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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Looking Back – Our first Cross-country trip to British Columbia, through the US


Because we’ve not been traveling since our return from Arizona more than a month ago, I thought it would be fun to revisit our very first cross country trip to British Columbia in 2006. I did do a little blogging about it at the time, on a site that no longer exists. The only purpose of my blogging then was to keep family and friends informed of our progress.

That trip was quite different from the ones we have taken since. Our first “motor home” was an old (1973 I think) high top Chevy camper van. It had a fold-down table with bench seats that could be converted, with great difficulty, into a narrow “double” bed at night, and a small kitchen with overhead cupboards that I hit my head on every time I prepared a meal. There was a two burner propane stove and a finicky mini-fridge. We removed the port-a-potty and used that room for clothing storage. There was no shower; no bathroom sink; no furnace. We had to depend upon public restrooms and campgrounds for personal care and laundry, but we ate many meals in that little camper.

How the Adventure Began

The purpose of our trip was to attend the graduation of my one daughter from the Kootenay School of Arts in Nelson, and the wedding of my second daughter, in Vancouver. We pulled a trailer containing our Yamaha Venture motorcycle to use for transportation once we reached British Columbia.

We left Peterborough at 8:15 in the morning on April 13th and headed west, then north towards Elliot Lake, where we would spend our first night with friends, in the comfort of their apartment. By 11:00 it was time for a pit stop. We saw a sign for gas off to our right.  Thinking we’d use the washroom there, we took the exit.  This is what we found!

It seemed the operating gas station was many kilometers further, so we decided to continue down the highway. A few kilometers outside Parry Sound, we found an information center with washrooms and picnic tables.  After a 45 min. break, we were on the road again.

In Espanola we filled up the gas tank at 106.9 per litre, for a grand total of $104.01 Yikes! That’s why the next day we would cross the border into the US.

By 4:00 we were in Elliot Lake.

The next morning we crossed into Michigan at Sault St. Marie and drove until 9:00 pm (Wisconsin time, 10:00 our time).  We had planned to stop earlier but were unable to find a campground that was open.  We thought we had it planned out with the KOA sites, but it turned out the ones they had listed were 30 or 40 miles away from the highway we’d chosen!  Private ones weren’t open yet.  There weren’t any convenience centres along the way either. When my bladder was about to burst, we finally found a motel and campground in Brule Wisconsin.  The campground wasn’t actually open yet, but they let us park and use the electricity for only $10.  The showers and washrooms were closed, so we had to make do with what we had in the camper.  I sure was wishing we’d kept that port-a-potty! The temperature plummeted during the night and I vowed to purchase an electric heater before the next night arrived.

Highlights of the Next Few Days

April 15 – Easter Sunday, we spent on the road. The weather warmed up, so we postponed getting a heater. We parked for the night at the KOA in Bismark, North Dakota, where we indulged in hot showers before leaving the next morning.

April 16 – We took some time to take pictures of these huge metal sculptures along the highway in North Dakota, and visited Painted Canyon and the Badlands.

We were at the KOA in Billings, Montana by night fall. Later in the evening a thunder and rain storm blew through. It rained all night; the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the Weatherman predicted up to 14 inches of snow the next day!

April 17 – We left camp at 9:00 am. By 10:00 we were driving up the mountains in a blizzard, with no snow tires!

Fortunately, it didn’t last too long, but changed to rain off and on most of the day.  The van really struggled going up the hills. By the final fill up for the day Jim realized that the gas octane he’d been buying was way lower than ours at home.  When he used a higher octane at that fill, it made a world of difference.

After spending a couple of hours in a Walmart debating with an employee about an exchange or refund for a defective camera that Jim had purchased a few months ago, and looking for a heater (they had none), we set out again. We’d thought we’d make it to Nelson that day, but it wasn’t looking good.

We weren’t back on the road long before Jim thought there was a problem with the transmission.  He stopped at a gas station to check it and put in some transmission fluid.  Then it wouldn’t even start!  He checked the batteries and didn’t think it was that.  He thought it was the starter. He spent a half hour taking things apart to get at it and still couldn’t get it fixed.  He finally decided he needed a new starter.  Luckily there was an RV repair center right across the road so he walked over.  The guy came over with his big service truck and boosted the battery.  It was dead, but they discovered that the alternator belt was loose as well, which caused the battery to not charge.  The cost was nominal. I breathed a sigh of relief. We finally got back on our way and stopped at 7:00 pm for the night at the KOA in Missoula, Montana.

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Apr 18 – At 4:00 pm our van was parked outside my daughter’s apartment in Nelson, BC where it would stay for the next thirteen days while we attended the family events and travelled around BC on the bike.

It would be May 11th before our 10,000 kilometer trip would end, upon our arrival home.

Looking back now, I wonder how we survived nearly a month in such tight quarters without any major conflicts! Of course a year later we did another month-long trip to Canada’s East Coast, that time on the motorcycle all the way and tenting most of the time.

A Day of Exploring Scottsdale with Good Friends


It’s amazing to find how much more there is to learn about the places we’ve visited before. We’ve been to the Scottsdale area when we went to the Botanical Gardens, and the Museum of Instrumental Music (MIM) both of which I’ve written about before, but after being introduced to the blog. Chocolatour, by a friend, I knew we’d missed some interesting things in the downtown. So one Sunday morning we picked up our friends, Alice and Joe, and headed out.

The drive from Mesa is a good hour and a half. Once we found parking we decided that the best way to find what we wanted to see, and a place to eat, was to hop onto the free trolley. We stayed on it until it made a stop at the Western Museum, and then we got off to take some pictures outside.

When we discovered that it had just opened, we went into the lobby and the gift shop for a little exploring.

There were some incredible works of art.

We were getting hungry so we didn’t take time to do the tour. That will have to be another time. We set out on foot to see what we could find.

We were looking for Zak’s Chocolate that Doreen had mentioned in her blog, but we couldn’t find it. While waiting for our lunch at David’s Hamburgers (I enjoyed a very thick and tasty BLT while the others got their mouths around the tall Texas Burger), we learned from a Google search that Zak’s was a few miles out of the downtown core, and unfortunately, it isn’t open on Sundays. Of course the couple who run it, and make all of the chocolate with little help, need a day or two off, but our taste buds were disappointed. That will have to be next time!

However there were plenty of other things to see and explore!

After lunch we visited “Old Scottsdale”. We admired the old architecture and wondered at the antique farm equipment on display outside the many antique shops.

We took a tour of the beautifully restored Mission Church.

Back in the “new” downtown, we did some window shopping, lusting over the intricate, jeweled, had-made belt buckles and other dazzling jewelry that we knew we could never afford to own. We sauntered down Frontier Town where Alice satisfied our sweets craving by sampling some fresh fudge at Outrageous Olive Oils and Vinegars. We made our only purchase of the day when we split on the special deal of three pieces, to take home. Yumm.

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The sound of music drew us toward this beautiful park and museum area, which I later discovered was the Scottsdale Civic Centre Mall.

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This memorial depicts Scottdale’s founder, Chaplain Winfield Scott, welcoming newcomers, with his wife Helen seated on their beloved mule “Old Maud”

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Herb Drinkwater and his dog Sadie, Scottdale’s Mayor 1980-1996

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This Lagoon is filled with fountains and bronze statues and ducks

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We tried to catch a trolley back to where we’d parked the car, but kept missing it. Once we got walking in the right direction we discovered it wasn’t as far away as we’d thought, but we were all tired after that busy day. Next season we’ll try to return to explore the things we’ve still missed.

Another View of Wickenburg, Arizona


Well, we managed to get another road trip in, this past weekend!

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. on Saturday we were up (me, reluctantly) and out the door an hour or so later, because we didn’t want to be late.

Where were we headed? Back to Wickenburg to check out the 70th Annual Gold Rush Days celebrations. We hoped to get a good spot to watch the parade that was to start at 10:00 a.m. On the way Jim mentioned that he thought he’d read that there could be something like 200,000 people show up! Wow, I couldn’t imagine getting through a crowd like that in that small town. Did I really want to go?

We arrived before 9:00 a.m. and spent twenty minutes following the many signs pointing to parking areas, only to find them already full. We eventually drove across the bridge and found a spot on a residential side street. It was a bit of a hike back to the downtown, but the weather was still a little cool, and we’re thankful that we can still walk distances without pain.

Remember the almost empty streets that were in my pictures of our previous trip to Wickenburg? This is what the corner near the old railway station (now the Chamber of Commerce) looked like when we arrived on Saturday.

We were lucky enough to get spots to stand behind a couple of rows of people who had their chairs already set up, but directly across from the judges stand and announcer. Hollywood actor Stuntman and trick roper, Will Roberts, was just finishing up his roping performance. A few children were practicing the skills he’d taught them.

While we waited for the parade to reach us, this fellow strolled down the route, shaking hands and posing for photos. Not quite sure what he has to do with the Gold Rush Days, but young and old alike jumped in for the photo op!

The announcer kept us informed and entertained while we waited. He told us that the usual number of people in attendance at this parade was (only) between thirty and fifty thousand, depending on the weather.

For an hour and a half we stood watching the parade of 78 entries that began with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Motorcycles and ended with the Wickenburg Fire and Police Departments. In between there were entries representing the local schools, car clubs, riding clubs, museums, saddle clubs and businesses and many, many horses and mules. The high school provided the only band. The Grand Marshal was World Champion Cowboy, Cody Custer, a Wickenburg native.

 

Part way through the parade, when there was a bit of a gap, the announcer asked if there were any people in the crowd from another country and we put up our hands. He took us out into the street and told Jim to say something so they could guess where we were from.

“Well, we’re not from America…”

Before he could finish the sentence the announcer said, “You don’t sound any different than us.”

Jim tried again. “We’re not from America,” and we both said “eh?”

The crowd yelled, “Canada!” and applauded.

 

Arizona Saddle Club

Arizona Saddle Club

What’s a Parade without the Shriners?

These ladies put on shows to raise money for the American Legion

Whew! I think I took way to many pictures. These are just a sample, but I won’t bore you with more of the parade. It was sure a different parade. I really enjoyed it.

Once the last of the parade had passed by us, we wandered down the street to see what there was to eat at the vendor stalls and then watched people go by while we sat on a wooden bench to eat our breakfast burritos.

A few blocks further was a huge arts and crafts show, crowded with people looking at unique art, jewelry, wood work and various other things. If I’d had an Arizona house and some extra cash I’d have a blast decorating it with some of the art.

By the time we’d gotten through all that, an hour later, it was time for more food. We made our way back to the main street and got one of the last vacant booths at Rancho Bar 7 Restaurant.

From there we turned back toward the craft vendors and came across the midway. We just caught the last song of our favourite band, Come Back Buddy, performing on-stage. We wandered through the midway, and then returned to the stage area to watch Will Roberts’ complete show.

If we’d had the time, and a hotel room, it would have been fun to stay for the evening entertainment, but we didn’t. So, before our feet gave out on us, we made our way back to our car and left for home, the end of another fun adventure in sunny Arizona.

 

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona – Continuing the Journey Part 2


After our stroll around the Camp Washington property, and chatting with our RV neighbours, Lisa and Vicky, and the maintenance guy, it was 10:30 before we left to go back to the Caverns. We spent a couple of hours taking our time and taking pictures on the 1¼ mile walk down to the bottom, doing the self-guided tour. Trying to capture the beauty was difficult without more sophisticated equipment, but we did our best. It’s amazing!

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By the time we reached the bottom it was well past lunch time and we’d worked up good appetites, so we took advantage of the sandwiches and drinks that could be purchased in the only area where food was permitted. We wanted to continue touring the 8.2 acre “big room” but decided, since it would take another hour and a half to explore its perimeter, we would have to return another time. We were anxious to get to El Paso so we could touch base with the glass company and the tow truck driver and get the windshield repaired.

When we got back down to the highway and saw a sign telling us that there were no services for the next 138 miles, Jim pulled into the only gas station around to top up our tank. That shouldn’t have taken long, but a while earlier there had been a gas spill there and the pumps had been turned off. We had to wait until the manager returned to reset them!

At last we were headed back south at 2:30 pm. The scenery was boring with nothing but  dry, empty fields for miles and miles. The sun shone bright and hot through the front windows.

Desolate road

Desolate road

The battery on our Bluetooth speaker had died  so we could listen to no music – no radio stations, no cell service, just desolation. By the time we arrived at Mission RV Park in El Paso at 5:00 local time, we were both out of sorts. The sun reflecting on the windshield cracks (which had spread further) made it difficult for Jim to see where he was going to find our spot. I had a major tension headache. When Jim checked in he asked how far it was to the nearest restaurant. Five miles! Across the highways! But they did have take-out menus for a Chinese Restaurant and a Pizza House. After a heated discussion we settled on an order from the Chinese Restaurant. Jim tried to order from his phone; it wouldn’t work. Before that he’d tried to put the slide out; it didn’t work. Hence the “heated discussion” over what to eat for dinner! I called in the order. The menu was very confusing and we ended up with enough food to last us for three meals, which was a good thing, since we were miles away from a grocery store and had no idea how long we’d be here.

The next day Jim called the glass place (Safelite), only to be told that none of their suppliers had our windshield and there was nothing they could do for us. We wondered if that meant the motor home would be written off because the windshield couldn’t be replaced! One reason we chose this RV Park is because it has an RV Repair Shop and the windshield wiper also needed to be replaced. Jim went in to see them but they didn’t have a wiper for us and made no offer to try to track one down. They did, however, have the name of another glass place that might help us. Jim made the call and got good/bad news; they could get it in, but it would take 5 to 7 days! He called the glass place back home that had previously replaced the passenger side glass. They could have one shipped to us in about the same length of time. Jim called Mark Moisa at Quality Towing in Carlsbad to tell him what was happening, since we had not heard anything from him. He didn’t answer his phone, but returned the call right away. He asked Jim to send him the information for the local glass installer that we had, saying he’d call him. Then we waited for his approval to order the glass, because he was going to pay for it. And we waited. Jim called again in the afternoon and was told by whoever answered the phone that Mark was in a meeting and would call back in about an hour. He didn’t. Jim called the glass fellow and learned that Mark had called him to get the quote, saying he’d call him back. He didn’t. Later that evening, Jim blocked his cell phone number and called Mark again. When he answered and found out who it was he gave an incredulous story about being at an accident scene that involved his driver being hit and there were police cars, and ambulances and he had been talking to the police for three hours and had to go talk to them again, but he would take care of us as he’d promised. He’d call back “in a few minutes.” That was the last we heard from him.

Jim tried once more on Friday, but was again told that he was in a meeting. We gave up and called our insurance company with the story. An adjuster called back for more details. Jim gave him a quote from the local glass company, and the one in Canada, but still the adjuster said he’d have to send out an appraiser, and then we’d need to get more quotes. He also wanted quotes for the other damage (windshield wiper, and few dings/cracks in the fiberglass). He said it would be two weeks before the windshield would be fixed or replaced! Jim told him that was unacceptable and reminded him of our circumstances and the extra expense of continuing to stay in this park. He relented, called the local glass company for the quote and then gave permission to order the windshield.  We have to pay the $300 deductible. The insurance company will go after Quality Towing for reimbursement. I hope they have better luck than we did.

Oh, Jim asked the adjuster if the motor home would have been written off had we not been able to find a replacement windshield. His response, “No we’d have a new one manufactured, but it could take up to six months.” Thank goodness we found one and it is now on its way to us! We are still here, waiting.

There have been a few positives since then. Jim figured out what was wrong with his phone, and was able to fix the slide out problem. I did some baking and made a pot of chili. I got caught up on my blog posting and laundry.

We have made a few friends that have made the waiting easier. On Wednesday night we shared drinks and conversation with a couple from New Zealand who were parked next door to us. Sadly, they left the next morning. Friday afternoon another couple came in on the other side of us. They were here for the weekend to watch their son play hockey. They took us with them to the Friday night game (about which I’ve already posted). We stayed mostly in the park on Saturday, venturing only a couple of miles on foot up to the highway interchange where we found a full service center that carried some groceries and a Subway, if we got really in need of food. We bought some bananas and a bottle of wine to carry back. We played some pickleball on the vacant tennis court.

Thanks to Nawton and Peggie, Carol and John for taking our minds off our troubles for a bit.

A friend of Jim who lives in Connecticut happens to have a friend, Shawn, in El Paso. He suggested Jim give him a call. On Sunday Shawn took us out for a tour of the city, lunch, and then to stock up on groceries. He’s recently retired and his wife is away for the week so he was happy to have company and something to do. Yesterday he took us sightseeing again, and drove us around in search of a wiper, to no avail. Today he’d planned to take us downtown to some of the museums, but when Jim showed him how he thought he could repair the wiper if he could find someone to do a tiny bit of welding for him, Shawn thought of places he could take us. Each place was unable to help. We even went to the Ford Dealership to inquire about ordering a new wiper. They had nothing in their catalogue. Then Shawn came up with the idea to check with a former colleague of his who now works for a job training center. What a good call! His friend got one of the students to do the welding.

An enormous thank you goes out to Shawn, who has kept us from going insane. Maybe tomorrow we’ll finally get to tour downtown. 🙂

Now we have everything taken care of except the windshield. We’re hoping it will be done by the end of the week and then we’ll be on a direct route to Mesa, Arizona.

Life is much better now, thanks to these generous people.

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.

A Visit to the Historic Brockville Railway Tunnel


Here’s something many of you may not know:  the oldest railway tunnel in Canada still exists under the downtown core of my home town, Brockville, Ontario, located on the shores of the St Lawrence River at the eastern edge of The Thousand Islands.

Until the waterfront area at the bottom of Market Street was revitalized and turned into a venue for various family activities, I too was unaware of its existence, and even then doors to the entrance were always closed. Both the northern and southern portals have been upgraded and maintained by the City of Brockville, since the tunnel was acquired as part of a waterfront land deal between the City and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Several years ago a short portion at the southern entrance (about 80 feet) was upgraded and opened to the public during the day as a sort of museum.

In 2011 a committee of Brockville’s City Council was formed with the goal to open the tunnel end-to-end for residents and visitors and to eventually see the tunnel and its north gorge area connected as part of the Brock Trail system. Renovation construction started in August of 2016. On August 12, 2017, as part of the City’s Rails to Trails Festival and its Canada 150 celebrations, the renovated interior of the tunnel was opened to visitors to enjoy during the summer months.

This past Saturday, a beautiful autumn day, Jim and I joined my son and my brother, and his friend on the walk through. We were very impressed. The atmosphere has been complimented with music playing and sometimes the sounds of train wheels turning and whistles blowing. The strips of every changing coloured lights passing through the tunnel give the impression of train lights approaching and reflect off the stalagmites and dripping water on the walls.

Unfortunately, while packing to go to Brockville the day before, I neglected to check my camera. When I tried to shoot some photos, I discovered that I had left my SD card in my computer at home!  I had to rely on my cell phone. Next time I go I’ll make sure I have everything I need, including a tripod, but for now, here are a few shots.

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Southern Entrance

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Inside looking out

Some History

The tunnel was built between 1854 and 1860 to allow the fledging Brockville and Ottawa Railway to connect the Brockville industrial waterfront area to the outlying areas lying between the St Lawrence and Ottawa rivers.

On December 31 of 1860, the first small train, a wood-burning locomotive and two coaches came through the completed tunnel and the tunnel was officially open for traffic. The tunnel is arch-shaped, measuring 14 feet 9 inches from the top of the arch to the ground and 14 feet across. The overall length of the tunnel is 1721 feet in length and passes right under Brockville City Hall.

To learn more, click here: History of Brockville Railway Tunnel