Arizona 2019/20 in the Horizon


Well we’ve been in Mesa for six weeks! I started this post soon after we arrived, and then life got extremely busy. Sorry it’s so late. Hope you enjoy the journey anyway.

The day was cool when we left Hastings on Thursday, October 17th, and the inside of the motorhome was downright cold! Jim jacked up the heater and turned on the blower, but after an hour we realized it wasn’t getting any warmer. Before long we both had our hoodies on, hoods pulled up, and I snatched the leg wrap, that my friend Alice had made me a few years ago, off the couch to tuck around my legs and feet.

It was a cold drive!

It was a cold drive without heat in the motorhome, for a few hours!

The sun came out and warmed us a bit so we kept on trucking until we felt the need to stop for dinner. We were still in Ontario and it was obvious that we wouldn’t even make it to the border to the USA before dark. Jim turned on the propane and tried to start the furnace to warm the place up. It didn’t work either! We left it and went into the Onroute rest stop to eat. When we came out, the furnace still hadn’t come on, so we gave up on that. But, when Jim started the engine, the heat began to blow through the vents, and kept us warm during the days all the rest of our trip! The nights were a different story.

Traffic was slow going through Toronto and further west. We spent our first night at another Onroute rest stop at Dutton, Ontario, too tired and too late to go any further. With temperatures dipping close to the freezing mark our only hope of sleeping was to add to the three layers of covers already on the bed. The extra tightly-woven Mexican blanket that I’d decided at the last minute to bring with us to use on the couch did the job, but we kept our hoodies and socks on!

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After a quick breakfast the next morning, we were on the road by 7:40 and crossing the bridge from Windsor, Ontario into Detroit, Michigan an hour and a half later. The Border Security Agent was more thorough than any we’ve ever had before (or maybe more suspicious?) He came aboard and began asking questions about what we had for food in our fridge. Before I could reply Jim said something like “Ketchup, mustard…not much at all.

“I’m going to ask you if you are aware of the rules about what you can and cannot bring across the border,” the Agent said.

We both answered “yes” but he proceeded to inform us that we could not have any fresh fruit, vegetables or meats with us. “Do you have any meat or fresh fruit or vegetables in your fridge?” He then asked.

“No,” we replied.

“Are you sure?” he said. “You know there is a $500 fine (or $5,000 depending on how each of us heard) for not declaring it. You know I’m going to look.”

“Go ahead,” Jim said as I shrugged my shoulders. We knew we had nothing to worry about.

After Jim showed him how to open the baby lock that we now have on the fridge to keep the door closed when travelling, he opened it and took a quick look. Nothing to see but the condiments and a few bottles of coolers that we’d told him about. He relaxed a bit then and tried to make small talk. As he headed to the door he turned at said, “How much money do you have with you?” We told him.

“Where did you get it?”

“The bank at home.”

“Do you have a receipt?”

“Not with us. We didn’t know that was required.”

“Have a good holiday.” Then he opened the gate for us.

That was a new experience for us.

We drove through the day, stopping only for lunch and gas, until we pulled into a KOA in Indianapolis for the night. We were plugged into electric and sewer, making things a little more comfortable. After dinner and hot showers we crawled under the covers to read, but it wasn’t long before we were asleep.

The next day we took it easier. We didn’t leave the camp ground until 10:00. Although we drove for an hour and a half before stopping for lunch in Casey, Illinois, because of the time zone we’d passed through, it was only 10:30.

Casey is a fun small town to visit because it’s the home of  “The Largest…”. Here are a few pictures that I took on a previous trip.

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We contacted our friends from Mesa Regal, Nancy and Dave, to see if we could hook up for a visit. It happened that they were at their granddaughter’s soccer game, just off I-44 where we would be once we got through St. Louis. We made plans to meet for coffee. But, as usual, we managed to miss a turn while going through St. Louis, Missouri and had to back track and follow detour signs before we got heading in the right direction on I-44. Can you believe that we had two maps, a GPS and two cell phones to guide us and we still missed the turn! Nancy and Dave were waiting for us at the restaurant when we arrived. We spent a nice hour catching up with them. Last year they sold their home in Mesa Regal so we won’t be seeing them here anymore.

It was nearly 5:00 pm when we left them. We drove for another hour before stopping for the night in a Walmart parking lot in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. The store closed at night and the parking lot was taken over for a couple of hours by a group of noisy teenagers in loud cars, at least that’s what I assumed. I couldn’t see them from my window. Jim slept through it all, but not me!

We were up early the next morning, but our departure was delayed while we waited for heavy fog to lift.

That evening we parked ourselves in another parking lot, this time in Oklahoma City beside the River Walk – one of our favourite places. I’ve written about this beautiful spot a few times, and posted several pictures. But this time it was dusk by the time we had enjoyed dinner on one of the restaurant patios and were strolling along the River Walk.

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It looked different in that light. There was nothing else to do but to take a few more pictures.

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As we were getting back to the motorhome the sky started to rumble and lightening began to flash. We watched and took pictures until the rain chased us inside.

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The Sky is darkening

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Lightening Flashes Lighting Up the Sky, behind the street lamp

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A Flash of Lightening

We heard a crowd screaming and rushing back to the Party Bus that we’d seen parked not too far from us. After they left and the storm passed, a motorcycle or two circled around a few times before leaving.

On Monday, we drove and drove: through the rest of Oklahoma and across Texas, where we made a brief stop along I-40 to see the Cadillac Ranch to see the line of old Cadillacs buried nose first into the sand, and painted with spray paint by every tourist who stops by.

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We ended the day in Santa Rosa RV Park in New Mexico. The BBQ Rib special that was offered at the restaurant was very welcome. We were in higher elevations again and the temperatures were dropping.

Anxious to get to the warmth of Mesa, we made no more touristy stops. Well, maybe a little in Winslow, Arizona the next afternoon. We took a few pictures, bought a T-shirt, and slept in the RV in the Tourist Information parking lot.

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We were up at 5:45 feeling too chilled to even make our own coffee.

“Can we just find a place to get a good hot breakfast before we carry on?” I asked Jim. “Sure.”

But there was nothing open in Winslow at that hour of the day, and Jim had planned to get off the busy highway and take Hwy 87. We thought surely there would be a truck stop somewhere along the route. We’d never travelled that road before; we didn’t know that it went through Coconino Forest, and then Tonto Forest. Before long we saw signs warning of low visibility ahead due to a forest fire.

Fortunately we didn’t see much of the smoke and we soon drove past it.

It was 8:30 before we came to an inhabited community and a hot breakfast and coffee at the Early Bird Café. Don’t know when I’ve enjoyed breakfast out more.

At the little hardware store next door,  I spotted a selection of colourfully painted metal flowers for sale at a price much less than I’d paid for my smaller one in Mesa a couple of years earlier. I couldn’t resist. It now graces our little “garden” in front of the motor home.

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Shortly after noon, on Wednesday, October 23rd, we arrived in Mesa, Arizona. The earliest we’d ever arrived. The sun was hot!

More about our first couple of weeks in the next post. I promise it won’t take so long to get posted.

New Adventures to Spice-up Our Annual Journey to Arizona


We’re off again! That summer sure slipped by!

We must be slowing down in our old age. Despite dropping some things off at the motor home several times on our way by during the last couple of weeks, it still took us the better part of three days to load everything else that we (thought?) we needed once we had it parked outside the Condo building. By the time we were finally on the road at 11:30 on Monday morning, I think we were already tired. The rainy weather didn’t help to lift our spirits, and it turned out to be not a good day.

The driver side windshield wiper wasn’t hitting where it should, so when we reached Cobourg, twenty-five kilometers down the road, Jim felt he needed to purchase a new blade and install it. We were barely out on the highway again when I heard a thump and looked back to see the fridge door swinging open! That had happened once on our way home in the spring, but it was on a very bumpy road and it was forgotten about. Unlike the dual refrigerators meant for RVs, our newer house model didn’t come with any sort of locking system other than the suction seal. I managed to find some pieces of Velcro and secure it. An hour or so later, Jim was in need of coffee so we made a quick stop and got going in earnest.

A couple of hours later found us in the middle of rush-hour traffic going through Toronto, when traffic suddenly slowed to a stop and Jim had to brake very hard. The cars ahead of us loomed closer and closer. I saw Jim downshift and, fortunately, was able to make a quick lane-change to the left. Whew. He told me once it was over that the brakes had gone soft after the initial push. The rest of the way through the traffic he drove much more slowly and kept his hand on the gear shift, downshifting at the first sign of a traffic stop. It was already 4:15. We stopped to get brake fluid and that seemed to help a little.

There was no way we would make it to the US border before dark then, so we called Jim’s cousin, Marjorie and her husband Dave,  who had accommodated us on our way last year, and asked if we could once again park in their driveway. Of course we could. We stopped to pick up sandwiches. We arrived at Glencoe at 7:00 pm, just as the sun was setting.

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The rain had stopped somewhere along the way, but we hadn’t really noticed. It was a beautiful sunset, but then the temperature tumbled. We had a visit with Marjorie and Dave and then crawled into our cold bed. Jim discovered he’d forgotten the extension cord that he uses for his CPAP, so had to improvise. Last year, if the batteries were well charged before we went to bed, the inverter would keep them running for the night. But, of course, that wasn’t to be that night. Jim had to get up twice to turn on the generator. It was a long and stressful night.

In the morning, Dave made some calls and found a mechanic who could get us in to diagnose and fix the brake problem right away. After breakfast we said our thanks and goodbyes. When we got to the shop we had to wait for them to finish up another job before they could look at ours. The diagnosis was a blown brake line! It could have been worse. They set to work replacing it. Because the other one showed some signs of rust they recommended that be replaced too. Lunch time came and they took their break. We sat in the motor home reading. We had only snack food to eat without any electricity to even heat a bowl of soup. At 2:30 the job was done and it cost much less than we’d expected. At last, some good news.

An hour and a half later we were rocking with the waves of Lake St. Clair, on the little Walpole Ferry to Michigan.

 

Upon arrival, because we couldn’t fit through the scanner, we were told we’d have to wait in the office while they did a manual search. Hunger was making me fidgety and the one male officer was watching me. Maybe he thought I was nervous about something, but we had nothing to hide and we were soon on our way. I couldn’t help but notice the picture of a very stern-looking President Trump staring down upon us while we waited.

We stopped at the first place that we saw that served food – Hungry Howie’s. It was take-out only so we ordered a pizza and ate it in the motor home. We would have loved to just crawl into bed and stay there for the night, but we drove on for another hour then stopped for gas, picked up a couple of things at Walmart and hunkered down for the night. Our propane tank was empty by then, so we had to haul out one of our portable ones and hook it up so we’d have heat.

Day Three Brings Relief

We were up at six the next morning and waiting at the door for Bob Evan’s to open a half hour later. A big breakfast of Eggs Benedict got us off to a good start to the day. And except for a detour around Detroit that cost us some extra time, it was a very good day. We were in Ohio before noon and stopped for an early lunch at the Cracker Barrel. We were in Kentucky by 3:00 and looking forward to staying in our first Campground with propane, electricity and water. We hadn’t had a shower since we’d left home. But Oak Creek Camping was full, as were a couple of others in the area. We thought we would be stuck at the nearby Flying J truck stop. Then, a very nice man named Larry offered to let us connect to his electricity if we wanted to dry-camp at the empty space next to him. The office agreed. We could also get propane at the Flying J, and showers, and dinner! It worked out well after all.

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What to Look for When Buying a Used Motor home – Learning the Hard Way


We bought our second RV, a full sized motor home, in the spring of 2010. No, actually the second one was another wide-body, longer van that had a higher kitchen area, and an actual toilet, but we changed our minds about that and sold it. We thought we might like to spend a couple of months on the road, so we looked for something bigger, but we didn’t want to spend too much money before we knew if we’d enjoy that lifestyle.

We searched e-Bay and RV Trader, and the local online buy-and-sell where we finally found what we thought we wanted, within our price range.

We drove across town to take a look. It was old, a 1992 Thor Pinnacle, but it was low mileage and seemed to be in good shape. When we went inside the woman told us to take off our shoes because she’d just replaced the baby blue carpet. I wondered at the time how long baby blue carpet would stay clean. I also wondered about the smell of moth balls, but didn’t ask then.

Jim asked questions about the engine and what kind of mileage it got and:

“Do the appliances all work?”

“Yes. I had to replace a part on the fridge, but it worked great the last time I had it out.”

“Why are you selling it?”

“I really don’t want to, but my husband died and for a few years I had some lady friends who would travel with me. I could drive it anywhere, no problem. But they aren’t able to go anymore and I don’t want to go alone.”

“Does the generator work?”

“We only used it a few times. We always were plugged in at campsites.”

“Do the leveling jacks work?”

“We never used them. It was always level where we parked.”

We went home to think about it. She said she needed to know soon because someone from down in the US was thinking of coming up to buy it, sight unseen. Somehow that didn’t sound right, but we didn’t question it.

A few days later we returned with $20,000 cash, prepared to purchase. We took another look around and this time I did ask few questions:

“Why does it smell like moth balls in here?”

“I had mice in the garage so I wanted to make sure they didn’t get into the motor home.” (it was parked in the back yard). “I’ve taken them out now. The smell will soon go away.”

I noticed something I hadn’t noticed the first time. “Why is the hand bar for getting up into the motor home from the driver’s side sitting on the floor?”

“A really big guy was looking at it and yanked it off when he was getting in.”

I think Jim looked under the hood, and checked the tires. We looked in the back compartment and were impressed with the size of it.

We made the deal. She was almost too happy to have all that cash. Were we making a mistake? Were we too trusting? Turns out we were.

At the safety inspection we were told that the tires would soon need to be replaced. They were starting to crack, but they’d be good for a few thousand miles yet. Everything else was good, as I recall.

We took it to the local RV Maintenance Shop where the seller said she had annual inspections done, and talked to them about the fridge work, which they confirmed. They took us through a “tour” explaining how everything worked.  They couldn’t get the generator to run. Then they told us that, even though there was no rust on it, the propane tank needed to be replaced because of its age. They claimed no one would fill it. That would cost $1,000!

We thanked them and left, deciding that what propane remained in the tank would do us for our ten-day maiden voyage, and we would avoid needing the generator.

I gave the motor home a good cleaning and stocked the cupboards. I searched for, and found moth balls hidden in the backs of drawers and cupboards. I used our air exchanger and fans to get rid of the odour.

The day before we were planning to leave, Jim ran an extension cord from the house to the fridge, so it would be cold enough to hold a few food items in the morning. But in the morning the fridge was just as warm as it had been the night before!

Our plan was to drive east through Quebec and then cross the border into Maine, after stopping the first night at my brother’s, just a few hours away from home.

Before we got very far, the coach began to shake. Jim slowed down and it was fine until we reached the same speed and it started again. So we limped into the first city where we could get into a shop right away. The problem was a loose shock stabilizer. Fortunately, they were able to fix it and we were on our way again.

That night it rained. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I spied a wet spot on the ceiling! We went to Canadian Tire for some caulking and an electric cooler, which we filled with a few grocery staples, and continued on our way.

We found a little campground, John’s Camping, somewhere between Trois Rivieres and Deschambault, Quebec that night. We parked beside the man-made pond and were lulled to sleep by the sound of frogs, crickets and loons. That and the sun rising over the pond in the morning were the only positive things of note.  Neither the TV cable, nor the WiFi internet worked from our site. We had to climb up the hill to the office, passing rusted and derelict pieces of abandoned machinery along the way. Our neighbouring trailers looked to be permanent, with strange additions.

 

When we found ourselves at a KOA in Richmond, Maine the next evening, I tried to use the stove, but it wouldn’t light. We figured the gas gauge wasn’t right and we were out, so I had to cook dinner using the microwave. Later, Jim asked the campground manager if he could fill our propane tank, and he said sure, as long as it had no leaks. Well, that saved $1,000! It turned out it wasn’t even empty. I don’t know why I couldn’t light the stove, but it was fine afterwards.

On the first cool night, we were happy to know that the furnace worked, but in the morning we wondered what the terrible smell was. Jim lifted the dining benches, which hid the furnace vent hoses and we were sickened to discover that they were chewed up and full of mice nests and dried feces! We spent a few hours vacuuming, scrubbing and covering the hoses with duct tape!

Thank goodness that was the worst of it for the rest of that trip.

We spent a couple of nights at the KOA in Saco/Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where we rode our bicycles to the beach and ate seafood.

Saco/Old Orchard Beach KOA

Saco/Old Orchard Beach KOA

 

From there we went to Salem, Massachusetts, where we stayed for two nights in Winter Island Park.

Looking out from Winter Island Park

Looking out from Winter Island Park

We caught the tourist trolley the first day, which took us to downtown Salem. We visited the Witch Museum and walked around the harbour where the Friendship ship is moored, but it wasn’t yet open for tourist season.

 

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The next day we caught the very inexpensive train to Boston and spent the day doing the City Tour that included a narrated trolley tour and a harbour cruise.

 

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Boston Redcoats

 

Our next stop was Plymouth Rock where we spent a few hours, and then drove on to Middleboro for the night.

 

Plymouth Rock

 

 

 

We spent the next day taking care of domestic chores and touring the pretty town of Middleboro.

 

We were in Mystic, Connecticut by early evening the next day. The following morning we rode our bicycles into the Village of Mystic Seaport, a very interesting, restored historic village.

 

 

 

 

Our last stop was to visit with old friends in Bloomfield. We spent the night with them before heading for home.

When we got home, we found a reliable RV repairman and learned that the problem with the fridge was only that the coach had been sitting on a slope in our driveway. The fridge requires it to be level.

It wasn’t until our return from our second trip a few months later  (two months traveling through the US to the Sturgis Bike Rally, San Francisco and up the west coast) that we discovered the loose rust in the bottoms of the storage bins, and consequently the major water damage that had been done to the bottom rails, the floor and the walls!

$2500 later we had the motor home we wanted.

Sites of El Paso and the End of the Journey


We’ve been in Mesa Regal for two weeks now, and I’m finally getting this post done. Because of competition for internet connection, I decided the only time I was going to be able to get the photos added was to work during the night. So here I am.

We finally got our windshield replaced on Monday, November 6th and were on the road by early afternoon. Once we got back into New Mexico, Jim searched out a State Trooper, hoping to file an Accident Report, but he told us it was too late. However, after seeing how upset Jim was, he offered to give our “friend” Mark a call and try to mediate a settlement. It turned out that Quality Towing was on the rotation in that part of New Mexico, so Mark was a little worried when he got the call. However, he first said he didn’t remember the accident, then had a great excuse as to why he wasn’t paying – “They wanted me to pay for their accommodations, and food as well as the windshield!” We sat with our mouths hanging open. Sure, he should by rights pay for the extra days at the RV Park, but we’d never mentioned that. The insurance company just might, though. Anyway, he finally agreed to have Jim call him to work out a settlement. Before we stopped for the day, Mark called us and asked Jim for a mailing address. He said he’d have a cheque for the window in the mail the next day. As of the date of this posting, the cheque still has not arrived. Fortunately the insurance company paid for all but our deductible, but we had hoped to get that back and pay the insurance company back. Enough of that saga.

While we were in El Paso, Shawn introduced us to many things that we would never have seen if we hadn’t been stranded in the city. As I mentioned before, he checked on us every day of our twelve day stay, and when he learned that we were not yet leaving, he took us out. One day was spent searching for a windshield wiper without success, followed by lunch and grocery shopping; another was spent trying to find someone to weld a very small spot on our old wiper after Jim had managed to fix it to work. Shawn saved the day when he thought of a friend who works for Job Corps. We took it there and had the job done by a student in no time flat!

On other days we saw the highlights of El Paso:

We drove up the mountain to view the city of 700,000

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We visited the Chamizal National Monument

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Cool Murals on the Outside Walls

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Jim and Shawn

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Interesting that the US and Mexican Gov’ts could come to an agreement

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The sculpture in the distance marks the US-Mexico border

We peeked through the gates of Southwest University Park, a fairly new Baseball Field that is seldom used, Shawn told us.

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We toured some of the History Museum

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A moving history lesson on the wall, controlled by the observer

History Museum Digital Wall

We had our picture digitally taken and emailed to our friend in Cincinnati

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A very Antique Fire Engine

We strolled through Concordia Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in El Paso. It was the Week of the Dead, following Halloween, a time when people visit and decorate the graves of their loved ones, and there are often parades through the cemeteries, but this one had few visitors. Except for the Monument to the Buffalo Soldiers, it looked to be abandoned.

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Donators to the Buffalo Soldiers Memorial

Donators to the Buffalo Soldiers Memorial

We spent a good portion of another day enjoying the warm sun while walking through the very modern campus of the University of Texas El Paso (UTEL).

University of Texas El Paso Campus

Beautiful Buildings

Lovely Parks

Lovely Parks

University of Texas El Paso Campus, plants

Interesting Plants. Who knows what this is, at the base of a palm tree?

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By Sunday, Shawn’s wife was home and she and her mother met us downtown in the afternoon at the Art Museum where we found many interesting works of art, especially the Day of the Dead collages created by students from many of the local schools, mostly commemorating deceased music artists.

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We stopped into the Ysleta Mission, located in the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. It is recognized as the oldest continuously operated parish in the State of Texas.

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On the way back to our “home”, at Jim’s suggestion, we stopped into the largest Harley Davidson Store in the country. I think we got Shawn dreaming of riding down the highway with the wind in his hair.

Again we expressed thanks to Shawn. We really did enjoy seeing the city through his eyes, and he said he enjoyed learning a thing or two about Canada. It worked out well. But by Monday we were ready to be on the road again.

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona – Continuing the Journey


We left Stanton, Missouri on Sunday morning and headed toward Springfield, hoping to have lunch at Lambert’s Café again. Unfortunately it was just too busy. We didn’t feel we wanted to wait the hour and a half to get a seat, so we found a little Mexican Café in the mall across the street, and were soon on our way again. We pushed on to Edmond, Oklahoma before stopping for dinner and the night at the local Cracker Barrel Restaurant. That was not a good place to spend the night. It was located at the intersection of two highways and there were two truck stops on the corners. The noise continued until well into the night, so we didn’t get much sleep.

We were on the road by 9:15 the next morning and crossed into Texas before noon. Since we were not far away, we made a detour into McLean again. This time the restaurant and the museum were open. We spent a couple of hours eating and looking around, before journeying on through to Amarillo arriving in late afternoon.

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Just a few of the many, many interesting historical items in the Museum

As we turned south onto I-27  Jim saw the sign for Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Remembering that our friend Alice had suggested we should go see it, we followed the directions. We were glad of it. It’s beautiful! We drove around the canyon before the sun was gone, and took lots of pictures. We camped there for the night. All was dark and quiet, a big difference from our last night stop.

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The next morning we continued on to New Mexico. Our plan was to go to the Carlsbad Caverns. When we stopped for gas at Tulia, Texas, we watched this crop duster at work.

We arrived in Carlsbad at 2:30 in the afternoon and stopped into the Chamber of Commerce to get information about the Caverns and camping. We were too late to catch the last tour of that day, but we learned that there was a big bat exodus from the caves in the early evening. Donna was very helpful in finding us a place to park for the night as there was nothing at the Caverns. After stopping for some groceries on the way out of town, we drove south toward the Caverns.

That is when our plans took an unwanted turn! The highway wasn’t very busy. We were cruising along in the right hand lane and coming up to a flatbed tow truck that was riding in the left hand land. It had two pickup trucks on it and Jim hesitated to hurry past it because the load looked possibly precarious. I was just going to comment on it when suddenly the cap came up off the first pickup. We thought it would just go over the other truck and land in its bed, but instead the wind turned it into a flying missile heading directly for us! Jim braked as hard as he safely could and swerved slightly to the right. Visions of the thing crashing through the windshield and knocking Jim out flashed through my mind. With a very loud thump it hit the windshield right in front of his face, but fortunately it didn’t break through! The tow truck seemed to keep on going until Jim blasted the horn several times. Our windshield was badly cracked, but the worst of it was below eye level, so Jim could still see. Eventually the truck pulled over to the right shoulder ahead of us and a white company pick up pulled in behind it. We were both in shock! The tow truck driver/owner walked back to see if there was any damage. He was looking at the body of the RV. Jim pointed out the windshield. He introduced himself, apologized many times, got a clipboard from his truck, and began writing down the details of the damage. The windshield wiper was broken off and there were a few dings on the fiberglass. At first I thought he said that the cap hadn’t been strapped down, but later he said that it had but the strap had broken. He said that he saw it go flying. He immediately took responsibility, calling a mobile auto glass repair company and asking them if they could get a new windshield for us. He told them that he wanted to pay for it right away, but they said they would let him know if they had one first. He told us we should drive to the nearest big city, El Paso Texas where we should be able to get the wiper replaced, and to let him know where we were when we arrived so that the glass company could find us. He gave us his business card. I asked about compensation for an extended stay and, although he didn’t think that would be necessary, he agreed to pay for one night. We had no cell service on that desolate highway, but we felt confident that he was going to make sure we were taken care of.

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Our cracked windshield

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The cap being put into truck

We watched the cap being loaded into his pickup truck and strapped down (the tow truck had already been taken away by the other driver), before we pulled back onto the road and made our way to Carlsbad Caverns. There was nothing more we could do.

The bat flight was to begin at 5:45. We arrived in the parking lot, after a seven mile up-hill climb, at 5:00 and had a quick snack before finding our way to the amphitheater situated at the entrance to the bat cave. A Park Ranger talked to us about the thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats that would fly en-mass from the cave for a night of feasting on insects. He told us that there would be no more than two chances to witness this flight before the bats would leave to migrant south.  In fact, there was no absolute certainty that they would even appear that night, but shortly after six the exodus began. Everyone, even the small children, sat in perfect silence, watching with mouths agape, as the bats flew in funnel –like formation before moving off in clusters in search of their prey. By seven o’clock they were still emerging, but the sun had gone down and we were cold and tired and still had to find our campsite further down the highway so we left. Our hearts were in our mouths when we noticed that we’d left the motor home lights on! Jim was amazed and relieved when the motor turned over with the first turn of the key.

Bat Flight

We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the actual flight. This is a picture of a picture.

Us in front of bat cave

The accommodations that Donna had booked for us were not at an RV Park, but one of three sites at the Camp Washington Conference Centre. The two nearby RV Parks were both completely full. We knew from the map the general area of the Camp and we put the address into the GPS. Finding the exit off the highway was easy, but we were taken on a long winding dirt road back into the woods, toward a mountain, and then a sharp turn. We were told that it was a beautiful spot, but it was so dark, we had no way of knowing. Finally we came upon a large building with a lighted parking lot – the office. We were told that it would be closed, but someone would collect our money in the morning. The trouble is, we could see no sign of any other RVs. There was supposed to be one other. We looked around with a flashlight, and started down another road that seemed to lead to other buildings, but it was narrow and the willow trees hung too low for us to get under them, so we backed up and turned around. Jim found a notice on the building that said the RV sites were on the north side of the property, which would be somewhere behind the building, but we saw that there was a lake there! We drove back the way we’d come until we found another dirt road to the right. It looked doubtful to me, but Jim pushed on. The road got more and more narrow. We came to an old Fire Station. Then we saw an arch with the sign Camp Washington. We eased our way through and as we turned around a clump of trees we saw the other motorhome and a few other buildings. After we pulled in, our neighbour came out to greet us and assured us that it was a really beautiful spot in the day light. At least it was quiet, if cold. We were so happy to crawl under the covers for a good rest.

I was up at the break of dawn hoping to catch some good photos in the sunrise. Here are some of the things we saw before and after breakfast.

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I was wishing we could stay another night, but we wanted to see the Caverns and then had to be on our way to El Paso. On the way out we discovered that at the fork in the road coming in, we should have taken the one to the right, not the left.

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona


Many of you know from following me on Face Book that we are now in El Paso, Texas, stranded until we can get a windshield replaced. I won’t go into further details now, because I’d rather share some of the lovely trip we’ve had along the way before this problem suddenly hit us. Before now I’ve not had adequate internet connections to post anything.

 

After his carpal tunnel surgery, Jim was forced to wait until October 17th before he had his second appointment with his surgeon and was given the green light for us to leave for Arizona. By then we had most of what we needed already loaded into the motorhome, and we’d planned to finish up some things in Peterborough while we were there, in preparation for leaving the next morning. Well, as usual, the best laid plans don’t always work out. The US money that I ordered wouldn’t be into my bank until the next day, and our barber wasn’t working that day. We got the rest done and figured we’d just stop back in on our way through Peterborough in the morning.

We were up very early to load the remaining items, mostly the food and the electronics. It didn’t seem like much, but it was 10:30 by the time we got away. When we were finished making our stops in Peterborough it was lunch time. We picked up wraps at Tim Horton’s and then finally got on the road. We’d planned to go only as far as Jim’s cousin’s place which we thought was near the Windsor/Detroit border. They were expecting us for dinner. It was just a tad further than we thought, but we arrived by 6:00 pm, exhausted. After a delicious meal of organic beef and fresh vegetables from their own farm, a couple of their friends joined us for some old fashioned hymn singing. One son played his guitar and Jim played his ukulele. It was a lovely evening.

The problem with getting together with long-lost relatives is that there is so much catching up to do and it’s hard to stop talking! Once again, we didn’t get on the road until after one in the afternoon. Therefore, we didn’t get too far that day either. We did have one new little adventure though. Dave had suggested we take a the ferry across the river from Sombra, Ontario to Marine City, Michigan, instead of our usual trip over the bridge into Detroit. It was small, and we had our doubts that there would be room for us, but they squeezed us on! It was a short and easy crossing into the US.

Wondering if they will take us

Wondering if they will take us

We squeezed on!

We squeezed on!

Entering the US

Entering the US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Customs, Marine City

US Customs, Marine City

From Marine City we just pushed onward. Traffic going through Detroit was very slow, taking us over an hour to get through the city. Shortly after 6:00 we crossed the state border into Ohio and forty-five minutes later we called it a night in the Walmart parking lot in Napoleon, about two hours from the border into Indiana. The sunset was beautiful.

Sunset in Ohio

On day three we were up early and barreled right through Indiana and Illinois, stopping only for gas and meals. As usual, we got a little lost going through St.

Louis Missouri. We stopped at the KOA RV park in Stanton Missouri for a couple of nights so we could see the Meramec Caverns that we’d missed due to timing the first couple of times we were there. It had been raining off and on all day and was still drizzling when we arrived.

The next morning we left for the Caverns. This year we don’t have our trailer and motorcycle with us, so we have no transportation other than the RV. Jim thought we would unhook it and drive down to the Caverns, but it was only three miles. I thought we could walk as it was a nice day. After the first mile of winding, hilly road with little to no shoulders, we stopped at a yard sale to buy a backpack for $1.00 because the temperature had climbed and we found our hands were too full with cameras and water bottles, and the sweaters and jackets that we no longer needed. When we saw the sign for a very steep grade, we knew we might be in trouble when it was time to climb back up. The going down was difficult enough. We think that the three miles was as the crow flies, not as the road turns!

When we finally made it to the Meramec Caverns Centre, we had to nourish ourselves with pumpkin pie and coffee at the cafeteria before embarking on the eighty minute Cavern Tour.

At the entrance to the Caverns is a large room that was set up with a stage and chairs, ready for the 150th Annual Gospel Sing that would happen later in the day.

Meramec CavernsOutside Meramec Caverns

Outside Meramec Caverns

 

It wasn’t until we were about half way through the tour that we began to see the beautiful “decorations” inside the caverns, but it was a worthwhile, if pricey excursion.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Rippling Texture

Rippling Texture

Water Reflections

Water Reflections

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

When we returned to the surface we considered buying tickets for the Gospel Sing, but I was just too hungry. We hit the cafeteria once again for lunch. Once back outside we watched people taking the Zip-line over the parking lot and river. If we hadn’t been so tired, and hadn’t seen most of the participants struggle to make it back to the stand on their return trip, we might have tried it ourselves. Of course the cost of $50 each was a little prohibitive too.

Taking off

Taking off

And away!

And away!

Struggling against the wind

Struggling against the wind

We could postpone our trek back up the hill no longer, and we were right. We were in trouble. Half way up we started putting out our thumbs. The Gospel Sing had just ended and there was plenty of traffic, but the first half dozen cars passed us by. Finally, a nice senior couple stopped and cautiously allowed us into their back seat. I’m sorry that I didn’t get their names, but we had a nice chat and we were ever so grateful. We had walked over seven miles at that point, once again reminded that we are not as young as we sometimes think we are. We were in bed very early that night.

Shasta Caverns, Shasta Lake, California


We are already much further south, at Ventura, California as I write this post, but I promised I’d give you the scoop on Shasta Caverns, so I will do that first and hope to catch up again soon.

I have to say that these caverns are very interesting, and the area around them beautiful, although not as colourful as others we have toured. However, the tour comes with a warning – they aren’t for those with heart conditions or walking difficulties, especially stair climbing. And if you are in a large motor home, pulling a trailer, your driving skills and brakes need to be optimized. Here’s why:

The road into the Shasta Cavern Tours office is 1½ miles of narrow, uphill roads with hair-pin turns that had me holding my breath at times. It was a relief to finally reach the parking lot and see that there was actually room there for us to turn around and park!

We bought our tickets. When the announcement that the tour would start was made, we were given fifteen minutes to get to the boat that would ferry us across the lake. That was a another warning. We had to walk downhill almost as far as we’d driven up it seemed. One Hundred and Fifty stairs (or ramps if you preferred) switched back and forth, and then several more switch-backs on sand and gravel took us to the shore, where a large open pontoon boat with metal seats along the outsides and down the centre and powered by two 150 H.P. Yamaha motors, picked us up. The trip across the lake was beautiful. On the other side a ramp was let down so we could disembark, and then climb up a small hill to an awaiting mini-bus. The captain of the boat was also the driver of the bus, and the tour guide. If you think the sound of the drive up in the motor home sounded nerve-racking, you wouldn’t want to be on that bus; more hair-pin and S-turns sometimes at a 17% slope and hanging on the edge of the cliff. Good thing I was in the outside seat! We soon arrived at the little log cabin where the actual tour into the caverns began. Again there was a lot of climbing and although the stairs didn’t bother me, the high elevations did cause some heart palpitations that forced me to stop now and again for a rest. After any long climb there were always benches to sit upon. Our guide gave us lots of the history of the caverns and helped keep our minds off the physical challenge with some light-hearted chatter. The walking paths and stairs were all solid and railed. We saw some amazing examples of nature inside the several rooms that had been discovered. I’ll let you decide if it would be worth it to you.

The drive up

The drive up

The narrow road

The Narrow Road

Driving UpThe Walk Down to the Lake

The stairs to and from the lake

The stairs to and from the lake

Walking down

Crossing the Lake

Crossing the Lake

IMG_1430Crossing Lake

View from Above

View From Above

Inside the Caverns

Inside Caverns

inside caverns inside caverns inside caverns IMG_1461 IMG_1458Inside CavernsWhen the tour was over, we had to climb back down many more stairs to the bus, make the return trip to the lake, cross the lake, and climb back up the hill. Someone asked how many stairs there were in total and we were told 150 up and down the hill to and from the boat, and 691 through and out of the caverns! Is it any wonder that we were exhausted when we crawled into bed that night, and that I suffered with major hip pain for the next five days? It did make me feel better to hear some of the much younger people on the tour huffing and puffing just as much as we. It was another Adventure, for sure!

Next time I’ll tell you about San Francisco and a little contest, perhaps.

Three States in Three Days with Lots to See and Do


It’s hard to believe that it’s been only five days since we left Canada and we’ve already been through Washington and Oregon and are now deep into California.

Our first stop was Seattle, Washington where we arrived at rush hour so spent some time crawling along Hwy. 5 before turning off in search of somewhere to park for the night. Jim wanted to stay in the downtown so we could tour on foot the next day. However, there was only one RV Park that we could find listed near downtown and we were told that it wasn’t really a “camping” type of park, but only for long term, i.e. minimum of 30 days. At 6:30, hungry and tired, we asked if we could park overnight in the gated Home Depot Store/Rental Centre. We could, but had to be out before things got busy in the morning. With no restaurants within sight, we ate my left over Quesadilla from lunch. Close by there was…you guessed it… a train track crossing, and a shipyard! Things got quieter after 11:00 pm, but at 5:00 am street cleaners were at work just outside our door. We were up and out of there by 6:30 in search of breakfast (we hadn’t yet restocked our cupboards and fridge since crossing the border), and a place to park for the day. After a couple of hours I suggested we drive further south to a KOA Campground that was close to public transit. We got settled in there just in time to catch the 10:15 bus that would take us to the rapid transit station. Well, it would have if we hadn’t missed the stop. We waited at the end of the line for another bus to take us back.

Finally, at noon we were sitting down to lunch in a cafeteria, and from there took the monorail to The Space Needle, a remnant the Seattle Worlds Fair, where our tour began. The view from the Needle was worth the hour wait.

Space Needle

Space Needle

IMG_1293 IMG_1303 IMG_1305We caught the monorail back, and then the rapid transit to Pioneer Square, where we took the hour long tour of the Underground City. I found the history of the first city of Seattle interesting, but the actual remains not as impressive as I had expected. The tour guide was excellent though.

Underground City

The sidewalk grates provided the only light to the Underground City

Underground City

One store in the Underground City, perhaps updated?

We’d planned to meet other Mesa friends, Nita and Fred, for dinner, but that didn’t work out for them in the end.

After sandwiches at the nearby Subway, we boarded the train and bus back to the campsite. It was a wonderful day, but by the time we got back, at 7:15 pm it felt like midnight! I opened the fridge to get a drink of water and discovered that, from all the banging and bumping we’d done while crossing cobblestone intersections and jamming on brakes when it looked like someone was going to pull out in front of us that morning, a jar of Kalamati Olives had managed to flip completely upside down and all the juice had drained into the vegetable bins and the door shelves. Sigh. Not quite what I wanted to do that evening.

The next morning we enjoyed a hot breakfast available at the campground, before we got on the road again. We drove through intermittent cloud and rain, but the temperatures started to rise. When we were ready to stop for the night, there seemed to be few campsites around, but I thought I’d found a good one on public land near the reservoir at Cottage Grove, Oregon It took a bit to find it, only to discover that it was closed for the season. I’d missed that little detail at the bottom of the description. However we found a day Park with a paved parking lot right next to the reservoir. We parked there for the night. Fortunately we had stopped at a grocery store to buy a few groceries so we had food for dinner and breakfast.

Cottage Grove Reservoir

Room with a View of Reservoir

IMG_1343The next day, a visit to the Information Centre in California resulted in a decision to camp somewhere near the Shasta Caverns so we could do the 10:00 am tour the next day. It was only 3:00 pm when we pulled into Shasta RV Resort and Campground, but it was nice to have a shorter day. We enjoyed a walk through the forest and along the Shasta Reservoir while the sun was warm, and that evening we had great WiFi connections that enabled us to catch up on email, and I could add the pictures to my last blog post. If you want to see them, check it out.

Shasta RV Resort and Campground, California

Shasta RV Resort and Campground, California

IMG_1372Today, we did the Shasta Cavern Tour. It was quite the adventure, one that I will share in detail in my next post. I will say that we enjoyed it, but we were reminded that we aren’t as fit as we should be.

Tonight we’re at the Vineyard Campground, seventy miles away from San Francisco, where we will go tomorrow for a few days.

From Kaslo to Vancouver in the Motorhome, With a Few Detours


Our Canadian Tour has nearly come to an end. It’s been a busy time and I’ve fallen behind with blog posts, so before we start a new chapter with the US continuation of the trip, here is a summary of where we’ve been and what we’ve done since leaving Kaslo. Two posts about interesting things in Kaslo will follow. Since media uploads seem to be limited where we are, I will have to add more pictures, or do more detailed posts about some of these places later.

After a week of mostly sunny weather in Kaslo, and a trip with Sarah to Nelson, the weather turned dark and rainy when we left on the Saturday. We arrived in Vernon mid-afternoon and spent two nights with our friends, Judy and Keith. The sun was shining there. One morning Jim helped Keith pick the grapes from his vineyard, ready to be picked up by a commercial wine-maker. And I didn’t take any pictures! On the way home from dinner that night, we saw the eclipse of the harvest moon. I did take some pictures of that, but without a tripod handy, they didn’t turn out very well.

Monday morning we were on our way to Kamloops to meet up with some friends from our ukulele group in Mesa. Debby offered to put together a jam session with others from her Kamloops Ukulele Orchestra, and we had a great time playing for an hour or more. I was reminded again that I need to do more practicing if I want to keep up with that bunch, but it was fun. Thanks for organizing and hosting it, Debby.

Ukulele Jam

Ukulele Jam

Our campsite was along the South Thompson River, where we could watch some dragon boats glide by on their practice night.

South Thompson River

South Thompson River

Fortunately we were within walking distance of downtown Kamloops, since our trailer was parked up against a cliff, making it too difficult to get the bike out. We’d booked for two nights so we spent Tuesday walking across the Red Bridge and around the downtown. It’s a very interesting city to explore, but we were exhausted by the time we’d walked back to the motor home.

Crossing on the Red Bridge

Crossing on the Red Bridge

Before leaving the next day, we met with another friend, Patti, and her husband Wayne for lunch. Patti is another ukulele player from Mesa, but she couldn’t make it to the jam the day before. Thanks for a great lunch! It was fun to catch up.

From Kamloops we turned back south towards Hope. On the way, we stopped at Coquihalla Provincial Park to view the old Othello (railway) Tunnels, a stop recommended by Patti. They are amazing and well worth the stop. Also amazing was the fact that we met a woman, along the trail, who’s sister lives in the little Ontario town of Hastings, where we live!

Othello Tunnels

Othello Tunnels

IMG_1083 IMG_1090We spent the night in Hope, and were in Vancouver at Capilano River RV Park by noon the next day. It’s conveniently located just under the Lions Gate Bridge in West Vancouver, close to Park Royal Shopping Plaza, but the lots are very close together, with barely enough room to use the slides. The day was sunny and warm, but because we had domestic chores to catch up with, we got out only long enough to walk across the little bridge to the plaza for lunch.

On Friday we wanted to go to White Rock to another ukulele jam, also recommended by Patti, so off we went on the bike, ukuleles strapped into the back pack. Since we hadn’t yet put the GPS onto the bike we were going by Jim’s memory of a map. Three hours later, after getting lost while trying to visit Granville Island first, and then ending up on Hwy. 99A rather than 99, we finally arrived with ten minutes to spare! This group was much larger and zipped through tunes from their own song books. I had trouble keeping up, and even Jim got lost at times. But again, we had fun and learned a few things. We each purchased one of the two books which we will be able to use in Mesa.

None of the family we planned to visit was in Vancouver that week, so we spent Saturday just doing some shopping and staying in out of the rain. Early Sunday morning we loaded up the bike and caught the Tawassan Ferry to Victoria. After a cool start, the sun came out and warmed things up. Victoria is a marvelous place to visit. We took the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour and had lunch at the award-winning Barb’s Fish and Chips outdoor eatery on Fisherman’s Warf. If we couldn’t go to Arizona, this would be a nice place to spend the winters – not as warm, but seldom snow or freezing temperatures. It’s very expensive though.

IMG_1120On the ferry to Victoria

On the ferry to Victoria

Tiny Floating Homes at the Warf

Tiny Floating Homes at the Wharf

IMG_1168Fishermen"s Warf, Victoria

Fishermen”s Wharf, Victoria

The sun was beginning to sink behind the hills when we finally got back onto the bike and rode to Nanaimo, where would stay for the night and catch the morning ferry to Denman Island, and then Hornby Island. By the time we got to Nanaimo I was shivering so much I couldn’t stop. We warmed up with bowls of hot chili and mugs of tea/coffee at Tim Horton’s, across the street from the Howard Johnson Hotel, where we stayed. We were impressed with the cleanliness and quality of the hotel, and especially liked the front desk clerk, Billy, a bubbly blond woman who was interested in the fact that we were on a motorcycle because she’d just recently bought herself a bike.

We just missed the 10:00 am ferry from Buckley Bay to Denman Island. We enjoyed lunch in the sunshine on the deck of the Subway Restaurant at the terminal, and waited for the next one.

Waiting for Ferries

While Waiting for Ferries

While we waited for the ferry on Denman Island that would take us to Hornby Island, we watched a seal dive for fish.

Seal fishing off wharf on Denman Island

Seal fishing off wharf on Denman Island

Watching the Ferry ramp descend

Watching the Ferry ramp descend

The next five days we spent just relaxing with my sister Pauline, her husband Jim, and the “woofer” (young travelers who work for room and board), Stephan, and three Retrievers. My niece and her family were away on a trip, so it was quieter than usual. Heavy rain on most days after we arrived deterred us from taking our usual walks on the beach, but we did enjoy coffee on the deck of the general store at The Cove one morning, and walked among the boats moored in the harbor. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a home cooked chicken dinner on Saturday night, and then Sunday morning we were dashing for ferries again, this time back to our motor home in Vancouver.

Toll Bridge, Surrey BC

The new Toll Bridge on Hwy 1 at Surrey, heading into Vancouver.

This is where we are as I write this blog post. We’ve shared as much time as possible the last few days with my daughter Ann and great-grandson, Lucas, and cheered for the Blue Jays. But during the day Ann has to work while the sun shines (she’s a landscaper) and Lucas goes to school.

On our own one day, we found our way downtown to Canada Place, and Gas Town, both busy and interesting places during the summer, but much quieter this time of year.

Canada Place

Canada Place

Where Cruise Ships dock. Sadly, none there that day.

Where Cruise Ships dock. Sadly, none there that day.

Canada Place Vancouver

Gas Town, Vancouver

One of the many interesting old buildings in Gastown, Vancouver

Stream Clock in Gastown

Stream Clock in Gastown, a popular attraction

IMG_1264

The time spent with family has been precious, but today it’s time for us to start making our way to Arizona.

Exploring and Camping in Canada’s National Parks Part II


Banff National Park

We were awake at dawn the next morning so thought we’d postpone breakfast and get back onto the Parkway before other traffic, hoping, again, to see some of the wildlife that a multitude of signs along the road warned us about. We saw none. Fifty-two kilometers later we finally came to the only service area on the Parkway so we stopped for breakfast. It was nearly 9:00, but neither the restaurant nor cafeteria were quite ready to open. We looked at the restaurant menu and decided that we’d just grab some coffee at the store and eat cereal in the motor home. The Continental Breakfast would cost us $14.95 each, and the full breakfast buffet of bacon, eggs, sausages and pancakes, would be $25.00 each! As it was, two coffee cost $7.50.

The higher we climbed over the mountain pass, the more snow we saw on the evergreen trees and in the ditches. Fortunately it wasn’t on the roads. That’s the kind of snow I like to see! It was beautiful. By 10:30 we had crossed into Banff National Park.

Glacier Parkway

Glacier Parkway between the Glacier Centre and Banff

Glacier Pkwy (176)

It was just before noon when we reached our next planned destination, Lake Louise, but because it was still early we agreed to continue on to Banff and stop at Lake Louise on the way back the next day. An hour later we were at the Information Centre in downtown Banff getting campground information and lunch locations suggestions. We walked to JK Bakery and Cafe to fill up on salad and homemade lasagna for much less than the breakfast offered along the way. I also picked up a big loaf of their fresh multi-grain bread for less than the price of it in a grocery store. Look for it if you are ever in Banff.

We found a lovely, full hook-up campsite at Tunnel Mountain Trailer Park, that included a bus stop to catch the bus back into town, which we did as soon as we were hooked up. After looking around the shops, we found a grocery store where we bought a few supplies, and then had dinner at Tony Roma’s. To our surprise, the same cheery young Australian woman who’d waited on us at JK Bakery was our hostess here. In fact, most of the servers in the restaurant spoke with Australian accents. They love Banff, and I can’t blame them.

Banff

Banff

Banff

Our Campground

Banff (7) Banff (11)While we waited for our return bus I chatted with Wendy from London, England, who was in Banff on a bus tour.

The next afternoon we were out of the National Parks and into British Columbia. We decided to bypass Lake Louise this trip.