Home again

Hello dear subscribers. I will no longer be posting here as we have arrived back in the land of OZtralia. It’s been a fun ride but nothing beats your own bed at the end of a long trip.

The US and Canada are such a diverse lands, peopled by mostly friendly citizens. I may be biased because I have wonderful family in both countries, however we met so many strangers who were courteous and interesting and kind and friendly. We have memories and photos galore.  Below are a few photos that didn’t get used in this blog.

Thanks for following us on our epic road trip; you can follow my ramblings on other forums via my tweets which link to tumblr and my everyday wordpress blog:

https://twitter.com/#!/mltuckeratlarge

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Last stop – Minnesota

After careful consultation of our old-skool maps and the Google maps on our electronica, we decided to head from Marquette, Michigan, across the narrow top bit of Wisconsin then on to Duluth, Minnesota.

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Having never been to Duluth we had no pre-conceived notions. We liked it immediately though. The sun was shining when we arrived and the residents and visitors were all taking advantage of the outdoor cafes, parks, walkways and bike paths.

Since the Aerial Lift Bridge was a key destination for us, we decided to stay night next to it. The bridge’s roadway lifts up to let large ships and sailing vessels through the canal that divides a long spit of land that protects the Duluth Harbor from Lake Superior.

It is a fabulous sight to watch the ships come and go and the harbormaster’s office announces many of the ships, giving details of the ship’s history and country of origin. The next morning we drove to Enger Park to get a view of Duluth and Superior Wisconsin as well as the great expanse of the lake. The gardens in the park were beautifully manicured and the park was completed by an observation tower dedicated by King Olaf of Norway to the industriousness of the Norwegian settlers (Enger was a migrant who did well and became a pillar of the community).

The rain began to fall when we were leaving Duluth and it appears we got out of town just in time; by the next morning there were floods and road closures.

Our destination was Minneapolis to visit my sister Ann and her family as well as nephew Owen. Over the next few days we ate, both in and out. Gram and Roo mannned the BBQ and everyone pitched in with bits of meals, setting up or cleaning up. We hit all the Minneapolis hot-spots, the Weinery, the Farmer’s Market, Target, Caribou Coffee, Byerly’s, Wholefoods…Hmmm, I see a pattern emerging here! We even managed to go to new friend Joy’s to celebrate the 2nd birthday of her sourdough starter and a concert at the zoo. Sleep did not figure prominently in our 5 day visit.

I am writing from the airport in LA as this is the first chance I have had to blog in a week. It was a packed few days and here is some photographic evidence.

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If you’re going north…

My cousin in Michigan said that north of Saginaw was like a whole other world. And she was so right.

We had roughly sketched out a few days on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the bit above the mitten-shaped main part of Michigan. Having read about it in a Bill Bryson book years ago and having the transportation to do it on the way to Minnesota, the time was right.

So we headed north from Linden and got to Mackinaw City with plenty of daylight to spare. The bridge to the Upper Peninsula, or the UP (locals are referred to as ‘youppers’), is an impressive engineering feat that sounds like it was built to create employment and relieve the car ferry traffic during the hunting season. The UP is very ‘north-woodsy’ and the human population sparse.

Before crossing the bridge to the UP though, we took the passenger ferry to Mackinaw Island where no cars are allowed, and bikes and horses rule. There are plenty of tourist shops and signs to warn you to be aware of the so-called ‘island apples’, or horsey droppings!

On the peninsula we stayed a night in the charming small town of Marquette where we dined on the top floor of the Landmark Hotel with a view of Lake Superior, then drove out to Presqisle Park to see an exquisite sunset.

Roo has agreed to let me use his favorite Mackinaw Island photo of a horse drawn tourist trolley in the morning mist. Here are some images of the island and the peninsula…

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So if you’re going up north, I recommend that you take your time, enjoy the scenery and watch out for deer!

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More Family time in Canada and the USA

We left Ottawa on Thursday and headed west, stopping at one of Tim Horton’s ubiquitous donut outlets for a mid-morning coffer. We resisted the Tim’s ‘bits’, otherwise known as donut holes. Beyond Toronto’s snarl of traffic we finally reached London, Ontario.

My father’s first cousin Joan migrated from Liverpool England as a newlywed in the 50s. It had been over ten years since we had seen she and husband John. It was a lovely, if brief, 24 hour visit and we experienced a yummy roast dinner, a selection of beverages plus copious amounts of tea!

Cousin Lisa and her daughters Brittany and Jessica came by in the evening after the girls’ dancing lessons. We stayed up late chatting about our English family, past and present, then in the morning went for a leisurely stroll around their part of London. After lunch we set out for Linden Michigan via the Sarnia/Port Huron crossing to the USA.

The border crossing was blessedly simple and we made good time to Linden where we stayed the night with my cousin Angela (our mothers were first cousins) and her husband Joe. They were perfect hosts who showed us around some of their favorite haunts and provided us with a lovely dinner in their new home.

This too was a 24 visit and we really appreciated the great food, drink, hospitality and family chat (Angela and I hadn’t seen each other in 50 years we appreciate our husbands being so accommodating as we covered a lot of ground on all things Italian).

We have made our way now to Mackinaw City. The plan is to go to Mackinaw Island tomorrow – weather provided. Our hotel is near the bridge to the upper peninsula and it is really impressive. We’ll head over the bridge to the UP late tomorrow as we continue westward…

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Oh Canada!

It’s best to expect a long wait when you get to the border of Canada at Cornwall. We sat on the bridge and crept along at a snail’s pace for 1.5 hours. The actual customs and immigration part took no time at all. We pulled up to a toll booth-like window, presented our passports, answered a few questions about our visit to Canada and were sent on our way.

After the last few days of mountains and rolling hills, the trip to Ottawa is refreshingly flat and the roads straight and wide. And we are back in the sensible world of metric! Well, sort of…at the grocery store today the tags on the shelves showed price per pound but the comparison price was in metric. Wow, that’s confusing.

Another way cool thing about Canada is that everything is in French and English. I know it’s controversial here, but I’m a Francophone from way back an think it is fun to see another language other than English on everything. Maybe it’s just me but I think it makes a place seem exotic!

After our arrival we freshened up, had a cool drink then stepped out from Pete and Donna’s city digs for a walk along the Rideau Canal. What a great new place they have and how convenient to be walking distance to the downtown sights and market area. Here are some pictures of last evening and today’s adventures.

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Pete and Donna’s fabulous townhouse has been an oasis for us weary travellers. Home cooked food, drinks, conversation, interesting surrounds, a comfy bed and clothes washing facilities! Plus son Ryan’s special brand of humor. What more could we want?

Tomorrow we are off to the gallery for a Van Gogh exhibition…

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New England byways part 2

We called into the information centre outside of Freeport and asked the lovely volunteers the best way to get to Burlington Vermont. One of the old timers said, “Well you’ll want to take the Kanc”. I said, “What’s the Kanc?”.

As we discovered, the Kanc is the Kancamagus Highway, a classic American byway, most popular in the autumn for the famous colourful foliage. Always a sucker for a good byway with lookouts and hiking trails and waterfalls, we aimed our rental in the direction of New Hampshire.

http://byways.org/explore/byways/2458/ http://byways.org/explore/byways/2458/Kancamagus_Scenic_Byway_print_n_go_2458.pdf

Here are a few snaps of the sights on the day:

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We headed over the Kancamagus pass and rolled down to beautiful Vermont where we spent a night just out of Burlington. After a yummy Bagel and coffee breakfast we went into downtown Burlington on the western shore of Lake Champlain, which forms the border with upstate New York. There’s a lovely pedestrianised old town centre along Church Street. Down the side streets there are views of the lake.

We decided to take the scenic route through the middle of Lake Champlain. A series of islands connected by bridges take you through to New York state and beyond to Canada. Ottawa was our ultimate destination for the day. Here are a few Vermont memories…

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New England byways

As I mentioned in my previous post, we took the ferry from Orient Point on Long Island to New London, Connecticut. The ferry crossing took about 1 hour and 20 minutes and was very smooth. Being a weekday and just before school gets out for the summer, there were not many other vessels on the water.

They say in New England, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute”. As beautiful as it had been on the crossing, we were taken by surprise when in western Massachusetts we could hardly see the road. There were some tense moments trying to see the lane markings and avoid merging vehicles on the interstate.

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Rivers of water ran under our feet as we fueled the car at Lowell, Mass. We had hoped to make a quick diversion to the cemetery where Jack Kerouac is buried, but we chose to not get soaked and muddy. Sorry Jack!

We made Maine before dark and had time to look around Freeport before finding dinner. L.L. Bean dominates the region and I was a little surprised at the endless outlet stores that have sprung up in downtown Freeport. I must admit though, that they have done it pretty well and maintained the character of the town.

Although we did look at some of the shops and even make purchases, our primary purpose was to enjoy light houses, wild blueberry pie, lobster, clam chowder and haddock. In all these pursuits we were successful. Off to Burlington Vermont tomorrow…

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New York state of mind…

Last Sunday morning sister Beth, her hubby Steve, Roo and I piled into our rental car and headed up the Jersey Turnpike towards Long Island, NY. Other than an accident that caused us to detour a bit, the trip was no more stressful than the usual nail-biting, hair-raising drive in one of the world’s great megalopolises!

Now is an appropriate time to thank Andrew for his calm and measured driving, and Beth and Steve for the navigating. I declared a day off navigating (really, it is stressful) and sat in the back seat to enjoy the view!

The purpose of our journey was to go to brunch with our nephew Sullivan Jessup to celebrate his High School graduation and acceptance to University. We had our fill of yummy foods at the brunch then continued to munch our way through quite a few meals over the next few days.

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We had Paulie’s yummy ribs, great Reuben sandwiches, beefy hot dogs and more. Good thing we got in a bit of walking in NYC to work some of it off.

We took in Hell’s Kitchen, Broadway and Times Square (now with more space for pedestrians and steps for people watching), the Financial District, Tribeca and the very moving 9\11 Memorial with its infinite pools and forest of Oak trees. Out on Long Island, where we stayed with Peggy, Paul and Sully, we went to Fire Island and explored the light house and surrounding surf beaches on a quiet late spring day.

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For a change, we left Long Island via its eastern end, taking the car ferry from Orient Point to New London Connecticut. It was a scenic and pleasant trip and saved us doubling back through city traffic.

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The Mid-Atlantic States Beckon

Crossing the border from Maryland into Pennsylvania on Route 1 made me feel like a kid again, like when we’d come back from a family visit in Baltimore with mom and dad or Nana. You escape the traffic jams and the intensity of Interstate 95 and drive on to rural back roads, crossing the Mason Dixon Line into beautiful southern Chester County, PA. It’s got to be 14 years since I last made that journey.

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Two close friends still living in the area are sisters Margy and Jane. We were fortunate to be able to hang out with both gals and their husbands and children, spending a night or so with each. We explored Kennett Square, Mushroom Capitol of the world and ate diner food (mushroom omelets of course), visited aunt Grace, who seemed miraculously younger, and attended an end of school year band recital to cheer Margy’s clarinet playing daughter.

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No trip to the area is complete without a visit to Longwood Gardens.

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I marveled at how much the area where I grew up has changed, and also at how absolutely beautiful it remains, especially when green and sunny!

After catching up with Jane and family, we made our way to sister Beth’s place in Bucks county to prepare for our journey to Long Island and beyond. That’s my next entry so, stay tuned…

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Sweet Virginia

With the mellow strains of James Taylor’s ‘Carolina in my mind’ fading into the background, we rolled north along the Blue Ridge Parkway to sweet Virginny. Destination Charlottesville to see Ms Schlag and reacquaint ourselves with the beautiful University of Virginia campus and downtown area.

Our knowledgable and charming personal guide (Schlag) gave us some history of Thomas Jefferson’s great work around the University and the region.

Fact: Edgar Allan Poe attended UVA.
Fact: UVA was established by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 and it is the oldest public university in the USA.

Here is a brief history of UVA.

We had visited Monticello some years ago so decided to not dedicate a whole day to seeing the house and grounds again, lovely as they are.

Here are a few snaps from a very hot, humid Charlottesville day.

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