The sign says it all doesn’t it. How can you not like a town that embraces its aliens so wonderfully! We bypassed the sardine like RV parks close to town and headed out towards Bottomless Lakes State Park, 8 miles South of the 380. Here a series of cenotes, lakes, were formed when the limestone was worn away from an ancient reef that now are the high banks of the Pecos River. We were lucky, we arrived really early, noon, check in time is supposed to be 4 pm…really late! And there was only two spots available. We watched as others arrived much later and left as it was full. The campground is right on Lea Lake, the largest of the cenotes. It had an abandoned feel this late in the year, most of it was closed up but it sure beat being side by side in the city, hate that!
Mike was raring to go as soon as we hooked up, Roswell…the place of alien dreams! We stopped for lunch at Big D’s Downtown Dive, looked like a favourite with locals, delicious green chile burger before wandering about and hitting the grocery stores.
The museum was a wealth of information. Several people told us there were alien tours, think we might do one of those next trip back through. Would love to see the actual landing site 70 miles to the North.
We were glad we stayed out-of-town at Bottomless Lakes State Park. We took a look at some of the other sink holes/lakes/cenotes, really beautiful in the late day light. This is New Mexico’s oldest state park, it takes it name from nine small deep lakes that formed along the Pecos River Valley escarpment. The caves formed within the limestone, and as the Pecos River eroded the escarpment, the caves eventually collapsed, leaving behind several deep, almost circular lakes known as cenotes, very similar to Carlsbad Caverns further South of here.
They range in size and depth, some have very steep sides, others, like Lea Lake at the campground have a sandy beach and are open to swimming, not a soul in sight at the beach. There is also a small nature trail through the marshes to the West, they were quite dry, but are filled by the spring in Lea Lake. A few ducks, but mostly quiet until almost dark you could hear the cranes coming in to roost. I was ready to go out at dawn to try some photography but the level of gunfire around us made me think twice, hunting season must be open, the last cenote, to the South is privately owned, a hunting camp of some sorts, I decided I’d rather not be bagged as a duck looking for birds in the predawn light:)
I talked Mike into driving me up to Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge the next afternoon, we had to diesel up anyway for our trip West so it was a good excuse to go have a look. Wildlife “refuge” is a bit of a misnomer, no refuge here from Sept.1st to Feb.15th for the birds, it is open to hunting:( Many of the ponds were full of geese, and in several areas hundreds of cranes were arriving to roost for the night. It was beautiful to see hundreds of cranes and geese in flight, the miracle of migration!
We had a straight run on the 380 the next day headed West. We had no idea we were going up in elevation to over 6600 feet. The High plains turned into Cypress and Juniper shrubland and then to Piñon Pines. The 380 turned into a Baja road, no shoulders at all for about 35 miles after the spit at the US 70. Not too hairy but narrow and up we went along the Salado Creek. The trees were in full Fall colour along the creek bed. We passed the State Park where Smokey the bear originated, you learn something new every day, past the small historic towns, Lincoln and Capitan before slowly starting our descent after Valley of Fires State Park. Here you cross over the Malpais lava flow. 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted covering 125 square miles of the Tularosa Basin, over 44 miles with molten rock up to 160 feet thick. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest flows in the U.S. Most definitely a place we will be coming back to explore! From a small pullout on the road we got out and stretched our feet amazed at the immensity of the lava flow!
From the high plains here we started to descend towards the Rio Grande. We picked up the US 25 South and headed towards Elephant Butte and Truth or Consequences. Yes, a town named after a game show, as if Roswell wasn’t odd enough;)
We checked into Elephant Butte State Park and I knew immediately I’d gotten it wrong, it felt more like a sardine city RV resort than a state park. We awoke at 7am to “Estas son las mañanitas” and later in the day were serenaded, well, I don’t quite think I can call it singing by a woman and man doing bad covers of late 50’s early 60’s songs you might here at a bad Vegas piano bar, but it was karaoke…very very bad karaoke…lordy lordy lordy help me now 0_0. I’d tried to make reservations at a campground to the North, more secluded on a bluff overlooking the Elephant Butte Reservoir but here we were…the view was not bad, quite lovely, it just had a rather sad feel to it. The Walmart was a bit frightening…I have nothing against anyone, really, but there is a subset that shops at Walmart that is quite scary, here it is the old oxygen packing electric shopping cart driving wrinkled from too much sun tanning population that would run over you in the aisle, then give you a dirty look for not leaping out of their way…whew…it was an obstacle course, the only smile came from the Christmas sweater rack we walked by, yes, I guess they do buy them, or they wouldn’t be here;) at least we had a good OMG smile;)
Better than this:
What a strange country we are crossing. There is good and bad in every corner and everyone has an opinion, which they tend to voice, without you asking;) Elephant Butte seems to cater to the water sports crowd, sorry, we always have a giggle when we hear water sports. Judging from the number of boat and RV storage businesses this looks like a winter retreat for those from the North and cold climates. It seemed quiet, perhaps the crowds have not arrived, but the beaches were too barren for me. Sand and garbage.
Better the view within the state park, the bunnies and quail were the best amusement to be had. Groot and Gamora watched fascinated from the back window at all the edible action out there;) we were treated to magnificent skies and warm temperatures as well. Hard to complain after the below freezing weather we’ve been running from.
We’ll explore Bosque del Apache in our next leg of the journey, but that, is another adventure.
Stay tuned and saludos amigos!
The realisation that each passer-by is living a life as complex as your own.
They do seem to go on forever, these midwest plains.
The endless fields of dead and drying corn, waiting to be harvested and the sorghum fields, almost as if someone has forgotten them. As we followed the railways South on small state roads, the 80 South to the 281 and then the 30 we passed grain storage areas, some old, some new, all seemed to need paint or just something to say there was some pride here.
I always try to see the beauty around me but with the gloom I struggled to find it. The cold temperatures and gray skies didn’t help. Looking for a glimmer of light here and there dancing off the fields took my mind off the endless grain silos. Like concrete and sheet metal monsters beside the roads they seemed ominous and one after the other after the other. A statement to what the life here revolves around, farming. At a small gas station where we stopped to refill our diesel there was more Spanish being spoken in the convenience store than English. Sonder, whether it is a word or not, it’s meaning and concept seems wonderful.
Could I live here? No, without a seconds hesitation. There is an air of depression to many of the small towns we passed through. The gas stations boarded up, the old cafes long closed, the signs were falling down and everything seemed to need a coat of paint, not every town, there were some that had an air of pride to them but so many did not. I have an admiration for those that do live here.
Maybe it was just that Fall feeling but it goes deeper than that I think. After the town of Grand Island we found a small state park, sadly right beside the Interstate 80 with all its traffic noise but a spacious area along the Platte River. A place to walk in the sunshine as it finally peeked out from behind the dismal grey clouds. A wonderful but still very cold feeling. There was electric in the park but the water and bathroom/showers were closed for the season, Mormon Island State Recreation Area.
The Platte River runs behind this park, an old slow-moving river that eventually runs into the Missouri, that eventually runs into the Mississippi…winding it’s way across the country. The banks show scars of floods and erosion.
We stayed two nights, time to get the front alignment done on the truck, something Discount Tire in Sioux City couldn’t do. The garage was on the outskirts of Big Island, dealing in tractor tires and big rigs mostly but the gentlemen were helpful and friendly as well as the other clients. Not much in the way of reading materials;) but better conversation with an older trucker than glossy pages. Filled us in on the area and farming he’d done, rigs he’d driven from milk trucks to his own. I thought he was in his late seventies. When he left the man behind the counter, a chatty fellow said, no, 89. The company he worked for gave him the easy routes and looked after him. He was going to retire but his grandchild died in an accident and then his daughter went off the deep end and had to be institutionalized, it was a sad tale. He kept driving the man behind the counter said so he didn’t have to sit and think about it…Sonder:)
From Grand Island we were on the Interstate a few miles to Kearny, then another small state road going South towards Kansas, the 183. We’d hoped to chase some warmth but a massive cold front kept pushing itself further South and the warmer temperatures and sunshine never materialized. We stopped at a small RV park in the town of Kinsley-in the middle of America, literally. Friendly people and a nice little pull through with grass behind and a nature path for Groot and Gamora to frolic in, as well as a friendly older cat, Groot was not impressed at all, I forget how few cats he has encountered in his life, this was a very friendly one at least:)
Kinsley has a museum, we stopped, and a sod house, it was closed, lots of stores were closed. Saturdays in a small town:) The sign was great. We found some diesel on the far edge of town before we headed out the next day to..Dodge, visions of gunslingers and banditos squaring off with the law…bad TV Westerns and dusty streets.
…for the life of me I can’t remember why, oh, that’s right, we had to refill the propane tank, nowhere in Kinsley to do that. Driving along the 50 through Spearville they had a “scenic stop” and information board there, pointing at the massive wind generators, mmm…not my version of scenic but I’m sure they are proud of it, and onto Dodge City where the “scenic outlook” looks out over a massive feedlot…no ground chicken in this town…lots of beef, and man, that feedlot WAS not scenic at all…we got the hell out of Dodge, always wanted to truthfully say that, it is my go to saying to skedaddle when we don’t like a place…ditto.
We had a few glimpses of sunshine the next day and headed South and West again, through small towns along the 54 to the 56 into Oklahoma. The countryside had started to change, from corn to more sorghum and small hills started to appear.
Although out of our way slightly, our goal was Black Mesa State Park and Nature Reserve and nearby Kenton where the Okie-Tex Star Party is held yearly in a truly black zone sky.
This was a beautiful stop, the morning after we arrived everyone pulled up and left us with the park to ourselves:) My kind of place. Lots of grassy areas to walk the cats and so much wildlife. Deer wandered a few feet away from the trailer early in the morning and we could hear birds again! The sun had appeared in the late afternoon and the lawns were covered in Painted Lady butterflies and Clouded Sulphers. What a delight!
Sadly in the evenings the fog descended, no night viewing the skies:( Bummer. It didn’t clear until later in the day. We took a drive towards the very small town of Kenton, and then back to the highest point in Oklahoma 4973 feet above sea level and to the dinosaur tracks:) That is what I wanted to see! In the dry bed of Carrizo Creek. A series of tracks reveal where a dinosaur slipped and caught itself before continuing on. The tracks are not marked from the road as they are on private land that allows people to view them during the day. There is a map at the park that shows the road.
The klutzy dinosaur was a theropod. Theropods are a group that includ such recognizable meat-eating wonders as T. rex and Deinonychus…0_0…the big boys!
A short nature path leads up onto the bluff overlooking the park. By late in the day the sun had started to shine only to disappear into the fog as the sun set again! Can’t catch a star gazing break! The early morning rush hour for the deer traffic kept the cats thoroughly amused looking at them through the windows as they wandered from campsite to campsite, along the river and up onto a small bluff where we watched from the windows…awesomness! But that weather!
Once again we headed South this time straight through the Westernmost part of Texas on the 385 to the 60 and finally into New Mexico…the SW…Oasis State Park is located South of Clovis, just North of Portales. It is an odd little park with a small fishing lake and views of the high plains. Not really much else up here. The park is undergoing renovations, no dump station but the outbuildings and pull through looked brand new.
An interesting stop, quails scurried everywhere followed by rabbits, Finches and Pine Siskins filled the bushes. The cats were not good helpers here for a photographer;) I was excited to see dozens of scaled quails, but they were very shy and flew off as soon as I approached. The Ladder Backed Woodpecker was quite co-operative as he flew from agave seed stalk to agave seed stock. Pecking at them furiously as the seeds flew out in all directions. The Finches were busy cleaning up after him:) The cats ran from window to window watching the rabbits. A pair of Coopers Hawks had a favourite spot in a dead tree, surveying their domain from the upper branches. Behind the park several nature paths wandered through sand dunes. We startled a Great Blue Heron as it hunted lizards, it left it’s tracks in the sand.
Our next jump was a short one…Roswell, New Mexico, it’s been on our list for a long time so we were excited to go. But that is another story. We want to believe;) 👽
Saludos amigos and stay tuned for more of New Mexico:)
Next stop-Sparta-Wisconsin. Winter weather warning coming in so time to skedaddle, that is a word:) Most of all the RV parks are closed now, October 15th seems to be the magic day they shut their gates and maybe, head South as well? I’ve scoured RV Park reviews and have come up with a few gems from time to time. Just South of Sparta there was a park that claimed to be open until Oct 31, no one answered my several phone calls and but we decided to take a chance and go look, if not it would be three more hours to a State Park in Minnesota.
This was mostly back country roads, small towns with a few zigs and zags, my favourite roads, past pawn shops and corn fields, this is corn country, as far as the eye can see sometimes. Still not harvested, waiting for the moisture content to be just right before the big combines crawl the fields and denude them.
Big Farms, small farms, Amish farms. We passed a pair of farmers throwing wheat sheaves up onto their horse-drawn cart, a country of contrasts no doubt. I often wonder how the younger generations of these Amish farmers view these older methods and how they come to terms with the back-breaking work when their neighbour next door is harvesting with his John Deere or Case tractor. I guess that is faith. I don’t have that. I celebrate my spirituality in mother nature’s arms, her back yard, watching what she brings each day to us. The highlights, and the horrors:)
We eventually ended up on I 90 for the last leg of the trip and headed South towards Leon and the Leon Valley Campground. The gates were open! Thankfully, and a cell number on the door to call, but no water it said, wells and pumps were turned off, crap! I spoke to a lovely woman on the phone, Joann who said she would be right over to show us to a space and that if we wanted water it was still turned on at the office, we found the spigot and turned it on, inside the unlocked office as it had been partially winterized, you know you are in the country when doors are open and no one is home…and filled our tank before she arrived, wonderful! Water has been a problem the last two stops as the state and county parks already have it turned off:)
We decided to limit our stay to one night so we could make Myre Island State Park before an incoming cold front, and forecast winter storm was going to hit the following evening. Our tires are not the best, we’ve been trying to replace them so finally called ahead to Sioux City and found 6 of what Mike wanted and made an appointment, damn duallys, lots of tire there! The temperatures were already dropping. We are total cold weather wimps!
We left fairly early the next morning, back onto the I 90 past more corn fields, the combines were out today, perhaps to beat the incoming snow storm. It was a short, two and a half hour hop to Myre-Big Island State Park. The wind was picking up by the time we arrived and the temperatures were dropping. We have two other campers with us here, not what one would call busy, but a beautiful site with lots of walking paths, if we don’t get blown away. We’ll be cooling our heels, literally, for a few days here until a break in the weather:)
We awoke to some wet snow and howling winds, I braved it for 20 minutes before I ran back inside! No shoes for this…brrrr…but it has its own beauty. As it melted a bit later in the afternoon the snow became drops of water on the leaves. I explored the paths behind the campground that lead near the lake, deer jumped and ran as I made my way down a small path and spooked a Bald Eagle from a tree where it had been fishing, gorgeous!
This park is pretty much empty, save few a few hardy souls here. There are extensive walking and hiking trails to explore, if it warms up! This forest is so different to the maples and ashes of Otty Lake. Huge imposing oaks dominate the landscape, like the scary Halloween trees, they have wonderful craggy branches. The colours are so different as well. Gone are the bright reds and yellows, here there is sombre browns, dark oranges and burgundy reds.
When the weather forecast said “snow ending at…” we headed West on a cloudy, drizzling day to Sioux Falls, the I 90, more miles of dairy and beef farms, fields of corn and the smell of freshly spread manure. You know you are in farm country when the billboards are toting seed corn to farmers, the newest and best variety, big business at work out here. Why Sioux Falls and what are we doing out here in the cold you might ask? Yesterday the high was 36°, with a 40 MPH wind, the windchill left us feeling like 20° F. Ever wonder why you see so many South Dakota license plates on trailers and Rv’s? Well, it is a domicile state that is friendly to full timers living on the road. No state income tax, low sales tax if you want to buy an RV, 4% I think, reasonable vehicle licensing, they say the insurance is less but ours actually went up when we changed our address to here, especially for the truck, time to shop around for someone else:) Jury duty can be excused by simply telling them you are a full-timer. I wonder how much extra revenue it puts into the DMV’s coffers? We have a mailbox here at a well-known full timers mail service, Dakota Post, who were most helpful in arranging the plates for the truck and trailer ($1200 in California just for the truck, $160 here in SD) now it is time I turn in my California drivers licence and swap it for a SD one…It is with some sadness I do so:( That is why we are here, and not in Baja by now;)
Somewhere down the road we’d lost the outside cover for the dometic fridge that protects it from the elements. The plastic gets worn and tired and the little nubs broke off, probably when an 18 wheeler blew past us. Looking around online for parts, ordered one from AdventureRV.net, never again, they neglected to tell me it was back ordered so expected it here in Sioux Falls, after several emails, oh, we’re sorry, we think it is backordered, well, it is, or it’s not. Sucks. Will make do with the plastic bag and duct tape for now:( The joys of living on the road, you can’t always find what you want. A trip to a local RV parts store yielded one, but not the right size.
The midwest has not been kind that way. Spent quite awhile going to butcher shops, then giving up and calling looking for ground turkey or chicken, they look at you like you are some kind of freak. OK, I get it, this is beef country but really? We make our own cat food, won’t buy the junk offered in cans or bags. In our small hometown of Perth, population 6,000, we have better food offerings than a town of 400,000. Astounding…yes indeed. Finally found some frozen ground chicken so we’ll pick that up today, stockpile for the cats, especially the 17-year-old, he’s finicky and we’d like to keep him alive and happy for as many more years as we can:) Going South from here, Sioux Falls, maybe things will change, I doubt it, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for a butcher shop where everything is not in frozen bags…why does America live out of frozen bags of food?
We’ll be happy to leave the city tomorrow, finally heading South. It was 21°F this morning, WAY too cold. The sound of freeway traffic from the I 29 is loud. The RV park we are at, Tower Campground was much nicer than I’d expected but yes, right in the city, right on the interstate so yes, noisy, but the spots are neat and clean. Lot’s of permanents here, winterizing their rigs with insulation and full skirts around their trailers. Large propane tanks being delivered, cold…too cold for us. Another State Park! Nebraska here we come, and it looks like a warm front is moving in! Yippee!
Stay tuned, I may be able to take my winter coat off soon! I’m now a registered licensed South Dakotan-Time to get the hell out of Dodge, I mean Sioux Falls and go South! Feels odd, but as full timers I guess this is what we do! After running around dealing with bureaucracy and all that fun stuff, it’s time for a glass a wine and a few peanut butter cups, trick or treaters, you are out of luck, these babies are mine, all mine;)
Stay tuned my friends, saludos amigos and Happy Halloween and Feliz día de muertos!
Definition: Lover of roads, or better, love of travel.
The Trans Canada Highway is a transcontinental federal-provincial highway system that travels through all ten provinces of Canada from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. The main route spans 7,821 kilometres (4,860 mi) across the country, one of the longest routes of its type in the world, isn’t that special!…and the views. We were lucky with a few sunny breaks as we crossed rivers and drove past still lakes as we made our way West to the Sault. and then South…
I’d found a State Park, Brimley, near Sault Saint Marie on the Michigan side right on Lake Superior, it said it was open so we were excited to be away from the road and closer to the wilds once again. Groot and Gamora were not pleased with the last campground, between the roar of traffic and cars they were not very happy on their short walks, no more running wild around the lake:(
Borders, why do they always cause that sense of dread. Officious Customs and Immigration, weird and odd questions, even if you are guilty of nothing you feel guilty of something;) hahahahaha! Ok, so I’m a bit of a seasoned smuggler, food that is, cat food, in the freezer, and fruit, sometimes a hidden apple can lead to dire consequences;) the website isn’t all that clear on what you can and can’t bring in so I always just go with what we have, only offer what is asked. The US seems convinced Mike is going to take work from some poor struggling American so we are always quite clear to tell them we are “visiting” heading to “Mexico” and not a prolonged stay…that seems to keep them happy…this trip we ran into a very nice woman, while struggling to keep the cats from jumping out the drivers window she was kind and sympathetic while her colleague watched the cats antics laughing, a nice change from the prison guards who work the San Ysidro border;) Welcome to UP Michigan, upper peninsula, small and friendly border:)
It was a short drive South on the US 75 and a few miles East brought us to the Brimley State Park, no one to be seen, self registration which I’d done online, we pulled in to an amazing spot under glorious coloured Maple trees. By Sunday afternoon all the weekend campers and squealing children on bikes (the cats liken them to some sort of dangerous alien) were gone, we were one of 4 campers left in this 237 site park…talk about camping perfection! The cats were ecstatic, running through the leaves and up and down the small banks near the beach and paths out to the lake, like the small squealing children:) Brings joy to your heart watching that kind of play, even Beezil went out and had a gallop around the trailer chasing falling leaves, a great feat for a 17-year-old kitty!
The variety of leaf colours was simply astounding and that perfect sand beach. We were told it is packed in the summer, so obviously this is the time to come!
I had read about some waterfalls near here, well, sort of, an hour away. I felt bad making Mike drive for another day but it was forecast to rain later in the day so I got him going early and we headed to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, North and West of us.
These are the largest Falls in Michigan, and you even get to drive through Paradise to get there. We went into a grocery store, the grocery store in Paradise. The produce section included a ripe bunch of bananas, two rotting tomatoes, some potatoes and onions and a few odd apples. I think I’ll skip paradise and keep heading West;)
We went to the lower falls first, the clouds were closing in and it looked like rain. The mists from the Falls settled over you from the closest overlook. As you first walked in you caught a glimpse of several Falls in the lower section.
The Tahquamenon River, this is the land of Longfellow’s Hiawatha “by the rushing Tahquamenaw” Hiawatha built his canoe. Long before the European man set eyes on the river, the abundance of fish in its waters and animals along its shores attracted the Chippewa Indians, who camped, farmed, fished and trapped along its banks. In the late 1800’s came the lumber barons and the river carried their logs by the millions to the mills. You drive through the Hiawatha National Forest, no old growth here, everything was cut down many many years ago.
The Upper Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, has a drop of nearly 50 feet, more than 200 feet across. You can access the upper falls by a series of steep stairs that go down to a boardwalk along the sides of the river for a series of beautiful views and roaring water. Sadly there is nowhere to get off the boardwalk, which makes photography tricky, especially long exposures. The people plodding by bounce the boardwalk…but I found a small quiet overlook for a few 30 sec. shots:) with the Fall colours it was breathtaking! There is also a viewpoint right beside the Falls as well.
I could have spent several more hours here but stomaches were grumbling so we tried the brew pub up by the upper Falls parking lot, soso, beer was undrinkable, really, and I’ll drink most anything;) but the whitefish sandwich was fine pub grub, truly sad about the beer though:( We headed back to Brimley State Park, should have checked out the camping at the lower Falls but rain was on the way and we wanted to get back before it started to pour. I do love waterfalls, can you tell? Is there an app for that? Oh dear, Mike is cringing! hahahaha:) Such a wonderful man! Now where are the next set of waterfalls to photograph?
When we left Brimley, we were the only campers there. We had to sweep the mounds of fallen maple leaves off of the slides before we left! Piles of them! One last walk on the beach for Groot and we headed South on the 41 towards the next small County park we could find open!
We just had to find it, both our phone and truck GPS took us in the wrong direction once we were getting close to Oconto, Wisconsin, and we missed the small sign on US 41, so asking directions from an older gentleman sitting on his porch was the way to go as he stared out at Lake Michigan. It was a quick fix and a turn in the other direction, a bit of mayhem but a sigh of relief as we pulled into Bay Shore County Park right on the lake and pulled around to our reserved site, one other camper here, it was lovely. More grand maples in reds and yellows and a view of the lake through the trees, and quiet! The best thing we could ask for. Electrical and water, until today, they turned it off, the water that is, but we were not missing anything the fellow said, it smells like sulphur. I’d read that and we came with what we needed. Temperatures will be falling to freezing tonight and the wind is howling. Time for a rest and tomorrow we head West towards Sparta, Wisconsin, Greece would have been warmer I think;) We’d hoped to get a new set of tires for the truck, ugh, 6 of them, but Discount Tire in Green Bay couldn’t get them in so we’ll wait for Sioux City and wear them out a little bit more.
We’ll keep you posted from the road as we head West. Today we bought some groceries at an Amish Country Store and read a pamphlet on the evils of Halloween, I made sure we had our Día de los Muertos shopping bag with us…we were dressed modestly (I told Mike, NO sparkly spandex!) as the sign on the door directed us to do so by 1 Timothy 2:9…yikes…the garage where we had our propane tank filled was going to make garages “great again”…reasons we are heading West to heathens and pagans of the Pacific coast;)
Saludos Amigos, hasta pronto:) may the force be with us all;)
Those colours, and the reflections in the calm water, priceless. The combination of a warm day with an occaisonal light breeze, fabulous. When things come together, that is what Fall seems to be, the last harvests, the last leaves, the last warm days. A time to celebrate what was, and what will be.
These days don’t come as often as we’d like but when they do, you want to soak it up. Three hours paddling around Otty Lake, exploring Mud Lake, a small shallow area that joins Otty with the much smaller McClaren Lake and back again, heavenly! A painted turtle lazed on a log soaking up the sun as we paddled past, usually they plunge into the lake but not today, he eyed us up and down with his long neck and decided we didn’t look threatening enough to lose his spot in the sun. Cottages are already closed up, docks pulled for the winter, boats stored and a sense of quiet has come over the lake, ah Mondays, hardly a soul to be seen:)
In town the Farmer’s Market was quieter as well. The amazing variety and the colours were a sight for the mind and mouth! The squash are all ready and the last of the tomatoes are here, some of the farms have already had frosts, others not, we have one more market Saturday to go and then they close up after the Thanksgiving weekend until Spring.
Tay View Mill and Farm is a beautiful piece of heaven on the Tay River and the old mill used to supply power to the town of Perth. The dam was first erected in 1823 for milling wood. Wilson Bowes and his wife Jane have a wonderful dairy farm here and Wilson’s grandfather collected an amazing assortment of well, everything from eggs to rocks to farm implements, washing machines, you name it, an astounding collection of what once was, which we really need to hang onto. The next few generations need to know how their parents were raised and how their grand and great grandparents lived, often with little, at great risk:) Mike has known Wilson since they were children and we stopped by to visit between milkings. The milk truck driver was there, about to leave, looked at Mike and said “You look familiar! Wirths! I drew cream and milk for your mother and father in the late 60’s!” this man has a memory, over 50 years ago:) he’s 72 now, still driving the milk truck, about 10 times larger than it used to be but shiny and clean as always! Small towns, you have to love them! Wilson gave us a tour of the museum and a visit with the cows and barn cats and kittens sleeping in the sun. The wonderful smell of farms, it just delights me! Here is where so much of what we eat comes from, from the chickens down the 2nd line at Marcy’s to the curious heifers in the beautiful old stone barns here at Tay View Farm, our milk, our cheese, doesn’t come from stores, it’s soul is here with the people who do this hard work day in and day out. They are my heroes:)
As Thanksgiving approaches this weekend we need to stand and give a huge round of applause to these people who grow our food, take care of the animals that provide us with milk and meat and dig into the ground and pick from the trees what we eat. We picked up our turkey today at Coutts Country Flavours, as well as fresh carrots and raspberries. Diana always has time for a word and a laugh at their lovely store. Something is always coming out of the oven and you feel hungry the moment you walk in, with good reason:) Her storefront is beautiful, celebrating Fall and all its bounty.
Local bounty, not shipped thousands of miles, apples from Oregon, in Ontario? Not a chance. Celebrate your local food this weekend and stop for a moment and think where it all comes from. The biggest and shiniest is often not the best, but something genetically made to last longer for those 3000 mile road trips across the country. Do yourself a favour and find an apple from a local orchard, a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner that ran around, ate bugs and sat in the sun, not under the glare of a fluorescent lamp, these things matter, so very very much.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving amigos! Talk to you soon:)
As I sit here, drops of sweat dripping off my nose I am astounded it is still September, and at the same time, it feels like July. Where did the month go? 33° today…celcius, 91.4° on the Flintstone scale…stinking hot.
Being blessed by good weather after a summer of rain and cooler than normal temperatures is not a bad thing;) The blow will come at the end of the week as a cold front moves in and the clouds and blustery Fall weather with it. Plans to go South after Thanksgiving are forming and the Fall clean up is starting to happen. Docks being put away, inflatable rafts rolled up and stored for next year.
The trip back to Baja ate up 10 days of the month as well. Flying in over the Anza Borrego desert was spectacular ( I got lucky looking South) and Ensenada, wonderful as always to spend at quiet night at Estero listening to the shore birds before heading up to the ranch. The smiles at the toll booths reminded me of why I love Mexico…
Hoping the lovely German couple do fall in love with Concepcion, it’s not hard to love that place and it’s amazing flora, fauna and water. It was wonderful showing them around, you realize just how much we accomplished in the decade we spent there when you start to show others just what we started with there, which was nothing, and what we built:)
I was so pleased to hear the hummingbird migration. Like a busy airport it starts before dawn. The buzzing of wings and the fights and quarrels over who gets what place at the feeder. We had Anna’s, Allen’s and Black Chinned all vying for the prime spots. The Allen’s generally rule the airwaves during the slower times and then just give up as the hordes descend:)
It is always sad to leave the ranch, there is such peace there and I do love it, but it is time for new adventures. It’s hard to be separated from Mike for these impromptu trips. Unlike some couples we have spent our entire lives together, working together at Ranyhyn Farm in Perth and then the decade in Baja, we are not used to being separated, we’re a good team, and we like each other, no, we so very much love each other, being apart is incredibly difficult.
As we head South I’m looking forward to these dark skies again. At 3 am one morning , still on East coast time, I was wide awake. I wandered out with the camera and using a bag of pinto beans for a tripod, tried to capture the setting Milky Way. I’d wished I’d brought my jacket but a few towels and clothes pins worked for warmth, the chill of Fall is already here at 5000 feet of elevation.
The usual gang of birds and creatures were present at the ranch. The jack rabbits were busy with the new grass and a small herd of deer wandered by one afternoon. The woodpeckers and Scrub Jays were busy picking up the oak’s acorns and stashing them away. A Loggerhead Shrike serenaded me my last morning there, he’s a first for me, always excited to see a new arrival. No killer rattlesnakes;) I did disturb a sleeping Two-Toned Garter Snake as I watered a parched garden, he wasn’t too pleased but moved on to a dryer spot. I have to admit spending almost a week there alone was a tonic of quiet and peace. Time for reflection and wonder, as always. No TV, no news just you and nature, but I was ready to head home.
I spent a night in San Diego in a somewhat moldy smelling hotel room near the airport. I tried to open the windows but the noise outside had me closing them right up again. I crossed the border tired, very late and worn out from driving and couldn’t go any further. My flight out was in the morning so I was poised to leave. I was irritated, not just by the noise, I know to expect that when I come back to San Diego but by something the border crossing guard had said as I handed him my passport. He asked what I’d been doing in “Mexico”, I told him…”Alone?” he queried me, WTF is what I was thinking, what does this moron mean…”yes, alone”I added. I wanted to add to the conversation in a sarcastic way but have learned over the years you only answer what is being asked and you can get the hell away from these small power-hungry little jerks. What business of his was my alone, or not alone status. Nope, no one in the trunk asshole, yes, I’m alone, yes, in Mexico, did I mention I feel safer there than in the US buddy, jerk off, scumbag and worse came to mind. I’m not accustomed to sexism, perhaps because the people I share my life with and my friends would never question my abilities to be “alone” or together with someone. Welcome to the USA…the new, I can say what I want USA, seems to be the trend, with no regard to anything, or anyone.
I had a wonderful breakfast with my brother and caught up with his life. Always a treat for me. With the rental car returned through the labyrinth of the San Diego airport and then checked in, x-rayed, patted down, I was ready to get the hell out of Dodge;) My treat was getting all three seats to myself in row 29 of the wonderful Air Canada flight and getting to see the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley from the air…now I need to see them in person!
Mike picked me up at 1:30 in the morning and it felt wonderful to be home, a polite home, something I always notice as I cross the border, both into Canada, and into Mexico, there is a level of societal politeness than is lacking in-between.
Mike had his hands full with Groot, a rather exuberant Gamora and of course our old guy Puffy, aka Beezil. Gamora didn’t miss me at all, the old guy did, he’s my boy:) She seemed to double in size in 10 days;) Groot loves her and they successfully wear each other out daily. She now has her own harness and leash and is just a bit too smart;) She’s quite the little street urchin, fearless and curious. There were daily walks, then Mike running away from the trailer when they became too obnoxious;) Life back to normal:)
I guess it has been a busy month, time flies when you’re having fun, who ever said that? Shoot them, yikes, I think I spent too much time in America…0_0…hahahahahaha! Back to a regular routine, catching up, enjoying our feline family of three now. I’d forgotten just how crazy a kitten can be. Groot is such a serious boy, so well behaved! Gamora is living up to her name;) We’ll keep you posted, they may need their own book, or Facebook page soon, someone contacted me asking where “Groot’s”page was? hahahaha!
The weather is changing today, clouds are rolling in and a severe thunderstorm watch is in effect. The leaves are falling and it’s time to take the canoe out one last time on a glassy morning and see the colour reflected in the water. It means colder nights and temperate days, it means Fall, glorious Fall.
“and all at once, Summer collapsed into Fall”
Saludos amigos, stay tuned for colour, and more colour as pumpkin season arrives!
Groot had quite the surprise yesterday morning, a new visitor to the trailer, not the usual Golden Lab, Lucas, that Regan and Sheila have but…a black one…wait a minute, Groot was pretty sure this was not one of those evil dog things but something completely different so he let us know…meow….!!!
Come and take a look! He was jumping from window to window. Mike said “Bear”…I said, “yeah, right”, I’m not getting up before sunrise…”NO REALLY! BEAR!!!” that did get me up! Holy guacamole….a bear indeed.
He was feasting on the sunflower seeds in the “squirrel” but not bear proof bird feeder. I sent the feeder manufacturer a shot as well, they had a chuckle and hoped my feeder survived, it did! We watched him for 15 minutes as he picked the seeds out of the feeder, finally shaking them out before licking them up off of the ground. He eventually wandered off to the other cottages along the lake, I’m sure he has his routine:)
Another day at Otty Lake, life is an adventure isn’t it! So wonderful to be able to experience nature this close and marvel at the wonder of it.
So until next week amigos. We’re off to do some fishing from the canoe, perfect day. I’ll see if I can contain myself bearly 🙂 I’ll need to get my bearings, oops, after we bearicade the door, or yes, these puns are unbearable;)
Saying goodbye to Otty Lake. It is tugging on our heart-strings to leave, the melody of the loons crying is being replaced by the calls of Canadian geese flying South, the great V formations have started. As we have plotted our course West and then South we realize how quickly parks and RV campgrounds are closing, most already have by mid October so we are hunting and fishing looking for places to stay. Our last few days have been grey and drizzling and the air is getting a serious chill to it.
One last forray into Ottawa and we came back with parathas, lentils and spices from the India Food Store as well as a stock of samosas for the freezer. Real bagels and sourdough bread to freeze as well. We’ll miss this diversity where we are going into the American midwest. Still not quite sure what we can and cannot take across the border but we’ll see! We made a trip North into Quebec to Gatineau Park for a visit to Pink Lake. What a treasure for the capital region to have this at their doorstep.
As the leaves are turning to brilliant oranges, yellows and reds we have been getting ourselves ready to travel again. The chairs have been put away, cleaning off the pine sap, last bits of garbage collected, recycling taken in, cottage fridge cleaned out and floors swept…saying goodbye to friends and the horses…there is always a bit of trepidation about resuming life on the road, but it will pass.
We headed out mid morning, letting the cat’s breakfast settle;) better than cleaning it up later:) We were not quite sure how Gamora was going to react to traveling in the truck, and Groot had shown signs of car sickness since his battle with the bee as well. Only Beezil curls up at my feet and falls asleep quietly. The first few miles she looked astounded, I guess that is what you could call her look as we started down the road, but settled in quite quickly. She would dive into her cardboard box when she became overwhelmed. Groot rides shotgun between the two of us and after several jumps of three hours Gamora was fast asleep upside down not caring where she was or what was going on around her…great travellers! A wonderful relief!
The first jump from Perth to Algonquin Park was a 280 km trip, about three and a half hours, enough to get our feet wet again:) The only campground available during the late Fall and Winter months is the Mew Lake Campground. I was glad we had booked a site ahead as when we arrived a tired looking young lady was turning people away from both the tent sites and nothing was available with electric either! looks like she’d had a few cranky campers stop in:) We backed into our site, quite tight between the trees but happy to be stopped, first day a success, no car sick cats and nice warm fireplace heater going! Time for a glass of wine and putting the feet up:)
The morning was overcast and foggy over the lake. A few ducks, that I thought were mallards, but turned out to be American Black Ducks were diving and swimming about looking for breakfast. The occasional Jay and Chickadee could be heard in the overhead canopy. Another lone photographer graced the beach. The only setback to this park is that Highway 60 runs right by the Northern part of the campground and the traffic noises start quite early.
By noon the fog had cleared off and we had peeps of sun. We drove East on the 60 to the skirts of the park to top up the diesel, stopped for only can be called the worst burger I have encountered in my life at the Algonquin visitor center…OMG…what do all the poor buses full of foreign tourists think, this is Canadian food? A flabby bun with a barely warm burger that had been sitting for an undertermined amount of time under a heat lamp, it was greyish, topped by a wilted piece of romaine and an oxidized tomato slice served by a less than enthusiastic employee…this is a prime Gordon Ramsey set 0_0. HELLO Canada…get it together! This is NOT food, you want the visitors to survive their trip;)
The view barely made up for the bad taste in my mouth, nothing that a few mints and a walk around the Spruce bog boardwalk couldn’t save though. The wonderful smell of decay, hard to describe, at once slightly sweet, yet earthy…way better than the smell of that food. Back at the trailer for a few hours I explored around the campground watching the Black Ducks and an American Pipit poking about for worms by the water’s edge. We ventured a bit further East later in the day to a trail called Whiskey Rapids.
A beautiful walk down to the Oxtongue River and along it for quite a while to a small set of rapids, not the roaring I was imagining but a nice quiet brook:) It was wonderful to have the sun back out and see that blue sky! After astronomical darkness set it, we ventured down to the beach for a spectacular view of the skies, somewhat hampered by an idiot camper with all his inside and outside lights on, sigh, pet peeve, sorry, if you are scared of the dark, stay in the city, leave these dangerous places for us;) It was so nice to see the Milky way setting and the trails of stars and galaxies rising across the night sky.
The next morning we packed up and headed to just South of Sudbury, a bit longer jump, to the only campground open, Carols. Sadly situated right beside the highway it was noisy. Richards Lake was beautiful at close to sunset but after 6 months of quiet at the lake this was not a spot we’d come back to. I couldn’t find a park nearby so we were looking forward to moving on…the big jump, out of Canada…0_0….oh dear, changes they are a coming;)
Stay tuned amigos as we cross back into the USA….Sault Saint Marie and Michigan here we come:)
Pure happiness. The joy of standing in the grass barefoot and looking at apples, apples everywhere and imaging and drooling a bit of what can be made of these luscious pieces of fruit;) Too bad Eve got the bad rap with an apple, loads of codswallup if you ask me;)
This is seriously my favourite time of year at the ranch in Baja, yes, apples, old heirloom varieties that have long been forgotten for the blandness of Red Delicious and MacIntosh, soft supermarket fare that I can not, and will not buy. As we are not in Baja, although I ate enough for a family of 5 while I was there 10 days ago, I had the craving to cook with these beauties so off we went on a friend’s recommendation to Ireland’s Blueberries and Apples.
From ancient standards to newer dwarf trees the branches were laden with fruit. We picked up a bag of Snow’s (They are an all-purpose apple with snow-white flesh and a distinctive flavour. They originated in France and have been grown in Canada since the 1600s) and a variety bag to sample the others in season.
Can you say aromatic, the truck smelled of ripe apples the whole way back to Perth. Now to find the recipe, Julia Child, Tart aux pommes:)
Adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking
Makes 8 servings
Partially-cooked 10-inch tart shell ( recipe below)
4 lbs. apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve
1/4 cup apple brandy, rum or cognac; or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter
(optional) 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, grated rind of 1 lemon or orange
1/2 cup apricot glaze (see below)
1/2 cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Mix the preserves and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes (225-228 degrees on a candy thermometer) until glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If boiled above 228 degrees, glaze will harden when cool. Apply while still warm or reheat before using.
1.) Quarter, core, and peel the apples. Slice 3 cups worth into 1/8-inch lengthwise slices. Toss sliced apples in a bowl with lemon juice and sugar. Set aside.
2.) Cut the rest of the apples into slices (about 8 cups). Place in a large heavy saucepan and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for about 20 minutes until apples are tender. Beat in apricot preserves, alcohol (or vanilla), sugar, butter, and cinnamon and zest (if using). Turn up heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thick.
3.) Preheat oven to 375F. Spread the applesauce in the partially-baked pastry shell. Arrange sliced apples in an overlapping layer or concentric circles.
4.) When oven has preheated, bake the tart in the upper third of the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the apples are tender. Slide tart onto a cooling rack and paint a light layer of apricot glaze over the top. Serve warm or cold.
yum…a whole afternoons work but worth every minute of it!
I was pretty pumped yesterday, Perth Fair. In our day when we ran the Hunter Horse Show there it was the highlight for the local kids and adults who participated, a chance to show off the skills they had learned at the barn, on their favourite steed and for surrounding barns it was close by, easy to trailer to, you could go back and forth to get all the kids and horses there, and the entry fees were low! It took weeks of planning and a few 5 am morning starts to get things organized. Getting the jumps, begging and borrowing what we didn’t have at Ranyhyn Farm. A visit to the local florist/nursery for dozens of mums to put in and around the jumps. Corn stalks from the neighbour to cover up the less than pretty jumps. Making up the courses, then Saturday, setting up, measuring the lines, filling the gift bags…work, yes, but the looks on those kids faces when they got a ribbon and a bag full of prizes from the many generous sponsors! Priceless:)
I usually got a chance on Saturday during setting up to catch the breed show going on the ring next door. Always a beautiful parade of Arabians and American Saddlebreds, Hackney ponies and roadsters so to get to spend a few hours there was going to be a treat.
I was shocked, classes with only one or two horses. It seemed empty, and it was an incredible sunny day. What happened? I know the Arabs and Saddlebreds are not easy rides but there were no kids almost at all. A lead line class with…two kids. I was really disappointed to say the least. I knew Sunday and the heavy horses was going to be in the rain so this was it:(
I can not profess to be at all knowledgable about these classes but it had an air of sadness about them, faded glory, no kids or teenagers participating. After showing for many years, in the hunter classes and then dressage, having your horse go around the ring with its mouth wide open fighting the bit landed you in last place…something tells me at the upper echelons of these Breed Shows this doesn’t go on but it was a bit alarming for me. I saw one horse willingly go around listening to his rider but he lost out to the fancy tailed horse that had its mouth wide open the entire time. These are big bits they are using, not exactly snaffles here. Maybe I need to learn more but not really sure I want to.
These horses actually do quite well if can imagine the ruckus going on. Fair rides and music, the Tractor Pull was going on and the Lawnmowers racers were warming and revving up their engines, it is amazing any of these horses aren’t having nervous breakdowns;)
At the lunch break we headed over to the rides and agricultural tent…loved the play with your food exhibit;) my mother always told me I wasn’t allowed to;) There were the standard bored carnies, too early on Saturday to waste your breath yelling ” step right up!”…”everyone’s a winner”. I can always figure out the latest animated movie craze by the stuffed animals being given away. Koalas and unicorns seemed big this year;)
They must have been containing their enthusiasm for the Saturday night crowds;) We wandered through the Agricultural tent and the chicken and bird exhibits by the petting zoo, hard to resist miniature baby foals and donkeys, always a favourite:) we could have stayed for the demolition derby and eaten some bad fair food but a day such as it was, sunny, no wind, was begging for a canoe ride on the lake so we left early and headed out for a paddle.
Now what a way to end a beautiful day! Groot was getting a bit bold, sitting on the front of the canoe as we were paddling. Usually he waits until we pull up beside the dock to carefully climb out but not this time, he decided a few feet out that, well, he’s a strong strapping cat, why not gracefully JUMP to the dock. He had not been taught Newton’s third law sadly, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you push off as you are jumping, the canoe will move away from you, therefore extending the span you have to jump…yup…kerplunk…into the lake he landed, I didn’t laugh, at first, just grabbed him by his harness as he swam towards the dock and hefted him up, he is a two armed kitty now folks, big boy. He looked extremely dejected especially after a toweling off but half an hour later was playing with a feather we’d found floating as we were paddling. Hopefully the swim will be forgotten, we’ll see at the next canoe ride!
Enjoy these last days of summer folks and see you soon. We may try to get to the Renfrew Fair this week to see the heavy horse show after all!
Hard to explain that feeling, of summer slipping away, the first chill in the air, the bonfires and smell of smoke drifting across the water.
Maybe it is time to move on. I can feel Fall, and smell it in the leaves and ground. The freshness is gone and as the plants start to brown, and the flowers fade I know the time is coming. We’ll start looking at the maps and plotting our course West, and South.
Definition: An intense and irresistible desire for freedom.
Do we want to leave, no, not just yet. Many things are up in the air and it seems we have not had the time to visit with everyone we wanted to. Strange how quickly the months have flown by.
We will still have glimpses of summer in the next few days, warm days and hopefully more canoe rides out onto Otty Lake. Groot has taken quite a shine to his canoe trips. We have Regan and Sheila to thank for the use of the canoe and the stunning space here at the lake. It has opened our eyes to the joys of living lakeside. We will be eternally grateful to them for that.
…and there is the Perth Fair! A sure sign of Fall:) the wild blueberry stands will close after this Labour Day weekend and things will quiet down. We stopped at a stand along Highway 7 for some berries and a pie on a trip up North to Nirvana, an abandoned airstrip perfect for astronomy. The road in had been graded so now just to plan for last quarter, or new moon and hope the weather Gods will be kind and give us clear skies. It has been a cloudy summer, hoping for a sunny start to Fall. In the swamps the trees are already turning and a few pop here and there with yellow, the reds and oranges can’t be far behind.
Tonight the forecast is for 3° celcius, that “IS” chilly, time to bring the basil in and bundle up tomorrow morning for the farmers market, I have my fingers crossed for apples, and the Perth Fair! Stay tuned, I’m hoping Sunday and the heavy horses will not be rained out as predicted! Let the weather Gods intervene!!!
Saludos and keep warm!