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Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

April 11th, 2014 No comments

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We arrived on Hilton Head Island after a short drive from Savannah, Georgia. Looking forward to a couple of days of blue skies and warm weather, a bit of golf, a bit of cycling, and perhaps a bit of sand between the toes. Of course, my camera will accompany me most of the time. Photos and more stories to follow (eventually)

Savannah, Georgia

April 10th, 2014 No comments

Today we visited the historic section of Savannah, Georgia. Although the historic section is not large, we decided that it would be a better use of our time to enjoy riding around in one of the many tour services that are offered at the information center rather than spending the time walking.

Very interesting city to visit and lots of history to be seen and stories to be told in this Georgia city.

More blog entries and photos to follow once we return home.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

April 9th, 2014 No comments

Rented a kayak and paddled for almost 4 hours in the swampland ‘trails’ tody. Got close and personal with a few alligators, saw three species of snakes, a few turtles, some young barred owls, a couple of sandhill cranes, and got some much-needed exercise.

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A good day – photos from the swamp will be added later.

Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida

April 3rd, 2014 No comments

Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida

This was our third day of travel south and was a rather uneventful day of driving along interstate highways – first I-77 and then I-95. The interstate highways bypass the major cities and other points of interest so,if you are not leaving the interstate, you primarily get to see what is immediately ahead of you on the highway. There is significant traffic on these interstate highways so just trying to keep an eye on what is ahead of you on the highway can be sufficiently tiring. Today’s drive was, for the most part, no exception.

Along the way, I had commented on the number of trucks on the highway and also the amount of debris (primarily bits of truck retread tires) along some of the stretches of highway. When travelling on major highways, such as this, it is not unusual to see chucks of retread tire, but today, one large piece of rubber in the passing lane led to a car, a distance ahead of us ending up in the center ditch as it tried to avoid hitting the chunk of rubber. We didn’t see the actual accident event but were not far behind when it happened.

By chance, as we passed one semi-trailer, I noted that the retread hon one of its rear tires looked to be on its last legs. What an observation that ended up being. Many miles further down the road, and after a few tourist stops, we found ourselves driving behind this same semi-trailer when that retread decided it was time to separate and hurl chunks of rubber back at us. Thankfully, none of the numerous pieces hit our car but it did lead to a few anxious moments.

As we travelled along these busy highways, there were times when our view ahead and to the sides was sometimes rather limited and we just hoped that the truck drivers didn’t have to come to any quick stops.

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More photos will be added to this blog entry at a later date.

Escaping the Ottawa winter of 2014

April 2nd, 2014 No comments

Escaping the Ottawa winter of 2014 With cries of “ENOUGH ALREADY”, I found myself finishing off the month of March with a snow shovel in my hand, once again valiantly heaving shovelful after shovelful of that darned white stuff (SNOW!!!) of to the side of the driveway. image Only days earlier, another blast of winter had deposited a fresh white coating a few inches thick over our front yard and everything else. Looked really pretty, but meant more shovelling and I was getting tired of winter clothing and shovelling. Now, it was finally time to head off on that winter vacation to Florida that had been postponed many times for various reasons.

Our plan was simple, drive south on the 416 to Ogdensburg, cross the border at that point, slant over to Interstate 81 and then head south on I-81 as far as it would take us. Plan worked great. By the time that we crossed the St. Lawrence River, the amount of snow beside the highway had diminished and we knew instinctively that it wouldn’t be too long before snow would be just a memory. Every winter, Canadians head south for relaxation and to get a bit of winter warmth. Collectively, they are known as “snowbirds” but, since we were driving, not flying, “snowbirds” wasn’t a perfect fit but, this trip, we had no objections to that concept.

The last time that I crossed the Canada/US border was in February when I was hauling three kayaks back to Vancouver from the Grand Canyon. Usually, I don’t get slowed down at the border. A few questions get asked, I provide simple answers and off I go. The February crossing was a bit more dramatic as the border agents decided that they would like to pull me aside to “inspect” what I was carrying in the truck. This time around, we were driving our Volvo C70 convertible with its limited trunk space completely filled with luggage, two golf bags, my camera equipment and, as an added feature, my Martin Backpacker guitar. My wife was driving when we reached the border so she got to answer the questions. “Where are you from?”, “Where are you going?”, “How long?”, etc. Then there was that moment of silence before “Pop the trunk”. After the February truck search incident, that delayed that trip by an hour, all I could envision was the task ahead of taking everything out of that tightly packed Volvo trunk space so that the Customs agent could check to see that nothing untoward was packed in the golf bags squeezed tightly into the furthermost depth of that trunk. The trunk was opened, the agent took a quick look and closed the trunk. A sigh of relief from my side of the car. Then, the agent asked my wife to open the trunk again. “Oh no, what now?”, I thought. Just wanted to check that it had closed properly the first time! That was a relief. No long process of unpacking and repacking would be needed. A few minutes more and we were on our way again.

Temperature about 0C (+32F).

As we drove along, we could see many birch trees bent over from the experience of being heavily laden with ice from a freezing rain storm that had passed through the area only days earlier. Many trees had the far worse fate of breaking rather than bending and broken tree branches littered the ditches in some locations. The roads were clear though as we drove to our first night’s destination and indulged in some MacDonald’s fries. Not a gourmet meal LOL) but the two large fries for $3.33 special was the perfect treat, especially since it was the only eating establishment in easy walking distance from our hotel.

The next morning, we crossed over into Pennsylvania with me doing the driving. At almost precisely 9:30AM, we switched drivers just as it began to rain. When driving in winter months and early Spring, rain is always better than snow or freezing rain so we weren’t complaining.
image As the day progressed, the temperature slowly rose. By the time that we stopped for a break we were enjoying more pleasant +50F temperatures and wife enjoyed her pot of tea. (Bigelow’s spiced orange tea in Carlisle, Pennsylvania at Kimberley’s cafe – a nice place to stop for a quick bite to eat)
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Our destination for the day’s travels was Charlotte, North Carolina so once we had stopped for our lunch break in Carlisle, PA, we were on our way again. Our travels would take us briefly into Maryland and West Virginia, though Virginia and then into North Carolina. Our trip options for this leg of the trip were I-81 or I-95 and we chose to follow I-81 to avoid the heavy traffic loads of the Washington area. As we travelled south along I-81, the temperatures continued to rise, the grass continued to get greener and by the time that we got into the valleys of Virginia and West Virginia, Spring flowers were beginning to appear and flowering fruit trees dotted the landscape and the edges of the roadway forests. Temperatures were in the low 80’s by the time that we turned south onto I-77. image image image image We left the I-81 near and headed south along the I-77. This section of the road took us to higher elevations and as we climbed the temperature dropped into the low 70’s. Definitely not unpleasant, but Spring was not as far advanced in these areas and the trees hadn’t begun to flower yet. We reached our destination of Charlotte, NC that evening and we were able to walk outside in high 70’s temperatures surrounded by green grass and flowering fruit trees. Definitely different than the snow-covered lawns we had left behind only a day and a half ago. image

Red Rock Canyon Campground, Las Vegas, Nevada

January 29th, 2014 No comments

Red Rock Canyon Campground, Las Vegas, Nevada

I arried at the Red Rock Canyon Campground at about 4PM and the temperature was about 70F. By the time that I had checked in and set up my tent, the sun had dropped behind the mountain and the temperature had dropped to about 50F. Stayed warm enough overnight though that I was able to sleep comfortably with just the insect mesh covering the doorway. This also alloed me to look outside and see the stars that were visible. This is definitely not a dark sky zone with the 24/7 glitter of Las Vegas not far away.

This campground is definitely a tent friendly location. Each of the sites has a raised bed of fine gravel which provides a flat, quick draining surface which is relatively peg friendly. Although rainy days don’t come often in this desert environment when the rain does come, it can be torrential in nature even if short lived. A more frequent occurrence is the high desert winds which can whip up the dust and dislodge tents that are not firmly held in place. At the Red Rock Canyon campsite the planners included eye bolts around the periphery of the tent pad so it is possible to lash one’s tent firmly in place if adverse weather threatens

THe Red Rock Canyon campground is close to the western outskirts of Las Vegas and can be reached by taking a left hand turn at the fire station road about one mile from the large rock sign that announces that you are entering the RR Canyon refuge. There is a campground sign for those heading east on Hwy 159 but not for those heading west on this same highway. THere might have been one but I didn’t see one.

The campground’s location is within cycling distance of Calico Basin as well as the easy to reach main loop. I had visited the main loop on previous visits to the area so decided today to visit Calico Basin before heading to the airport to greet the paddlers whose kayaks I had been transporting.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo, Nevada

January 28th, 2014 No comments

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo, Nevada

This refuge consists of an upper Pahranagat Lake, a lower Pahranagat Lake and a stretch of marshland in between the two lakes as well as the surrounding lands. There are 14 rustic campsites along the east edge of the upper lake. I had read about this location before leaving home so was happy to eventually get there and set up my tent even though it was after dark when I arrived. The glow of the Las Vegas lights a hundred miles away silhouetted the intervening hills that surround the lake area.

There is not a lot to see in nearby Alamo, Nevada but there is a store and gas station which provide all of the necessities and then some. A surprising variety of grocery items is available from the store including many fresh baked items for the early morning riser. There is no potable water available at the Pahranagat campsite so a trip to the Alamo store for water is a good idea. Of course, those freshly baked cinnamon buns can also be very tempting.

At this time of the year, Pahranagat Lake is home to large flocks of ducks including Mallards, teal, red heads and a collection of American coots. Roadways and trails provide the birder or hiker with an easy way to walk around the whole circumference of the lake. It was a nice walk on a sunny day with temperatures a pleasant 55F. I was treated to a fly-over by a Red-Tailed Hawk and then a Bald Eagle perched for an extended photoshoot opportunity.

I only stayed at this location for one night and then enjoyed a half day of exploring before heading for the campground at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, Nevada

Twin Falls, Idaho – Shoshane Falls

January 27th, 2014 No comments

Twin Falls, Idaho – Shoshane Falls

As I drove into Jerome, Idaho there was a light misty snow falling and things were getting a bit slippery on the roads. I was happy to check into the Best Western and rest for the night rather than trying to drive further. In the morning, everything was covered with hoarfrost and a heavy fog reduced visibility significantly. The temperature was only 20F so I decided to put on my tourist hat and spend some time visiting the tourist attractions of Twin Falls. As you enter Twin Falls form the north, you cross the Snake River Canyon – a pleasant surprise that I wasn’t expecting.

After stopping to photograph the local Church of the Latter Day Saints structure and some of the hoar frost covered trees and bushes, I headed over to famous Shoshone Falls. From all of the pictures which I had seen, I was expecting quite a wonderful falls and hoping that the low temperatures would have created some interesting ice scenes as well. The clerk at the Best Western had sort of warned me that there wouldn’t be too much water flowing over the falls at this time of the year. Even with that warning, I was still surprised when I arrived at the visitor parking lot and looked over the edge. THe massive rock face was almost dry as bone!

The lake above the falls serves as a source of power for the generating station at this location so, during low flow wqinter months most of the water is diverted to the power station leaving not much more than a trickle flowing over the “Falls”. Interesting to see the underlying geology of the falls laid bare and fully exposed but I would have preferred to see a bit more water flowing over the falls :-).

Having seen the famous local point of tourist interest, I headed out of town toward my destination, Las Vegas, Nevada. What a surprise, when I got about twenty miles south of Twin Falls and escaped from the fog. The road ahead was suddenly bathed in sunlight, clear blue sky was overhead and almost instantly the outside temperature climbed form 20F to near 50F by the time that I reached the Nevada border.

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington

January 25th, 2014 No comments

Heading south from Vancouver to Las Vegas, stopped by the Snoqualmie Falls, Washington. Heck of a lot warmer here on the west coast then at home in Ottawa (-1C vs -25C). As mentioned in my previous post, the day had started off foggy and I had some concerns that I might encounter delays at the border but things had gone well and I was ahead of schedule so aside trip to Snoqualmie Falls was just the break from driving that I needed.

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I still had to worry about getting through Snoqualmie Pass with the possibility of some visibility issues and some snow at the higher elevations so, although I might have liked to have explored the area around Snoqulamie a bit more, it wasn’t long before my gear was packed back into the truck and I was on my way again.

Snoqualmie to Yakima, Washington

January 24th, 2014 No comments

Snoqualmie to Yakima, Washington Road reports from Snoqualmie Pass indicated that aside from a bit of poorer visibility, I should have no problems with road conditions. Snoqualmie Pass and a couple of other ridges between Snoqualmie and Yakima were the areas that concerned me the most when I was planning this winter road trip so getting through this area without any serious issues would certainly help keep me on schedule. Therefore, after making a tourist-style stop as Snoqualmie Falls, I was on the road again heading skyward into the mountain passes. Although the road was clear and dry, up ahead I could see that I would be soon encountering fog and possibly snow squalls. DSC_7476-roadway DSC_7479-roadway DSC_7480-snow-ahead DSC_7482-snow-ahead DSC_7487-road-signs DSC_7499-fog-ahead Although the fog and low-lying cloud cover reduced visibility to near zero for some short stretches of this portion of the trip and required a drop in speed on occasion to 30mph, there was no area where the roads were slippery so no need to install chains or rely on the 4 wheel drive capability of my brother’s truck.  At some locations, there was a heavy coating of frost on the trees and fences and gave the landscape a truly magical appearance. DSC_7500-Roadside DSC_7504-frosted DSC_7506-one-way-sign DSC_7507-frosted
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Made it into Yakima, Washington without encountering any new problems once we began to drop in elevation form the higher passes and ridges.  Next day, would be the stretch from Yakima to Twin Falls.

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