Friday, September 12, 2014

QUEBEC CITY

On the way to Quebec City, we crossed back into the US at Ogdensburg, NY thinking that it would be a less expensive place to resupply. We stayed in a nice city campground on the St. Lawrence that was nearly empty. When buying diesel in Canada we had been paying anywhere from $4.25 to $4.85 a gallon. Figuring that fuel would be cheaper in the states as the tax is actually less than in Canada, yes that's right, we were surprised when we saw fuel in Upstate New York is as high as $4.45 a gallon. Crossing the border in these here parts is a breeze. They ask the same questions as everywhere else, but there were only 4 cars ahead of us crossing at Ogdensburg.

So after two nights, we headed east crossing back into Canada at Cornwall. The Canadians want to know if you have any weapons, pepper spray, and how much alcohol you're bringing in. Funny thing, although pepper spray is illegal in Canada, bear spray is not. Same thing, just labeled differently. I answer in the negative for the first two items, and for the alcohol I just say we have "some" wine and beer and they pass us through. Well, a case of Two Buck Chuck is "some", isn't it?

We arrive at our RV park for the next 3 nights on the south side of the St Lawrence River as access to the city is easy by ferry and the RV park advertises a free shuttle to the ferry. So, when checking in I inquire of the French speaking attendant (French being the dominant language here) about the shuttle. "Monsieur, la navette est cassé". Translation, no shuttle it's broken. So, I am provided with directions to the ferry which with the help of map are easy to follow.

The next day we head off to the city. First the parking lot at the ferry costs $6. The machine takes credit cards. Not US credit cards, but CC that contain a chip. The rest of the worlds CC's contain chips, but the US is way behind the times on CC security. But, luck would have it that the machine takes coins. But I only have $5 in coins. I spy the Tourist Office, so off I go for change. The Tourist Office is "fermé pour la saison", so now it's to the ferry ticket office for tickets and change. The ferry leaves in 5 minutes, so I run back to the parking lot machine, put in my $6, run to the truck, which of course is on the other side of the parking lot, put the ticket on the dash and run to the ferry. We made the ferry, not bad for an old man.

Just a little education about Canadian coins. There is a $1 coin with a picture of a loon and is called a Loonie. There also is a $2 coin coin which is called a Toonie. The rest of the money pretty much follows the US coin and bill denominations, with the bills having a picture of Queen Elizabeth on them.

So we take the short ferry ride across the river to one of the most beautiful cities that we have ever visited. Really the only city in North America that is more like an old European city. The crown jewel of French Canada, Québec City is one of North America’s oldest and most magnificent settlements. Its picturesque Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site, a living museum of narrow cobblestone streets, 17th- and 18th-century houses and soaring church spires, with the splendid Château Frontenac towering above it all. There’s more than a glimmer of Old Europe in its classic bistros, sidewalk cafes and manicured squares
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The narrowing of the Saint Lawrence River next to the city's bluffs and Lévis, on the opposite bank, provided the name given to the city, Kébec, an Algonquin word meaning "where the river narrows". Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America. The ramparts surrounding Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec) are the only fortified city walls remaining in the Americas north of Mexico.

We start our tour on the river level, the lower town and work our way up to the upper town behind the city walls. The narrow streets are crowded with tourists, and this is the off season. It has to be a mad house in the high season. Still if you look and if you're willing to walk, you can get away from the crowds and tour groups with blue haired ladies with their name tags, into some of the less crowded neighborhoods. For me, I can enjoy a city like Quebec just by roaming about enjoying the back streets, looking at the architecture of the old buildings and the interiors of beautiful churches. Boy, did we walk. For 5 and half hours we walked, with a short stop for an unrememable lunch of chicken curry and a 45 minute tour of the Parliament Building. The dogs were tired by the time we caught the ferry back.

Now for some photos....



SEE THE BIKE?

GREAT MURAL

IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS

 BAKERY ZOO

The Parliament building and our tour guide, Joseph.  A great tour guide who switched languages wioth ease between, English, French and Spanish..He's showing us a photo of the red room where committees met.  There was a meeting so the photo had to do.  Interesting fact or two about the Parliament in Quebec.  There is only one house and members campaigns only last 31 days.  Now wouldn't that be nice.




 NOTRE-DAME de QUEBEC BASILICA



The next day the rain started and continued most of the day, so we took a drive along the Route des Navigateurs.  Following the Saint Lawrence seaway for about 250 miles, we managed to traverse about 50 miles worth.  Nice little villages along the way, but with the pouring rain the only photo I took was of lunch at a great little cafe, La Salicorne Cafe where I had Saucisses de la Salicorne Café (sans gluten)
Porc des Élevages Bonneau, épices fenouil et piment d’Alep, vin blanc, pommes de terre grillées, salade croquante, condiments.  You can figure out what it all means.


Before leaving for Maine on our last morning, I took time to, you guessed it, take a bike ride.  I've been on some great bike paths on this trip, but this one has them all beat.  Not too long at 9 miles each way, this path is fully landscaped, pretty much level and a separate lane for walkers and joggers.  It follows the south bank of the Saint Lawrence River opposite Quebec City.  A great finish to a visit in a beautiful city.







Monday, September 08, 2014

ON TO CANADA

Before leaving Sault Ste Marie, Michigan we had to do a little sightseeing in the area. Another river, the Saint Mary, with locks.  Here lake freighters transit between Lake Superior and Lake Huron on the river and through the locks.  Really big ships up to a 1000 feet in length built just wide enough to squeeze through. Many, as we learned in the visitors center are "self loading bulk carriers", carrying mostly ore of some type.






We knew going in that Canada could be expensive with the extra taxes one must pay for living there.  We do get a slight break because the exchange rate is favorable to the US dollar, but when researching camping options in some of Ontario's provincial parks, I about choked.  Try $50 a night.  Some parks even charge by the hour for day use.  I don't know, but it just seemed kinda outrageous to me.  But we were bound and determined to see some of the parks.

First up was Killarney Provincial Park, apparently Ontario's most popular park.  We opted to stay in a private campground in the town of Killarney for half the price.  As the only campers in the campground we got the pick of campsites and picked the one with a great view of Georgian  Bay, on Lake Huron.

OUR CAMP

THE VIEW

A side note about Ontarians.  After entering Canada, we stopped in the town of Sudbury for fuel.  Traffic was pretty heavy in the city and gas stations were difficult to get into with a truck and trailer.  While attempting to enter several stations, we were repeatedly cut off with idiots cutting in front of us.  We finally gave up and drove on down the highway.  Out in the countryside, we found a place to fill up and I tried to have a conversation with the attendant pumping the gas.  This proved to be futile as he either had no interest in talking to a customer or he was just another idiot. When we inquired at the Provincial Park about day passes, the gal behind the counter acted like she could care less when I was asking questions about where to hike.  Not helpful at all.  Was it me or is Ontario full of uncaring people, which was what we were beginning to think.

Anyway, we decided to go for a hike in the park along the Cranberry Bog Trail, a 2 1/2 mile loop through some beautiful scenery.  But the hikers in the photo below ignored our greeting of "Good Morning".




As luck would have it, we missed a turn on the trail and although not lost, at least not yet, we were beginning to realize that something was amiss.  As we were deciding to go forward or to turn around, along came Andrew and Debbie.  You can surmise because I wrote their names here that they were more talkative and friendly than others we had met so far.  I thought at first that the probably weren't from Ontario, but perhaps another Province of Canada where nice people lived.  But no, they were from Ontario.  They set us on the correct path and accompanied us along the way.  After arriving back at the trail head, we were invited to their camp for coffee, which we accepted with some trepidation. We weren't sure if they had lulled us into a false sense friendliness, but as it turns out, Andrew and Debbie were really nice people.  In fact not wanted to let them get away from us, we invited them to join us in the evening for happy hour.  With our faith somewhat restored, we decided to continue our trip into Ontario.

After a couple of days, we hit the road again and headed to Algonquin Provincial Park, the largest park in Ontario.  This time we paid the freight and stayed in one of the many provincial campgrounds in the park.  With too many lakes to count, canoeing is big here, with paddling about on short forays or the longer overnight trips requiring portages between rivers and lakes.  We opted to stay dry and hit the trail for a nice hike.  There is also a nice bike trail on an old logging railway route which I took advantage of.  Here are some photos of some of the views from the bike and trail.





Our faith in the friendliness of the local population was further buoyed when camping neighbor Bob invited us to join him and his group for happy hour.  Bob along with his wife, Jane, his sister Linda and her husband Joe welcomed us into their camp for refreshments and conversation.  Bob offered us the use of his canoe, but Cathie declined after learning that Bob managed to fall out of it on his morning paddle.  According to Bob, you know you're a real Canadian if you can have sex in a canoe without turning it over.

With our opinion about Ontarians changed we headed towards Quebec City, with a short stop along the way for  a resupply and Internet in Ogdensburg,  Upstate New York.





Saturday, August 30, 2014

A GREAT WAR STORY

Before we get to the title of this post an update of our travels. We stopped just west of Chicago in a nice county park, (not Cook County) where we stayed for 3 nights. Time for laundry and resupply, as there is a Costco and the last Trader Joe's that we will see for some time. A beautiful campground as you can tell by the photo.


Most readers probably know that most all RV's today have air conditioning, so why not tents?


Most of the states in our country have motto's or a saying that is particular to that state. California's motto is "Eureka". Illinois and Oklahoma have the same motto, "Stop, Pay Toll". There are so many toll roads in the Chicago area that they are difficult to avoid. Luckily the GPS can guide you along the roads that don't require a toll, though you have to use some common sense and avoid areas you would rather not spend time in. Another observation about Chicago and this part of Illinois is that there are a lot of large stores, markets and malls that have closed up. Their parking lots are growing weeds and the one or two business that remain have just a few cars parked it front of them. I didn't notice this in Iowa, Nebraska or Colorado, so what gives?

Now for the war story.

On June 4, 1944, the US Navy captured a German submarine off the coast of Africa after her crew failed to scuttle her. The U-505 was the first enemy ship captured by the US since the War of 1812, and the first of six U-boats to be captured during the war. To protect military secrets (including the breaking of the German Enigma codes), the capture of the U-505 was classified, the ship was renamed and hidden, and the crew was interred in a special POW camp and their existence was concealed from everyone, including the International Red Cross and the German Government.

The U-505 left for what would be her last combat mission, near the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The US Navy knew from Enigma intercepts that U-boats were in the area, and dispatched a hunter-killer task force, consisting of the escort carrier Guadalcanal and the destroyer escorts Pillsbury, Pope, Flaherty, Jenks and Chaterlain to hunt the Germans. On June 4, the task group made sonar contact with a submerged sub--the U-505. Wildcat fighters and Avenger torpedo bombers were launched from the Guadalcanal, and the destroyer escorts attacked with depth charges and Hedgehogs. An oil slick soon appeared, and then the damaged U-505 surfaced. The Captain of the sub ordered his crew to open the valves to flood the sub and sink her, and then abandon ship. For some reason, though, the scuttling valves were not all opened. When a boarding party from the Pillsbury reached the U-505, they found her empty, entered the sub, and captured her. The Navy then towed the U-505 to Bermuda, a journey of 1700 miles.






I had read a book about a year ago written by Hans Goebeler titled "Steel Boat, Iron Hearts".  The author was a crew member on the U-505 when it was captured and the book was about his service on board. After the war and after being repatriated, Goebeler eventually became a US citizen, residing in the Chicago area.

No, I didn't go to Chicago to meet the author, but to see the submarine which is located at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  For many  years the sub sat rusting away in the Portsmouth Navy Yard and it was to be used for target practice, but luckily in 1954 it was donated to the museum and towed through the Great Lakes to Chicago.  It was put on display outside of the museum where over the years it suffered further damage due to the elements.  Then 2004 it was moved inside to a specially designed, climate controlled underground location in the museum.  Much restoration work was done on both the inside and outside of the sub before being placed on display. 


FORWARD TORPEDO ROOM

CAPTAIN'S QUARTERS


DIESEL ENGINES




The above photo shows the sea strainer, which opens the sub to the sea.  When US Navy personnel from the Pillsbury boarded the sinking sub, they found this open and water flowing in. They did the smart thing and put the lid back on.

There is a lot of other things to see at the museum including, trains, planes and automobiles.  Many of the displays are interactive and a great learning experience for both children and adults.




PLAYING WITH ELECTRICITY

We are now in Sault Ste Marie in the most northern part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, or the U.P. as the locals call it.  We took two days driving from Chicago as not to put any stress on the 500 mile drive.  From our campsite in the city, we look across the St. Mary River to Canada and watch the lake freighters as they transit between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.


After the holiday weekend we will be heading across the International Bridge into Canada. While we wait for the Labor Day holiday to pass, we will bide our time here.

  
























Monday, August 25, 2014

IOWA AND ILLINOIS

We spent three nights at Saylorville Lake, just north of Des Moines in some muggy mid-west weather. No rain, but hot and humid. From camp one can ride their bike into the city, which I did on one foggy morning. The city is so bike friendly that there are bike paths galore. The next morning I convinced Cathie to take a ride around the city, so we drove into town and rode many of the trails. Des Moines is a really beautiful and clean city, with parks and a great riverfront trail on both sides of the two rivers, the Des Moines and the Raccoon, that join in the downtown. Not much open for breakfast, but we managed to find the Ritual Cafe a vegetarian cafe run by a bunch of tattooed ladies that was pretty good.



 THE PAPAJOHN SCULPTURE PARK



Continuing on the Lincoln Highway theme, we reconnected with Hwy 30 and continued east. We crossed the Mississippi River at Clinton, Iowa and settled at Thomson Causeway, another great COE campground in the small town of Thomson. With a riverfront campsite, we opted to spend 4 nights instead of the planned 2. Also, once again, as with most of the trip so far, there is a great bike trail here that follows the river for 62 miles.


CAMP RESIDENTS


The Great River Trail is just part of the Grand Illinois Trail that covers more than 500 miles. Yes, I would like to, but it will have to wait. I rode most of the River Trail, but just like everywhere else, the weatherman doesn't always get it right. Supposed to have had clear skies in the morning, so I left around 6 am. After 35 miles or so, the skies opened up. First strong winds, then lightning and thunder and before I could find shelter, rain. Not the little might get you damp kind of rain, but soak you through in 1 minute rain. I managed to make it to a convenience store and for the price of a cup of coffee, they let me hang out until the rain stopped. Back on the bike to try and finish the trail but within two miles the skies became unfriendly once more. This time I found a restaurant and called Cathie for a rescue.

The next day, with the weatherman once again promising clear skies in the morning, I convinced Cathie to ride with me to Fulton, the next town downriver for a cup of coffee. It was a 15 mile round trip ride and we intended for it to be a leisurely one. We arrived in Fulton unscathed and found a nice little neighborhood cafe. While enjoying the coffee, Cathie observed that the sky to the west was looking mighty dark. "Not to worry", I said, "it's a long way off". We left the cafe and rode up on the river levee for some photos and then started back to camp.

Things went just fine till we reached about the halfway point. The wind started blowing pretty hard and then the rain started, sideways rain. Real heavy sideways rain. This was accompanied with lightning and thunder all around us. You know the system for telling how close the lightning is? After you see the lightning you count, one thousand one, one thousand two and so on until you hear the thunder, each one thousand representing a mile. So after the next flash of lightning I counted, "one thou" BOOM! With no place to take cover and riding on our lightning attracting metal bikes, we just rode faster, like we could outrun it. I've have never seen Cathie ride that fast. By the time we got back to camp we couldn't be any wetter, but we made it. Don't know if Cathie will be going on anymore rides with me though.

FULTON


This is the first attempt at a selfee on the river levee in town. Windmill Head didn't like it, so we took another.



There are yellow painted marks on the path to direct you on which way to go. For instance this means, turn right.

Whereas this means to go straight.

Similar to yellow arrows one follows on the Camino de Santiago in Spain

Of course any visit to the Mississippi, one must go see the barges traversing the locks. Tugs, push up to 12 barges up and down the river. When going through a lock, some locks will not accommodate 12 barges, so they must be separated and half are pushed through at a time, which takes over an hour. When loaded the barges draw 9 feet, so the COE keeps the river dredged just deep enough to accommodate them.

Notice this tug with it's bridge that can be raised and lowered on a hydraulic lift.


We saw some beautiful sunsets on the Mississippi before continuing east and stopping near Chicago for a few days.


We leave the Mississippi drive on our last segment of the Lincoln Highway as it passes through Chicago where we will park for a couple of days.