The Daily EO: September 6th, 2012

Greetings from Havre, Montana and the Town Inn and Suites.
Hours on the road:  15 hours
Kms Traveled:  1366.2

After a short night in Grand Rapids – well it seemed pretty short – and a grand breakfast, we hit the road again.  You know “Breakfast included” in an American Hotel is significantly better than the lousy “continental breakfast” offered in most Canadian hotels.   In every hotel we’ve stayed in during the last month, the American ones include make your own fresh waffle, oatmeal, biscuits & gravy, yogurt, fresh fruit, eggs, bacon/sausage, or a various combination of these.  It’s fabulous.  Emile usually grabs a hardboiled egg and I an extra yogurt and we’ve got our stops for the day.  Pay attention Commonwealth!

We were excited to get to North Dakota – it adds another state to both of our collections (we only count states that we have actually been outside in – Emile’s 2 hour layover in LAX does not count).  I’ve been to 21 (California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming).  Emile has been to 23 (Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming).

The most exciting part of North Dakota was visiting the Geographic Centre of North America.  I guess that should be Center – but I think that is ethnocentric of the US to use their spelling, don’t you think??  There it is.  Built in 1932 (the monument not North America) Emile was more excited about the fantastic cloud formations, I think.

Rugby, North Dakota

As we crossed into Montana, the Big Skies were evident:

Montana

Both of us had to sit as tall as we could with the sun visors down while squinting and wearing sunglasses to be able to see.   Fortunately, Highway 2 – north of the main freeway  – is very quiet.  It is not uncommon for us to spend a half hour without seeing another vehicle.  The sun sets in the west, I’ll tell you – I hope there is no permanent damage.

Blinded

While in the US, we don’t use our cell phones due to the high data/roaming rates.  I engage in the practice of War Driving – so named from the movie War Games.  I race to see if I can connect to unsecured Wi-Fi and download my messages before Emile pulls away from a red light.   I like to see what people call their Wi-Fi points:  hurricane, tornado, getyourown, notyours, mine, thelassie, or my favorite “Linksys”.   If you laughed when I said “Linksys”, you failed the geek test.  Each time we stop for gas (or peeing), I am wandering around the parking lot trying to find a strong unsecured connection.

We had an early evening relatively speaking and pulled into Havre – land of the low-end casino – at 10 pm.  We’d stopped to get Oreos and milk for Emile and he was eager to relax while watching TV and eating his American treat.

September 6th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Being exceptionally disappointed that the honeymoon suite bed (the only room left at the hotel) didn’t have the heart-shaped king bed like the clerk said it did.  Who doesn’t want to sleep on a heart shaped bed once?

The Daily EO: September 5th, 2012

Greetings from Grand Rapids, Minnesota and the Country Inn!
Hours Travelled:  16 hours
Kms Covered:  1368.8

I’m not talking about any tears or heartache today, so I will begin our trip 30 minutes out of Huntsville.  We stopped in Rosseau for a little pick me up in the form of a cream cheese smothered (and I mean drowning) raisin free cinnamon bun.  I got Emile a day-old sticky bun – we need to watch the budget you know.   We wrapped close to Georgian Bay this time whipping through Parry Sound and the French River area.   Last time we swung out to North Bay, and I think hugging the bay is faster.

But then again I was working on catching up on EOs and not paying full attention:

Tethering my Laptop to the Cell Phone

There is an aside here for anyone who is married to or is connected to a photographer.  I am in dire danger having my picture taken doing the most mundane of things with little warning.  I mean who wants to have their picture taken while stuffing their face full of carb delicious Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwiches?  Or while driving?  From today alone, here are the indignities suffered:

 

In the Eye of the Beholder

I am certain that this is a statement of the skill of the photographer.. . right?  I mean I couldn’t possibly really look like this.  Even when I know I am going to have a shot taken, I end up looking like yahoo because I am trying to suck in things that cannot be sucked in.  I check myself in the mirror fairly regularly and find that my arms while needing a little more tone are not the size of leg of lambs.  My hips while curvy have not yet gone the way of the middle age spread.  But then he takes something like this, and I wonder…

Lake Superior from the South

In Blind River – or somewhere around there – we stopped for the aforementioned Wendy’s.  While enjoying our meal, a women began coughing and choking.  Note coughing.  Not to let the women suffer, her husband (?) grabbed  her from behind on the way to the bathroom and started vigorously performing the Heimlich Maneuver  I must say this is the first time I have ever seen it done in a real “emergency”.  Funny thing though – if the victim is coughing, that means she can breathe.  If she can breathe, then the food is not blocking her airway and there is no need for such heroics.  In fact, it can make the situation worse by moving the food around and then blocking the airway.  Fortunately, a security guard waiting for his Baconater leapt to the woman’s defense and pulled the guy off.  The poor woman – embarrassed for such a scene – slunk into the bathroom to cough out her fry.

We crossed the border at Sault Ste Marie and were really grilled by the customs officer.  “Have either of you ever been arrested?  Years ago?  Perhaps as a juvenile?  You can tell me.  I need to know this stuff.”  I was left feeling like I should have confessed a phantom brush with the law.

Our trip through Michigan journeyed through the Northern part where neither of us had ever been before.  And before we knew it we had passed by the Michigan Skateboarding Hall of Fame and six or seven bizarrely finite rainstorms and moved into our 2 hour jaunt through Wisconsin.  It was too late to buy any cheese and I am regretting that as I write this now.

We drove into the setting sun while swirls of mist wrapped around the tires of our Fit.  Through Duluth as it didn’t seem just far enough and so into Grand Rapids (the other one).  Judy Garland was born here, you know, it seems a fitting to sleep where “A Star is Born”.

September 5th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:   I’m a sucker for sunset shots – you know it!  I love the evidence of the movement in the trees due to the shutter being open a little longer.  I took the picture with Emile’s recommended settings, so I’d say this is a team effort.

Again, my hands on the camera, Emile’s advice from behind me:

Wakefield, Wisconsin

The Daily EO: August 6th, 2012

Greetings from St. Catharines, Ontario and the ten Den B&B.

Hours Driven:  15
Kms travelled:  1308
Money Spent:  $123

It was ambitious, but we decided to drive from La Crosse, Wisconsin (which is almost in Minnesota) to home in one day.   In reviewing the route, we determined that it was even further than we could handle and decided on a stop at my in-laws in St. Catharines to shave a couple of hours off the journey.  And then we could see them too!

We made our requisite stop at a cheese factory in Wisconsin and gawked at cheese – how to pick just one?   After driving more than 3000 kms on the I-90, we finally turned south to head around the lake.  For excitement, we considered taking the Milwaukee ferry across Lake Michigan, but once we determined the cost to be $300, we decided the 1 hour we’d save wasn’t worth it.  I guess we are too accustomed to Canada’s subsidized ferries – but that seemed ridiculous for a route that has a reasonable driving estimate.

Illinois is where things got tricky – we had to change highways several times and stop to pay tolls frequently.  We were running low on American cash and therefore snuck Canadian change to our toll payments.  We’d ask the collector a question to distract from our coinage and then leave immediately once the gate was up!  The 407 toll highway in Canada is more expensive sure, but it was annoying in Illinois have to stop at 5 or 6 toll booths while making our way around Chicago.   The last booth was quite confusing – pointing us to Iowa – and we mistakely drove right through without paying.  We are waiting for the FBI to surround our house in Canada looking for their $1.50.

Emile played the Blues Brother’s Chicago and I answered back with Frank Sinatra’s.  Yes, we are dorks.

We snuck through Indiana, and then back to Michigan. You know, for the “auto” state, Michigan has some nice scenery.  In Charlotte, we stopped at Taco Bell for our last American experience.  Afterwards, we shook hands to say No More Fast Food for a LONG while.  About 30 minutes later, Emile saw a White Castle sign and promptly forgot our agreement.  Fortunately, he fell asleep (I was driving by this time, otherwise that would not be so fortunate), and I avoided any other purchases.

The border guard accepted our passports and declarations without incident and we found ourselves with non-roaming cell phones for the first time in days.   Oh, the things I could look up!

As I neared London, I started making up songs about our trip including a lovely ditty that I rhymed up “pee”, “me” and “tea”.  The end was nigh and I was finally cracking up.  Emile – rightly so – got concerned that a crazy person was driving, and requested to take over the wheel.

We pulled into St. Catharines at 1:30 am, and I’ve never been happier to arrive anywhere.  Except the bathroom at Tri-State Toll Highway Hinsdale Oasis.

August 6th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:   The quiet and peaceful sound of driving on asphalt after crossing the border into Canada versus the loud and bumpy concrete highways in the USA.

It’s good to be home!

 

The Daily EO: August 5th, 2012

(this one is a bit long).

Greetings from La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Days Hotel!

Hours Driven:  15 hours
Kms Covered:  1338.1
Money Spent:  $155

There is an inherent feeling of danger that comes from men who are bikers.  If I said fill in the blank:  “Biker ______”, you’d probably say “Gang”.  I suspect that the truth is more like society at large – people on the entire spectrum of evil and frightening scales.  Sure, in a group of bikers, there surely is a chance of meeting a mean person as there is an encounter with a weekend warrior lawyer in the throes of a midlife crisis.  Nonetheless, put me in a large group of bikers, and my intellectual understanding of stereotypes is somewhat drowned out by yeas of bias training in movies, headlines and books.

So, while driving the streets of Sturgis (Like we didn’t stop to drive through town!  Do you not know us at all??) during the 2012 Motorcycle Rally, I felt conspicuous.  Never mind we were in the 5% of the traffic in an automobile, but we were also driving a tinted-window, sport packaged, purple (ahem, “Blackberry”) Honda Fit with Ontario plates and a photographer hanging out the window trying get close-ups of nipple tassels.

And while I am on the subject of nipple tassels, I ponder this.  Why is it that many of the women who live in this club or culture or whatever you want to call it, are overt and confident in their sexuality?   I mean, there are some who in regular life we would encourage not to wear a tube top, to please put on a bra and certainly get longer shorts.  But here, everything is hanging out in its glory.  Now perhaps this is in the vein of the blatant sexuality at Pride celebrations that is used to boldly claim this as their right, their place, and to make a stir to provoke thoughts.  But Sturgis?  I don’t think it is political – I think it is just men and woman enjoying each other, and to hell with the concern of extra rolls, or saggy boobs, or ripplely thighs.  Shouldn’t we all take a little lesson from this?

Oil Changes and Bikinis. Stugis.

The logistics/planner person in me was fascinated by the preparation of Sturgis and surrounded areas for such a huge influx of bikers.  All of the intersections in Sturgis were changed from lights to four-way stops and every square foot of space was either parking, booths or gathering places.  It was fascinating – and made me want to meet the person in charge of this project – because this isn’t anarchy, people somewhere are planning this and planning it well.

Anyways, imagine driving the short distance from the South Dakota I-90 to Mount Rushmore with 50% of the traffic being cruising bikes.  We were in a group of about 15 bikes and us.  It felt like being in a poor country’s presidential motorcade.

Our Escorts

Mount Rushmore charged $11 to “park” indeed not for entrance to the monument.  Even at Mount Rushmore, there was a Sturgis Gift Shop set-up and 2 specially designated motorcycle lanes.  Mount Rushmore was interesting, but the image is so iconic, it was difficult to really understand that I was actually there.  It seemed smaller than I expected, and I found it more fascinating to look at the uncarved “needles” in the Black Hills.

The “Other View” at Mount Rushmore

The nearest town, Keystone, was almost a replica of Niagara Falls, Canada – with bold SHOUTING billboards and bizarre twisted history (ie, Sitting Bull’s Crystal Caves.  Really?)

We travelled through South Dakota stopping at strange places.  Pioneer Auto is home of THE General Lee (um, wasn’t there like 40 or something?) and Elvis’s motorcycle, but we were too cheap to pay to the $10 admission, so we’ll never know how cool it was.  Alas.  Wall Drug has brilliant marketing campaign with 40+ billboards in the 50 miles leading up to Wall – they advertised free doughnut and coffee for honeymooners.  We were going to try to scam them, but we don’t like coffee and didn’t feel like doughnuts.  But the worst was the “Corn Palace” in Mitchell who is a victim of “setting expectations”.  We expected a building made of corn, but instead it was an arena/stadium thing that was covered in corn.  I suppose that is impressive in itself, but it seemed lacking when we thought corn was used instead of concrete.   People, under promise, over deliver!

Our journey through Minnesota was almost entirely during dusk and we were treated to a slowly darkening cloudless sky with fields of corn and wind turbines.  We drove on to make up for our short day yesterday, and arrived at a Days Hotel that only wanted $60 for the night.  Clean and cheap.  Love it.

Beautiful Evening.

August 5th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  A run in Wyoming at 7:30 am, through a field, down a bike path, around a lake.  It made me feel like I am “that” person.  Yep.  Her.

Running In Wyoming. My reward.

The Daily EO: August 4th, 2012

Greetings from Gillette, Wyoming and the Country Inn and Suites!

Hours Driven: 7.5
kms Travelled:  743
Money Spent:  $307

“Are you Serious?  ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

I wouldn’t have been more surprised and abruptly awoken if Emile jumped up on the bed and shouted “Google provides 1000 mbps to select customers in Connecticut!” as loud as he could.  Which in fact is what it sounded like.  Not the Connecticut part, but the on our bed part.  At 6:30 in the morning, some crazed woman started screaming at her child.  Our hotel was not soundproof and I would have sworn she was right there.

“What did I tell you?  We are GOING to Have a Good Day!  And here you are being Difficult!!  ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

I laid there wondering where she was and what this child did to deserve this wraith.  What time is it?  Where are we?  What is going on?  What is it that happens to some people that have children?  The ones that become overbearing and borderline abusive to their kids.  Lady, its 6:30 in the morning and no doubt you have driven the Great American Road Trip, feeding your kid sugar, getting them to bed late and then awakening them at 6:00 am to “get a good start”.  So give us all a break!

“Your FACE will STOP being RED in 5 Minutes!!  Stop Crying!!  Are you SERIOUS??”

Finally this delightful mom and family left and we were able to go back to sleep.  Emile grabbed an extra pillow to cover his ears, built a pillow wall to block out the dawn sun that was streaming in and promptly returned to peaceful slumber.  I lay awake a little longer convinced I would never get back to sleep.  But soon I awoke at 10 am.

Our hotel included breakfast and we certainly were going to take advantage of it.  As Emile ate my waffle and his, I sipped at a tea and wondered if I would ever feel rested again.    I gathered the free condiments I always do, as I reminded Emile what our Nutbar Neighbour was screaming at the crack of dawn.

So, a bit of a late start.  The sun shone and the hotel parking lot was empty.  We were the late departure.

There is a reason Montana is called big sky country – it truly feels like the world is vast and open.   It was a tremendous drive and we both enjoyed it – being able to see the scenery this time.

We debated and debated whether to swing through South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore as it would add extra hours to our trip.  Emile said “Well, I think we should go, then we can scratch it off our list”.  I am not sure what the list is that we have, but well, he knows me.  Crossing something off a list is my motivation.  Of course we headed south!

That meant a dive into Wyoming, and the instant we crossed the state lines, the highways turned pink.  And I thought Wyoming’s borders were arbitrary!  What an incredible feeling – I want to come here and buy cowboy boots and find a ranch and do cowboy things.  Wide open like Montana, but with unique pink and black rock formations.  Exploring Wyoming goes on this list we apparently have.  But probably just after returning to Paris.

We pulled into Gillette – debating the pronunciation – at 7:30 pm and could not bring ourselves to risk driving further despite our paltry 700 kms.   We were tired, hungry and road weary and needed a good night’s sleep. Surely Gillette had a room for the night.  First hotel we tried – internet, fridge, breakfast and less than $100.  We are in.

The clerk told us we were lucky that we were here tonight (double the rate) instead of next week – it’s the big Motorbike Rally in Stugis next week.  And the connections were made – no wonder there have been so many bikes on the road!

Despite my assertion that Wal-Mart is destroying North American society, we went to the Super Centre across from our hotel.  We wanted the real modern American experience you see – and Wal-Mart fit the bill.  All we needed were some “pry it from my cold dead hands” guns and cheap tacos.

We crawled into bed with the alarm set for the first time in weeks.  I have the idea of running in Wyoming because it sounds really cool.

Aaah.  Bed with a new box of Cheeze Its, some weirdo Key Lime diet soda pop and Family Feud.

August 4th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Finding a hotel before dark – new, clean, friendly, and cheap with fresh baked cookies and chocolates at the front desk.

You’re immortalized, Crazy Lady!

The Daily EO: August 3rd, 2012

Greetings from Butte, Montana and the Copper King Conference Centre and Resort!

Hours driven:  16 hours
Kms travelled (door to door):  1197.2
Money spent:  $215.43

Well, we didn’t get an early start because we wanted to catch up on some sleep.  After some concern about the border crossings into the US on the Canadian long weekend, we were happy to find the delay was only about 20 minutes.   Emile – accustomed to the large bridges for border crossing in Ontario – was disappointed to find that the Peace Arch was as small as it is it.  He thought the Peace Arch referred to a glorious bridge stretching across a river (like Niagara River).

Cell Phones are now switched off and we began probably the longest period either of us has spent disconnected in over a year.  Can’t look up hotels, maps, or settle arguments without the internet.

I always find adjusting to the road signs in the US is such a problem.  In Canada, you know if the road sign says “Regina 193”, you’re going to be there in 2 hours give or take.  In the US, you see “Missoula 193”, you’ve got another 3+ hours.  It makes the next distance sign feel like you’ve accomplished very little.

We stopped in . . . um. . . some city just outside Seattle to get some groceries and bought ourselves some American Only goods.  This included Keebler Cinnabon Cookies, Triple Double Oreos (three wafers, 1 vanilla icing and 1 chocolate icing), Reduced Fat Cheeze Its (you know, we have a strict diet), and a large Mexican Beer (just for the thrill of purchasing alcohol in a grocery store).

After that, I typed e-mails into Word, and we drove across Washington, into Idaho (Emile wonders why they got that little panhandle) with plans to stop in Coeur D’Alene.  We weren’t tired in there, so decided to keep pushing on, not knowing what was awaiting us.

Arrogance again led us to believe that we’d easily find a hotel room in Montana.  We started stopped in St. Regis, and by the time we asked at the third hotel in Missoula, we thought something might be up.  I asked the girl what was going on.  She looked at me like the ignorant Canadian I am and said “It’s Friday night.  It’s Montana.   It’s summer.”   Well.  Hmmm.  Well that pulls me down a couple of pegs.   Its midnight by now, but what to do? Park with the Truckers, and snuggle in the fit?  Or keep driving.  Emilie cracked open a diet cola, and some American Only Chili Fritos and said “I’m good to go.”

We headed towards Butte, while I slept for the next stage of driving if necessary.   When we got to Butte, we asked at 3 hotels before someone said “Copper King” might have rooms.

The clerk wasn’t the most attractive man – drinking a 7-11 Super Big Gulp at 2 in the morning might give you a clue about why – but I almost leapt across the desk into his arms when he told me there was a room.

August 3rd, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Staying at the former “it” spot from 1985.  But who cares?  It was a clean, well-appointed, and friendly with soft flat surfaces to sleep.

Leaving Vancouver. Goodbye Grandpa.

The Daily EO: August 2nd, 2012

After 3 weeks of vacation, you tend to get lazy and lacking of sleep.  You are never in your own bed, and you pack your days with visiting and activities.  I awoke early this morning for some reason – still tired.  Kinda hungry.  The previous evening we had visited my aunt’s new condo in Burnaby with my Grandma and Grandpa.  All five of us squeezed into the Fit with canes and walkers and headed out.

It was a later evening than usual, and this led to another night without a full night of sleep.  When I awoke –urgently needing to go to the washroom – I listened to my husband’s steady breathing.  Despite wanting to get Olympic highlights, I refrained from turning on the TV and waking him up.

I needed to leave the room so he could get some of the sleep he needed to.  I pondered my options.  Too early to see my grandpa, too early to eat.  But not too early for running.  That’s a bad idea.  I don’t want to run.  I’m tired.  My ass jingles a little bit more after this vacation.

But with a lack of any other choice, I quietly and reluctantly laced my shoes and headed out.  I walked for a bit to warm up.  Well, actually that is not true – I walked for a bit because I didn’t want to start.

But start I did finally and I ran 3.6 kms this morning.  Shorter than usual, but at least I got out there.  As I rounded the last corner, my mom was standing outside drinking a coffee and smoking a cigarette.   She gave me a wave.  Two different approaches to the start of the day.

August 2nd, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  No stopping for 3.6 km.  Yes, NO STOPPING for 3.6 kms!