The final post…the trip revisited.

DAY 1 – August 6, 2013, ferry terminal, Galiano Island, British Columbia:

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Day 75 – October 20, 2013, our driveway in Borrego Springs, California:

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The Great Adventure is history … time now to sum it up – by the numbers.

 

0 bike mishaps or breakdowns!

0 traffic tickets

0 “I thought she was on the bike” incidents

1 bike blown over (at night by a storm)

1 jacket left behind

1 coffee pot destroyed

1 pair sunglasses blown off

2 new tires for the bike

2 lawn chairs jettisoned

2 meddlesome hurricanes that changed our travel plans

2 pillows lost or stolen.

3 boxes of ‘stuff ‘ shipped home while enroute

3 rounds of golf

4 bucket-list items checked off:

–       L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland;

–       Blue Ridge Parkway (bikers’ Mecca);

–       New Orleans;

–       Corpus Christi, Texas (for birding).

7 ‘new’ birds for our life list:

–       Piping Plover;

–       Wilson’s Plover;

–       Black-bellied Whistling Duck;

–       Fulvous Whistling Duck;

–       White-tailed Kite;

–       Royal Tern;

–       Sandwich Tern.

8 days of bad biking weather

8 ferry rides

10 Canadian provinces

19 American states

34 mpg average

67 days of great biking weather (sun or friendly clouds)

74 nights away from home:

–       2 camping;

–       4 on board ship;

–       10 in B&Bs;

–       11 in motels;

–       23 with friends and relatives;

–       24 in hotels

75 days travelling

114 stops at historical markers

153 gas stops

2,762 photographs (some censored)

19,016 kilometers (11,910 miles).

 

Our love and appreciation goes out to everyone who contributed in one way or another to the trip. It was indeed a Great Adventure. We saw so many fun and interesting things that even the blog fell short in keeping track of it all. Thanks to all those who followed the blog and emailed their kind words to us, or commented in the blog site itself.

Special thanks to the following, without whom it could not have been the success it was:

–       Barry Little for his help in rewiring the electrical system on the bike and trailer to make sure nothing went wrong along the way.

–       Jim and Mary Hackett for dinner on the night before we left, plus a ride to the ferry, and attending to Gossip chores for the past 2½ months while we were gallivanting about the countryside,

–       Linda Guggisberg for repairing Jeff’s Kevlar blue jeans, which survived intact after 75 days of road grime and the occasional on-the-knees repairs,

–       Eleanor Coulthard for her departure goody-bag, and band-aids, all of which were used.

–       Dave Ages and Virginia Monk for looking after our truck until we return in December,

–       Marion Keys, and our son Laird Salton, looking after the RV until we return,

–       John Coulthard for handling our mail and business things while we have been away.

–       Oliver and Betty Thompson for watching over our Borrego house once again.

–       Rebecca Salton for setting up Face Time calls with us so we could visit with the grandchildren, Logan and Lily, on a regular basis,

–       Kevin and Kristin Kern for finding Jeff clothes for the wedding in Ohio.

–       Larry and Cheryl Levy for driving up to Sault Ste. Marie to spend some time with us as we drove by on the eastward leg of the journey.

–       Plus, all the friends and relatives who put us up for a day or two, or three, providing love and comfort, a good meal, and a washer and dryer, on the 23 nights we took advantage of their hospitality.

Above all, what made the trip fun and full of happy expectations every day, rather than a tediously long journey, were the friends and family we were able to visit and stay with along the way. The trip simply could not have been as joyous as it was had we not been able to look forward to our visits, particularly as we became a bit road-weary on occasion. A very special thanks to those who blessed us with their love and kindness:

  • Linda and Terry O’Farrell
  • Jan and Laird Willson
  • Tim and Kathy Kjorlien
  • Larry and Cheryl Levy
  • David and Susan Garner
  • Angus and Linda Ross
  • Ros Bruce and Claudia Martin
  • Gord McPhee and Marge Hackett
  • Lyla Stuart and Jack Stevens
  • Nancy and Joe Lane
  • Betty and Oliver Thompson
  • Lynne and Marty Reich, and
  • all the family in Ohio!

Oh yes, the other ‘incident’. Remember the pillow? And the way the trailer was so full at the beginning that we could hardly get the lid closed? Well, at one point early on in the trip Lynnette tapped my shoulder…”Do you smell something hot?”, she hollered. Jeff stopped the bike and got off! Sho’ nuff, there was something burning, and it was coming from the trailer! Cautiously opening the lid, the smoke poured out…Lynnette’s clothes duffle bag was smouldering, and a hole had been burnt through the strap and the bag, plus…a pair of socks were now fused to the inside of the bag! It seems that with all the cramming the interior light in the trailer had been turned on, with entirely understandable results! Hot on the heels of the lost pillow (pun intended), not to mention the backwards slide down the gravel driveway, we decided to keep this little incident to ourselves, lest someone send out an APB and have both of us, and the bike, recalled. But can you imagine the sight if we had been going faster and not noticed the smoke for a few miles further on!!

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The photo doesn’t do justice to the extent of the calamity, but we’re going to have the bag and the socks bronzed so you can see it for yourselves!

Love to all, Jeff and Lynnette Salton

Jeffandlynnette.wordpress.com

New Mexico, Arizona, California…home!

Oct 17. Marfa TX to Columbus NM.  Heavy fog filled the high plateau when we departed Marfa, but had dissipated within an hour or so, just as we reached I-10 for the drive to El Paso.  Two hours on the freeway, plus the urban disaster of the city itself, convinced us to find a better way home! Besides, what’s the hurry, right? Time for a rest stop at a teepee welcoming us to New Mexico.

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Route 9 leaves the freeway in El Paso, and heads south to a border crossing. But just before the port of entry, it turns west to parallel the border through virtually uninhabited scrub forest and desert. Uninhabited that is, except for Border Patrol trucks, of which we passed one every few minutes. Not a single other vehicle in sight until the town of Columbus, where we stopped for the night.

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Columbus, New Mexico, is a fascinating place, in the middle of what is now ‘nowhere’ but not that long ago was a thriving border town. And full of history, including Pancho Villa’s retaliatory raid on the US in 1916. We walked about, reading the many “hysterical markers”, and taking pictures of the still-standing jail, the restored railway station, and the bullet-riddled bank vault, the only part of the bank that has survived the years. Columbus’ colourful history has continued to today; Federal Agents recently arrested the mayor, the police chief and five prominent citizens (in a town of 1,700 residents!) in connection with drug and arms dealing with the modern day banditos in Mexico. We stayed at a lovely small inn, Martha’s Place, immune we hoped from the excitement of Federales and banditos. Martha’s Place, along with the new bank and the post-office, are among the few modern buildings in town.

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Oct 18. Columbus NM to Casa Grande AZ.  Deciding to stay on Route 9, which has been a delightful ride, away from traffic and noise, and through ever-changing desert/grassland/mountain scenery. On the way a Golden Eagle stayed on his power pole, even when I turned around and returned to get a photo. Normally hard to spot in the wild because of their fear of man and generally timid nature, this particular bird was quite content to let me approach closely for a portrait.

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Soon after our eagle encounter we crossed the continental divide, beyond which all water flows to the Pacific, and then came upon the mountains of Arizona to the west, along with an unusual rock formation which looked rather mushroomy.

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We headed south to the border town of Douglas, had lunch in a local park, then northwest again on Route 80 towards Tucson, visiting on the way the quite incredible Lavender open pit copper mine (now exhausted of its ore), and the towns of Bisbee and Tombstone, legendary for gunfights and regular lynchings in the time of Wyatt Earp. High grasslands (over 5,000 feet above sea level) dominate the ride to Tucson, which we passed by on I-10 in favour of continuing on to Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix. The bike definitely is heading for the barn now!

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Oct 19. Home again, Home again, Jiggety Jig! Casa Grande to Borrego Springs.

Anxious, and excited, we woke at 4:00am, and were on the road at 5:00! It was to be a straight-through freeway journey home. We stopped only to get a photo of the saguaro cacti that are indigenous to Arizona, and nowhere else, and the sun rising behind us with good wishes for the day’s ride. On this the last day of the Great Adventure we decided it was time to get home, no sightseeing, no pictures, no stops for Lynnette to read her last marker.  Just home. It was a long and tiring drive along I-8, but we’ve done it a few times before so it was imply a matter of putting bike and ourselves on automatic pilot and enjoying the beautiful southwest desert and mountain scenery. As we crossed into California we let out a whoop! Home again, almost.

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Stopping at Costco for some much-needed rations, including Tequila, we called Oliver and Betty Thompson to ask if they needed anything (we had room enough for toothpicks and a beer, or maybe two).

We pulled into the driveway at Borrego at 1:30 in the afternoon – 75 days and 11,910 miles after taking the morning ferry from Gossip Island on Day #1,  August 6th, 2013. And what a homecoming awaited us! Oliver and Betty had arranged for a welcoming party! What a delight! So happy to be with dear friends to celebrate the “Finish Line”!

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In our next, and last, blog, we’ll recount some details and statistics of the trip, and acknowledge the many friends and relatives who helped make the Great Adventure the success that it has been. We hope it has been fun for our readers too.

And we have a surprise in the next blog…an ‘incident’ that we were hesitant to recount early in the trip, for fear of leaving the impression that we were not mentally competent to undertake the journey at all.

Texas

This blog on Texas is a bit longer than other blogs, because Texas is longer than other States, and also because there were so many interesting sights and surprises for us Westerners. On another note, bucket list item #4 was a visit to the Gulf Coast, particularly Padre and Mustang Islands near Corpus Christi, to do some birding. We were not disappointed, adding another 4 birds to our life list. Really exciting stuff for non-birders, eh?

October 13, New Orleans to Galveston, Texas. 

We left New Orleans early Sunday morning, heading west on I-10 through swampland and elevated highways to Baton Rouge and western Louisiana. The milepost at the Texas border announced that it would be 888 miles to El Paso, on the far western edge of Texas. Can this be true, we asked ourselves, although we had been warned that Texas is indeed a very big state. We persevered on I-10 until Beaumont, then angled south for the drive along the Gulf Coast Waterway, towards Galveston. As we neared the ocean, open plains gave way to sand dunes and the roar of waves on the beach. Locals drive onto the beach to fish from trucks while kids play in the surf. Its good to smell the sea again! The long thin islands that form a barrier between the mainland and the Gulf are barely a few feet above sea level, and here homes and buildings must be built on tall pilings to protect from the inevitable, frequent floods caused by storm surges. The single line of telephone wires along the beach homes brought a welcome sight: another first for our birding life list – White-tailed kites watching swamp grass for prey, hovering, then diving on some inattentive rodent, or large bug (the latter are in swarms, forcing us to clean the bike windshield at every gas stop). Another birding note: throughout our travels crows are always present – but not here; on the Gulf Coast crows are entirely replaced by grackles.

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Driving west along the length of Galveston Island the population centres became increasingly touristy and upscale. At the end of the Island we took a ferry the short distance to the city itself. Brown pelicans surround the ferries that make the crossing every few minutes. The weather was nice today, with a few thundershowers predicted but never really materializing. At 4:00 we arrived at our hotel only a few minutes before the lurking black clouds finally let go! Timing is everything. From our top floor room on the touristy Galveston Beach we could see offshore drill platforms and ocean-going freighters waiting their turn at the huge oil facilities from which much of Texas’ oil heads to east coast ports.

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October 14, Galveston to Mustang Island State Park (near Corpus Christi). 

We arose to a gorgeous sunrise, but dressed for rain, just in case. We continued south and west down side roads adjacent to the coastal waterway – beaches often on both sides of the road as we island-hopped towards Corpus Christi. At the end of one small island there is a toll bridge – $2 to continue on, or 200 miles to go back to the mainland and take another route! Along the way there were many more beach houses on stilts, and several massive oil refineries. Leaving the coast for a bit we came across several small, very decrepit towns, many of them primarily Hispanic. We stopped at a tiny taco stand for lunch, and for $7.50 total enjoyed two of the best tacos we have had in quite awhile. There are a few swamps in this area, but it is mostly grasslands and scrub oak.

Because the National Seashore at Padre Island was closed due to the budget impasse, we thought we might try camping at a state park. The anticipated rain had given way to blue skies and 90 degree temperatures. We stopped at Goose Island State Park to check it out. Unfortunately it was too buggy to stay, but we did visit “The Big Tree”, a one thousand-year old Virginia Live Oak. Wow!

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Further down the coast we took the “city” ferry from the mainland over to Port Aransas near the eastern end of Mustang Island. Total ferry time was 5 minutes to cover a narrow channel no more than 100 yards wide! On to Mustang Island State Park where we took one look and dug out the tent and sleeping bags. The beach was fabulous and covered with birds – we added three more to our life list: Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns, in a mixed flock, and amongst them at the water’s edge several Wilson’s Plovers.

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October 15, Corpus Christi to Eagle Pass TX.  We left Mustang Island and took yet another ferry, over to Corpus Christi, and then found our way to Route 44, and a ride through oil country to Eagle Pass on the western boundary of Texas on the Rio Grande, near the Mexican city of Peidras Negras. However, a bridge that had washed out the night before sent us on a two-hour detour via Laredo, also on the border, and truly one of the more amazing sights of the trip. Laredo has been, until relatively recently a small-ish city of no particular importance except as a transport hub for trucks travelling to and from Mexico. Now, all along I-35 from San Antonio, there were oil field supply companies, truck depots, and countless large warehouses typical of the oil patch. Laredo’s growth in the past five years has given it the look and feel of a prosperous, modern city – new buildings and roads everywhere, and subdivisions under construction or cleared for future development. Quite in contrast with other rural areas in Texas. Even the dogs have it better in Laredo!

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October 16, Eagle Pass to Marfa, TX.  The motorcycle seems to be heading for the barn, so to speak, as the end of this Great Adventure gets closer. We awoke to a grey, misty drizzle that turned into a steady rain until noon. Undaunted, and in defiance of the golf gods that were testing us, we dressed for the worst we headed further up Route 90 bound for Marfa, Texas, in the high desert, a day or so short of El Paso, where we would cross over into New Mexico. We stopped for coffee in the very, very small town of Dryden…a dozen buildings at most, all but four or five of which were closed and mostly derelict. At the only “store” in this sad little town we pulled the bike and trailer under a portable garage to get out of the rain for awhile, and munched on popcorn and peanuts for some energy (no restaurant for a hundred miles in any direction). We were not cold so much as depressed by the surroundings, but soon the sun came out again, and we entered some very pretty high grassland prairie, about 5,500 feet above sea level.

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Patchy sun and clouds continued to Marfa – an artsy-craftsy town with an historic hotel built in the early part of the last century, when the railroad was the raison d’etre of most of the small towns in this part of the Southwest. The hotel was put on the National Historic Register in 1978.  (We had learned of the Paisano Hotel from a lady we chatted up in Le Monde Café in New Orleans.) There is a great deal of history in this area and numerous “hysterical” markers, one telling the story of two “sidekicks” of Butch Cassidy who tried to rob the train in 1912, but were bludgeoned to death by the Wells Fargo agent travelling along to watch over the gold onboard.  He presumably did not fancy his own future if the gold had been taken on his watch!

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After a good night’s sleep in the Paisano Hotel, we awoke to a grey fog that lifted as the day warmed.   We headed west again, back up to I-10 for the run to El Paso, and on into New Mexico. With side trips and detours we had turned the expected 888 miles across Texas from the Louisana border into a 1,156 mile marathon! Texas is indeed a very big place!

Next: New Mexico, Arizona, and……California! Yaaaay!

Ohio, and New Orleans (again!)

Oct. 9 to Columbus, Ohio. We hugged Ollie and Betty goodbye, from a distance as they both had airplane colds, and took a cab to the New Orleans airport for our flight to Columbus. All went well and we picked up our rental car for the drive to Urbana, about an hour northwest of Columbus. The drive through the Ohio countryside was beautiful, signs of fall and the harvest everywhere. And cemeteries…lots of cemeteries, many dating back two and three hundred years or more. Lynnette sighed, wistfully, back in her childhood hometown (Marysville), where she lived for so many years.

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Marty and Lynn welcomed us to their Urbana home and we sat up late into the night chatting and catching up.   Lynn is Lynnette’s long-time school chum, grade school right through high school.  They were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings!   We had not seen them since Lynnette’s mother’s funeral, four years ago. Prior to that they visited us on Gossip Island. Presently they are taking this retirement thing seriously: a new home, an RV, and a new car!

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Oct 10. Lynnette’s birthday. We drove to Marysville (about half an hour away) to meet Kevin (Lynnette’s brother) and his wife Kristin, Cheryl (her sister) and husband Larry, plus Le Herron, the Lynnete’s dad’s best friend, who is 92, and as charming as ever. We spent the afternoon at the home of Lynnette’s nephew Matt and his wife Laurie, visiting niece Maddy and nephew Drew, before going back to Urbana for dinner to celebrate Lynnette’s 64th! As the motorcycle duffle bags did not accommodate wedding attire, Kevin and Kristin brought along a shirt, tie, and shoes for Jeff to wear to the ceremony tomorrow.

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Oct 11.  The Wedding.  Katy (Matt’s step-daughter) and her new husband Jason were getting married in Columbus, so we all trooped back there to stay overnight in the Renaissance Hotel. The wedding was lovely, the reception afterwards dominated by twenty-something youngsters, dancing to music mostly unfamiliar to us, and generally having a wonderful time. The little kids in the family offset those of us ‘of a certain age’ so the average age at the party was about thirty! Great fun, and we all danced and cavorted until the wee small hours. With all the excitement at the wedding and the party afterwards, and meeting relatives with stories to tell and news to catch up on, we didn’t take many pictures. There were a few with the iPhone, but most are blurred or badly under- or over-exposed – human error, not the iPhone camera’s fault. Two pictures made it off the cutting room floor – Maddie giving Lynnette a birthday card which she personally selected (theme:  farts, which are really, really funny to a 6 year old) , and one of Drew and Lynnette sharing a special moment.

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Oct 12. Back to NOLA. We flew back to New Orleans arriving at our hotel (where we had been with Betty and Ollie) for one more night – a promised ‘celebration’ of Lynnette’s birthday. And what a night it was! We walked to Frenchman Street, avoiding the boisterous crowds on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, and opting instead for the equally busy but more ‘local’ crowd at the ‘in’ places to be for true music aficionados and foodies. We cruised in and out of four or five jazz clubs, dancing, and enjoying the fabulous musical offerings of local jammin’ bands. Dinner was Middle-eastern, Palestinian to be precise, consisting of spicy lamb shank and rice – fantastic! Walking back to the hotel through the French Quarter we were overtaken by a wedding parade, with the Storyville Brass Band marching through the streets, led by sirens and lights of motorcycle police, followed by the bride and groom and a throng of well-wishers a block long. As the procession wound about Jackson square it gathered momentum and grew in numbers, all manner of revelers joining in the fun. Last in line was the horse-drawn wedding carriage, presumably and rightly carrying the parents. Nawlins is an amazing place; there is no city like it anywhere else!  The celebration was just beginning!

New Orleans

Oct 4. Arriving in New Orleans (NOLA).  A long, long day! Hurricane Karen dominated the news, with dire threats of making landfall somewhere between New Orleans and Pensacola, Florida, laying waste to the country again (remember Hurricane Katrina?). So we made a run for New Orleans, arriving late in the afternoon. Just about to cross Lake Pontchartrain and into the city, we were enjoying puffy white clouds and 90 degree weather…and no sign of Karen. Ten minutes later we were huddled under a freeway overpass, soaked to the skin! The rain came down so hard, and the skies were so black we simply could not ride any further. We had almost made it….but not quite! We started to don wet weather gear when the sun came out again – all in the space of 20 minutes! Arriving at our hotel in the French Quarter, we unloaded, and parked the bike in the underground garage. Tired, but dry, we enjoyed the Egyptian equivalent of lamb kebob and saganaki at a deli across the street and fell into bed early once again, happy to have arrived at Bucket list #3!

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Saturday, Oct 5. Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.  Our Borrego neighbours Ollie and Betty Thompson arrived at the hotel early, so off we went on foot to the famous Café Du Monde for coffee and a diet breakfast (beignets- a specialty fried pastry smothered in icing sugar). Afterwards we walked the full length of Bourbon Street, then back along the Mississippi shoreline and through the French market. By noon it was getting warm so while Betty and Lynnette power-shopped, Ollie and Jeff sat in the shade nursing gigantic Bloody Marys. Hurricane Karen’s short-lived appearance yesterday had become a non-event in this storm-twitchy town and it was clear skies and puffy white clouds once again. Fortified by the coolers, and a quick lunch of alligator sausage, we danced in Washington Square to a street band, then wandered home for a nap. Afterwards we returned to Bourbon Street to take in more of the Saturday night hubbub, including an Irish piano bar that served its popular drink known as the Hurricane – with predictable results – more shenanigans on the street…this time in Irish Green fedoras.

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Sunday, Oct 6. We started our day with a trolley ride to the Imax Theatre to see ‘Hurricane on the Bayou’– a film documenting Hurricane Katrina in 2003, and what is being done to mitigate the devastation and flooding when future storms hit the area. A moving and thought-provoking film, the involvement of young people in preserving the environment and forcing political action was heartening to see. For lunch we walked to the Praline Connection on Frenchman Street just east of the French Quarter, an area that has remarkable 17th Century buildings, many of which are being gentrified, with the expected mix of good-news, bad-news results.  We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the historic districts outside the usual tourist areas, fascinated by the elaborate Fall (Halloween) decorations on homes and buildings, including trees filled with beads! On the way back to the hotel we dropped into a jazz bar on Bourbon Street, then afterwards to dinner at Mother’s – another Nawlins landmark that serves fabulous Cajun food, cafeteria style.

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Monday Oct 7.  We purchased all day trolley and bus passes ($3.00) and travelled west, away from the touristy French Quarter, to the end of the line, where we stopped for coconut cream pie and coffee – the perfect breakfast – at a French bakery and local haunt of university students. On the walk back towards town we saw Tulane University grounds – amazingly beautiful. We strolled through Coliseum Square park, a lush oasis in the centre of the district, with benches to relax and soak up the quiet, and many ponds and natural gardens. And two more ‘firsts’ for our bird life-list – Black-bellied Whistling-ducks and Fulvous Whistling-ducks! Now, you non-birders may find it difficult to contain your excitement, but these Southern species are hard to find and we had never seen them before despite our many visits to the family home in Florida.

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Coliseum Square park is in the Garden District, home to many large and beautiful mansions, most dating from the 19th Century but now owned by rich and famous movie stars and sports icons.  We also visited the interesting Lafayette cemetery #1 in the Garden District, final resting place for many famous persons, and others whose families are long gone, or unknown. The cemetery, though old and crumbling is still used…new ‘occupants’ added to the top layer of the tombs as others descend lower and lower by natural process, into the deep vaults. Some vaults whose occupants served in the fire department or other service organizations held 500 bodies!  After the tour of the cemetery we stopped for lunch at The Blind Pelican – a local oyster bar.  Ollie has come down with a cold, which he attributes to the plane ride, so he and Jeff decided to return to the hotel, while Betty and Lynnette browsed through shops on the famous Magazine street, stopping at Harrah’s Casino on the waterfront – with predictable results! Finally, dinner at Moulette’s, a formerly famous Cajun music and dinner restaurant, now infamous in our view – the meal and entertainment mediocre to a fault and greatly overpriced!  Apparently, according to locals we talked with later, the name was sold after Katrina and the place is no longer worthy of a visit.

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Oct 8.  Swamp tour, Tremaine, back for more oysters.

Betty, Jeff and Lynnette went on a swamp tour in the bayou south and west of the city. An interesting experience, seeing alligators and large swamp birds in their natural environment, alongside the eerie remains of natural gas well-heads capped off and left to rust and decay in this otherwise primordial wilderness. We had hoped for more birds, but egrets, ospreys, cormorants, kingfishers and blue herons, along with a lone Bald eagle was all we could find. Lots of alligators, of course!

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Returning to the city, we did laundry and prepacked for our trip to Ohio.  Jeff and Ollie stayed at the hotel while Betty and Lynnette went to Treme, the Cajun area east of Frenchmen Street.   They walked through Louis Armstrong park and had hoped to spend the afternoon at the Museum of African Americans, however it was closed for renovations.  As we wandered the streets we came upon the gravesite of the unknown slaves, a moving tribute to the slaves who were buried in gravesites scattered throughout the area.  We were directed to the Francis Sylvester Black Cultural Museum, by a beautiful elderly black woman whom we later learned was the 85 yr. old “Queen of The Banana Tree”. We received a personal tour by Sylvester!  It was a very interesting museum displaying extravagant hand beaded costumes which were worn, only once, by the Black African Kings and Queens of the Mardis Gras.  We also learned about “second line” parades which take place every Sunday.   Clubs are formed and each club is assigned one Sunday a year where they deck themselves out in expensive outfits (paid for by the club through fundraising) and parade, dancing through the streets of the Treme district.   The customs and culture of this area are fascinating.

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Deciding on dinner was easy – back to the Blind Pelican for more of their fabulous baked oysters – at $7 a dozen! (Tourist area restaurants typically charge $11 or $12 for six!). Not wanting to waste the opportunity, the four of us, oyster aficionados all, went through 8 dozen in the blink of a Bloody Mary! Finally, having eaten our way through this city of countless great restaurants and non-stop wonderful music, we returned to Mother’s for desert – bread pudding – which according to the several locals we had stopped for recommendations was the best in the city. It was terrific, to be sure, but Don Guggisberg’s is still #1!

Oct 9. New Orleans to Columbus, Ohio. Saying our goodbyes to Betty and Ollie, we took a cab to the airport, leaving the bike in the parking garage. After the wedding of Lynnette’s great-niece Katy, and a great birthday celebration for Lynnette with her family, we will return to stay again to New Orleans for a night, pick up the bike, and head west to Texas.

PS.  We have had several enquiries about the bike. It is a 2007 Yamaha Stratoliner, 1900cc V-Twin cruiser, with seemingly unlimited torque, and capable of get-up-and-go to speeds far greater than we will ever experience! It is ‘happiest’ at about 60mph (100kmh) but we are often obligated by traffic flow to go a bit faster. Pulling the 250lb (loaded) trailer is a non-issue; zero effect on cornering, and occasionally Jeff glances in the mirrors to make sure it is still there! (And Lynnette)  We are averaging about 34 mpg, still pretty good, but lower than we are used to, without the trailer. The tires that were put on in St. John’s, Newfoundland are Bridgestone, and appear to have little wear even after 4,000km, better than the original Dunlops. And so far, no rattles, squeaks, or glitches! Touch wood.

PPS. Apologies if the photos on this blog post are a bit blurry. The download edit may have done something weird…mysteries of the internet?

PPPS.  JUST LEARNED A NEW TRICK RE THE PHOTOS: DOUBLE CLICK EACH PICTURE TO SEE IT IN LARGER SIZE!

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida to New Orleans

Sep 30. Orangeburg SC to Daniel Island (Charleston) SC.  Another sunny day as we packed the bike for the trip to Charleston. Its amazing, when you see it on the hotel luggage trolley, how we get all that stuff in the trailer! We took side roads all the way to Charleston, past many lakes and marshes, arriving on Daniel Island to visit with Lynnette’s step-sister, Nancy Lane and her husband Joe. Nancy is Lynnette’s step-dad, Gus’s, daughter.  We were treated royally by these two wonderful people as we relaxed in their gracious southern home for the evening, begging off for an even earlier than normal bedtime. Early bedtimes are a regular feature on this Great Adventure, particularly after long days on the bike.

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Oct 1.  Daniel Island & Charleston.  We toured around Daniel Island with Joe and Nancy, stopping to marvel at the size and luxurious grounds of the many beautiful homes in the area. Daniel Island is surrounded by water, lying at the confluence of the two largest rivers that flow through Charleston. Many homes back onto river marshes and have wharves and boats aplenty. (We were advised of the subtle difference between a swamp (bad!) and a marsh (very good!), both reflected in the price of the adjoining property!) We headed downtown to walk about Charlestone’s historic old town, take a horse-drawn carriage hysterical tour, have lunch in a restaurant on the wharf (more she crab soup!), and relax at the main pier, soaking up the sunshine and watching a cruise ship debark from the wharf and head out to sea. Charleston is a gracious city, the people friendly and welcoming, and proud of its heritage. The civil war’s first shots were fired in Charleston when Union naval vessels destroyed the Confederate munitions stores at Fort Sumter. We had planned to see Fort Sumter, and would have had not the US budget impasse shut it down (it’s a federal park).

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Oct 2.  Charleston to Savannah, Georgia, and to Waycross, Georgia.  Another beautiful day. We bid goodbye to Joe and Nancy, after getting promises for a return get together either in Borrego or on Gossip Island. We left the freeways of Charleston behind and headed out to the South Carolina coast and the town of Beaufort (pron. buford to distinguish it from Beaufort in North Carolina – pronounced bowfort). ‘Buford’ is a lovely small town on an inland waterway, graced with hundred-year-old mansions, bougainvillea, palms, and magnolias everywhere – and more than its share of visiting Hollywood movie companies. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and checked our emails at the Magnolia Bakery before driving further south along the coast to Savannah, Georgia.

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Arriving in Savannah at noon and took a guided tour on a trolley bus, winding in and out of the many block-sized parks that occupy almost a quarter of the downtown historic area. Lynnette OD’d on the hysterical markers on every corner and especially enjoyed the bench where Forest Gump reminded us that “ life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what your’e going to get! “ The architecture in the old town is quite amazing: mostly churches and grand old houses of the city’s elite founders in the 18th and 19th centuries. Afterwards we walked the full length of River Street, along the water, browsing the tourist shops, having a bite of lunch in a quay-side café, and watching a huge container ship make its way out of port and downriver towards the ocean. Savannah is definitely on our rerun bucket-list.

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Late afternoon we headed west and inland through swampland and forests to the town of Waycross, Georgia, more or less in the middle of nowhere. Largely rural, Southwest Georgia is in poor shape. More buildings and plants are closed than open, many storefronts are boarded up or derelict, and numerous homes are in need of some love and attention. Very sad to see, and even more so in contrast to the affluence evident in Charleston and Savannah.

Oct 3. Waycross GA to Panama City, Florida (near Tallahassee).   Continuing south and west to Florida, we did a freeway fly-by of Tallahassee , then down to the coast towards Panama Beach on rural side-roads that were lovely to ride. It was over 90 degrees today, so rest stops were best under the shade of a tree! Halloween in this part of Florida involves pumpkins, ghosts, and an outhouse! Otherwise, this part of the Florida coast is a 50-mile unbroken stretch of resorts, tourist traps, fast food outlets, and vacation condos. Not much fun to ride with traffic lights all the way, and humidity increasing with every mile! No photos to share of this cultural wasteland!

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Oct 4.  Panama City to New Orleans, Louisiana.  With Hurricane Karen threatening to reach land somewhere between New Orleans and Panama City, we decided to run for cover. We drove over 500 km to reach New Orleans a day ahead of schedule and we almost made it.    

Almost? More to come in the next blog!

The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Sep. 25. The Blue Ridge Parkway. This was the second of the bucket list items to be included in our Great Adventure. And while L’Anse aux Meadows and Newfoundland met our expectations without a doubt, the Blue Ridge Parkway, a biker’s heaven, far exceeded what we had imagined. Almost 400 miles long, the road for the most part runs along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina, towering above the lush green, pastoral Shenandoah Valley on one side, and the James River valley on the other.

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The Blue Ridge Parkway is a Mecca for motorcyclists, with sweeping curves throughout its length, properly banked to accommodate a bike moving at the maximum allowed speed of 45 miles an hour, and incredible views on either side. (Because it was off-season, and there was very little traffic, we confess to having taken some liberties with the posted speed limit. Could not resist.) The road is so spectacular Jeff’s adrenalin pumped non-stop. Lynnette had trouble getting him to stop for any hysterical markers, but at least he always has time to stop and take photos.

In many places you can look 3000 feet straight down into the valleys on either side simultaneously (if one could do that).  Along the way there are several Visitor Centres, each one telling a different “story” reflecting the culture of that particular area. With 400 miles of mountainous terrain to cover, there is much to see, learn and reflect on. The Parkway comes close to many small mountain towns, although the lush forests hide them completely from view. Also, there are a few residents and active farms along the way, belonging to families who have been there since before the Parkway was conceived, a hundred years ago. We stopped at an original farmhouse and barn, and countless “overlooks” to take photos, each one more spectacular than the last.

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We ended the first day on the Parkway in Roanoke, Virginia, once again in a Quality Inn (to get points). After two successive nights in very nice Quality hotels, the one we booked online this time was quality in name only! Lynnette to the rescue: we changed rooms to one she approved of and got the room rate cut in half. I would imagine that the Board of Directors of Quality Inns may be holding an emergency meeting soon to deal with this Lynnette woman who is striking fear into the hearts of their managers!

Sep 26 and 27. More of The Blue Ridge, on the way to Jack and Lyla’s in Boone, NC. Early the next morning we headed back up to the Parkway from Roanoke, riding south again along the crest to Boone, North Carolina, to stay with our Borrego friends Jack Stevens and Lyla Stuart in their mountaintop home, which is very close to the Parkway itself.  We stopped for quite awhile at the Blue Ridge Music Centre, where the origin of music in North America was brilliantly explained and demonstrated. The union of the banjo (brought by the black African slaves) with the European violin and dulcimer, was the beginning!  The weather was perfect, and there was nobody on the road except other bikers,  as this middle section of the Parkway route is distant from the larger cities and cars. 

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Arriving at Jack and Lyla’s we parked the bike (the gravel road up to their paradise  was too steep in places for Jeff and the bike, so we left it in a friend’s garage lower down the hill) and hunkered down for two days of R&R and being pampered by these wonderful friends. We went for a long walk, talked for hours, enjoyed home-cooked dinners, and did the laundry. The weather was so nice Lynnette was even able to do her regular morning yoga out on the deck! We also shipped a box of cold- and wet-weather gear (it’s easy to be optimistic in South Carolina), souvenirs and gifts accumulated along the way.

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Sep. 28. Back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, to Asheville, North Carolina.  We stopped in Boone for gas before starting, and enjoyed the archetypal scenario of two elderly gentlemen sitting on the steps outside a very rural gas bar, carefully observing every visitor from “away”.

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This third day on the Parkway was quite different from the first two. First, it was crowded! Being Saturday there were hundreds of bikers and almost as many cars as we drove south from Boone to the larger city of Asheville.   The going was very slow. Second, we were over 5500’ in elevation, so it was cold and misty for a long section.  Finally, we visited several mansions that were donated by wealthy landowners when the parkway was being constructed, each focusing on the history of that area.

We visited the beautiful Folk Art Centre, near Asheville, a huge show by artisans from the Southeast US, all in a fabulous, ultra modern visitor centre that covered several thousand square feet.   It was a wonderful presentation and we spent time taking it in.  The 150 mile ride took all day, which prevented us from seeing the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, as we had planned.

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Sep. 29.  Asheville to Orangeburg, South Carolina. A travelling day, we took the freeway south and east towards Charleston, South Carolina, for a couple hundred miles, then got off onto some delightful side roads to see a bit more of the South Carolina countryside. We stopped in a small town for lunch, and experienced our first ‘she crab’ soup. Fantastic! And grits. Not so much. Later on, same town, a Halloween display featuring Elvis (the southern version of a scarecrow?). And a bit further down the road we saw our first ever cotton field. (It was obviously uncared for and mostly weeds, but it was the first cotton either of us had seen, and later on there were fields and fields of harvest-ready lush cotton plants.)

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In our next blog we’ll relate the drive to Charleston, South Carolina, and our stay there with Nancy and Joe Lane, and also the drive to Savannah, Georgia, and the panhandle of Florida, on our way to bucket list item #3, New Orleans.