Monday, August 31, 2009

Jasper to Banff

Jasper... far away and very beautiful - mountains in every directions, waterfalls, and hot springs and two days of wonderful explores. Lakes, rivers, and fir trees are rimmed by staggering mountain peaks...and how lucky we were to have sunny skies and warm temperatures. Late in the afternoon, we drove to the Miette Hot Springs high above the valleys of Jasper. Our drive was slowed by mountain sheep - with horns the size of swirling saucers. They filed down the highway as we approached the Springs. Two pools of 104 degrees and two pools of 48 or 55 degrees provided a sharp folk soaked in the sunshine.

In the morning, we returned to the Icefields Parkway. Traveling south offered a new yet stunning perspective. In the afternoon, we took off to explore Banff...Above the town is a botanical garden that cascades in flowers down the hills. Every winter, the head gardener supervises the removal of all perennials and the ordering of new annuals...lots of work for amazing beauty. Imagine, pansies, poppies, carnations...all in flower.

We drove way above the town towards the gondala lift. Not far from the town's perimeter a grey wolf trotted 'home' alongside the golf course as we drove by and a radio-collared cow elk snacked on greenery at the road's edge. We're both going digital!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Feast and Friends in Calgary - on to the Rockies

Days flew by too quickly in Calgary - filled with highlights. Thursday afternoon, we explored the University. The Olympic Oval was amazing...and 2 zambonis skimmed the ice of the speed skating tracks and giant hockey rinks. 2010 is very close...and skaters stretched and practiced. Press coverage was never so real!

The evening meal was a splendid feast. Stories and laughter flowed as friends from Taupo, New Zealand arrived - about to start their long hikes in British Columbia...helicopter in...hiking out. Hodges' hospitality is five star.

Friday morning we headed to Lake Louise. It's called a diamond in the wilderness...and it really is. Perhaps you've seen photographs or paintings of Lake Louise or Lake Moraine...they actually fall short. We started our explore at Lake Moraine surrounded by the Valley of the Ten Peaks. It is not accessible in the winter so summer finds it full of visitors...even signs rope off upper access as bears roam there in search of mountain berries. We visited Lake Louise in the later afternoon...and again Saturday to gain just the right reflections for photos in the crisp morning air.

On to Jasper..and the wonder of the Icefield Parkway. It winds directly north...but there's no direct progress as short hikes, waterfalls, hanging glaciers and azure rivers that follow one after another create wonderful stops. It was a stunning day of sunshine and warm temperatures.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back in time to the Dinosaurs

Wednesday's visit to the Royal Tyrell Museum in the heart of the Badlands two hours northeast of Calgary was a unique experience. Dinosaurs had roamed this area of Alberta and their remains were discovered in river beds in recent years. It was easy to feel very small measured against giant dinosaur skeletons...and exhibits demonstrated how paleontologists researched, worked and made casts. The trip back in time took us from the earliest age to the present...and along the way evolution and survival of species were easy to see. Ancient fauna from as far away as Australia and New Zealand still grow in the museum's botantical setting...which was much nicer to visit than to see the huge cockroaches and tarantulas on display. A quick lesson in paleontology made a great day!

Tomorrow we head to Lake Louise and days in the Rockies.

Explores in Calgary & Fishing in the Rockies

Tuesday was a memorable fishing day for Eric. 2 hours drive from Calgary into Canadian Rockies, 3 hour hike (17k's round-trip) into high alpine lake surrounded by many peaks and above tree line around 7000 feet.
Rangers had sighted Grizzly bears so we were armed with flares and mace guns in case we came upon one.
We caught our trout limit of 8, good size trout average 14 inch in length using both lures and fly fishing.
Temperature was around 70 degrees, with warm breeze so near perfect conditions. The fish prepared beautifully by Sally provided a delicious dinner.
Tuesday was equally perfect for Helen and Sally. Calgary's Glenbow Museum features works by artists who traveled west with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Mountains, prairies and rugged conditions - in room after room of beautiful paintings - it was a great morning. Sharing an afternoon with Sally's grandson Flint made clear what fun 19 months can be.

Monday, August 24, 2009

500 Miles and Starry Night

Saturday morning and heading west...wheat fields, sunflowers, cattle and horses...the horizon stretched far into the distance...and even the cloud combinations changed as we zipped by. Enormous spools of hay dotted the praire...randomly placed mile after mile and yet one couldn't help but suspect that the environmental artist Christo and his wife had come by before or after 'The Gates".

With no fixed destination enroute to Calgary, the night's stay was an open option...until a visit to the Saskatchewan Tourist stop made clear that 20 miles south from the highway were tree covered hills and an interprovincial park...Eric definitely had tenting on his mind.

Flexibility goes a long way on these adventures and the park was wonderful. Beautiful lookouts, cool breezes, and even a close up photo with a chocolate moose....which we hope to include in the blog...after a bit more practice with 'uploading'. The large tent, air mattress, and Eric's culinary microwave skills contributed to a perfect evening.

Now in Calgary with dear friends...Eric is getting his fishing gear out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Winnipeg West

Friday morning...and time for a unpack/repack before Calgary. It's amazing how items disappear in the depths of the car's trunk.

Happily, we unpacked before torrents of rain..and repacked in 'dry'. We then headed downtown to the Forks, the French quarter, and the Museum of Manitoba...a treasure of history depicted in scenes, notebooks, and displays. Dinosaurs, buffalo hunts, the arrival of Europeans and their shared experience with native people, animal life below the deep winter snows, the Hudson Bay Company and pictures of its London headquarters...the variety and detail were fabulous.

Later in the afternoon ...after an oil change...we visited Assiniboine Park ...a treasure of opportunities for activities, gardens and wide open spaces. The English Garden is a jewel...and we came upon the groom and his groomsmen arriving for his wedding. Near the garden's entrance was the father of the bride...who was waiting for her arrival. He was dressed to the nines with a handlebar mustache the color of corn silk and the size of the husk.

Driving out of Winnipeg Eric discovered a British "soul food" eatery where he picked up a Cornish Pastie and Scotch egg.

A drive to Brandon took us west...and tomorrow we head towards Calgary.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Misunderstood in Manitoba

A rainy morning and a quick start towards Winnipeg. We crossed the border easily, hopscotched through the detours and headed north, and began to wrap our heads around the metric system.

The countryside is a lacework of lakes, cabins, and fir trees as we drove north through First Nation territories...these are the lands of the native people. As we turned west towards Manitoba, fields, farms, and rich soil filled the landscape as far as the eye could see.

Our first stop in Manitoba was the province's Tourist Center. There were maps, brochures, posters and friendly tips...until Eric inquired asked the location of cycle paths. The moment was Kiwi accent meets Canadian twang.

The agent looked at Eric warily. She was certain Eric had asked where the psychopaths were. She replied that Manitoba had its share of crime.

Eric's face registered the 'disconnect'...and repeated his question. Laughter and hoots followed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ribbons of Lakes and Not a Tent

This morning, a straight line took us north from Duluth after viewing wonderful art at the University of Minnesota's northern campus (they had a special exhibit of the early role of the Royal Canadian Mounties). Our destination - Voyager National Park and its boundary waters....acres and acres of lake with hiking paths accessible by water only.

Now, time for honesty: Eric was increasingly excited as we drove on, and Helen, with rain threatening and storm clouds looming, increasingly tentative! There were wonderful explores and long roads into the visitor stations....tent sites plentiful...and cabins near by...yet one of us was still tentative.

However, Eric, ever creative and exploring, discovered a gem...and definitely not a tent! A wonderful little boutique inn on Rainy Lake directly across from Canada. From the balcony we can see the Canadian coast...and we'll sip coffee in the morning on its deck before heading to Winnipeg. Tonight, we're off to the the local bonfire on the beach.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Following the French Explorers

Canoes, fir trees, French explorers, pushing and portaging towards the textbooks, it was hard for 'Atlantic Coast New Jersey; and 'Pacific Coast New Zealand' to imagine...but driving through Michigan's western Upper Peninsula and and northern Minnesota...lakes string together.

We left St. Ignace with the sun coming up...and headed west. Lake Huron, Michigan and Superior glistened outside the windows...and fir trees 'marched by' one after another.

We stopped along the way to see Picture Cliffs of sandstone, Marquette's marina, the Northern Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, Wisconsin...and on and on. An enormous canoe made clear how much fur traders packed...and the enormity of the landscape was clear from high tower look outs.

Fish and chips were the perfect finish to the day!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Michigan - Great!

Sun, sand dunes, white caps, wind...and a weekend with dear friends - Boo and Walt Eversman - to celebrate 20 years of 'cottage living' in Vermont and Michigan. Delicious meals, sailing and walking, motor boating to dinner, was a postcard weekend of lake activities...and hot dogging down country roads and lanes in a kawasaki mule was a first for Helen while Eric and Walt roamed wide on mountain bikes.

Overall best, however, were the hours of easy conversations, family catch ups and sharing. Somehow lapsed time evaporated and friendship soared.

Monday morning, off to the North...we're now 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zip Zip and the Cell Phone

The Henry Ford Museum - an enormous oasis of American history, cars, trains, and planes. It definitely has a magnetic pull that drew Eric - zip zip - to exhibit highlights...the early model Ts, the early planes, and the '55 Chevy Bel-Air...just like the one he had...Thank heavens for the cell phone, because zip zip, as the magnet drew him to his icons... the cell phone proved an instant GPS.

After a quick picnic, we headed to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan...and a little visit to the big field which accommodates 110,000. Time disappeared and we imagined our god son - now an adult - playing football for Big Blue.

A visit to the Motown Museum brought more time traveling. The museum is the original home of the founder of Motown - Berry Gordy - who transformed his home into a music/recording studio and business office for labels and distribution. Amazing to stand where Smokey Robinson, the Supremes and Stevie Wonder recorded again and again!

An explore to Grosse Pointe brought an array of gorgeous homes and St. Claire lake shore...yet, many 'for sale' signs. Also, in downtown Detroit, empty buildings, empty lots and urban decay are far reaching. Let's hope the factory production increases soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cleveland and Dearborn gems

Dearborn, Michigan...after a wonderful day. Up early with perfect weather conditions and off to the Botanical Gardens in Cleveland. Blue butterflies are gifts of magic...and the varied gardens a wonder...definitely a Cleveland gem. Then....across the street to the Cleveland Fine Arts Museum, best Gauguin's Eric has ever seen. With a three hour drive ahead, we limited our visit, but loved the 19th and 20th century American and European exhibits...Andy Warhol, Alice Neel, it is a historical wonder of treasures...''

At noon, we took off for Michigan...tucked into our motel, and headed to the Islamic Cultural Center....What a special place! The center features the roots of Islamic culture and religion, the immigration of Muslims from many many nations, and their experiences in the U.S....especially how their experience has been impacted by 9/11. This center is a treasure that needs to come out of the shadows.

Tomorrow, MoTown and the Henry Ford Museum...We are so blessed to have this trip and so aware of the impact of empty store fronts in the Detroit area.

Motown tomorrow.

Constant Favorites

Five hours at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.. a true gem featuring music, video clips, memorabilia..and films...from the early 50's to 2009 on the edge of Lake Erie in an absolutely stunning structure designed by I.M. Pei...and two floors featuring Bruce Springsteen...what an UP for NJ.

In the evening we celebrated Ross Collard's birthday with him and his wife Joan. They are currently in Cleveland (from NYC) for a month of business consulting...and what a terrific meal in Cleveland's Little Italy...where Eric discovered the bocce courts. The summer tournament was concluding and we chatted to the local players in 77 degree weather. The tournament was held outside the local community center - the former home of J.D. Rockefeller who donated the site after a fire...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Westward on Route 80

Up early, final flurry of the 'to do' list, and off.

New Jersey in the rear view mirror, and Pennsylvania lay ahead - a state full of beauty and contrasts... pristine farms, Appalachian mountains, summer heat, and patches of driving rain and tornado threats.

Lots of trucks and lots to see...although not Punsxutawney Phil - the Pennsylvania icon of extended winter weather forecasts - and a famous local ground hog...who must have been enjoying the summer sunshine.

History and the present merged as we sped along route 80... a closed GM plant with acres of vacant parking, Kent, Ohio...and memories of the shootings at Kent State University as students protested the American invasion of Cambodia decades ago, and talk on the local NPR station of the reopening of a Cleveland steel plant. The impact of the present recession is very evident.

We're resting up tonight for Rocking & Rolling tomorrow at the museum...We are so blessed and fortunate to have this adventure...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Final Packing

Sunday and the car is just about brimming...we are ready to go. Eric's been captaining the packing...and all is just about done. Have tent, have sleeping bags, have microwave - doesn't everyone travel with one? - and we're off to Cleveland tomorrow.

Eric's schoolmate Cecil from grammar days and his wife Nancy have arrived from Auckland...and sharing days with them is over the top delightful...They will stay in Summit while we are away..and it will be their travel hub.

More tomorrow from Cleveland...Tuesday we're rocking and rolling at the Hall of Fame. Eric's ready.