We left Tucson on July 22, 2013, and took our time getting to Grand Junction, Co. to meet the newest addition to the family. William Paul Aieta, was born July 12, 2013 to be called Will, affectionately being called Willie P by grandpa. Monty’s daughter, Noel and husband, Paul are thrilled with this little guy and rightly so, he is adorable. After counting all the fingers and toes, ooohing and aaaahing over tiny little boy clothes and a delightful nursery we were on our way to Montana.
Jim and Mary’s RV Park Missoula Mt.
Key words for this trip are ‘take your time’, keeping that in mind we reserved a week in Missoula, a town of about 70,000 in western Montana. Why Missoula? The daytime temps are in the mid 80’s and nighttime in the 50’s. Bliss!! Oh, they also have pickleball five days a week and Bluegrass jams. So far so good, but it has turned out to be so much more. We really loved it here.
Jim and Mary’s RV Park has beautiful large grassy sites with huge trees. We can sit in the shade and read in the afternoon and meet people from all over the country. Everyone we met had a story about their travels to share. The couple from Wickenburg, AZ has been coming up to Montana since they were first married, 52 years ago. They offered some good suggestions of things to see in the area. A couple from Goodyear, AZ was making their maiden voyage in their new motor home. The couple across the street had a 25 pound cat on a long leash tied to the awning rail, she just stays outside and walks back and forth the length of the motorhome on the leash. One night there was live music in the meeting room with an ice cream social afterwards.
Love the Butterfly
The cowboy was pretty good and his Native American side kick was entertaining. They could have billed themselves as the Lone Ranger and Tonto but guess they missed the movie. The huckleberry ice cream was delicious.
Wednesday is ‘Out to Lunch Wednesday’ in the park downtown. There was live music by a group called the Clumsy Lovers. I’m not sure how the band got its name but the families of the band members were there and they did seem to have an unusual number of very small children. The food court offered over a dozen different venues and there were hundreds of people supporting the weekly summer event. Men and women in business attire from downtown offices, utility workers from the street crews taking their lunch break and lots of kids. Some young men were wake boarding in the river that runs next to the park. They wade out through the rocks and toss the boards on the rapids and ride the wave. Pretty cool really. The smaller children played on the grass, few things bring a smile quicker than little kids dancing on the grass. The focal point of the park is the most beautiful carousel I’ve ever seen. It took five years from the drawing board to restoring the 16,066 pieces of the antique frame and motor. Volunteers learned to restore or carve 38 ponies, each pony has a name and history and is painted so brightly it is an absolute joy. There are 14 gargoyles, plus beautifully framed mirrors and a band organ. All of the work was done by volunteers, school kids held bake sales to raise money for the project and everyone had an investment in this worthwhile project. The community deserves to be proud of its accomplishment.
Pickleball arrived here about a year ago with some Missoula people who winter in Mesa, Az. Parks and Rec has an indoor gym for winter play but summers are spent outside on the tennis courts at the park. The lines are painted in light green on green courts, takes a few minutes to get your mind set but I’m sure it keeps the tennis players with their familiar bright white lines happy. There were 12 people the evening I went. One day it rained, actually more rain than Missoula had all last month but we played PB in the gym, it was good. The rain stopped just in time for Thursday night ‘Dinner in the Park’. The entertainment was different for every event, no Clumsy Lovers, but a Johnny Cash want-a-be, the audience was just as enthusiastic There is certainly something to be said for the community spirit here. The Saturday’s Farmer Market was awesome. Lots of great produce and loads of people, did I mention community spirit!! We hated to leave Missoula but like Arnold “we’ll be back”.
Next stop on the journey was the Little Big Horn National Monument. It was crowded with families and bikers. There must have been a hundred of Hell’s Angles finest pulling into the Monument just before us. The tour guide was spending his 26th year as a Ranger at this park. He is writing his second book about the Little Big Horn so he was the perfect host to tell us the story. I was surprised how many of the grave stones were inscribed with Irish names until Ranger Donahue reminded us, the famine in Ireland sent many men to America for a chance at a better life. Once here they found few opportunities for work and many were forced to join the military to earn $13 a month. They have great displays in the visitors center and it was well worth the stop. We managed to get out of the parking lot without knocking over a single Harley!
We talked with several of the riders and they were from all walks of life. A large group traveled to Sturgis from Georgia and spent several weeks riding in the area. When we passed Sturgis there were thousands of Harley’s, huge meadows were covered with tents and camping equipment. We were amazed at the semi trucks with stages and patio seating set up for the bikers to enjoy a cold one! Leaving most of our riding buddies and Sturgis in the rear view mirror, OK we really never actually passed a Harley, we simply took a different exit ramp.
Both Wyoming and South Dakota are beautiful rolling hill country. The grass land goes on forever with occasional forested areas, very relaxing. The one thing we missed last trip to this area was the little town of Mitchell in the Southeast corner of South Dakota. The Corn Palace is Mitchell’s claim to fame. They erected the first corn palace in 1892, it has gone through several iterations but has been in the current location since 1921. Every year the towns people harvest corn and create new murals that depict rural life. The huge murals around the exterior are mosaics composed entirely or corn, grain and local grasses. We saw the college guys working on the latest project, cutting corn stalks and placing them up on the walls. The place is actually an auditorium where many different events are held through out the year. We pictured it out in a field somewhere but it is right in the center of town next to City Hall. I know what you are thinking, but this is part of Americana and makes road trips fun. This unique attraction even made the ‘1,000 Places to See Before You Die’, our travel bible.
Beautiful Creek, Montana
If we’ve seen 30 lakes, only 9,970 to go! Ah Geeees Minnesota is beautiful. We entered Minnesota near the Southwest corner of the state and decided to take the little red line, State Route 23, up to Duluth. What a treat, the farm country is so comforting, it makes you think back to less trying times of tire swings, homemade ice cream, and fire flies. Several things struck us about this back road, the farm houses were immaculate, painted and fresh, the yards were mowed and had lots of flowers, there were no yard cars or trash along the roadway. It was right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. We certainly enjoyed this leisurely drive.
We stopped at Pipestone National Monument, a little off the beaten path but well worth the trip. The visitor center had Native Americans carving pipestone and an informative movie about the Native Americans of the area and the importance of pipestone to their heritage. Pipestone was quarried here and traded far and wide among Native American for making pipes. The displays were up to the level of National Parks we have come to appreciate and it was a worthwhile stop.
We stayed at a Good Sam RV park outside Duluth that was surrounded by three small lakes. It was very pretty and we even had our own flock of Canadian geese plus canoes and a paddle boat for the lake outside our front door. We’ve heard stories about the mosquitoes in Minnesota but maybe since the weather was fairly cool they weren’t much of a bother.
Duluth sits right on Lake Superior or Lake Gitchi Gummee if you remember Gordon Lightfoot’s song, ‘Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.’ The drive along Lake Shore Drive was gorgeous, the homes along the coast look like old mansions. Leif Erickson park is a center piece of the city along the lake. With green grass, manicured lawns and huge trees, this is a place we could get used to. We went to Gooseberry Falls and enjoyed the falls along with lots of other people. I love looking at license plates to see where the travelers are from and it is surprising to me that most of the people here to see the sights are from … Minnesota! I find that curious. I would expect more tourist from other states.
Zoe loved the falls and all the people, she has lots of new friends, mostly from Minnesota! We had lunch in Two Harbors at the Lemon Wolf, an absolutely charming little place. There were pine boughs along the wall, with wall hanging quilts depicting northern scenes, canoe Christmas ornaments, wood carvings, and Norman Rockwell posters on the wall. I can’t believe it but I actually took a picture of the bathroom! It was a spacious room about 8×8 with all sorts of wall hangings, it actually had a lamp with a with moose motif shade, along with a carved wooden bear that held the TP. The bear was sort of disconcerting since he was placed right in front of the potty. I swear he had beady little eyes.
Our friends from Texas, Dianne and Stuart Raef, are up in this area visiting and we connected in Duluth. After spending the afternoon playing music we headed to Canal Park for pizza and a brew. Canal Park is a renovated water front area in downtown Duluth. There is a lovely river walk that runs along the lake, a respite from all the pesky grass. The center piece of the area is a huge bridge that raises to let the ore ships into the port.
Reluctantly we bid farewell to Minnesota and headed east. We crossed into Wisconsin at Duluth/ Superior and chose the dotted line on the map indicating the scenic route up around the northern most point of Wisconsin. We’ve seen Discovery Channel specials on the Apostle Islands and since the Apostle National Lakeshore is only a few miles out of the way we thought we’d have a look. Well… what’s wrong with that idea? They are ISLANDS you can’t really see much from the shore. The timing wasn’t right to take a boat tour so we settled for a trip to the visitor center. We cruised across upper Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie. I just love that name. We filled the motor home up with gas for the trip into Canada. It was funny that almost every car at the station was from Ontario, Canada, I guess it’s worth the drive across the border to gas up.
When we crossed the border into Canada we had our passports and Zoe’s shot record ready to go. The agent simply looked at our passports and suggested we actually sign them but other than that he waved us on our way. That was easy. Canada here we come.
I’ve learned a few things about Canada. First 1.26 on the gas station billboard does NOT mean $’s per gallon, gas is sold by the liter. My gosh you don’t even buy Pepsi in a small one liter bottle! Don’t ask, yes, gas was expensive in Canada, but on the bright side we only had to fill up once.
Second, the speed limit sign that indicates 100 is the max and 60 is the minimum is NOT MPH. The third thing I learned is the French use a different word for everything! Since what I know about French I’ve learned from Pepe La Phew, I was at a distinct disadvantage. Maybe we could pick up some of what we needed through road signs. That was working pretty well thru the Provence of Ontario where they use both English and French on their signs. With a little effort I was starting to recognize a few words. I mean how hard could this be, east, west, hey I got it! Monty would be better at this but he is in charge of driving.
We stopped at a Provincial Park, like our state parks, on the way to Montreal. We have stayed in Canada’s Provincial Parks several times on other trips and loved them but this park was a struggle. The electric connection required a hundred foot cord, really. We had a dickens of a time getting situated in the space close enough to get connected even with the extension we carry. The park was called the Chutes, a chute is the term they use here for waterfalls, so our evening hike along the rushing river was very pretty. We met a couple in their 60’s, who grew up in the next town and had never camped in this park before. We always find this a little strange but we run into it often. Maybe people don’t explore the area that is in their back yard in favor of something distant that must be more exciting. Kind of strange, but I can think of places in Tucson that we’ve never visited.
The Chutes Provincial Park, Canada
We arrived at a lovely KOA in Montreal and got ready to enjoy our first authentic French/Canadian meal out on the town. We talked to the lady at the front desk and she suggested a new restaurant she liked. The directions sounded easy so we headed out. The restaurant was very nice, upscale and specialized in PIZZA. We like pizza but that isn’t exactly what we had in mind. They even had special menus in English. No challenge in this, Monty was disappointed that we didn’t get the French menu but I assumed the wait staff didn’t have 45 minutes to explain every combination of pizza to us.
Thank Goodness for the Translation
We took a tour of Montreal on a double decker bus and enjoyed the experience. Montreal has a population of over a one million people and it really feels like a thriving metropolis. We enjoyed old town and had lunch in an outdoor cafe on a small cobblestone street. The smoked meat sandwiches were excellent but we agreed to make the Poutine a one time experience. Why they take perfectly good french fries and smother them with gravy and cheese curds is beyond us. What is worse than soggy french fries, cheese curds, yuck!
Montreal Botanical Gardens
We enjoyed the sights of Montreal and the next day decided to strike out on our own to see the botanical gardens. I’m sure you have seen these on the Internet, this place covers many acres and has beautiful sculptures created from living plants. Almost every country is represented by a sculpture they created to contribute to the garden. These are not merely sculptures but massive undertakings with several pieces to create the desired scene. One sculpture had four or five larger than life size horses in full gallop. One was a tree, maybe 50 feet tall and full of all kinds of birds, all fashioned out of living plants. A caretaker was perched up in the branches trimming the birds!
It was another beautiful sunny day and I believe at least a half a million of the residents of Montreal came to enjoy the gardens. Lunch was available at the concession stand. We stood in line for about 40 minutes waiting to order something from a menu written entirely in French. We did our best and enjoyed lunch even though it was not what we thought it was going to be. Sometimes surprises are good.
Upon entering Quebec Provence we learned Quebec is FRENCH and proud of it. I was feeling pretty cocky about the road signs in Ontario until we entered Quebec Provence and they simply don’t bother with English, all the road signs, road construction warnings, billboards, street names, exits, etc. are ONLY in French. OMG is the first thing that comes to mind, the second is thank you for the GPS. Unfortunately, Cleo, our psychic navigator, speaks French about like I do and everything she said was pretty much unrelated to anything that looked like the sign or sounded French.
Magnificent Display at the Montreal Gardens
We managed to find the RV park without incident even though we never understood a word on the road signs and despite the fact that Quebec had recently renumbered their sorties (exits) and forgot to tell Cleo. Quebec was a joy, such a beautiful city. Our first night there Monty was sure we could find our way into town and locate the area of old town we wanted to see. Since I’ve followed this guy through some mighty strange places I was confident he could get us there, and as usual, he’s my hero. We found the area called the Champs – Elyse of Quebec, a two block street filled with outdoor cafes, music and couples strolling the sidewalks. It was beautiful and we had our authentic French meal starting with Escargot and capped off with sugar pie, a regional specialty, and coffee.
Our Grayline bus tour left from the RV Park the next morning and while waiting for the bus, we met a couple from Wisconsin. After a few minutes Monty quietly suggested we let them board first and select a seat as far away as possible. It worked, they latched on to an unsuspecting couple from South Carolina and we gladly moved on. We saw the four of them again while we waited for the return bus to the RV Park. They were complaining about everything, from the wait, to the food and the fact that the people spoke French! We were so glad we thought to separate ourselves from them early. Reminded us of the term ‘ugly American’.
Typical Street in Old Quebec
The weather was absolutely perfect for the tour, sunny, warm with blue skies. We bagged seats on the upper deck and settled in to learn about the old walled city and the area surrounding it. After the tour we had lunch in the oldest house in Quebec built in 1640. They are big on all inclusive dining, and we enjoyed a ‘lite lunch’ of wine, soup, beef in red wine sauce, and dessert. The raspberry upside down cake was spectacular . Monty said it was just like lunch at home but I knew he was joking. It was nothing like our half a sandwich and cookie! We took a walk over to the Farmers Market on the pier, whew this place is hilly, it was quite a trek. But well worth the hike.
We loved our trip to Canada, from the little girl who knocked on our door to ask if Zoe could come out and play to the lady we walked with in the park who asked for prayer for her small town of Lac- Megantic, Quebec. If you remember a couple of months ago a train backed into that little town and exploded, leaving twenty-one children orphaned. In halting English she told us about the tragedy.
Returning to the US through Maine was a lot harder than entering Canada. The nice, and I might add, extremely good looking, border agent, came into the motorhome looked all around, even checked the refrigerator. He asked where we were born, what we did before we retired, etc. Maybe we looked harmless earlier in the trip, we might be getting a little bedraggled by now.
In Maine, we got settled in our RV park and headed into Baa Ha Baa to enjoy lunch, Clam Chowder with a glass of Blueberry Ale. What better place for New England Clam Chowder then well, New England. The chowder was to die for, one bowl was hardly enough. We were in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park about ten years ago but then it was rainy and cold. What a treat this day was, beautiful blue skies, sunny and about 80 degrees. We’ve heard the whole east coast has had lots of rain this summer so we are soooo happy to be here while the sun is shining. Everything looks better with sunshine. The last time we were in Acadia and went up to Cadillac Mountain to see the view and there wasn’t any. It was all fogged in and there was a cold wind. This year it was magnificent, so many people enjoying the view from the top. Zoe made some new friends, one family asked to have their kids picture taken with her. Maybe she’ll be appear on a Christmas card!!
This is a ‘bucket list’ trip, there were three main things we wanted to do. We wanted to see Montreal, experience the old city of Quebec, and spend enough time in Maine to get tired of eating lobster. I don’t really think it is possible to get tired of eating fresh Maine lobster, but with that plan in mind, we were armed with a list of the ten best lobster shacks in Maine. I know you can have lobster in fancy restaurants everywhere but our favorite is the lobster shacks by the side of the road. Most are seaside in a quaint harbor and the lobsters go from the boat to the cooking pot. The picnic tables with red checkered table cloths add to the charm.
Charming Bridge And Cottage In Maine
Our first lobster experience this trip was at the Trenton Bridge, it was great fun. We shared a table with a couple from Minnasoooootaa. He was reading the instruction sheet on how to attack the beast, she settled for a small salad. I guess she just wasn’t into the spirit of the whole thing. There is something truly barbaric about tearing apart a lobster, drowning each bite in drawn butter and devouring it. I think they should provide not only bibs but viking hats with horns! The words plunder and pillage come to mind. But it was great and we loved it. One shack down nine to go!
Heron was Our Afternoon Sail
A couple we know from the bluegrass group in Tucson, has a shop in Bar Harbor, they work long hours during the summer and come down to Tucson for the winter. We went over to their home and Monty and Marilyn played bluegrass while I sat in the sun looking out on the most beautiful ocean scene ever.The entire coast of Maine is one quaint little village after another. Each house looks like something out of a tourism magazine for Maine. Most of them are white, some with bright roofs, all with immaculate yards with fresh cut grass and lots of flowers, it is absolutely charming. I can’t figure out when they cut the grass we don’t see that many people riding mowers but the grass always looks freshly cut.
Maine is a beautiful state with one bay after another, each cradling a small harbor with a fishing community. We stopped at so many, we lost track and couldn’t tell you which was our favorite, but we loved seeing Owl’s Head Lighthouse and hearing the stories from the docent. Pemaquid Point Lighthouse was commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1827, the keeper’s house now houses the Fisherman’s Museum. The setting here was just beautiful. We found one of the ten best lobster shacks right in the neighborhood, surprise! We shared a lobster roll but decided if we are going to have lobster, we want the claws and all, so this left us wanting.
The Heron Returning to Port
In Rockford, we discovered a three masted sailing schooner offering tours of the bay. Monty sailed once in San Francisco Bay but I’ve never set foot on a sailing ship and thought this was a good opportunity to get my feet wet. Figuratively speaking! We chose the less expensive mid day sail, ginger snaps instead of the lobster rolls! It was nice and since our sail was billed as the ‘history and wildlife tour’ we heard some of the interesting stories about the area. Including Ralph the sea lion the Harbor Master kept as a pet for several years until he reached 300 pounds. (the sea lion not the Harbor Master)
We’ve discovered a nice campground in Rockland, with great trees and a path that leads down to the water. They have chairs sitting on the bluff so you can stroll down with a glass of wine and enjoy happy hour while watching the sailing vessels come in.
After exploring more bays, eating more lobster, including a return trip to Chauncy Creek, one of our favorite lobster shacks, we decided it might not be possible to eat too much lobster but spaghetti was beginning to sound good. Time to move on and head south.
Happy Hour On the Bay at Our Campground
This is our third trip thru up-state New York. The first was ten years ago when we went to Niagara Falls and the Finger Lakes region on the way to Nova Scotia and five years ago when we picked up Zoe from the kennel in Colbrook , New Hampshire. We tell Cleo, (our GPS travel psychic) no toll roads, so we see a lot of the small towns with lovely homes and tree lined streets. It’s not that we are cheap, OK we are, but it is just much more enjoyable to see this part of America. The jaunt south from Maine included scenic pieces of New Hampshire, Vermont and even about five minutes in Maryland before we saw New York.
Dianne and Stuart encouraged us to stop in Corning, New York and see the Corning Glass Museum. OK, when we were thru here previously we saw the Corning Museum sign, but really, a museum for cookware, it was a little beyond our imagination. OMG the museum was full of beautiful glass displays and works of art. We arrived just as a tour was leaving and spent an hour with one of the most enthusiastic, knowledge docents, we have had the pleasure to met. He was eager to tell us about many of the truly special displays as well as describe the many galleries and demonstrations of glass blowing techniques. There were large sculptures weighing thousands of pounds to tiny glass pieces found in Egyptian pyramids. My favorite was milky glass dress with a shawl draped over the shoulders. The docent explained it was created with a real model covered in a ‘plaster caste’ which when dried was carefully cut off, after the model stepped out of it the caste was sealed up again and you have the perfect body to then drape the ‘dress’ caste. The air space between the dress and body is filled with cut glass and fired. It was so perfect you could see the model’s belly button as well as the finger nails on her hands as she held the shawl. It was truly fascinating. The museum has several large stained glass Tiffany windows. Naturally they are pretty but when he explained how they were made it takes on a whole new meaning. Up close you can see the lead spacers but you can also see where they have fired each leaf or flower or face separately. They were really awesome. Most of the windows are from old churches that have been demolished. What a shame!
Magnificent Glass Sculpture
The glass blowing demonstration was enlightening, what a difficult job getting each piece perfect. Craig made a bottle and with the help of the gal providing the play by play description, they flattened it and added colored handles. The museum also has a whole floor dedicated to the science of glass, telescopes, Edison, and a bubble that allows you to hear a whisper from the other end of the bubble twenty feet away. This is a ‘must see’ if you are in the area.
We stopped at the Museum of Appalachia in Knoxville, Tennessee and that story is told in the next chapter.
Tennessee is another of those absolutely beautiful places. The green grass flows from the foundation of the houses to the asphalt roadway. Everyone owns a riding mower and they are busy at least once a week. So unusual to us, is the lack of fences. You rarely see a fenced yard of any type. I guess like the early Native Americans living in the cliff dwellings, the kids and dogs just learn to stay out of the road. Can’t figure out how small children play in the back yard, guess mom or dad is always there. Maybe part of the solution is the fact that the roads are narrow, hilly and winding and cars can’t get up enough speed to be a threat. I have to admit the roads might be a lot of fun in a Porsche but in a motor home not so much. I think we trimmed some greenery along the way and who would put mail boxes right on the road?
Minnie Pearl at The Ryman Theater
My best friend of over 50 years, Ruth and her husband, Charles, live in Nashville. Visiting them is the purpose of this stop but being the excellent hosts they are, we also took in some sights. The Ryman Theater was a treat. I always associated the Ryman with country music but it has been standing for years and before country became popular Caruso sang there, ballet and symphonies also used the theater. The old church pews, the original life of the building, are still in use. For $2 extra we included the back stage tour and saw all the dressing rooms. I was pretty excited to find out I was sitting in the exact place Alan Jackson took a nap the week before. He’s my man and my heart is still a flutter. My daughter swears his blond curly hair is attached to his hat. I won’t tell you what I say about her Kenny Chesney!
We walked down Music Row and poked our heads in several of the bars and heard some country star hopefuls belting out their finest tunes. Ruth suggested we stop in and take a look at the Grand Old Opry Hotel. Sure, why not, we say casually, never in a million years expecting to see a complete rain forest indoors. Not even in Disneyland would we expect to see something so spectacular. Huge gardens, with ponds, waterfalls, trees and scrubs of every color and shape. All connected with ground level and elevated walkways and bridges. It is truly a magnificent place. After lots of visiting, some tennis and lots of good food we were on the road again.
Ruth and I with The King
Grand Old Opry Hotel, Nashville
Last stop! We came thru Bald Knob, Possum Grape and Rosie, we are on the back roads of Arkansas heading to Mt. View, the Folk Music Center of the world. We were here two years ago and most of that trip was spent outrunning the flood waters. On that trip we had just turned off I-40 when they closed the highway behind us. Cleo keep telling us to turn right but we could see the speed limit signs were almost totally underwater! This year we are on the sunshine cruise so we took the back roads. What can I say, more green grass, tall trees, big hills, narrow roads. We love this stuff.
Monty’s cousin lives in Mt. View and he plays fiddle along with a couple more instruments. Mt. View is a small place but they have a lot of music. Jam sessions in four or five spots on the square every night of the week. He and Danny had had a good time.
Well, time to hit the long road home, by the way, is this motorhome making my butt look big?