Posts Tagged With: road trip

Lake Huron on Day 5

Every day on a road trip doesn’t have to be remarkable. Some days just entail driving from point A to point B. Day 5 of our Great Lakes Road Trip was a point A to point B kind of day with one notable exception. We were excited by our first peek at the second Great Lake on our trip, Lake Huron, along the North Channel at the town of Bruce Mines, Ontario.

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North Channel of Lake Huron

We stopped again in nearby Thessalon for another look.

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Okay, so we stopped again a third time in Blind River.

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At Blind River, we struck up a conversation with a couple from New York headed the opposite direction and a man from Ontario. All agreed we should definitely avoid Toronto traffic on the 400 if we didn’t plan to visit the city. We decided right then to avoid Toronto by continuing east to North Bay, then south to Huntsville for the night. The following morning we would drive through Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada’s oldest and most famous provincial park.

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I called several hotels from the car to reserve a room for the night and found the rates were high for a town of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants in rural Canada. I finally asked one hotel why the rates were so high and she told me the following weekend was the Huntsville Fall Fair and rates were always high in the fall when people came to visit Algonquin Provincial Park to see the autumn color. Besides that, she said the weather had been beautiful and wasn’t expected to last much longer. Convinced, I reserved a room at the Comfort Inn Huntsville for nearly $200.

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We arrived in Huntsville a week too early for the Fall Fair but the next week we probably wouldn’t have found an available room at all. It was a charming town, reminiscent of small resort towns in New England or Wisconsin and I’m sure they attract a huge crowd for the Fall Fair.

After dining on chips and salsa in our hotel room the previous evening, we were anticipating an outstanding meal at the highly recommended 3 Guys and a Stove.

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We arrived early and requested a table outside which, as you can see, was easy to accommodate. I think we may have been the first diners to arrive. Our table was upstairs and the view through the trees was especially lovely.

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Looking at the menu, we experienced sticker shock. Is that a thing for menus? The entrees cost $30+ and a salad was an additional $9-$14. Fortunately for us, our server told us the special that evening was a BBQ dinner with three meats (brisket, ribs, and chicken), potato salad, and mediterranean salad for $33.95 which he said was plenty of food for two. We ordered it and quite honestly, it wasn’t exceptional in taste or adequate in quantity. Including my glass of wine, our bill was nearly $51CAD. In US dollars, that was $42 for essentially one meal. A little pricy but the setting was pleasant and the weather was perfect for outdoor dining.

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We returned to our hotel immediately following dinner to make it an early night in preparation for our visit to Algonquin Provincial Park the next morning. Stop back next time to read all about it. I promise the next post will be more interesting than this one.

 

Based on events from September 2017.

Categories: Canada, Food, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Great Lakes Road Trip 2017

We like to take a road trip in the fall. The kids are back in school so there are fewer tourists competing for views, roads, hotels, etc. The weather is usually pleasant. We try to plan our trip around our anniversary in September but we also have to work around home football games at Iowa State where we’ve held season tickets for over 30 years. We had planned to circle the Great Lakes in late September 2016 but when a good deal on a river cruise in France came up, we canceled the Great Lakes trip. We rescheduled the Great Lakes for 2017 when we had a 2-week window of opportunity in September.

I’m normally a careful trip planner but frankly, very little advance planning went into this trip. Here’s what we knew: we would begin by heading north to Duluth; we wanted to see all five Great Lakes; we wanted to drive along the lakes whenever possible; we wanted to stop at Jim’s former fishing spot in Canada and visit Niagra Falls and Mackinac Island; we wanted to avoid Toronto having read about the traffic; we also wanted to avoid Chicago traffic. Beyond those parameters, we had no plan. We weren’t sure how far we would travel each day or how many stops we’d make so we didn’t want to reserve lodging ahead and we had not even plotted the route.

With maps, AAA Tour Books, and my smartphone, we planned as we went. We didn’t use my phone for the internet while driving in Canada, however, because data charges through my provider are high. (We did have wifi in hotels at night.) While Jim drove, we watched signs and I studied the AAA books or internet to find places of interest and we stopped at anything that struck our fancy. When we were tired or just felt like stopping, we found a hotel for the night.

How did it turn out? We visited the places on our list, we discovered some amazing places, and we missed a few due to lack of advance planning. We saw all five Great Lakes, we have a new appreciation for them, and we definitely want to return to some areas for further exploration. We got off the beaten path and drove a lot of two-lane roads with little traffic, beautiful views, and road construction. One night we did have a problem finding lodging but we’d brought an air mattress and sleeping bag in case we had to sleep in the car and didn’t use them in the end. Not having internet access in the car while in Canada was a mistake I’ll not repeat. We have these and many more stories to tell about our experience so watch this space.

Would we do it again? Absolutely! The sense of adventure and freedom it gave us was priceless.

 

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Embarking on our road trip

 

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Our route

 

 

 

Based on events from September 2017.

 

 

Categories: Canada, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Westward Ho

Regular readers of my blog know about my goal to visit the national parks. We bought an American Eagle Pass for $10 when Jim turned 62 which allows us entry into all national parks during his lifetime and we’re definitely getting our money’s worth! Each September we try to do a road trip within the U.S. coinciding with our wedding anniversary. In 2015, that road trip was to Utah because they have 5 national parks in close proximity to one another. While I thought we’d previously been to at least one, I couldn’t remember which one. It turned out we’d ducked into Zion National Park briefly, but we’ve now fixed that omission.

One of the great things about a road trip is stopping along the way. It’s not just about the destination. And one of the great things about retirement is we’re not hampered by a schedule. We can take as much time as we like.

Our first stop was the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska. Well, actually our first stop was in DesMoines to see our kids as we drove through but other than our awesome sons and a decent breakfast while we had the oil changed in the car, there was nothing particularly noteworthy to report. Anyway, if you’re a fan of military aircraft and history, the SAS Museum is for you. I’m not especially fond of military aircraft but I do love history. Jim, on the other hand, is a big fan of this place. This was our third visit.

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Atlas ICBM in front of Strategic Air and Space Museum

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View of Hangar A

My favorite was the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders exhibit. On April 18, 1942, a group of 80 volunteers led by Jimmy Doolittle took WW2 to Japan’s homeland for the first time on a daring mission to bomb Tokyo and other cities. The object was to show the Japanese they were not invulnerable after their attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The successful mission raised American morale tremendously.

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B-25N “Mitchell” bomber like the ones flown in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo

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Life magazine showing FDR pinning the Congressional Medal of Honor on General Jimmy Doolittle and photos of some of the 80 heroes from the bombing of Tokyo

The nose cone from a nuclear-tipped ICBM caught my eye because it looked like a pencil.  The U-2 plane like the one flown by the American spy, Gary Powers, also intrigued me having just seen the movie, Bridge of Spies, about swapping spies with the Soviets.

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Nose cone from nuclear-tipped ICBM

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U-2C “Dragon Lady”

I can’t tell you the maximum speed of the world’s fastest aircraft, the Blackbird, because it’s still classified, but the cruising speed is 1320 mph. Lockheed built just 32 of this craft  to replace the U-2 for high-altitude strategic reconnaissance, i.e., spying.

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SR-71A “Blackbird”

After traveling 530 miles on the first day, we spent the night in North Platte, Nebraska. The following morning we made straight for Chimney Rock. Along the way, we discovered a historical mile marker at Windlass Hill Pioneer Homestead and stopped for a look about.

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Windlass Hill Pioneer Homestead

The first scenic landmarks we spied were Courthouse Rock, named for the courthouse in St. Louis, and nearby Jailhouse Rock.

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It’s no wonder Chimney Rock was the most famous landmark for pioneers traveling the Oregon, Mormon, or California Trail. With a height of 325 feet from base to tip, you can see it for miles. It marks the end of the prairie and the beginning of more mountainous terrain ahead. When I saw Courthouse Rock, I thought, “Is that it?” But when I saw Chimney Rock, it was unmistakable and it would have been for pioneers, too.

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Our first view of Chimney Rock in the distance

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Nearby campground with Chimney Rock in the background

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Chimney Rock and Visitor Center

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Yikes! This gave me pause for thought.

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Jim at Chimney Rock

Believe it or not, Chimney Rock was originally called Elk Penis by early Native Americans.  Here’s a photo of the actual explanation at the visitor center for doubters.

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Sign at the Chimney Rock Visitor Center

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Say goodbye to the prairie

Our plan was to stay in Estes Park, Colorado and get an early start the following morning  driving through Rocky Mountain National Park. This was the first of several challenges looking for accommodations. After numerous calls and internet searches on my smartphone, the closest city with a vacancy was 33 miles away at Longmont, Colorado. We took it.

We chose The Rib House for dinner. What a find! With outdoor seating in a lovely residential neighborhood on a beautiful evening and a feast of tasty BBQ, we left full, restored, and ready to take on the mountains the following day.

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Jim approaching The Rib House, Longmont, CO

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Outdoor seating at The Rib House, Longmont, CO

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Josh’s Sampler Platter (we shared)

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Post dinner sunset with our next stop in the distance

Based on events of September 2015.

 

Next time: Rocky Mountain National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Food, History, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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