Thursday, August 8, 2019

Off on Another Adventure

After three very delightful weeks in Salem following our 8800-mile road trip across Canada and the US, we're off again.  No Airstream this time, as we're traveling much lighter and farther.
Traveling much lighter this time!

We leave for Tanzania on Friday.  We're going to meet up with our good friends from Spokane, Ron (Tall Ron--I'm Short Ron) and Barb.  We met them in 2006 on a bicycle trip from Vienna to Venice.  We've stayed in touch ever since and have done three bike trips with them including Vietnam and France.

It will take 19 hours from Boston
to Dar es Salaam
After three days of jet-lag recovery and a city tour of Dar es Salaam, were going for five nights to Ruaha National Park.  Kathy and I loved our hosts and their very remote camp last year and are looking forward to a longer stay with walking photo safaris and even more remote mobile camps on three of the nights.

Then we fly to the Selous National Game Reserve, to a tent camp on the shores of Lake Manze for four nights.
Starting and ending in Dar es Salaam by bush planes and
dirt roads to our camps

We say goodbye to Tall Ron and Barb, then head off on our own to Lisbon Portugal.  We will work our way north to Porto where our London daughter Shanti and husband Alan  will join us for three days. Then on September 2, with our 14-pound packs, we plan to start walking part of the Portuguese Camino de Santiago into NW Spain. We probably won't go all the way to Santiago  but may do a loop by returning along the coastal route.  It should be about 300 miles, but we'll see.  It depends upon the weather, and how our bodies and time are holding up.  My back is still a little 'iffy,' but much better than three weeks ago.

Now here's the important part: We're not taking ipads or computers, just our phones.  So I won't be able to continue with this format and the email notifications.  Therefore, if you want follow our adventures, you can do it three ways:

1) Follow us on Facebook.  This will have the best photo layout and photo captions (Send me a friend request if you don't follow me)

2) Follow me on Instagram @kelemenron (Unfortunately, most of the photos will be square, missing the big panoramas and vistas.)

3)  Don't want to bother with social media?  That's fine.  Simply go on the internet periodically to  

We'll be back in late September.  Enjoy!

What we can, While we can!"

Monday, July 22, 2019

Six Weeks and 8800 Miles--Back in Eden

Lunch in lovely Quebec
We’re home, back in Eden, the beautiful land of gas station attendants, good wine, and coffee kiosks everywhere.  Like many trips, it seems like we left a lifetime ago, yet it seems like we just left last week.  And like nearly every trip, it’s exciting to leave and nice to be home.  We logged over 8,800 miles, and only 500 of them were without the trailer. 

One mile at a time, one day at a time

This cross-continent trip was even better than our 2016 trip.  We’re now fully retired without a lot of emails, payroll, and other business issues to worry about.  We got to experience the Canadian Rockies and the Trans Canada Highway (in all its boring beauty through the prairie) and we took new routes and mostly avoided the Interstates, taking two-lane country roads. We got to see some amazing scenery and historic sites.  Above all, we enjoyed our time together and a week in the Berkshires of western MA with daughters Skyler and Feruza and their constellation of friends.

We traveled in a universe different from living in our downtown six-story condo where we walk and bicycle nearly everywhere.  We were in a world of truck stops, semis, gigantic RVs, other people on vacation, cross country motorcycles and bicyclists, small towns, large cities, and campgrounds.  Behind the windshield, we were in an air-conditioned cocoon of Sirius Radio and audio books, but always mindful of the changing scenery, wind, potholes, trucks, route changes, hills, and sometimes intense traffic.  Happy hour took on a whole new meaning once we arrived and set up camp.  (It was often the happy hour for mosquitoes, too!)

Wind River Basin near the Tetons
Our Airstream friends will want to know about technical and towing issues, as well as good camping spots.  Other than some spilled sesame oil smelling of skunk, some leaking lighter fluid that wreaked of an impending explosion, a refrigerator that would only work on propane, and a grey water valve that wouldn’t completely close, we had no problems.  The Jeep performed like a champ, but we avoided the long 10% grades of Teton Pass, outside Jackson, WY.  We were wary of tailwinds throughout the trip with passing trucks and especially after a frightening fishtailing episode in the Columbia Gorge our first day. 

As viewers of our Facebook posts could tell, we had some pretty amazing camping spots mostly in wineries and national, county, city, and provincial parks. But we also had some forgettable ones in places where RV parks are the permanent homes of many in sad-looking ‘Cousin Eddie’ Winnebagos, gigantic motorhomes and 5th wheels.
Our last campground--Sisters City Park in Oregon.  

Wind River mountains, WY

Once we hit Wyoming, we felt almost home—it wasn’t flat and humid anymore.  But it was arid, rocky, littered, and populated with drilling rigs, coal trains, and mine tailings.  We liked the silos and combines of Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska better.  Southern Idaho still retains our award for the most boring and ugly stretch of road in the US.  We took the back road US 20 from Ontario to Burns and Bend.  Very desolate, but beautiful.

A beautiful ocean of foam-colored sagebrush between
Burns and Bend, OR.  150 miles of beautiful desolation.

North America, east to west, is huge, varied, and beautiful.  We come back with more appreciation for this great land, the First Nation tribes that initially lived in it, the pioneers who settled it, and the people who inhabit it today.  No matter where we were, people (except for the East-Coast and ‘Mass-hole’ drivers) were friendly, especially the Canadians.

It’s good to be home in an expansive kitchen, queen bed, and fast internet.  I tweaked my back the morning of our last day and have trouble walking upright without occasional spasms.  But as Kathy says, “Even when we are unlucky, we are lucky.”  This could have happened days or weeks ago. We’re optimistic that I’ll be back to normal before we leave on August 9 for our walking safaris in Tanzania, followed by our 300-mile walk along the Camino de Santiago in Portugal. 

Here's a LINK to our best shots that summarize the trip.  Enjoy!

At Snake River overlook, Grand Teton National Park, WY


Monday, July 15, 2019

The Vast Midwest

A relaxing and hot bike ride along the Cedar River
before starting another long day on the road
Political commentators sometimes refer to the Midwest as ‘flyover country,’ a vast prairie between major US cities on each coast.  We felt that way on our 2016 road trip with our Airstream going from Oregon to MA and back, viewing it as ‘something to get through.’ 

Somewhere in western NB
This time we feel differently.  Yes, we still have to get through it, but we are approaching it with a different attitude and a different route.  The Interstate highways of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and some of Indiana drove us crazy and dinged us with tolls every few miles.  So we opted for the two-lane back roads, which were often predecessors of the Interstates. 

Indiana, near IL border

The Westcott Home in Springfield OH, part
of our inadvertent  Frank Lloyd Wright Tour

This opened up opportunities for detours and stops that were never part of our itinerary.  One was a walk through 'Millionaires Row' and another Frank Lloyd Wright home (the Westcott home) in Springfield, OH, followed by a lunch stop at a western revolutionary war battlefield and a historical site for Tecumseh, the great Indian leader.

And following a night at a delightful Indiana campground far from the freeway, we landed in another Springfield, the Illinois state capitol and the home of Lincoln.  
Lincoln's Home, complete with many original
furnishings.  It was an eerie to touch the same
handrail he did as we ascended the stairs. 
It was never on our itinerary, but we are so grateful we saw Lincoln’s home, museum/library, offices, and more.  Up until now, we knew about slavery in an abstract sense, the kind taught to us in elementary school.  The museum made it real for us.  

Outside the Lincoln Museum
and library

As a bonus the next morning, we visited yet another Frank Lloyd Wright home, (the Dana Home) circa 1904.  It was one of Wright’s first major commissions. His benefactor had no budget constraints, and the home was huge, complete with a bowling alley and barrel ceilings in two rooms.

The Dana Home

From there, we proceeded on leisurely back roads to La Porte City, IA to visit Kathy’s college friend and one who was indirectly responsible for Kathy and me meeting 44 years ago.

The last two days have been the most relaxing drives of our five+ weeks so far, following Highway 20 through the Midwest.  (Highway 20 goes from Boston MA to Newport, OR.) Although the extreme heat, humidity, and mosquitoes are oppressive, we are fascinated by how the countryside changes (and grateful for an air conditioned vehicle).  It’s a very subtle transition from the hills and forests of the Allegheny Mountains; to the cornfields of Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa; to the rolling prairie wheat fields of western Nebraska; to the rocky buttes and grasslands of Wyoming.  But it happens.  And now that we’re in Wyoming, we feel almost back home--in the West--our comfort zone.
Wetlands in northern IA

It’s also fascinating to us how we can drive for miles and miles through vast nothingness, then come upon small towns with museums, public swimming pools, skate parks, and free camping (often with hookups) in their city parks or fairgrounds.  This free camping seems to be part of the Midwest hospitality ethos, and compared to the East, everyone is so nice.

No more cornfields as we approach WY

Every tiny town seems to have an historical museum and library.  Indeed, we’ve passed more museums in the past three days than McDonald’s, and certainly no Starbucks.

We often wonder, ‘Why do people live here?’  It’s certainly not where we would live, with its heat, humidity, brutal winters, flatness, and mosquitoes, lack of mountains and oceans, and big city amenities. But then, we didn’t grow up here and haven’t the connections to the land or its people.

Our free campground in the Douglas, WY city park on
the banks of the North Platte River

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

To Fallingwater and Beyond!

Looking upstream to Fallingwater
We enjoyed a fun week in the Berkshires at a mountain cottage we co-own with our daughter, Skyler.  What made it so nice was all of her guests coming and going.  We realized just how much we miss being in the company of young people.  We swam and paddle boarded on the lake, rode bikes, played with our ‘granddogs,’ sat around the campfire, and listened to John Williams and the Boston Pops at the Tanglewood Festival.  Above all, we ate, and ate, and ate.  Skyler, Spencer, and Feruza are such good cooks.

Cruising the lake at Sunset, July 4 with
Skyler's friends and coworkers

Sunset on Big Robin Lake

Waiting for John Williams to conduct his
greatest hits at the Tanglewood Festival

We left Monday toward Pittsburgh, to see the famous Fallingwater home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  It is listed in the Smithsonian’s “Life List of 28 places to visit before you die.”  And just this month, UNESCO listed Fallingwater as a world heritage site.  Together, we’ve seen about 12 of his homes, and several non-residential buildings. They were all interesting and nice to look at, but we wouldn’t want to live in one.   But we could happily live in Fallingwater.  It’s stunningly beautiful and practical at the same time. 

Falling Water, looking downstream
The home was commissioned in 1932 by Edgar and Liliane Kauffman who owned a huge department store in Pittsburgh.  The budget was $35,000, but in true Frank Lloyd Wright style, it the total cost was $155,000—about $2.8 million in today’s dollars, not counting the land.  (The Conservancy’s budget for needed restorations is over $11 million.)  That included furnishings, servants’ quarters, and carport.

The Kauffman’s wanted the home to look across the river to the waterfalls.  Frank instead designed the waterfall to be a part of the home.  You can see more photos of it HERE, as well as a second FLW home we toured nearby called Kentuck Knob. (Unfortunately photos inside were prohibited). While on the Kntuck Knob tour, we were privileged to meet its owner, Lord Peter Palumbo, a British philanthropist who buys and preserves historic properties.  He showed up in his vintage 1982 Buick Roadmaster station wagon to get some wine out of the cellar.
View from the Kentuck Knob property

As luck would have it both nights out of Becket, we stayed at wineries as members of Harvest Host.  The wines weren’t so good, but the ambiance and quiet were.  Although they are free to members, we purchased a bottle of wine at each place.

Our Harvest Host campsite Tuesday night

It seems like we’ve spent more money on tolls than on gas since we left Becket,  barely getting out of 4th  gear before another booth.  One toll was over $34!  It would have been even more if our trailer had two axles.  But the roads were good, fast, stressful, loaded with trucks, and yet boring! 

A refurbished historic mile make
At a rest stop we noticed some historical markers.  The toll roads were I-70, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway. He got the idea for our interstate highway system in 1919, as he led a 62-day convoy from Washington DC to San Francisco.  He signed the enabling legislation in 1956.  With the Cold War anxieties in mind, it was sold as the National Defense Highway System.  (In a similar vein in 1957 when the Soviet Sputnik satellite was launched, Congress passed the National Defense Student Loan Program, of which Kathy and I, and many baby boomers used for low-cost student loans.)

But what really caught our eye was the Historic Highway 40 interpretive sign.  Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1806, it originally connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Ohio River.  In 1926 it became the original coast-to-coast US highway.  It parallels I-70 and in some places I-70 is US 40. We decided to get off the three-lane I-70 and take US 40 through several quaint eastern and Midwest towns.  Some of these towns looked prosperous, others were rundown with many shuttered stores and factories.  Later on, as we approached Columbus, it was lined with strip malls. 

Tomorrow (Thursday), we’re going to spend the morning in nearby Springfield, OH.  Any guesses what we’ll be doing?  Kathy wants to tour yet another FLW home and walk the historical neighborhoods in the 90 degree heat and 85% humidity.  Over our 42 years of marriage, I have grown to enjoy her passion for architecture, as she has for my passions of symphonic music and cooking.

Then off towards another Springfield—Lincoln’s home town.
Fallingwater in background


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Amazing Bay of Fundy

We'd be 30 feet under water
seven hours later
Crossing Canada, one of our main objectives was to see the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  One of the Seven Wonders of North America, this UNESCO site was was well worth the effort. The bay has tides five-ten times higher than the rest of the world.  They can reach up to 56 feet in the upper reaches of the bay.

Over 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy every day.  The flow of water equals 24 hours of that of all the fresh water streams and rivers on earth combined! Think of it--more than the Mississippi, Amazon, Nile, Columbia and many more rivers every day.

Hopewell Rocks at low tide
Why is this?  The bay is funnel shaped, becoming narrower and shallower as it progresses inland.  The Bay is 62 miles across and 400-700 feet deep at its mouth.  But it tapers off over 181 miles, to 1.5 miles wide and 35 feet deep at low tide.  This length makes it synchronous with the Atlantic Ocean's tide cycle, creating what we know as the 'bathtub effect' when waves are amplified by the ocean.  I think it also has something to do with being distant from the equator, because when we lived in Malaysia, we seldom saw tides above 18 inches.
The Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy

Almost low tide at the Alma harbor

The next morning about an hour from high tide

Near low tide at Fundy National Park

The next morning, an hour before high tide

You can see a few more photos HERE

We were going to spend an extra day hiking in the national park, but we decided it is better to spend the day driving in heavy rains than hiking in them.  This got us into Becket, MA in the Berkshires our East Coast goal, two days ahead of time.  Skyler has a cottage there.

But the drive from the outskirts of Augusta to Becket wasn't pleasant.  In fact, it was rather stressful pulling a trailer.  We'd become too accustomed to courteous and slower-driving Canadians on two lane roads.  The Mass Turnpike, with its 70 mph limits, three lanes of heavy traffic, and legendary 'Mass-hole' drivers was quite a culture shock.

We'll be here for a few days, experiencing some the Tanglewood Festival and catching up with some of our family. Skyler, Spencer, their dogs and a friend are coming here for the long weekend, as is Feruza from New York with two friends.  Looks like the Airstream will be a backup bedroom, but not for us.  It felt so good to sleep on a queen bed last night!

Kathy drove the last hour and did a
yeoman's job of backing the trailer 75 feet
into it's tight resting spot.
Challenging back up job

Friday, June 28, 2019

Quebec--North America's France

One of several historic city gates to Quebec
We loved Quebec, especially Quebec City.  It's like Paris without the Eiffel Tower and all the dog shit on the sidewalks.

Founded in 1608, it is the last narrow point on the St. Lawrence River and was a major port, political capital, and focal point of British, French, and US military designs.  Its citadel is huge, the largest fortified city north of Mexico.

The St. Lawrence & Quebec port

Beyond the citadel, old Quebec if full of narrow quaint streets and alleys, reminiscent of Europe, and France in particular.

One of many street scenes.  We ate on the left.

The massive Fairmont Hotel was the meeting place for Roosevelt, Churchill, and Canadian PM Smith to plan D-Day. 

The Fairmont hotel

Nice, but a few too many mosquitoes

We camped upriver in a beautiful forested national park, next to Isle de Orleans.  After lunch at a winery with just so-so wines, we bicycled partly around in 80 degree heat and 80% humidity.  We were also right next to Chutes Montomorecy a huge waterfall taller than Niagara Falls.

Chutes Montomorecy
You can see more photos HERE.

We drove over 400 miles today along the St. Lawrence River then through beautiful, hilly farmland and forests.  (Sorry, no photos, but parts were definitely photo worthy).  Now that we're in New Brunswick, it's nice to see road signs in English, and have people speak English with us.  We're within two hours of the Bay of Fundy, the place with the massive tides.  Then back to the USA via Maine.
Leisurely Charcuterie lunch in Quebec City


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ottawa and Montreal

On the locks of  the Rideau Canal
After five straight days of driving from Calgary, it felt so good to not be behind a windshield.  Having been in many capital cities in the world, we weren't expecting much.  But Ottawa  (population almost one million) was much like Washington DC.  Lots to see and do, and we hit perfect weather for it.

The Rideau Canal next to Parliment

We drove part way into town, then rode our bikes into downtown.  We've come to realize that riding bikes in any downtown is much less stressful than driving and finding a parking place.  And on our second day, we found a nice route along the Rideau Canal.

Our morning commute to downtown Ottawa
Over 120 miles long, and carved out of granite for much of its route, it was built between 1826 and 1832 for military purposes.  It connects the Ottawa River with Lake Ontario. (By comparison, the Erie Canal, 363 miles long, was completed in 1825.)  Over 1,000 Irish workers died of disease during the construction, mostly from malaria.  We'd believe it, based on the mosquito bites we got in our campground.

We witnessed the pomp and circumstance of the changing of the guard in front of the Parliament building, undergoing a 10-year renovation.  Many of the buildings there made us feel that we were at Hogwarts.

Hogwarts?  Or the House of Commons?
We also got to watch another one at the home of the Governor General, Canada's first astronaut.  She was out of town, so we got to see more of the residence (photos are in the link below).  The grounds were beautiful.  The Governor General is the Queen's representative, and has duties similar  to that of an American Vice President.

Inside the House of Commons

We also toured the home of two prime ministers of the WWI and WWII era, saw the obligatory Gothic cathedral,  toured the House of Commons (built in a former courtyard), and enjoyed an excellent Indian and French lunch.

I'm writing this in Quebec, and like every other Canadian city we've visited, we've enjoyed the ethnic diversity.  People of all creeds, attire, and ethnicity seem to mingle with each other and get along.  Canada's liberal immigration policy is its strength, especially when countries in Europe, Asia, and even in the US are approaching flat or negative population growths and strains on their pension systems.  This diversity creates some wonderful dining opportunities, as well.

You can see more photos of our Ottawa photos HERE.


Bike path on our island campground
We didn't get to see as much of Montreal as we had wanted.  It was twice the size of Ottawa and the weather didn't cooperate on our sightseeing day.  We arrived on Discovery Day, Quebec's version of our 4th of July.  By law, everything from Walmart, to Ikea to Mom and Pop establishments were closed.  

But we took advantage of the beautiful weather on our island campground (a national park) on the St. Lawrence River and bicycled around it and watched the locals enjoy the holiday.  As always, our campground neighbors were so helpful and friendly.

It rained a lot the next day.  We drove to a park and ride, then took the subway into downtown Montreal. The heavy rain made the cathedral and an indoor market a refuge, but in the end the museum Pointe-a''-Calliere made the day most satisfying.

The Museo Pointe-a''-Calliere
Built on the archaeological ruins of Montreal from 600 ago to today, we got a good sense of the history about this place and North America.  Best of all, it had a fabulous traveling exhibit about the history of French cuisine.  Think what you may, but these two food geeks spent a good two hours there. 

We don't  have a lot of Montreal photos, but what we do have are HERE.

Stay tuned for our next post on Quebec--We love it and took a lot of photos.