I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

Fire and Rain, the $3000 brain fart, back to Arizona, 400 days

Fire and Rain

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, mostly rain.

After Gettysburg, I got in some beach time in the outer banks of North Carolina and then Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Emerald Isle in the outer banks is a beautiful, sleepy beach town with warm water and nice surf.

First look at the ocean after arriving at Emerald Isle. This is about  25 yards from the  RV.
First look at the ocean after arriving at Emerald Isle. This is about 25 yards from the RV.

Unfortunately, I found out that at dawn and dusk there are tons on noseeums on the beach. The first night, unprotected by insect repellent, I got maybe 100 bites. Most of them stopped itching after 2-3 weeks.

In Myrtle Beach, I attended the iRV2 National Rally and enjoyed another warm water beach.

Sunrise at Myrtle Beach
Sunrise at Myrtle Beach

The second half of the week it started raining – 2-4 inches a day. At the end of the rally I moved on to historic Charleston for nine days of thunderstorms and 2-6 inches of rain every day. Talladega? Rain every day.

Magnolia Plantation, near Charleston, South Carolina
Magnolia Plantation, near Charleston, South Carolina

Fire? Well a lightning strike just outside the campground in Charleston set a big live oak ablaze. Pouring rain pretty much put out the fire before the fire department arrived.

The $3000 Brain Fart

Heading back to Arizona I noticed I’ve got a small oil leak and started checking the oil every time I stopped. At a rest area between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque in in New Mexico I saw the oil and engine coolant were both a little low. I got out a gallon of coolant and a gallon of oil and a couple of funnels. Then I poured almost a gallon of coolant into the oil spout. It wasn’t until I put down the jug that I noticed the orange liquid in the funnel and looked back at the jug.

Can’t drive like that, so I got towed 100+ miles to Albuquerque ($1250) where I spent three days at Freightliner having the oil flushed and the leak fixed ($1500). The truckers assured me this kind of thing happens, but I know stupid when I do it. Add in a few nights in a motel with a dog surcharge and I’m into this brain fart for over $3k.

Back to Arizona

I’m in Flagstaff now to visit Kylee at NAU. It wasn’t a good trip into town. The engine overheated during the climb from Holbrook. I’m hoping the oil leak just fouled the radiator vents and a good steam cleaning will set it right, but I don’t know yet. I also took a rock to the windshield which left the traditional divot plus two foot long cracks. I hope insurance will cover that one.

After Flagstaff I’m going to Phoenix for a bit to finish the motorcycle repairs from last April’s Flagstaff stop and have some dental surgery. Relatively speaking it could be fun.

400 Days

It’s been over 400 days and more than 80 stops (I know a missed logging a few) since I started traveling full time. Yes, I’m still having a great time.

The dog is still crazy, but controllable. There’s been a lot more expense than I’d planned – new bike, new trailer, dog related repairs, motorhome repairs, Kylee’s car repairs, and more. But just about every spot had it’s charm and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of them. Onward bound.

Top Five Places

  1. Osakis, MN
  2. Trinidad, CA
  3. Black Hills, SD
  4. Salaberry-de-Valleyville, QC
  5. Panama City Beach, FL

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[ Map of states visited is not shown on this browser ]

[ Map of places visited is not shown on this browser ]

We are met on a great battlefield of that war

Four Score and Seven Years Ago

In my earliest memory of school, probably second grade, maybe third, I’d been assigned to read the Gettysburg Address in front of the class. I memorized it the night before and recited it to the class without the book or notes. Despite the years, I still remember it.

A couple years ago, Karen lent me a copy of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which became one of my favorite books of all time.

So, I was quite excited to visit Gettysburg.

Pickett's charge
Pickett’s charge

… conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal

Meanwhile, the news of the week was focused some 700 miles to the west in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting by a white police officer of an unarmed black teen ignited heated protests born of years of frustration and the police responded with military tactics.

Not Mosul, Iraq.
Not Mosul, Iraq.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

They gave the last full measure of devotion
They gave the last full measure of devotion

Throughout the week I couldn’t help but think, what would Lincoln think of the country 151 years later? Really not dedicated to the proposition, I suppose.

Fallingwater

My first stop in Pennsylvania was Mill Run, where I wanted to see Fallingwater, the home Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1935 for department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann. The home is a National Historic Landmark and the American Institute of Architects named it “best all-time work of American architecture.” It restarted Wright’s stalled career and led to commissions for equally famous works in his later years such as the Guggenheim Museum.

Wikimedia picture of Fallingwater.
Wikimedia picture of Fallingwater.

The stars, or rather the skies, were not with me however. Thunderstorms and street flooding washed out my Fallingwater tour. An ironic turn.

Quebec

Even within Canada, the province of Quebec is like a whole different country. I didn’t see a sign, menu or really anything with an English translation.

Coteau-du-lac

I stayed in a small town, Coteau-du-lac (population ~6,000) on the north bank of the Saint Lawrence river. There are several quaint brasserie type restaurants along rue Principale and they have a national historic site in a park along the St. Lawrence river that was important in the war of 1812.

This is one of  the narrowest points of the St. Lawrence river. The rapids made it necessary to build a canal along the north bank, principally to supply British troops in the Great Lakes. This canal and lock system was the first of its kind in North America.
This is one of the narrowest points of the St. Lawrence river. The rapids made it necessary to build a canal along the north bank, principally to supply British troops in the Great Lakes. This canal and lock system was the first of its kind in North America.
Restored baracks and fort at the Coteau-du-lac National Historic Site
Restored baracks and fort at the Coteau-du-lac National Historic Site
This cannon, mounted on a 180 degree rotating pad was part of the defenses of the St. Lawrence river and canal system.
This cannon, mounted on a 180 degree rotating pad was part of the defenses of the St. Lawrence river and canal system.

Salaberry-de-Valleyville

Salaberry-de-Valleyville (or just Valleyville to the locals) is a city of 40,000 located on an island in the Saint Lawrence River. Downtown forms a crescent around a canal and marina. The buildings have shops or bistros on the ground floor and apartments above. A park and boardwalk border the canal. There was plenty of live entertainment.

Ontario

My short trip into Canada was going to be mostly without the internet. It would have taken way more preparation and research than I’d done (basically none) to have access whenever I wanted. There are very few prepaid wireless options in Canada. Getting regular service requires that you have Canadian credit and a Canadian address. The prepaid phones are tiny feature phones with no data service and can’t be tethered. I found a website that sells a prepaid SIM card with a gig of 3g data, but it would not work in my MiFi device and would have to be mailed to me. Since my cell phone is not unlocked, to use the SIM I’d have to also buy an unlocked smart phone that supports tethering.

So, for the few weeks I’m here, it’s public WiFi, mostly at Tim Horton’s and Starbucks.

Niagara Falls

I stayed at a campground on Lundy’s Lane, site of an historic battle during the war of 1812 which featured General Winfield Scott (“Old Fuss and Feathers” who later served as Commanding General of the United States Army for twenty years) and General Gordon Drummond (British Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada). Both sides lost more than half their men (killed, wounded, captured and missing) during the July 1814 battle.

At Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane our brave fathers, side by side
for freedom, homes, and loved ones dear, firmly stood and nobly died.
And those dear rights which they maintained, we swear to yield them never.
Our watchword evermore shall be, the Maple Leaf forever!
The Maple Leaf Forever, Canadian patriotic song

But, of course, the main attraction is the falls, and they are spectacular.

Toronto

Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the 4th or 5th largest city in North America (about the same population as Chicago). I took a walk in the downtown area, weaving through the streets from the CN Tower to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). It’s like being in New York, only cleaner and friendlier.

The CN Tower in downtown Toronto. At 1,815.4 feet, it was the worlds tallest free standing structure from 1976 through 2010 (when the Burj Khalifa was completed).
The CN Tower in downtown Toronto. At 1,815.4 feet, it was the worlds tallest free standing structure from 1976 through 2010 (when the Burj Khalifa was completed).

The CN Tower was built by the railroad company in an industrial area on what used to be a switch yard. The tower became an anchor for development and the area is now the sports and entertainment center of the city.

View of the Toronto lake front from the CN Tower
View of the Toronto lake front from the CN Tower

Toronto stretching off into the distance, looking north from the CN Tower.
Toronto stretching off into the distance, looking north from the CN Tower.

A farmer's market in front of an office building in downtown  Toronto, on a Tuesday.
A farmer’s market in front of an office building in downtown Toronto, on a Tuesday.

Royal Ontario Museum, front entrance
Royal Ontario Museum, front entrance

Can we get this in the states?

In Ontario the highway rest areas are called ONRoute – there’s one every 80 kilometers or so, and, well, it’s one of those not in Kansas anymore experiences.

An Ontario rest area with a five acre park, gas station and food court.
An Ontario rest area with a five acre park, gas station and food court.

ONRoute has pristine bathrooms, a food court, a convenience store, gas station, five acres of park land, and fast free WiFi.

A dozen food choices, a convenience store, comfortable inside seating and free WiFi.
A dozen food choices, a convenience store, comfortable inside seating and free WiFi.

On the Border

I spent a couple of days in Port Huron, Michigan, which is, well, a city. I didn’t find anything particularly notable here. Port Huron borders the Canadian city of Sarnia, Ontario. Since I’m going to be in Canada for a few weeks I thought I’d just pop over and buy a prepaid cell phone in case of emergency.

So I went across the Blue Water Bridge and bought a prepaid cell phone, including $50 air time (about 2 hours) for under $100 (CAD). On the way back I came across a Tim Horton’s. This isn’t hard to do – I’m pretty sure there’s one Tim Horton’s for every 20 Canadians. It’s such an iconic Canadian institution I had to stop.

Tim Horton's in Sarnia, Ontario
Tim Horton’s in Sarnia, Ontario
Crammed a Timbit into a strawberry vanilla and had a Priestley.
I just had to do it … crammed a Timbit into a strawberry vanilla and had a Priestley.

Steven Page: It was tragic. I mean to this day, you ask any Canadian where they were when Robin Sparkles lost it, not only can they tell you which Tim Hortons they were in – but what donut they were eating. Me? Wawa, Ontario. Blueberry fritter.
Geddy Lee: Halifax, Nova Scotia. Walnut Crunch
Luc Robitaille: Victoriaville, Quebec. Sour cream plain.
Alex Trebek: Sudbury, Ontario. Honey dip.
k.d. lang: Red Deer, Alberta. Chocolate glaze.
Jason Priestley: Squamish, British Columbia. Crammed a Timbit into a strawberry vanilla and invented the Priestley. Should have been the best day of my life.
HIMYM 8×15, P.S. I Love You

So, I had a Priestley and a cup of coffee and headed back to camp.

Not a Thing

So it turns out “just popping across the border” is not actually a thing. On the way into Canada the customs officer questioned me intensely for a good five minutes before searching the bike and letting me pass. On the way back to the USA, the line of cars stretched 3/4 of the way across the bridge and it took an hour and a half just to get up to the US customs window. They did not search the bike for the Timbits and phone I said I was bringing back.

Pure Michigan

When I thought of Michigan, I tended to think of deteriorating industrial cities like Detroit and Flint. A place to pass through. When I stopped in South Haven, I decided to stay a while longer. It really is just like the Pure Michigan ad.

The main road in town is Phoenix Street which goes through downtown, past the marina, to the lighthouse and onto the beach. There’s a couple of miles of soft sand beaches on Lake Michigan.

Take a Break

I mentioned the rough road through Illinois and how I was surprised anything worked after that. I spoke too soon. After getting settled in I found the satellite receiver’s SIM card was knocked out, the microwave was rattling, the shower door hinge had popped, the dog’s Treat ‘n Train is turning on and off randomly, two florescent bulbs were knocked loose (and then I dropped one of them opening the fixture cover), well you get the picture. After fixing the stuff that wasn’t working I spent a few hours with the electric screwdriver tightening up ever screw I could find.

A couple of days later I dropped my phone. Couldn’t fix that one.
DeadPhone

Blue Water

I’m spending a few days in Port Huron then I’ll be taking the Blue Water Bridge into Canada and heading to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

For Whom the Toll Blows

There were a few options to travel from Wisconsin to Michigan. I could go north through the UP, across the Macinaw Bridge. I could take a ferry from Manitowoc, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan. I could go south through Chicago.

The campgrounds in the Upper Peninsula were booked for essentially all of July. The ferry (SS Badger) looked fun, but would cost $366 (one way) and Keira would be locked in her kennel for over 5 hours, alone (you have no access to the vehicle aboard). So, I went south.

It Takes a Toll

I-90I-90 is a toll road. Now I like toll roads – the people using it pay for it, and they are usually well maintained. Well I-90 was under construction. I don’t mean a few cones for a few miles. I’m talking driving on bone rattling crumbling shoulder, 10′ lanes, 35-45 mph, for 61 miles, interrupted only by toll plazas which collected $59 for my trip.

If they are collecting a toll, they need to provide a road. It took 2 hours 40 minutes to go 61 miles and I’m surprised anything on board was not shaken to pieces. I know for whom the toll road blows, it blows for me.

Spring Green and Taliesin

The campground in Spring Green was beautiful, nestled along the Wisconsin River.

The Wisconsin River in Spring Green borders the  campground where I'm staying
The Wisconsin River in Spring Green borders the campground where I stayed in Spring Green

About five miles away is the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center where Taliesin Preservation offers tours of the Hillside Studio / School and Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin. A great tour, but also disappointing. First, we were not allowed to take photos inside the buildings where you can really appreciate the concepts Wright was going for. Our tour guide had a grating nasal voice and a very condescending tone presenting each topic along the tour. This would be annoying if she were a master architect, but she was an elementary school teacher and volunteer for the preservation society. Of course, I expect Wright himself would have been even more pompous.

The Best Week

I just can’t do it justice here. It’s actually overwhelming. The week at Janet and Duane’s Lake Place at Lake Osakis was the best week of the journey hands down.

The Setting

You come through the town of Osakis before approaching the Head of the Lakes Resort. It’s just like you’d’ imagine Lake Wobegon (A Prairie Home Companion). You half expect to see the Statue of the Unknown Norwegian around the corner. When you get to Head of the Lakes your greeted with this amazing waterfront populated by some of the friendliest people in the world.

The Bomb

So, I’m totally having this great time chillin with Janet and Duane when the bomb drops. Out of the clear blue Wally drives up with his son Adam and granddaughter Ella. What can I say? It was the best surprise I could have had.

The Lake

Lake Osakis is this 6,000+ acre lake that’s ideal for fishing and recreation. When the locals say it’s crowded, they don’t mean crowded like Saguaro Lake on a summer weekend, they mean there are dozens of boats on this big lake. The pontoon boat, one of their four boats, not counting kayaks and canoes, can carry a dozen people easily so it was perfect to take the teens out knee boarding, circle the lake in a parade of boats on the forth of July, see the fireworks at night or as a swim and party platform.

The More and Even More

So much more. There’s Chef Duane and the wood pellet grill working overtime with inch thick pork chops or two pound porterhouse. There’s all the neighbors stopping by to see the new shed. There’s the fishing obsessed Brian. There’s the bright engaging teens Zack, Jake and Ella. The cribbage match with Wally. I can’t go on; I’ll go on. The you betchas. Meeting Pam, who’s only been a Northern Exposure esque story to me. Red, white and blue tutus. The “adopted daughters”. Scotch. Dogs. Beer…

The Ungraceful Perfect Exit

A heavy rain overnight, just right to wake you up and help you drift off again, saturated the ground where I’d been parked. Wood planks weren’t working so, naturally, the resort owner came out with a tractor and pulled Roamward Bound free of the mud. Perfect, you betcha.

Thank You

I really can’t thank Janet and Duane enough for making this such a great week.