From Ontario to Missouri

We got off to a late start on Friday, with temperatures well below freezing. We had to wait for the furnace on the motor home to warm things up a bit before loading electronics and some liquids. Then, once the sun started to melt the snow on the roof, we discovered a leak around the newly replaced window. That meant that, once we were loaded, we had to make a quick detour back to the glass place for a fix.

We were just about at Hwy 115 when we ran into Tim Horton’s for what may be the last of our favourite coffee for a while. Jim had a conversation with a fellow biker while waiting in line, and he gave him some good advice – spray the bike with PAM to protect it from the snow and salt! That’s a tip he hadn’t heard before, and since there was plenty of salt on the roads when we left, we decided that a trip back to a grocery store for that always useful vegetable spray would be worthwhile. At 3:00 pm, just an hour and a half after we’d left our driveway, we were finally on our way.

Leaving The Snow

Leaving The Snow Behind

The roads were clear and the driving uneventful, but traffic was heavy and slow going through Toronto. We also drove into a bright sun for the later part of the afternoon. A stop in Milton for dinner didn’t make much difference in the traffic, and by 8:30 Jim was tired enough to call it a night. We spent that first night in our “new home” in a Flying J parking lot at St. Thomas, which was what we’d expected to do since there are no camp grounds or RV Parks open in Ontario this time of year.

We were up and eating breakfast at Denny’s by 6:00 am on Saturday. By 8:00 am we were crossing the border into the USA at Sarnia, with no problems. The rest of the day was unexciting, until we pulled into a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Bloomington Michigan for dinner. Jim still had his foot on the gas pedal when a black car pulled up beside us and the driver motioned Jim to open his window. The fellow began a whole sob story about how he needed money for food and gas so he could get back home for Thanksgiving, or after, I’m not sure which. He offered his driver’s licence and registration as proof of his worthiness. When Jim said he couldn’t help him, he immediately backed up beside another car, then another, tearing around the parking lot like a maniac. He drove a newer looking large car. I wondered if begging was how he managed to pay for it. When we got into the restaurant and reported him, others had already beaten us to it and he was sent on his way. We parked in a TA Truck Stop that night.

This morning we decided it was time for a shower. We can’t fill our water tanks until they’ve been drained of the antifreeze, and we have a source of water, which will require a campsite with hookups. So we took advantage of the showers offered by TA. This was our first experience with this and it took several tries before we figured out how to do it. We had to pay ($13.00 each) at a kiosk to get a pass code to the private shower rooms. While we paid for the first one, a very nice trucker came by and said that he had extra shower credits that he would be glad to give us. He used his membership card to purchase the second shower for us. Somehow, we ended up with a third ticket. The friendly and helpful girl who looked after the showers spoke on our behalf and got us a refund on the one we’d actually paid for. The day was off to a good start, and the lovely warm, soft water, fresh towels and extremely clean shower room made it all the better. We were much later getting started today after all of this, but we were refreshed. Again the sun was shining. The country was flat and the drive a little boring until we crossed the bridge from Illinois to Missouri. Jim thought a side trip into St. Louis would be nice. I agreed, but worried a little about how we’d get around the city with our total of 46 feet of vehicles. My fears weren’t completely unfounded. We were trying to find a place to park near the Gateway Arch, and the waterfront. We started down one hill and could see the water at the bottom, but just as we hit the last block and approached a bridge, we saw the warning: Bridge height only 12ft. 2in.!

Low Bridge

I don’t think so!!

Now we aren’t sure just how high our new rig is, but it has to be close to that. So Jim had to back up the hill to the last intersection and turn the rig around! We then turned right, down another street that soon became a narrow road of cobblestones. For three blocks we slowly bumped over that before we found another street to take us to the waterfront. All along Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd, which borders the harbor, there were “No Parking, Tow-Away Zone” signs posted along the street. Several cars were parked there, but did we want to take a chance? Jim got out and talked to Santa Claus, a horse-drawn carriage driver, who told him where there was free RV parking further along the street.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus

What a beautiful day to get out and walk a bit. The temperature was around 20 degrees Celsius, apparently rare for this time of year. We took pictures of River Boats, and bridges, and the Arch; we took the tram to the top of the Arch and looked down. Two hours later, after getting lost once more, we found our way back to I-44 to continue our journey.

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch

Tonight we’ve taken the evening off, in Sullivan Missouri. If this weather keeps up, tomorrow night we will find a campground where we can get charged up and filled up for the rest of the trip. Branson Missouri is also on tomorrow’s agenda.

A special thanks to Denny’s Restaurants for the great meals and internet access.

My First Solo Travel Adventure

There have been a lot of rather depressing things on my mind lately, things I’ve been going to write about. Maybe I will, another day.  Today, it’s time for some adventure. Since I haven’t been anywhere new lately, I think I’ll travel back in time to a trip I made in 2000.

Friends of mine are now enjoying Thailand, and reading about their adventures, on Face Book, sent me in search of my journal that I wrote when I was there in August/September of 2000. At that time internet access was limited, there was no Face Book, nor did WordPress exist, and I actually travelled without being “connected” most of the time. Trips to Cybercafes, when I was in towns where they were available, were enough to let people back home know where I was and how I was doing.

There’s an inscription in the front of the homemade-paper journal that I used. It reads, “To my wonderful mother, on your 50th birthday. I hope this year provides many good things to write about. Love always, Sarah (March/2000)”

Sarah made the journal. At the time, neither of us knew that later that year she would also provide me with many things to write about. She and her husband were living in Bangkok at that time, teaching in an International School. When their three-year contract was coming to an end at the that August, Sarah generously offered to buy me a ticket to join them in Bangkok and accompany them on their last Thailand tour before they returned to Canada.

My adventure began on Sunday August 27th, 2000 when I boarded a late evening flight from Toronto to Los Angeles. From there I caught my thirteen hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan, and arrived there at 6:30 a.m. on August 29th. The temperature was already 26 degrees Celsius and it was raining.

I’d managed to get some sleep on the plane and filled the rest of the time watching two movies – at that time they were included in the price of the airfare, as were the meals. My travel companions were all Asians and most spoke little or no English. I suddenly knew what it felt like to be a minority. I was amazed by how quiet and well-behaved the many children on-board were, compared to the very uncontrollable child who ran her mother ragged and was constantly underfoot of the attendants on the Toronto-LA flight.

Afraid of venturing too far and not being able to find my way back, unable to speak the language to ask for help, I made my way to the loading gate for my final flight, and then spent the next six hours restlessly alternating between reading my book and playing solitaire (with cards!) while sitting either on the hard plastic chairs or on the floor.  There was not a vending machine to be found. I was alone most of the time, with people occasionally joining me for an hour or two while awaiting their connecting flights. At times I questioned my decision to accept Sarah’s offer.

Over the next few days, I’ll tell you why it was all worthwhile.