Tuesday 6th May
We are still in Elkhart, Indiana-The RV Capital of the world. While the motorhome was being repaired we visited the Amish market at Shipshewana. Rather touristy and not a lot for us to buy. We presume that the Amish must be making a fortune out of us ordinary folk. Mike has a terrible toothache so we have made an appointment for him to visit a dentist in Fort Wayne on Friday. We also managed to fit in a walk along the river in Elkhart before the factory contacted us in the afternoon, they had finished work for the day and require it back in the morning.
Monday 12th May
We left Elkhart on Wednesday 8th May and went over to see Patty and Jim who live 50 miles from Elkhart. We met them in Florida in March and they had invited us over if we were ever in the area. We had intended staying just a couple of nights but they were such good hosts Monday came around very quickly. They took us to visit friends and family as well as doing q lot of site seeing. Sadly we had to leave in a hurry today without saying goodbye properly. Mike rang the factory early this morning as we had some 'wobble' in the steering. The manager said he could fit us in but we needed to get our 'asses over here'. Patty and Jim were out when we got the call and we felt bad that we hadn't said goodbye properly.
Yesterday was a big holiday in America, Mothers' Day. We met all the family as they came over during the day.
Mike had his dentist appointment on Friday in Fort Wayne. Jim drove us around Fort Wayne and he showed us where he had grown up, met and married Patty and their wedding venue. He also took us to some very traditional bars which were definitely not on the tourist trail. The first was not unlike a village pub inside where the locals were playing cards and dominoes. The second served up deep fried chicken hearts in a plastic basket. I tried two just to check up on the first one. Not too bad but wouldn't order them myself, chewy and mildly liverish in taste. The breadcrumb coating was good, nice and spicy. One evening Jim drove us over to Michigan for a pizza. He figured that would count as another state visited as we were having a meal there rather than just crossing the State line. The countryside in Indiana was quite like parts of Cambridge or Norfolk. The farms and houses were immaculately kept with beautiful gardens and the terrain was 'gently undulating' just as I like to describe Norfolk.
Thursday 15th May
Just arrived in Geneseo, Illinois. Had two nights camping outside the Freightliner depot in Elkhart so they could diagnose what is wrong with the steering. They stripped the lot down and just changed a ball bearing. We then took it back to the people that checked the wheel balancing. They checked properly this time and it turns out that it was the wheel balancing after all. The weather was appalling, wet and windy so we just drove West until the sky cleared and we heard the weather forecast was good for this area on the radio. There was a campground near the I-80 motorway so thought we'd stay for a couple of nights.
Tuesday 20th May
We left Geneseo today. The campsite was located on banks of the Geneseo canal which provided an excellent pathway for jogging and cycling. I saw an unbelievable fish in there one day-no idea what it was but it was slate grey, huge and moved through the water like a shark complete with a fin on it's back. The town itself was still in its original format circa 1890. It had a high street complete with shops, post office, banks, cinema, bars and fine dining all that you could walk to. It made a fabulous change from the urban sprawl of the standard American town. Although we benefitted hugely It was sad to discover a couple of businesses going down the tubes. One was a supermarket that was selling off all its booze at half price. The other was a video rental shop selling off all its stock. We contributed greatly to their final sale and can now sit in and drink and watch films as long as the day is long.
Mike did some fishing in the canal. We were well organised with chairs, beers and camera. Unfortunately the mosquitoes and midges were so bad we got fed up with being live bait and gave up after half an hour.
We really enjoyed a very informative river cruise on the Mississippi at Davenport. The river is still used to transport grain in huge barges down the river. We were fortunate to see two, one going through a lock. We liked the look of a museum on the riverbank but unfortunately we were unable to visit. We were stopped at the gate and would only have been allowed in with security checks and accompanied by an American Citizen as it was a military establishment. Mike's posturing that he was ex military and our invite to the guard to jump in the car and visit with us raised a smile but carried no weight.
Friday 23rd May
We have just had three days driving across the prairies of Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. Most of it along Highway 2 a road that follows the course of the railway line crossing the USA. There was the occasional small community but not a lot to stop for. On our first night we stopped at an RV parking space in a village called Freeport in Minnesota. We were parked right outside Ackie's Pioneer Inn. We could see from the wonderful photographs inside that the lay out was in its original format from when it was built in 1892. The following night we parked outside Wal-mart in Williston, North Dakota. We went for a rather depressing meal at a restaurant called trappers. The clue as to why I found it depressing is in the name. The decor and menu celebrated the history of the early settlers to North Dakota and how they made their living. There were animal traps of every description on the walls, hanging off the ceiling and even embedded in the table so you couldn't avoid them.
Friday 23rd May
We have just had three days driving across the prairies of Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. Most of it along Highway 2 a road that follows the course of the railway line crossing the USA. There was the occasional small community but not a lot to stop for. On our first night we stopped at an RV parking space in Freeport Minnesota. We were parked right outside Ackie's Pioneer Inn. We could see from the wonderful photographs inside that the lay out was in its original format from when the town was incorporated in 1892. The following night we parked outside Wal-mart in Williston, North Dakota. We went for a rather depressing meal at a restaurant called trappers. The clue as to why I found it depressing is in the name. The decor and menu celebrated the history of the early settlers to North Dakota and how they made their living. There were animal traps of every description on the walls, hanging off the ceiling and even embedded in the table so you couldn't avoid them.
Tuesday 27th May
We crossed into Canada on 24th May from Sweetgrass, Montana into Coutts, Alberta. The night before we were in Havre, Montana. Our campsite was wedged between the railway and the road but was a great deal as we were given complimentary use of the pool, steam room and hot tub at the Best Western Hotel next door. The swim wasn't much of a gamble even though the pool was overlooked by the hotel casino. A first for both of us. Showered and changed we hit the town for our Friday night out. We had a drink at the bar of a very busy steakhouse. We were flanked by two very interesting characters. On Mike's right a young cowboy from South Dakota who was in town for an interview to work on a ranch. He was the genuine article wearing a pair of black Wrangler jeans, an immaculate white starched shirt and brimmed hat. He was very polite always calling Mike 'sir' and he looked extremely handsome. We both hoped he got the job. On my left was a reliable informant on community life-the local off duty Sheriff. Sadly he told us there was a terrible problem with drugs in the area. Namely Meth an extremely addictive substance that can be smoked or injected. The recipe is available on the Internet and it can be made in the kitchen at home. On a lighter note he advised to eat in the restaurant downstairs. The restaurant was a step back in time with green velvet covered bench seats at the booths and a huge mirror behind the bar, all very reminiscent of a saloon in a cowboy movie.
We set off the next morning for the Canadian border. The first 20 miles we were slowed up by the state of the road. Both sides of the carriageway were being dug up and there was no way of avoiding the potholes. The weather was appallingly cold and wet. The sheriff had told us that we were heading for the busiest crossing into Canada from Montana so we were prepared for a long wait. There was no one about but it took us two hours to get through. Initially we thought the Canadians were just being extremely thorough but we started to become anxious as the time wore on. We were being overtaken by other people and nervousness crept in even though we had nothing to hide. A feeling just like the guilt trip experienced if you are asked if you have stolen anything. It turns out the hold up was caused by the state of Mike's passport. It's not ageing well apparently and the keen eyed immigration officer had noticed that there were other bits wrong with it. Luckily we had chosen a big enough crossing for them to make their enquiries fairly quickly. He said a smaller crossing would have had to lock him up overnight while they made the relevant checks.
That afternoon we drove up to Lethbridge in Alberta. We stayed a couple of nights as we wanted to visit the 'Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre nearby. It is a U.N.E.S.C.O World Heritage Site and we had an excellent afternoon there learning a lot about the native people and their way of life.
Friday 30th May 2008
We arrived at Prince George today in northern British Columbia. We drove from Lethbridge over the Rocky Mountains using the Crowsnest Pass. Mike narrowly avoided hitting a fully grown deer by braking hard and swerving slightly. We saw a coyote dashing over the road but unfortunately he couldn't avoid the fist sized rock that came off a lorry travelling in the opposite direction and bounced off the road into our windscreen. We spent one night in Revelstoke then drove to Salmon Arm. We spent a couple of nights there with Lorry and Isobel who we met in Mexico in 2004 and who also came to Las Vegas for our wedding. We parked just up from their house with a fabulous view of the lake. We worried needlessly about our motorhome spoiling the outlook for their neighbours. One said he didn't care if we stayed for a fortnight and offered us an electricity supply from his house. Another invited Mike to play golf and gave us two bottles of red wine. Again we were able to appreciate the location from a locals' point of view rather than relying on the tourist information. Lorry and Isobel took us on a tour of the town. This included a visit to a farm that produced Gouda cheese. Whilst we were down by the lake Mike invited ourselves onto a double storey 21 berth houseboat that had just come in after a holiday rental. Wine is very expensive in Canada so many Canadians pay for batches of wine to be produced for them. To reduce the price by half of what is available in the liquor stores they provide their own bottles and undertake the corking and labelling. We were pleased to help Lorry and Isobel as their batch was ready. We also enjoyed sampling the left overs.We had planned to spend a week in Kamloops just north of Salmon Arm as we had a great time there in 2004. I asked at a garage for directions to the campsite closest to downtown. I was advised tentatively by the assistant that the site I referred to had gone down hill considerably and he didn't think it would be safe to stay. Another night in Wal-mart sufficed before continuing north.
Thursday 5th June
The motor home is having its first service tomorrow and we have been here for a week as they couldn't fit it in sooner. We have had an opportunity to explore the town centre. Despite the efforts of the local community with a farmers' market on Saturday and 'sidewalk sale' it all looks a bit downtrodden with numerous charity shops and the odd drop in centre. We went for a meal down there last night, a fabulous and pricey steakhouse called Ric's. I decided to wear my stripy sweater, black jeans and high heel boots. As I crossed the road a passing cyclist shouted 'You're hot young lady'. I immediately asked Mike if I looked red as I was wearing my warm sweater. 'Different type of hot' he replied-obviously more worldly than me.
Last Saturday night we decided to go to the pictures. One of only three drive in cinemas in British Columbia. As we have never been to a drive in before we thought this would be a unique experience. Rows were made up of lines of piled mud to drive onto to raise the front wheels. The screen was 3600 ft square and the picture quality was excellent and for sound we tuned the car radio in. It didn't get dark until 10.30 and they were showing two films. It was great to go but unfortunately the film was very disappointing-Jackie Chan's latest. It finished at 12.30 and we were too tired for the second one. We had to have the windows shut as the mosquitoes are prolific and huge. Mike has just been told they're worse further north AND big enough to ride on their backs. We can't wait.
On Monday we drove out to the Huble Homestead-a living history museum with houses and a collection of other buildings where early settlers made a living. The most exciting part for me was seeing a large black dog las it loped along the riverside. As I was pointing it out to Mike I realised it was bear! Thrilling to see such a beautiful creature in the open countryside. Yesterday we went for a bike ride and I nearly trod on a long thin black snake with a yellow strip down the length of its body. Not quite as appealing as the bear but it slithered away quickly before I got a chance to take a picture.