Tour by car from  home in Burlington ON, with visits to parents in Wallaceburg ON and family in Nelson BC and finally home to Burlington in the spring.


16 Jan 07 Wallaceburg, ON (stopover)

 After packing up and visiting Bertha, we got on the road about noon. We had made one stop for a last-minute gift for Somer, too. It was a short travel day since we were stopping for our first night in Wallaceburg. We had a great visit with Mom and dinner at the Oaks. The van seems very full, with Larry’s ski gear and clothes for every weather, plus food, leisure materials and computer stuff. Is it possible to travel light? Not, apparently, if you’re a Hatt! Just to complicate things, the Peru trip that we were 90% certain was OFF, suddenly was 100% ON, as of about 5 pm on Monday. So we had to scramble to pay the travel agent and we’ll need to arrange passports, shots and so on while we’re away. There’s only about a 3-week pause between when we return from this trip and leave for Peru. Yikes!!

[Larry’s comments or additions will be in square brackets like these]. We got away at noon today after a brief visit with Grandma Hatt and a Somer pickup at Ikea. Gma Hatt was having her feet attended to so we didn’t stay long. She recognized us, and seemed to understand our trip to an extent.  At Ikea we picked up a wooden easel for Somer’s Christmas present. We are overnighting in Wallaceburg at the normal Oaks motel. We had a good visit with Gma P for the afternoon, and she came out with us to the Oaks Restaurant for a nice dinner. We would have gone to the Black Sheep but she was out there for lunch with a friend. She wanted to bring her own car so she could drive herself home. Larry has set up the computer for the test of remote access to the website and is actually making this post while Janice is returning to the residence with Gma P. I was greatly relieved that access to the website via FTP is working like a charm; it would be tough to fix it from here. We plan on leaving early in the morning

and crossing with the ferry at Walpole Island into USA.  

 We then cross the north of Detroit and head through Chicago and plan to overnight in Madison, Wisconsin. [Madison is where Janice spent several years after she was first married. We shall see if she remembers anything about the locale!]


17 Jan 07

We left Wallaceburg before 8am and crossed at the Walpole Island ferry.[ arriving to USA ]. The US customs agent confiscated our picnic roast beef, but otherwise we had no problems. Larry did some fancy navigating to avoid Detroit and get us onto I90/94 heading for Chicago. We had a frigid ( and meatless ) picnic at a rest stop, and cruised into downtown Chicago in the early afternoon. There were a few very seedy areas, but the waterfront and downtown look quite spectacular. We’ll have to go there for a few days sometime and really see it. From there it was a fairly uneventful run to Madison, Wisc. We got a hotel on the outskirts and drove down to the capital square.   It’s still gorgeous, but Rennebaum’s Drug Store is now a Walgreen’s. We had a beer and supper at what I think was the pub we used to go to, but I wasn’t successful at identifying where we lived 37 years ago. I certainly recognized the frigid winds.


18 Jan 07 Chamberlain, South Dakota


We got a fairly early start from Madison and headed west on I-90. It was a windy day with snow in the air. That made driving a bit tricky and we did see some cars in ditches. Other than the weather it was a n uneventful drive. At Lacrosse, Wisc. , we saw the mighty Mississippi – mostly frozen over in this weather.  We climbed up out of the Mississippi Valley and onto the plains. Over the course of the day we saw very flat and very rolling land, as well as some deep “coulees” ( the local name for gulleys ). We both had come away without some essentials so around noon we found a Kmart and shopped for a bit. We decided to eat at the grill rather than having another freezing lunch out of the back of the van. The weather cleared for awhile, then went back to blowing snow. After more of that we were nearly ready to get off the road at Sioux Falls in mid-afternoon. However, once again it cleared, so we motored on to Chamberlain SD. From the front of our motel we can see the Missouri River.  Good supper at the famous Casey’s Café (where Cracker Barrel got the idea ). 


19 Jan 07 Gillette, Wyoming

Camping World's Guide to RVing Badlands National Park: South Dakota -  Camping World After a couple of days of pretty flat land and hard driving, today was chock-full of interest. We were on the road in time to see the sunrise in our rear view mirrors and pulled off to get a better look. It was beautiful – there is such an expanse of sky out here that it is quite amazing. Our first adventure was the scenic loop through the Bandlands.  What wonderful formations and colours! The road is only about 35 miles long, but we made frequent stops and took many photos. We walked one very short trail, to the edge of a canyon and then one longer one that climbed above a very interesting rock formation, through the woods. At one overlook we could see two herds of white-tailed deer, about 15 deer per herd. Interesting that they divide up so evenly – Larry commented that he didn’t know they could count! We stopped at the Visitors’ Center to watch the movie about the area. It seems that it is equally brown in summer as now. Checkout the day's photos altogether


The road brought us out at Wall, South Dakota – home of the famous Wall Drug Stores. It’s much more than a drug store now. The complex takes up a whole long block of the downtown area, and includes several areas with specialty shops and a restaurant. We picked up a few souvenirs and admired the local crafts, including the beautiful Black Hills gold which is several colours (yellow, white, pink, green ). My dad bought my mom a broach of it when he came here hunting about 45 years ago, and she still wears it occasionally. It had warmed up a bit – we even ate our picnic lunch in the Wall Drug parking lot, after nearly perishing at the early stops in the Badlands. Our next stop was Mt. Rushmore. The road is long and winds up and downhill. There were few cars, just as there have been for a day or two, on the highway. Anyway – Mount Rushmore looks like the pictures, but also not. It’s higher on the mountain than I expected and the carvings are a bit smaller. Great to visit. Amazing to imagine carving it out of the mountain.   From there we took a cross-country route back to I-90 through the Black Hills National Forest, passing through the famous frontier town of Deadwood. Turns out there’s a casino about every 3 feet all over town. Now we’ve stopped for the night at the Quality Inn in Gillette Wyoming. Big plans for tomorrow and fingers crossed for a few more days of good weather.

All Photos 19 Jan 2007


20 Jan 07 Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming


Once again we were on the road in time to enjoy the sunrise in our rear-view mirror. It was less spectacular than yesterday but enjoyable nonetheless. Our first mission was to find chains for the tires. To that end we drove to a Honda dealership in Sheridan, Wyoming. They directed us to a tire shop down the road. The manager there told us that our tires were a very unusual size and no one carried chains for them. We decided to try in Billings, Montana anyway. Before that however, we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield site. 

It was nearly deserted and very cold, but we both found it very moving. There are two memorials – one erected by the US Army, to the memory of the soldiers who died there, and one by the American Indians to the memory of the men, women and children who died there in defense of their way of life. There are memorial stones scattered across the area showing where soldiers and warriors fell. The small museum is excellent too. From there we headed to Billings, MT and really lucked in . We found a tire store that was open ( unusual on a Saturday afternoon [ in these parts ] and they directed us to their supplier who had the cable chains we needed in stock. We could breath easier with those in our possession for sure. We had lunch in Billings and struck out for Yellowstone National Park. As we neared our turn off the weather really began to deteriorate and we drove the 50 miles to Gardiner MT in heavy snow. Once into the park  it was quite treacherous driving, winding through the hills. However we found the hotel, signed on for a 2-night package including 2 tours for tomorrow and a private hot tub session. Delicious dinner in the dining room and a early night. We even saw elk grazing around the hotel here in Mammoth Hot Springs.

All Pictures 20 January


21 Jan 07 Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone


An early start to catch the “ Wake Up the Animals tour [that took off] at 6:45. We and another couple were taken [ in the dark ] to Lamar Valley (the Serengeti of Yellowstone ). We saw many, many bison  and elk, some quite close to the vehicle. We also saw lots of ravens. The high point though, was watching 4 wolves as they scouted a herd of elk and the elk used various tactics to fend them off. While Larry was on the road watching [ eyes in the binocs ], 2 coyotes  trotted past him about 10 feet away. Overhead a couple of bald eagles soared and swooped. The whole trip was amazing and the scenery was spectacular. We went back at the hotel around 10:15 and did a quick trip to the Visitors Center to get trail maps. We walked to a couple of the hot springs near the hotel here at Mammoth then picnic’d in our room. After lunch we headed out on a tour to the Norris Geyser Basin (VIDEO). We had the same guide, Paul, but a very different experience. A van picked us and a family of 5 up at the hotel at 12:15, but it only took us a couple of miles. We transferred to a Bombardier snow-cat vehicle  and were issued with ear plugs. We then proceeded over hard-packed snow roads, stopping at a few points of interest. There were few animals, none close up. But there were amazing hot springs  and areas with many steam vents across a pretty broad area. We saw frozen waterfalls and steaming streams full of [ tropical ] vegetation. There were snow drifts and areas where the ground was hot enough that the snow didn’t stay on it. At the Norris Basin we hiked for about an hour and saw many manifestations of geothermal activity – several “constant spouters” – small geysers that sploosh out water every few seconds or minutes, and steam most of the time. The most impressive was Steam Boat Geyser. It had several 10 foot eruptions while we watched and many smaller ones. It apparently has 70 foot eruptions fairly often and “major” (!?!) every few years. Then a noisy rough ride back to the hotel by about 4:45. [ a few drink in the room, dinner, and that free hot tubing, a musical slide presentation from a guide, put us to bed real early.

All Photos 21 January


22 Jan 07 Yellowstone WY to Nelson, BC

Up early to be in the dining room when breakfast started at 6:30, then out the slippery road from the park. Along the park road we saw a herd of bison at the edge of the road, and then had to stop for a buck elk standing on the road. Another one crossed just ahead of us. The weather was deteriorating, so we headed directly for Nelson. The Interstate was fine to Coeur d’Alene, but going north the smaller roads were a bit dicey [ horrible ] but we got to Nicole and Chris’s shortly after dinner time. Chris was shoveling out parking for us when we arrived, but their driveway was pretty heavy going.

23 Jan 07 Nelson, BC


Wonderful day discovering how grown up and clever Somer is. Both Nicole and Somer are suffering from a bad cold, so are laying low. But Somer loves to read books and is acquiring new words at an amazing rate. She loves to find out the names of things and then practice them. So Grandma Jan decided to work on “armpit” with her. Sure enough she quickly mastered the idea and the word. In the afternoon Larry and Chris went out to Whitewater to enjoy the 8” of new powder. [ great to ski in rather than drive through the night before ]. Since we were still on Eastern time, it was an early night.

All Photos 23 January


24 Jan 07 Nelson, BC

 Nicole still wasn’t feeling like being in a crowd, so Somer and Grandma Jan went to Mother Goose Time at the Nelson Public Library. We met Amy and Gracie [ 1 ¾ yr ] and the girls had a good time singing and playing and listening to a story. Afterwards we went to the Kootenay Bakery for lunch, where Somer demonstrated her advanced soup-eating skills. Amy delivered us home. Meanwhile Larry & Chris were working on getting the van out of the parking space and turned around facing out. In the end Chris had to drag it out using his truck and climbing rope. It proved to be impossible to install the chains in the parking spot [ because the wheels were so deep in snow ]. We saw deer around the house just wandering and nibbling.

All Photos 24 January


25 Jan 07 Nelson, BC

Larry planned an early departure to Rossland but was thwarted by the driveway. The van simply couldn’t do it, and eventually we had to get tow=truck to pull it out to the main road. Then he was off for a couple of days of fun with Hugh and Maryetta at Red Mountain. Jan decided to learn to use the bread maker. What fun to throw in a few ingredients and have a fresh delicious loaf of bread 3 hours later! In the afternoon Nicole, Chris, Somer and Jan went to the Nelson Recreation Complex for a swim and then to the Diner on Baker St. for dinner. The swimming facilities are great – several pools and a hot tub. Somer enjoyed riding the current in the kiddies pool. The same complex has a skating rink and after watching figure skaters for a bit, Somer chattered about hockey for the rest of the evening.


26 Jan 07 Nelson, BC

Larry was enjoying his second day at Red and the rest of us took it a bit easy. While Somer napped, Nicole and Jan walked to the point and on to Taghum Beach to see the ducks. Of course they were all at a distance, but we had binoculars so enjoyed watching them. Larry was home for dinner and hot-tubing. He prudently left the car at Amy and Marcus’s.


27 Jan 07 Nelson, BC

We headed into Nelson for brunch at the “PEACE” restaurant and it was yummy as always. Then we headed for the museum to take in the Freshly Squeezed installation. It was really interesting and very informative, as well as being fun to look at. [ it was a study/demonstration of the process of design ]

Somer enjoyed running around and looking at the parts at her eye level. The museum was terrific too with many well-presented materials and pictures of Nelson history. Somer enjoyed the Canoe and movies of fish and talked about them for days.

All Photos 27 January


28 Jan 07 Nelson, BC

Nicole, Chris and Somer were out at a birthday party for Nieva for the morning. Somer came home with a balloon (BAL-oon) and a package of stickers she won in a game. They had a bonfire and tubing, and the older kids road a canoe down the driveway. Meanwhile, Grandma Jan had progressed to level 2 bread making and was creating hamburger buns at home. Came out rather well, if I do say so as shouldn’t. After rap time we all headed for the Garveys’ for dinner. Chris, Larry, Somer and Jan walked over, and on the way saw a couple of deer. We were warmly greeted by Amy, Marcus, Grace and Champ [the dog] and Amy’s parents, Jean and Blake, who are visiting from Washington State. Nicole arrived later with salad and buns and we all enjoyed a delicious meal of home-made burgers with great conversation and much laughter. Near the end of the evening Jan bean to sneeze and snuffle. Uh-Oh maybe the hot tub will fend it off.


29 Jan 07 Nelson, BC

 Sure enough, Jan’s sniffles turned into a full-blown cold, so it was a quiet day. Larry felt a little under the weather too so was happy to comply with that. Heard Nicole cancelled their plans to ski at Whitewater and she went off to take care of some errands in town. In late afternoon we finally got to do our belated Christmas celebration – stockings for the adults and gifts for Somer. We did Christmas crackers and donned paper hats. Somer liked her gifts and loved crawling into the bags. She got a book, Little Miss Chatterbox, in her stocking and stopped to “read” through it before going on to the rest of the stuff. Then we feasted on home-made squash soup and had a last hot tub session before bed. Shortly after we turned in, we heard the eerie and frightening sound of a coyote outside. It seamed to be on this side of the river, though we thought they were all on the other side.


30 Jan 07 Nelson, BC to LaGrande, Oregon

Leaving Nelson was difficult, as it always is. We had a wonderful visit and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We were up early and dropped Somer at the Garveys’, giving us a chance to say goodbye to them too. Nicole headed out cross-country skiing. The roads were still difficult from all the snow. At the Border we spent nearly 30 minutes with a very pleasant young woman who was thorough but most friendly. Fortunately this time we had no items confiscated. By the time we got to Spokane the roads were clear. They stayed good until we had passed Pendleton, Oregon. 

The pass between there and La Grande, OR was really socked in with fog and we crawled through it in company with a lot of transports. We were happy to come out of it and find a motel in downtown LaGrande. Dinner at the sports bar next door and an early night.

All Photos 30/31 January


1 Feb 07 Ogden, UT to Cedar City, UT


[ First: Happy Birthday to Logan Dodsworth, who is 4 years old today. Hi 5, Logan! ] 
We found it much easier to navigate once we found a Salt Lake City map. It’s still a convoluted city with numbered streets working out from Temple Square [headquarters for the Mormon Church, worldwide ],

It’s possible to be at the corner of N 300 W and W 300 N – I think. Anyway, we parked about 3 or 4 blocks from Temple Square, and walked there on falling snow. We were warmly greeted by two lovely young women – missionaries from Australia and Paraguay - who gave us a tour . As non-Mormons, we couldn’t enter the temple, but there are virtual tours. [ as well as tours of supporting buildings ] It’s just amazing! We chatted with several people – they are, for the most part, volunteers or missionaries. All very interesting and friendly. After Temple Square, we crossed the street to the Conference Centre, an awesome building with an auditorium that seats 21,000 people
and has no pillars or other obstacles,  so all seats have clear view. [ we were treated like VIPs with a private tour guide, much like our 2 little missionaries in the Square ] The other spaces and the exterior are also wonderful. The snow continued to fall as we walked uphill several blocks to the state capitol environs. Then back to the Temple area where we found a mall with a food court and a Macy’s. After lunch we headed back to the car, successfully navigated our way back onto Interstate 15 and headed south. We were concerned about the roads, since we had seen two cars skid into each other at a stoplight; however, Larry managed the difficult, snowy conditions for the first few hours after entering the highway. It had cleared well before we reached Cedar City and found a hotel. Now for Thursday night TV. [ the country-side was rolling, barren hills, plains with mountains on each side and a few snowy passes – some spectacular vistas. All through our trip through Utah we listened to a 5-DVD narrative about fanatically religiously inspired murders by 2 brothers of another brother’s family. The narrative of the murders was interposed with a very complete history of the Mormon Church, from its birth in New York State in the early 19th century to present day. It was chilling and interesting at the same time and offered a fascinating juxtaposition with our tour of Temple Square.]

All Photos 1 Feb 07


2 Feb 07 Cedar City, UT to Zion National Park, UT

 On the way south from Cedar City we saw many rifts and the land became increasingly broken. The road into Zion National Park is far tamer than we’ve experienced at places like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but the scenery is spectacular. Once inside the park gates, we stopped at the visitors’ centre for maps and advice. We walked one of the trails that led uphill from there and enjoyed more terrific views. We walked one more short trail before arriving at the Lodge. There we checked in, selecting a cabin with a fireplace. 

 We decided this was a golden opportunity to do some organizing, so made several trips to the car to bring stuff inside. We made lunch and enjoyed it in the cabin, then headed to the far end of the canyon to a trail we’d been advised was best in the early afternoon. There are no huge crowds here, but the weather is just about perfect for walking or hiking, so there were people every where we went. I wore my new winter hiking boots for the first time and have declared them a success. We went to the end of the Temple of Sinawara trail and were astonished by the towering red and white cliffs.
The trail was paved the whole way and most slopes were very gentle. Easy route to wonderful views. We then worked our way back to the Lodge, walking parts of two or three other trails. This park is a really unique place in our experience and, although we didn’t see any wildlife except squirrels, well worth the visit.  After dinner we walked across the road to a very dark parking lot to view the stars and the moonlight on the cliffs. Priceless!

All Photos 1/2 February


3 Feb 07 Zion NP to Las Vegas and Kingman, Arizona

 Awesome to wake up surrounded by Zion’s 2000 foot cliffs! They’re lovely in the early morning sun.

We enjoyed a lavish breakfast at the Lodge and then a beautiful drive out to the highway. We were “bound for Vegas baby”! We were able to find easy, free parking at the Fashion Show Mall, so used that as our base for the day. We wandered through a few casinos, had lunch at the vast buffet at Treasure Island and explored the canals of Venice thoroughly. What a busy happenin’ place it is! And what a variety of people – ordinary middle class middle agers in running shoes and comfort-fit jeans, all the way to a bride in a billowing train with 2 pink-haired attendants.

After leaving Las Vegas, we crossed the Hoover Dam and stopped for a couple of photos looking down on it. Quite an impressive piece of engineering - holding back Lake Mead. The next section of driving continued the very “crumply” landscape we’d seen before Vegas. It’s almost as if someone has randomly bulldozed and shoveled soft piles of debris hither and thither. Every once in a while there is a small rift or jaggy hill, and everywhere there are sage brush, mesquite, and sometimes tumbleweed. Little huddles of trailers here and there on the desert. We’ve stopped for the night at Kingman, AZ, right on the fabled Route 66.

All Photos 3 February


4 Feb 07 Kingman AZ to Grand Canyon AZ

  A bright sunny morning as we approach Grand Canyon National Park. There are signs of recent snow beside the road, but the roads themselves are clear. We checked in Maswik Lodge for 2 nights – no internet so this will be posted later – and then walked to the closest overlook for the Canyon.

Breathtaking, for sure. The scale is astonishing – it’s a mile to the bottom and 10 miles across! And the colours are as wonderful as all the pictures show. We’re both still feeling the effects of our colds, so are taking it slow and easy. Larry, particularly, is congested and coughing. We opted for a drive along the rim to the west, with stops at a few overlooks. Each viewpoint offers new amazement. There’s still ice on the road and paths, though, so we’re being very cautious. Finally, back to our room for the Super Bowl. A dash to the cafeteria for a quick dinner during half time and a relaxed evening.

All Photos 4 Feb 07


5 Feb 07 At Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

 Another bright blue sky day – we’re very lucky with the weather. Last week it was blinding snowstorms here so travel was risky and views very limited. We spent the morning visiting the rest of the overlooks to the west, all the way to Hermit’s Rest, a cute old building from the days of stagecoach trips.

[ the hermit was actually a Canadian named Boucher who built a cabin on the edge in mid 19th century, and the cabin is still here ]. We picked up a few souvenirs there, then lunched and relaxed for a while in our room. We hope to both feel better soon, but the colds linger. Larry’s cough seems worse. Our afternoon adventure was a self-guided tour of historic Grand Canyon Village. We timed it to be at the railway station in time to see the daily train pull out and wave to the conductor. The old buildings here are interesting; most of them were designed by a woman named Mary Colter, whose style was to blend in as much as possible with natural surroundings. She did an excellent job.

All Photos 5 Feb 07


6 Feb 07 Grand Canyon AZ to Camp Verde AZ

  We were awake early, so grabbed coffee from the cafeteria and made our way to the recommended outlook to view the sunrise. Though we missed the colourful preliminaries, we did see the canyon to the west light up as the rising sun had it. Then back to our room for breakfast and to pack up for the next stage.

 We left the park by the opposite route from the one we came in by, and stopped at several outlooks over the canyon. Last night, the speaker, Jim, had recommended Lipon Point as the best view of the geology, and it was great. But the best was likely Desert View, where we climber the Lookout Tower and could see far in two directions down the canyon , as well as out over the Painted Desert. Leaving the park, we drove through desert, catching occasional glimpses of smaller canyons, to Flagstaff, then on to Oak Creek Canyon [Little did we know that we would vacation here much later with Nicole and Wes's family]. It is smaller, of course, but has similar spectacular formations, especially near Sedona. Driving in the canyon and seeing from below is interesting, We made and early stop in Campe Verde, AZ so we can catch up on email, etc. It’s much warmer here, and Larry is into shorts. Pack away the woolies!

All Photos 6 Feb 07


7 Feb 07 Camp Verde AZ to Benson AZ

  We took our time this morning, with a leisurely breakfast and slow departure. By noon, we were cruising the streets of Scottsdale and admiring the desert landscaping by all the houses. It was too early to stop for the day so we didn’t get a chance to check out Jean and Sammy’s hotel. From Phoenix/Scottsdale we took a scenic route to Tucson, stopping in the historic town of Florence to picnic in the park. Dry-area parks and playgrounds are rather different than we are used to, but the kids were having fun just the same.

 We drove through desert for the rest of the day and were surprised by the amount of vegetation and the many varieties of cacti and other plants. After a circuitous trip through the Tucson suburbs, we found our way to the Saguaro National Park. We had only an hour or so before the park closed at sunset, but really enjoyed our circuit of the “cactus forest” and some closeup looks at some of the cacti. We hoped to find nearby accommodation so we could return in the morning, but no luck. We stopped at Benson AZ in a Baymont Inn – very nice digs.

All Photos 7 Feb 07


8 Feb 07 Benson AZ to El Paso Texas



 As we were checking out of the hotel there was much discussion of destinations and so on. We were told to watch for a canyon of unusual rock formations shortly after getting on to Interstate 10. It was really quite different from most we’ve seen – very rotund rocks, some perched on others looking quite precarious. No photo op though. Our lunch stop at a tourist info rest stop in New Mexico was great. Friendly staff, nice picnic area and best of all excellent wireless [ welcome after the total wireless foul-up at last night’s Baymont Inn ] We navigated successfully into El Paso, found a hotel in the east end and set out for Juarez, Mexico. We found parking on the El Paso side of the pedestrian bridge and joined the throng trudging across. We wandered the streets for about 90 minutes – what a lot of bustle and very little sign of prosperity. The hucksters reminded us of China. We sat in the lovely cathedral for 10 minutes or so, resting and contemplating. Then back across the pedestrian bridge, over some tracks and through a construction site to our car, back to the hotel for room service and Thursday night TV. [ relieved to be back in USA – felt a little vulnerable over there – very few Caucasian tourists ]

All Photos 8 Feb 07


9 Feb 07 El Paso, TX to Pecos, TX

  Leaving El Paso was easy – in so many ways. Not a place I plan to return to. Also, we were on the road leading directly to the Carlsbad Caverns, our next destination.

 On the way we passed through the Guadeloupe Mountains National Park. At one place we stopped for a few photos and at another a short walk through desert vegetation ( with labels ) to the ruins of an old stage coach stop on a transcontinental run. We arrived at the caverns shortly after noon and were down in the caverns, about 700 feet below the surface soon afterwards. The first thing we did was a self-guided tour of the “Big Room” area. It took us about an hour of walking at a good pace.
 The caverns were simply amazing – all kinds of formations of stalactites, stalagmites and pillars, curtains, drinking straws and large accretions of materials in crazy shapes. There are huge galleries of open space, both up and down from the pathways.[ the space is large enough to contain 3 football fields ] The second part was a guided tour of “Kings & Queens” chambers. Our guide/ranger was really good and explained many of the curious formations as well as the general creation of the caves. At one point, all light was extinguished for a few minutes and we experienced total darkness. Very eerie. Then we were all as still as possible for total silence. We could hear dripping and later located the source right in front of us. The lowest point of the tour was 830 feet below the surface. All told, we were underground for 3 hours. The only thing we missed was walking down from the surface, because we were short of time. [ because of the guided tour start time ]. When we left there, we set out cross-country. In 30 miles across desert we saw no houses, only one car, perhaps 6 cattle, one roadrunner ( meep – meep! ) and many non-operating oil well pumps. As we got closer to Pecos we saw more working pumps, a few cars, but many abandoned houses and other buildings. Once we got to the edge of Pecos we saw the Walmart and wondered if that had anything to do with it. Checked into a motel and will go looking for food soon. Later: we found an interesting little cantina with no other patrons and enjoyed an unusual dining experience: Mexican for Lar and a hamburger for Jan. [ I was afraid to do Mexican in Juarez but this was good ]

All Photos 9 Feb 07


10 Feb 07 Pecos, TX to San Antonio, TX

 We made a beeline for the Sonora Caverns – well, as “bee” as possible, across more of the rural Texas wasteland. [ the most prominent feature was fog which was an improvement on what it usually hid ] . The cave is privately owned and run, so rather different from Carlsbad NP.

 The cave is much more intimate with formations well within reach – it was hard to avoid them sometimes. We walked about 1.8 miles [ underground 155 feet ] and saw amazing formations in several colours ranging from white through rust to purple. Most of the same formations as yesterday and many funny effects. Our guide was an enthusiastic young local woman who’s been there only a few months. At one point she couldn’t make the lighting work so we had to navigate with only her flashlight for the 5 of us. That was fun. This cave was a great complement to the Carlsbad visit. From there we continued on to San Antonio where we drove into the middle of the city and visited the Alamo
[ where the Texans made a last stand against the Mexican General Santa Anna - ie “ remember the Alamo”, a battle phrase for every Texan ] and River Walk [ where an outstanding job was done in implement a restaurant/café outdoor boardwalk setting on each side of a river running through downtown ]. Looking for the hotel we got caught in heavy traffic – it’s Rodeo Week here! What fun – cowboys everywhere.

All Photos 10 Feb 07


11 Feb 07 San Antonio, TX to Lake Charles, Louisiana

We enjoyed a long, lazy start today, including breakfast in our room, followed by a car wash - the second one since we went through all the road sludge in Washington & Oregon. This time all the remaining outside muck came off. We drove to Houston, stopping at a handy Target store to stock up on a few things. In Houston we walked through part of the historic district and had lunch. It was very quiet, but it seems to be a nice city. A young baseball team was also eating there and we were amused by the boys’ antics. At the Louisiana Welcome Centre we picked up information on places and events. Then we proceeded to Lake Charles and checked into a hotel. Louisiana looks like it does in movies and magazines. Much more interesting than Texas, which is big and flat and mostly boring. [ we entered Texas at mile 0 on Interstate 10 and left at it’s border at mile 885 - too many Texas miles, but it was more interesting coming down the last 100 miles to Houston - it looks a lot like Ontario - the rest looks like the moon with a little sage brush and tumble weed.  San Antonio Street Cars


12 Feb 07 Lake Charles, LA to New Orleans, LA


Today we arrived in New Orleans. And Wow! We love it. When we left Lake Charles, we decided to try to drive along as close to the shore as possible. The first choice came at Lafayette, where we turned south and enjoyed some bayou views. Eventually we reached the outskirts of New Orleans. Along the way we certainly saw some signs of hurricane damage, but no real devastation. The closer we came into the city, though, the more empty and badly-damaged buildings we saw. But when we got to the French Quarter, there was no indication there’d ever been a problem. We parked at the first place we found and then set out on foot to find a hotel. Larry had picked up info on hotel bargains and we soon found Place d’Armes Hotel on St. Ann and checked in.

It’s an old and very interesting place. To reach our room we go through the small lobby along a passage way across a courtyard, past the pool, through a door and up a stairway. We have a balcony from which we can see Jackson Square and hear the church bells and music. The room is huge and high-ceilinged with tall windows. Very comfortable. We had a picnic in our room, then decided to rest a bit before setting off in search of dinner. When we went out we did a big loop around the French Quarter and back to
Bourbon Street. After walking the full length of the pedestrian area, drinking beer ( beer’s OK on the street, but only in plastic containers! ), we selected an Italian restaurant with a jazz pianist. Great choice, good food and good entertainment. We lingered there awhile, then wandered back to the hotel. We’re very glad we booked in here for 2 nights.

All Photos 12 Feb 07


13 Feb 07 At New Orleans, LA

  Happy Birthday, Lorrie!
During the night there was a thunderstorm and actual tornadoes in the area, but by morning it was bright, clear and warm again. After breakfast at the hotel we had to hustle to the 1850 House to join a walking tour of the French Quarter. It was an interesting review of the history, geography and architecture of the Vieux Carré and environs.
The guide, whose house was destroyed in Katrina, has spent his entire life here and now lives in the Quarter. He told us a lot about the destruction and recovery efforts. It’s clear that it’ll be a long time before New Orleans is normal again, and it sounds like the population is unlikely to get back to 2005 levels. Even in the areas that were less affected about half the people have left. 
[Even though there is no evidence of the hurricane in the French Quarter ] it’s clear that business is struggling with finding staff, finding supplies and finding customers. But we still hear jazz everywhere and see artists and fortune tellers at work. After lunch in our room and time for our feet to cool, we set out to look more closely at the cathedral ( whose bells we hear ), Decateur St for souvenirs and a stop for café au lait and beignets, and Royal St for classier shopping. We came home twice to drop off purchases. Man!! I hope it all fits in the van! [ which we haven’t seen for a couple of days ] . We also checked out several restaurants for dinner and decided on the one in the same building as our hotel. It was a terrific meal and afterwards we strolled

Bourbon Street again. [ lots of wildness ]

All Photos 13 Feb 07


14 Feb 07 New Orleans to Tallahassee, Florida

Happy Valentines day! After breakfast at the hotel, we checked out, found our way out of the Quarter and headed east on I-10. Suddenly we could see the kind of destruction Katrina wrought – whole neighbourhoods destroyed. Miles of it. It was horrible. There are trailers in some places, but others are just deserted. Some highway exits are still closed. At Pensacola we turned south and visited a small stretch of the Gulf Islands – lots of white white sand. We stopped for the night near Tallahassee.


15 Feb 07 Tallahassee, Florida to West Palm Beach, FL

This last day of this phase of the odyssey was a simple run to Lantana. It took most of the day and we arrived tired and thankful for our own bed. We left Burlington 31 days ago and have traveled 12001 kilometers. It was a lovely journey. We were very fortunate to have good weather for most of the journey. And good roads! At this time of the year there were few places that were crowded, and so we were able to take our time and enjoy the sights. There are many highlights – of course the visit in Nelson was one of those. As well, Yellowstone and particularly the early-morning excursion to see the animals was amazing. The other National Parks were all terrific - Zion with its beautiful cliffs, the Badlands, Mt Rushmore. The Grand Canyon is so beyond description that it must be seen to be believed. San Antonio is a lovely city. And New Orleans was a complete change and a very exciting place to be. What a great trip! Now we’re relaxed here for several weeks before completing the circle

Later in February

 Bob and Joan joined us later in Feb and we had a great time touring an Everglades Park near Miami.  Park Photos


 Tour by car from  home in Burlington ON, with visits to parents in Wallaceburg ON and family in Nelson BC and finally home to Burlington in...