady told me that magnificent bridge is between exits 272 and 279. Yup, I had missed that one too! Guess it was just not meant to be.

The remainder of my journey on this Sunday afternoon took me through the rolling hills of central NE along route 97 and 2 to Alliance. There was little traffic on this Sunday afternoon and houses were few and far between. (Could not resist checking out this lovely cottage.)

This lovely cottage was once someone's home. One can only speculate!

 To really make the most of the serenity of this area I slowed my speed, turned off the radio and allowed the peace all around me to penetrate my environment… my whole being. It was a journey I did not want to end.


Dubuque

30/05/2009

My wonderful friends in Dubuque made sure I saw all that is precious to them. From the Mighty Mississippi to the 4th Street Elevator at Fenelon Place.

Highlights were many… including sitting and watching this HUGE barge go up the river and then gently pass through the opening in the railway bridge. We had dinner at the river’s edge in a restaurant which I would not recommend. Great venue!! (Terrible service and so-so food.)

Earlier in the day we had gone up – and down – the world’s shortest scenic railway, visited the magnificent Outside the Lines Gallery on the corner of 4th and Bluff – full of the work of local artists – made the most of the closing down sale at Pixie Stix – baby wear and toys – next door, and had a relaxing and satisfying lunch at All Things Sweet.

The previous day I had accompanied friend on her round of messages and shopping. This is a great way to meet the locals and get a feeling of the lifestyle.

Yeah!! Had a great time in Dubuque!


Through Rural America to Dubuque

30/05/2009
17th – 19th May

I-80 across Pennsylvania is a pleasant scenic drive, especially on this Sunday when there was little heavy traffic around. Late in the afternoon, and with more than 300 miles covered for the day, I pulled into a small motel where I planned to completely empty my vehicle and see if I could find the illusive lost keys. Albeit, despite all my searching, they were not to be found. It remains a mystery to this day.

My route took me through central Ohio, where a barn caught my eye. Not so much the barn, as the product advertised on it. It is after all, a product of days gone by – and may not even be any longer in production. I drove onto the property and met the owner.

An hour later I was aware of it’s history, when it was last painted and who had painted it. The owner, Grant Grundy, showed me his file of articles written about the barn over the years and gave me the complete background of his family’s involvement with it, as well as the history of the general area. This barn can be found just east of Sullivan OH, on route 224.

It had been my intention to find many of the historic barns, especially in Iowa, and photograph them. But alas, as a solo driver it is difficult to look for them whilst at the same time concentrating on driving, not to mention the constant rain on my way across that part of the country. And even thought the above mentioned is the only barn I saw, having met the owner, and learned so much about it, it’s history and the area, it well and truly made up for missing out on the others.

It was now time to move on, and without further ado made my way across Indiana and Illinois to Dubuque.

 


Newton >> Mahwah >> Newton >> PA in three (rainy) days. Phew!!

18/05/2009
(Opportunities to post are proving to be fewer than I had hoped.)

Having farewelled the family in Boston, with a promise that I will be back in time for grandson’s birthday, I set off down the Atlantic coast… destination, Mahwah NJ. The weather was cool and misty, and not really suitable to photography, though the enjoyable trip was filled with memorable sights. True to form, I spent quite some time in several towns and settlements, looking for the road to my next destination. I would have like to have taken the ferry from Plymouth across Cape Cod, and then drive back….. However, in Plymouth too, I was distracted from my route when I needed to make way for a fire engine which was in a great hurry down the narrow main street.

It was getting on dusk by the time I crossed over into Rhode Island and on to Newport. By the time I crossed the Pell bridge it was all lit up, there was a large container ship nearby, and the view was just fantastic. Called it a day by the time I got to Stonnington. Next day I left early to make it to Mahwah by mid-morning.

It was a *pea-soup* fog when I set out on the Friday morning. No point taking the coastal road; I headed straight down I-95. The phone rang when I was almost to I-287. It was daughter-in-law who informed me that I had left a vital box of my luggage in Newton.

This really made my day – NOT.

After a most enjoyable lunch with daughter and her two children, it was a speed-run back to Newton. (Almost 500 miles in one day was never on my schedule.)

On Saturday I planned to leave Newton early and head to northern PA. Not keen to once again get onto the MassPike, I headed out of Newton along US-9 and eventually picked up US-20. This is a great route through urban MA with its mixture of architecture and shopping.

(Why is it when you see something which would make a great picture that there is never anywhere to pull over and park?)

And then I was rewarded with one of those little gems which you only find in small town America… the Asparagus Festival at West Brookfield MA. It was almost 10am, and time for a walk and a stretch, so went and enjoyed the many stalls displaying their wares. Ever conscious of the luggage weight restrictions, I resisted buying – well that was until I got to the second (third, fourth) hand bookstall. Here I picked up a real treasure which weighs a ton!

By the time I got to Springfield I realised that if I did not get on the Interstate there was no way I would get to my destination for the day, and I reluctantly got back on the MassPike. Planned to take I-90 to I-88 and then to I-81.

The reward in this decision came with the wonderful scenery along I-88 as it passed through the Catskill Mnts area. This is only partially designated as a scenic route on maps. IMHO the full length of I-88 ought to be a scenic route… particularly the northen third. There were some spectacular views as the road passed over one mountain after another. Being a Saturday the traffic was light, and for the whole 115 miles I did not see one 18 wheeler on the south bound side. It really was a most enjoyable drive, despite several extremely heavy downpours.

America’s Wonderlands – The National Parks

This beautiful book, published in 1959 by National Geographic Society is a treasure chest of pictures of all America’s National Parks prior to their development. From looking at the pictures, most parks had only natural tracks, and certainly very little vehicular transport. All photos show the visiting parties on horseback. It is absolutely spectacular – a collector’s item.

What sealed it for me is that it still contains the original (undamaged) road map of the USA, showing all the roads as they were before the Eisenhower Interstate System. A rare find and a treasure to behold for $1.

 

 

 


Boston via St Paul

15/05/2009

26th – 29th April

SouthwestChief / Empire Builder

This train journey was amazing.  It took us through the spectacular country of the south west, over the waterlogged plains of the centre and through many towns and cities, all the way from LA to Chicago.  The 45 min stop at Albuquerque allowed us to check out the market set out on the platform.  Many knicknacks for sale, and of course, most of us fell for something.

At each meal I was placed with different folk, all of whom had a travel story to tell.  The food was pretty good (for railway food), but it was the company at each meal which made it great!

The train to St Paul leaves Chicago before the train from LA arrives, which meant a 23 hour layover in Chicago.  I had booked myself into a neat hostel just two and a half blocks from Union Station.

Next afternoon it was off to St Paul.  Once again it was the company which made this journey great.  Most of the 8 hours was spent in the lounge car, where, together with others I ended up doing crosswords and playing bananagram.  The time passed in a flash.

On my arrival I was met by my friends who that very day were celebrating the birth of another grandchild, and were absolutely over the moon.

29th April – 5th May

St Paul MN

My time with these friends is always a pleasure and a real time to relax.  Took the opportunity to attend the Toastmasters Club on the Saturday morning.  A great experience, meeting members whom I had met on previous trips.  Since I have visited St Paul many times on my four trips, I now feel that I can go out with confidence, having some idea of where things are and how to get there.

It was in St Paul that I picked up the vehicle which I am driving – Dodge Caravan – a medium sized SUV.  All bar the front seats have been removed, giving me tons of room for my luggage and camping equipment, as well as somewhere to sleep at times of necessity.

Having completely relaxed and caught up with life’s necessities such as washing, I was ready to leave St Paul for Boston.

5th – 8th May

To Boston

Had planned to do this trip in three days, but somehow, that plan did not work.  Having allowed the motel manager to talk me into taking the route through Chicago, rather than my preferred route, of going well south, and by passing Chicago, I was faced with enormous traffic jams.  In the end it took me something like four hours to do little more than 100 miles – despite being able to drive straight through the tolls with my tag.

This little nightmare was followed by a day and a half of almost non stop rain, making the going quite slow.  After the first night at a roadside motel, I spent the next two nights at truck stops, one in PA and one in eastern NY state.  Had great meals at the restaurant, a good night’s sleep, and in the morning, breakfast and a shower. 

Once again, I met the most amazing people – truck drivers – who convinced me that it was both safe and permissable to sleep at the truck stop.  When I awoke in the morning I realised that not only had I have my guardian angel watch over me, but, being parked right next to the Trucker’s Chapel, am sure the lord himself was watching as well.  

All the plazas along the NY thruway have free wifi, and I availed myself of these over lunch.  That at least gave me a feeling of being in touch with family and friends.  However, the atmosphere at these places was not exactly conducive to typing up a blog.

8th May – 15th May

In Boston

Despite the fact that I will be travelling quite a bit during my visit, it is here in Boston that the real purpose of the visit it – my three beautiful grandchildren, to whom I am little more than a stranger.  It is hard to establish a real family relationship when they are so young and you only see them every few years.

Now a week later we have spent much time cuddling and hugging and reading and walking and playing ball and whatever else the little ones wanted to do. 

On Mother’s day the children presented me with lovely cards they had made, and last night I was again presented with cards which they had made, with the assistance of their au pair.   I will be back for birthdays in July and August.

Here too I had the opportunity to attend a Toastmaster’s club, and help fill a vacant spot on the agenda.  Once again it was a case of meeting members whom I had met on previous ocassions, as well as new members.

Now I have a trip to Alaska planned, calling in on friends along the way.  There are two months ahead of me, travelling, and hopefully allowing me to tip my toes into the Arctic ocean, just as I did some years ago, in the Antarctic ocean.


LA

12/05/2009

25th April

The Flying Kangaroo finally touched down on the North American continent  at LAX.  Wind conditions were such that the landing approach was from the north, presenting us with a magnificent views of the Californian coastline.

The USA Hostel on Schrader in Hollywood is always welcoming, clean and  secure. This time was no exception.  I have stayed there several times before.  The 14+ hour flight had left me tired and I ‘crashed’, even before the room had been cleaned.  When I awoke, some five hours later, the room had been vacuumed and bathroom cleaned, and I slept through it all. 

Since this stay in LA was to be  for just 30 hours, the rest of that day was spent shopping for a few essentials I was going to need over the next few days.  Ended the day with a great meal of fish and chips (not fries) at Mel’s drive-in on Highland Ave – right next door to the Hollywood Museum (which was closed), and only a few doors from Ripley’s Belief it or Not, on the corner of  Highland and Hollywood Blvd. 

The following day, a Sunday, was spent getting ready to board the South West Chief, for the trip to Chicago.  Since I had far too much luggage to take to Union Station in one go (short of paying for a cab fare), I decided to make two trips on the subway.  Imagine my surprise to find that seniors (and disabled) may travel the subway at weekends for just 25c.

Another lovely, albeit frustrating surprise was the Farmers’ Market in Ivar, only a couple of blocks from the hostel.  I would dearly have loaded up with fresh fruit and vegetables, but, with no way to keep them, settled for an orange and some freshly roasted peanuts.  I do recall chancing upon this market when staying at the same hostel in 2004.

Union Station in LA, besides being large, reminded me of the old railway stations in Europe.  It had that lovely old world feeling about it, though the staff and service were friendly and efficient.