The McKenzie's Official world tour site
Saturday, 09 January 2010
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Niagara Falls and beyond...................in pictures!
Saturday, 28 November 2009 22:06:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) Canada | USA
Niagara Falls and beyond...................
After leaving Stevensville, we continued Macswayround by passing through Albion and Sterling Heights on our way back across the borders and into Canada.
In Ontario we stayed at London Line at the Country View RV Park and then got to Niagara Falls to stay at Scotts Trailor Park. We arrived here on Phil’s birthday- the first of us to have a second birthday in the time we have been away on Macswayround!
Niagara Falls made a great setting for some birthday celebrations, as we took the tour to go behind the falls and into the virtual falls experience! The sheer power and thundering noise of the water was totally mind- blowing and we could never imagine that anybody has survived the mighty tumble over the edge of the falls. It was great to see the Canadian Horse-Shoe Falls and the American Falls – it bought back good memories of Phil and I seeing these about 16 years ago, on a previous visit to the States. This has to be another unforgettable experience on Macswayround.
The butterfly Conservatory was a most beautiful place to visit as there was a mass of spectacular butterflies of all shapes and colours, whichever direction you looked into........
We also spent some time at an old favourite of our families – the Bird Kingdom. This complex actually included the largest indoor walk- through aviary in the world! There was a wide variety of birds, once again, of all sizes and colours and the Rainbow Lorikeets reminded us of our time in Australia and New Zealand too!
After journeying on some more we reached Mississauga and had a great time catching up with our buddies that we met a year ago on this very trip – when we were in Portugal and Munir and Lisa were busy taking a Camper van trip of their very own! It was great to be able to see them again – we always intended to meet again when we got back along to Ontario – but for it to actually happen was brilliant! Even more brilliant was that since seeing them, Lisa and Munir have got married and had a baby boy!! Welcome to the world –LITTLE HANI! Moments like this make us realise just how long we have been out here on the road!
The Fifty Point Conservation Area made a beautiful place to camp while we were on our way there and if we had had longer, we would have liked to get some fishing in there too!
A few days later we all travelled up to almost Petersborough together and our family gate- crashed at Lisa’s parent’s house! We would like to thank Munir, Lisa, Dave and Pat, for all of their hospitality. We all had a great time there, including a walk through the bush and excellent tucker (food!) We loved the homemade maple syrup, which they have tapped from their own trees!
We enjoyed a visit to Petersborough to climb up and take a look at the tallest hydraulic lift lock in the world (19.8 metres high)! An amazing piece of engineering –we only wish we had been there at the right time to watch it in action!
After more goodbyes and thanks, our next stop was north to Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. We were very happy to see another MOOSE and a fox too! We stayed at the only campsite still open at this time of year – Mew Lake Campground and set up what may well be our last campfire on Macswayround! We had chicken curry cooked on the campfire – even though it was getting very chilly!
Our last night in Canada, was spent in Kingston, at the Rideau Acres and this was very near to the U.S Border.
We entered back into the USA at New York State and travelled into Pennsylvania where we found the Shady Rest Campground at South Gibson. This had a beautiful setting in the woods and as the weather here is still unbelievably mild, the children collected more firewood! We were able to fit in one more campfire and some songs with the guitar, as we reminisce our journey and friends that we have met along our way.
The next day or so was spent packing our Nessie up, as we will soon have to leave her at the docks to begin her adventure home, to England. We drove through more of Pennsylvania and stayed in Lancaster County at Flory’s camping. This area is very interesting Amish Countryside and we would like to have had more time to discover more about this very traditional way of life – maybe next time! We did see a young lad working the land with horse drawn machinery, as we drove along.
We took Nessie to the docks in Baltimore and left her there for the few days before she sets sail homeward bound! Many thanks to Mike, in the Sea bridge Office for helping to make this part of our trip much less stressful! However - we were now left ‘homeless’ and it felt very strange!
We booked ourselves into a motel in Baltimore, just to take some breathing space and to decide upon our next moves!
It seemed to be quite tricky to rent a car for a one way journey across different States and so it was during the night in this motel, where Phil had an inspiration for us to fly from Baltimore to Boston! So – after waking up around 7am and finding out about this new idea – we were on a flight by 12.30pm the very same day! Typical of us – all very hot off the cuff actions and you just don’t know where we may end up next! Those best ideas always seem to blossom in the middle of the night too! The flight took just over one hour and got us to Boston safely. Ben says that this was his favourite flight so far, as it was a daytime flight, over interesting land and short enough to enjoy, rather than just being a means of transport from A to B.
We hired a car, easily in Boston, as we intend to return it to the Boston Airport just before we begin our flight journey homeward bound, also. We drove up through some more States – Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Maine, to see some more of the country before our time is up. We found great accommodation in Old Orchard Beach, at the Grand Beach Inn (many thanks to Munir for taking the time to help us search this place out!)
This seaside town is extremely busy during the summer season. From approximately 10,000 people here at the moment – there may be around 70,000 people here in the mid season! This suits us just fine – a seaside town approaching winter......but Jemma and Ben are not so impressed to see all the waterslides and attractions- closed for the season!
Never mind- hey – we are exploring the area and have enjoyed some footy and basketball in the park with our new Wilson ball!
Time is catching us up now and we shall soon have to wrap up Macswayround, just ready for Christmas 2009. We are using this time to reflect on the journey that we have all been a part of, tie up some loose ends and to reminisce on the priceless messages that we have learnt about life and our world, along our way......
We are all trying to sort out our mixed emotions about returning home and to the world that has become a world away from our current way of life.......we are obviously greatly looking forward to meeting up with everyone again, family and friends, and to see our ‘home’- but Nessie has been our home on the road and it will take an unknown amount of time for us all to re-adjust and re-enter our lives. It is very easy to suffer from itchy feet syndrome – and this is the part that we are trying to get a head- start in – during these final few weeks!!
We were very happy on Thanksgiving Day this year, as we got ourselves organised and booked in for a special meal at the restaurant, here at the Grand Beach Inn. We had a beautiful traditional meal and enjoyed the friendly Christmas atmosphere. It seems very early to us but in the States the run-up to Christmas begins from now onwards. This brought us back memories of this time last year when we were in Philadelphia and were not aware of the traditions of Thanksgiving Day...when we were hungry later on in the day – no food place was open as most people were celebrating the day with family and friends. We were waiting for Nessie to arrive back then and so after much searching we did find a Vietnamese Soup Kitchen – which was, incidentally, very tasty too!
A special thank-you to STEVE WRIGHT on BBC RADIO 2 – for reading out our email message and giving us a mention on Thanksgiving Day.
We have, once again, met some friendly people in and around Old Orchard Beach....and we thank everyone for their time and interest in our story and travels.
Saturday, 28 November 2009 21:57:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) Canada | USA
Niagara Falls and beyond...................
* Canadian Horse shoe falls- Length of brink – 2,600 feet
- Height – between 54-58 metres (176-188 feet)
-Volume of Water – 600,000 U.S gallons per second.........
* The Maid of the Mist Pool at the foot of these falls is as deep as the fall is high.
* American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls:
-Length of Brink: 1,060 feet
-Height: 176 feet
* -Volume of Water: 150,000 U.S gallons per second..............
* Twenty percent of the world’s freshwater lie in the Great Lakes, and most flows over the falls.
* Old Orchard Beach is a VERY popular seaside vacation destination for Canadians in the summer and the town’s population rises dramatically through
the summer months.
* Algonquin is Ontario’s first Provincial Park, established in 1893.
* The area of Algonquin is 7,630 square kilometres.
* There are 2,456 lakes found in Algonquin: 1,099 are named and 1,357 are unnamed.
* On average, the west side of Algonquin has 84 frost-free days and the east side has 105 frost-free days.
* In 1782, then President Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey as the USA National Symbol – however it was pipped to the post by the Bald Headed .
* Over Thanksgiving, an estimated 46-50 million turkeys will be eaten in the USA!
* The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in the USA in 1621, and Abraham Lincoln declared it an annual event in 1863. However, Congress did not
declare that this would be a National Holiday until 1941.
* The first Thanksgiving Parade to take place at Macey’s in New York was in 1924. Now an estimated 44 million people watch the parade, both in
New- York and World-Wide.
Saturday, 28 November 2009 21:46:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) Canada | USA
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Wildlife around Stevensville.....
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 14:20:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
STEVENSVILLE IN PICTURES
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 14:06:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Stevensville and beyond.......
We are sorry for the lack of blog updates recently-we hope to be able to catch up shortly........
We had a fantastic time in Stevensville, Michigan, catching up with family and friends there. Phil’s brother Steve, even managed to squeeze in a wedding while we were there-and so we would like to send our congratulations and welcome Penny to the McKenzie Clan! Friends in Stevensville came together and did them proud - A Halloween wedding – so no excuse with forgetting the ‘ole wedding anniversary!
Unfortunately we all spent a while of our time in Stevensville being ill – coughs, colds, fevers – we all seemed to get the works......this is the ONLY time on Macswayround that the bugs have managed to catch us up – usually we have been able to out-run them, as we usually do not spend long in any one place!!
During our time around Stevensville, we also spent time at the Love Creek Country Park and the Sarett Nature Centre, where we enjoyed a wide range of autumnal scenery and wildlife. We would also like to thank these brave souls who let Jemma and Ben spend some time with them during our time in Stevensville - Steve, Penny, Alex, Anita, Jack, Judy and hubbie and Vic!
After the wedding we said our fond farewells to everybody and Nessie was back on the road again! At least it was not as chilly for her, as last year’s visit to Michigan!!
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 13:56:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Stevensville and beyond.......
• Michigan is first in the United States production of peat and
Magnesium compounds and second in gypsum and iron ore.
• Although Michigan is often called the Wolverine State,
there are no longer any wolverines in Michigan.
(However, one was spotted in 2007, so there are some.)
• The Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit manufactured the first Air-conditioned car in 1939
• Michigan State University has the largest single campus student body of any Michigan university. It is the largest institution of higher learning in the state and one of the largest universities in the country.
• The Mackinac Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. Connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. It spans 5 miles over the Straits of Mackinac, which is where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. The Mighty Mac took 3 years to complete and was opened to traffic in 1957.
• Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world.
• Michigan has more shoreline than any other state except Alaska.
• Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes and more than 36,000 miles of streams.
• Standing anywhere in the state a person is within 85 miles of one of the Great Lakes.
• Michigan includes 56,954 square miles of land area; 1,194 square miles of Inland waters; and 38,575 square miles of Great Lakes water area.
• Four flags have flown over Michigan -- French, English, Spanish and United States.
• In 1929, the Michigan State Police established the first state police radio system in the world.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 13:55:05 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Stevensville and beyond.......
• American Robins
• Blue Jays
• White Brest Nuthatches
• Male and female Northern Cardinals
• Tufted Tit-Mice
• American Goldfinches
• Male and female Downy Woodpeckers
• Carolina Chickadees
• Females Purple Finches
• Black Capped Chickadees
• Mourning Doves
• Black Squirrels
• Red Bellied Woodpeckers
• Red Squirrels
• Northern Yellow Shafted Flicker
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 13:53:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
CALLING..... CALLING..........we are trying to get into contact with Sandy and Margaret from Vermont, who we met in Alaska, earlier this year..........we could be in your area soon and wondered if we could meet up again? Please send a message if you get this in time!!
Thursday, 22 October 2009 16:05:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Montana and beyond in pics!
Thursday, 22 October 2009 16:04:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
All the way to Michigan........
SO- we made it out of MONTANA!! Nothing personal but we would not want to out-stay our welcome!
We first travelled through to Billings and camped at Trailer Village and then went off to see the “Little Bighorn Battlefield”. After studying this event for my GCSE’s, the battle and events of that time all make a little more sense to me now that we have visited the site. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was only 34 years old when he commanded a regiment of 1,200 men on the 1876 expedition to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The expedition lasted 60 days, 48 of those spent marching an average of 18 miles per day. Twelve days were spent resting and a total of 880 miles was covered in the 60 days. Custer decided to split his regiment into groups and was unprepared for the great number and fighting power of the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians that his group of approximately 220, were to meet their deaths at the hands of......when the guns fell silent and the smoke and dust of the battle had lifted, no U.S Cavalry soldier had survived......this event is very significant in history, as although the Indians won this battle, they subsequently lost the war against the military’s efforts to end their independent and nomadic way of life.
The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming was a very unusual National Monument. Today, the massive columns are popular with climbers. Approximately 5,000 climbers visit in a year and there are over 220 routes that have been used in climbing the tower! The Junior Ranger programme was carried out to the best of abilities – in the snow!
The Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota was another hit for the budding Junior Rangers and we are sure that we saw a cougar footprint in the snowy trail around the grounds.
In Custer, South Dakota, we camped at the French Creek Camp and we would like to thank Rock and Diane for being able to help us out once again. Phil has been unable to purchase any new footware in our time away – as he needs to have a heel raise. Rock and his Shoe Repair shop(Cobblers) were able to help Phil to get some dry boots, in all this snow!
Mount Rushmore, was to us another place that we had heard of – but it meant so much more to see it ‘for real’. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum was given the task of designing and overseeing the creation of the President’s sculptures on Mount Rushmore. The memorial commemorates four significant presidents who worked towards the foundation, preservation, and continental expansion of the United States. First, was the very first U.S President, George Washington, who was commander of the Revolutionary Army. Second was Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, third President and the mastermind of the Louisiana Purchase. Thirdly, Theodore Roosevelt, who promoted construction of the Panama Canal and as 26th President also ignited progressive causes such as conservation and economic reform. Finally, we saw the face of America’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, whose leadership restored the Union and ended slavery on U.S soil. The sculptures were worked upon for 6 and a -half years. However, due to financial constraints and the seasonal nature of the work, the whole project was not completed for a total of 14 years – 1927-1941.It is now recognised as a National Memorial......
Onwards we travelled – staying a night along the Cheyenne River, through more of South Dakota. At Sioux Falls, we stayed at the Red Barn RV Park and we all enjoyed meeting Rascal the Raccoon!
As we trekked further through Minnesota and into Wisconsin (we are on a mission!) we stopped off at La Crosse, and the Pettibone Resort along the Mississippi River.
So we got into Michigan, through Wisconsin, Minnesota, some more of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and finally Michigan – we made it to meet back with Phil’s brother Steve and Penny – all set just right for a Saturday night!! And all the rest, as they say, is history! Five States in a day – no worries!!
We shall have to return to see more of those States that we whizzed through – as our time is running short this time and we are sure they also have lots to offer!
Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:59:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
All the way to Michigan........
• At the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, the scattered marble markers record the approximate locations where the Seventh Cavalry soldiers, scouts and civilians fell in battle against Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on 25-26th June, 1876.
• Custer National Cemetery contains burials that are historic to Northern Plains events as well as burial of veterans and dependents from 1879-present.
• The Devil’s Tower was proclaimed by President Theodore Roosevelt as America’s first National Monument on September 24th, 1906. It may also be referred to as a ‘Natural Monument’.
• The Devil’s Tower began its creation about 50 million years ago, as molten magma was forced into sedimentary rocks above it and cooled underground. Today the tower rises 867 feet from its base and stands 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.
• There are many different versions, from each local Indian tribe, that tells a legend of how the Devil’s Tower came into being. The Tower is considered sacred by many American Indians and plays an important role in many of their stories, and traditional cultural beliefs.
• The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, a type of burrowing rodent, is a social animal that lives with many others in ‘towns’. The Prairie Dog town at Devil’s Tower National Monument is approximately 40 acres in size. Prairie-dog tunnels may extend downward from 3-10 feet and then horizontally for another 10-15 feet.
• In 1927, then President, Calvin Coolidge dedicated the worksite at Mount Rushmore with the words, “ The union of these four Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt & Lincoln) carved on the face of the ever-lasting Black Hills of South Dakota.....will be distinctly American in its conception, in its magnitude, in its meaning.....”
• “A monument’s dimensions should be determined by the importance to civilisation of the events commemorated .....Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what matter of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.” (Gutzon Borglum, Master Sculptor).
• During the fourteen years of construction, over 360 men worked on the Mount Rushmore, with an average of 35 men working at any one time.
• The faces of the 4 President’s are 60 feet from chin to forehead. The Sparkle in Lincoln’s eye is a block of granite 12 inches long!
• Mount Rushmore was named, in the 1880’s after a New York Lawyer who was being driven through the Black Hills. He happened to ask the name of the particular mountain, and as it had no name, it was decided have it named after him. Rushmore later donated $5,000 towards the carving of the monument that bore his name.
• The Jewel Caves in South Dakota are among the longest known caves in the world. It was given National Monument status by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.
Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:58:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
All the way to Michigan........
• Mountain Goats
• Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs
• Red Squirrels
• Cougar footprint in the snow?
• White-Tailed Deer
• Prong-Horned Antelope
• Wild Turkeys
Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:57:17 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
All the way to Michigan........
• Most of the reasons why Montana’s official nickname is ‘TheTreasure State’ are located in Gold West Country, where gold, silver, copper and sapphires may be found.
• The Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, may be the world’s most famous geyser! The eruption heights range from 106 feet to more than 180 feet, averaging 130 feet. 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water are expelled per eruption, depending on the length of the eruption.
• Just prior to eruption, water temperatures at the vent of the Old Faithful reach 204 degrees F (95.6 degrees C).
Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:56:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
All the way to Michigan........
CALLING..... CALLING..........we are trying to get into contact with Sandy and Margaret from Vermont, who we met in Alaska, earlier this year..........we could be in your area soon and wondered if we could meet up again? Please send a message if you get this in time!!
Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:54:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Yellowstone and Beyond-in Pictures.......
Saturday, 10 October 2009 06:59:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Bozeman to Bozeman............................
We had a comfortable night in the Bear Valley RV Park at Bozeman, and were happy when our West Yellowstone friends popped in to pay us a visit! They were even brave enough to offer to take our children to the toy shop and Jemma and Ben are still eternally grateful!
As we left Bozeman – Livingston bound, Nessie decided to have another rest, along the high-way. We met Joe (of Millers Towing, Bozeman), who towed us all along to Livingston and to the Yellowstone Country (Sprinter Dealership). Everyone here was also extremely kind to us and we got settled into a spot right outside the garage.
To cut a very long story short – and after many phone calls from Dave (the Service Manager), it was discovered that the USA only have a very limited number of data leads and software, needed for a Mercedes Benz, to read a fault in the computerised transmission system.. We would need this to be able to ‘read’ the system and determine what Nessie’s trouble was......we left it in capable hands and took a walk around Livingston, where we found a park for the children to use some energy.
We were kindly loaned a car and took the stranded opportunity to have a very full day back in the Yellowstone National Park. It was great to see the geysers, boiling mud and steaming pools, especially the cave that sounds as if a dragon lives inside there! The children did their work to become Yellowstone Junior Rangers and we watched the Old Faithful Geyser erupt into the rainbow filled skies. We saw a variety of wildlife throughout the day, including a black wolf.
Back in Livingstone it was determined that we would have to move 220 miles further west to the Mercedes Dealership in Missoula, as they were able to get the necessary permission from Mercedes and to be sent the diagnostic equipment. We met Joe for the second time (NO thanks to Good Sams RV Roadside Assistance , who refused to cover our next tow), and Joe kindly towed us all on, to the one and only Mercedes dealer in Montana, (Demarois of Missoula). Well, actually, Phil found himself driving the tow truck, across Montana, with Nessie on the back, for 100 miles or so! This was to give Joe a break as he would be turning around to head home and this was very strange as Phil had mentioned to us about how he would love to drive truck in Montana –just as soon as we had gotten here a couple of weeks ago! The roads are so big and so empty....another dream come true.........
We would like to thank Linda (customer Services) and Dan (service manager) for all their help towards getting us back on the road!
Another stranded weekend, this time in Missoula, so we explored the town and all enjoyed a swim at Currents.
Come Monday morning and Dan was able to use the diagnostic software to determine a problem with the electric pump, in the transmission system. Due to more red tape, and the fact that this part was ‘not allowed’ access into the USA from Mercedes.......we had to make do with a whack of the hammer to get Nessie going again! This method was successful until Cardwell RV Park and then the next day Nessie was feeling worse. We eased her back to Bozeman and back to, our now good friend– Joe the tow truck driver’s and his workshop!
Phil had to go ahead and order the part from England and we would like to thank Alex, of Western Truck Rental, in Devon, for all his time and trouble, for the second time on our travels. As we waited in Bozeman for the part to arrive, we would like to thank Joe and his wife Sharlene, for taking such good care of us all. Phil has enjoyed spending time with Joe and being involved in yet more towing work and mechanics back in the garage!!Nothing like being put back to work!
We were kindly lent another vehicle and landed back to see our West Yellowstone friends for a long weekend! We all enjoyed spending more time with the family and Phil got to do more towing work with Craig of Westgate Towing. The children were pleased to go to the boy’s school for lunch time and it was strange to take the time to remember what a school setting looks like!
Upon leaving West Yellowstone, we cruised 32 miles back into Yellowstone National Park and we felt like we had been here – done that –as our loaned car came to an abrupt stop! What is it with us and Yellowstone? We sure know some tow truck driver’s around here now ...and as we had no cell phone reception – Phil was kindly given a lift to a nearby ranch – and after a phone call we were back in the hands of Joe! Phil got a lift back to us and had a good chat with Sisco and Aaron. The word of mouth between locals is fantastic around here and we need to say thanks to Westgate Towing, who had also been alerted to our troubles and were already on the way to rescue us themselves!
Back in Bozeman and the snow really took hold- Jemma and Ben loved to have time back in the snow! Our ‘PART’ arrived on time (THANK-YOU ALEX) and Phil was able to mend Nessie himself! (With the help of Joe, his workshop, and his tools!) We were taken aback to see that the part in question was actually made in Italy. Our test drive run was a moment to go down in history – maybe we shall be able to leave Montana after all!! – Only kidding – we love it really!!
So - after being shipped to and fro, to garage after garage and 3 weeks, to the day, after breaking down in Yellowstone National Park – we were officially back on the road again and Macswayround continues!! We need to send special thanks, once again –to Dave (of Yellowstone Country, Livingstone), Dan and Linda (of Demarois, Missoula), Joe and Sharlene (of Millers Towing, Bozeman), and to Craig and Stephanie (of Westgate Towing, West Yellowstone), for really helping out a stranded family in their time of need! We were not leaving until we had purchased a set of tyre chains – as this white stuff really means business......
So- there we go on the update – lots of technical hitches for us in the last few weeks but we are strong believers in fate - everything has a purpose and all of this was meant to be. We now have special friends in Montana –and we will be back!! Please remember our door is always open to those special people we have met, so far, on MACSWAYROUND– if only we could return some of your favours.......
Saturday, 10 October 2009 06:33:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Bozeman to Bozeman............................
• White-Tailed Deer
• Black Wolf
• Prong-Horn Antelope
• Chip monks
• Ferruginous Hawk
Saturday, 10 October 2009 06:31:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Thursday, 01 October 2009
Montana Skies in pics.....
Thursday, 01 October 2009 04:29:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
As we drove peacefully through Montana- we sure could see why it has a ‘big sky’. It is a very large State, with less than 1 million residents spread right out over a place where life seems to be very easy going!
Waterton National Park continued to be very scenic and we had also been recommended to see Glacier National Park. However, we were not able to travel through the main route of Glacier as Nessie exceeded the length limits of the road!
As we continued to enjoy the scenery – our next views were to catch us by surprise. The Cascade Canyon had the most unusual and spectacular rock formations, with a calm flowing river carving its way through. We simply had to stay here and ventured further into the canyon to see what else we could find! The Prewett State Park was just over the road from the Missouri Inn. We met Buzz and Mike, across at the pub, and as the weather was gorgeous and the scenery magnificent, we decided to stay on there!
The call of the river was far too appealing and the children and Phil carried our dingy boat and supplies up river for almost two miles, just to be able to float back down river to base camp! They all had an amazing time and I was able to film them cruising around the final bend, only a couple of metres away from two white-tailed deer, who were busy grazing on the river bank.
We would like to thank Fred and Arlena, who gave us a guided tour of their newly built house, and we send our congratulations to them on the success of all of their hard work.
Our journey was to take us out of Montana (for a while!) and into the State of Idaho. The Snake River RV Park, in Idaho Falls, was very welcoming and we enjoyed our stay.
The next day, we made it into the world famous (first ever National Park in the USA!) YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK! We stayed over at the Madison Campground and really enjoyed an interesting, amusing and informative Ranger talk that evening. The theme was to do with the resident animals in Yellowstone and the changes that they are going through right now, in the fall, as they prepare themselves for the harshest season of all – WINTER. Some animals have already migrated, others are gathering supplies and some are getting ready to hibernate. It was very interesting as we thought of how each animal has adapted its life to prepare for the oncoming season. We were very proud of our children as they answered relevant animal questions correctly, and this was only complimented by some fellow Brits who were also visiting Yellowstone. These people visited with us at the end of the presentation to say ‘well done’ to the children and that this was the first time that they had felt proud to be British, since they have been here in the States! Thank-you so much!
The next day we were all up and ready early, to go and explore Yellowstone! Our day in Yellowstone was soon to be chopped short by an unexpected course of events! As we had just reached the beginning of steaming ground –and volcanic activity that reminded us so much of Rotorua, in New Zealand, where we were earlier this year, we stopped to take a photo......
Nessie must have thought it was time for a rest and refused to go again as we left that pull in.......a Ranger called the truck and Nessie was being towed for the first time on Macswayround....Thank-you to Matt for rescuing us and for taking us to Westgate Auto-body and Towing who were also extremely helpful. After some phone calls, it was determined that Nessie had a computer transmission hitch and would need to go to a garage 80 miles over the way, and as this was Friday afternoon, it was looking like we had a stranded weekend ahead of us all.
We are strong believers in fate, and this weekend was just another example of how Nessie and Macswayround has worked for us.....as the owners of the Towing business, Craig and Stephanie were extremely kind to a stranded family and invited us to stay over with them!
First, we enjoyed a lunch with Craig and Stephanie and then took some time to see the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre, in West Yellowstone. Our thanks also, to Randy who took his time to show us around and explain about their residents and aims of the centre. We saw the biggest grizzly bears we have EVER seen here and learnt a lot about their daily routines and general welfare which helps to make their life as natural to them as possible.
This weekend was really meant to happen, as, after a lovely evening, with barbequed elk for tea, we hope that we have made some more really great friends. It is very strange how this world takes you along your life ..... The next day we had great fun, catching up with this family, with children of very similar ages to ours, who were also having a fab time. We went to the lake with a Jet Ski Bike-and everyone was well entertained for the afternoon! The weather was perfect and the very strange thing is that Nessie decided to work for this lake trip and so she appeared to be all better again!
The children enjoyed ‘sleepovers’ in the house with their new found friends, and we gate-crashed in the driveway for two nights!
Late on a Saturday night, Phil even found himself out on a ‘wrecker call’ with Craig! The local Sheriff had called to say a fifth wheeled trailer had been abandoned in the middle of the highway! It was like old times for Phil to be called out on ‘a breakdown’ and it reminded him of his garage days as he got involved to work through technical hitches that presented themselves on the side of the road. Phil found himself loving it all over again!
We would like to extend our special thanks to Craig, Stephanie and family, for giving us all the opportunity to get to know each other and we know that we shall all meet again – sooner rather than later!!
We said our goodbyes and set off for Bozeman – just a little closer to the garage where we need to get Nessie checked over.........
Thursday, 01 October 2009 04:24:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
• In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the act that made Yellowstone the first National Park, thereby protecting it “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”.
• Yellowstone Park is 2.2 million acres (more than 3,000 square miles). That is bigger than the States of Rhode Island and Delaware combined!
Thursday, 01 October 2009 04:22:27 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
WILDLIFE HITS- Continued:
• European Starlings
• Belted Kingfishers
• Cedar Waxwing
• White-tailed deer
• Western Kingbird
• American White Pelican
• Hooded Merganser Duck
• Brown Trout
• Red-Tailed Hawk
Thursday, 01 October 2009 04:20:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Friday, 31 July 2009
USA to CANADA in Pics......
Friday, 31 July 2009 08:23:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada | USA
San Francisco to Canada.......
We left Vallejo (near San Francisco) after 1 year and 1 day on Macswayround! This travelling life is proving to be very favourable to us all!
We found the Wine Country RV Park at Rohnert Park, still in California. It has been much busier this time around in the USA, being mid-summer, and so it has not always been so easy to find a camp spot. However- perseverance has paid off!
We spent some time in the Redwood National Forest and State Parks and the children did some more work to become Junior Rangers here – as they have enjoyed doing at each available park. Here, we walked amongst the TALLEST trees in the world and we went on a hike with ‘Ranger Renee!’ In human terms the Redwoods are ‘timeless’. This area was also Big Foot territory – so we kept our eyes open wide!
As we continued our journey, the Mad River Rapids RV Park at Arcata was our last stop in California. Across the Stateline and into Oregon and we stopped off in Brookings.
The next day, north of Florence, we took a look at the ‘Sea –Lion Cave’ – the largest Sea- Cave in the world! A lift took us down the 208 foot drop to a viewing area. The cave was jam packed inside with Stellar Sea-lions, where the fishy smell was immensely over-powering! It was wonderful to see the sea-lions, once again in their naturally chosen environment.
In Waldport, at the Handy Haven RV Park, we enjoyed spending time with John, Becky and a toddling Nina! We shared their camp fire and had an extended happy hour, toasting marsh mallows! It was great to have happy hours back again and maybe we will meet again along our travels!
We decided to head inland for a while to get some more of the hot stuff before we get too far north! At McMinnville, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum was very entertaining. It is now home to the ‘Spruce Goose’. This is the world’s largest wooden airplane and has the largest wing span. It was built by Howard Hughes and co-incidentally the plane is not made from spruce at all – but 95% birch!
We camped at the Tri – Mountain RV Park in Ridgefield, before taking a big drive the next day which took us through Seattle. It was not raining in Seattle which was lucky as it is renowned for being a very soggy place!
We found Creekside Camping at a place named Concrete and the children built a dam in the river.
Taking a little detour, the North Cascades National Park gave more Junior Ranger Fun! We took a river loop walk and found out more about yet another amazingly wild place. Over 94% of the land located within this park is designated to the Stephen Mather Wilderness and there are over 400 miles of hiking trails! The National Parks help create a link between the past and a safe-guard to the future.....
We rested at the Cedars RV Park in Ferndale and enjoyed a happy hour with Norman and Margaret and got some advice on Canadian ways!
The next day we were ready and we crossed the border into Canada! Another stamp in our passports! At Hope we saw the Visitor Centre and Museum. Hope is home to many movies as the setting is very favourable, including ’Rambo 1- First Blood’, in 1982. We discovered that the First Nations people were also referred to as Aborigine which was interesting, and in Hope, the first nation people were called ‘Sto:lo (meaning ‘people of the river’ in the Salish language).
Anderson Creek Campground, in the Fraser Canyon was our first taste of a Canadian camp spot and it was lovely! Maybe those were signs that a bear had paid a visit to a tenting party just down by the river- side?
Later, at Willow Springs Campground near Clinton, Jemma and Ben tried out our new Challenger dingy on a perfectly calm lake! We got some good Alaskan travel advice from our Canadian neighbours.
McLeese Lake Resort gave Phil his chance to go fishing in the dingy! This lake was too big to let the children loose in, as they need a spot more practice at rowing first! We would like to thank the McLeese Resort for donating our camp fee as we are continuing to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance.
Prince George was our next port of call in our trek north, and to the Hartway RV Park.
We found another place named Mackenzie and had an amazing time! At a quiet river, Phil caught 3 fish and we saw 3 Bald Headed Eagles – YES! Another BIG wildlife hit was a female moose –chumping at the grasses and standing leg deep in a lake – double YES! We watched quietly as she continued her daily business! This is what Canada is all about for us and in Ben’s words – ‘This is what MACSWAYROUND is all about!’ At the river a couple of quad bikes came through as they headed back down from a nearby mountain. They stopped for a chat as Nessie is a bit conspicuous –bless her! Al and Pete recommended that we visit a sandy beached lake and Al even came back around to show us the way there! Thanks! They said that they had been making the most of this beautiful weather as they were used to having 20 foot of snow in Mackenzie! The children had a dip and then we headed to another recommendation- Williston Lake. This was the landing place of explorer Alexander Mackenzie who was the first European to trek here in 1793. He and his team were looking for a North West Passage and surveying the Rocky Mountains. There was a beautiful camp spot by the lake and the dingy was made use of once more.
The scenery which we passed through from Mackenzie to Chetwynd was absolutely stunning – Mother Nature doing what she does-at her very best. The contrasting colours were a continuous picture and this really is a magical time of year to be exploring Canada!
We arrived into Dawson Creek and stayed at the Northern Lights RV Park. Phil ‘dressed’ Nessie in preparation for her adventure- Alaska bound! She now has a protective matting taped to her bonnet and very thick plastic stuck to her headlights. Stone chips are a big problem on these types of dusty roads and a cracked light would cause major hassle as we would not be able to replace them in either country (they point the other way to the locals!) Prevention is better than cure-we hope!
More about Dawson Creek – next time!!
Friday, 31 July 2009 07:28:44 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada | USA
FACTIODS-San Francisco, USA to Mackenzie, Canada
* Coastal Redwood trees can soar to more than 370 feet tall, but they are not the only tree that grows tall in a Redwood forest. Douglas-Fir trees have grown even taller; one record breaker in British Columbia measured 400 feet!
* The Banana Slug (Ariolimax Columbianus) does good work as a decomposer and further benefits the forest by spreading seeds and spores through their waste. It is amazing that Banana slugs eat anything – apart from Redwood seeds and seedlings.
* The Redwood National and State Parks are pretty special places as they are home to 45% of all protected old-growth Redwood forests remaining in California. Only 4% of 2 million acres remain today, since logging first began in 1850.
* The formation of the amazing sea lion cave began over 25 million years ago. The interior now soars to the height of a 12 story building and stretches for the full length of a football field, making it the world’s largest sea-cave!
* The North Cascade National Park complex contains over 300 glaciers (which is more than any other park in the 48 contiguous states). The mountains of the North Cascades are one of the snowiest places on Earth, with Mount Shuksan being commonly referred to as the most photographed mountain in the world!
• To forge a route through the Fraser Canyon proved to be one of the most difficult highway projects in the province of British Columbia. Seven tunnels had to be blasted through the rock but with that difficulty- came the birth of the breathtaking Fraser Canyon Highway.
• MACKENZIE – is known as the gateway to Northern Rocky Adventure!
• The Williston Lake at Mackenzie covers an area of 166,000 hectares (410,000 acres) and is British Columbia’s largest reservoir. It is also Canada’s largest man-made lake.
• Mackenzie is home to the World’s largest tree crusher! This giant 175 ton machine was used in the 1960’s to clear non-merchantable timber from the Rocky Mountain trench prior to the creation of Williston Lake. It has sat idle since then and is now a popular roadside attraction!
Friday, 31 July 2009 07:25:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada | USA
USA WILDLIFE HITS
USA WILDLIFE HITS:
• Swallow –tailed butterflies
• Mule Deer
• Californian Sea-Lions
• Stellar Sea-Lions
• Blue Jays
• Brown Pelican
• Great Egret
• American Robin
• Californian Quail
• Black Oyster Catcher
• Pigeon Guillemot
• Rock Dove
• Anna’s Hummingbird
• Acorn Woodpecker
• White-Headed Jay
• American Crow
Friday, 31 July 2009 07:18:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Monday, 27 July 2009
Friday, 24 July 2009
BACK TO THE USA ON MACSWAYROUND!
We arrived back into the USA, after a very long journey from New Zealand! We were able to take a final glimpse of Australia as we stopped off in Sydney for a while before catching our onward flight. After approximately 23 hours we were met at LAX, Los Angeles – by our ever faithful friends, Tim and Sylvia. They were, once again, extremely hospitable to us all and we enjoyed several days at their house where we could acclimatise, recover from jet lag and organise ourselves for the next leg of Macswayround!
During our time at Huntington Beach (which remains The Surf City of The USA!), Tim very kindly drove us to Victorville and there we saw NESSIE (our RV/ Camper!)–still resting in the desert town just as we had left her, all those months ago! The re-union was very emotional to us as Nessie is obviously such an enormous part of Macswayround and very special to us all. Especially as she had not been with us for our ‘down under’ leg of the journey –as was originally planned. It felt almost like we were ‘home again’ and it was like Christmas when we explored around to find the things that we had stored away and forgotten about! We would like to thank Bear Valley Storage in Victorville for taking such good care of our second home! The children have been over the moon to delve into their toy boxes and to be able to ride their bikes again!
We were fortune to have landed back into the USA just days before 4th July – Independence Day- and enjoyed the Huntington Beach Parade in the morning of that day. Following the parade, we were happy to be invited, along with Tim and Sylvia, to their friend’s home for a party! We would like to thank Bob and Marty for their hospitality and it was very interesting for us to experience, first hand, such an important day in the history of the USA. We do hope that no permanent damage has been caused to your house and /or possessions as a result of letting us (well particularly me!) loose in a Dart’s match! Just turning the computer monitor around was just not quite enough protection – now was it?! Jemma and Ben would also like to extend thanks for the swimming pool and playmates as they made use of the pool for almost 7 hours – only popping out to be fed and watered from time to time! It was great to be able to meet more of Tim and Sylvia’s friends and to enjoy a ‘girl’s night out’ movie with Sylvia and Paula too. As it was pointed out to me-that evening was the first in a long while that I had been away from the family and it was very strange!
My Nan was also celebrating a very special birthday at the same time, back home in England and so we would like to extend our love and good wishes to Nana on the occasion of her 90th birthday. We were all partying along with you in spirit, just a few miles apart.
Nessie had a service – a wise move prior to our trek north – Alaska bound. Our thanks to Paul -at the Huntington Beach Dodge Dealership.
So after more farewells-Nessie and Macswayround was back on the road again! We are eternally grateful to Tim and Sylvia and look forward to being able to return at least some of the favour, back in Devon, one day!
Following a final stock pile of supplies and a stop at Bakersfield Palm RV Resort, we reached Lemon Cove – in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains- an immense range of continuous rock. We had a great time at the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park-home to the biggest trees in the world! We visited the largest tree (in overall volume) in the world –a Sequoia named General Sherman. To be in the presence of one of the oldest living things on this Earth, left us with feelings of awe and wonder. Not only this tree, but complete groves and acres and acres of big trees create numerous walks amongst these natural giants. The National Park Rangers prefer to think of all the trees as a whole immense of wonder – rather than to worry about which tree is biggest or tallest, as this changes frequently. We were mesmerised as we considered all of the extreme weather conditions that nature has ever thrown at these trees, including fire, which they have not only encountered – but lived through! Some of these trees were actually living on Earth BC and are still living strong today. It left an amazing feeling of all that has gone before us.......
We even walked through a tunnelled sequoia that was created years ago to enable stage coaches to pass along the route and plenty of other smaller tunnelled trees along the forest pathways.
We were extremely lucky to be able to camp right there within the National Park- at Dorst Creek – in Black Bear Territory! All food and products with a tempting smell had to be stored in Bear-Proof lockers. This made the camping experience ‘very real’ and we settled in for the night with a feeling of in trepidation! With bears in the camp grounds and surrounding meadows on those days, we were not in the right place at the right time....... Looks like we shall have to wait awhile for our much anticipated sighting-no worries!
Yosemite National Park was our next stop in California and this has to rate highly in our Macswayround Hotspots! The scenery was nothing short of spectacular with a variety of sheers granite faces, mountains, crystal rivers and cascading water- falls. It is world –famous for its unusual rock formations and has massive cliff faces named El Capitan and Half Dome.
Out of the National Park back- drops for a while and into the rush of San Francisco City. We spent our DAY 365 here – YES – we have survived one whole year on MACSWAYROUND so far! We stayed at Tradewinds RV Park in Vallejo and could then enjoy a pleasant ferry ride into the city – letting someone else tackle the driving for a while! The ferry dropped us along the Fisherman’s Wharf and we took a stroll along the way.....we took a cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge and circled the Alcatraz Island. The tour gave lots of information about the island and the history of its infamous and high- security prison. Alcatraz was nicknamed – “The Rock” and we heard many stories about life on the island as a prison officer or as an inmate and tales of the 36 prisoners who tried to escape during the prison’s 29 operational years. It was deemed to be the final straw for inmates who were transferred to this prison, as they were unsuitable for any other ........criminals such as Al Capone and Robert (the Birdman) Stroud......
On Pier 39 we walked around the corner and were surprised to see approximately 200 California Sea Lions, lying out on the K.Docks! Apparently, they came here in droves in 1990 and have taken over the area. Now it is illegal for any boats to use these docks and the sea lions have become an international sensation with visitors like us! Some winters, the population can rise as high as 900 sea lions!
Friday, 24 July 2009 17:24:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
BACK TO THE USA ON MACSWAYROUND!
• One third of all the gold ever mined – about 1.1. billion ounces – is stored in government vaults throughout the world. Most of the USA Nation’s gold is stored underground at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
• In volume of total wood – the Giant Sequoia stands alone as the largest living tree on Earth.
• Sequoia trees do not die of ‘old age’. They also have chemicals in their wood and bark which provides resistance to insects and fungi. They have very thick bark (up to 30cms thick) which insulates them from most fire. The main cause of Sequoia deaths is toppling and as they have a shallow root system soil moisture, root damage and strong winds can lead to toppling.
• In the Sequoia National Park stands the mighty tree named ‘General Sherman’ – and this tree is believed to be the largest tree (by volume), in the world. It is estimated to be 2,200 years old and ‘The General’ stands at a very proud 275 foot tall (still working in imperial measure in the USA). The trunk weighs an estimated 1,385 tons and at the ground has a circumference of nearly 103 feet. (31 metres!) Its largest branch is almost 7 feet in diameter and every year the General Sherman grows enough new wood to make a 60 foot tree of usual proportions!
• Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are 865,257 acres – a land of big trees, deep canyons, tall peaks and flowing rivers......
• In 1868, a young Scotsman named John Muir arrived in San Francisco and asked for directions to ‘anyway that’s wild’. He was pointed to the Sierra Nevada and here his life long relationship and protection of Yosemite began. The spirit of Yosemite has been protected for future generations and as a lasting legacy to John Muir.
• The Sierra Nevada mountain range is 400 miles long and up to 80 miles wide, at the widest points.
• President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in the late 1800’s and he also signed a bill that set aside the Mariposa Grove and the scenic Yosemite Valley, in 1864.
• Deteriorating buildings and high operational costs, ended the Alcatraz’s days as a federal prison. The last inmates left the island on March 21st 1963, and the prison officially closed its doors a few months later.
• Since 1972, Alcatraz has been under the protection of the National Parks Service and they have worked to reach modern safety standards, throughout the island.
• California Sea Lions are known for their intelligence, playfulness and noisy barking! Sea lions have external ear flaps, seals do not!
• Sea lions may bite if provoked and can live up to 20-30 years in the wild.
Friday, 24 July 2009 17:23:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) USA
Friday, 20 February 2009
Woops - a couple we forgot!
Jemma and Ben meet the original Disney Star!!
It was great to reach California and get to the end of the infamous ROUTE 66! We have had a great time along this fun-filled route and would highly recommend it to everyone! We did get our kicks on Route 66 on The Glory Road, the Main Street of America and the Road of Dreams! Whatever you want to call it- this is one of the most famous roads in the world.......................
Speak next when we land 'down under!'
Friday, 20 February 2009 09:49:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Saturday, 14 February 2009
California in pictures..........
A Lonesome Tree! Our Victorville Neighbours!
Mexican Indian Dancers. Phil's all time FAVOURITE ACTOR!
Disney - Where Dreams Come true! Our Californian friends - Tim & Sylvia.
Saturday, 14 February 2009 12:11:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
As we have made many changes to our initial game plans along our way on Macswayround, we decided to make another as we headed towards California. We arranged to put Nessie into safe and secure storage to let her have a rest when we reached California. This decision is due to the current worldwide financial situation, and in particular to the massive drop in the exchange rate of the U.S Dollar to the British Pound. This- on top of the fact that shipping costs have almost doubled since our initial quote to ship Nessie across the transpacific has meant that it makes much more sense for us to store Nessie and rent a similar camper from Brisbane, for the time we are in Australia.
We camped at the Shady Oasis Campground in Victorville, and found an excellent storage facility, to the north east of Los Angeles. This is where Tim and Sylvia (our new found Zion friends) sprang into action and helped us out. As they live at Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles, they VERY kindly offered to pick us up from the Storage Centre, let us stay with them for 4 nights and then, if that wasn’t enough – drive us to the airport when it was time for our flight! It is uncanny to think we ended up here as this is next door to Long Beach where Nessie was due to sail from! We couldn’t believe our luck and we are very grateful to them both. We really enjoyed Huntington Beach and our time with them, also meeting some of their friends and family too. Huntington Beach is located along the Southern California coast in Orange County. It has been named as the best city to live in Orange County and has been ranked among the ‘top ten safest cities’ for decades. It has pristine white beaches and is also named as the Surf City of the USA – surfing began here as it became popular in the States!
We visited the original part of Los Angeles, as it always was, with Tim and Sylvia. Once again local knowledge was priceless! We saw the traditional market stalls, some Mexican- Indian dancers and some break-dancers too!
Into Hollywood and we took a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard where famous stars have their names written in a gold star – along all the pavements. As the sun set the Boulevard was illuminated with bright lights and atmosphere! We saw the place where the stars have signed their names and left hand and foot prints too.
The next day Sylvia, Jemma, Ben and I took the Disneyland experience! Tim and Phil got out of the treat (we are not quite sure how!) and they enjoyed a day at the Petersen Automotive Museum instead!
It was great to go to the ORIGINAL Disneyland Theme Park in California! It was very busy on the day we chose and there were some long queues but we did manage to do lots of different attractions, throughout the whole day. We went on every roller coaster possible and even I can say I went on them all and enjoyed them – which is very unusual as I usually avoid them and hold the bags while Daddy gets the pleasure! We even went into the home of Mickey Mouse and met him while he had a break from his filming. The children got a photo each with the most original star of Disney!
Everything was aching as we got back to the house and after carrying two happy, sleeping children to bed we adjourned to the hot tub with a good supply of wine! The perfect recovery – how lucky are we?!
On Tuesday 3rd February we packed our bags ready to fly down under! After a lovely Thai Curry we were taken to the airport and dropped at the check-in point. We said our goodbyes and thanks to Tim and Sylvia and the two dogs and we look forward to meeting again on our return to the States! (please?)
· 2 different types of Humming birds
· Lots of Starfish
· Ground Squirrels
· Various very large butterflies
Saturday, 14 February 2009 11:53:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
DEATH VALLEY PICS.......
Not a lot of grass at the Nevada Desert. HOORAY!
The Armargosa Desert. "Its getting Hot Down Here!"
Zabriskie Point. Nessie is dwarfed! A Steam Tractor!
Full Zoom needed to get this one! We said it gets hot! Its Not all Tarmac!
Too salty to drink! Salt Lake in Death Valley. "Can you see the face?"
We couldn't find the surf! Dawn to the howling of coyotes!
Saturday, 14 February 2009 11:42:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
VIVA LAS VEGAS!
Like Father, Like Daughter! The Gambler!
A City of Neon! No Ifs or Butts!
Elvis Lives! New York, New York - Las Vegas!
"Where's the Lollipop Lady?" The Fremont Street experience!!
The Famous Cowboy!
Saturday, 14 February 2009 11:12:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Friday, 13 February 2009
LAS VEGAS TO DEATH VALLEY TO LOS ANGELES!
We found a friendly campground called Riviera RV Park in Las Vegas, Nevada. As soon as we went into reception to check in, the lady joked with us saying that it was not possible to stay there, as our steering wheel was on the wrong side (poor Nessie!)
There was a lovely pool there so the children took advantage once more and met up with some new friends. In the evening Phil fell asleep in the chair outside and he was surprised that when he woke up a couple of hours later -the sky was lighter than when he had gone to sleep! The city and lights of Las Vegas had come alive for the evening shift!
The next day we took the bus into town which made life very easy and we went down ‘Las Vegas Boulevard’ affectionately known as ‘The Strip’ (or Casino alley!) in the centre of Sin City!
“Circus Circus” was a great place to get a taste of this life, as it allowed children into some sections and had a variety of games for them to do. There were even live circus acts every half hour or so, which showcased a variety of circus talents, from unicycles to limbo dancing! Phil just had to chance his luck at the big time (where the children were not even allowed to linger) – a very new experience for him! He was playing for 200,000 U.S Dollars and a Ford G.T Mustang car (in red!) I was concerned at what Phil thought he was going to do with it – after he had won it! But alas -not to be this time although Phil was quite happy after a good few hours of entertainment –he came away 49 bucks up-what a result!!
We had a fantastic time at XTREME MAGIC starring Dirk Arthur at the Tropicana. Without giving too much away, this show involving Dirk and his team of female dancing assistants producing a variety of tigers from out of nowhere and then a helicopter onto the stage! We left the show dumb-struck and confused as the explicable was no longer explicable! This was indeed extreme magic, not to be tried at home but definitely recommended to go and see! I don’t think that any of us will be satisfied with a card trick again! This makes us realise once more how lucky we all are to be having many extreme experiences on Macswayround. It was interesting and encouraging to be able to watch a TV clip that showed us how these animals are not just used as a tool to make a show. Dirk talked about how he is dedicating his life to these monstrous cats and is involved in a number of breeding programmes and projects around the world to help promote the ever deceasing number of these creatures in the wild. During this show we also got to see the only ‘Ligar’ in the States (so we believe)– and he is half lion and half tiger! What a combination!
We tackled the busy streets by sitting on the bus and went ‘Downtown’ to see the Fremont Street Experience! The light shows run at regular intervals throughout the evening on the biggest screens in the world and neon lights shone all around us as we wandered through the street. We saw the Neon Cowboy that has become a famous symbol of Las Vegas and a motorbike stunt show called the Thunder Dome - where as many as three bikes whizzed around a ball cage, only narrowly missing each other at any one time!
We needed a day to recover from the buzz and fast pace of life around Las Vegas! So when our batteries were re-charged we took off across the Nevada desert and mountains over to the Death Valley National Park. We travelled through the Armargosa Desert and were intrigued by Area 51 along our journey too.
We camped at Texas Spring in Death Valley and the children set to work collecting information to become Junior Rangers for a third time! Death Valley is known as the hottest, driest, lowest spot in North America. As its name suggests lives have been lost here due to the extreme summer heat. Its harsh desert climate results from a rain shadow effect created by mountains which are uplifted to the west. We saw the view from Zabriskie Point which was a colourful landscape of gullies and mud hills at the edge of the Funeral Mountains. Badwater is a salt flat land (5 miles across) and at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere.
Death Valley has more abandoned mines than any other National Park, all of which remain dangerous today. There were warnings, especially for Keane Wonder mine which was one of Death Valley’s most successful gold mines. So much rock was mined there that the entire area became unstable and began to collapse and there is also signs of toxic waste from cyanide and other toxic chemicals which were used to extract the gold from the ore. This area is closed to the public until it can be made safer as breathing this contaminated air is not a wise idea.
It was good that the children had to work hard answering questions about all the other National Parks that we have been to so far – to be awarded their 3rd Junior Ranger badge! We drove out of the valley with the China Lake Naval Weapons Centre each side of us and maybe we were unwittingly a moving target as fighter planes soared directly over Nessie! We met a young German guy who asked Phil for help with his inverter. Stephan was a nocturnal photographer who will wait as long as it takes to get the correct photographic conditions (and we may be talking days here). We saw some examples of the superb quality that this high standard of patience and equipment can produce and we wish him luck in his current project.
We stayed at the Paramint Spring RV Park and Phil was taken back as this was the first place that he could not hear a dawn chorus. However, this was compensated by being able to hear and capture on camcorder a pack of coyotes as they voiced spine tingling howls across the valley. We continued our journey to Victorville, California.
· Las Vegas translates to “The Meadows” in Spanish.
· Las Vegas gained its name in the 1800’s when this green valley and desert spring waters offered a respite for tired travellers who were making the journey along the Old Spanish Trail on their way to California.
· In 1905, 110 acres of land was auctioned and in 1911 this was incorporated into a city-Downtown Las Vegas.
· In 1931, Navada legalised casino gambling and liberalized the state divorce law by reducing residency requirements to six weeks.
· These changes impacted on Fremont Street as now it was no longer a dusty whistle stop -but a haven for fun- seekers!
· In 1959 the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign was created by resident Betty Willis.
· The Las Vegas Strip is an All-American Road, a prestigious federal designation awarded to roads which are recognised nationally and internationally for their outstanding and unique qualities!
· The Strip is the only scenic byway in the world that has the distinction of being as scenic and unique at night as it is by day!
· During the middle of the 20th century Las Vegas continued its march towards becoming the gambling capital of the world.
· Fremont Street introduced the use of Neon lights and today this ‘Glitter Glunch’ has the largest light show screen in the world!
· The extreme conditions of Death Valley have attracted hardy, adaptable, and sometimes eccentric human inhabitants!
· Along the 27 mile stretch known as the ‘racetrack’ at Death Valley-rocks mysteriously slide along the dry lakebed, leaving behind long tracks for visitors to ponder on!
· Walter Scott – a western cowboy known as ‘Death Valley Scotty’ – claimed that an elaborate Spanish-style mansion was built by gold from his fictitious mine. In reality, it was the 1920’s vacation home of his wealthy friends! Today it is known as Scotty’s Castle!
· Throughout history and still today the Timbisha Shoshone people live sustained in Death Valley by their ‘valley of life’.
· In 1904 gold was found and this sparked the last American gold rush. It drew 10,000 people to Death Valley!
· In 1994, in order to protect its extraordinary natural and cultural landscape, Congress made Death Valley a National Park, enlarged its size and designated most of it as wilderness.
· Coyote-heard and seen outside Nessie!
Friday, 13 February 2009 08:11:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Zion in Pictures.........
Holding tight in Zion! "Ouch-that hurt!"
More Beautiful Scenery! We had a Picnic by the river!
The Three Patriots. Follow the Red Brick Road! On the Trail!
SAMSON! More Zion Rock!
Friday, 13 February 2009 08:02:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Monument Valley in pictures................
On the way to Monument Valley... Roads that go on forever!
The Real Thing! Nessie at Monument Valley.
Jemma at Monument Valley! Ben at Monument Valley! Sunrise at Monument Valley.
Some Wonderful Scenery....... The Famous Scene. Lake Powell
An Indian Trading Post. "Are you sure it was this way?"
Friday, 13 February 2009 07:09:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Monument Valley to Zion......
We said our farewells to the Grand Canyon and Arizona – for now -and continued into the Navajo Territory. There were many Trading Posts and we stopped and spoke with Pernell and Brenton who told us of many interesting facts about the Navajo believes and culture. Pernell talked about their main aim as being able to live in harmony with Mother -Nature. We would like to thank him for his time and how he explained about the importance of the Navajo traditions being taught, passed down through the generations, and kept alive. Pernell explained how he had read about William Wallace and compared him to a famous Navajo warrior, who was not willing to be dictated to by the so-called higher authorities either. It was not appropriate for us to photograph them although we did get permission to snap their Trading Post. This was due to a strong belief that a part of them is being taken away each time they are photographed. Jemma bought some hand crafted decorated hair clips that included the Arizona Rose, Mother of Pearl, and a humming bird as a sign of love.
Later on as we drove through Utah, we passed another Trading Post and we were amused by the three road signs that followed which read -“Indians – Nice friendly Indians –Its Ok! Turn Now!”
As we approached the Monument Valley the scenery was stunning. There were columns of rock formations which jutted up from the desert floor and stood ahead of us so grandly. As the daylight came to a close shadows were thrown. Phil loved this place as memories of John Wayne came flooding back and it was easy to imagine a wagon train rolling past! Monument Valley is one of the world’s most recognised landscapes. It was great timing to be able to capture the sun-setting over the monuments, as many others were there waiting to do also! We camped at the Goulding’s Good Sam Park and enjoyed yet another campfire, to the soundtrack of ‘A fist Full of Dollars’!
Before dawn, Phil was up (as he has been many times on our trip!) to see the monuments as they were silhouetted in a dazzling pink which filled the sky. As we trekked the windy road out of the Monument Valley, we had a strange sense that someone had been there before us and our minds were taken back to a scene of bygone days. The camera was forever clicking as each turn bought a new scene, each worthy of a mention!
We took our next trek out of Utah and back to Arizona before finding ourselves back in Utah once more! Our destination was to be Zion National Park – another ‘must see’ recommendation that we have taken along our way (from Grant in Camping World!) We took a pleasant pit-stop at the Hitch’n’Post in Kanab before heading into Zion the next day. This happened to be on January 20th 2009 – the day Obama made history and became the 44th U.S. President.
To enter the park we had to negotiate a tunnel – the one mile + long Mount Carmel Tunnel. This was built in 1927 when cars were small and much less in number. We were amused by the fact that the ranger came out to measure Nessie to find out if we would need an escort through the tunnel! It was concluded that we ‘should be fine’ if we pull in our mirrors and proceed with care! As many drivers will be aware- driving without mirrors may be compared to driving with blinkers on! It was very tight in the tunnel and unlit – we spent all of our time in the centre of the road and we are still not sure what would have happened if we had met a Nessie or something similar coming the other way!
Another natural wonder, the Zion Canyon has been carved and shaped by the Virgin River beginning approximately 15 million years ago and has a natural beauty. The red road led us down a series of hair pin bends and helter -skelter trails to the base of the canyon. We enjoyed a picnic by the river side on our way down the canyon! Once again Nessie’s gearbox was complimented by Phil!
Upon reaching the mouth - the cliffs soared above us and again we found ourselves in an inspirational place. The walls of the canyon towered over us at approximately 2000 feet in most places. Zion has a unique geography as it is located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert provinces and this combination has led Zion to be home to a number of diverse animals and unusual plants too.
We took a walk along the Lower Emerald Pool Trail, which joins the middle and upper trails to form a series of pools and water-falls. This cliff side trail was hair -raising at times, especially with the children! The end of the trail had even been closed due to icy conditions. We all continue to enjoy spotting wildlife and were able to see plenty of mule deer on this trail.
The children began their work towards becoming Zion Junior Rangers and this involved watching an informative film at the visitor centre and then using all of their senses to discover new things as we travelled around the park. We also watched an I-max cinema film about the history of Zion.
We camped at the Zion Canyon Campground and enjoyed our tea cooked on the camp-fire again! We got talking to our neighbours who had an RV which was very similar to Nessie and enjoyed an evening with them, chatting over a glass of wine or two! We have been very fortunate in meeting Tim and Sylvia and are very grateful to them for all of their kindness and help, as you will soon discover as our story unfolds! They also have two very tolerant dogs which the children have adopted and have had great fun with!
We left Zion in Utah and came into Nevada where we just had to make a visit into Las Vegas!
· The Navajo Reservation to the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park consists of 16 million acres and is the largest of any south-western tribe.
· The Navajo tribes were originally from a farming background.
· Some Navajo continue to live in traditional six or eight-sided houses, known as a Hogan, and raise sheep, goats and corn. The Hogan is built in harmony with the universe and all living creatures on earth.
· The Navajo language is still alive and strong and being taught in many Navajo Territory schools, along- side English.
· A Chapter House is the Navajo equivalent to a Town Hall.
· Water is very scarce in Navajo Country, and most Chapter Houses are built near newly developed wells, made possible through a tribal water development programme.
· Local Recreation activities are enjoyed by young and old at the new Chapter Houses.
· The Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council is the Chief Executive of the Navajo Tribe.
· Hunting gatherings still take place in the traditional way on special occasions, and each warrior will carve out his own arrow head – so that individual kills may be recognised.
· The Navajo are famous for their finely woven rugs, silver and turquoise jewellery and sand paintings.
· The jewellery making techniques and patterns vary considerably from tribe to tribe, this being not dissimilar to the clans and tartans of Scotland.
· Zion National Park is 229 square miles of the most unique and varied terrain found in the country.
· In 1858, Johnson explored to the mouth of Zion Canyon.
· Zion has its own snail, which is only the size of a pin head and is found no- where else on earth!
· The meaning of Zion is – Peace, tranquillity and a sanctuary of God.
· Zion has some of the highest sandstone peaked mountains in the world.
· Zion has 800 native species of plant life, 75 varieties of mammals, 36 varieties of reptiles and 270 varieties of birds.
· Nine different layers of sedimentary rock can be found within the Zion Park, ranging from Dakota Sandstones to ancient Kaibab Limestone.
· Mule Deer
· White tailed deer
· Signs of Beavers having been at work!
· Scat from a Ring-Tailed Cat!
Thursday, 12 February 2009 14:47:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
The Grand Canyon in Pics........
**NEW** Comments from Jemma on the Grand Canyon! The Grand Canyon was amazing with lots of things to see! I think it was one of the best times on Macswayround so far just to see it! There were so many different colours to see and so much much wildlife!! I LOVED IT - YAY!
Our first view of the Canyon! "Hey-We were there!"
"We were all at The GRAND Canyon!" The immense size was overwhelming.
Pondering the Canyon......... Just Beautiful..............
A tad chilly in places
Famous words............. Watch out for the next 10 miles! A unusual natural design.......
The colorado River...... Inside the Watch Tower. Careful!!
Watch your children! A Moment to Remember........ At the Navajo Trading post and Grand Canyon!
Thursday, 12 February 2009 14:35:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Monday, 09 February 2009
THE GRAND CANYON !
Our first sighting of the inspirational GRAND CANYON is very difficult to put into words.........it is the sight that left us all feeling immensely small and insignificant – even though the children may not have been able express that into words! Any picture that any of us have ever seen did not prepare us for the real thing! The sheer size and presence of the canyon has the power to leave you speechless and in a state of awe and wonder. Natural serenity surrounds you and the feeling of a timeless beauty! As millions of years of our planet are exposed right there in front -and all around you- any visit you make is for-but a fleeting moment in time! The power of erosion from the Colorado River over millions of years has left dazzling colours and rock formations. This is the only place in the world where it is possible to see all three different types of sedimentary rocks that our earth is composed of. The area is a geologists dream and has enabled much work and research to take place for a better understanding of our world.
When we turned away there was an amazing appeal that just drew us back to be mesmerised some more.......as the birds glided through the haven that they call home.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, approximately one mile deep, 18 miles at the widest point and covers a total of 1,900 square miles. It was discovered in 1540 by Spanish explorer Don Lopez de Cardenas, a captain in Coronado’s Expedition. We visited the South Rim National Park, and sights around the visitor centre which only represents a tiny part of the whole canyon!! The North Rim is not available during the winter months as it is cut off by snow, although we do have it on very good authority, from Tim, that is equally as spectacular with its alpine views. The Colorado River could be seen one and a half kilometres below the south rim, flowing at an average speed of four miles per hour. The river flows west through the canyon, bends south and empties into the Gulf of California in Mexico. The river has an average size of 300 feet wide and 100 feet deep.
We stayed at the Trailer Village inside the National Park and were once again privileged to be amongst the wildlife-Phil even had a funny feeling that he was being watched by ‘something’ late one night! There was a fantastic shuttle bus which was provided courtesy of the National Park and there were a number of different colour coded routes you could choose to be taken to and collected from at very frequent intervals. This made sight -seeing in and around the canyon stress free. There were also some very entertaining bus drivers who shared jokes and stories along the way. We were filled with hope on one journey as the driver sung this little ditty – ‘Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, Sunshine in my eyes causes fatalities - MAN- this sun sure is in my eyes!!’
Jemma and Ben took the challenge and had to work on activities to become Junior Rangers for a next time. We all listened to an extremely interesting talk by Ranger Maggi – who made the geological creations of the canyon easier to beginning to understand. The layers and building of the canyon were related directly to the different layers of a cake as it is baking!
We visited the Desert View and Watch Tower Lookout. This tower is a recreation of the prehistoric Indian lookouts and from the top -gave us a sweeping panoramic view of the Colorado River and the desert. This Grand Canyon moment will stay with us forever................
· In 1540 Hopis guided Spanish Explorers to the South Rim.
· The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world – along with Mount Everest in Nepal, Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, The Northern Lights, Paricutin Volcano in Mexico and Harbour of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
· The Grand Canyon is the most popular tourist spot in the United States, attracting 4.5 million visitors from all over the world each year.
· Northern Arizona is one of the four release sites in the California Condor programme, which for the past 25 years has sought to bring these large scavenger birds back from the brink of extinction. These condors, full of awe and grace have a wing span ranging from 9 to 11 feet!
· The Grand Canyon is home to 70 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 25 species of reptiles and 5 species of amphibians.
· The Mules who offer transport along the Bright Angel Canyon Trail are now included in the Guinness Book of Records as being THE safest modes of public transport. They can boast not one fatality in 100 years of public service!
· John Wesley Powell was the first explorer to lead an exhibition in 1869. He ventured down the length of the Canyon and conquered the unexplored Canyon and the raging Colorado River.
· The South Rim and the North Rim are just 10 miles apart as the Raven flies, but 215 miles by road.
· Elevation at the South Rim is 7,000 feet.
· Elevation at the North Rim is 8,000 feet.
· The rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon are nearly 2 billion years old!
· The Grand Canyon Forest Reserve was established on Feb 20th 1893 by President Benjamin Harrison.
· In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the Grand Canyon as a National Monument.
· In 1919 the Grand Canyon National Park was established by Congress.
· The National Park has many historic buildings and many of these are included in the Historic Register.
· From Navajo Point, the massive and powerful Colorado River appears to be a mere trickle of water. However, 5,000 feet below the river continues to scour, carve and shape the canyon walls as it has done for thousands of years.
· The South Rim receives an average of 64.9 inches of snowfall each year.
· There is a Maswik Lodge at the canyon and this translates as “Protector of the Grand Canyon”.
· Mule Deers
· Listened to coyotes howling!
· Pinyon Jays
· Albert Squirrels
· Stellers Jays
· White Breasted Nuthatches
· Northern Cardinals
Monday, 09 February 2009 22:16:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Photo catch up -The Petrified Forest, The Meteor Crater all the way to Flagstaff......
Moon-like landscape The Painted Desert
Such Unusual Scenery..... An Indian Petroglyph
Beautifully coloured layers Nature's way Prong Horned Antelope
Petrified Wood for miles and miles..... Mega Horns!
Nessie is ready to see the crater! This came from out of this world.... An enormous meteor crater
Jemma & Ben enjoy the view point On the way to Flagstaff Nessie shivers again!!
A view near Flagstaff....
Monday, 09 February 2009 21:44:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
A full moon - oh no!! 'In the good 'ole days!'
Old Town Albuquerque - church. A Traditional Store.
Amazing sunsets........ Snow Capped Mountains......
Miles and miles..... An Indian Settlement Wild Horses didn't keep us away!
An Arizona Trading Post.
Monday, 09 February 2009 11:39:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Palo Duro Canyon......moonlike..... Palo Duro.............
Lovely scenery........... Nessie at the Canyon......
Calm Waters........ Extremely Scenic...... The Wild Turkeys
'I wouldn't argue with me either!' Steptoe & Son rise again!
Monday, 09 February 2009 11:22:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Thursday, 29 January 2009
Amarillo to the Grand Canyon!
We trekked back to Texas and did manage to find Amarillo! We stayed at the Amarillo Ranch RV Park which had a beautiful heated indoor swimming pool too! It was bath temperature and so I even ventured in!
The Palo Duro Canyon State Park was our next stop. Once more beautiful scenery swept past us as we drove to the view points. This is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas and has a land which has been shaped by erosion. This canyon was formed less than 1 million years ago when the Prairie dog Town Fork of the Red River first carved its way through the Southern High Plains. However the rocks which are exposed today tell a story spanning back 250 million years. There are defined layers of rocks which have been exposed, adding to the colourful beauty as their story unfolds. We enjoyed walking around the canyon lands and luckily the rattle snakes kept themselves to themselves! However we did see plenty of deer and wild turkeys too!
The view from the first vantage point was so breathtaking that I managed to forget to pick up my bag from there! I did not miss it until much later into the evening when we were back at camp and so we could only hope it would still be there tomorrow?
We packed up Nessie and took an extra journey back to the canyon and LUCKILY my bag had been handed in to the front gate station – fully intact! Another lesson learnt and many thanks to that person who had the decency to hand it in!!
We travelled out of Texas once more and into New Mexico. The Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post was on Route 66 near Albuquerque. This also had a Camping World sweetie shop for Phil and we spent a good while in there chatting to the helpful staff – Grant and Wendy. It was great to be recommended places not to miss on the rest of our journey toward California and to find out lots more information about Alaska that we shall need later on in the year!
We visited ‘Old Town’ Albuquerque which had a unique blend of people, cultures, traditions and creative forms of expression. Historic Old Town is a cultural shopping destination with a strong sense of identity. It follows the traditional Spanish pattern of a central Plaza and church surrounded by homes and businesses. Many artisans lined the street, still making and selling their jewellery in silver, turquoise and other south-western stones. Also on display was a variety of authentic native rugs, weavings and pottery. We found a beautiful ceremonial drum with a buffalo scene in the centre and now just have to find somewhere to store it!!
After a cultural time we left New Mexico and travelled into the Arizona desert! This has been a much anticipated highlight of our journey for Phil! Something about driving in the desert is very appealing! At least it is not mid -summer – in fact we are still following the snow!
We went to see the Petrified Forest (and expected it to be very scared -at the very least!) This is also a National Park which is home to the Crystal Forest and Painted Desert in addition to the Petrified Forest. There is also a wilderness area –so defined as being an area where human imprint is minimal. In 1964 Congress passed the Wilderness Act, restricting grazing, mining, timber cutting and mechanized vehicles in these areas. They are protected and valued and the Petrified Forest wilderness area consists of over 50,000 acres of mesas, buttes, badlands and scattered areas of grasslands. The trees in the forest have been turned to stone through a process involving millions of years. As a result of the different minerals found in the rocks – a huge variety of intriguing colours have been left behind. This National Park has one of the largest deposits of Petrified wood in the world! Ben was a little bit disappointed as he expected the trees to be stood upright but made of stone! The high, dry, grassland was once a vast floodplain which was crossed by many streams. As the trees fell, the swollen streams washed them into the floodplains. A mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash buried the logs. It was this sediment that cut off oxygen and slowed down the logs decaying process. Next, as silica –laden water seeped through the logs it replaced the original wood tissue with silica deposits. Eventually the silica crystallised into quartz, and the logs became preserved as petrified wood. The colours are amazing as minerals such as iron, carbon, manganese, and sometimes cobalt and chromium produce patterns and blends of yellow, red, black, blue, brown, green, white and pink.
Some of this wood is polished up and sold commercially today. There are many very unusual and attractive pieces that may be purchased at several petrified wood trading posts and we had a great time at one of these stores!
We stopped over at the OK RV Park in Holbrook on our way through to Flagstaff – a milestone on the Route 66! On our way we thought it would be interesting to drop off at a Meteor Crater which is the best preserved and the first proven meteorite impact site on Planet Earth! This is one of the most extraordinary places on earth! Approximately 50,000 years ago, a giant meteoric mass weighing millions of tons hurtled through space at 26,000 miles per hour and impacted on Earth. The crater is nearly 1 mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference, and over 550 feet deep! This is as tall as a 60 story building! The terrain so closely resembles that of the Earth’s Moon and other planets that NASA designated it as an official training site for the Apollo Astronauts. The Meteor Crater is the site of many important discoveries in the Science of Meteorites and cratering mechanics. We saw the actual Apollo Test Capsule with a viewing window to show the astronauts cramped quarters. We all got to touch the biggest surviving piece of meteor that has been left behind and this was about a three foot long nugget. It was a weird feeling to think that this was not even from our world!
We continued to Flagstaff and stayed in the KOA RV Park. They had a huge amount of snow about a month ago and lots of it was still around. The children had a great time as it was now warm enough to go out and enjoy playing in the snow without getting frostbite in the first few minutes!
We continued travelling in Arizona and went to visit the Grand Canyon National Park.........more to follow!!
· Palo Duro Canyon is 120 miles long and 800 feet deep and is the second –largest canyon in the United States.
· PALO DURO is Spanish for HARD WOOD – in reference to the Rocky Mountain Juniper trees found in the canyon.
· Native American Tribes in the area once included Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne.
· The endangered Palo Duro mouse is found only in the Red River canyon lands and nowhere else.
· The endangered Texas horned lizard is also found in this region.
· Palo Duro State Park officially opened on July 4th, 1934.
· In Albuquerque every October there is the largest ballooning event in the world. The 78 acres launch field at Balloon Fiesta Park becomes immersed in the process of inflating, launching and landing balloons!
· Old Town Albuquerque is an historical zone for the city and home for many families whose ancestors founded the town.
· Petrified Wood is surprisingly heavy and hard. It weighs nearly 200 pounds per cubic foot and its hardness is 7 on a 10 point scale.
· In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt set aside selected strands of the Petrified trees as a National Monument.
· In 1962 Congress designated the monument as a National Park.
· Crocodile – like reptiles, giant amphibians and small dinosaurs lived among a variety of ferns, cycads, and other plants and animals that are known only as fossils at the Petrified Forest today.
· The vast floor of the Meteor Crater is large enough to accommodate 20 football games being played simultaneously as over two million fans watch from the sloping walls of the impact site!
· The Crater has been the setting for the movie “Star man” and numerous documentaries.
· The Meteor was estimated at being about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, and it struck the rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT!
· Wild Turkeys
· Mule Deer
Thursday, 29 January 2009 02:24:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Us at Wichita! Hang 'em high!
Another View -Worth the Hike! The Meers Philosophy!
Lunch time! "What are YOU looking at?!"
WHAT A DAY! "Sing Up Mother!"
Can you spot Phil in his new Camo gear? Prairie Dog Lookout!
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 07:01:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
We found the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma and it was even more beautiful than the books had said! The drive through the mountains was very scenic. We were able to camp at the Doris Campground right inside the refuge. The wildlife was amazing and we only had to open Nessie’s door to be able to spot a wild animal! We were right in with the wild! These rugged mountains form a part of one of the oldest mountain ranges in North America. The Refuge serves all Americans by conserving part of the nation’s wildlife heritage.
We set up camp in the woodlands and the children loved collecting wood for the camp fire. We were alerted to the fact that buffalo and long horn cattle may pass freely through the campground - fantastic! It was excellent to be able to see wild bison/buffalo as they have been rescued back from near extinction. In 1907, 7 bulls and 8 cows were bought here from New York Bronx Zoo and in 1940, 4 bulls arrived from Fort Niobrara. Following these successful efforts the herds prospered and numbered 1,000 by 1949. Today this number is regulated annually with a live auction, in order to keep a healthy balance between the number of animals and the land resources that are available. There are now approximately 550-600 Bison on the Refuge at any one time. We stopped along the roadside and spent a lovely time viewing a herd of bison – as we sat up on Nessie’s roof! What a good vantage point and much safer too!
Longhorn Cattle were also bought to Wichita in 1927 from the prickly pear area of South Texas. A set of 20 cows, 3 Bulls, 3 Steers and 4 calves were bought here and today there are approximately 280 Longhorns at the Wichita’s!
We took a ride up Mount Scott – the second highest peak in the Wichita’s at 2,464 feet. This is a legendary site that boasts tales of ancient spirits, Spanish Gold and buried outlaw loot. Indians recall an old legend in which the Great Spirit appeared on Mt. Scott after a devastating flood. He is said to have called all Indians to him and provided them with a means to survive.
We also visited a nearby Gold Ghost town called Meers. Now there is nothing left there other than the World Famous Meers Store and Restaurant and so we felt we should pay them a visit! We were amazed by the 16 oz Texas Longhorn Burgers that arrived and we even needed a doggie bag to save some for later! It was delicious and is an award winning burger! Joe and Margaret Maranto purchased the Meers Store in 1983 and in 1989 they began buying Longhorn cattle for Meers-burgers and to build their own herd. They have an ultimate goal to be able to offer customer’s burgers which are made from the leanest, grass fed, hormone free beef possible and – YEP – they do just that! Back to the campfire for a sing song with the guitar to accompany us!!
The children got dressed up in camouflage to go and spot the nearby wildlife with Daddy, very early one morning – and they are realising just how quiet you need to be if you want to be lucky! We loved seeing some Black-tail Prairie Dogs along the road sides as they busied themselves in a humorous way! They are a keystone species to the prairies and grasslands where they live and we were very pleased to have taken this picturesque route through the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma!
We travelled back into Texas .......... “IS THIS THE WAY TO AMARILLO?!”
· The Wichita Mountains took their name from the Wichita Indian Tribe.
· Indians inhabited this mountain range as long as 20,000 years ago.
· The 59,020 acre Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest managed wildlife preserve in the United States.
· Over 22,000 acres are open for hiking and general wildlife observation.
· The Wichita Mountains were first designated as a forest preserve by President McKinley in 1901 and Congress changed the name to a Wildlife Refuge in 1936.
· Most geologists conclude that the mountains that we see today are much the same as they appeared 250 million years ago.
· Bison can grow to 6 feet tall, 11 feet long and weigh as much as 1 ton!
· Longhorn Cattle have an average horn length of 6 feet – although there have been recorded horns with an 8 foot span, which is wider than Nessie!
OTHER WILDLIFE HITS:
· Great Horned Owl
· Downy Woodpecker
· Tufted Tit Mouse (bird!)
· Northern Cardinals
· White-tailed Deer
· Red -Headed Woodpecker
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 06:29:39 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
More Texas Pics.................
The children check the Whales in Dallas! Dallas Glass!
"The Cross Eyed Moose" Fort Worth.
"HOW!" "HOW!" Thom & his friends!
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 06:25:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Sunday, 25 January 2009
TEXAS - CAUGHT ON CAMERA.....................
"Look how sunny it is here!" "I like to inspect what I eat!"
"I can see you!" Beautiful bright colours.
Where all your dreams come true! A dazzling sunset. "I am very rarely seen"
"Thankyou to the Cross Eyed Moose Store!" "A Proud Nation." "HOLD TIGHT!"
Sunday, 25 January 2009 07:12:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
We drove into Texas and dipped off Route 66 for a while, as we stayed quite near to Dallas. The Sandy Lake RV Park had many friendly local residents who were great to talk to! We met Thom and his son William and enjoyed listening to both local and general US history and knowledge too. It has always been great to talk with the locals wherever we have been as the local knowledge has been priceless!
On New Years’ Eve we visited Fort Worth Zoo. The animals all had well thought out and spacious enclosures and we had a great day!
We toasted the New Year in – in Nessie. Here’s to 2009! Thank-you to 2008 for being kind to us!
We enjoyed another special meal in Nessie with a New Year’s Day Roast. She is looking after us really well! We enjoyed the evening chatting to our new found Texan friend Thom and the children would like to thank William for letting them loose with his X Box and Guitar Hero Rock Band!
We went to spend some time in and around the Stockyard area of Fort Worth. This area has famous history as thousands of animals were taken by cattle drives from across Texas and gathered together at these stock yards and then shipped off to different places on the trains from the Fort Worth station. This western city still maintains the traditional approach with the local’s ‘cowboy dress code’ and plenty of steak eating houses! There was a lovely laid back and relaxed feeling about the place! We took a look around some traditional stores. The first stocked western furniture and home decor “Bum Steer”– with lots of animal heads looking at us from every direction! We had a good chat to the lady with English connections and reminisced about H.P sauce and marmite!! This lady was kind enough to phone through and find out the details of the Rodeo that was happening later that evening, for us!
Next we took a look around the company’s next shop-“The Cross Eyed Moose” with an enormous selection of Western Antiques (they also have a third store along the Main Street at the Historical Fort Worth Stockyards called Adobe Arts & Frame Gallery). Once again the people were very friendly and interested in what we were doing! We told our story-including about Phil’s cowboy hat (which was actually his brother’s!) having been stolen. The lady very kindly decided to give Phil a real mocoy Texan hat to replace his, especially as we were going to the Rodeo that night!
Here we found out about the Texas Jackalope-a Jackrabbit that actually has horns too. This is a single fauna specimen and was first seen by a trapper named George McLean in 1829.
The children also fell for the resident dogs in the shop and we all enjoyed our time at the Cross Eyed Moose!
The rest of us were not to be outdone and so after a traditional steak meal - we stocked up on a cowboy hat each too!
The Rodeo was great fun – we saw the finals of the Stockyard Championships in the Historic Cow-town Coliseum. It was very entertaining with bull riding, bronc riding, barrel racing, and calf lassoing!
The children were let loose into the arena with maybe 50 more children to do the calf and mutton scrambles! A calf or sheep was let loose and the children had to race to remove the tag and be the winner!
The Texas Longhorn Cattle herd can still be seen being driven up the cobbled streets twice a day, by cowboys on horse- back. Traditional is still alive and strong! The children were able to dress in traditional clothes and sit on the Indian’s horse which was also great to do.
We went to see Downtown Dallas which was a world away from Fort Worth. It is not very far in miles and it is a business centre rather than a tourist area. It is adorned with many enormous glass sky scrapers and offices.
We decided to take advice from the locals and get air conditioning fitted and we would like to thank May’s RV Inc in Lewisville, Texas for juggling their jobs and fitting us in at short notice. We were told that we would simply not survive when we return to the US in summer –without full air con throughout the whole of Nessie! Point taken!!
We packed up once more and headed out of Texas for a while and into Oklahoma. Phil had read that there was a great wildlife refuge where we may see wild buffalo/bison and so we decided to go and take a look!
· Texas covers 268,581 square miles – both land and water.
· Texas extends 801 straight-line miles from north to south and 773 miles from east to west.
· Texas has 91 mountains a mile or more high, all of them in west Texas.
· The longest river in Texas is the Rio Grande, which forms the international boundary between Texas and Mexico and extends 1,254 miles along Texas.
· Texas ranks first internationally in cotton production.
· The Cowboy Boot’s history dates back to the Spanish Conquistadors who invaded Mexico in the 16th century.
· Spaniards taught the natives the art of the fine boot construction.
· In the latter part of the 19th century, approximately 600 boot-makers practised their craft in Texas.
· Now, no more than 60 artisans produce boots the old fashioned way-totally by hand.
· The classic boot was a work shoe with the cowboy’s daily routine in mind. They had pointed toes so they could be easily slipped in and out of the syrups and an elevated arch that helped to hold the foot firm in place. The upper part of the boot served as protection against barbed wire and snakes.
· The Cow-town Coliseum is home to the world’s first indoor rodeo!
· Jackalopes have the ability to imitate the human voice and they only sing on dark nights before a thunderstorm.
· Redwing Black-birds
· Texas Long –Horn cattle
· American Kestrel
· Northern Cardinal
· Great Blue Heron
Sunday, 25 January 2009 06:53:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Oklahoma City Pics - Christmas 2008
Here are a few more pictures to keep you all going -while we retrieve the photos that
were in the rest of the back blogs - sorry for any inconvenience - we hope to have this
corrected as soon as possible!
Apollo 14 - Lunar Rock - out of Christmas Day 2008-in Nessie!
"The End of the Trail" We said hello to John Wayne.
Those are some Horns! Jemma and a cougar. Oklahoma Capitol Building.
Our civilised journey! "Yum Yum!!" This is some horse box!
Tuesday, 13 January 2009 03:36:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Monday, 12 January 2009
We are sorry that all of our photos are not available to be viewed on this site at the moment - slight technical hitch that will hopefully be sorted out soon! Meanwhile - thanks for your patience! Please check back again soon!
Monday, 12 January 2009 08:04:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Oklahoma City - Christmas 2008
The children were very happy to discover that the Rockwell RV Park at Oklahoma City had an indoor heated swimming pool! There were straight in there on our first evening, to help ease the withdrawal symptoms that they had been experiencing!
Nessie had been all decorated for Christmas-even with her own little fibre optic tree-she was feeling happy with the Christmas spirit!
A couple of days before Christmas we visited the Oklahoma Science Museum. This was a fun packed day and we even ran out of time – as there was so much to see. Ben was in his element at the Live Science experiment show. He went and asked the scientist if he could help explode something and for his nerve (and cheek!) he became the first volunteer! There were lots of demonstrations involving different types of explosions and the factors that are necessary to cause an explosion. They all led up to an enormous ‘big bang!’
There were many ‘hands on’ activities and even an outer space rocket simulator. The children flew over England and checked on our house for us!
We watched a 3D show in a domed theatre and this featured the spectacular Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. The film was explaining how the river is under threat because of the increased population who are taking water from the river that feeds the dam. Also the farmers are still using flood irrigation on their fields which is using much more water than is necessary.
We can’t wait to see the Canyon for real very soon!
At the museum there was also a Planetarium, life-sized dinosaurs and an extensive shipwreck feature, with many rescued artefacts.
On Christmas Eve, we went to visit the Harley Davidson Store – and Ben did some more dreaming about when he is a grown up!
The children went swimming again, before watching ‘Santa Claus-The Movie’, to prepare themselves for the big day! On a last look outside before going to bed we all saw a perfect sleigh line shooting across the skies above Nessie.......and Father Christmas did find us- just like he promised last year! Phil cooked a fantastic Roast meal in Nessie and we all went swimming in the afternoon-although some of us spent more time in the hot tub, than the pool!
On Boxing Day we went to the National Cowboy and Heritage Museum. This centre helps to keep the Western Heritage alive and preserved for future generations. There were many artefacts and exhibits that were very informative. In the entrance hall stood ‘The End of The Trail’ – a very powerful sculpture that is 18 feet tall and weighs approximately 4 tons. This is James Earle Fraser’s interpretation of the last cowboy in history.........Prosperity Junction was a 1900 Western Cattle town that we could walk through at dusk. We re-visited the life of a bygone era and experienced a saloon, school, church and even got to throw the children into jail for a while!
We had a great time in Downtown Oklahoma. This was a lovely time to visit with all of the lights and Christmas cheer! We took a horse and carriage ride around the ‘new city’ -as they just celebrated their centenary last year!
We took the ‘Melting Pot’ experience for my birthday meal in Oklahoma City and it was by far more unique than dipping marshmallows into melted chocolate at home! This was a Fondue Restaurant and a whole new experience. Our Server, Karl, had a wealth of knowledge to help guide us through the meal! We took the ’big night out’ option and enjoyed a cheese fondue, salad, entree and chocolate fondue for desert. All the raw meats and fish were cooked in the fondue pot right there in front of us, in the middle of our table. There were then many choices of dips and sauces to accompany the meat, with many different flavours. The meal was then completed with the Cookies ’n’ Cream Marshmallow Dream! Many thanks to Karl for his expert advice and Christmas cheer! We shall keep an eye open for the ‘Melting Pot’ in the future as Karl told us that the company is hoping to extend into Europe in the near future.
We then finished off the evening with a boat ride down the one mile long stretch of canal and were very well entertained along the way!
We could not leave Oklahoma City without taking the time to visit the National Memorial which remembers the 168 life’s that were lost (including 19 children) on April 19th 1995. The Memorial honours the victims, survivors and rescuers who were changed forever after the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building was bombed on that morning. There are monumental twin gates of time which frame the moment of destruction at 9.02am. These mark the formal entrance to the Memorial. To the east the gates represent 9.01 on 19th April and the innocence of the city before the attack. To the west, the time is set at 9.03am –the time everything was changed forever. There is a reflecting pool through the centre. On the site of the former Murrah Building stands nine rows of empty bronze and stone chairs. These represent the nine floors of the building. Each person’s chair is set according to the floor that they were either working on or visiting on that morning. Each chair has a glass base with the victim’s name etched into it and at night those glass bases light up as a beacon of hope.
There is an American Elm Tree (90+ years old) which survived the bomb blasts and it is now encircled and known as ‘The Survivor Tree’. It has an inscription to visitors which reads “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated: our deeply rooted faith sustains us”.
More than 200 feet of the protecting fence has become a place to leave tokens of remembrance, love and hope. We found this Memorial site to be an extremely moving place to be. Across the road stands a statue of Jesus, covering his face with his hands, with these words – ‘and Jesus wept’.
We packed up Nessie and said our farewells to Oklahoma City and Christmas 2008.
· Oklahoma’s written history dates backs to 1541 when Spanish explorer Coronado ventured through the area.
· The area was the home of the Plains Indian Tribes such as Osage, Kiowa, Apache and Comanche. In 1803 Oklahoma was sold to the US, as a part of the Louisiana Purchase.
· In the 1830’s the Federal Government forced the five civilised tribes to leave their homelands.
· Oklahoma City (original) was born in a single day on April 22nd 1889, when about 50,000 homesteaders gathered at the boundaries. At noon the cannon roared and hordes of people streamed over the line on wagons, buckboards, horse-back, on foot and even bicycles into the 2 million acres of land. They made their claims and overnight the city grew out of the plains.
· The Settlers who entered to claim land before the official start of the run were called’ Sooners’. Still today this is Oklahoma’s State nickname.
· On November 16th 1907 the Oklahoma Territory and the Indian Territory joined, and Oklahoma became the 46th State.
· Oklahoma does not have any Indian Reservations. There are, however, 39 Federally-recognised Tribal Nations Headquarters in the State.
· Just East of Downtown Oklahoma City there is Brick Town which is the renovated ware house district.
· Oklahoma now has the second largest American Indian population of any State.
· Many of the American Indians living in Oklahoma today are descendents from the original 67 tribes inhabiting Indian Territory (and we met Nick who explained that his Great -Great Grandfather was the recognised chief in the Comanche Tribe! Nick is now an Environmental Education Specialist at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma – which we visited later – more to follow!)
Sunday, 11 January 2009 04:03:34 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Michigan, Illinois, Missouri through to Oklahoma.............
A Normal Night at the Station! Drinking buddies at The Station,
Uncle Steve, Aunt Penny & Ben! Our Cousin Alex & Rennee.
Our Cousin Anita, Jemma & Jack ! Tracking Nessie! Steve & Penny's Winter Wonderland!
Spot the temperature gage - the Cool as Ice! This is great fun!!
inside dial is in degrees C!! COLD!
They sure do have BIG ones over here! Downtown St.Louis The Mississippi River.
Can you spot Jemma & Ben?!
The Gateway Arch - St.Louis -can The Historic Route-we are travelling.... The Route 66 Memoribilia Store.
you see the windows?
Saturday, 10 January 2009 00:01:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Tuesday, 06 January 2009
FROZEN IN THE NORTH..............
Following our dock-side re-union, we stayed in Nessie and drove through day and night.....it amused us when our GPS System told us to continue on the Interstate 80 Westbound for 628 miles!!
We think we surprised Phil’s brother, Steve, as he saw us drive right past his house the next lunch time! We had arrived in Stevensville, Michigan, just as Steve was home for his lunch break and he had really thought that he was seeing things- when we drove by -a whole day earlier than he had expected!
We received a huge welcome from Steve and Penny –Phil & Steve being the brothers who had not seen each other for 4 years! Once again it was great to have a base and be able to unpack Nessie’s boxes and sort her out! Not sure if we really re-charged our batteries here, as the nights seemed too short and the partying endless- but we did have a fantastic time!! It was great to be able to catch up and to witness Steve and Phil ‘doing’ an ACDC Angus – was something else!! Just don’t ask me too many questions about drinking “Jager bombs” – it is a dodgy subject!
It was also lovely for the children to be able to catch up with their long lost cousins – Alex (& Renee) and their newly -wed cousin- Anita (& Jack). The children loved having a few sleepovers at Anita and Jack’s house (very brave of them!)They had four dogs and a cat to help entertain and –THE SNOW- FOR SLEDGING AND BUILDING SNOWMEN!!
“Oh yes” – the SNOW – Since Nessie has left the heat of Portugal she has been in for the shock of her little life! Her tanks were frozen up even before we arrived at Steve’s, with temperatures falling to minus 5 at that point. As we were kindly offered to sleep in the house, we had to defrost Nessie and then leave her a heater on- all of the time! At worst we left her sat in 8 inches of snow!
From our experience, Stevensville has a very close knit community and we enjoyed time at Steve and Penny’s local – “The Stevensville Station”. The folks at the Station were generous enough to throw a party for us all. In their very own words – a Hill Billy Party, with scrumptious food included. As we arrived we even saw them grilling meat outside in the snow – how dedicated is that?! We even had Mull of Kintyre playing on the juke box! Our special thanks extend to Dee, Art, Kelly, Terry, Al, Steve, Penny, and all at the Station.
“The Brits were in town” and we will be back next year too – for an important date! During the party in the pub, Steve proposed to Penny in front of everyone and (after the shock!) –thankfully she accepted, so we shall be back for a wedding somewhere around next fall-time!!
While we were in Stevensville, Penny took us along to a printer’s and we were able to get lots of business sized cards printed up with our website details and Devon Air Ambulance details too. These have already proved to be invaluable and we have handed out many to interested people along our travels. We would like to thank Independent Copier Supplies, in Stevensville, for being able to deal with our request so promptly and efficiently.
We said our very emotional farewells to Steve, Penny, Anita, Jack, Alex & Renee a couple of weeks before Christmas (remember – we will be back!) We had a plan to head south –We thank- you all for the fantastic visit we have had.......... nothing personal -but we will see you all again next year -when the weather has warmed up a tad!!
We travelled out of Michigan and into Illinois and we found a Jelly Stone Camp Resort (Yogi Bear Camp) at Millbrook, near Chicago. We received a warm welcome here (MUCH warmer than the weather and staff seemed concerned for our welfare being ‘out’ in these conditions.) The conditions were – even more snow and temperatures that shot down to as low as minus 18 degrees C!! With a wind chill factor of minus 30 degrees C!! A bit of a shock if you come from Devon! Yogi Bear is in hibernation for the winter and we were not surprised by this!
We did get stranded for a few days and then took a very nerve racking journey to the nearest shopping mall to get some supplies in, when driving conditions were very challenging (on our wedding anniversary too!) It was even difficult for the children to play outside, as nostril hair was freezing, and we had to wait a few more days before it was bearable for us all to have a winter walk in the snow! This was fine for us- as we did not have to be anywhere, but ‘full-timers’ next door still had to be up and out for work at 6.30am.
Nessie’s heaters were working overtime to keep us cosy and Phil had to go and buy a 110 volt battery charger and heaters because everything inside Nessie is 240 volts. He also had to keep an eye on the tanks, after shovelling a path through the snow! (Many thanks to our neighbour, Jim, for being a great help in setting us up on site and for many words of wisdom!)
We have never experienced such extreme weather conditions, and there is a point when watching the ice forming on the inside of Nessie’s double glazed windows becomes a little concerning. We had two electric fan heaters and the gas heater running full blast, as we huddled together, four in our bed! And the little one said........
At three in the morning - (for some strange reason) we were being rudely awakened (and probably the neighbours too!) by our carbon monoxide alarm which is VERY loud! Now we had the great choice of carbon monoxide poisoning inside or hypothermia outside! We were very nervous of going back to sleep (obviously) and resorted in waving the door violently to try and let some ice cold air in. We even logged onto the internet during those early hours to find information about carbon monoxide. We clarified our beliefs that carbon monoxide is not created from electric heaters and so turned off the gas heater, just in case. However, the alarm still kept going for hours afterwards.......
We kept the door waving and took the batteries out......we live to tell the tale and when at last we did fall asleep – we dreamt of being stuck in Sesimbra, in the sun.......!
There were warnings of more Ice Storms that were due to hit many parts of the USA (an Ice Storm can leave a thick covering of ice on every surface) and an inch and a half’s ice was forecast for that night– so we decided to try and run from the storm, instead of storm chasing. The danger with Ice Storms is, among others, the weight of the ice on the power lines, and many parts had been without power for days. We did not want to risk this happening to us and so we took the advice of the locals and made a calculated gamble. We left Illinois while the roads were still good and headed south as quickly as possible!
We began our trek on the famous Route 66 and made it to St. Louis in Missouri. We stopped at the St. Louis RV Park and took a couple of nights here as the park was quite central to Downtown St. Louis.
We were advised that it was best to get the Metro ‘Downtown’ but we were keen for a walk and all enjoyed a refreshing 20 minute stroll! In our experience walking as a means of transport is not a preferred method and we have been amused by the drive through fast-foods, ATM’s, banks, pharmacies, Christmas lights, and have even heard about drive through weddings that are now available! Wonder if Steve will opt for that choice next year?!
We walked across to the Gateway Arch which is the Gateway to the West in St. Louis. We visited the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (opened in 1965) to hear the history of how Jefferson’s dream became real when he was able to purchase more Louisiana Land from France and to open out the States into the West......
Until this purchase in 1803, the borders had been at the Mississippi River. The Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide and stands as a monument to the American Indians, pioneers, explorers, trappers, gold seekers, missionaries and soldiers who opened the vast wilderness to the west of the Mississippi River. Inside the Expansion Memorial there was (among other attractions) an extensive museum designed as a time line and showing the different stages and influences that have been in the western parts of the USA.
We even got to take a tram ride (which was more like a time capsule) that climbed a track up and down the inside of the legs of the arch. There were eight of these (five passenger) capsules that completely closed in and would possibly be tricky if you suffered from claustrophobia! The trip to the top took four minutes and the return trip only three minutes! From the top there were observation windows to see the stunning views across the city and along the Mississippi River.
The Old Court House (a couple of blocks away) is also an important part of the Memorial site, as it was here that the first two hearing of the Dred Scott Slavery Case were heard. This case was continued and concluded with the infamous decision at the Supreme Court (in Washington DC) in 1857. The final decision in this case was involved in causing the beginning of the Civil War between the North and the South States.
We left St Louis and motored toward Springfield. We rested along an original part of the Route 66 (after finding a great memorabilia store called the ‘Mule Trading Post’ which has been there since 1957!)We found Paradise in the Woods RV Park. This was the first time in a while that the children had been able to get out on their bikes and so they made the most of that! We had a novelty here, to be able to use the community room. This had a table, chairs, a TV, settees, a microwave and a heater! For a change of seats (and because Phil misses his arm chair!) we took our beef stew in and warmed it in the microwave, before having Phil thrash the rest of us in a game of monopoly!
Out of Missouri and the next stop was Oklahoma! We set up base at the Rockwell RV Park (21st Dec) and stayed for the Christmas week.......We even received chocolates for us and candy for the children! More about this park next time!
We are all very happy to be in The States for Christmas 2008. Throughout our travels so far, we have been made to feel extremely appreciated as we take the time to visit some of the sights that help to make up the US heritage. Nothing seems too much trouble and phrases such as ‘You are very welcome’ and ‘Have a great day/evening’ are plentiful. It has been pleasant driving on these roads as there are always interesting sights to see and bill boards to read! Long distances have been easily covered on these enormous straight roads!!
More about our Christmas in Oklahoma -next time!
· The Gateway Arch stands at 630 ft and is 75 ft higher than the Washington Monument in DC, and is over twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty in New York.
· The Gateway Arch is the tallest monument within the National Park System of the USA.
· The Garrison-type flag in the Old Courthouse is the largest of the regulation US flags. Historically flown from the 100 ft wooden flag staffs at Military posts, it measures 36 ft long and 20 ft wide!
· The Gateway Arch is the centrepiece of the 90 acre Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
· Male and Female Cardinals
· Lesser Spotted Wood Peckers
Tuesday, 06 January 2009 15:19:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!!!
WE WOULD JUST LIKE TO SEND A MESSAGE TO EVERYONE WHO IS TAKING THE TIME TO FOLLOW OUR TRAVELS THROUGH OUR WEBSITES AND BLOGS.................
WE APPRECIATE ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT AND HAVE THOROUGHLY ENJOYED OUR TRAVELS AND EXPERIENCES OF 2008..............WE ARE NOW ENJOYING CHRISTMAS ON ROUTE 66-AT OKLAHOMA CITY.
WE HOPE THAT YOU CONTINUE TO KEEP A TRACK OF US INTO THE NEW YEAR AND PLEASE REMEMBER TO SUPPORT THE DEVON AIR AMBULANCE ALONG YOUR OWN TRAVELS TOO. LET'S SEE HOW MUCH MONEY WE CAN RAISE BETWEEN US-EVERY PENNY COUNTS FOR THEM!
WE WISH YOU ALL A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY AND HEALTHY 2009.
WITH THANKS AND BEST WISHES FROM, PHIL, SHARON, JEMMA & BEN ON MACSWAYROUND. (More blogs and pics will follow shortly- to get us back up to date again!!)
THANKYOU FOR YOUR TIME AND INTEREST................
Wednesday, 24 December 2008 23:40:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Monday, 22 December 2008
Philadelphia and Washington DC pics....................................
Up up and away in Phil and his famous statue
Philadelphia........... outside the Museum of Art.
St.Francis Xavier Church. We were all there - in Philadelphia on
Thanksgiving Day 2008.
Reflecting Times........ A city of Glass............ A most unusual design on the
A tad more than a three point turn We were all here -at the US Capitol The view from the Reflection Pool at the
is required here to park!! Buildings - Washington DC. US Capitol -to the Washington Monument.
A side view - through the trees...... A main entrance to the US Capitol The Washington Monument......
Buildings - Washington DC.
We were at the Supreme Court of Can you spot Jemma & Ben?! "I have grown -LOOK!!"
Justice in Washington DC.
The view from the Washington The World War 2 Memorial. The Reflection Pool..........
Monument right across to the
Abraham Lincoln himself inside the "See - I must have grown too!!"
Memorial at Washington DC.
Monday, 22 December 2008 06:37:26 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Friday, 19 December 2008
Time in Philadelphia and Washington DC....................
As Nessie was taking about 9 days to cross the pond and reach us here in the USA – we had a bit of extra time to go and explore some more – so we rented another car and we were off! We even had a few extra days as Nessie was due to land just the day after Thanksgiving and everybody would be away from their work on their holidays for the next few days after that - so Nessie would be stranded in the docks, until we could get her released from customs!!
We drove over to New Jersey.....following Phil’s first driving experience in the US for a number of years. Somehow we found ourselves driving right through Downtown Manhattan in the middle of the Friday rush hour, for a first drive! Not quite sure how this happened but it seems to be our luck! After a very nerve-racking journey Phil now believes he can tackle whatever is thrown at him in any city! So next he decided to see what it was like to drive through Manhattan on a Saturday! Equally as nail biting for his passengers! Again everyone else seems to know where they are going and many seem to use their horns for communication (we were even told that the horn played an important part in stress therapy!!) Phil’s motto was ‘if you can’t beat ‘em – join ‘em!!’
When we arrived in New Jersey we had many forms to complete for the US Customs. We had a great company helping us and that was a God send! (thank -you to Brandi at Transglobal Auto Logistics. Inc).We also bought a US GPS System (as our US maps did not wish to work here!) and that has already been worth its weight in GOLD!!
We continued to stay in hotels along our way which was all very good but a world away from the independence that we are accustomed to living in our Nessie – and we all know which one we prefer!!
We took a trip to Philadelphia and visited the city on Thanksgiving Day. This is a celebration of the harvest and is a general display of gratitude which is celebrated Primarily in Canada and the USA. The celebration occurs on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the USA. From our point of view this was great timing to visit this city as it was very quiet from lunch time onwards. Many people were enjoying a thanksgiving dinner, as a gathering of family and friends at this time – very similar to that of a Christmas Day meal.
We enjoyed the walk along the Mall (once again a mass of flags for Ben to enjoy!). Phil was delighted to find the infamous Museum of Arts at the end of this Mall – and the memories of all the Rocky films he still continues to enjoy! It was even better to discover that the statue that was used in the films was actually there! The children ran a few miles up and down these famous steps – many times- and were kindly given some pom poms for a Happy Thanksgiving Day.
We had a fascinating look around some of the other city buildings – with many glass -sided skyscrapers in very unusual designs. We were put well into the Christmas Spirit (no not by whisky!) but through a visit to the Comcast centre. Thanksgiving Day saw the unveiling of their holiday spectacular which runs through to News Years Day. It is made up of a light show that is displayed on enormous screens and the dream- like magic of Christmas comes alive all around you!
In the evening it was very difficult to find any place that was open for food -however we found an Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant and tried some of their soup for the first time (which was served with a variety of meat, noodles and bean shoots). It was actually very tasty – we all tucked in and it added to our list of tried and tasted foods! The children enjoyed using the chopsticks too!
A happy ending to our Philadelphia experience!
Next we moved to the Capital City of the USA – Washington DC. We were amazed by the number of old and important buildings that this city has! We walked along the Pennsylvania Avenue to see the US Capitol Building - which was just being prepared for Christmas and the inauguration ceremony for the President Elect, which will take place early in the New Year.
We saw the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and the Senate Office Buildings – all very famous buildings.
It was a very long but extremely worthwhile walk along the National Mall and through the Constitution Gardens to see – firstly - The Washington Monument. This was built in honour of George Washington, who led the country to independence and then became its first President. It is shaped like an Egyptian obelisk and stands 555 ‘, 5 and 1/8” tall. It offers a view in excess of 30 miles. Work was begun in 1848 and took place in two major building phases – being 1848-56 and 1876-84. The pause in works can be seen by the difference in the colour of the stone at the 152’ mark.
Next we visited the World War Two Memorial which honours the 16 million who served in the US Armed Forces, the 400,000 who died and also all who supported the efforts from home. This memorial is relatively new as it was only opened to the public in 2004.
Next there is a Reflecting Pool that is rectangular in shape and 618 metres long by 51 metres wide. It is spectacular as it reflects both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
At the end of the National Mall stands the powerful memorial to the 16th President of the United States- Abraham Lincoln. He was successful in leading the country through the American Civil War, saving the union and putting an end to slavery. The building is constructed in the form of a Greek Doric Temple and has, in the centre a large seated sculpture of Lincoln, made of Georgian Marble. Inside there are inscriptions of two well known speeches made by Lincoln and above his sculpture are the words “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” This president remains a symbol of freedom and the memorial promotes inspiration and hope for the USA and its people.
In this area there were also memorials for the Vietnam Veterans and the Korean War Veterans.
We joined the many hundreds of others in visiting these memorials on that day and as the sun was setting - the stunning views were revealed across the reflecting pool. We took a cab and the metro back to the hotel and then found ourselves reflecting back on the historic moments that have become ever more significant to us since our visit to Washington DC.
Next we made our way back to New Jersey and on Wednesday 3rd December we collected Nessie as she was released from the US Customs! We had a lovely re-union and only wish we could hear the tales she has to tell about her trip over the ocean!! We stocked back up with gas cylinders, water and diesel and we felt ‘at home again!!’ We were very pleasantly surprised by the cost of fuel here! Our best price to date is £1.53 per gallon (or 2.38 US Dollars!) Nessie’s journey continues!!
· Upon completion in 1884, The Washington Monument became the world’s tallest structure (taking the title from the Cologne Cathedral in Germany). The monument held its title until 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was completed in France.
· The Washington Monument is made of marble, granite and sandstone and remains the world’s tallest stone structure.
· In 1963 the ‘March on Washington for jobs and freedom’ used the Constitution Gardens (Lincoln Memorial area) for its Civil Rights Rally and it was here that Martin Luther King made his famous “I have a dream” speech. The speech was delivered to a quarter of a million people standing all around (and also in) the Reflecting Pool.
· The Statue of Lincoln (inside the Memorial) is 19 feet high and weighs 175 tons.
· Abraham Lincoln was assassinated just as the Civil War was virtually over (in 1865) and his was the first presidential assassination in US history.
Friday, 19 December 2008 05:25:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Friday, 05 December 2008
New York in Pictures...........
"We made it to New York!
The Trumps Tower. The United Nations.
Crocodile Dundee ring a bell?! "Its a Long way up there!"
The busy streets of New York. The Rockefeller iceskating experience!
St.Patricks Cathedral. The Steaming experience!
Part of the Manhattan Skyline. The Rockefeller Centre.
This Is TIME SQUARE! The Naked Cowboy!
This is TIME SQUARE! The Sweetie Shop in Time Square!
More of the amazing views............. "Can you spot the yellow cabs!?"
Spectacular views............ "Its a very long way down there!"
We leave Manhattan to visit Liberty Not quite as tall this time!
"I'm not tall enough today either! We were there!!
The Statue of Liberty Herself! Getting into the festive spirit!
This is China Town!! The Manhattan Skyline at Dusk
Friday, 05 December 2008 20:17:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Wednesday, 03 December 2008
THIS IS NEW YORK CITY!!
OK – time for more about our “New York Experience”–just not sure where to begin - In the words of Jemma and Ben –“WOW! “
The sights, the power and the energy that is endlessly being generated throughout this city- were like nothing we have experienced before! “The city that never sleeps.” .....has never been so true....and the speed and dynamics of this city –we can only compare to a whirlwind! Every-one seems to be going about their business at a high pace –but unlike us, they seem to know where they are going!
Time Square was an amazing experience - a host of bright lights, music, illuminated TV screens and home to countless shops, stores, Broadway Theatres, the Arts and more........the illuminated screens and signs are aptly known as ‘Spectaculars’ with the largest of these sporting the title of ‘Jumbotrons’. Time Square is home to the World’s Largest Toy-store - which advertises itself as being at the “Heart of Times Square and the Crossroads of the world”. The store has a life sized animatronics T.Rex to greet you at the entrance and houses a 60 foot tall indoor operational Ferris wheel and also a two story life- sized Barbie House!
We saw the Naked Cowboy – now famous for his presence in Times Square –who has been entertaining the crowds for approximately 10 years. He has nothing more than a cowboy hat, briefs and a guitar to strum and sing along to! A sight to be seen indeed - and apparently he can be seen out in all weather’s – summer and winter alike!
We caught a glimpse of Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange and got as close as you are able to get to it –as it now has permanent road blockades for extra security.
The Rockefeller Centre is named after the multi-millionaire – John. D. Rockefeller and includes 19 commercial building spanning some 19 acres. The enormous Christmas tree was just being decorated when we were there and was above a magical ice skating rink that Jemma found just too tempting! It reminded us all of a winter wonderland.
The Trumps Tower was exquisite and enormous too and lays claim to being the tallest residential building. Many famous names own luxury apartments here.
We took the trek up to the top of the very famous Empire State Building – and spent a while feeling on top of the world! What a feeling to be looking down over everything else! We were able to have a quick lesson on distances and perspective –as Ben had previously disbelieved us about this being taller than some of the other sky scrapers that we saw that were closer to us at the time!. When we were at the top (well as high as we were allowed at floor 86!) and out in the open –air Observatory, we could all see that this was the highest building! Today it remains one of the tallest buildings in the world with the very top of its art deco rising to 448.7 metres into the air! The 86th floor was 320 metres high which was plenty high enough –thank-you! And Ben (again!) was even trying to climb higher still when he was on the outside deck – we are not quite sure why?!
We visited the United Nations Centre where they have a model of an enormous 6 Shooter Pistol with a knot tied in the end -as a symbol of peace. There are 192 countries who are members of the United Nations and their flags are all displayed in alphabetical order around the outside of the buildings.
We just had to take a stroll down Fifth Avenue and we took a look inside a famous sweetie shop while we were there! This street is said to be the most expensive street to shop in – in the world!!
Our ferry crossing out to Liberty Island was an adventure. We saw Ellis Island where some 12 million people came into the USA during the years between 1892 and 1954. The first views of the Statue of Liberty (for real!) in the distance- were overwhelming! The sheer size of the statue up close showed us how much power and significance she has, as the torch is held so high. The Statue is made from copper and has turned the green colour that we see today through the process of oxidisation.
We were very fortunate to meet John, the managing director of Topaz Tours (for sightseeing tours of New York City) -as his wealth of knowledge and experience within New York City seemed second to none! He was very entertaining as he shared many facts and figures and we would highly recommend enhancing your trip by joining in on one of the various tours that his company has to offer!
Although the speed of this city made us all dizzy as it was a world away from what is familiar to us- there was definitely a magical appeal and you couldn’t help but look some more and soak in every moment of the time. Each time we passed through the city, driving right through Manhattan, China Town and around the outskirts –the views seemed magnetic and time stood still as we were lost in the immensity of the Manhattan Skyline..............What an AWESOME experience!!
*The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre is now decorated with approximately 300,000 lights!
* New York City has an overall population of approximately 9.7 million people.
* The Brooklyn Borough of New York has a population of approximately 4 million people.
* The Queens Borough of New York has a population of approximately 2.5 million people.
* The Staten Island Borough of New York has a population of approximately 0.5 million people.
* The Manhattan Borough of New York has a population of approximately 1.6 million people.
* The Bronx Borough of New York has a population of approximately 1.1 million people.
* The oldest building in New York City was built in 1790.
*For 8 out of the last 9 years – New York has been named as the safest BIG CITY (with a population of over 1 Million!).
* During the time between 1892 and 1954 – some 12 million immigrants came into the USA through Ellis Island. Today the Island is a memorial to all who have made the nation their adopted home.
* New York City is home to the Largest Shopping Store in the world! – Macy’s has 9 floors of shopping heaven!
* New York has a larger Jewish population than Israel (We are led to believe).
*New York has more Irish residents than Dublin does (We are led to believe)
* The Empire State Building was completed in an amazing one year and 45 days!
* The Empire State Building has 102 floors (with public access up to floor 86!)
* The Empire State Building is arguably the most famous structure built by modern man and has dominated the New York City Skyline since 1931.
* The silhouette of the Empire State lit up by night can be seen from a distance of 80 miles all around it and during special celebrations it can be seen beaming coloured combinations of lights from the top 30 floors (with different colours depending on the occasion).
* The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the USA from France. It was assembled on Bedloe’s Island (one of the Island’s previous names) in 1886 and was declared a National Monument in 1924. The Island’s name changed again in 1956 from Bedloe’s to Liberty Island as we know today.
* We saw Ground Zero and all of the tributes to the fallen. Works have begun at the site for a new tower - called The Freedom Tower. This will stand some 426 feet taller than the Empire State building does today and it is thought will become the tallest building in the world (at a significant total for US independence being 1776 feet high).
*The USA declared its freedom and independence from England on July 4th 1776.
* There are approximately 13,000 yellow cabs in New York City!!
*Thats all for now folks - as this list could easily go on forever!! Once again thankyou for your time. Pics to follow soon!
Wednesday, 03 December 2008 04:09:05 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Heathrow to New York City!
MACSWAYROUND - DID continue and after a very comfortable and enjoyable stay in Lee- on- the –Solent, and after visiting The Spinnaker Tower for a view over Portsmouth (with a glass floor to walk across if you are brave enough!) –we packed up our bags and were taken to Heathrow airport. Thank-you once more, to Don, for his time and to both Don and Sandy for their kindliness and patience!
At Heathrow airport we were shown how to operate the E-Ticket machine as it has been a while since we have flown anywhere! This was excellent to save on the long “check in” queue. We had been given good advice to book a hotel to make sure we had a US address, as we would need to fill in the visa waiver forms on the plane-however we had no proof about the exact date we would be exiting the USA. It is no longer acceptable to just say that we will be leaving within the 3 month allowable time –we must be able to prove this and luckily a helpful assistant made us aware of this before we came to check in. It was lucky that we arrived at the airport in such good time, as it meant that to be allowed to catch our flight –we had 1 hour to book our tickets for when we move on from the USA!! Another lesson learnt along our way! We had to pay over the top for our tickets but our choices were limited if we were to catch our flight (and we now know that we will be flying from Los Angeles to Brisbane on February 3rd 2009!!)
The flight to JFK in New York took approximately 8 hours with Virgin Atlantic and the time flew by surprisingly quickly! We were very well looked after with drinks, a main meal and snacks and the children were quite happy with their own personal TV screen built -in and free choice of viewing! (another new feature since we last flew!). It was a long flight for a first flying experience but they both loved the take off and view from high above the clouds!
We were able to see the Manhatten Skyline from our hotel-and have been continually amazed as we discover more of New York City! We have enjoyed listening to the ever famous and traditional words of the locals – “THIS IS NEW YORK CITY!”
More Photos and blog will follow shortly - thanks for your interest..............
Saturday, 29 November 2008 01:28:39 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) USA