Tuesday 23rd March A trying morning, but a wildlife afternoon 37 miles
The night was very quiet, but we were woken at 6.30 by cars coming to go through the locked gate.
The bad news was that the van didn’t start first time. It made it on the third attempt, after about ten minutes, but we knew that we had to do something about it.
As we drove down towards the coast, we saw that the valley was filled with mist, so we turned off to the sleepy little town of Blue Lake. We pulled in to what had once been the railway line through the centre of the town. While I got breakfast, Adrian found that we had an internet connection, so we were able to send our next email, and set up the website. We received an email from distant cousin Jim Middleton, who we plan to visit in Chicago before returning to England.
Now we drove into Eureka, which we had visited in 2002. Adrian had found the address of an auto electric dealer, so we made our way there. The news was not good! He first went through all the procedure of checking everything else (and charging for the time), and then told Adrian the bad news. It was a very expensive exercise to have the new starter fitted, but there was nothing else we could do.
Many dollars poorer, we set off to drive back into the old part of Eureka, passing a Thrift Store (Charity shop) on the way, and donating some of our stuff we won’t be taking back to England.
We found Eureka to be a pleasant and attractive town which had been established at the time of the Gold Rush. In 2002, we had liked it, but had had trouble with the ‘historic’ part of it, most places in England dating from well before then! We walked around a bit – it was sunny, but with a cool wind.
We saw a supermarket called a local co-op, and resembling Trader Joe’s, in that most of the stuff it sold was organic. We bought a fresh loaf of bread, and limited ourselves to not buying much more, as we only have a few days left, and have stores to use up.
We had seen a launderette on our drive through the town earlier, so made our way back there. It was a large one, but busy. We got all our washing ready to take in, and then discovered that the change machine wasn’t working, and we hadn’t got enough quarters. The young woman ‘in charge’ wasn’t helpful, just said that the boss would be back in half an hour.
We had lunch, and, as the chap still hadn’t arrived, Adrian was able to get change from another customer, and we set about doing the washing. It seemed more expensive than other places, but it turned out that the drying machines were free. While this was happening, we spoke to all four of our ‘kids’ on the phone, so didn’t leave until gone 2.30.
We had planned to drive around Arcata Bay, which you could do by driving on two bridges over to the peninsula called Samoa. We weren’t sure where we would be able to stay tonight, so on reaching the peninsula, we turned left, following a campsite sign.
We then drove for about 5 miles along the narrow strip of land, with the sea to one side, and the lagoon to the other. A large wood pulp works blotted the skyline. When we reached the campsite, we weren’t attracted by the vast tarmacked area, with a few pitches around the edge, and wondered whether to stay.
While waiting to make up our minds, we drove back a bit, and walked onto the sandy, blowy beach – the first time this trip that we had been by the sea.
We realized that if we drove on, we wouldn’t know if we could find anywhere else to stop, so opted to go back to the campsite. First however, we explored the end of the road – and what treasures we found!
Part of the area was for the use of people with ATVs, but we found a trail to walk through the dunes, where we enjoyed lots of different flowers, including mesembryanthemums, and I saw a little green and brown frog.
Boards told of wartime activity here, and of the many shipwrecks offshore, and also of the Indian people who had lived in this area for centuries until decimated by white man.
On driving on a bit further, we came to a semicircular sandy bay on the lagoon side, and on walking along it, saw a feast of different birds. We had already just spotted magnificent pelicans, and now we saw cormorants and various ducks. A whole flock of small birds shimmered white as they flew like a swarm in unison. We had seen grebes and loons too. A red roofed, white painted building made us think of the Canadian maritime provinces.
We drove back to the campsite, and chose a pitch overlooking the water, and Adrian lit the barbie.
The wind was still cool, so we ate inside, but then we lit the campfire, and sat out with our wonderful view over the inlet. Two black backed gulls pored over their prey – it looked like starfish – and a group of loons swam in front of us. We could see the lights of Eureka across the bay, and the moon looked like a slice of lemon. Later we could see the stars. We sat out in this idyll until 9 o’clock.
Wednesday 24th March A mixed day 57 miles
It was sunny with a cool wind, but we still sat outside for breakfast in this lovely setting. Before leaving, we walked along the little sandy bay adjacent to the campsite.
We were amused as we drove back up the peninsula at ‘Tsunami hazard zone’ signs. If a tsunami did happen, there was no way that you could escape from this long sandy spit, but I suppose at least they’d told you!
We were glad that we’d come south yesterday, and enjoyed that part of the peninsula, because the rest of the drive around the bay was very disappointing, with nowhere to stop until we reached Arcata Marsh wildlife reserve, back on the eastern side.
We pulled in here, and found it to be a really popular place for people to come and walk – often with their dogs. An unlikely looking fellow came up and enquired about the Bam. He said that he and his wife had just been discussing getting something like it. As time is running out now for us to sort anything, Adrian wasn’t very encouraging towards him, but he took our email address.
We had a pleasant walk around the marsh area, which had once been the local landfill site, and now contains several lakes and ponds. As usual, we couldn’t make the map fit the paths, but we did see quite a few birds, including blue winged teals. A teacher was taking a group of young children around, quite enthusiastically.
We drove on into Arcata, and, needing an internet connection, found one right close to the central plaza. This was a nice square, making the place seem like a Mexican town. When we walked around it, we found a lot of ‘alternative’ hippy people but it seemed a happy and bustling town, with nicely restored buildings.
Adrian had spent a frustrating time trying to phone the insurance company about coverage for the Bam when it is in consignment. In contrast to that, we had received an email from Nicky with a lovely photo of Louisa.
It was now nearing lunchtime. We took the old road towards Eureka, but it didn’t offer anywhere to pull off, so we found ourselves driving through Eureka again. Just south of it, we managed to pull off to Fort Humboldt, which had been built in the 1850s as a post for disputes with the local Indians.
We had just stopped in the car park, and were preparing lunch, when a couple came by and asked about the Bam. She seemed quite keen, and came inside to look. Unfortunately, as she left, she fell down the steps, and we’re sure that she will be well bruised. Not a good omen for a sale!
Logging display at Fort Humboldt
Men were working on the grounds of the fort, but after having lunch, we walked out around a display of the logging that had been based in this area. Although sunny, the wind was so strong that I couldn’t enjoy it, but some of the trees were huge. Not much of the military part of the fort was open for viewing, but we had read that Grant had been Captain here for a while.
Now we travelled south on the 101 until we turned off on a coastal loop which we want to drive. We soon came to the town of Ferndale, and knew that you could camp at the Fairgrounds here. We made our way there – it was a pretty ramshackled affair, but was only $15 with electricity. There were showers and a dump and across the road just looked like rural France.
We paid our money, knowing that we would be staying once more on the edge of a carpark, and went off to explore a road to the coast. This was a delightfully winding road through green fields and hills, with sheep, cows and horses in them. Very English or Welsh in fact, especially with all the daffodils! When we reached the coast, it was a huge sandy windswept beach. We drove on to look down at the sea, knowing that there was a possibility of seeing whales here. No chance today though – with hundreds of ‘white horses’ (or white whales) on the water, we could have imagined lots!
We braced ourselves to walk across to the water’s edge and back. Other people had come to walk their dogs, but most didn’t venture out!
When we got back to the delightfully restored Victorian town of Ferndale, there was no wind at all – just a nice sunny day as we walked around.
We had once more tried for an internet connection, as Adrian was following up other necessities to do with our travel. He again had frustration, but we did receive our invitation to Jon & Lois’ Silver wedding celebrations (and Doug’s 18thand Ed & Liz’ 60th birthdays) in Scotland in May.
Back at the campsite the rain started – but – we had a good and unexpected internet connection!
This meant that we looked up hotels in Chicago, for our stay there at the end of this trip, and we actually bought Richard and Teanny’s wedding present!
Thursday 25th March Ups and downs 38 miles
The rain continued, but as we still had our internet connection, Adrian set about booking the hotel in Chicago – one night on his Air Canada points, one on mine, and the other night we had to pay for!
We didn’t leave until gone 10 o’clock. We found our way to the dump station – but then bummer number one – it was closed! The camp host had said nothing about that. Adrian tried unsuccessfully to find him, to ask where another one might be.
We drove back into Ferndale, and went into the one grocery supermarket we had seen. We bought a more expensive than usual bottle of wine, and a very unfresh ‘fresh’ loaf from the few there.
Next we made our way to Russ Park, which I had seen about in the booklet we had picked up. It had stopped raining by now, and we thought that we’d have a short walk. When we got into the park – pedestrians only – we found that the shortest trail was 1½ miles, and this was up, up, up and then down! It was a wonderful place though. The trails led up a large hill with tremendously tall conifers. The land dropped off really steeply to either side of us, so there was no cutting corners! It was supposed to be a bird sanctuary, and we did hear quite a lot of bird song, but with the dense ‘rainforest’, it was hard to see them.
The rainforest of Russ Park, Ferndale
We did see wild flowers, though, including yellow skunk cabbage and white trilliums. The weather even brightened a bit, but visibility wasn’t good. We walked for about an hour – always slow going, as I puffed on the ‘ups’, and it was easy to slip on the ‘downs’, because of the muddy ground.
We drove back through Ferndale, then continued on the 100 mile loop to the ‘Lost Coast’ – so named because route 101 had bypassed it. We should have realized that this was because the terrain was difficult, but we were soon to find out!
The variably (but never good) surfaced road wound up and down and around hills, which were sometimes forested, and sometimes grassy. It was beautiful country, we just wish we had had better visibility. Many of the trees dripped with Spanish moss. There were cattle in the fields, and everywhere was totally unspoilt. Many times we were reminded of Devon or Wales, with valleys coming down to the shore.
The lovely ‘Lost Coast’
We stopped to have lunch with views right down towards the sea. Today there were no ‘white horses’, but as we got closer, the offshore black rocks, with spray dashing over them masqueraded as whales!
We drove through the few isolated ranches which were named ‘Capetown’, and then neared Cape Mendocino, the most westerly point in California. There had been a lighthouse here, but it now stands at Shelter Cove, 35 miles south. We reached the sea, and the black rocky and sandy beaches. The weather was still damp, but what really annoyed us was all the ‘Private-keep out’, and ‘no trespassing ‘signs everywhere. We couldn’t even access the beach. We consoled ourselves that maybe the reason that this area is so completely unspoilt is that it is all privately owned, and hope that it continues not to be exploited.
We saw a hawk really close by before continuing on the road which now led inland, to the small ‘town’ of Petrolia. It was here that oil was first discovered in California. Now it is just a rural community.
We had seen that there was a campsite here, on Lighthouse Road. This led to another (disused) lighthouse, and we drove for several miles on a road which deteriorated, as did the weather. After nearly 5 miles, just before reaching the end of the road, and the campsite, the road became a mucky mess, and Adrian didn’t fancy driving any further. At this point, there was a place to pull off beside the road, with a view down to the crashing waves across the wide green valley of the Mattole River. Although only 3.30, we decided to stop.
During supper of shepherd’s pie and Trader Joe’s beer, the sky cleared, so we decided to walk down to the beach. When we reached it, we were overcome by the dramatic, misty coastline with the swirling, foaming waves. The sun was just going down as we arrived. We walked across the sandy beach, and then returned up the muddy lane, with mares tails growing up beside it.
Friday 26th March Why take the easy way? (when there’s a hard way) 58 miles
We woke to a fine morning. After eating blueberry pancakes, finishing up the last of the maple syrup (everything must go), we set off to walk down to the wonderful wild beach again. What a treasure it is – just a small primitive campsite, and completely unspoilt. We walked along the beach a bit, with the crashing waves and the spectacular mountains rising steeply up behind. We enjoyed the birdsong as we walked back up the track, and didn’t leave until 10.30.
Wonderfully wild Mattole Beach
Continuing along our scenic route, we looked into a small campsite where boards told about this bit of coast, and the King Range behind it. We now know why they didn’t build the main road this way! The mountains rise quickly to 4,000ft from the sea (as we had discovered!). The area is situated where three tectonic plates meet, and hence there is a lot of seismic activity. There was a powerful earthquake in 1992. It also has its own microclimate.
We had seen that the road cutting across to Shelter Cove, at the southern end of the Lost Coast, now appeared to be surfaced, so decided to take it. The sign saying that vehicles must have snow chains should have warned us, but on the map, it looked to be a straightforward road, crossing the Mattole River. In fact, we began to ascend immediately on a narrow and difficult road, which gave us a lot of angst when we came to an unsurfaced, rutted and mucky stretch. We wound up and up then down and down. We did cross the Mattole River, but then we ascended again immediately, with nowhere to stop. I had hoped to stop for lunch, but Adrian had the added worry of knowing that we were short of petrol!
We had been amused in this wilderness situation to see a handmade sign pinned up for an Easter Egg hunt!
We wound on and on, up and down, finally reaching the road to Shelter Cove. Thinking that this would be downhill all the way, we set off, hoping to get petrol when we reached the small town. We hadn’t expected the road to climb up and down twice more before we got there!
It was thirteen miles, but finally we reached the one store and petrol pump! It was now 1.15, and Adrian could relax and think of lunch, but I was feeling extremely giddy from the journey!
We found that we still had to descend a very long way to the coast, but we eventually followed our way to Black Sand Beach, where there was BLM land – but not the campsite we had hoped was here – just a car park for access to the beach (the Lost Coast Trail starts here).
Black Sand beach was pretty nice too
We ate our lunch, and walked down ourselves onto the beach - of black sand and gravel formed from black sandstone. Everywhere was very steep and very wild. The roads to the other part of the ‘community’ were steep too. We drove off there, and stopped by Mendocino Lighthouse – moved here from the Mendocino Point many years ago.
There was a private campsite here – for $43! No thank you!
A fur seal surveys the beach at Shelter Cove
We did walk down onto the beach, full of rock pools teeming with life – huge starfish and lots of anemones. On the rocks were a number of basking Californian fur seals, and more swam about in the water (being easily confused with the sea weed bobbing about).
Now we had to leave this pleasant, remote spot, and find somewhere to stay. There was a BLM campsite marked just off the road a few miles back, so we headed for that. By now we were amongst the huge Douglas fir trees, and it was really cool, as the sun was about to drop behind the mountain. We had climbed almost 2,000ft in a very short while.
Having decided to stop, we walked out on a little trail through the deep, cool forest, beside trickling Bear Creek, and Adrian collected up some wood for a fire.
Despite it being so cold, we had a wonderful fire, and cooked the Alaskan halibut we had bought at Trader Joe’s at the start of this trip, and stayed out in this lovely isolated situation until 8.15.
Saturday 27th March Farewell to the lovely North California coast 102 miles
It was dark, deep in the forest, with the sun peeping above the mountain as we left just before 9 o’clock.
Back on the road out of Shelter Cove, we began ascending onto a high ridge, with the magical sight of valleys far below on either side filled with mist. We then descended steeply for two miles, remembering climbing up this long hill yesterday, when we were so low on fuel. We saw two deer, and later a group of wild turkeys.
We passed our turn-off from yesterday, and the road continued to wiggle all the way to Redway. We crossed the Eel River, stopping just before to walk amongst some huge redwood trees. We had driven the ‘Avenue of the Giants’ in 2002, so this was our own little bit this time.
Last walk amongst the giant redwoods
We drove through Redway to Garberville, where we shopped for better bread than last time, and bought a doughnut to share with our coffee. Wanting somewhere to stop for this, we turned off to ‘Tooby Park’, following the road down for about a mile to near the Eel River. Before we could get to the picnic table, four blokes drove up in a pick-up, and walked straight to it! We thought that we’d walk across the field of long grass to the river, and were nearly thwarted by a muddy section just as we got there. The morning was just warming up, but it was too damp to sit down, so we sat on my jacket right by the wide river, watching swallows flying high. It was a lovely stop.
Coffee stop beside the Eel River
It was midday when we started off to drive about 20 miles of route 101 to Leggett, following the picturesque Eel River.
Now we turned off to the coast, passing one or two of the tatty tourist attractions of the redwood area, but by the time we found somewhere to stop for lunch, the road had left the river. However, we sat outside, even if the view was just of tall trees. It was pleasantly warm now, and we were both in shorts.
The road wound round and round and up and down – not much different from the Shelter Cove road, but not so steep, and with a far better surface. The road went through lovely forested scenery, and was lined with pretty blue forget-me–nots.
Finally we reached the sea, and the steep cliffs with rocks off shore. Seals were bobbing about in the water. Two fishermen climbed up the near vertical slope and showed us their catch of perch. A sparrow sang its delightful song – and so we proceeded down the coast.
We had travelled this road in 2002, but hadn’t remembered the winding road. We did know that we had stopped for the night at Westport Union Landing State Park, at a spot right above the beach. We returned to the park – it had cost $7 then, now it was $25!
At least the day use area was free, so we stopped there, with plans to walk down to the beach. To do this, though, we had to wade through a cold and stony stream!
Having got our feet wet, I paddled in the sea, and the water was very cold!
Westport Union Landing beach
We stopped a few more times as we drove down this beautiful bit of coast. At one spot, where the land had slumped, giving a small wetland area, we walked through low vegetation with all sorts of flowers – arum lilies, small purple irises, daises and buttercups. We saw a tiger moth caterpillar.
At another place, we walked across a wide sandy beach with large rock stacks, where quite a few families were enjoying themselves on this sunny Saturday.
Our last stop was one that we remembered from before, because a huge wooden viaduct went across the sandy beach. Last time, it was in need of renovation, but Adrian was delighted to see that it had been restored, and people were even walking across it. We walked down under it on squeaky sand and said our goodbyes to the coast. People were enjoying themselves here too – one or two hardy souls were even in the water.
The restored trestle bridge at Fort Bragg
We drove through Fort Bragg, then turned inland on Route 20, looking for somewhere to stop for the night. At 5.40, we found a pull off amongst a forested area which we thought would suit us.
We thought that we were well hidden, so imagine our surprise when a lady came up to the window and said that she was interested in our RV. A friend had told her that she’d seen an RV go by with a ‘For Sale’ sign, so the lady had come looking and had spied us. She seemed a vivacious person, and her enthusiasm was a real boost to us. It is too late now for us to sell it privately – what a shame we didn’t meet somebody like her at the beginning!
Sunday 28th March Tantalizing to the end 52 miles
Although our time with the Bam is almost up, we began this day like any other - thinking of it as an adventure and wondering what might turn up.
We started by driving eastwards towards Willits, stopping in the State Forest for a walk amongst the huge fir trees. This trail, like so many, had started off with good intentions, but hadn’t been maintained, so was hard to follow, and once more the leaflets were missing. We did see tiny flowers – little yellow violets and what would seem to be a rare purple orchid.
The road wiggled its way on and up and down, until we reached Willits, on route 101. We took a long time in finding an internet connection, and when we finally did, there was a message from Roanna, the lady from last night. She was still interested in buying the Bam, but was offering us less money.
We now hung around for a long time, as we couldn’t get hold of her on the phone, and needed to speak to her so that we knew whether to drive on further, or hang around here.
In the meantime we drove up and down the main street of the town, looking for somewhere to stop for lunch. When we saw an RV Park, we went in, as we still hadn’t been able to dump. This was the tattiest and seediest RV Park we have ever seen! The vehicles had all seen better days, and so had the occupants! Nevertheless, for a fee, we were able to dump our dirty water tanks. We then left as quickly as the dreadful road surfaces let us!
We drove back south through the town, which seemed pleasant enough, but there was no sign of a park or anywhere to stop for lunch. We ended up by turning off and stopping beside the road, where the trees were draped in Spanish moss. While we were there, a car drove up, and two chaps peered at our ‘For Sale’ notice.
We started driving back into the town, and were at last able to get hold of Roanna, but were just left in a more confused state than ever as to what to do. Neither of us felt that she really wanted to buy the Bam. She said that she would go to her bank in the morning, to see if they would loan her the money. If she did buy it, it would change our plans, and we might be catching a bus from Willits to San Francisco, and it would probably necessitate staying in a hotel here tomorrow night, so next we had to suss a few of them out!
Feeling quite exhausted by all this, we now drove south on the 101, turning off on the road towards Lower Lake, where we were putting the Bam into consignment.
We knew that there was a lake just here, Lake Mendocino, with campsites, but didn’t hold out much hope. Imagine our delight to find a lovely unspoilt Corps of Engineers site – half price because the sewage system was being overhauled, so there were no showers etc (and even cheaper to us, with our Seniors card).
Being Sunday, we found a lovely spot by the lake, with blue scrub jays and even a hummingbird. We sat outside with a cup of tea, before Adrian went on ‘wooding patrol’, on this unexpectedly wonderful find.
Mendocino Lake – bye bye Bam
We decided to let tomorrow take care of itself, and set about enjoying our last night in the sort of campsite we love.
And it was a wonderful evening! Adrian lit the fire early, and we cooked sausages and homemade beefburgers, toasting ‘English muffins’ on the fire.
Our last campfire
The weather tried its worst, with rain continually threatening to damp us, so that we kept alternating from sitting beside the fire to under the tree, but we so enjoyed this unexpected night that we coped with it.
A family had come into the next pitch, in a small camper. They had two young children who had enthusiastically run down to the lake. After toasting our muffins on the long toasting forks (which Felix had found at Banff), Adrian took them over to them, and they seemed to be pleased.
We didn’t come in until 9.40.
Monday 29th March Last day with the Bam 68 miles
It was a grey and damp day after more rain in the night, which was a shame for our last day with the Bam.
We didn’t expect to hear from Roanna that she had got a bank loan, so set off at 9 o’clock to continue to Brown’s RVs at Lower Lake.
As we drove through the campsite, a lady was waving at us. ‘We don’t want anyone else saying that they want to buy the Bam’ said Adrian. But she didn’t want that – she was saying that her car was blocking the way through. She had flattened the battery, and had got going again, with help, but then saw the spikes of the ‘don’t back up’ hump, and taken fright and stalled it!
The car looked in a sorry state, and we learnt that she had been in a road accident, pushed from behind into the car in front, so both ends looked bad. She asked Adrian if he could jump start her, which he couldn’t, so he helped to push it out of the way, so that we could leave!
We got rid of a lot of our rubbish – everything must go today, then continued east past totally unspoilt Lake Mendocino (named, like the Cape, after an early Spanish explorer). After that we came to large and lovely Clear Lake, which had more tourism around it, but the road was pretty with wild flowers and with vibrant magenta Californian redbud bushes. For much of the way, we drove right beside the lake.
At 10.15 we reached Jeff Brown’s RV place at Lower Lake, and Adrian went in to sort things out with him. We had received a message from Roanna, who, as we thought, hadn’t been able to get an immediate loan from the bank, so we were glad that we hadn’t hung around any longer.
We headed for Clearwater Lake Resort, fearing the worst, but in fact found it to be quite a pleasant low-key RV park by the lake. We couldn’t find anyone about, only a Mexican worker who didn’t speak much English, but was nice enough. He told us that there were no toilets or showers (they were being rebuilt), but luckily the laundry room was still functioning. The problem was, we had no change, so we had to put off that job until later.
We drove off into the town called Clear Lake, which contrary to what we’d imagined, was a very shabby little resort town. We passed a Thrift Store, so set about collecting up more stuff to donate. After sorting out our internet messages, and buying some food for tonight, we returned to the campsite and had lunch.
Then it was more clearing and sorting out, before we returned to Jeff Brown’s to sort out insurance, which we weren’t able to finalize, as he couldn’t get hold of the chap.
Back at the campsite we continued with the chores – finally getting enough quarters for the washing. Adrian donated lots of his ‘bits’ to the campsite owner, plus a few clothing items which had got missed at the Thrift store. Later he ‘sold’ his drill to them for $3 (that was when we got the quarters for the washing).
The day was still damp, but did brighten late afternoon, and we walked down to the lakeside.
Last night barbie
Despite the rather damp evening, Adrian cooked the meal on the barbie outside, and we cleared a space inside to eat. I had given one of our bath towels to a lady who was also in the laundry when I was, and she was really pleased.
We settled down for our very last night in the Bam.
Tuesday 30th March Goodbye Bam, hello San Francisco nearly 3 miles
After heavy rain in the night, it was a morning of really dark skies with torrential showers, alternating with periods of bright sunshine.
As they had just cut the grass, the damp weather meant that grass cuttings got brought in whenever we went in and out, but we managed the final clear up without too many problems.
It was a sunny spell when we left to drive to Brown’s just before 9 o’clock. We had put our bucket with our few final offerings in – things like Adrian’s industrial gloves and my toiletries – hoping that our Mexican chap would find a home for them, along with my trusty backfriend seat.
This really is goodbye to the Bam!
By the time we left Browns half an hour later, the rain had started again, and it was wet for most of the way to Santa Rosa. We were being driven by Blair, an employee of Jeff’s, a pleasant man in his sixties, who just worked at Brown’s occasionally. It was good to hear him say that you couldn’t get a more honest chap than Jeff. It was a pretty route to Santa Rosa – we had driven from there a couple of weeks ago – but very hilly and winding. Blair used to drive from his home near Lower Lake to work in Santa Rosa for 10 years. The journey took us nearly 1½ hours, but he used to be a truck driver, and enjoyed driving.
When we arrived in Santa Rosa near the bus stop, we could see that the earlier bus was still there, so we got onto that. We put our bags into the seat behind us, and luckily they were able to stay there for the whole journey, although the bus did fill up with passengers.
We wanted to contact Margaret to say that we were arriving an hour earlier, but neither of our English phones would work. A chap behind was making constant phone calls on his cell phone. When we thought that he had finally finished, Adrian was just about to ask if he could use the phone, when the chap got off the bus!
I thought that we could send Margaret an email, but this meant getting an internet connection when we were at a bus stop. After much trying, we did do so, but we didn’t know if she would be looking at her computer.
The journey from Santa Rosa to San Francisco followed Route 101, turning off to drive through various towns on the way, including Petaluma, where we had stayed at the ridiculously expensive RV Park.
It was good to travel over the Golden Gate Bridge, which we remember doing with Margaret eight years ago. After that, it was into San Francisco itself, and we arrived near the Civic Centre just before 1 o’clock.
There was no sign of Margaret, so we guessed that she hadn’t got our message. Adrian went off to find a phone, which he did with a friendly lady in a florists, and left messages at both Margaret’s flat and Art’s. It was luckily sunny again now, but quite blowy standing on the corner.
The Civic Centre, San Francisco
We took it in turns to walk down to the Civic Center square, and then did some people watching, until we saw a frantic wave from across the street, and there were Margaret and Art. She had called in at her home, and had got our final message.
She drove us back to her flat, where we will be staying for two days, while she stays at Art’s house, with his daughter Melissa, who is arriving later today.
We were just in time to see Chwan Hui and Sabrina, who were about to leave for 10 days in Taiwan. Gregory was there too – he and Alexander are off to fencing championships in Azerbaijan on Thursday.
With Margaret and family – Alexander (right), won the Junior World Fencing championship a few days later
After chatting over a cup of tea, with Art and Adrian sharing their enthusiasm for steam trains, Margaret and Art left and a bit later we walked out ‘around the block’.
We spent a lovely evening with Margaret and Art, his daughter Melissa, who had just flown in from Toronto, and Gregory and Alexander. Gregory had driven us to a very nice restaurant, where we met the others. We enjoyed excellent food and drink, and a lot of chat.
Wednesday 31st March Strap hanging on the San Francisco trams
We spent the morning at Margaret’s apartment, and were able to speak to all four of our children on the phone and wish everybody a Happy Easter.
We left at about midday to see something of San Francisco. We had come here in 2002, on our first trip with the Bam, so thought that today we’d just have fun riding the cable cars (trams).
We walked until we found a place where we could catch a tram, and spent the rest of the afternoon riding on the trams, missing them, strap hanging with the crowds, and generally enjoying the experience!
Adrian enjoying his tram ride!
As we passed huge Grace Cathedral, I thought that I’d like to go inside. It was vast, and very reminiscent of Chartres, even with a maze on the floor the same. The most wonderful thing was the stained glass. The windows were quite superb, I really loved them. There were nice paintings too.
After that, we had a bit of trouble in catching a tram again until we got the hang of it – you had to be on the right side of the road (although they are in the middle) – two went whizzing past us until we realised!
The unmistakable San Francisco trams
We walked around Union Square, with lovely yellow datura plants dripping with blooms, and Macy’s up behind. We had eaten in a long ‘saloon’ type eating place nearby, with photos of baseball players all around the walls.
We joined all the masses of tourists, especially when we got to Fishermans Wharf, and on to Pier 39. We loved looking into the ‘Mechanical museum’, where there were lots of the old machines that used to be at funfairs when we were children.
Storm clouds gather over Pier 39 (Golden Gate bridge in the distance)
We saw the diminished number of harbour seals on the pier boardings, and looked up to the Golden Gate Bridge, and across to Alcatraz Island. By now the fine but blustery morning had become a very dark afternoon, and before long the rain arrived! This changed things rather, as everybody dashed for the trams and buses!
We revised our plans, and having annoyingly just missed one tram by a whisker, were lucky enough to cram onto another one, and later onto an equally jam packed trolley bus (just like the underground). We had to walk the last stretch back to Margaret’s, in the pouring rain, so arrived back pretty wet – not what we wanted when we are off at the crack of dawn tomorrow!
Art came to collect us soon after six, and drove us back to his flat, where we had another lovely evening with everybody. Gregory and Alexander arrived soon afterwards. Margaret, with help from Melissa, had got some nice starters, and then delicious rack of lamb, followed by wonderful strawberries.
Gregory drove us back, and then we thought about our onward journey tomorrow.
Thursday 1st April From San Francisco to Seattle to Vancouver 174 miles
The alarm went at 4.00 am, but we were already awake. The shuttle bus arrived a little before 4.45 to take us to the airport. We had to pick up other passengers on the way – 2 young women, separately. There was another lady on the bus, about our age, and we got chatting – she had a French son in law, and two young grandchildren, so we had a lot in common. Unfortunately, when she got off the bus at the airport, she tripped and fell headlong on the pavement. We helped her up, and she insisted that she was OK, but we know that she will be badly bruised. Our driver had been a chap very keen to please. His command of English wasn’t good – he was probably Eastern European – and we thought what a difficult job it was to find the address of the different passengers, and speak to them on the phone to say that he was outside ready, and understand their reply.
We had the usual awful, confused chaos at the airport, with the long queue for security. After going through there, we were right at our departure lounge, so there was no chance to fill our water bottles. The plane had already started loading for our 7.00 am flight to Seattle. This should have taken 1¾ hours, but in fact took at least half an hour longer as the pilot couldn’t fly at the height he wanted.
The sun shone from below a bank of cloud onto the water of San Francisco Bay as we took off, but we soon went into low cloud. It cleared again, and we could see some of the magnificent (but very cold and often snowy) scenery as we flew northwards, but couldn’t recognise much. We couldn’t mistake Crater Lake, and then Mt Rainier, with Mt Hood and Mt Adams beyond.
While waiting to disembark at Seattle, we could see our bags go down the ramp from the plane, which was a relief!
We found our way to Thrifty Car Hire (train to Baggage Claim, and shuttle bus to rental place). After doing the ‘paper work’, and being talked into taking out more insurance, we left at 10.30 in a car bigger than we’d booked, but we weren’t complaining!
We set off on the journey northwards to Vancouver, driving through Seattle initially. We soon dismissed any idea of stopping to have a look around – we’ve been there before, and dislike driving in big cities.
At Lynwood we stopped by some ‘historic’ exhibits – several nice houses, one with a visitors centre in it, and an old tram car. The man in the visitors centre there told us where the nearest Safeway was, so we turned off to it, and bought sandwiches for lunch.
We ate these at Smokey Point Rest Area on the I5, where there was the remains of a gigantic Western red cedar on display.
We carried on northwards into Canada, crossing the border at 3 o’clock. Soon afterwards, a bald eagle flew over us really low.
After that we got into terrible traffic chaos as we neared Vancouver. We’d wanted to go via Stanley Park, which we haven’t visited since our first trip here in 1989. We did manage to get there, and were really pleased to find the Sylvia Hotel, where we had stayed on our first night then. We stopped to reminisce, and to photograph it – still looking much as it did. The weather was really cold and damp (9°C).
Outside the Sylvia Hotel, Vancouver
We were disappointed that you now had to pay to park in Stanley Park, and even more disappointed that we couldn’t drive most of the roads around it as they were closed for various reasons. Rather frustrated, we found our way onto Lions Gate Bridge, and crossed to North Vancouver. From there it was a really slow journey to Steve and Connie’s place. We got there at about 5.45, and spent a pleasant evening with them, eating and chatting.
Friday 2nd April Seeing cousins after 21 years 14 miles
A very wet and windy day!
We enjoyed breakfast with Steve and Connie, while watching the birds coming to feed from the balcony – Stellars jays, juncos, finches and a flicker.
We all chatted while Connie prepared the food for tonight’s dinner for ten people.
Adrian at damp and cold Deep Cove
In the afternoon, we drove out for a short while, first to Deep Cove, and then round and about, stopping at two different parks and having short walks. It was still damp and cold, and there was a lot of damage to trees, with branches down.
Magnificent magnolias and tulips at Cates Park
Late afternoon the others arrived – Doug brought Dave & Joyce and Audrey, and later Gavin and his girlfriend Feda arrived.
We hadn’t seen Audrey, Doug and Gavin for 21 years! Both Joyce and Audrey were keen to hear about the family – both the Capes now, and ancestral members. They both had amazing memories and very alert minds!
Audrey, Rosie & Dave (L to R) Joyce, Doug & Steve (R to L)
It was good to see Doug looking so well, when he had been so ill recently. Gavin too was in very good form, and seemed happy with his delightful girlfriend. When we visited Steve and Connie 18 months ago, he had been recovering from being injured while serving in Afghanistan. Feda was originally from the Lebanon and had lived in Vancouver for 8 years.
Gavin, Connie & Feda
Over a wonderful feast of food, there was a lot of chat. We didn’t get to bed until midnight.
Saturday 3rd April Meeting up with family a long way from home 47 miles
It was a better day, but it still rained on the children in the little park opposite while they were on their Easter egg hunt. One little girl was in a little pink rabbit outfit.
We had phoned Simon, and wished an excited Millie a happy second birthday for tomorrow.
Breakfast was wonderful waffles made by Connie, and during the morning they taught us to play Farkle, and we showed them ‘fives and twos’.
In the afternoon we met up with Hil, Jill & Tony and Sheila & Martin at Lynn Canyon. It seemed strange to be meeting up so far away, but soon felt just like going for a walk nearer home, like in the New Forest. The scenery was a bit different, and it was very picturesque with so much water in the canyon.
We meet up with Adrian’s family a long way from home!
We went back to the hotel where Sheila & Martin and Hil are staying to have a cup of tea before going on to the house which Kathryn & family and Sharon & family are renting.
Goodbye to bachelordom
Here we spent a lovely evening with all the Bowers and Halls, celebrating Richard’s last day as a bachelor! There was a hot tub on the deck, which we both enjoyed for a while, with the snowy mountains up behind.
Richard greets Rosie & Hil by the hot tub
Tom and Joe had done most of the cooking, and we all had a good time.
It was raining torrentially when we left, and the drive back to Steve and Connie’s was a nightmare. It was difficult to find our way in the dark and the rain, and signposting was bad. Consequently we missed the road to the bridge to North Vancouver (it was in a tunnel so we didn’t see it) and had to travel miles before we could turn round. Even then, we missed the road on the return journey so we were pretty exhausted when we got back at about 11.30.
Easter Sunday 4th April (Millie’s 2nd birthday) An Easter Day wedding 50 miles
This was the day of Richard and Teanny’s wedding.
We breakfasted with Steve and Connie and then left for Teanny’s parent’s house, where the celebrations started. With Teanny being from a Chinese family, there were some differences from a usual wedding.
Teanny’s Mum and bridesmaid Rosie with a slightly anxious Oscar
When everybody had gathered at the house, the groom, plus other young males from the family and friends, had to try to ‘break in’. He had to offer a ransom, and perform many tasks asked of him by the bride and others inside. All the young kids loved this!
Let me in!!
Not enough money yet! Sing ‘YMCA” and we might let you in.
Richard is finally let in and gets his prize
When he had finally been let in, there was a ‘tea ceremony’, when the parents, and then other ‘elders’ (including us) took tea with the bridal pair. This was done in a particular ‘pecking’ order, and we handed over a little red envelope with ‘words of wisdom’, and money inside.
We partake in the ‘Tea Ceremony’
We all tucked into food prepared by the family, including a roast pig.
Teanny waves from the balcony
The wedding ceremony was held in the Botanic Gardens, some distance away, so we followed Martin and the others there. It was actually in a building just outside the gardens. The room was full, with several small children, and the ceremony, conducted by marriage commissioner Kelly Ip, was a very happy affair. The groom’s immediate family, and then the bride’s, walked in procession down the aisle to the front.
The bridal pair with their parents
Bubbles provided for fun!
Afterwards there were the ‘photo sessions’ outside. We were really lucky, because although chilly standing around, the weather was dry, and much better than the days before (and the next day). There were some refreshments here, but as the groom’s family’s photos were taken first, by the time we got to the food, there wasn’t a lot left.
The bridal pair with Richard’s family
There was then some free time before the evening reception, and we were able to go into the Botanic Gardens, which was nice. The rhododendrons were particularly pretty.
From here we drove along Marine Drive, right by the shore, stopping once to climb down onto the beach.
A break in the proceedings!
We made our way to the ‘Bower’s Hotel’, and picked them up (Sheila, Martin & Hil), and Adrian drove them to the Sun Sui Wah Chinese Restaurant for the ‘Chinese Banquet’.
We were seated with the other ‘uncles and aunts’ from both sides of the family, plus an elderly couple who were old family friends.
The wedding cake Teanny’s Mum and auntie
Aunts and Uncles and old family friends
We wined and dined all evening, as different courses of food were brought to the table. Our Chinese friends explained what the food was – a lot of sea food, including jelly fish! and ending with rice and spaghetti, and finally wedding cake. We drank tea (chrysanthemum tea) and wine.
The ‘elders’ (us) were announced, and we stood up and waved. Throughout the evening Richard and Teanny had to perform various games, and impromptu speeches were made.
You may kiss the bride Champagne in bowls for the road!
It was a great and happy celebration, and luckily our drive back to Steve and Connie’s was better than last night’s, and we got to bed at about 11.30.
Monday 5th April A quiet day 16 miles
A quiet day recovering! Steve went into work, but Connie was home, although she was suffering from a very nasty cold.
We had a ‘catching up slowly morning’, doing some washing and sorting diaries and the plethora of photos. Simon had sent one or two photos of Millie on her birthday.
We left as arranged to visit Joyce and Dave for lunch. The journey wasn’t as straightforward as we’d thought, as we couldn’t see how to get to their road from the motorway. They live in a ‘gated community’, and luckily Dave had come down to open the gate, so we didn’t have to remember the number to press!
It was good to see them in their own place. We admired paintings which Joyce has done in the past. Their apartment was surprisingly large and roomy.
We chatted a lot – much about family past and present. Joyce got out old photos and cuttings which she hadn’t looked at for years. Adrian photographed many of them, and a few (of Capes) we brought with us.
We stayed much longer than we’d expected, not arriving back at Steve and Connie’s until about 5.45.
Connie was still suffering with her cold, so Steve prepared supper, and we chatted some more, having got things organised for leaving early in the morning.
Tuesday 6th April Vancouver to Seattle to Chicago 163 miles
We were up by 6.30, and after having breakfast, said goodbye to Steve and Connie, who was still unwell with her cold. It had been good to see them, and to catch up with the family here.
We drove southeastwards out of Vancouver, taking a route south into USA which passed Lynden, where we had left the Bam in storage 18 months ago. We actually drove right past Hidden Village RV Park, which had served us well then. We stopped at Safeway and got fuel, and bought a sandwich (no food on the plane).
At Bellingham we joined the I5 to Seattle, and had a trouble free drive.
All went well as we returned the hire car to Thrifty, and immediately caught the shuttle bus to Seatac airport.
There were no problems here either – can this really be us?
We boarded our 1.50 flight to Chicago, and were disconcerted to be surrounded by a large group of noisy and restless mostly young people, but they soon settled down, and the flight was trouble free. What we could see of the ground – it was often cloudy – looked very cold still, with plenty of snow. We passed some of the time by watching a light-hearted film starring Hugh Grant. There were big storm clouds as we approached Chicago, but all was well, and we landed at 5.45pm (7.45 local time).
We caught a shuttle bus to our hotel, which stopped at the other hotels first, but gave us a bit of a tour of Chicago in the dark.
We reached our hotel – Best Western Grant Park – and were pleased to be booked into the same room for the three nights, as we had booked each night separately (one paying, one on Adrian’s air points and one on mine).
It was now 9.30 local time, and we needed something to eat, but the café downstairs closed at 9 o’clock in ‘winter’, so we had to make do with buying yet another sandwich and some fruit salad.
We received an email from Margaret saying that Alexander had got the gold medal in the World fencing championship in Azerbaijan.
Wednesday 7th April Cold damp Chicago
They may have been having nice weather here, but it wasn’t like that today!
As we hadn’t yet sorted food to get our own breakfast, we had to resort to eating in the hotel restaurant. This wasn’t brilliant, but did include a large bowl of fruit each.
The morning had almost gone by the time we’d finished getting organised. Adrian had telephoned Jeff Brown, and heard that someone has put a deposit on the Bam, so we hope for the best. Emma emailed to say that they had arrived at Elm Gable, but she must have left for her friend Mandy’s by the time we were able to phone her.
It was damp and cool as we walked around the block, looking first for a supermarket, which we didn’t find until much later. We did find Budget Car Hire, and booked a car for Friday, to visit distant cousin Jim Middleton.
We then walked along Michigan Avenue, alongside Grant Park, where the tops of the sky scrapers were hidden in cloud! We passed some university buildings, and an incongruous large art store.
We came to the Cultural Centre, a vast building, which was wonderful inside. It was home to all sorts of things, including the Visitor Centre. A concert was just about to start, but we were more interested in tonight’s concert, which is a tribute to Ravi Shankar, who is 90 years old today (same age as Pete Seeger!) We made plans to return for it.
Meanwhile, we wandered through the wonderful building, and up the grand staircase with its beautiful mosaic patterns. We reached the venue of the concert, on the first floor, and were each given programmes of the event – a recital of songs, with piano accompaniment by mezzo soprano Shasta Cooke – part of a Myra Hess celebration. We knew that it wouldn’t be our ‘cup of tea’, so continued up the staircase to look at the floors above. When we descended, we found that we couldn’t go on downstairs while the concert was in progress. We listened for a short while – the lady certainly sang effortlessly, but we didn’t want to stay. We were trapped! An officious woman waved if you transgressed – we have come across more than one person like that on this trip, but rarely before - (Adrian had attempted to take a photo, and one lady sat down on the stair). Luckily help came in the form of the lift, which stopped beside us, as someone got out. Next time it came, we hurried in, and emerged, relieved on the ground floor!
Walking through the building, we came to a café, set next to a library area. It was all very casual – some people had brought in their own lunch, and were eating it, right amongst all the books. We ordered soup – a ‘cup’ for me, and a ‘bowl’ for Adrian, but both came in plastic containers with lids.
Walking to the rear of the building, we came to Macy’s, where we had seen that there was some sort of flower festival taking place. We wandered through some of the immense store, and came across a small floral display – perhaps we missed the rest. A nice, chubby lady who was passing stopped to take our photo, and said that she loved our country.
Rosie by the floral display in Macy’s, Chicago
Now we crossed to Millennium Park, which contained quite a lot of modern sculptures, and a large open air concert area. The thing that we both loved was something called ‘Cloud Gate’. It was a huge stainless steel ‘balloon’, resembling a neck cushion. A bit like a magic mirror, you could see distorted reflections in it. The Chicago skyline was reflected, with your own image, which changed as you approached. You could walk underneath the 12ft ‘gate’, and from there it was like a weird kaleidoscope. We were really pleased later to read that it was the work of a British artist called Anish Kapoor (not a very British name!)
Skyscrapers in the cloud by amazing ‘Cloud Gate’
Us reflected by the Chicago skyline in ‘Cloud Gate’ – and how it looked from below
It was nice to hear birds as we walked through the park - I was very happy to see red winged blackbirds.
The weather was now deteriorating, and it felt very cold as we made our way to the ‘River Walk’, and down to Lake Michigan. We were amused that a family stopped and asked us the way to Navy Pier - site of shops, eating places and funfair - and we were able to help them!
We didn’t need that, and began walking back by the lake, where just one solitary boat occupied the gigantic harbour and marina area which must be full to bursting in the summer. It rained as we walked back through Grant Park, past the attractive Buckingham Fountain, which must be lovely to see when it is going – rather like the one in Barcelona, but today the only water was what was coming from the sky, and in puddles around us!
Back near our hotel, we stopped to look at the Agora statue – over 100 headless figures, which we can see from our hotel room, and looks like a crowd of people.
A rain-soaked Adrian joins the headless figures of the Agora statue
Although raining hard, we went on search of a supermarket, and this time we found one – Jewel Osco, a branch of Albertsons. It took us a long time to get the provisions that we needed for the next couple of days, and then we had to struggle back in the wet to our hotel. As we reached it, a fairheaded young teenage lad and a six or seven year old Mexican looking boy held the door open for us, before coming in themselves, and joining us in the lift. Their politeness and happiness were lovely to see.
Well, we did get to the Ravi Shankar recital! We ate supper in our room of cooked chicken, then walked back along Michigan Avenue to the Cultural Center, arriving at about 7.30 for the 8 o’clock concert, as the man had told us to be there early to get a seat.
We were surprised that there was still plenty of room, and found good seats near the front. Just a few minutes later, the place began to fill up, as a non- stop flow of people arrived. It then dawned on us that they had come from the film about Ravi Shankar that had been shown prior to the concert. Sometimes we get things right!
The concert started promptly, as the three musicians came onto the stage, and sat cross legged for the next hour and a half playing their music. They were all brilliant musicians. One, Purbayan Chatterjee, played sitar, Rakesh Chaurasia played a wooden flute, and Yogesh Samsi played tabla (like bongo drums). Although I found the first piece of music a bit soporific, after walking all afternoon in the rain, we immersed ourselves in the music, and in their enthusiasm. The drum player’s fingers vibrated at speed, the sitar paying was equally deft, and the flute player could hold a note for so long that I really envied him. In front of us was a woman with a little girl of about five, who sat so still, that I could only think that she was perhaps the daughter of one of them. Sitting in this wonderful room, with the exotic tiffany dome above us and listening to this strange but beautiful music is something that we shall treasure.
We walked back through the damp evening feeling very lucky.
Indian musicians celebrating Ravi Shankar’s 90th birthday
Thursday 8th April On a cold and grey Chicago morn (Elvis), with a million dollar (Elvis) ending
Chicago seemed to be the coldest place in USA today!
It certainly felt like it as we walked along to Roosevelt Station, buying our one-day transit ticket from nearby Jewels.
Chicago has a rail system a bit like the London Underground, but this one is above ground, skimming right by the tall buildings of the centre of the city. The first train we got on wasn’t the right one, so we had to stand again at another station in the biting cold.
We got off the second train just north of ‘The Loop’, the area enclosed by the ‘circle’ of rail tracks, which once confined the centre.
The ‘Loop’ overhead railway
We headed northwards, and were about to cross Chicago River when a young woman approached and said ‘can I stop you for two minutes?’ Thinking that she was doing a questionnaire, or trying to sell us something, we carried on walking (it was too cold to stop for anything). ‘We’re doing a film shot’, she continued. We then realized that the large group of people nearby must all have been film extras, and we were walking into the line of filming! There was nobody on the bridge as we crossed it – not surprising – when we got to the other side, it was blocked off by a policeman! We wonder what filmset we might have unwittingly walked onto!
We now started walking up the area known as ‘The Magnificent Mile’ part of Michigan Street which is full of smart shops and grand hotels – not Adrian’s scene at all! As we passed Tiffany’s, I suggested going in there, and because it was so cold, Adrian followed. There were no other customers on this wintry day, but I did enjoy seeing the fine, sparkling diamond jewellery (no breakfast though), and saying to the very nice assistants that yes, I would ask if I wanted anything shown to me out of the cases!
It had been a good chance to warm up, anyway!
The buildings we did want to see were the old water works buildings and pumping station. Dating from 1869, they were the two buildings which had survived the great 1871 Chicago fire.
The pumping station and water works
Inside the pumping station there was an art display. The water works building was open for viewing, and upstairs it now contains a theatre (one up from our Watermill Theatre at home!) Downstairs there was a visitors centre and organic/fair-trade type café. While I warmed up with a hot chocolate, and we shared a delicious slice of lemon pie, Adrian went off to the theatre booking desk. We had seen that there was a performance of ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ – a remake of a jam session with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis in the fifties. We had bought a CD of that session in Jerry Lee Lewis’ home town of Ferriday in Louisiana some years ago, and loved the spontaneity of it. We weren’t sure where the theatre was, or how to get there, but Adrian found out all, and we were able to get tickets for tonight!
Now it was back out into the cold. We walked past the John Hancock Building, where for a (high) fee you could ride to the top of the sky scraper for a view. We opted not to!
Instead we caught a bus to the zoo! Chicago still has a lot of free things, and this is one of them. We had remembered seeing a programme fairly recently about research into the behaviour of monkeys, and their intelligence, and had thought that it had been filmed here. Only when we were looking at the apes and monkeys did we remember that the film had been made at Edinburgh zoo, but the researcher was from Chicago! Anyway, the ‘monkey house’ was delightful. It had been set up really well, and a group of very young children were enjoying themselves (we thought of Manolo, when he used to be taken to Calgary Zoo by his carer). The children’s play things were integrated well with the apes ‘cages’.
How relaxed is that?
The whole zoo was done with conservation in mind. Much of it resembled London Zoo, with fine stone buildings. As most of the animals were inside today, and there were places where you could view from inside, it was a good way to warm up! We particularly enjoyed seeing the penguins (King, Rockhopper and Chinstrap), reminding us of our Antarctic trip last year, the huge variety of birds, and the African area.
It was snowing lightly as we went to leave the park, but adjacent to it was the large conservatory which I had wanted to visit. This was marvellous too (and free again). It was a bit like the glasshouses at Kew, or the Rainforest at Hampstead Norreys, and once more, it was (very) warm inside! There was a host of tropical plants and ferns, and one glasshouse had been set up as a ‘show house’, with a superb display of colourful plants, which was especially enjoyable on this bleak day.
Inside the colourful conservatory
We found our way now through the area of the old town, which had some nice brick houses, and made our way to the train station, where we rode round ‘The Loop’, alighting at Roosevelt Station to come back to our room.
We ate the rest of the cooked chicken for supper, then set off for another night out! We were pleased that we could catch a train from the nearby station straight to the station for the theatre. This time it was an underground train. The girl this morning had told us that the theatre was a one minute walk from the station. As it was about ten minutes, it had us a bit worried, but we arrived in good time, and settled down to enjoy ourselves.
The musicians playing the parts of the ‘famous four’ were brilliant. I wasn’t convinced by the invented dialogue of that afternoon of 4th December 1956, when these four legendary figures got together (for the only time, it seems). Apart from the prominence of Sam Phillips, there was an ‘invented’ woman, but she played the part well, even if we didn’t always like her singing. The star of the show was definitely the one playing Jerry Lee Lewis, and he was quite outstanding. All in all, it was a great evening, and we emerged with a happy grin on our faces!
The journey back was straight forward, we just had to endure the wintry shower as we walked the last bit back to our hotel!
Friday 9th April Blue sky and distant relatives 68 miles
A beautiful sunny morning for our last day in Chicago. Everything looked so different!
Having got our bags packed, we walked out and down to Lake Michigan. The Chicago skyline looked great with the blue sky behind it, but it was still cool out of the sun. We walked to the ‘museum complex’ – the queue for the aquarium was enormous, we were glad to be just looking!
The blue sky enhances the Chicago skyline
We walked back via the supermarket and bought a baguette roll each for lunch, which we ate with the rest of the chicken and beef when we got back to our room. Despite the cold weather of the first two days here, we’d enjoyed this ‘relaxing’ time in Chicago.
We booked out, and walked around to the car rental place, collected our car, and came back to collect our bags. Now 1.30, we set off to try to find some of the former residences of Elizabeth Rutherford (sister of Rosie’s great grandfather, and of William and Thomas who went to the Marquesas).She had emigrated here with her husband David in 1869, and letters from her to family back home had been a huge inspiration to our family history research.
We didn’t expect to find any of the homes, as we knew that much of the area had been knocked down, but we did get a feeling of the pleasant houses which occupied this area at the time that they had lived here. Mostly, it is a black neighbourhood now.
We next made our way to Oak Woods Cemetery, even further south, as we knew that Elizabeth had been buried here. As the gravestones hadn’t been indexed, we didn’t expect to find it, but on enquiring, we could find out where the grave was (for a fee). It was a really pleasant cemetery, with grass and trees and small hills. We headed for the area of the gravestone, and Adrian rejoiced when we found it very quickly. Also marked on it were the names of her husband, and of 3 of her children, two of whom had died as babies, and one aged thirty. Having had an interest in this branch of the family for so long, it was unbelievable to find the grave of them on our very last day in USA.
Rosie by ‘Aunt Rutherford’s’ grave
We were going on to visit Jim Middleton, a descendant of another daughter of Elizabeth’s. We had only found out about him last year. He lived about 40 miles northwest of Chicago, so we began our journey there, driving up on Lakeshore Drive, beside Lake Michigan.
Everywhere looked really lovely today, with the blue sky and lake, the trees just coming into leaf, and the daffodils. A cycleway runs beside the lake – we had been looking forward to using it during our visit, but the weather had prevented that. The road was very busy, being Friday afternoon, so going was often slow.
We had another stop to make, north of Chicago, where the Carson family had lived later on. This one we did find, and photographed. Later Jim said that he remembered going to his great aunt’s there as a child, and hadn’t seen the house since! He was surprised when we came that we had just photographed it!
We diverted to visit the Botanical Gardens, which I knew were free. They were, but parking cost $20, so needless to say, we didn’t stop!
Now it was on to Jim’s house. We followed the route on the computer, and were surprised that his road turned off Middleton Road (just a coincidence).
It was a lovely big house, with a nice spacious garden. His 2 small dogs greeted us, but we weren’t able to meet his wife, as she had gone to visit her ageing mother. His older son called in during the evening, plus a friend of Jim’s called Pete.
There was a lot of family history chat, before, during and after supper. Jim had put a lot of the Rutherford/Carson photos onto his TV, and it was strange to at last put in place this family which we had wondered about for so long.
We didn’t get to bed until gone midnight.
Saturday 10th - Sunday 11th April So long, it’s been good to know you! 33 miles
It was a beautiful morning, and a gloriously warm day as we left the USA. What a contrast from a couple of days ago!
Jim cooked us bacon and eggs, and we chatted more family history stuff, exchanging information, until the morning had vanished. We had looked out to his lovely garden, and watched the birds, which was an interest of his as well as ours.
Rosie with distant cousin Jim
It had been good to meet up with this distant cousin, but now we had to get to O’Hare Airport. Our hire car was due back at 1 o’clock. It was supposedly a 35 minute drive, but that didn’t take into account going wrong!
We’d left later than I’d intended – some of the family history stuff hadn’t copied properly, and had delayed us. Yesterday we’d followed the route to Jim’s house on the computer, so now we had no map to follow, but Adrian had thought that it was straightforward! Well, it wasn’t! We pulled in to get some fuel – we had to leave the tank full – and resorted to the computer again when we thought that we’d gone wrong. And we had! We were now miles out of our way, and time was ticking away.
Adrian worked out a new route, and we tried to keep calm, which was difficult, especially as we both were now feeling really warm from the beautiful hot sun.
We finally joined the toll freeway to the airport, realising that this was the road we had started off on back in 2002. Just before the airport, we came to the toll booth – only 80 cents, but you had to throw in coins to that amount. And we hadn’t got it! Adrian found 60 cents in his pocket, I found another 10, and then we pleaded 10 from the driver behind. Still the red light showed. The man gave Adriansome more coins, but we couldn’t get the green light. In desperation, we drove off, hoping that there won’t be repercussions later.
Now we frantically found our way to Car Rental return, where the young black woman checked the car over – and saying ‘here you are Sir’, handed Adrian our GPS sender, which was still over the front of the dash!
We got on to the shuttle bus and calmed down. Looking at our receipt, we saw that we had just 7 minutes left of our ‘grace’ time on our day’s hire! – it would then have been another full day’s hire charge.
After that, things went smoothly, and the queue for security was the shortest of any recently. Needing something to eat – it was now 2.20, and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, we bought a small pizza to share. It was priced at $6.29, but with tax came to $7.01. We stared in amazement as the woman gave us 99 cents in small coins instead of forgetting the penny! A final farewell to our hatred of US tax added on at the till.
We sat in our departure lounge, when a man’s voice spoke to us. We looked up, and there was Colin! He and Sharon and Oscar were on the same flight home as us! They had stayed in Vancouver until today, but at the wedding we hadn’t sorted out everybody else’s travel plans.
We chatted for a few minutes, but then it was time to board. They were sitting a few rows behind us, so we did see them during the flight. Oscar has become a ‘Mummy’s boy’ while they’ve been away, so Sharon wonders how he’ll get on when she starts work again next week after her maternity leave.
The flight went smoothly. Adrian watched a couple of films, but as I couldn’t see my (minuscule) screen because the person in front reclined his seat all the time, I read or dozed, or looked out of the window. We could see the lights below as we flew down over Scotland and England, arriving slightly early at Heathrow – before 6.00 am local time. This didn’t help us, as there wasn’t a National Express bus until 8.00 am.
We said our goodbyes to Sharon etc, and made our way to the Central Bus Station. The metal seats in the draughty hall weren’t an enticing way to spend a couple of hours, but we made good of the time by working on the website.
We had a smooth bus ride to Calcot, enjoying the green of an English spring, and particularly the blossom, and the daffodils and primroses on the banks.
We got a taxi home, where we found everything fine, with the garden looking delightful in the spring sunshine.
Two days later we finally sold the Bam.
Some Summary Facts
We spent 8 years in the USA and during that time
We spent 1048 nights in the Bam 467 paid nights , average cost 14$
581 free nights
We travelled 109, 200 miles an average of 104 miles per day
We have visited all fifty states of USA, and all the Canadian Provinces, as well as all the countries of Central America. And we have had a great time! Footnote - written 8 years later!
We arrived home and Rosie's health deteriorated and after a frustrating Summer & Autumn found that she had an incurable Brain Stem Tumour and was given only a short time to live. In fact 8 years later she is still here and fighting. However we couldn't get health insurance for some years, so we would not have been able to return to America and so it was lucky we decided to sell the Bam when we did.
Eureka, California to Chicago, Illinois
Footnote 2 - written 12 years later
Rosie died on 6th Nov 2020 - she had been a wonderful wife, mother, friend, lover and travelling companion and without her this website would not have happened.
Also, had Covid happened during our time in USA - well I don't like to think!