Monthly Archives: July 2014

Day 206-209, Bar Harbor, Maine

Whew, glad we didn’t book an entire week here! It is so jam packed with all of us crazy tourists, it’s almost unbearable. When Dan and I were here for our honeymoon in 1994, we had a totally different experience. Of course, we didn’t have the two teenagers along, but more important, it was May and there was no one here. We knew we’d hit the crowds at some point this summer, and this seems to be the place. We’ve been lucky so far to be hiking and biking in relative peace. Not now!

Acadia National Park is still pretty cool, though, and well worth the hassle. We headed to Sand Beach first, so we could hike out to the point and get the full Atlantic view. Turns out that this little piece of land is the first in the USA to get the sun every morning, but we didn’t get up early enough to see it. Again, we have two teenagers.

The hike was beautiful, although I was a little distressed to see that it had been described as “easy” in the park brochure, and it was far from it. I felt sorry for all the older-than-me-folks who got wet crossing the little creek to get to the trailhead, only to find that they couldn’t go straight up the slippery rocks. We’ve had heavy rains off and on for the past few days, so the trail was muck and water and a slip-n-slide experience.

Cadillac Mountain provided a good view, too, but this time I didn’t have on everything in my suitcase. It had snowed on us in 1994! We didn’t hike to the top, just took the scenic drive with 5,000 other cars.

The park gets over 1,000,000 visitors a year, so L.L.Bean has helped by creating the best free shuttle system we’ve ever seen. There are 7 routes, with buses leaving each stop about every 1/2 hour. On other days we were able to ride from our campground all over the island, getting off and on wherever we wanted. Once again, I loved hearing all the different languages and was astonished to hear several people say they come back here every year. We were on buses with standing room only, tightly packed, smelly crowds, the restaurants and shops were packed, and still people come. Dan and I visited all the spots we’d enjoyed previously, and vowed to never come back. The rest of Maine is beautiful, what is everyone doing here?! I was sad that we added to the crowd.

Another good hike was to the top of Bubble Rock. We had hiked it before, but I didn’t remember it being that steep. I was clinging to the rock face at one point, after Nate and Eliza easily scrambled up it,not sure how to get one shaky foot to support the other. Dan and a couple other hikers were encouraging me to step, and I finally did. There’s a huge rock at the top that balances on the edge and we pretended to push it over, of course. It has a great view of Jordan Pond and was worth the hike.

I couldn’t help but contrast the two visits to Bar Harbor, 20 years apart. We were so naive then about what our marriage would be, how our friendship would endure. We had no idea then the challenges we would face. Would I have wanted to know then what was coming? No. I think not. We are so blessed. We had moments of pure peace and joy in 1994, and this time we did, too. I wouldn’t change a thing except the crowds.

Day 201, The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick

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We took this picture at 1:30 p.m., one hour after high tide. We rushed from Nova Scotia to get here so we could see what the beach would look like. Then we went back to the campsite and came back 6 hours later to take the picture below.

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This is the same spot! We couldn’t believe it! We’d read about the huge tides on the Bay of Fundy, but really didn’t think this is what 50′ would look like. Some spots have 70′ differences. It was amazing. The whole cove opened up and we were able to scramble out to a rocky area that we had seen earlier. The soil was sandy and muddy and would grab your foot and keep it if you didn’t step correctly.

Truly a highlight of the trip!

Day 200, Halifax Nova Scotia

We made it to 200 days on the road! Everyone’s still talking to each other! We haven’t had any major accidents or injuries! Woohoo, thank you, God.

Left our campsite this morning, heading into Halifax. We had the road atlas, and another map from the campground. Somehow we were on a different highway than we thought and into Halifax before we thought we should be. So funny. For once we got lost going the right way. Not having the maps on our phones is aggravating.

It was 72, overcast, and a little humid. A nice change from the heat we’d been experiencing. To be wet and sticky all day is such an out of body experience. We get up, get dressed, and we’re wet. We go outside and we’re soaked. We get home and we change because after a day playing, we stink! Some of us even shower.

I hadn’t done a lot of research about Halifax, because I didn’t want to. (Ha, the beauty of the road. Do what you want when you want.) I had read there was a citadel, a cool public garden, and a waterfront shopping area that looked interesting. Other than that, we were just going to walk wherever.

We parked near the Citadel, and walked up to the top of the hill. Built in a star shape, all we could see were the outlines of the rock walls in the grass. We went to the entrance and found out there was a fee to get in, and then we voted not to go in. The guards probably thought we were crazy, but really, we’d just been to the citadel in Quebec City and we really didn’t need any more Canadian war history. Seeing one citadel was enough.

We scrambled down the steep street to the waterfront visitor center and found a decent map. There was a huge wave cement art piece with a sign in front stating to “keep off” that ten little kids were playing on and my family asked me not to.

The waterfront was bustling with tourists and locals. I counted 5 languages but lost count of the Indian saris. They were having a jazz festival like Montreal, but they added a huge sandbox for kids to play in. Good combination; everyone was happy. We didn’t linger though, because the waterfront was long and the only parking space we’d been able to find was a 2- hour one.

We played on a swing, took too many goofy pictures, and were sad to see that their immigration museum was closed. Evidently, thousands of immigrants came in to Halifax, just like Ellis Island. The area was popular with the Irish and Scottish. I wonder why my Dad’s ancestors came to America in 1623 instead of Halifax?

On the fast hike back to the car, I saw a large sign outside an old cemetery that said, “Why we aren’t Americans” and went on to proclaim their power, strength and fortitude in the War of 1812. Once again, it was almost belligerent in its wording, not just Canadian pride, but more vitriolic. We’d already learned all that history, from the July 25, 1814 battle on Lundy’s Hill in Niagara Falls, Canada, on through Fredericton, New Brunswick and I was started to get tired of it. A sign outside a cemetery? That somehow honors the dead? That makes “them” sound better than “us”? The war ended with the exact same boundaries. Why are they celebrating it? Once again, men went to war and died. It’s tragic. I realized as I walked away that I shouldn’t care so much – all the other people who walked by the sign ignored it!

We got back in the car in time to move it, and as we were driving to a park for a hike, we passed the garden I wanted to see and Dan was able to pull into a parking spot. The joys of the small tow vehicle, it goes anywhere. We had a relaxing picnic; great people watching, good food and a picturesque setting. As we walked around the garden afterward, enjoying and learning about their plants, I laughed when I told the kids that I was turning into my mom – we were always going to gardens for her, and I thought it was so boring. Now I’m making them do the same. Thanks, Mom!

We finally made it to Point Pleasant Park and had a fun time exploring the beach. There were many other people doing the same. The water was cold, but the tide was out, so we weren’t there to swim. The beachcombing was excellent – some of the best shells and marine life we’ve seen yet. On the hike back, I was weepy. We asked a young man to take a picture of us and I will cherish it forever. 200 days. On the road. Living in a luxury box on wheels. With two spoiled dogs, my favorite spousal unit and two precious human beings who just happen to be teenagers. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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Day 194, Mataquac to Prince Edward Island

This had to be one of the longest days of my life! I was awake from 1:30 a.m. to 3:45 a.m., sitting in the front seat, watching the wind blow the trees around us and listening to the howling. I just couldn’t sleep through the storm.

Yesterday, Eliza and I went into Fredericton and took a historical tour, had a fun lunch, and did a little window-shopping. (Still cannot find anything we like to buy!) When we got back to the campsite, Dan showed us a note that the campground staff had left, stating that we were to expect high winds that night. Okay, that’s nice of them; we don’t usually get that kind of warning.

That night, we just happened to turn on the news and there it was – Hurricane Arthur, heading our way. What?! A hurricane? Not high winds? To us there is a little bit of a difference! We didn’t have any way to get out of the path; it was that big in our area. We thought our site would be a good one to sit it out. Shows what we know.

So that night when I heard the wind, I just had to watch it. We were on a water site, but there was 50 feet of trees in between the water and us. I thought that would be good, to give us some protection, and thought we’d just have a lazy day reading. Ha.

Waking up later in the morning to heavy rain and strong winds, Dan and I talked about moving sites. The trees around us had root systems that were above ground, and with the water making streams through our site; we could see they were swaying. Dan went out to look around, only to find that there were 2 trees down across our road. Our exit was blocked. I volunteered to walk up to the office and let them know. Probably not my smartest move to walk instead of driving the wrong way, because there were trees down all over and 2 more fell as I walked by. I have never walked so fast!

The campground staff was 3 young kids and they had no advice for what we should do. I had already asked a guy who was out with his chain saw to clear our road, so I told the staff we wanted to move sites. They were fine with it because they were so busy with other campers. I walked around the campground, looking for a site that wasn’t under trees. The water was coming down harder than home, and I was drenched. (We found out later that it rained 8” that day.) I found a couple of possible sites and went back to our site. On the walk back, I counted 13 trees that had fallen since I first went by. The ground crew was busy trying to clear them.

We quickly got everything ready to roll, and went to the entrance area. We left the kids and dogs and drove around looking for a site. The day before, we thought the campground was one of the prettiest we had stayed in – because it was all green grass and trees. Now it all looked dangerous. The staff had recommended some campsites that backed up to trees and were on the grass. There was no way we were going to park there! The trees were swaying almost to the ground and the grass was so sodden, we might not be able to pull our 12 tons out of it again.

We finally found 2 sites, both handicap sites in between two buildings, with two tall old trees on either side. It was the best we could do and the staff was fine that we move there. (It’s not like anyone was coming to camp! Most of the seasonal campers had quickly left when the storm started, leaving their rigs behind.) As we were pulling in, a nice couple asked if they could help me move the site table, and we got it out of the way as Dan quickly backed in. The wind was gusting, the rain was pouring, and Connie and Steve offered much needed help. They were going to hang out in the day shelter nearby, because a tree had fallen on their trailer. Not enough to ruin it, luckily, but it shook them enough to want to be out of it!

The day shelter was the typical old log building, with an antique black stove in the middle. They had wood and started a fire. Their friends Leslie and Greg soon showed up, and we spent a while getting acquainted. I was so grateful for the distraction and friendship. Our rig was swaying in the wind and I wasn’t comfortable being inside it. Dan and the kids were, even without electricity. The power had gone out earlier in the morning, and we knew we wouldn’t be getting it back anytime soon. We didn’t care. We just didn’t want a tree falling on the kids or our only home.

Dan kept trying to get the weather report on our emergency weather radio, but even it wasn’t giving us a report. Connie said their phones were showing that the hurricane had been downgraded to a tropical storm and they had friends and family trying to contact them. I was hoping that our family wasn’t watching the national news, because we didn’t want them worrying about us. We didn’t have cell service, so we couldn’t contact them, and I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway – we still didn’t know what the outcome would be.

The wind would come and go, picking up chairs and anything else campers left behind. I felt like Dorothy, watching things fly through the air! The trees would bend all the way to the ground, hold, them slowly move back up. Many went down and didn’t come back up. We watched an old one crack and break, falling to the ground and missing a man who had just stepped into his trailer by inches. He had just moved their car out from under the same tree. He was so lucky.

Later that evening, the wind died down a little. I made a quick dinner and then we all settled in to sleep. As much as we could while listening to the storm and watching out every window. The rain was relentless and I don’t know how the power company guys could work in it. They had so many trees down on lines, and when we left the next morning, there was still no power. We saw later in the week that some areas still didn’t have power, and that Fredericton had been one of the areas hardest hit. The quaint little town that Eliza and I had toured lost over 4,000 trees that night.

We woke to a war zone in sunshine and clear blue skies. Trees down, camping stuff blown all over, and people coming out to see the damage. We walked over to our old site, and sure enough, there was a tree down. We would have been under it! The pictures below was our site. So glad we moved.

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We went to check out, and the staff said that we’d have a hard time getting out the main road, because there were trees down. Dan took the tow vehicle to check it out and came back to say that if I drove the tow, maybe a I could move a few branches for him and he could get by.

I swear, the man thinks I can move mountains… when I got there, I saw that the three trees were 50’ tall, and filled the road! They had also taken the power line down with them, and I certainly wasn’t messing with a single branch. Dan took the rig off road, and made it by. We got out just in time, too. The traffic started to get backed up because the local seasonal campers were coming in droves to check out the rigs they had left behind. Glad we wouldn’t be there to see people cry over all the damage.

As we drove out of the park, we saw the other local damage. Many of the boat docks had come loose, and the lucky people still had boats above water. Many others were under. Others were down the lake, with some bumping up against the dam. There were tons of people out, trying to figure out what to do. It was hard to believe the devastation we were seeing. We just wanted to get away!

The drive to Prince Edward Island was uneventful. Our area had been the hardest hit from the “tropical storm”, but the Confederation Bridge was open. We were a day late getting to PEI because the bridge had been closed the day before, and we didn’t want to travel into the storm anyway. The bridge is 9 miles long and even on this decent day; you could feel the wind trying to move the RV out of our lane.

It was a beautiful view! Made even more so by the fact that we were at PEI – our easternmost destination and a dream come true. We had talked and planned for this day for so long.

Did you read Anne of Green Gables growing up? I did. Dan just did. Eliza just did. Nate read a few pages. L.M. Montgomery grew up on PEI, and the book and series is set here. It’s become quite a tourist draw for the island. I didn’t care about that part, I just wanted to see the green mountains, the trees, the shore that she described. I could hear Anne’s voice in my head.

I wasn’t disappointed. The hills were covered with trees and fields in such vivid shades of green that if I were a painter, I’d have to use at least a dozen. It was a feast for my eyes and I couldn’t soak it all in fast enough. I couldn’t believe we were actually here. And safe!

Exhausted, we pulled into the KOA at Cornwall and our neighbor helped us squeeze into our site on the water. Yet another kind Canadian. In doing so, because the rig is so big, we blocked his view, but he was very nice about it. (We had a great chat with his family, but I’ve lost their email, so please contact us!)

The KOA sits right on the Northumberland Strait, and had I done my homework better before we booked the site in February, I would have recommended we stay somewhere else… we were on what they call “red sand”, but what was really red clay and it’s what I grew up playing in. The “beach” was the deep, dark red that would never come off your skin or out of any clothing, and there was no way we could walk the dogs on it. I saw later that they sold t-shirts made out of it and I almost bought one for Mom just to remind her of all those Joplin years, but I doubt she needs a reminder of that color of clothing!

Here’s our view; really, nothing to complain about!

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There were plenty of other places to walk, however, so we spent the week exploring the island, while enjoying the view from our campsite of the water from above. We had picnics. We visited Montgomery’s cousin’s house, (the setting for the other series of books), the property where her house used to be and what now is a HUGE tourist trap and saw the house she was born in. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I swam on the north side of the island where the Gulf of St. Lawrence is warm and the purple jellyfish were abundant. We ate lobster at Richards, a famous spot that deserves to be. We walked all over Charlottetown and learned the history of their confederation celebration of 150 years. We had ice cream at a dairy bar. We drove and biked and explored until we were full. We were as far as we would ever get from home, 3710 miles. We had worked so hard to get here and I enjoyed every minute. Dreams do come true.

Day 191, Montreal to Medway, Maine

It was a long “windshield day”! We drove over 260 miles, just to leave our sketchy campground behind and see a little of the woods of Maine. The views were so beautiful – it was awesome!

I started the day all wrong when I moved the tow vehicle down the road, and left Dan to pull out of the campsite without a spotter. He scraped all along the first right compartment on the burn barrel that the campground uses for a fire pit at each campsite. Bummer. But how fitting to be at a campground that is like a small city – a city where we’d never ever live! It was packed with people who live there all “season” long and they were clearing the nearby forest for more campsites. Ick.

It did allow us an easy commute into Quebec City the day before, so it wasn’t all bad. We happened to be there for Canada Day, but that doesn’t really matter to this province! There were news reports of them still wanting to secede from Canada, and their French pride was a little obnoxious. Everything is in French, with Italian and Japanese a close second. Luckily, the Citadel was easy to find.

The tour was well worth the hour and the $30. Sarah, our guide, spoke 5 languages, and we were happy to be on the English speaking one. The Citadel is still an active base, and there was a security checkpoint – one guy watching us walk by on the other side of the road. The 22nd Regiment is famous for its only French-speaking ways, and on some of the buildings are the dates of the battles they’ve won in previous wars. Each day, an enlisted cadet reads two pages of names in the chapel of former soldiers. “Je me souviens” – I will remember – is their slogan and they take it very seriously. The Citadel itself has never seen any battles, and we weren’t allowed in any buildings. Great view over the St. Lawrence river though! The rest of the day was fun and I can see why people honeymoon here. It has a very romantic feel to it, with live music and outdoor seating all over. We had lunch at one and I had to tip the crooner because he played Jimmy Buffet, James Taylor and John Denver – in French and English.

So back to the windshield day… we finally got on the road, both of the drivers mad. Ooh, it was going to be a long day…

I took my turn driving about 40 miles north of the border, and I was excited to get to drive over it. I shouldn’t have been! I pulled into the lane slowly, because the lanes aren’t that wide and I didn’t want another scrape. The border patrol guard walked out of his little building, kicked an orange cone out of the way, and glared at me as I drove in. I opened the window and said “hi” and knew it wouldn’t be fun. He sarcastically asked if I drove much, and when I replied that I did, he was surprised. “Wipe that smirk off your face, bucko, I’ve driven roads that you never will!” I wish I could have said. Instead, I reached for the passports and handed them over.

He asked the usual questions, where do you live, “Bend, Oregon” (which is not really true because we live in this box on wheels, but that’s what we have to say each time because you’re required as a US Citizen to have an address of record as you travel.) “What do you do?” “Travel.” That always gets different responses when they learn about the trip. Some nice, some not so nice and they always look at us again. This guy made me remove my sunglasses to see if it was really me, and we had to get Nate out of his bunk to show his face. When he asked about fruit, I said that I thought we still had an orange left. So he said he was coming aboard. For an orange. Stop the presses, we’re impacting national security with our orange!

Yes, we understand that farming and much more can be impacted by invasive species, and we wouldn’t take a chance ruining someone’s livelihood, but one orange that hadn’t been out of the crisper was probably safe. We were lucky that Jess didn’t bite him because she was loose. He finally said, “welcome back to the states” and sent us on our way. Then probably ticked off a box on some government form that he had boarded us. Oh brother.

The northern Maine woods are everything we’ve read about and more. It really was beautiful and we’re so glad we made the long drive. We stopped at a lake for lunch and spent an hour gazing at the ducks, trees, and water. I kept thinking of Stephen King every time I saw a huge crow because they are in his books and he lives here in Maine! We even saw a little moose. Skinny and young. Only one we saw the whole drive.

We took back roads to our campground, and many times we were sharing the road with loaded log trucks. We were high up on ridges and hills, and went up and down in roller coaster fashion for 4 hours. Gorgeous, but nerve wracking. I took over 20 pictures of the trees and will have to delete a few!

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When we finally pulled into the old-fashioned campground, we were grateful to be there. There was a large old two-story ranch style building with laundry, game room, store and office. There was a huge pool off to the left. There were tons of kids running around and it was all nice and clean. Then we got out of the rig into a swarm of mosquitos – I’m sure they are just following us!

We had a quick swim, a great dinner, and then hopped on the park wi-fi. We didn’t have service on our phones in Canada because we wouldn’t buy the international plan, so we all tried to get caught up. After email and finances, I checked in on FB only to find Dan’s cousin Carrie wishing him a happy 2nd kidney-versary… we had all forgotten! 2 years before Dan had donated one of his kidneys to Ryan, and blessings beyond all, Ryan is doing great. Dan has been so humble about it, he didn’t even remind the rest of us. We talked about it and gave thanks for his and Ryan’s good health.

So the day started out wrong, got better with hours of windshield time, and ended on the most perfect note with a reminder of what’s really important in life…

Day 187, Montreal, Quebec

Whew, what a day! My feet are still aching from all the walking we did. I am regretting the fact that I said we just had to go to the top of Mount Royal! That’s the problem with reading about cities – you pick something that sounds interesting, but you pay for it. Plus, there’s so much to do, we can’t fit it all in. We usually pick one or two things that we think we have to see, and then leave time for all the fun stuff that happens along the way. Like that dang red winged black bird! But that was later in the day…

We started out by exchanging US currency for Canadian at our RV Park. We were planning to take the bus into Montreal, because even though we were only 22 miles out, we were told the construction and traffic was horrendous, and not to spend the time sitting in traffic. The International Jazz Festival was going on and huge crowds were expected. We had to have exact change for the bus – $6.75 each.

Dan drove to the bus stop with no problem, and we took our little copied bus schedules from the RV Park to the actual stop. Then we tried to figure out what was going on… in French! Easy to read the times, but still hard to figure out.

In the 1970’s, the province of Quebec had a big bru-ha-ha over the use of French and English. The majority of the population wanted to remain a French speaking area. Only about 50% of the people speak English today, and it has made our tourist plans a little different than Niagara Falls and Toronto, but I like it because it finally feels like we are in another country. My 3 years of French from over 30 years ago just isn’t enough, however. And we don’t have cell service so we can’t look up translations quick enough for what we need. Oh sure, we could have gotten a translation book, but where’s the challenge in that?!

With the help of a kind stranger, we thought we had the bus schedule figured out and hopped onto a small shuttle. I started to pass the money to the driver, and he said, “no, non, the kids are free”, so I had to stand there in front of 8 people waiting to get on and fumble for the exact change. Their money is beautiful now. The bills are in a vibrant blue and green, with plastic at the 1/3 mark. (Now that would be hard to counterfeit! Wish we’d had that when I had a branch.) There are no $1 bills, so my purse was heavy with the coins.

The ride into Montreal took about 30 minutes. It was relaxing to have someone else drive so we could enjoy the scenery and talk about it without running off the road. We were a tad perturbed that the traffic wasn’t as bad as we were told, but parking wouldn’t have been easy; we didn’t see a parking lot until late in the day.

The first funny part of the day was that there were no tourist maps in the bus station. I went walking around and happened upon a huge display – all but one brochure in French. The tiny map I already had didn’t cover the whole area we needed, the most important being the location of the station. Everywhere else we’ve been, there are maps all over. The bus driver tried to tell me, but I didn’t understand enough of what he said. He kept saying the same thing over and over – and I just kept smiling. The roads he was naming weren’t the ones we thought we should be on. It was before 10 am, so there was no one else in the station. Finally another man walked by, and I asked him where we were on the huge wall map… and he laughed and said that map shouldn’t be there – it wasn’t of Montreal, but another island to the south. No wonder we couldn’t figure out our location! (The map was there for the subway station below us.)

We decided to head to the visitor center a few blocks north – but then couldn’t get out of the bus station! We couldn’t go out the drive that the bus used. It was above the subway, so we couldn’t go down. It was below a huge mall and ice rink – that wasn’t open yet. We finally went up an old, dirty staircase that wasn’t signed “sortie”– and found a door out. We took pictures of the street where we were so we could get back to it later.

The city was just waking up. The traffic was starting to fill up the streets, and people were finally out and about. Great people watching and listening to all the different languages made me smile. It was already hot and the humidity was horrible. It was in the high 80’s with 75% humidity. The streets were wide, with architecture that varied from block to block. Some was old and beautiful, but some was obviously concrete from the 1970’s. There was a ton of new construction. The People’s Congress building was ugly concrete, but on the entire back wall were huge “plastic” colored panels – gorgeous in the sun.

We stopped in to see the St. George cathedral and obtain a little much needed restoration. From the outside, it was another gothic English church, and there was nothing special about the inside other than the peace and quiet and a few moments with God. That made the rest of the day even better.

The visitor center off Peel Street was a zoo. Packed on the inside with brochure racks, it had only been open a few minutes and we had to take a number to get our questions answered. #37 was quickly called. The double decker bus tour company was in the same building and we briefly considered not doing the trek we had planned, but we resisted. The only dorky double decker tourist bus we want to take is in London!

We quickly found out why we were having such a hard time with the maps. Not only was everything in French, but also places have several names. I gave him the list of places we wanted to see, and it even took him awhile to find them. Street names that we walked past were different names than on the map. In all the cities we’ve visited, we’ve never experienced anything like it. We can get lost on our own, thank you, we don’t need any help. When we gave our zip code, the visitor center guy couldn’t believe we were so far from home. Sometimes we can’t believe it either!

Our first goal was to visit the Redpath Museum on the McGill University campus. We had read that it was one of the best in the city, and I was craving a few new brain cells. But it was closed. The kids and Dan were so happy! McGill had major construction going on, but not many students around. It’s rated the number one college in Canada, but it didn’t look like it. With a $1.2 billion endowment, you’d think they could fix all the broken windows. Neither of the kids wants to go there.

Next was a hike up to the top of Mount Royal Parc. It’s a huge park in the middle of the island, with 3 hills, (they call them mountains) and the views were supposed to be spectacular. Years ago, it was known as Mount Royale. And Monte Royal. Which became Montreal. So cool how history, different languages, and time changed the name. There were supposed to be 500 steps to the top, but Dan only counted 493. It started easy, with nice wide stairs and trees for shade. Then it got brutal. We weren’t the only crazy tourists going up. There were plenty of people running it for exercise, and none of them looked as sick as I felt. I thought I was going to throw up, my arrhythmia had my heart not beating in rhythm, so I rested on a bench with another family who were as red-faced as me. We had water, so I sipped, and then we went the last little way.

The views were worth the hike! We could see for miles, even with the humidity haze. The buildings are huge. The St. Lawrence was beautiful. The gardens I wanted to visit on another island south of us looked green and inviting and too far away for our hike. There was an old piano on the main plaza, and anyone could play it. (We saw 4 others around the city; fun idea.) I asked a man to take a family picture, and when he said he was from Iran, he apologized for it. We’ve met so many nice people from around the country and the world, but never has anyone apologized for their country. Interesting.

We hung out on the plaza for awhile, but all the scenic markers were in French, so we couldn’t learn anything. There was a huge building that reminded us of Timberline, with paintings around the inside and a large wall plaque describing each painting. In French. It was a nice cool spot to relax and get more water. The kids picked out a postcard for the rig bulletin board.

The hike down was quick, but we were all very careful not to fall. I felt so sorry for all the people going up in the heat. Women in heels! Little kids with pacifiers. One old man had a cane. They all probably went up faster than me, but then, they probably weren’t recovering from their birthday party at the pool the day before. Haha.

We hiked south to St. Catherine’s street, which is major shopping for the city. There were small shops, huge department stores, and of course, Starbucks and McDonalds. We couldn’t find anything to interest us again, and I think that when there’s that much stuff to buy, it’s so overwhelming, none of it looks good.

The loop we had planned to hike took us directly to the Jazz Festival grounds. Located in the area around the concert hall, there was a nice open space with a water feature on the ground that kids were running through. Similar to the one in Redmond, but much longer. I had to get my feet wet, and it helped with the heat.

We had gone through a small checkpoint to get onto the grounds, but it wasn’t that crowded. I expected a lot more people, so it was nice to be able to move. Earth, Wind and Fire wasn’t there until later, darn. We listened to a couple different acts, and then went out the back way to Chinatown. There was no security on this street at all! So all the people who got turned away at the checkpoint could have walked 8 blocks and gotten right in. With their full backpacks and luggage. Security?!

We found Chinatown easily, but didn’t see any fortune cookie makers. We’ve been looking since San Francisco and we’ll keep looking until we find one! We walked down the street that was about 8” lower than usual – they had scraped and emptied it all out. We couldn’t tell what they were fixing. The water mains and other covers were sticking up IMG_6360and it was slow going with all the people who also wanted lunch. We ended up at a buffet, because I saw that it had outdoor tables and tons of people going in and out. Both a positive. The outdoor tables filled up, and we ended up near a TV that was playing the Brasil soccer match. Perfect. Dave had told us to watch, so we saw a little of it. The food was cold, we were at the end of the lunch rush and before they refilled everything. Even more disappointing – the desserts were gross. But at least we got to eat quickly!

We hiked to the old port area next, and it was packed with people on bikes and horse drawn carriages. If one had come by empty, I was going to nab it. We wanted to go into the Basilica, but there was a huge line to get in because they had a special exhibit from Napoleon. We didn’t think it would be good enough for the long wait. The buildings in this old area were spectacular. We could live there, if we wanted to spend $500M for the 2-bedroom condo I saw for sale. Each block had flowers hanging from the front, with the same color for each block. The boutiques and restaurants looked like the kind of places we’d like to visit frequently and the music playing outside was good.

We had an hour until we could catch the bus back, so we sat on the grass in the shade and watched the people go by. One huge guy ran for over 2 blocks to catch up with the pedi popsicle man – he must have really wanted a handcrafted popsicle! Unfortunately, we choose the wrong spot to sit. A huge red-winged black bird did not like that we were there. First, she shook the water off – on my head. I was glad it wasn’t something else or Eliza and I would have lost it. Next, she berated us. Loudly. Continually. She kept cleaning her feathers, and little stuff was falling down. Nate and I tried to move, but each time she went to the branch above us.

Finding our way back to the bus station was easy, and we got to watch the last of the Brasil match. Go Brasil! We also saw news of the Jazz Festival – and it was wall to wall people. The bus ride back was quick, and there was tons of traffic going into the city – more than that morning. Glad we rode the bus and had such a memorable day!

By Dan

June 14, 2014: Saturday. The day has arrived!! Cedar Point. The weather is going to be beautiful, sunny about 70 with a slight wind off of the lake. We could not have asked for better weather. Well, I made it to 10 am and got sick. The Maverick did me in. I did not feel well. Headache. As it turned out, I was done for the day. At least I got to see Eliza and Nate have fun riding all of the rides. That was well worth it. We went back to the RV for lunch and a quick nap then back to the park from about 1 to 10 pm. We had a blast. I hate to see this day end. I was so proud of Eliza and Nate, especially riding the Top Thrill Dragster. Even if I was not sick, I don’t think I could have ridden it. They did, so it was great. We did the ferris wheel near dark and got a grand view of the park and Lake Erie. To bed at about 11 pm

June 15, 2014: Father’s day. What a great day. Eliza and Nate each wrote me a special, personal card. We all slept in and hung out at the RV park for the day resting. We hit the pool and did some walking around.

June 16, 2014: Monday. Wow, Cedar Point is history. Hard to believe. One of the hightlights of the trip over. I can’t believe it. We are off to Evangola State Park along Lake Erie for 3 nights. It is just south of Buffalo about 25 miles. It turned out to be a cool park. We had our own private trail down to the beach, so that was nice. The campground was about empty. We got there at about 3 and hung out for the evening. It was a long day driving. Sally and I took a short bike ride around the park to see it. Today was two first’s for me: first time in Pennsylvania and first time in New York. On the drive we drove through Pennsylvania.

June 17, 2014: Tuesday. We drove in to Buffalo today to get Sally her birthday present. A new iPhone 5c. She loves it. Nate got a hair cut and we did some grocery shopping. When we got back, I took a nap and then went for a bike ride after. Later that evening, we went down to the beach. It was partly sunny today and hot and humid. We could see the Buffalo skyline off in the distance when we drove into town. It was cool.

June 18, 2014: Wednesday. I got up and did about a 20 mile bike ride while the kids were sleeping. Today is a day to hang out at the RV. The weather was somewhat iffy, overcast, but still warm. It was good to relax. I tried to start reading Ulysses by James Joyce. It is a difficult book to start. I just finished Inferno by Dante which was real hard to read. Tomorrow we are off to another major highlight of the trip: Niagara Falls. None of us have ever seen it. It is a high point for me of the trip. Can’t wait to share it with my family. We will be staying on the Canada side of the river.

June 19, 2014: Thursday It is a short drive, only about 50 miles so we did not leave the campground until about 11 am. The overcast sky turned to clear blue skies when we left which made for great driving. We drove through Buffalo and crossed over the Peace Bridge to Canada. The border crossing and toll gates were barely wide enough to get the RV through. Tight. The drive was great. Buffalo looks like an okay town, but again it looks depressed. We are staying at the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park which is about 3.5 miles to Niagara Falls. We arrived early at about 1 pm, so we rode our bikes over to see it. WOW!! Spectacular. There are 2 falls, Canada Horseshoes falls and the American Falls. They are really really cool. I have to be honest, not quite as big as I expected, but still really awesome. Tomorrow we are going to ride the Maid of the Mist to see the falls. We are going to walk across the bridge over to the US side to visit the State Park, which looks really cool and tons to do. The weather here is nice. Sunny, low humidity and about 75 degrees. Low humidity is great. I plan on going for a big bike ride Sunday morning along the Niagara Parkway.

June 20, 2014: Friday. Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. Today is our day to explore Niagara Falls. Found cheap parking $2 all day. We walked over the Rainbow Bridge to the USA. It cost 50 cents each to walk over. Customs was fine. We did the Maid of the Mist ride first. It was great. It took us right up into both waterfalls. Went by too fast, only 20 minute boat ride. The weather was great. Sunny, but not too hot. We then walked around Niagara Falls State Park. We stood right by Horseshoe Falls looking back over to Canada. It was pretty. We went back to the RV to rest up for the night. I went for a 25 mile bike ride south along the Niagara River. It was a great bike ride. We drove back into town at about 7 pm for the 9pm light show and 10 pm fireworks. We walked around a bit. We were sitting next to the lighthouse where the lights are for lighting the falls. I went up to the light master and asked if we could come in and he said yes. We got a great tour from Vic. Nate and Eliza actually got to light up the falls. The fireworks were only five minutes, but really good. Tons going off at the same time.

June 21, 2014: Saturday. Longest daylight day of the year. The trip is going by so quick. We all slept in today. We went into town and drove around a bit. We drove north of Niagara Parkway. It was quite scenic. We saw a tram that went over the river. Another nice weather day, sunny and warm. Sally and I went for about a 12 mile bike ride back at the RV. We just hung out that evening at the RV park. This RV park was less than half full. I thought that since this is summer and near Niagara Falls, it would be packed. It wasn’t. We had a good site with plenty of room.

June 22, 2014: Sunday. Leaving today for Toronto. It is about 120 miles. As it turned out, it as basically city driving the entire way. There are tons of people living here in this part of Ontario. Toronto is 2. 4 million folks. Can ya believe it eh? It was a pretty drive around the lake. We could see Toronto skyline once we got on the freeway. We are at Darlington Provincial Park. This park is nice. We are in site #8 right on Lake Ontario!! One of the best campsites ever. We got here early and since it was sunny, we just hung out and enjoyed the lake. Toronto tomorrow. Nate and I are thinking of doing the Edgewalk at the CN tower. We saw it on Globetrekker many years ago. It is about 1,200 feet up walking on an edge around the entire building. I think I can do it! This is an event of our lifetime so I need to do it with Nate.

June 23, 2014: Monday. We lucked out, there is a light rail train going into Toronto only 10 miles from here. We took the train instead of driving 30 miles into town. The ride on the train took about an hour. First thing, off to the CN Tower. Nate and I went up. We did it!! Nate was fearless. We leaned over backwards and forwards off the edge of the building 1,186 feet up in the air. Google up CN Edgewalk and see the video they promote this. We had perfect weather. Slightly overcast and no wind. Nate loved this. It was great father/son bonding. We walked around a bit in the afternoon and got back to the RV by about 5 pm. We were all tired. Sleep in tomorrow.

June 24, 2014: Tuesday. We woke up to an overcast day. It was raining on and off through the night. I went for about a 16 mile bike ride. We washed the dogs today. Just kept around the RV and enjoyed the view and the lake ontario. Tomorrow we are back to the good ole US of A for two days and then back into Canada going to Montreal. We have been in Canada now for 6 days. I like Canada. We have not had cell service in Canada. Funny how we get so reliant on it for weather, maps, and information plus keeping in touch with family and friends. Everyone is doing well. Sally and Eliza are feeling better. They both had a slight case on the flu or something. I thought this campground would be busier. It is only about half full. We are a third of the way done with our 18 month sojourn. It is hard to believe that it is going by so quick. Some of the highlights we were looking forward to are over! Iowa with my Mom. Friends in Minnesota. Friends in Michigan. Mackinac Island. Cedar Point. Niagara Falls. Toronto. Wow. Just flying by. Before you know it, we will be on our way back home to Bend, Ore.

June 25, 2014: Wednesday. Today is a travel day. We are leaving Darlington Provincial Park and heading back to New York State to Wellesley State Park. We are taking the Canadian freeway the entire way except for the last few miles to the campground. The drive was not all the scenic until we got to the Thousand Island area of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. It is very beautiful. Lots of islands with homes o them. Amazing. The water is so clear. Upstate New York is really pretty. We drove to the campground and got set up. Unfortunately, we were not on the water like I was hoping, but still it was nice. We had easy access to the beach to swim. I took a nap this afternoon. I was tired.

June 26, 2014: Thursday. Not much going on today. The day started out poorly. We were all on the bike ride and Eliza and I crashed. Fortunately, I was stopped and she basically fell over. So, we were all fine. But, it was still kind of unnerving. I would have hated for it to have been worse. So, Eliza hung out in the RV and Sally and I went for a bike ride. We checked out the campground. It is huge. We went to the nature center. The day was sunny and warm again. This campground was also about half full. It was a nice campground and quiet. Not too hard to get too off the freeway. Later in the day, I went for a ride on my own to the bridge to mainland USA. I was able to walk on the bridge and see the view. It was cool. This part of upstate New York is beautiful. I would vacation here again. Tomorrow we are off to another highlight, Montreal Canada!!

June 27, 2014: Friday. Sally’s birthday!! Unfortunately, today is a travel day from Wellesley State Park New York to Montreal. The day broke with sunshine and it is going to hot today, and humid. We are taking back roads to Montreal instead of going up the Canadian side on the freeway. It is more scenic and we are able to see more of the State of New York, but it took us probably five hours to go no more than 130 miles. It was just slow going. Keep in mind that it probably took us close to 20 minutes or so to just get out of the campground. We want to travel the backroads, but the freeways sure do make good time. It is a tradeoff. We also want ed to use gas up in the tank and buy in the states since gas is Canada is $5.31/gallon. We got to the campground. It is located about 15 miles outside of Montreal. You can see the skyline. They are working on fixing up the campground. It is rated a 10/10/10 which we have never stayed at. It was nice. They told us to take the bus to downtown Montreal tomorrow. Save the headache of driving and parking. The annual jazz festival was going on and with it being of city of 1.5+ million, lots of traffic to consider. We hit the pool this evening. They had a DJ and they were having a party. There are a lot of older, retired Canadians living here for the summer. They were living it up. Very nice folks. Everyone was welcoming. Bon jour!! After dinner, we just hung out at the RV. It was hot, so we were running the air conditioning. Tomorrow is going to be another hot and humid day in Montreal. We are all looking forward to it.

June 28, 2014: Saturday. Off to Montreal. We were at the bus station and in town by 10 am. The ride was only about half an hour. Happenstance would have it traffic was not that bad, nor construction, so we could easily have driven in. But this was fine. We hiked up to the parc that over looks Montreal. It was cool. Parc du-Mont Royal. There were tons of people walking the 425+ stairs to the top. The view was really cool. Off to the museum. Opps, closed. Wouldn’t ya know it. So, we started walking to the Jazz festival. It took up a whole city block. We walked along St Catherine street which is all shops and shopping. We ate lunch at a Chinese buffet restaurant. It was okay, nothing special but this kept up having buffet lunch on our birthdays. Mine at the casino in St. Louis, which we all agree was the best and Nate’s buffet dinner Fish Boil in Door County. We headed back to the bus station about 4 and to home shortly after. It is good to get back and take care of the dogs. Lady and Jessica. I have not said much of them, but it is a real treat to have them along. They are pretty good traveling dogs. Jessica has gotten into a bad habit of whining in the middle of the night. So, she is sleeping in the car now. Maybe in a couple of weeks she will be over it. Montreal was a cool town. I have always wanted to go there. I know there is tons more to do. You could easily spend a week here. We walked by McGill University. It is very prestigious comparable to Harvard and Stanford. They have tons of very successful alumni, maybe even more so than Harvard. 9 Nobel Laureates. 136 Rhode Scholars, 3 astronauts, 2 Canadian Prime Ministers, 13 supreme court justices, 9 academy award winners, 3 Pulitzer Prize Winners, and 28 Olympic Medalists. It is ranked 1st in Canada and 21st in the world.

June 29, 2014: Sunday. Rest day. I went for a 25 mile bike ride to start the day. I rode over to the St Lawrence Seaway and back. We just hung out today. It was hot and humid again.

Day 183, Niagara Falls, Canada

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We left our campsite at Jellystone with high expectations, and we weren’t disappointed. After loading the bare essentials, we drove to a parking lot that the staff had recommended, but we couldn’t figure out how to pay so we had to go to another one. It seems like we’ve paid in every type possible, but not this one. I love trying to learn new stuff each day.

We walked down a beautiful trail to the gardens that line the Canadian side of the falls. We’d ridden our bikes into town the day before, so we knew where to go. When we had checked in, the staff at the campground told us that Maid of the Mist was no longer in business; we could buy a package of 4 attractions, and see the falls from another boat line. Since we’d just looked it up online, but didn’t have Wi-Fi there, we decided to ride in and check it out. Our 3.5-mile ride turned into 13.5, but it was worth it because we saw that the Maid of the Mist was still in business – just from the American side. The staff was just trying to sell us!

As we walked through the gardens, we kept looking at the falls. Much smaller than we had expected! But the roar was louder than we expected. It was sunny, and there were no mosquitos, so the walk was nice.

We crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on foot to get to the American side of the falls. We had to put 50 cents each into the turnstile to get through, and you could use Canadian or American coins. There were tons of cars going over, but we thought it would be fun to walk into America, since we had gone back and forth to Mexico in a flat bottom boat. It was fun! The view was spectacular and standing on the international line was a kick.

Once on American ground, we had to stand outside the border patrol office and wait for the little green light to go on, then open the door and walk in. All the tourists on the buses had to get off and go through the questioning, so we thought it was going to take forever. We lucked out in that they took us in between some of them, so it only took about 10 minutes. We’re innocent of anything possible, but it still makes me nervous to have them look us over and inspect everything.

We walked outside and over to the Maid of the Mist to buy the boat tour tickets. It was a busy area, but most people were at the Visitor’s Center or walking in the park. We had seen an episode of Globe Trekker years before and Megan had gone on the boat tour. Totally tacky. Totally fun! It’s almost a requirement if you go to the falls. $68 and our light blue rain ponchos felt like a garbage bag, but they worked. The boat took us right up to the falls, and hovered there for a while so everyone could gawk more. We took tons of pictures, even though we were getting our phones wet from the mist. The boat captain said that a 7-year-old local boy survived going over the falls a few years ago, and we all winced. On the way back, I kept jumping over the international line as the guide kept pointing it out. Little kids were mimicking me while my teenagers and husband were moving away.

We checked out the American Falls with our rain slickers still on. Up close, it was even more beautiful and felt like rain. There was a double rainbow at the bottom and Eliza was able to get a good shot of it. She has an ability to take the pictures from an interesting angle, while I just take them to document what we’re doing before I forget.

Next we rode the elevator up to the observation platform, and you guessed it, took more pictures! It was so beautiful and we couldn’t believe we were actually there. We’d driven all this way and we were enjoying it!!!

They were doing construction here, too, just like everywhere we’ve been. They were fixing up the bank and side of the American Falls, and I couldn’t imagine working that close to the top of the falls. They didn’t even have life jackets on and the “safety” fence was only about 3 feet tall.

We walked all the way out the point to the top of the Horseshoe Falls, with a little ice cream to help us on our way. There were people in wheelchairs, with canes, and with walkers, and I was glad we were doing this trip while I could still stride. Then there was a group of young boys rolling down the grass hill and I was glad that I wasn’t that young anymore. Middle-aged is just right for this Goldilocks.

If we could have built another bridge, we would have put it right across the river to the Canadian side and to our car. Or have a helicopter pick us up and drop us off! But instead we had to back track our whole walk and get back to the Canadian side. We were hot and tired, but luckily, there were no mosquitos.

We walked through the “touristy” section of the Canadian Niagara Falls, and tacky doesn’t begin to describe it. We’d read and been told to stay away from the American side and all it’s shops, but this was above and beyond. Or maybe it was a bit of our American pride showing… Anyway, they’ve got everything in this one area and people told us they vacation there for a week. Mini-golf, Ripley’s, bars, café’s, Starbucks, movies, IMAX movies, movies about the falls, t-shirts for $3 shops. We were laughing because we thought the $3 t-shirts were probably made in China. It was a zoo. No thank you.

Back at the rig, we relaxed and ate dinner. Eliza had read that there would be a live concert at 8 p.m., with the falls being lit up when it got dark, and fireworks at 10 p.m. (Another late night!) We left about 7:30 so we could find our parking lot again, and walked along the Canadian side of the falls for a while.

The concert wasn’t happening on the stage because a wedding reception was in the fancy restaurant next door and their DJ was playing outside. Neat place for a reception – dancing outside with the falls right there. But that meant we had 2 hours to kill, ouch.

As we were sitting there people -watching below the lights, Dan bet Nate 50 bucks that he could go talk to the light master and get in. We all thought he was kidding, but then he came back and said, “come on, we can go in for a tour.” What?!! He had seen the light master on the balcony and asked if we could come up and Vic said yes!

Dan quietly knocked on the door, and Vic opened it. He’d be an excellent Santa Claus – he’s got the beard, smile and kind disposition. I couldn’t believe he’d take the time to talk to us. The building that houses the controls for the lights is part of the old electric station. Up on the hill. Huge old grey blocks of stone. It was small and cramped, with a walk way through the middle. We went out one door, and into another little room that had all the “controls” for each light. 8 for the American Falls and 12 for the Horseshoe Falls, or Canadian Falls as Vic called them. Plus the computer than runs the colors.

The lights outside are huge, about 3’ in diameter. The first time the falls were lit up years before, they used these same lights that were left over from WWII in England. They run along 2 balconies, so they face each of the falls. The colors get changed when the plastic gels are lowered. There are only 4 colors – red, blue, yellow and purple, and Vic uses more than one gel for whatever color he wants. The falls were also beautiful with just the white light on them.

Vic gave us a brief history and then patiently answered our questions. He had just recently started the job in April when Pete died, after 54 years of running the lights. Nate remembered that Pete was the man on the Globe Trekker episode. 54 years of being responsible for a dual national treasure! We had seen people from at least a dozen different countries that day, and there were probably more that we couldn’t identify. Millions of people are drawn to the falls each year, and we saw why.

When it was dusk, Vic then asked the kids if they would like to turn on the lights? Nate went first and turned on each control box and then the 8 for the American Falls. Eliza turned on the 12 Horseshoe Falls. Dan and I were in shock that Vic would allow them to turn the lights on, and even more so when he gave them certificates that proved they had done so! They give occasional tours for dignitaries, which we certainly weren’t. It was above and beyond, a kindness that we will never forget. It’s meeting people like Vic that make our trip so special, and the falls even more beautiful.

Day 177, Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

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Picture above from 8:34 a.m.!
This was one day we’ve talked, dreamed and looked forward to for years! Ever since we read that the roller coasters at Cedar Point are the best in the USA, we’ve wanted to visit. Dan even went off coffee six weeks earlier so he could ride. Unfortunately, it started out great and quickly went south.

We had pulled into the campground at the Cedar Point park the day before, and did battle with “May flies” that liked the dark color of our rig. The young Jamaican man who came to spray for them said it wouldn’t help, and he was right. But out our back window was the oldest wooden roller coaster in the park, and we couldn’t wait to ride.

Just like Disney resorts, because we stayed on property, we got in an hour earlier than the general public. We knew that it would be the best part of the day, and we didn’t know how right we were!

We were 15th in line at the north entrance, and watched as they tested a Level 5 coaster above our heads. I began to have second thoughts about riding it, but we were talking about the other Level 5’s, so I was easily distracted. The kids were still waking up, and were getting excited.

We walked to the Iron Dragon first and had the ride all to ourselves. Eliza had seen the video of it online and knew it would be an easy first Level 4 ride. She was right, of course. So fun! We were the only ones on it and I screamed loudly at every sharp turn. It was a total blast.

Next we hustled to the Millennium Force. This is one of the top 3 rides in the park, and we wanted to do it before the lines were hours long. We were able to watch it as it went up over 200’ for the first hill, and heard the screams as it went down about 90 mph. I thought I was going to be sick, but I was determined to ride it with the kids. It was only 2 minutes, how hard could it be?!

Hard. Scary. Not constructed correctly because I came out of my seat a couple times. It was awesome!!! I think I appreciated the views of Lake Erie, but I’m already starting to block how scary the ride was. Why oh why did I ride it?!

Our third ride was the Maverick. The kid in line in front of us said it was his favorite and he’d probably ride it at least 5-6 times that day. Then he complained to his Dad about all the tourists in the park – obviously a local with a season pass. I was glad it got such a good review, because it was another Level 5.

Dumbest ride ever. Really. Should be closed down. Not only was the first incline too steep, but the OVER 90 degree hill after that turned in on itself. Who thought of that?! I was screaming half the ride, and hitting my jaw on the sides of our seat the other half. I could hear Dan grunting behind me, but Nate wasn’t screaming his infamous “I’m gonna die”, so I knew he was fine. Eliza, sitting serenely next to me, was just smiling. That’s what she did all day. Smile and/or enjoy herself. The two can be mutually exclusive.

We stumbled off the ride, and then quickly went outside. Dan was saying he didn’t feel well, and we went looking for a men’s room. He didn’t make it further than 50 feet before he barfed. He was green. He said the first over 90-degree incline did it to him, and he barely kept from passing out the rest of the ride. Watch the video online if you want to experience this “fun” ride.

So less than an hour into the day, and 1 Indian down. I was really worried about him, but he didn’t want to ruin the day for the kids, and he was raised in Iowa, so he moved from bench to bench as the kids went on more rides. He gives up coffee, drives almost 10,000 miles, and gets sick. No fair.

I did one more ride with the kids, but it’s not as much fun riding single as it is screaming with your kids, so I bowed out. I was also worried about Dan being alone and passing out; he was still hurting. Luckily, the people watching was incredible. If I could have taken a picture of every weird tattoo I saw, I would have had my camera full by noon. I only heard one other language, but saw more brands of cigarettes than I have in the past 20 years.

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Picture above is at 1:30 p.m.

We went back to the rig for lunch and Dan was prone before the rig door closed. He was exhausted. The rest of us ate lunch and rested up for the afternoon. We couldn’t talk him into resting until dinner, so we rode the shuttle back to the main entrance and it was as if we had entered a different park. It was beyond packed. Barely room to walk and tons of people with those gigantic stuffed animals that made it hard to get around.

The kids went on a few rides, and then decided to go see how long the Top Thrill Dragster line was. The two “hosts” at the entrance said it would move fast, but the sign said it was a 90-minute wait. Of course, because it’s another of the top rides, everyone wants to ride it. Everyone except Dan and I. We found a spot in the shade and I read a book on my phone. I never would have predicted that I’d be reading in an amusement park, but there weren’t any other rides I had to do, so I just relaxed and kept an eye on Dan. He wasn’t green anymore, more of a light grey.

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Picture above from 4:13 p.m.

Almost 80 minutes into their wait, the ride broke down. They took the cars off the track, and a man much older than us “worked” on them. They did a test with the cars, and it went up the 425’ track, only made it part way up, then rocketed back down. They did another test and it barely made it up and over the top, and raced down. We weren’t sure if it made it to 120 mph, because it took longer than the 17 seconds it usually did. We were hoping the kids would get out of line, but knew that after waiting so long, they’d be disappointed if they didn’t get to ride. We’d already done our due diligence on the safety of the rides, so we didn’t make them get out of line. After two more cars of people went, we saw Nate and Eliza in line. Eliza’s fear that she voiced before getting in line was that the ride would get stuck at the top. And here she had just seen the ride slow and barely make it over. She had obviously been crying, but she was not budging from the line. We found out later that everyone in line passed the time by telling stories of other rides that had broken down, and how this one did quite often.

They got into their car, and it pulled forward to the staging area. The ride itself is only 17 seconds long, but they leave you at the start, with a loud music track playing the sounds of a revving engine of a dragster, for much longer than necessary. They really milk the anticipation for all it’s worth. The kids were in one of the back cars, and I watched as they sat there getting ready to be shot up and over. Nate stared straight ahead, and Eliza’s face changed from fear to pride. It was absolutely the worst moment so far in my life as a mom. I couldn’t believe we let them do this ride!

Of course, they made it down safely and were there to greet us at the exit before we expected them. I was almost in tears and was so grateful that they were fine. And off we went so they could go on more rides, like nothing had happened. Argh!!!

I can’t wait to read what the kids think of it. Nate didn’t really want to go on all the rides, but he did it for Eliza. He was so courageous and I was so proud of him. Eliza got to ride 19 different rides and would have ridden the Top Thrill Dragster again at 10 p.m. if we had let her!

So the day wasn’t quite what we expected, but we all lived through it. I think the memories will be better because there was some calamity to it. We dreamed and planned for an adventure, and that’s what we got. We talked about staying an extra day and coming into the park, but we knew there was no way to top what we’d already experienced. And we wanted to live another day!

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This picture is from 10:06 p.m. and should be titled, “2 of us are tired, can we go home, now?”