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  • Day94

    We turned off NS102 into Truro around noon on December 1st. Jabba and Boots, in the back of the Volvo, jumped to attention as we drove up Fundy Drive. Three deer who were browsing on the yew tree by our front door glanced up, then ambled accross the front lawn to The Gibson’s house next door.

    We pulled into the driveway at 26 Fundy Drive. We were home.

    It was a wonderful journey.

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  • Day92

    It is hard to describe the feeling of crossing the border back into Canada. Relief? Joy? Maybe just the heartfelt warmth of being HOME (even though it was Ontario).

    When we crossed the Peace Bridge at Niagara, the border agent said “Truro! Do you know Michelle Frizzel? I used to ... know her ... years ago ....” wistfully. Oh, Canada!

    We stayed with Mary Jean Folinsbee in Nanticoke on the north shore of Lake Eerie. Mary Jean mentioned that she had a neighbor who was still swimming daily in the lake — in a wet suit — but the water was rough and uninviting. Oh, and there was a skiff of ice around the shore. I went in MJ’s hot tub (104 F) instead.

    We reminisced about old times, ate and drank well, hiked in the woods and saw the local Santa Claus Parade.

    From Nanticoke, we drove on to Toronto, where we saw the Viking exhibit at the ROM. We learned that they had dogs like Jabba (see photo) and were poets and explorers (as Tarjei has claimed for years).

    We drove east to Montreal where we saw the Leonard Cohen multimedia presentation at the Musée d’Art Contemporain. It was awe-inspiring. There were old NFB films, CBC interviews, dance and sculpture and Leonard’s songs everywhere. It was powerful and even moved Tarjei to tears. We went to the Jewish cemetery on Mount Royal where we visited his grave and walked with Jabba and Boots. We had a great dinner with niece Kaila and her family.

    Now we are back in the Maritimes, driving south on the Trans Canada through New Brunswick. In a twist of serendipity we are having our last dinner on the road with Gloria and Jorg in Fredericton. We started our trip — Day 1, August 30, with Gloria and Jorg in New Brunswick at their Cottage.

    We have come full circle Around The Continent.
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  • Day87

    We drove to Parkersburg, West Virginia for American Thanksgiving with the Northrup’s. Nora and John flew in from Brooklyn to be with John’s parents and relatives for the holiday.

    It was wonderful to be included in the whole tradition. The US holiday was about family, friendship, eating massive amounts of great traditional food, playing old fashioned games, and just being together.

    We (Tarjei, Caty, Jabba & Boots) stayed at the Blennerhassett Hotel which is a grand old downtown beauty. It was sumptuous and welcoming with multiple gorgeous Christmas Trees in the lobby. There was a welcome sign for the dogs, with complementary biscuits. We were amazed that the staff was so dog-friendly in such an elegant hotel.

    On Thursday morning in City Park there was a 3 mile race called the Turkey Trot. There were children & adults, runners & walkers, strollers & dogs of all sizes and shapes. It was quite exciting and a bit intimidating for Jabba and Boots — particularly when a pair of huge Great Danes towered over them and kept trying to smell their foreign fragrance. After the Turkey Trot we had brunch at the Northrup’s — delicious — including homemade cheese grits.

    The dinner on Thursday evening was held at the Blennerhassett — a feast with turkey, beef, salmon, and all the accompaniments (including lots of wine). Multiple cousins from age 1 to 35 got to renew their friendships. It was so much fun to see the small children running and giggling and tumbling, then getting up to do it again. After dinner, the 20 - 35 year olds went bowling while the rest of us staggered off to bed.

    On Friday morning we had a nice little hike with Nora and John, then said goodbye.

    Next stop: CANADA!
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  • Day84

    The weeks zip by and we are nearing the end of our journey.

    We travel North from the palm trees to the leafless oaks. December approaches. The days are short, the nights long and dark, the mornings crisp and clear. We drive toward the sunrise and we lose an hour, then regain 60 minutes, depending on our wandering path and the vagaries of time zones. In Arizona, the huge Navajo nation uses daylight savings time (like the rest of the State), but the small Hopi reservation (which is surrounded by Navajo) does not. While we are there, daylight savings time ends and even our cellphones display the wrong hour. Unlike Phileus Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days, we have no deadline — but in 2017 it is impossible to be unaware of time.

    I find myself wondering how things have changed in the time we have been away.

    Time to go!
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  • Day79

    We stayed for 3 glorious days in Wimberly, in the Texas Hill country, with kind friends. We ate Real Texas Barbecue, visited an olive orchard, swam in the Blanco River, and had a tour of President Lyndon Johnson’s ranch (known as the “Texas White House” because he spent a lot of time working there.) I never realized how much Lyndon Johnson and his wife “Lady Bird” did for social policy in the US — pro-education, anti poverty, pro-environment, implementing desegregation. It was fascinating.

    We then made a last stop in Austin for an electric bike tour around Lady Bird Lake. I really liked having that extra battery power to zip me up the hills when needed. It was almost like having Jabba or Boots attached by a harness — when they see a rabbit — super-charged.

    Then we drove south to the Gulf of Mexico, to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This whole Gulf Shore was clobbered by Hurricane Harvey in August, and has not completely recovered. But the migrating birds from the north have returned as usual, including the Whooping Cranes. They were magnificent. Unfortunately our binoculars were lost earlier on this trip, so we had to make do with our own eagle-vision, but there are high platforms with good views of the habitat — coastal plains where there were 20 - 30 of the tall gawky white birds staring in the water in groups, fishing, occasionally lazily taking off and gliding around. In the background, pelicans circled and dove for fish in the shallow ocean beyond the swamps. We saw many other birds including vultures, gulls, hawks, herons, and egrets.

    After Aransas, we carried on to Galveston Texas on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. This is a beautiful long white sand beach protected by a sea wall built after a hurricane in 1900 wiped out the city entirely. It is also a site with lots of oil tankers and rigs off shore. The Gulf water is and clear and clean, and about as warm in November as Malagash water in August. I swam for a short while but was a bit cautious of the strong surf with no life guards — I have great respect for the power of the ocean.

    Today we drove East to Louisiana, and are staying in Lafayette which apparently has great Cajun food and music. We are heading out for the evening to find out for sure.
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  • Day74

    We left New Mexico after visiting the International UFO Museum in Roswell. It was fun and pretty amateurish. Then we entered Texas. .

    In Texas, flags were at half mast for the church massacre by a former American soldier. The hopeless split between the Gun-lovin’ rednecks and reasonable people meant we travelers simply did not discuss it — with strangers, anyway. (Headline: “Hometown Hero Uses Gun on Gunman”). In fact, when Tarjei became irritated with another driver, I had to warn him “That guy is probably armed, so just cool it.”

    On a cheerier note, we saw the Abilene International Short Film Festival — really great. Very eclectic mix. A Syrian man in a refugee camp tossed his young daughter off the wharf into the sea to teach her to swim because he knew she had to learn to survive on the boat journey accross the Mediterranean. A quirky animated film showed chameleon romance in a subway station.

    We went to a great little bar in downtown Abilene and discovered (much to my disappointment) Abilene Texas is NOT the “prettiest town that I ever seen” — that song is about Abilene Kansas. But there were some very interesting women there, and they didn’t “treat us mean” so we had fun.

    In Austin, we had booked an Air BnB on a whim — an Airstream Trailer in somebody’s backyard. The on-line photo was taken at an angle which made it look quite large, which shows how clever the photographer was. There was barely space for the 4 of us to be in the structure at one time. If Tarjei and I were lying in bed, Boots and Jabba could fit on the floor. So we were very snug.

    We met up with Charlotte (my med school friend) and her husband Barry — they were visiting their son who is doing his PhD in Austin. Charlotte and I went swimming in Barton Springs — a huge natural spring — and the Guys & Dogs went to a canine-friendly bar for local brew. Both the beer and Barton Springs were very large, very cold, and lovely. All of Austin seemed to be dog-friendly. The restaurants had outdoor patios where every table had one or two dogs on leash, and dogs were expected to treat people & other dogs with civility. Jabba and Boots adjusted quickly except for the occasional raised hackles and throaty growl by Boots.

    We had an evening kayak paddle on LadyBird Lake in downtown Austin and watched thousands of bats emerge from under a bridge.

    In San Antonio We visited the Museum of Art and the Zoo. We saw one of my favorite singers, Iris Dement, in concert. (“Let the Mystery Be”, brilliant song, will be heard at my funeral.) She galvanized the audience and had us singing along with protest songs like it was 1968.

    Right now we are driving to Wimberly, Texas to visit our friend Angier Peavy for a couple of days. Who knows what adventures we will have with Angier, who used to be in the American foreign service.
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  • Day66

    It is November 2nd and we have started to head back towards the East. We all (Tarjei, I, Jabba & Boots) have adapted to the gypsy rhythm of packing up every few days, hopping into the car, and driving for 5 - 10 hours, then making camp (or checking into a hotel or BnB) for a day or a few days.

    When we drive, the dogs snooze in the back of the station wagon while Tarjei and I sit up front. The dogs appear perfectly happy to be along with us — providing we stop every few hours for them to jump out, sniff around, and of course heed nature’s call (whether Nature is calling them to pee/poop, or run after a cottontail rabbit which are abundant around here).

    Tarjei usually drives —because he likes to drive and I like to sleep. He is the world’s worst passenger — jumpy, white-knuckled, constantly pointing out the obvious traffic hazards (“Watch for the red truck pulling out ahead”. “That light is going to change color Soon! Look out!”). He is unable to sleep in the passenger seat, even if he is exhausted. The ONLY time that he slept there in last 14,600 km was when I was driving and pulled up to a road construction site in the Rockies. “Sorry, Ma’am, it’s gonna be 15 minutes before you can drive — might as well just sit tight!” I turned off the ignition and — presto, Tarjei was asleep. He awoke immediately when I started the car as they reopened that stretch of road.

    While we drive, if I am not sleeping, we watch the scenery — very different from home. We often talk or drink coffee or consult the map to plan the next part of the journey. Sometimes we listen to music that Tarjei has downloaded from Spotify — classical or road songs or Leonard Cohen. In Canada we often listened to CBC, but in the USA we usually cannot find NPR. Lately I have been downloading Audiobooks — currently we are bouncing between SAPIENS by Yuval Harare (history of humankind — brilliant) and DEATH OF A DUSTMAN by M. C. Beaton — (Scottish Highlands mystery — brilliant but in a different way entirely). I wish I had written either of them.

    After driving we try to go for a long walk, and if possible I swim— either at the hotel or the local community pool. It keeps us from seizing up.

    I like this routine and will miss it when we get home.

    So over the last few days we have explored Flagstaff Arizona (beautiful high elevation university town), hiked the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (dogs are not allowed below the rim), travelled to Santa Fe New Mexico (every building adobe in soft pink, coral, gold, or shades in between), and then visited Los Alamos (where the atomic bomb was developed). We have eaten lots of Southwest food — chili, tortillas, corn, squash, and beans enough to make us roll down windows as we drive.

    Now we are going South to visit Roswell for another type of “Scientific” discovery — the UFO Center.

    PS. Nov 3 today. We spent last night at a very tiny Air BnB — about 4X5 meters, in a tiny New Mexico village. We made spaghetti and drank red wine. It was lovely. Picture below.
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  • Day58

    Tarjei originally wanted to be an anthropologist. He got side-tracked by biology, and never looked back. However, he always maintained a secret interest in the indigenous people of North America, especially the gentle Hopi culture. When our kids misbehaved, he used to say, “But That is not the Hopi Way,” and sometimes they would actually listen. He also pointed out that Hopi women breastfed their babies until age 7 years, and suggested that I might do the same.

    We have spent the last five days in Arizona and New Mexico on an educational expedition with “Road Scholar”. We were in a group of 24 adults, mostly over age 60. We started in Flagstaff Arizona and travelled around in 3 vans. We visited archeological sites abandoned 800 years ago, and pueblo villages built in 1200 AD, which are still inhabited today — stone houses, no running water, no electricity. We climbed up hills, through ruins, and down into canyons. We had music and pottery demonstrations. We heard conflicting views from experts about why settlements were created and why they disappeared. We met really interesting Hopi and Navajo people who showed us their homes. We learned that the Hopi people had been part of the ancient Pueblo culture, but the Navajo were relatively recent arrivals in the American Midwest. The Navajo actually came from the Dene population of Northern Canada — around 1300 AD. We have seen sunrise over the desert It has been great.

    Tomorrow we return to Flagstaff and pick up the car from the parking lot and the dogs from the kennel. Then we continue our journey.
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  • Day52

    Tarjei really wanted to visit Death Valley. It all has to do with watching way too many cowboy shows on TV when he was little. Tarjei’s parents allowed him unlimited TV time, whereas my parents permitted only 1 hour per week — usually Walt Disney, 7 PM on Sunday night. This is just one of the many profound cultural differences between the WASPs and the Vikings. You can imagine how this clash of civilizations affected our own child raising practices.

    We stayed 2 nights in the Panamint (“Gathering of the Peoples” in a native language) campground at the entrance to Death Valley National Park. We slept in a small tent set up with camp cots (a far cry from Mendocino luxury queen size bed, but still very comfortable). The sunny desert sky was slightly hazy from the smoke of wildfires far to the west, but at night it seemed to clear and the stars were brilliant. I had my usual opportunity to see the stars at 11 PM, 2 AM, and 4 AM, as well as the sunrise around 6:30 AM. It was fun to cook on a camp stove again. We made pasta with sauce and salad for dinner, scrambled eggs with onions and cheese and herbs for breakfast.

    The nights were a bit chilly, but by noon in Furnace Springs it was 34 ° C. We did some hiking with dogs in the morning along the rugged desert track towards “Skidoo” — presumably not related to the Canadian Brand snowmobile and more related to the “23 Skidoo” slang phrase). By afternoon the heat and sun made it just too oppressive to walk anywhere except across the road to the campground café for a cold beer. Species discrimination was rampant — there were anti-Dog regulations on many of the trails, but the café did provide bowls of ice water for canine friends at the outside tables.

    We came accross the same Japanese film crew 3 times in the last 2 days. The state police and park rangers stopped traffic and diverted walkers while the crew filmed the stark desert landscape of cliffs and rocks and salt flats. On our third encounter, I finally asked one of crew what it was they were making. He said it was a commercial for Sony Corp —something to do with a new video system.

    The landscape was dramatic — dry, rocky, sandy, harsh, unforgiving. Cliffs. Salt flats. You could easily die here. But we survived and it was beautiful, even though John Wayne and Clint Eastwood never put In an appearance.
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  • Day50

    When we left Oregon, we had planned to spend a few days exploring the Napa and Sonoma valleys and drinking wine. However, the terrible wildfires foiled our plans. So, with typical meticulous planning, Tarjei asked, "Remember that Kate and Anna McGarrigle song about Mendocino?" And I said, "I love that song! Let's go there instead!" So we did.

    Mendocino is a tiny town and it was Saturday. Hotels and BnB's were expensive and already full. Mendocino Grove Aging Hippie Campground was the solution. You could pitch your own tent but we chose to rent the "Safari Tent" (the "Retrofitted Airstream" seemed TOO decadent). It had a queen sized bed with beautiful duvet, hot water bottles available for those chilly nights (it did drop down to 4 degrees C). There was a view of the ocean and a morning campfire in the meadow with two kinds of hot porridge, lots of toppings (fresh fruit, real maple syrup, nuts, raisins, goji berries, chia seeds and brewers yeast). The only downside was that Jabba scratched a large hole in the screen door while Tarjei and I went to the central bathroom to brush our teeth. I spent a couple of hours sewing on a new piece of screen, which we brought with us on the trip in case of having to sleep in the car. The dogs slept curled up outside after that.

    We stayed two nights in our comfortable tent. We walked around the pretty little town of Mendocino, which is perched on a little spit of land overlooking the Pacific. I window shopped but bought nothing -- it seems to me that we all have too much "stuff" and no room for more. We ate some great food. We drank local wine and beer. We looked at paintings and crafts and home-made toys.

    Yesterday we packed up and drove along the Anderson Valley which is the wine production area of Mendocino County. It looked a lot like the Okanagan with the arid sandy hills interspersed with beautiful green irrigated rows of vines. We tasted --and bought -- some really good Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel, and even a sparkling Pinot Gris. We bypassed the wildfires -- although we could see the smoke. So sad to think that people were killed because the fire spread so quickly in the winds.

    Now we are at Lake Tahoe and tarjei is itching to get going for the day.
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  • Day45

    We left Vancouver Tuesday October 10th. We spent 4 days meandering along the West Coast of Washington and Oregon. We were amazed by the variety of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, scrubby beach grass, and always the sea, the waves, the crashing breakers and hissing surf. Along the Oregon coast we hiked among huge sand dunes like the Sahara desert. The spectacular sunsets over the sea were amazing. It was a beautiful drive. We have avoided cities and freeways -- we took a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula, then turned south on the 101. We drove west of Seattle and Portland. We stayed in a smelly el cheapo roadside motel and a fancy luxury upscale chalet with a jacuzzi and a fireplace and a wonderful ocean view. We ate great steamed local fresh fish, and Denny's grilled cheese.

    We hiked each day -- not really far -- (5 - 13 km) but enough. It sometimes rained, mostly at night. It has been unexpectedly exciting to see so much change in coastline as we move South.

    In Port Townsend, I swam in the local swimming pool one morning. The town is a pretty little place with a long maritime history, including a visit from Captain Cook. The pool was great but seemed a little shorter than I expected. I asked the life guard and he explained that it was short because the pool was built by pirates. "You see," he explained, " The pirates didn't use meters --- they use YARRRDS!"

    Now we are off to California and will be dodging the 2017 Wildfires.
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  • Day42

    In Vancouver, Tarjei got his hair cut at a small Korean barber shop. He gave his usual request: "Short, but don't make me look like I'm in the army". Unfortunately, the barber spoke little English and heard "...make me look like I'm in the army....". Hair hacked. The barber even created a little bald spot over Tarjei's left ear. Since then, Tarjei has been wearing a cowboy hat everywhere. It looks good.

    We stayed with old friends Anne Marie and Jeff in North Van. They have a cool house and wonderful garden --raised beds in the front where they grow lots of vegetables. This apparently annoys the neighbors whose taste in front yard landscape includes only manicured smooth green lawn and neatly pruned geraniums. We managed to further alienate the neighbors by having Jabba and Boots leap over the fence dragging their tie-out lines, causing damage to a small tree and some geranium pots. This required a contrite confession followed by monetary compensation.

    We walked along the shore of Vancouver Harbour with the dogs. There was a small pond with many ducks and one large swan. Of course, the canine primeval (and evil) hunting instinct prevailed. Boots (off leash) leaped in and paddled madly after the swan. The swan gave her a disdainful glance and sailed effortlessly ahead. Boots surged forward straining every muscle to catch up. The swan swept about the pond in graceful curves, followed by a panting drooling Boots, and then a whole flock of silly quacking ducks providing applause for the victorious bird family. The human crowd of Thanksgiving Day walkers lined the shore shouting ineffectually: "Here Boy! Come on Boy!" and "Someone should call the parks guy. That poor swan!" And "Does anyone own that dog?" To which Tarjei replied "No clue -- I think it must be a stray" as he patted Jabba (still on leash). Boots was nearly drowning when she finally gave up and swam over to our end of the pond where Tarjei had to haul her up onto shore. She slept well that night.

    It was great to see Max and his small apartment -- very neat and clean and "koselig" (cozy) in West end Vancouver. We went walking and ate great food and saw a good movie at Vancouver International Film Fest.

    Now we are leaving Vancouver -- visiting my cousin Ann in Aldergrove for lunch -- and crossing the border. We are feeling some trepidation as we prepare to drive South along the West Coast of the USA. We will see what adventures we can stir up.
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