Heading East – Epic Road Trip Part II

This is our first blog in a long while. We’re exploring the east coast of Canada this summer. Thanks to iphone technology we were able to navigate our way through Quebec and New Brunswick to a very pastoral setting in PEI.

Our first night was spent beside the St. Lawrence River in a trailer park on the Rue de Campings in St. Michel. There were lots of Quebecois people who stared at us – the only tent in the park. No welcoming committee but we were tolerated. Unique co-ed bathrooms – clean though. Luke’s French was coming back to him quickly as we stumbled through trying to order healthy food (pas de poutine) at a glorified fry shack serving Rue de Campings. It was filled with St. Michel’s folk enjoying real Quebec fare and other treats. Healthy food was not to found and it was pretty bad. (Picture of Luke at this restaurant below – cute raccoon on fence.)

In New Brunswick there were lots of trees and long sections of road with no turnoffs – it just went on and on. Stayed in Mactaquac Provincial Park. Pretty nice – crazy noisy boats. Lots of families camping for the weekend. $25 for the night – no reservation needed. Why does Ontario have the most expensive provincial parks in Canada?

Since we couldn’t get into the cottage in PEI until 4:00 p.m. we decided to use our newly purchased $136 National Parks Discovery Pass to visit a National Historic site. Saw Fort Beausejour (aka Fort Cumberland) – about 20K from Confederation Bridge. What a cold and windy place. Can totally see why the soldiers hand-dug this fort at the top of a hill and built underground barracks – it was just to get out of the wind. Site of a big battle between the French and the English which resulted in the expulsion of the Acadians. (Fee saved: $3.80 each)

We’re now settled at the “Kelly Homestead”, in Blooming Point, on the north central shore of the island. It’s been our base for exploring on our bikes, running, and car trips. Everything seems close by on PEI so we’re not in the car too long (done that). Enjoying some of the local fare (lobster, fish, Moosehead). It’s a great place to read and relax if you don’t mind entertaining yourself–pastoral as opposed to the ruggedness we usually go for. We’ll see that in Newfoundland.


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Enjoying Florida

We had a really good Christmas but it was hard to get into the spirit being away from our kids and the rest of our families. Also it wasn’t the same without any snow. After a raucus New Year we moved to an apartment on the Bay in south Tampa. Here we can ride and run outdoors in t-shirts and shorts; and MA can swim in the heated outdoor pools. It feels so cool to have this luxury in January but we are homesick and miss our friends and family a lot!!

Right after we got to Tampa we were at a beach when a group of manatees swam right under the dock. They had a baby with them too! The cold weather stresses them and in 2010 more than 600 died from the cold. I hope it stays warm from now on.

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Sarasota, Florida

Since the weather was so cold for camping we decided to head to Florida a bit earlier than planned. We brought the cold weather with us though – record cold temps here for the past week. It was still in the 50s F. during the day though – quite beautiful. We are staying with my sister and brother-in-law in their beautiful home on a private golf course. It is surrounded by ponds with alligators in them and all sorts of birds live here: herons, sand craines, egrets, eagles, pelicans, etc.

Sarasota was the winter home of the Ringling Circus. Mabel and John Ringling established the Ringling Museum of Art and the Museum of the American Circus here. We are planning on investigating the museums and the white sanded Siesta Key Beach as soon as it warms up a little.

Luke and I are stepping up our training a bit. I joined the Sarastoa YMCA and Luke signed up for a 5K race called the “Frosty 5K” – not exactly like the December races in Ontario!


MA & L

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Rural Louisiana looks just like Southern Ontario

Crossed the Mississippi River today and drove North to a little town called St. Francisville. We had lunch at the Eight Sister’s Restaurant – gumbo, fried catfish, corn bread and peach cobbler- sooo good! As we drove east on a small highway we realized that it looked exactly like home in early fall. After weeks of desert and aridness we had suddenly made our way back to our own eco-zone. Homesick!

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Austin Texas – to Louisiana

We spent two days in Austin Texas. Fun city – very active place. We spontaneously went to a music show since Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World.” We saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was like a rock and roll Christmas show with an incredible light show and cool pyrotechnics. We were so closeto the stage that we felt the heat from the fire. We also visited Lance Armstrong’s bike shop called Mellow Johnney’s, we went to the Austin Museum of Art, and sampled some of Austin’s great food (Texas BBQ and Ethiopian!) Also hit a new running store called “Luke’s Locker” – really big and located across from Austin’s great riverside running trails.

Louisianna!! – Our first night sleeping in a park with alligators – Sam Houston Jones State Park – very beautiful. The park ranger honestly couldn’t think of any thing we should worry about – apparently alligators don’t bother much with people and when they get to be about 6 feet long the rangers remove them from the park. There is currently a cold snap in Louisianna – daytime temperatures are about 13 degrees C. and nights are about 0 C. We are toasty in the tent but looking forward to some warmer nights one of these days.

Soon we will be in Florida and visiting with my sister and brother in law for the Christmas holidays. Looking forward to a break from camping and spending some time indoors.

L and MA

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Las Cruces, New Mexico and Big Bend National Park, Texas

We spent two wonderful days in Las Cruces reconnecting with Bernd and Rosanna – formerly of Guelph. Reminisced about running and many memories of our late beloved Coach Vic. It was as if we didn’t miss a beat.

Big Bend National Park is Texan sized – 50 miles from the gate to the camping area. The park is, as its name implies, located on a big bend in the Rio Grande. The nights were unexpectedly cold – 17 degrees F one night and 24F the next. We were warm in our little tent. The days were warm and there were birds and butterflies all around (and Javelinas -wild pig-like creatures, coyotes, and apparently Mexican black bears.) Heading across Texas now.

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Vegas, Arizona and New Mexico

We had so much fun seeing Rachel, Curt, Claire and Kyle in Las Vegas on the girl’s birthday – 11/11. We did all the wonderful free things the state of Nevada offers – well not all…. but we drank beer on the street, gambled a bit, and the men even shot automatic machine guns – no ID required. It was sad to see them leave Las Vegas.

Since then Luke and I travelled to the southern part of Arizona: the Karrtchner Caverns – pristine caves found by amateur caver in 1974; we toured the museum at the courthouse in Tombstone – where the famous “shoot out at the OK corral” happened and people were hanged; and, we went to Chiracahua National Monument…surprisingly cool. Erosion here left the Chiracahua Mountains lined with rhyolite stones that the Indians call “standing up rocks” – they look like people. After staying there for a couple of days we decided that we had to see Santa Fe and drove north on road 78 (it would be perfect for cycling.) After we crossed into New Mexico people in cars coming toward us were waving at us. I loved that – it tells you how many cars travel on those roads.

Santa Fe is everything that we were told. We are so happy to be here. It has been home to the Pueblo people forever but was “founded” in 1600 by the Spanish and is at 7200 feet elevation. The food is amazing – a combination of Pueblo/Mexican/Spanish – and I’ve even registered for a class in traditional New Mexican cooking at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. YUM!!

Our plans are to head to Texas on the weekend and try to find some more sun and wamth.

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At the top of the Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail

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Grand Canyon – Pictures can’t capture it

Mary Ann and I were able to get a backcountry permit to hike into the Grand Canyon. Five million people from all over the world visit the canyon annually and only 35,000 hike into it. We hiked down Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden campground – 8 K and 3,000 feet down from the south rim. We set up camp and continued on the trail to the Colorado River at Pipe Creek Beach. The river is pretty narrow but very fast moving with rapids even in November. You have to leave your pack open at night so that ring-tailed cats and other animals can explore and see that there is no food in the pockets. Bright Angel Trail is popular with lots of people and mule trains on it but the bckcountry officers recommend it for Canyon novices. We loved the Canyon: the cliffs, intense quiet, the night sky filled with stars;and the many different kinds of rock formations dating back to eternity.The canyon is so vast that what you see in only a fraction of the multitude of smaller canyons and streams. Put this on your to do list.
Luke and MA

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Zion National Park, Utah

Luke hiked the incredible Angel Trail in Zion. You need to hold on to chains to do it!! I made it for the first third and was proud of that!

Last night we shared our campsite with a couple from France who have ridden their bicycles thru Europe – Russia – China – Japan – then Alaska, Yukon, BC, Montana, Utah -now heading to South America. We are so inspired!!

Heading toward Grand Canyon soon.

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