Monday, March 26, 2018

Starting Over

Just before Christmas, I finally broke down and bought a new minivan. Good old Lizzie was 14 years old and had gone almost 260,000 miles. She was still relatively healthy, but it was time for some major work (timing belt and new brakes), and I thought the money would be better invested in a new model.

Meet Lizzie 2!  She's 10 years younger and has 200,000 fewer miles, but otherwise she looks pretty much the same. Same brand (Toyota), same color (this is my 4th silver car in a row!) but when I got her home, I discovered a few differences.

Some of the storage areas are gone (and I REALLY miss them) like the ones in the front seat armrests. The space between the two front seats is now a console, rather than a table with space underneath. That's where I kept 15 bottles of water -- the console only holds 8.  Yes, there are some positives, like a better glove box and more drink holders in the front.

In Lizzie 1 I had a curtain rod that went between the two sides of the van and hooked into holes that were already there in the car. A tension rod with the ends stuck the holes was an excellent solution. Lizzie 2 doesn't have those holes.  This was a real challenge; I tried a number of different things but nothing was working. So one afternoon I went to Lowes and just started walking down the aisles for inspiration. I found it in the curtain rod section!  The brackets that I have installed on I don't know how many windows were the perfect solution. I had to do a little adjusting, but these brackets hold the rod firmly (there is a screw that attaches the rod to the bracket that you can't see).

There is one huge difference between 1 and 2 that if I had known about it before I bought her, it would have been a deal breaker. When you remove the second row seats, there are "trolleys" left on the floor, and in order to get them out, you have to go underneath and dismantle the fuel tank to get at the bolts that hold them in place. That's not something I can do, and since I occasionally need to reinstall the second row seats, it wouldn't be practical anyway. I don't know what Toyota was thinking when they designed the seats that way, but I think a lot less of Toyota these days.

But she is mine, for better or worse, so I had to find a way to deal with the problem. I consulted some van-dwelling friends, some camping friends, and some guys in the choir at church and there were lots of ideas.  I played around with some of them, and finally decided that the best solution was to build a small platform to cover the trolleys.  After trying it out with just some cardboard and zip ties to see what it might be like, I decided that would be the solution. l

My brother-in-law and nephew are very good at building things, so I prevailed upon their skills to help me get it built.  That entailed a weekend visit to Colorado where they live but it also meant I got to spend a weekend with my sister!! They agreed that a platform was probably the best way to go (after confirming that, yes, you really did have to dismantle the fuel tank to remove the trolleys).

After a trip to Lowe's, and some careful measuring, they were off and sawing. When it became evident that raising the bed so that it would sit on the platform was impractical (I wouldn't be able to sit on the bed if that happened!) they just drilled holes so that the legs fit through the platform and sit on the floor. It didn't take them very long to finish the project, and Mike even painted it for me.
Mike and Eric assembling the platform 


The bins that I normally use to store stuff under the bed still fit (barely), and with some rearranging, I have plenty of space for everything. I only forgot one thing.  My gas grill is like an old-fashioned lunch box and it has a handle on the top. It used to go under the bed but now it doesn't fit.  The handle makes it too high. My idea is that the next time I go to Colorado, I'll take the grill and have Eric (my nephew) take off the handle and weld it to one end of the lid and weld another kind of handle to the other end. He is a hobbyist welder.  (How I love having relatives with these kinds of skills!) Then  most everything will be back to normal.

The biggest change will be a  minor one; in order to get in and out of the van I will now have to use a step stool -- that additional 3" platform makes it impossible for me to climb in and out unaided. I already have to step stool, and it has a permanent place in the camper, so that shouldn't be much of a problem.

The only thing left to decide is where the first trip will take me!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Red Chairs

I couldn't write about a trip through Maritime Canada without mentioning the red chairs. Every historic site, every park, and even many of the museums have a pair of red Adirondack chairs positioned somewhere on the grounds. I didn't understand this at first, but once I read the plaque that accompanied the chairs I understood, and I was very impressed with Canada's emphasis on stopping to smell the roses.

Here's what the plaque says: "The red chairs placed in special locations National Parks and National Historic Sites are all about taking time to connect with nature and with each other. They offer a place to rest, relax, and reflect on the place you discovered and the journey you took to get there."

It's been quite a journey, and I have a lot to reflect on. Maybe I need a red Adirondack chair in my back yard!

Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland

Port Royal National Historic Site, Nova Scotia

Cavendish National Seashore, PEI

Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, Cape Breton Island

At Gran Pre, site of the Acadian deportation in the 1750's. Made famous by the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem "Evangeline"

I got to sit in one near Green Gables, PEI! 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Presidential History

I've loved going to Presidential Libraries for many years now, and I've seen about 14 of them.  Presidential homes are also high on that list, and this trip provided an opportunity to see two libraries and one residence.

Campobello was the vacation home of FDR until he got polio in 1921; it was a place for family and friends, rather than official visitors. It's in New Brunswick, Canada, but administered by both the US and Canada, and is only accessible through the US most of the year. So I came through Customs into the US after two months in Canada, and the next morning I went back!

What a beautiful place it is. The gardens were amazing, kind of like what I loved about the Pacific Northwest. The climate is similar, so I suppose it wasn't so surprising. And the house itself is beautiful.  One of the highlights there is a program they have called Tea with Eleanor. It is limited to 40 guests each sitting, and the guests are treated to Eleanor Roosevelt's favorite tea (with cream) and ginger cookies while the docents tell stories about Eleanor's time there. It was fun to see the people who worked there arrive at the house as we were waiting to get in. As they walked down the path, they would repeat some of her favorite quotes, such as "A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water." It was a grand place to wander for several hours.

More beautiful gardens -- especially the dahlias. 

View from the living room.


The John F. Kennedy library has been high on my list, but I have not been fortunate enough to be in the New England area for many years. This trip made it possible to finally see it and cross it off my list. The setting is beautiful, on a point of land in Boston Harbor, looking across the water at the city. It's green all around, and there are paths down to the water and a dock. The park is scattered with picnic tables among the trees; several other museums are nearby.

Although Kennedy was only president for three years, there were plenty of exhibits and they were all pertinent to his presidency. One that I found particularly amusing was clips of video from Jackie Kennedy's television tour of the White House; I remember watching that live on TV.  As a matter of fact, the tour of this library was a trip back to my late teen years! The most impressive part of the building was the lobby at the end, with the windows soaring many feet into the sky. 

Kennedy's Oval Office

Exhibits through the hallway

The Lobby at the end. 

As I was driving to Pennsylvania to visit my sister, I pulled off the highway to get gas and to check the map to see where I was.  (This is why I like paper maps so much, you get to see what's nearby.) Lo and behold, the FDR Library was just 25 miles from where I was, and  not very far out of the way. So I called Nancy, told her I would be a little late, and took off for Hyde Park.

The library and the FDR home are in the same park, but you can only visit the home on a tour. I arrived at 1:20 PM and the next tour was at 1:30 with spots still available. How lucky can you get?! It was a grand house, with typical 1920's and 30's furnishings, and the grounds were huge. The stories of FDR working to overcome his disability were heartwrenching – trying to walk to the end of the long drive and having to be carried back to the house because he simply was not able to return on his own, or pulling himself from the first to the second floor on a dumbwaiter – there was no electric elevator and he had to do the pulling alone.  Besides being a great president (in my opinion) he was quite an amazing man.
FDR Home, Hyde Park
Dining Room, note the kids table in the window!

Living Room


Grounds at the back
FDR's desk in the Oval Office

The library was full of all sorts of memorabilia that was fun to see, but I had to kind of hurry through it -- I still had a 2 hour drive to my sister's house. But all through the museum I kept thinking about a conversation I had with my father shortly before he died. We were talking politics, and I asked him if he had ever voted for a Democrat for president before Obama – he said that yes, he had voted for Roosevelt's fourth term!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick

Although this trip is almost over (I'll get home sometime next week) there are still experiences that I'm mulling over and would like to share. 

After leaving PEI, my next stop was to see the tide change in the Bay of Fundy from the New Brunswick side; the best place for that was Fundy National Park. It's located near a tiny town called Alma, where you can see the tides on a different kind of shore.  This one has fewer cliffs and is more level.  That was apparent on the first day I was there.  In the morning, I took a photo from a boardwalk along the beach at high tide, then went exploring for the rest of the day. When I came back that evening, it was low tide, and I was astounded at how much beach was visible, compared to the morning. I would have had to walk almost half a mile to get to the edge of the water! It's hard to imagine the amount of water that rushes in and out of the Bay of Fundy twice a day!
High Tide at Alma

Low tide at the same place 

Explorations led me to several other points along the Bay: Cape Enrage, and Hopewell Rocks. I don't know where the name for Cape Enrage came from, but I loved the name. Although it was very foggy that morning, I found the location to be very intriguing.  I love the blurring of the lines of the shore and beach with the water and sky. Cape Enrage was most notable for the hundreds of cairns on the beach. Some of them were very complex shapes while others were simple piles of stones. When I came back to Cape Enrage at the end of the day, the tide was out, but it was still very foggy. I wonder if the fog ever completely disappears from that section of the bay!
Cairns at Cape Enrage, high tide

Cape Enrage, high tide

Cape Enrage low tide

Hopewell Rocks was almost an otherworldly experience. The huge pillars carved by the action of the tide over thousands (or millions) of years would have been hard to imagine. At low tide, they stand up like sentinels guarding the steep, rocky cliffs. They have trees growing on top, so that at high tide, they are more like islands off the shore.  I wasn't able to see them at high tide, but at low tide, they are most impressive.  To get to the ocean floor, you have to walk down a 101 step staircase (and back up it again when you are ready to leave). That may be part of the reason I chose not to come back at high tide! But I loved wandering around those huge pillars and thinking about how they were formed.

Hopewell Rocks
Hopewell Rocks

Hopewell Rocks

Hopewell Rocks -- Staircase
That night as I was cleaning up my dinner things, I started thinking about all the things I had seen, my list of Must See things, and wondering if there was anything I had missed. I remembered a spot on the drive to PEI where I crossed a river at a Tidal Bore viewing station. I was on the way to PEI and didn't stop to see what it was all about. But I wondered if I had missed something I would later regret.  My guide books were helpful in explaining the Tidal Bore, and I realized that I would definitely regret not seeing it once I got home.  So after checking the map and discovering that it was only 200 miles back to that place, I ditched my plans to move on, and moved backwards instead. I was there at 9:30 AM ready to see what this Tidal Bore Viewing Station was all about. Although the bore can be as much as 4 feet high, the sun, moon, and earth were aligned in such a way to produce a much smaller bore. It was still impressive. At the viewing station, the water in the river rose about 15 feet between 9:30 and 10:45 AM.  Can you imagine?  That's a huge influx of water in a short time!
Base of bridge pillar visible

45 minutes later

The interpreter at the Viewing Station said that it was also possible to see the bore at another place along the bay on the same day, so I headed to Truro to their viewing station. This happened about 11:30 AM. This one was like a small wave coming into the shore at the beach, but it didn't stop and retreat; it just kept coming and coming and coming. And as I sat there along the shore, the river rose about 5 feet or more in less than 10 minutes. Whoa! That is an impressive sight, even if it wasn't the 4 foot wave that sometimes happens.
Tidal Bore, Truro

Just a few minutes later

So now I leave the Bay of Fundy with no regrets, nothing unseen, and full of great memories of another bucket list item achieved.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island

It's called PEI by everyone I've talked to – Prince Edward Island is just too cumbersome to say, so from here on, PEI it is!  And what a place it is, too!  I spent yesterday driving around the Eastern part of the island, taking many small gravel roads that led to the beach (although I didn't know that when I took the first two or three), meandering along the roadway, sometimes stopping in the middle of the road to take photos (nobody was coming either way!).
Flowers in the ditches.

Birdhouse on a power pole!

Birds on the beach.

I am enchanted with this island.  It is peaceful, quiet, unhurried, and just really laid back, if I can use that phrase. As I was driving yesterday, I kept thinking how tidy it all was. The fields are neat, the homes are well kept, and the yards are mowed and nicely landscaped. The beaches are clean. The roads were sometimes not so great, but not as bad as some other places I've been on this trip (Newfoundland, I'm thinking of you!!). Even the roadsides are mowed!
Hay bales on a farm. 

The north shore, where I camped the first night (in wind so fierce I couldn't cook because the stove wouldn't stay lit) is the center for mussel farming, and I saw a number of those farms in St. Peter's Bay.  The lady at the visitor center was very informative when I went in to ask what all those buoys were in the water. The mussel farmers put very small mussels in what they call socks, which are long pieces of netting, and they hang them from the buoys. The mussels grow over the next 18-24 months, and when the farmer pulls up the sock, it is encrusted with mussels ready to eat!  I haven't had any yet, but I'm not finished with PEI yet either…

Today was devoted to Green Gables, of Lucy Maud Montgomery fame.  The house about which she wrote is now a national historic site, and the north shore where it lies is a national park. Since the morning was sunny and warm, I decided to drive along the shore road first (just in case it got nasty). It was breathtaking – the cliffs are red sandstone, and there were lots of pull offs so that I didn't run the risk of getting run over.  This part of the island had more people, tourists mainly, but still it was not very crowded.  I imagine that in the summer it might be quite different.

After the shore drive, I went to the house, which is open for tours and photographs are permitted.  Yippee!  I wanted to share the house with two of my daughters-in-law, both who love the Anne of Green Gables stories, so I can do that with pictures. It was fun to see how the house was furnished (with period pieces) and to imagine how it might have functioned back in the day.  The guidebook I'm using for this trip said that the whole thing was very much a tourist trap, but I found it very interesting and not as touristy as I expected.  Yes there was a gift shop, but it was away from the main part of the site, and it was easy to skip it if you wanted to (I didn't skip it!).
Green Gables

The dining room.

Anne's bedroom

Even some of the pathways that are described in the books were now made into walking trails, and I did one of them.
Lover's Lane trail. 

The sun stayed out, and it made for a very enjoyable day!