Land Yacht AKAMA
Exploring America On Wheels
Land Yacht Home      Highlights      2008-09
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Ottawa ON to Ocala FL

Since we left so late in the year, most of the campgrounds in Ontario and New York were either closed or closing. The cold weather we experienced would have made dry camping in parking lots a bit uncomfortable unless the generator were run all night long. Thus, we did not stop much along the way to see the sights and smell the roses...frozen roses probably don't smell anyway.

Our border crossing, for which we had girded our loins, crossed our fingers and invoked the power of various talisman, was a non-event. There was no second-degree, no searching of the RV...no drama at all. Let's hope our return to Canada in the spring is as easy.

We had a major problem at Weedsport, where we stayed in a motel. When we went to breakfast in the morning, Louise-Ann noticed that she had lost the diamond from her engagement ring. What a shock! We combed the room and walked and re-walked the areas we had traversed...no diamond. So, we boarded the motorhome and after a few tears resigned ourselves to the loss. The next morning, LA noticed a sparkle in the carpet near the galley; lo and behold, it was her diamond. All smiles, she put the ring and diamond in an envelope for eventual rebuilding.

At Berea KY we had our first mishap with the motorhome, entirely due to our inexperience. As we were leaving we made a right turn onto the highway too sharply, to avoid oncoming traffic. The right rear wheel went off the pavement into a pothole and then over a high curb. Although we were barely moving, the sudden drop off the curb brought the left front wheel of the RV well off the ground. A passing motorcyclist that stopped to assist said that he was sure we were going to roll into the ditch. The sweeper (wide mud flap thing) was torn loose, the bottom of a body panel on the right side of the coach hit the curb and the bottom of it was badly dented (sort of like crunching in the rocker panel of a car), and the battery hangers (holds five group-31 truck batteries) were bent backwards. We went back to the resort for another night, where we were able to straighten and reattach the sweeper. A few days later, at an RV repair shop we spotted along I-75, we had a mechanic prise the battery hangers back into position. The only damage remaining is cosmetic, not counting the damage to our pride.

We really liked Tennessee and Benton Tennessee was a really nice stop. When we got to Black Bear we were camped in a valley of the Unicoi Mountains (just South of the Smokey Mountains) where the views of the autumn leaves were truly awesome. We drove our Saturn along “the Skyway”, a major scenic road, and all over the Cherokee Forest, which is criss-crossed by switch-back mountain roads. Some are only big enough for one vehicle and have steep ravines on both sides. We got lost several times, despite having the GPS. Driving the mountain roads was cool...that thunder road song kept running through our heads...and over every crest and around every curve there were beautiful sights, not just the leaves, but also waterfalls.

At Benton we ran out of wine, gasp!. This is the heart of the backwoods and bottle shops that carry wine are scarce and hard to find. Lucky for us, or so we thought, there is a boutique Winery industry in the area. So, we found one at Delano and picked out a few bottles of red and white to tide us over. Alas, it was not very good and was over-priced. Of course we drank it anyway!

We also went shopping at nearby Etowah, where we found a genuine, old-fashioned hardware store. It must have been there for ages, as the dust on some of the stock signaled. There was nothing they did not have somewhere. Also, the clerks working there were the genuine item, not pimply kids with no experience. They helped us sort out several little jobs.

At Bento GA (www.juliettega.com) we strolled the streets where the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was made. There isn't much to the town other than the fame left by the movie set. Inside most of the buildings we found a few crafts and art, but mostly typical tourist junk. Still it was worth the visit.

Ocala is a major city with everything one could need. While staying at Ocala we decided to take a ride on one of those air boats that skim through the water and over wet grass with equal ease. Following the directions on a tourist brochure we headed for a prominent air boat facility south of Orlando. Along the way, we were talking about how darned far we had to drive when we spotted a billboard advertising Wild Bill's Air boat Rides near Inverness FL. Eager to save a long drive we turned off and found Wild Bill. As it turns out, he's famous; they used his souped up air boat on the reality TV show Tapout. In addition to experiencing Wild Bill' sometimes wild driving we saw turtles, birds and alligators in their native habitat. Check out his web site atwww.wildbillsairboattour.com/.One day while driving around Ocala we saw a sign pointing the way to the Ocala National Forest. With fond memories of the forests in Tennessee fresh in our mind we took the road. What a disappointment! The Ocala National Forest is riddled with roads and towns, probably logged out, full of acreages, villages and homes, and generally not very nice looking. What it does have, which we could not take advantage of is wilderness hiking trails and canoe routes.

It is a short drive to Orlando, home of Disney World. So, we drove there to take in the Cirque du Soleil. We were very lucky with ticketing and ended up with perfect seating. The show was well worth it. Seeing the show up close and personal is way better than seeing it on television!

Communication has been much easer than it was aboard our trawler in Asia. Along the way we have had good luck finding Wi-fi in most campgrounds; so email is easy, as is researching our routes and destinations. Our Rogers cell phone seems to work nearly everywhere; it was rather costly but we changed to a plan that makes every call in North America a local call. And our StarChoice satellite system is keeping us informed about things back in Canada. Aiming the dish has been a pain and the wind keeps blowing it over, breaking the casing of the LNA. Luckily, the guts have remained intact and a good coat of epoxy returns the LNA to service.

Ocala FL to San Antonio TX
 
     We forgot to include in our first report that we while we stayed at Forsyth GA we drove to Juliette GA, Which was where the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was shot. The Whistle Stop Café movie set is still there, and is now a working restaurant serving, among other things, fried green tomatoes. While we were walking around we noticed the brick BBQ from the set, where in the movie the FBI agent was boiled down and served up as ribs. That evening we watched the movie again, with renewed interest. The rest of the village is mostly tacky souvenir shops and watering holes.
     Before we left Ocala we drove down to Orlando to visit Disney World. More correctly, we gave DW a quick look, then saw the resident presentation of Cirque du Soleil. It was a fantastic performance. Had Disney not been so expensive we might have stayed longer and seen EPCOT.
     There is not much to see or do around Milton; luckily, we met someone who told us where to find the best sights, which included a seaside park that was rebuilt after H. Katrina, a good seafood restaurant and a little park with a waterfall. The latter we found on our own, just exploring side roads.
     We originally intended to stay only a night or two at Saucier MS. Then we saw the weather report and elected to stay a week. It was cold and it even snowed! We only saw a little skiff of it in the lot next to us, but in nearby New Orleans they had record snow, enough to make snowmen.
     New Orleans was a delight, easily our best urban stop so far. There are lots of things to see and do there at Christmas. Some we took in are: a tour of a plantation, driving along the levee and old streets, horse and buggy tour through the French quarter, Christmas jazz concert at the famous Preservation Hall featuring famous jazz and blues men, stroll through the above-ground tomb cemeteries, riding the period tram cars, authentic steamboat dinner/jazz cruise on the Mississippi river. Going down Bourbon Street, buying a Grenade there, drinking it on the way to the shuttle (drinking in public is legal here), then being drunk and disorderly on the ride home...some people never grow up! Some days we just walked around, taking in pick-up jazz bands in cafes and restaurants. The IMAX theater at the aquarium has a good feature on hurricane Katrina, with some neat underwater shots of 'gators. We really enjoyed the Creole, Spanish and American blend architecture. Christmas day we had a traditional turkey dinner then went to the opening of the movie Marley and Me. On the down-side we had a mishap with our car; we tore the transmission pan off on the edge of a speed bump. Luckily, right across the street from the RV park there is a mechanic that specializes in transmissions.
     Downtown San Antonio is a surprisingly nice place. Along a river, they have created a beautiful walk; on the river they have taxi barges and tourist cruises. This is also the centre of the night life, no New Orleans but nice just the same. The Alamo (only the church remains) is right downtown and worth a visit; we saw the ALAMO featured at the IMAX first, then the ALAMO itself...probably the best way to do it. There are several other missions nearby, the most spectacular being San Jose, still relatively intact and heavily restored by the Franciscan monks. We really enjoyed it. The Campground had a pot-luck due laid on for New Years Eve. We made up a big dip to take, then fell asleep before time to go. So, we watched movies, ate snacks and drank Champagne on our own. Two days later, we celebrated our 38th anniversary at a unique local restaurant called the Antler Cafe. The whole ceiling is decorated with hundreds of deer antlers that the owners picked up off of their property over the years and mounted on boards. There's also a pair of jackalopes and a huge wide mouth bass. Our
 
San Antonio TX to Quartzsite AZ

We generally found Texas along I-10 to be rather boring, miles of nothing but sand and scrub. In all the other states so far the interstate highways have been punctuated by numerous small towns, rest areas and truck stops, not Texas. The only city we enjoyed was San Antonio (www.visitsanantonio.com). While researching the others we did not find much to attract us, let alone keep us.

We stayed at Fort Stockton (www.ci.fort-stockton.tx.us) for two days only because of the weather. It was well below freezing overnight and did not warm up appreciably during the day. Worse, rain and freezing rain was forecast. Not wanting to chance driving a fourteen tonne RV on a skating rink we hunkered down. As it turned out, most of the bad conditions were northeast of us and we could have left. When we did leave the wind was gusting so hard that it unfurled one of our slide-out awnings and ripped it. With 25 to 30 miles an hour of wind right on the nose fuel economy plummeted to about five miles per US gallon. At the RV park they display a small placard which reads, “Does the wind always blow like this...no..sometimes its stronger”.

We thought that El Paso would be different, and were going to spend some time there. After spending one day battling the horrific traffic, we decided to move on. We were as disappointed in El Paso as we were delighted by San Antonio (previous report). Unlike San Antonio, which made a feature of its downtown river and spillway, El Paso has a huge fence along the Rio Grande. Driving around, we did not see many parks. One gets the impression that it's a big money machine; people go to work. This is perhaps an unfair assessment, based on only a short visit, but that's what we saw.

As soon as we entered Arizona we noticed a difference in scenery. This is the start of the Sonoran Desert (www.arizonensis.org/sonoran), the only place on earth where the giant saguaro cactus grows wild. There are more hills, vegetation and interesting rock formations along the interstate. And the weather was warmer and sunny. It was such a pleasant drive that we did not stop all the way to Phoenix. With little wind and a bit of downhill terrain en-route the RV averaged ten mpg.

Phoenix, like El Paso has no interstate bypass around the city. Being the fifth largest city in the USA, this should be a recipe for trouble. Sure enough, once we turned north onto I-17 we encountered huge traffic jams, some caused by the massive highway construction projects and accidents. Thankfully, the accidents were in the southbound lanes, not in ours. Surprisingly though, in subsequent trips downtown and along I-17 we noted that getting around Phoenix is relatively easy. This was a good stop for us, mostly because our good friends Frank and Fay guided us around the area; we saw far more than we would have, had we relied only on our touring skills. At a native American art exhibit we bought his and hers 'healing bracelets', in celebration of our 38th wedding anniversary. We also saw some beautiful paintings that we could neither afford nor have any place for in the RV. The Desert Botanical Garden (www.dbg.org) is a gem, when we were there enhanced by a showing of Chihuly glass sculptures (www.chihuly.com). We went around once in the afternoon and again after dark. The lighting on the sculptures was spectacular. We toured the Orpheum Theatre (www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org), a stunning example of early 1900s architecture; our friend Fay is a volunteer there. We spent all day at a collector car auction, salivating over restored cars of every sort.

A side trip up to Prescott (pronounced Pres-cut here) with our friends Frank and Fay was interesting. In only an hour's drive we climbed in elevation into an entirely different climatic zone, cooler. Almost like someone had drawn a line there were suddenly no more saguaro cactus. Prescott has some interesting old buildings, including a saloon rebuilt with the original long bar. Apparently, many years ago the saloon caught fire and the patrons uprooted the bar and hauled it to safety.

We really enjoyed Quartzsite (www.ci.quartzsite.az.us), although it would not be for everyone. Quartzsite is little more than a crossroads in the desert, surrounded by unfenced public land (Bureau of Land Management-BLM) and RV parks. The few streets are lined mostly with mobile homes. The permanent population is only about 3600 persons; but during the winter, thousands of Rvs arrive, filling the RV parks, and tens of thousands more camp out on the BLM land. On the BLM land there is no electricity, water or sewer, but mobile service companies sell water and operate “honey wagons”. Throughout much of it there aren't even roads. It's an amazing sight to come over the hill into Quartzsite and see the land dotted for miles around with Rvs. While we were there, several annual shows were gong on, including a huge flea market, a rock and gem show, a pow wow and a massive RV show. The RV show was great and we bought quite a few things. On the other hand, we were disappointed that well over half of the exhibitors were touting household and personal gadgets, rather than RV equipment.

We've just decided to stay here a third week. Maurice needs the time for his knee to heal and Louise-Ann has a bad head cold. Walking so much around San Antonio injured the knees. They had nearly healed when we got to Quartzsite. Then like damned fools we walked miles every day at the RV show and he re-injured himself. Anyway, this is a good place to be stuck. Yesterday they had a jam session, where nearly everyone who could play an instrument or sing participated...but you gott'a like C&W! And they have periodic concerts by itinerant performers.

Quartzsite AZ to San Diego CA

Brenda AZ. In our last report we advised that we decided to stay here a third week for our colds to subside and for Maurice's knees to heal. We ended up staying yet another week, as a mail packet that we were waiting for did not arrive as early as we had hoped. And our colds needed a bit more time. While we did mostly lay low, we took a day to drive to the Joshua Tree National Park (www.nps.gov/jotr). This park is oriented towards camping and hiking. We only walked the shortest trail near the park's southern entrance; it was very interesting, with many plaques explaining the flora and fauna.

While in Brenda we drove three times to the nearest movie theatre, at Blythe CA. We saw 'Taken', 'Gran Torino' and 'Paul Blart Mall Cop'. Taken was excellent, as the critics said it would be. We thought that Gran Torino was also good, although we can see why some people might not like it, as the Clint Eastwood character takes Archie Bunker to a new low. Finally, Mall Cop was a surprise; the critics hated it but we liked it. Taken in context, a mindless comedy full of one liners and pratfalls, it was well done. But a work of art it ain't!

Our last event at Brenda was the Valentine's Day dance at the RV park. The resident C&W band played foxtrots and waltzes for a couple of hours, along with a few jives. We had a good time and danced quite a bit. Maurice paid for it for a few days afterwards and had to take Advil again for his knees. It was a bit odd, actually, he could dance without problem but had some pain walking to and from the dance floor.

Yuma AZ (www.ci.yuma.az.us). The first thing we did was go to the Yuma Territorial Prison (click here for URL), now a state park and museum. Our first reaction was disappointment, as the first thing one sees upon clearing the entrance lobby is some really crummy facades of canteens, a jail and other hokey spots for tourists to take photographs. However, the rest of the prison is excellent and we spent all afternoon there, exploring the old cell blocks, museum and cemetery. We looked for evidence that Ben Wade was actually incarcerated there (movie '3:10 to Yuma' 1957, remade in 2007 with Russel Crowe). It turns out that there was a Ben Wade at that time in US history, but he was a US senator, perhaps a coincidence or maybe a little joke by the author.

Yuma has an historic north end area that has been restored to period architecture. There are covered walkways with tin tile ceilings, lots of craft and antique shops, and a few interesting cafes. The most interesting is Lutes Casino (www.lutescasino.com), which was isn't a casino, was a pool hall at one time, but is now a bar and restaurant. The interior is completely covered with interesting memorabilia. Their signature special is a combination cheeseburger and hot dog covered with hot sauce. We gave that a miss and went down the street to a little cafe cum novelty shop, where we had coffee and Medjool date pie. Date pie is a regional specialty, dates being a a big thing in this part of Arizona and neighbouring California. Medjool dates (click here) are sweet, fat-free, cholesterol-free and high in fiber and antioxidants...should be able to live on this pie! Sadly, the downtown has a lot of empty buildings, which did not surprise us as hardly anyone was there and nobody was buying much.

Just west of Yuma, in California, is an area called the Imperial Sand Dunes (click here). We took a day-trip in our little car, up one side, across the middle and down the other. This is the kind of place that most people imagine when they hear the word 'desert'. The dunes are huge and shifting, which makes them a fantastic place for 4WD vehicles, dune buggies and ATVs. They made the movie 'Scorpion King' here (it doubled for Egypt) and parts of the movie 'Jarhead' (a war flick about Iraq).

Now that we have been through the desert we are amazed at the diversity. We expected sand and cactus, and they are there, in abundance for endless miles. We did not expect agriculture. In Canada, we have plenty of irrigated areas; in the main, these allow the growing of crops that would not normally grow there. Not much of it would likely be considered desert. In the southern desert of the USA we were amazed a the amount of agriculture, and even more amazed at the quantity of produce being grown. The farms we saw in the Imperial Valley (click here) were the most stunning examples; they produce everything from carrots to cattle.

The last 35 miles of the drive from Yuma to Boulevard took us up the Jacumba Mountains (click here for URL) from below sea level to over 3000 miles elevation. Along the highway there are numerous places to refill radiators, but we made it all the way up. Had it been any farther we would have had to stop, as the engine was up to 217 degrees F by the time we reached the top. The area around Boulevard is extremely remote. The first question the folks at the RV Resort asked was, “How did you find us?” The locals have created a bumper sticker that reads, “Where the hell is Boulevard CA?”

From Boulevard to San Diego was initially uphill to over 4000 feet, up the In-Kp-Pah Mountains (Wiki URL), then downhill all the way, or nearly so through some of the most stunning fractured granite formations and vistas we've ever seen.

San Diego CA to Amarillo TX

Mojave Desert. The Mojave Desert (URL here), northeast of LA, is locally called the High Desert. It is mostly situated in southern California, but spills over into neighbouring states. Just as the saguaro only grows in the Sonoran Desert, the Mojave is typified by the Joshua Tree (URL here), a type of Yucca that only grows here. It's way colder up here, dropping to freezing at night, or even below, even in March. On the other hand, we had some days of 29 C degrees.

Barstow CA. Barstow www.barstowca.org) is a railroad town; we were told that over a hundred trains a day pass thorough. There is a small but good Route-66 museum. We took a day drive in our car to Rainbow Basin (URL here), a national landmark. It's a beautiful and mysterious location of folded and tilted rocks, nonconformities providing a great display of diverse geologic features, and sedimentary structures of many hues. First the road went from paved to gravel, then to a one-way dirt loop punctuated with a series of washed out areas connected by a goat path. Now, the sign said “Road Legal Vehicles Only”, which led us to believe that we could make it in the Saturn, and we did. We drove slowly and only bottomed out once. Near the end, though, we were followed by dozens of dune buggies racing through. Clearly, road legal means 4WD in this case!

Route-66 From Ludlow CA to Fenner CA was interesting. It is well off I-40, so most of the towns became ghost towns and then eventually disappeared. Baghdad CA is little more than a lone tree and a few foundations. The most interesting sights are the volcanic craters, the most impressive of which is at Amboy (URL here). The Amboy Crater is a symmetrical, volcanic cinder cone surrounded by hardened lava flows and cinders. The only other things at Amboy are a US Post Office and Roy's Cafe (www.rt66roys.com), currently being restored to period condition. Roy's is open for visits but is not yet operating as a café.

We took a drive to Lake Havasu City south west of Needles, to visit the London Bridge (URL here). The stones on the bridge were numbered, then it was dismantled and transported from London England to Havasu. Although most people say the bridge was put back together in the USA, we were told that an exact replica of the bridge was first made in concrete. Then the faces of the outer stones were sawed off and cemented onto the concrete structure. On the top edges they used the entire stones. The lamps on the bridge are the real ones. You can just imagine yourself crossing a bridge in London.

From just east of Needles CA nearly to Kingman NZ there is a nice stretch of Route-66 that passes through Oatman AZ (URL here). Unfortunately, there is a road restriction against large vehicles, as the road twists and bumps over the mountains; so we drove it in our 'toad'. Oatman was a mining town, then a ghost town and is now a tourist town with staged gunfights and period buildings. The town probably would have died but for the wild burro (donkey) herd, descendants of the burros that worked in the mines. They beg for carrots and became a tourist attraction in their own right. The easterly drive into Oatman is interesting, especially close to town; but the road through the mountains out of Oatman is absolutely stunning. This stretch of Route-66 is so narrow and windy that it is posted at 30 mph, with curves posted at fifteen. This is a don't miss for anyone driving this way.

One of the must-see attractions on Route-66 is the Grand Canyon. Our original plan was to see it from the new Skywalk (URL here) in the western canyon. Alas, this is a tourist rip-off of gargantuan proportion. We were willing to pay the high price for a few minutes walk on a glass pavement overlooking the canyon, that is until we found out about the rip-off. While the actual price to walk the Skywalk is $29.95 a person, the natives have added a series of surcharges $50 to get onto their reservation, $20 to park and so on. So we gave that a miss and drove to Williams AZ, a town on Route-66 known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon. It was our intention to drive up to the park and do it ourselves, until we stumbled across Marvelous Marv's (www.marvelousmarv.com) all day tour. This is the way to see the canyon. He is interesting and exceptionally informative.

In many ways, the drive we took in our car through Oak Creek Canyon (URL here) on highway 89a south to Sedona, then east on AZ-260 to I-17 north is as interesting as the Grand Canyon, but in a different way. While nothing beats the majesty of the Grand Canyon, you see it from afar, whereas the drive through Sedona puts you right down in the scenery. Also, Sedona (www.visitsedona.com) is a pretty little tourist town worth a visit in its own right. On the way we stoped at Oak Creek Canyon Vista for a bird's eye view of the canyon. Here we enjoyed the Native American jewellery and other craft items displayed by local artists. We bought a white clay canoe etched with petroglyphs and burnt horsehair designs.

The main reason we stayed in the Root-66 RV park was to visit the Petrified Forest National Park (www.nps.gov/pefo), on yet another bit of historic Route-66. We drove the entire park and pulled off into every attraction, and walked the short trails, all in a half day. It was fascinating; this is a super little park where one can see a lot in a short time. Unfortunately for us, the wind was howling at 60 mph with gusts to way over 80 producing the worst sand storm the park rangers had seen in years, but we did it anyway. We entered at the north gate and first saw parts of the Painted Desert (URL Here), which derives its name from the multitude of colours both dull and vibrant. It is a long expanse of badland hills and buttes forming many interesting shapes and patterns. It runs about 250 km eastward from the SE corner of the Grand Canyon to the Petrified Forest. About halfway down the park we saw the ruins of Puerco Pueblo (URL here), built by ancient Indians, now assimilated, and the petroglyphs (URL here) they left. The southern half of the park contains the petrified remains of giant redwoods, millions of years old.

Near Albuquerque NM (www.cabq.gov), we rode on the Sandia Peak Tramway (www.sandiapeak.com), supposedly the world's longest aerial tramway. It's quite a ride to the top at over 10 thousand feet above sea level. The view was spectacular.

A tour of Albuquerque's Old Town (URL here) is a must. In a small space, maybe six blocks square we found hundreds of curio shops, galleries, cafés and interesting squares. Although the ubiquitous T-shirt shops were in evidence, they were not overpowering, like they are in so many tourist districts.

We took an interesting drive, through the Cibola National Forest, in the mountains on the east side of Albuquerque. Quite by accident, we 'discovered' the Salinas Missions and pueblos, and we walked through the Quarai Mission (URL here). It is fascinating that the Indians there thrived for so long, then suddenly left. It is even more interesting to see that a handful of priests were able to convince them to build massive churches, now in ruins.

Albuquerque's Central Avenue (URL here) is a bit of quintessential Route-66. The sights range from dilapidated old motels to restored funky restaurants. Had we the time, we would have roamed the streets, but we settled for a drive. Unfortunately, after dark, it becomes a somewhat dangerous neighbourhood. We were there just at dusk, when the night life and the police were already emerging.

We literally blew to Amarillo on the back of a strong westerly 'tailwind' Unfortunately, about thirty miles out we encountered strong and gusty northerlies and yet another dust storm. So, we were unable to stop to see Cadillac Ranch (URL here), the only thing in Amarillo that we had on our must-visit-list. We stayed an extra day and got some neat photos of the Cadillac cars buried nose down in the ground, and covered with graffiti. Since Amarillo is a seizable place, we spent the rest of the day shopping for things on our list that we just could not find in the many small towns we've visited lately.

Amarillo TX to Ottawa ON

We stayed two days at Elk City because of high winds; in nearby states there were tornadoes. After arriving at Oklahoma City, we fell ill with bad head colds and did not recoverer fully for weeks. While we were there a bad fire broke out in a nearby suburb; we heard the fire trucks but did not realize until seeing the news that a huge storm had sparked a blaze. There were several attractions that we wanted to see, but apart from two trips out for food and medicine we never saw or did a thing. Then, having killed so much time in Oklahoma City, the next few weeks became a passage-making exercise, which was a shame, as we could have stopped longer at many lovely RV parks right up to Canada.

Going through St. Louis MO was nearly a bit of a disaster. First, we missed the bypass and drove through the centre of town. Then, we took a wrong turn at one of the many interchanges and somehow ended up going west instead of east. Our trusty TomTom GPS noticed this right away and immediately took us off the free-way to U-turn, right into one of the seediest neighbourhoods one could imagine. The turn-around lane we had to use was only wide enough for a car and it had a tight turn entering. Getting the RV around it with the toad attached was an exercise in tire scrubbing. Once we got turned around we stopped for a minute at the side of the road, whereupon when a big man in a white truck pulled up behind us and motioned us out of the RV. Oh crap, a cop...what had we done wrong? He was a good Samaritan (or maybe an undercover cop) that had noticed our wrong turn and had stopped to help us. His first advice was to get out of that neighbourhood...now, adding, “I'm not trying to scare you but you really don't want to be here”! He explained how to get back on route then stayed behind us until we took the on-ramp to the highway.

From Saint Louis to the Canadian border there is not much to report. The weather was good and the driving was easy. We could easily have taken much more time sight-seeing along the way, had we not been pressed for time. Of course, had we done that, we might well have been caught in several late-season winter storms that both preceded us and followed us.

We were dreading the entry into Canada, thinking that the officials would give us a hard time. We had no duty-free goods, gifts, etcetera, and thought they would not believe that anyone being away for six months would re-enter Canada with so little to declare. Our experience was the reverse. Once they determined that we had no significant tobacco or alcohol on board, they just waived us through.

Trip Summary:
  • Date Started: 26 October 2008
  • Date Ended: 30 April 2009
  • Route: Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario.
  • Distance Travelled: 6851 miles (11,026 km)
  • Driving Time (RV only): 133 hours
  • Average Driving Speed: 51.5 mph (82.9 km/h)
  • Fuel Used (RV only): 872 US gal. (3301 litres)
  • Average Fuel Economy: 7.9 mpg (29.94 l/100 km)
  • RV fuel cost: $2280.09 CDN
  • Camp-ground cost: $5867.32 CDN