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Travels with Grama

Eastern Road Trip

Road Trip -Fall 2009

In June, I wasn't able to get away and Doreen was also busy at work so we decided to postpone our trip until a better time.

By October, it was clear, there just wasn't going to be a "better time" in the foreseeable future so we bit the bullet, jumped in the car and lit out for Ontario and parts further south....about 5 hours ahead of a blizzard that was zeroing in on Calgary.

A great deal of time this trip would be spent watching the weather network, trying to avoid storms along the way. There was no doubt in our minds, this was not the time of year to be on the road. Oh well !!

2009 Eastern Photo Album

Friday October 2 - Calgary, Alberta to Swift Current, Saskatchewan

We left after work on Friday, Oct 2nd and got as far as Swift Current, SK where we had a room booked at the Comfort Inn. Weather was clear and cold but behind us was a nasty storm. When we left Swift Current Saturday morning, the car was all crystallized with ice and the sky was dark and dreary.

Another problem about leaving this late in the year....the sun rises too late and goes down way too early. We lose about 5 hours of daylight driving time every day. Ironically, it wasn't something we considered when making the decision to leave in October, but it sure didn't take us long to figure it out.

Saturday October 3 - Swift Current to Winnipeg, Manitoba

Since we were on a direct route to southern Ontario, we stuck to the Trans-Canada Highway all the way to Winnipeg and only made quick stops for gas in Herbert, SK and Brandon, MB.

We had arranged to meet Doreen`s friend Mike from our online pool league for dinner in Winnipeg, so we booked a room at the Four Points Sheraton, not far from his home.

After dinner, I coloured my hair and Doreen succumbed to a severe migraine so it was an early night.

At this point we were still outrunning the bad weather which was nipping at our heels. Our plan was to head south to the border as early as we could in the morning.

Sunday October 4 - Winnipeg to Ashland, Wisconsin

Sprague Border Crossing

The sun was actually shining as we made our way out of Winnipeg Sunday morning. A few miles outside the city, we turned south on Hwy 12, gassed up in Steinbach, MB and followed the quiet two-lane highway all the way to the Sprague border crossing.

The drive was mostly uneventful and I was just saying we must be getting close to the border when suddenly it was there in front of us. We realized all our ID was still packed in the back of the SUV so we pulled over, jumped out and quickly started to retrieve them before entering the gates.

Do you ever get that feeling you are being watched???

We heard a noise behind us and suddenly there was a huge black Suburban and men with guns getting out. From the front of our car, another border patrol vehicle was pulling up on an angle blocking us in. And we were still in Canada. Holy Crap !! Probably the first time in 8 years of travelling we were both speechless at the same time.

It never occurred to us that stopping just a short distance from the border, jumping out and dashing to the back of our car might create a reaction from the men guarding our country.

A short explanation and showing our ID's retrieved from the luggage, quickly defused the atmosphere and the guards were actually very friendly and wished us well on our trip. And no... they don't provide pampers.

Then... they apologized. They said they understood it was a simple error on our part but the American guards were watching and now we had to deal with their officials.

Once on the US side, we did indeed have to deal with the very strange interrogations of one officer. He kept asking if we wanted to change any part of our story because he was going to look inside our purses and now was the last opportunity to make a change in our statement. He asked it at least three times and finally looked inside, found nothing and then said we could go.

We still aren't sure if he was being serious or just for fun, thought he'd try and throw a scare into a couple of old broads. Either way - Thelma and Louise were back on the road with another story for the blog.

Border photos are images from the internet - we didn't think they'd appreciate us pulling out a camera. Besides - we just wanted to get out of there ASAP.

Baudette, Minnesota

Hwy 313 takes you south of the border to Warroad, where it connects to Hwy 11. We followed Hwy 11 all the way south and east to a quaint little border town of Baudette.

After driving for all that time, it was a surprise to find we were again only a stone's throw from the Canadian border and would parallel it thru most of Minnesota. I don't know why we tend to think of borders as a straight line that stays north of the Great Lakes.

Baudette, with a population of just over 1,000, is the county seat of Lake of the Woods County. It is known as the Walleye Capital of the World. The town was destroyed by fire on October 7, 1910.

The Spooner-Baudette Fire, was a large wildfire that burned 300,000 to 360,000 acres in Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, including the twin towns of Spooner and Baudette and the villages of Graceton, Pitt, Williams, and Cedar Spur.

Just before International Falls, we turned south on Hwy 71 to Littlefork, then east on secondary road 217 where we connected with Hwy 53. After gassing up in Virginia, MN, we continued on to Duluth, MN.

About an hour east of Duluth we turned onto Hwy 2 which we followed into Ashland, WI where we spent the night at the Best Western. This hotel was brand new and is situated overlooking the lake. Beautiful setting and reasonably priced.

Monday October 5 - Ashland to South Baymouth, Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Wakefield, MI

Continuing on Highway 2 the next morning under dreary skis we stopped at Sunday Lake just before Wakefield to stretch our legs.

The Road to Nowhere

In Wakefield we missed the turn to take Highway 28 to Marquette. We were heading south before we realized we had missed it and I found a connecting road (or what looked like a connecting road) to get us back to Highway 28. Wrong. What I thought was the turnoff to Hwy 64 was in fact a beautiful little county road that dead ended with the "bridge out".

Eventually we found our way back to Hwy 28, via Hwy 64 around Lake Gogebic, and went merrily on our way.

Lake Superior

Along Hwy 28 we stopped at a roadside park to take pictures of Lake Superior at Au Train Bay. Hovering in the background was one nasty looking storm.

Christmas Michigan

We stopped to shop in Santa's Workshop Novelty Store - a unique experience in October. Santa certainly starts early in Michigan. While thoroughly enjoying myself, I received a phone call from the temp at my office. She was having an emergency. She had run out snacks for guests and didn't know what to do. Right then and there I solved her problem - go buy some. That was the end of my phone being left on.

Christmas, Michigan is located on Lake Superior. It acquired its first Post Office On July 8th, 1966 and was chosen for the First Day Cover of the 1966 Christmas Stamp. Each year many people travel to Christmas to mail cards and presents so that they will show the Christmas post mark.

Christmas was given the name in 1938 by a Munising man who started a roadside factory to make holiday gifts. The factory burned in 1940, but the the community continued to grow. It has a population of approximately 400 and is a popular resort area.

The whole purpose of this trip seemed to be focusing on fall colors. As we passed this old barn the sun broke through giving the barn and trees and a sparkly glow. We screeched to a halt, turned around, but it was too late to capture the effect. We missed the moment.

This was taken along Highway 28 somewhere between Christmas and the Sault Ste Marie turn off on Highway 75.

Sault Ste. Marie

Just our luck, the roads through Sault Ste. Marie were under major construction and missed the turn onto Highway 17. We ended up backtracking and actually starting over. Typical Canadian lack of proper signage.

We gassed up in Blind River. It was now getting dark and still had a long way to go. We continued to Espanola where we turned south on Highway 6 to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. We had reservations at the Huron Lodge and Motel right at the Ferry dock.

Up to the point we had managed to avoid and/or outrun any and all precipitation which accordingly Wikipedia is "rain, sleet, hail, snow and other forms of water falling from the sky".

Tuesday October 6 - South Baymouth to Hanover, Ontario

South Baymouth

The next morning the sun was trying shine. The Ferry wasn't leaving until 11:00 am so we parked our car in the Ferry line then wandered around the shops and had breakfast. This was the last weekend the Ferry was running so the shops were selling everything off in preparation for closing.

Big, Comfortable Canoe

MS Chi-Cheemaun means “The Big Canoe” in Ojibway. It is the largest passenger and car vessel on the Great Lakes. The “Cheech” carries 638 passengers and 143 vehicles between Tobermory on Bruce Peninsula and South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island.

As we were leaving the Ferry, rain drops started to land on our windshield. Taking the slow boat south allowed it to catch up to us.

We stopped in Wiarton to visit with Steve's dad. We had a bit of difficulty finding his house and had to phone Steve for directions. He had moved since the last time I was there.

We took back roads from Wiarton to Sauble Beach. After a quick tour we took Scotch Settlement Road through the reservation to Highway 21 to visit my sister at their Dreammaker Campground. They were in the process of closing the campground for the season so our visit was short.

We then headed to the Bingo Hall in Elmwood to meet my mother. The storm finally caught us. By the time we got to Elmwood we were in the middle of a precipitation blitz. Happiness is yelling BINGO!! Doreen won - but cant remember how much now.

Wednesday October 7 - Hanover, Ontario

We toured around Hanover, visited family, and stopped at Coffee Culture Cafe for specialty coffees and free internet access.

The cafe is housed in the old Bank of Montreal building on main street. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. The coffee and food are the best.

Hanover, Ontario Sideshow

Dunkeld Restaurant

Supper that evening was at the Dunkeld Restaurant with Jim, Sherry and mom.

The classic revival-style inn was built by Hugh Bell in 1868. Built of stones likely plucked from the surrounding fields, the building is of similar vintage as the walls around Walkerton Jail (1866).

A room upstairs in the restaurant was popular for banquets and birthday parties. It operated as a hotel, general store, and post office for 45 years.

The area changed with rural mail delivery and prohibition and the hotel became a private residence for some time. In 1932 it began operating again as a hotel. Many original interior features were maintained.

The Final Change

The restaurant made it's last change on March 11, 2013 when it was destroyed by fire. The fire ignited around 3 am. The fire department got it under control and the restaurant was still standing after the fire. Firefighters were still pouring water on the smoldering debris when the fire flared up again and in it's final fury destroyed the entire building.

There's nothing left of the 145-year-old Dunkeld Restaurant but rubble and memories after the flames. Bystander photographs show the heritage landmark, made of fieldstone and rock elm timber, completely engulfed in flames. A high-hoe was employed to knock down the stone walls to a pile of rubble.

The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal was called in, a mandatory call because the damage estimate exceeded $500,000. OFM confirmed foul play was not suspected but no cause of the fire was determined and the investigation is over.

Dunkeld Inn circa 1868

Walkerton, Ontario

The popular restaurant location was just a crossroads northwest of Walkerton. But in the latter half of the 1800's, the old hotel served a bustling little community. The restaurant was one stop on last year’s Doors Open Tour of Ontario heritage buildings.

This busy hamlet once boasted a blacksmith, wagon shop, a cider and apple butter factory, a cheese factory and a small flag station, where the Wellington Grey Bruce railway line once passed to the west not far away.

Thursday, October 8 - Ingersoll and Stratford, Ontario

Today we packed up Doreen's car and headed south (via heaven only knows what roads) to Ingersoll to visit with my mom's sister, Aunt Toots. We took her for a delayed birthday/Thanksgiving dinner at her favourite restaurant - Ram's Horn. This was last time I was able to visit with Aunt Toots. She passed away December, 2010.

The restaurant had been a fixture at the south east entrance to Ingersoll since the early 1960's. Formerly known as the Road Runner, it became the Ram's Horn in 1980. The restaurant officially closed on March 11, 2012. Something tells me we shouldn't eat out anymore.

Stratford, Ontario

On our way back to Hanover we drove through Stratford where the Shakespeare Festival Theatre is located along the Avon River. Victoria Lake is home to hundreds of ducks, geese and huge swans. It was easy to get pictures. As soon as I got out of the car, they ran to me - expecting food.

The evening was spent visiting with Mom. We called "the Freaks" in Mississauga and Sharon and Joe from Toronto (our online pool league friends) and made arrangements with everyone to meet for dinner the next night.

Friday, October 9 - Hanover to Mississauga, Ontario

St. Jacob's, Ontario

We stopped in St. Jacobs for lunch and a quick wander through the stores. We didn't hang around long as we were pushing to meet everyone in Mississauga.

We passed through Kitchener and did a short tour along King and Erb street before heading out to the 401 to Toronto.

Just outside of Guelph, there was a major traffic jam on the 401. Absolutely nothing was moving so we took the next off-ramp and followed old country roads all the way into Mississauga. It wasn't speedy but at least it was moving and very beautiful scenery along the way. We finally found our bright red Maple Leaves.

Mississauga, Ontario

Once in Mississauga we got a room at the Comfort Inn off Hurontario Street and used the GPS to direct us to the Earls Restaurant. Brian, Barb and daughter Sam (the Freaks) were there to greet us and Sharon and Joe joined us shortly thereafter. A good time was had by all.

We met the Freaks in person for the first time. I also met Sharon and Joe for the first time. Doreen met Sharon and Joe in 2004 when she travelled to Nova Scotia with Sharon. We followed Sharon and Joe back to their home in Toronto for a coffee and short visit before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Saturday October 10 - Mississauga to Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Fall Slideshow

St. Catharines, Ontario

We initially missed the turn to St. Catharines. We got turned around (which was no easy task) and used the GPS to find our way to John's house. After meeting his cat, a cool drink and a few pictures, we headed off to Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

We stayed at the Super 8 North of the Falls, a relatively nice and reasonably priced motel. John helped us lug our bags into the room and plans were made for a tour - compliments of our self-appointed tour guide, John.

City Tour

John was a bit disappointed we didn't want to ride in his pride and joy, but there was no way either one of us could crawl into the back seat of a 2-door Mustang (and I doubt he would sit in the back seat and let us drive). Reluctantly, he agreed to do his commentary from the cheap seats of the Torrent.

Niagara Falls, more specifically, is the name of three waterfalls - the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Canadian side of Niagara Falls located between Goat Island and Table Rock is known as the Horseshoe Falls. With the highest flow rate and beauty, Horseshoe Niagara Falls becomes a holiday spot for millions of people every year.

Horseshoe Falls

We walked around boardwalk overlooking Horseshoe Falls and browsed through the shops. We didn't go on the Maid of the Mist this time. Horseshoe Falls is 170 feet high and 2200 feet wide. The depth of the river at the base of the Falls is approximately 184 feet.

High wire tightrope acts used to be performed across the river. The Horseshoe Falls has a heavier water flow and fewer rocks at its base. Daredevils, therefore, have always concentrated on the Horseshoe Falls for their 'barrel over the Falls' feats.

The first to go over and survive was a 63 year old female school teacher. Apparently John is next.

Whirlpool Aero Car

One of the first stops along the way was the Aero Car at the Niagara Whirlpool. It was closed the last time we were in Niagara (much to my disappointment and Doreen's delight). I was not going to miss out this time. It was a given that Doreen would not be joining me on this little adventure, dangling precariously 200 feet above a raging whirlpool. John and Doreen chickened out and visited in the glorious sunshine, watching safely from the sidelines, while I did my thing. Even Willie would not go with me.

Over time, the eroding power of the mighty Niagara river has cut a basin some 900 feet in diameter and 180 feet deep where the surging river turns back upon itself. The swirling water can trap any floating object for days, grinding huge logs into pulp.

The Whirlpool Aero Car is located 3 miles north of the falls. It was designed by a Spanish engineer Leonado Terres Quevedo and built in Biboa, Spain at a cost of $120,000.00 US. The car held 40 passengers and has been operating since 1916. A round trip travels about 3,600 feet and takes about 10 minutes. Torres-Quevendo's Spanish Whirlpool Aero Car runs between two terminals, which are about 1,770 feet apart and 210 feet above the water.

Bird Kingdom

Our next stop was the Bird Kingdom appropriately named as it houses a 15,000 square foot glass domed habitat for over 300 free-flying tropical birds. It has a rainforest filled with waterfalls, rivers, ponds and an ancient ruined temple. Bird Kingdom

Reptile Encounter Zone - Marlee

The Bird Kingdom also houses mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles. I'm not sure how this happened, but we apparently did not seem to mind Marlee, a huge Albino Burmese Python wrapped around our necks.

On the other hand - we both had an instant dislike for the following creatures.

I wanted to put these pictures of cockroaches and bats in our blogs. Doreen lives in mortal fear of cockroaches and I hate bats so I felt we should include them. Doreen refused as it would give her nightmares - not to mention she'd likely never open the 2009 Eastern Trip page again.

Souvenir City

Time to take a break from sight seeing and do some shopping. The last time we visited Niagara Falls it was raining so heavy we opted out of the last leg of our tour, effectively missing the stop at Souvenir City.

Somehow, even though this is a store, you still feel like your are sight seeing. Souvenir City has 15,000 square feet of Canadiana items & gifts, a First Nations Craft Store and Market Place all in a magical setting. Willie had a ball playing with the larger than life animals and totem poles. I spent an hour photographing our mascot Willie while Doreen and John (still smokers) had a relaxing visit in the beautiful courtyard. Souvenir City

Willie & Friends in Niagara Falls Slideshow

Niagara Falls Hydro

Niagara Falls Hydro diverts enough water to power 24 million 100 watt bulbs. The water is diverted at night and to a greater extent, in the winter. They don't want to spoil the show for the millions of visitors each year.

The Niagara River is also one of the world's great sources of hydro electric power. The river runs 35 miles, dropping 325 feet over that distance. Most of that drop is in a 8 mile stretch of rapids and includes the Horseshoe and American Falls.

In 1893, water was first diverted to power a small 2,200 kilowatt plant built above the Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side.

It was used to power an electric railway running between Queenston and Chippawa.

Vrooman's Battery

We left the main Falls area and headed along the Niagara Parkway towards Niagara-on-the-Lake. Situated on the east side of the Niagara Parkway is the Vrooman's Battery Plaque.

Vrooman’s Battery National Historic Site is located north of the village of Queenston, Ontario on the western bank of the Niagara River. Set on Vrooman’s Point, now on private property, the site overlooks the Niagara River from a strategic position. Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada

Living Water Wayside Chapel

This quaint little chapel erected by the Christian Reformed Church in Niagara Falls is situated on the Niagara Parkway between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls.

The chapel was moved April, 2012 to Walkers Fruit Market - Line 1 & the Niagara Parkway.

The Chapel was originally intended to be a stopover and resting place for visitors along the Niagara Parkway, but it has become so popular as to incorporate wedding ceremonies and attracts visitors from all over the world.

At 10 feet x 10 feet and holding 12 people including the minister, the Chapel claims to be the smallest Chapel in the world. I have not been able to substantiate this claim. Ironically, in 2012, Doreen visited the Little Chapel in Guernsey, Channel Islands, which also claims to be the smallest Chapel in the world. In a world where everyone wants to be known for the being the biggest - many Chapels seem to be be competing for the title "smallest".

Niagara Wineries

Niagara is home to more than 50 world-class wineries. Many of the hotels and wineries offer wine tours and tasting, as well as on-site gift shops and restaurants where wines are paired with gourmet regional cuisine.


A beautiful setting, forts, river, arts, historical sites, grand mansions, gardens and parks all make Niagara-on-the-Lake one of the prettiest towns in Canada. Niagara-on-the-Lake, established in 1781, is one of the most fascinating historical places and it still retains its' 19th century charm and the ambiance of the Victorian era.

Fans Court Restaurant

This restaurant was tucked away behind beautiful park like gardens. We had an enjoyable meal and visit in a quiet atmosphere.

Sadly our tour ended early as Doreen had to run an online pool tournament so we headed back to our motel.

Saturday Night Tourney

Doreen ran her tourney from beautiful Niagara Falls and had a great time visiting with the league players, telling them all about the real "tour guide John", who is also a member of this league - by the name of 48 Pogo.

Sunday October 11 - Niagara Falls to Hartford City, Indiana (Gas City)

The distance from Niagara Falls to Hartford City is only about 400 hundred miles but it seemed like double that distance. There simply is no direct route. We drove through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. We lost a lot of time at the Buffalo Border Crossing and we took so many slow going side roads and had to backtrack so many times that it was well after midnight by the time we arrived at Hartford City to visit Becky, Bill and Franny, more online friends.

Buffalo Border Crossing

We were off to a good start, timewise, until we reached Buffalo. The Border Guard told us it was our lucky day - we were "picked". Oh joy! Why don't we feel lucky? After shuffling through the seemingly endless 18 lanes of cars, we discovered our journey had only just begun. We were directed to park our car in the search facility, leave it without touching anything, and enter the waiting room where several hundred others were ahead of us. We expected to be there for hours. 10 minutes later, our number was called, we approached the wicket, handed in our identification, answered a couple of questions, and took our seats again. Five minutes passed - lo and behold we were called up and finally with interrogation complete and our car successfully searched, we were on our way. Barely 20 minutes had passed and we weren't about to argue.

Peace Bridge

The crossing is called Peace Bridge but by the time we got over it we weren't feeling very peaceful. A check on the statistics for October 11, 2009 reveals that 9,006 vehicles travelled from Canada to US that day - which by the way is a typical day.

There was definitely something going on this year with us and border crossings. In August we were harassed at the Carway Crossing where we later discovered they turned a quart of cream upside down in our cooler effectively ruining our snacks for the weekend. Then we were met by officers with guns at the Sprague Crossing when we stopped to get our passports from our suitcases followed by a purse search, and now the criminal effect at Buffalo. What is it about two old women travelling that causes the whistles and bells to go off?

Seaway Trail

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail, formerly named and commonly known as the Seaway Trail, is a 518-mile National Scenic Byway mostly contained in New York, but with a small segment in Pennsylvania. The Seaway Trail was officially renamed the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in 2010.

The Trail consists of a series of designated roads and highways that travel along the Saint Lawrence Seaway—specifically, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the Saint Lawrence River. It travels through several cities and villages including the cities of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Rochester.

Sea Lion Ship

We followed the Seaway Trail (Hwy 5) south from Buffalo. The area is known as the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt. At the Barcelona Harbor Boat Launch, the Sea Lion ship is dry docked.

A reproduction of a late 16th century 3 masted, square rigged English merchant sailing vessel, the Sea Lion was built in the same manner and with the same tools as the actual ships of her time. After 14 years of painstaking construction, she was commissioned on Chautauqua Lake in 1985.

End of the Trail

The Seaway Trail passes through the heart of Erie, Pennsylvania via a complicated route, in and around the City. If nothing else, it was scenic. The Trail finally ends when it meets US Route 20 at the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Our pictures and gas receipts show that we went through Conneaut, Mount Gilead, and Celina, Ohio but we crisscrossed and backtracked so much on side roads, the exact route we took is a bit of a mystery.

Hartford City

It was pitch dark and well after midnight by the time we we reached Hartford City. Due to inconvenient road closures, we ended up driving in from the north instead of from the east as planned. Becky, being the saint she is, not only waited up for us, but served a hot meal of biscuits and gravy. Bill got up for a few minutes to visit (in his gonch) then headed back to bed. Franny had fallen asleep on the couch waiting for us but did manage to open her eyes long enough to say "hi".

Gas City, Indiana

We had a hotel room booked at the Best Western in Gas City. By the time our heads hit the pillow, we were totally exhausted and we have no idea if the beds were good or not. We really didn't give a darn.

Monday October 12 - Hartford City to Berea, Kentucky

We could barely drag ourselves out of bed, but finally we hit the road. First, we went into Hartford City and ordered some flowers to be delivered to Becky. She had to work in the morning so we can imagine how rough she much have felt after our middle of the night fiasco.

From Hartford City we travelled east to Celina and then south on Hwy 75 to Berea, Kentucky, where we stayed for the night.

The only thing I remember about today's drive was that we were heading south, really tired, and it was pouring rain. Everything was cold and damp. Well, at least it wasn't snowing! Behind us snow has hit Calgary, Winnipeg and Pennsylvania.

Tuesday October 13 - Berea to Lebanon,Tennessee

The weather wasn't much better this morning. Everything was dark and dreary. On the positive side though - everything was green. Only a few trees in this area had started to turn colour.

The Wilderness Road

In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed a trail into Kentucky using parts of established trails made by native people and herds of bison and other large animals. "Boone's Trace" passes about three miles east of here. The road through the area known as the Rockcastle Hills is called "The Wilderness Road".

A few miles from Berea is The Wilderness Road turnoff to the monument for Camp Wildcat. After driving about 5 miles, we realized that somewhere along the way we had missed it. The sign said 2 3/4 miles but we weren't sure if that meant the site or another turnoff road to it was 2 3/4 miles. Regardless, we continued on about 5 more miles.

Happy Hollow Hazel Patch Road

This area is in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The scenery was really pretty and we did find a uniquely named road "Happy Hollow Hazel Patch Road". It was tempting to keep going and explore but we were getting pretty deep into the mountain road so just smiled, snapped a picture, and turned around.

Camp Wildcat Civil War Battlefield

Led by General Felix K. Zollicoffer 7,500 Confederates on October 21, 1861 attacked the entrenched camp of 5,000 Union men under General Albin Schoepf. Union's natural defense advantage in the Rockcastle Hills stopped the Southern troops who retreated to Tennessee. This was a major battle during 4 days of skirmishes, attacks and heavy gunfire.

Highway 25, Kentucky & Tennessee

Driving down Hwy 25 between Camp Wildcat and LaFollette left us with some mixed emotions. Lurking behind the incredible natural beauty of the landscape is an area where extreme poverty is evident. People live in crumbling shacks and dilapidated travel trailers along the road. Ditches and yards are filled with discarded appliances, cars, tires, and garbage. There is an overwhelming feeling of despair. Vacant and burned out buildings had been left so long the vegetation was growing over them.

Somewhere between sympathy and disgust, there came some understanding. We realized that poverty had taken the most important thing from these people - pride.

LaFollette, Tennessee

It was time to shake off the blues and figure out where Rebby (a long-time online friend) lives. Doreen was going only by memory, as she drove down the main street, reacquainting herself with LaFollette and hoping something would jump out from her memory banks. We were beginning to think we would not be able to find his house, until she spotted the Tattoo Parlor which she remembered was right across the street from him.

Unannounced, we knocked on the door and explained to his rather startled wife who we were. Rebby was not feeling too well, so our visit was short but at least I did get to finally meet him.

Rebby's daughter phoned Jackie and Mike (Rebby's family) for us and we headed out to meet them. They were pretty surprised to see us, too. After a whole bunch of hugs, a couple of pictures, and lots of laughs, we said our goodbyes and continued on our way.

Hwy 25 connects with Hwy 75 just south of LaFollette. At Knoxville we turned west on I-40 and stopped at Lebanon east of Nashville for the night. The weather was still overcast and we kept running in and out of rain. Coming down Hwy 25, we seemed so very far from home but as soon as we turned west on I-40, facing familiar ground, home seemed just a stone's throw away.

Wednesday October 14 - Lebanon to Sallisaw, Oklahoma

Memphis, Tennessee

This is the second time we've been to Memphis so we didn't plan on visiting Graceland. We did, however, drive down Elvis Presley Blvd. to the gift shop across the street from it.

I bought several gift items and Doreen bought two books, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love.

The last time we were in Memphis we nearly melted in the heat. This time, we had on our fall jackets and long pants and were certainly more comfortable. Weather now was overcast but only little spits of rain.

The rest of the day was uneventful - so much so that we didn't even take pictures other than the Welcome to Arkansas and Welcome to Oklahoma signs. Gaining a lot of distance in a short time was the only positive thing happening on I-40 and for now, distance was our objective.

We ate at the IHOP in Russellville, Arkansas and stayed in Sallisaw, Oklahoma at the Motel 6 for the night.

Thursday October 15 - Sallisaw to Moriarty, New Mexico

Today would be another long day putting on the miles. We remained on I-40 and passed through Oklahoma, Texas and into New Mexico. Gas receipts today were from Clinton, Oklahoma and Tucumcari, New Mexico.

This portion of I-40 also follows old Route 66, which helped make it a bit more interesting. Many of the old towns and abandoned businesses can be seen from the interstate highway. It is heartbreaking to see how an interstate can destroy so many livelihoods.

Cherokee Trading Post

Our first stop today was at the Cherokee Trading Post at Clinton, Oklahoma. This was a familiar stop for us and we spent a happy half hour shopping.

The Trading Post sells handcrafted Indian Jewellery, beaded moccasins, and other Native American Artifacts including pottery, sculptures, and paintings.

Gray County Safety Rest Area

This new facility at mile marker 131 was actually under a man made hill. The Texas DOT Website explains that the State's Safety Rest Areas have been completely updated. Their list includes, in part, climate control, larger parking lots, weather and road conditions, play areas and Tornado Shelters.

Groom, Texas

It's amazing what you stumble on while simply driving merrily along. Even more amazing is what you can find out about them. I snapped pictures of these two oddities just outside of Groom, Texas. Curiosity bites us. Why is there a Cross out in the middle of nowhere and why doesn't that water tower fall over? We had to Google these questions and find out. Groom, Texas - Wikipedia

Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ

This 19 story 190 foot Cross can be seen for 20 miles in any direction. Constructed in Pampa, Texas and moved to it's location, the Cross weighs well over 2 million pounds. At the base of the Cross are bronze sculptures of Jesus' journey to the Cross. Quite amazing too, is the way the sun shines on the Cross in our picture. Cross Ministries

The Leaning Tower of Bitten

Bitten is not a town. It refers to Ralph Bitten owner of a truck stop that closed decades ago. The water tower, at mile marker 114, was strategically placed to draw your attention to the truck stop along what was then Route 66. Now it only serves to break the monotony of the I-40 drive.

By the time we crossed into New Mexico the sun was setting. We stopped at the Flying J in Tucumcari for gas but decided to drive for a few more hours. We were on the homeward push now and didn't want to be rushed through our favourite area - southern Utah.

The day ended with an exquisite sunset near mile marker 321 at Palomas, New Mexico.

We stopped for the night at Moriarty, NM just east of Albuquerque.

Friday October 16 - Moriarty to Salina, Utah

There's always an upbeat feeling when we are planning our route around Hwy 261 Utah and we would be there today. To add to the euphoria -we were getting into the red rocks and there wasn't a cloud in the sky!

We continued east on I-40 to Albuquerque then north on I-25 and Hwy 550 to Farmington, west on Hwy 64 into Arizona and north on Hwy 160 to the Four Corners Monument. Gas receipts today were from Cuba, New Mexico and Blanding, Utah.

Shiprock, New Mexico

The Navajo name for the peak, Tsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock", refers to the legend of the great bird that brought the Navajo from the north to their present lands. The name "Shiprock" derives from the peak's resemblance to an enormous 19th-century clipper ship.

The peak and surrounding land are of great religious and historical significance to the Navajo people. It is mentioned in many Navajo myths and legends. Foremost is the peak's role as the agent that brought the Navajo to the southwest. According to one legend, the Navajos lived on the monolith, coming down only to plant their fields and get water. One day, the peak was struck by lightning, obliterating the trail and leaving only a sheer cliff, and stranding the women and children on top to starve. The presence of people on the peak is forbidden for fear they might stir up the chį́įdii (ghosts) or rob their corpses.

"The Monuments are sacred to the Navajo people and any human interaction (by Navajo or non-Navajo) is strictly off limits. Please abide by the humble religious requests of the Navajo people and do not climb the Monuments. Permits are issued by the department to camp and hike in some areas, but not for sacred monuments such as Shiprock." Navajo Parks and Recreation Department

Four Corners

Visiting Four Corners is always fun. There are vendors selling native artifacts, jewellery, pottery and food. Many of the booths were already vacant as this was the last week before they close up for the winter. There were not many tourists here today.

While we were still in short-sleeves and sandals, the natives had on toques and jackets.

Four Corners consists of the southwestern corner of Colorado, northwestern corner of New Mexico, northeastern corner of Arizona and southeastern corner of Utah. The Four Corners area is named after the quadripoint where the boundaries of the four states meet, where the Four Corners Monument is located. It is the only location in the United States where four states meet. The majority of the Four Corners region belongs to semi-autonomous Native American nations, the largest of which is the Navajo Nation, followed by Hopi, Ute and Zuni tribal reserves and nations.

We headed west on Hwy 160, then north on Hwy 191 to Hwy 163. Seeing the fall foliage in this area was a new experience for us. Usually we are here just as things start to turn green.

Along the river, even the red rock seemed to have lost its brilliant colours.

Painted Desert

The Painted Desert is an expanse of badlands, hills, mesas and buttes in the north central area of Arizona. The strip of land 160 miles long and 10 to 35 miles wide extends from the Grand Canyon to the Petrified Forest. Irregularly eroded layers of red and yellow sediment and clay have left striking bands of color.

Highway 261, Utah

We're back! Sometimes we have a hard time stopping ourselves from jumping around in our seat in anticipation of the drive on this highway. We certainly have a hard time staying in the car. This year we should have locked Willie in the barn.

The road is always the same but only in the way it affects us. Each year we notice changes - some small some major. Every year we take more and more pictures and we are still in awe of the beauty.

This sign with the first curve in the background is like an open door invitation and the cliffs that follow for the next 3 miles are like comforting arms around us.

Willie's Cliff Hanger!

We stopped at the top lookout and I got out to take a photo using Willie in the foreground. I set Willie on the abutment, took a few steps and when I turned back, he was gone. A gust of wind blew him over the edge. Doreen was sitting in the car watching the whole scene. I looked back at her. She said the look on my face was priceless.

OK - not funny. We have a problem. Willie is hanging precariously by a twig. If he gets dislodged from the twig (and all it would take is another wind gust), it is game over - 100 feet straight down type of game over. He was out of arm's reach, we didn't have anything long enough to try to hook on to him, and there is absolutely no way either of us is going to crawl down that ledge. After all, we were not going to risk our lives over a stuffed horse.

And then, along came Jones, tall thin Jones
Slow walkin' Jones, slow talkin' Jones
Along came long, lean, lanky Jones

Well, we don't know what his name was but believe it not, this hero cowboy crawled over the barrier and down the edge and rescued Willie. When we tried to stop him, all he said was "I climb mountains - this is nothing". After all was said and done though, he did say "this thing blows over again ladies, you're on your own".

I heeded his words and promptly put Willie back on the abutment, but this time where the rocks behind didn't drop off 100 feet straight down.

With Willie safe and sound and our cowboy driving off into the sunset, we bid goodbye to Hwy 261 for another year.

We followed Hwy 261 north to Hwy 95, east to Blanding to connect with Hwy 191 north to I-70. We spent the night in Salina, Utah.

Saturday October 17 - Salina to Great Falls, Montana

We were on the final stretch now. Today we drove 600 miles but since we were on I-15, it was an easy drive. Gas receipts were from Payson, Utah and Dubois, Idaho. We are not sure what road we took north from Salina but we had connected with the I-15 by the time we reached Payson. We stayed at the Best Western in Great Falls, MT for the night.

As we passed through Montana, it was pretty obvious what we had missed. The first snowfall of the season had hit while we were away.

Sunday October 18 - Great Falls to Calgary, Alberta

We gassed up in Great Falls and headed out for the final 5 hours of our trip. Fortunately, with the exception of rain in Kentucky and Tennessee, we had managed to outrun the bad weather.

The Family, Friends & Foliage trip was a success. We visited our friends Mike in Winnipeg, the Freak Family in Mississauga, Sharon & Joe in Toronto, 48 Pogo in Niagara Falls and Rebby, Mike and Jackie in LaFollette. We visited with my family in Hanover and Ingersoll and all along the way enjoyed Mother Nature's amazing kaleidoscope of colours.

Next - 2010 Destination Unknown