22 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part V

Two of our sisters have expressed disappointment in us for not inviting the drowning campers of our last update inside. I'd like to point out I suggested this and Brad said no for the following reasons:
a) Inviting wet people into Gil would negate his dry interior
b) It was midnight
c) We were in our PJs
d) You shouldn't talk to strangers, especially at midnight in your PJs

* * *

After an uncomplicated border crossing we were back in Canada again and of course checked out Niagara Falls from their side too.

The Canadians definitely got the better view when dividing the place up. 

From here we made our way to Toronto, via the Niagara Escarpment & Twenty Valley wine growing district and stocked up Gil's wine cellar (cough, under table).

In Toronto, Brad left the headlights on again, then set a personal best for restarting Gil by himself. Brad: 2, AAA: 2 (I think he may have been purposely trying to level the score). After a few days wandering around Toronto, we continued our way beside the St. Lawrence River via some beautiful old towns, and so many stunning old houses I was ready to move into (Brad say's no, so fear not if you are expecting me back in the office next year). 
In Bloomfield we had a frozen confection for lunch again, this time at Slicker's Ice cream which boasts true to life flavours, such as apple pie – three actual home made apple pies are mixed into the ice cream. Slightly further down the road we stopped for afternoon tea in Picton, at a gourmet hot dog shop, Buddha Dog. I'm not sure about you, but I don't normally associate Buddha and hot dogs, but whatever the reason they're on to a good thing with their miniature – so we got to try a selection – hot dogs. Very yummy indeed. The Picton County Fair was on the following day, so we spent a night in the beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park (wish we'd had more time to spend here).

Whilst the fair was quite small, it featured all the required vegetable and "designer" poultry competitions.
Many of the chickens had been entered by one I'll-leave-his-last-name-out-for-privacy, who I estimate to be under 8 as he'd had to correct his name on some of the entry cards. I imagine his farm was quite empty that day – even his brand new baby guinea pigs were on display!

From Picton we headed on to Kingston, hired a little Hobie cat and sailed on Lake Ontario. Finally! The catamaran was no Catnap, with absolutely no risk of capsizing or going at any great pace – Brad even let me be captain for a while – but the water was delightfully warm and the weather perfect for sailing. It reminded us both how much we miss sailing and the close proximity of an algae free beach. If there weather gets above 25 degrees when we're home in a few weeks, you'll find us out with 'Catty' at Safety Beach.

This shall be the final instalment in the Crosscountry(ies) updates and you may now sigh with relief that updates may be a little more interesting going forward (at least that's what I'll keep telling myself), and far more timely (also what I keep telling myself). For the record, by the time I wrote this, we had actually made it all the way across the country, indeed, I wrote about Chicago whilst we were on the east coast of New Brunswick, which if you look at a map, are nowhere near each other. But there's a big world out there to see.....

21 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part IV

After Chicago we skipped our way along Lake Eerie, which is huge. It's still rather novel for us to look at a lake and not be able to see a hint of something on the other side. On numerous occasions we stopped at beaches in the hope of getting a bit of sailing in, and on each were met with signs advising us not to go into the water (or in one case, and I quote “avoid contact with surface scum”) due to unacceptable algae toxin levels. Um OK, that's not a sign I normally see when I go to the beach.

After one such disappointment, we drove on and stopped at a quiet camp ground in Ohio. Brad decided this was an excellent place for a spot of external Gil maintenance (something required some reattaching or sealing or something) and so commenced the task despite it being 35 degrees plus and about 99% humidity. Unfortunately it turned out to be a much bigger task/problem than first realised and required multiple trips to the hardware store (no sausage sizzle out the front, sad face), a few more nights in said camp ground and even assistance from me. Yes, even I can use a screwdriver. On the plus side Brad purchased a drill. The lack of a drill has served as an excuse for not making minor Gil enhancements on many an occasion, not anymore.

At about 11pm of our last night, our third extremely impressive thunderstorm of recent times struck. The lightening here is sheet (rather than the bolt variety we are used to at home) and one continuous flash after another lighting up the whole sky. Even without the thunder which makes Gil move, and me dive under the doona/quilt/duvet in fear (Brad made me admit that) sleep is impossible. The couple across from us were in a tent and out driving somewhere at the time the storm hit. In their absence their fly came off and several poles collapsed. We watched as on their return they moved everything to their car, literally drained water from their tent, dried it with towels and moved to higher ground. In the morning there was evidence of multiple mid-night abandonments and tents discarded in bins, like umbrellas after a wind storm.

The following morning we set on our way again, this time to Cleveland to see some houses where my Granny and Dad had lived. It was a pretty rough neighbourhood and we hadn't felt that unsafe since we were in Casper. After stopping to check out the Cleveland Browns stadium and the air show which was conveniently on, we continued on our way to Niagara Falls which was a surprise to me. One of the joys of Brad being chief travel co-ordinator is I sometimes I only find out where we are going when we get there.

Niagara Falls were suitably impressive. A surprise gust of wind meant we got wet, and as I was wearing my last clean pair of jeans meant I was forced to frequent a laundromat in my track pants (Brad made me admit that to that too). Yes dear readers, I did something I've never done before and wore trackies in public, I hope I can be forgiven.  There are no photos of this event, so here's one of Niagara Falls instead.

20 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part III

In Chicago we cheated on Gil for the first time, and spent a few nights in a hotel, nothing fancy and it was long way out in the 'burbs, but we were garunteed of parking for Gil and there was something novel about having a bed we didn't have to vault into.

Chicago was an awesome city and got us to thinking we might actually quite like proper apartment living in the right place. But I fear we didn't do it justice. Having spent so long in national parks and other assorted bits of wilderness we felt some what lost and couldn't remember how to “do” a city. We wandered around, took a boat trip, took in the architecture, ate (Chicago pizza is weird, we didn't like it at all). I think that's how you do a city right?

Sadly, the Art Institute of Chicago appears deceptively small from the outside, and so we arrived a little late in the day to spend the amount of time we needed and it fully deserved.
Brad  (on sculpture): I'd put that in my backyard.
Brad (coming back after going ahead of me into the next room of a kimono exhibit): Suse, come quick, there's a '70s party kimono. (I must tell you as this point, the kimonos were from 1915 to 1940).My highlight of the day, apart from Brad's comments, was seeing some of Monet's water lillies which I have long admired, without having to jostle for position and close enough to touch (don't worry I didn't) including this one: Water Lilies, 1906

(For the record, Brad is not an uneducated in the world of art, some of it he quite likes, he just says funny things in art galleries)

..... note to self: When in New York, plan to arrive major art galleries at opening time and leave at closing.

15 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part II

In this part of the trip there has been very little hiking and quite a lot more eating, for anyone expecting the svelte, buff editions of Brad and Susanna when we arrive home for a visit next month, I must inform you will be disappointed. Likewise, if you're hoping for more misadventures or even a touch of amusement from this update, you are also in for further disappointment, but so you can stop wondering where we are and what we've been doing, here is the next installment.

From the border we spent a night in the middle of the Mississippi, no our feet didn't get wet, it was on an island and there were lots of mosquitoes. We travelled through dairy country with quaint farmhouses and roadside stalls selling excess produce, we had cheese curds direct from the factory (I called them breakfast) and continued on for a late lunch at a Scandinavian inspired place, known for the their pie. Of course we therefore had to try the pie and probably should of skipped the main course, as the slices were huge and contained everything you'd expect of an American pie.

The following day, we decided to pretend we were younger than we really are and spent the day at a water park in the Wisconsin Dells. I believe I exceeded Brad's expectations, by going on most (although not all) of the slides and only being marginally scared. Brad going “oh my gosh, I can't tell what's happening” in a pitch black tunnel was particularly unhelpful mind you.

We then continued on to Milwaukee where another late lunch was had, this time of frozen custard. It exceeded all expectations and I will now spend the rest of my life searching for purveyors of frozen custard. We progressed on to Great Lakes Distillery, a micro-distillery in Milwaukee, where we learnt about the distilling process then sampled pretty much all of their spirits and learnt the proper way to serve absinthe, it's actually really nice when mixed 1:2 with iced water which has been added at a slow drip. No, we did not spend hours drinking, this was a civilised tasting like tasting wine at a winery (yes, when I taste wine it's civilised).

I had wanted to include a map with this update, but it seems the 365 days maps department has resigned without telling the rest of the team, so no maps for you. Complaints may be sent to bradsemailaddress@gmail.com.

Part III coming soon (I'd promise but we all know how good I am at keeping promises relating to this blog).

13 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part I

It was Friday night when we were in Winnipeg and after our Gil mis-adventures we decided it was appropriate to relax a little bit and go out for a few drinks. More significantly, two of our friends were getting married, and as we were unable to make the wedding, decided we'd toast them over here (albeit with beer and gin as there was no champagne or even sparkling wine to be had). After spending an hour trying to find an ATM, a task much harder than you would expect, we then found the only place open with more than four people in it. I do no exaggerate, Winnipeg after work on a Friday was quieter than the non-Paris end of Collins Street on a Sunday afternoon!

After a couple of drinks and some exceptionally good pub food, we were contemplating heading home when we struck up a conversation with the couple at the table next to us. Joe and Danielle had flown in from Virginia for an Alice In Chains concert as you do. It was during our conversation with them and further drinks, that Google Maps was consulted on our travel plans and advised us to drive to Toronto via the US and such fun places as Chicago. We somehow wound up attempting to play darts of all things. For anyone who has seen me attempt to play pool, my darts skills are even worse, even the middle aged ladies at the bar were laughing at me.

Waking up with clear heads the following morning, Google Maps suggestion still seemed like a good idea and so after a night at Grand Beach we headed south-westish for the border.

Crossing back into the US was far more eventful than our entry into Canada. We were grilled on where we'd come from, where we were going (which are kind of hard questions to answer you're road tripping), how I have an American passport, how we were funding this trip and so on. The answer to this last question is one that people seem to find a little hard to comprehend, and fair enough too. We've got to wondering does the world think we're a pair of spoiled rich kids? Really, we aren't and if you want to know how we can afford to do this, just ask, but please don't judge. Next Gil was ushered into a garage-like building and the doors closed. We were ushered into well, a concrete cell, to wait while Gil was inspected. Parents, don't worry the only contraband we were carrying was fruit and veggies and after a short we were on our way again, minus a few limes and some other items which were hitting their use by anyway.