Thursday, August 25, 2005

Katrina Landfall

Katrina is making landfall down south of us around the Broward/Palm Beach County line. That is about 40 or 50 miles south of us. She is a minimal hurricane now with sustained winds of 75 mph. It is rainy and windy here. The winds must be sustained around 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph. We have heard no thunder but the wind is howling like a banshee. It is not a major storm event up here on the north side of the storm but it is blowing hard enough to do some minor things like blowing limbs out of trees and blowing any loose objects around. The storm should begin decreasing in strength as soon as it starts moving over land. The good thing, knock on wood, is that so far we have not lost power. That is a very good thing.

Katrina Approaches

Tropical storm Katrina is approaching the coast of SE Florida. Right now the forecast track takes her to landfall at Fort Lauderdale, a good sixty miles south of us. We are getting rain showers and gusty winds. At this point they winds are not as bad as those we get in thundershowers. The core of Katrina is small at this point but she is forecasted to intensify slowly and should be a minimal hurricane at landfall. We are just far enough away to miss the damaging effects of the core winds but with hurricanes one can never be totally certain about what they are going to do. We have our hurricane shutters in place having put them up for our trip out west. Of course, they will remain in place during this storm and probably for the remainder of the hurricane season. I will update the blog if any unusual weather events occur during the day. Landfall for the storm is not predicted to happen until tomorrow morning.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

DSL Again

It has been very frustrating since we returned home because when we turned our computers on we found that we could not connect to the internet. Well, halleluja we are connected again. It has been an all day effort to do so but now all of our desktop computers, laptops, and MSNTV are connecting at high speed. Why did it take all day? It is a long story but if you have the time I will tell you about it.

Yesterday, Friday August 19th, I spent about an hour or two on the phone with Bellsouth and a helpful young guy in India or somewhere helped diagnose a few things and determined that it would be necessary to send a technician out to the house. A nice young lady named Kate arrived on the scene this morning and spent about half an hour diagnosing a few things only to determine that my old DSL modem had bitten the dust. She got a new Westell DSL Modem out of her car and installed it for me. This one is about half the size of the old one. Then I started tinkering because I had to get my wirless connection running using my Linksys Router. That turned out to be an all day project. No matter how hard I tried I could not get it to work. However, I did have connectivity on one computer when connected directly to the modem so I started searching the online resources. as usual provided all the answers. Seems that the new modem has to be reconfigured as an bridged ethernet device to relinquish its built in router functions over to the Linksys router. After following the instructions carefully I finally got the router working. Barbara's computer came online next and then my laptop. Those required a bit of tinkering and configuring since the laptop connects wirelessly and I setup my new wireless network with 128 bit encryption I had to manually enter the WEP encryption key in the setup. After getting that to work I tackled the MSNTV box which turned out to be the toughest challenge. I had been using a Linksys Wireless Game Adapter for that connection but no matter how hard I tried I could not get it to work. I then remembered that it came with a USB Wireless Connector and so I plugged it in. Immediately it asked me for the WEP encryption key and I knew I was in business. I typed it in and, Voila!, we have connectivity on all of our computers and devices. Whew! I don't think it has to be that complicated but a lot of it is because we have a network with three computers and a set top box, the MSNTV, and the network is both wired and wireless. Probably not the typical home computer setup.

Home Again

Rewind to Thursday, August 18. We departed Tranquility Cove, my mom and dad's place, about 9:30 AM. Our plan was to drive part of the way, stop in a WalMart for the night and continue on the next day. About 4 PM we stopped in Ormond Beach at a WalMart after calling the store and asking if it was ok. We saw about a dozen signs that said, "No Overnight Parking." We called the store manager again and they said staying overnight was ok with the store but the city of Ormon Beach had an ordinance against it and that we might be awakened by the cops asking us to leave. To avoid that we left and did not stay overnight in Ormond Beach. Continuing south we called the Walmart in Titusville and they gave us the ok. This was only about 60 miles further so we gave that a shot.

Pulling in to the parking lot we located the proper spot after calling and driving around a bit. We finally got parked and started our generator to run the A/C. It ran for a few minutes and then stopped. Seems the fuel line was pulling some air bubbles in around the fuel filter. I worked on it for a bit and it would run but then stop after a few minutes. Looking at the map and seeing that we were only two hours from home I decided to spend those two hours driving instead of working on the generator. We arrived here at the Mothership Base at about 9:30 PM and have been sorting through mail, unloading the camper, and calling our ISP to get our internet service restored. More on that later but for now let's say we are glad to be back home after a fantastic trip.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Homeward Bound

We are on I95 60 miles north of the Georgia/Florida State line. Nice to have this cellular modem on my laptop to post while moving. Great too for checking email. We had a great time at Mom and Dad's in SC and had a chance to unwind from the trip. I need to calculate the total miles we have driven but I can estimate that it is well over 7,000 and probably more like 8,000. It has changed our perspective of distances to travel. The leg from SC to FL seems like a short hop. Based on the patterns we have established on the trip this normally would be a one stop distance. It is just shy of 600 miles from Mom and Dad's to our home. Based on the way we have been driving this would entail an overnight stop along the way. If we do stop it will most likely be a WalMart stop as we have gotten pretty comfortable with "dry camping" after having done it a few times. We realise now that the Mothership is quite self contained and capable of independent dry camping for two days without trying and much longer if we were to use careful management of water and fuel. Well, that is the update for now traveling at 64.4 mph on I95 as indicated on the GPS display.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tranquility Cove

We are parked in my mom and dad's yard where they have a full hookup for the Mothership. It is time for a breather and to spend time with family. We will spend some time here before moving on to Florida.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Colonel Sanders and Glacier Girl

Yes, we were in Corbin, Kentucky, the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. No, we did not visit the Colonel Sanders Museum but we did drive about 40 miles down the road to the home hangar of "Glacier Girl", a restored P-38 Lightning, in Middlesboro, Kentucky. This was not just any restoration project. The original plane was in a forced landing on a Greenland glacier. Over the decades since the forced landing the snow and ice built up over the P-38 to over two hundred feet. The recovery effort was innovative and demanding. Read about it here. I'll post some of the photos we took later. We are settled in for the night at a WalMart in Laurens, SC.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Corbin, Kentucky

We stopped at Corbin, Kentucky for the night. This is the location of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant. The place is still open and has a museum dedicated to KFC and Colonel Sanders. You can read more here.

We traveled through Indianapolis, Indiana and Cincinati, Ohio today. All of the trip was through smoky conditions. Only at the end, as we neared this location, did we start getting into clear air. We talked about how over the long term whatever elements are in the smoky air would precipitate out into the soil and onto the crops. The corn, the wheat, and all other crops that eventually become food products would surely become contaminated. We hope that the conditions we saw today were infrequent and not constant.

Lunch in Indiana

We stopped at a WalMart in Greensburg, Indiana to buy a few things from their Food Center and to have a sandwich for lunch. The entire trip from Minneapolis to here has been in smoky conditions. It looks like air pollution or smog. We think it is from all of the industry around here but we could be long. A quick sandwich and then we move on towards South Carolina. We will not get that far today but will definitely be there before the end of the week.

Eastern USA

We spent the night in Crawfordsville, Indiana last night at a KOA. After being in Canada and the Western USA there are some obvious things we have observed about the east. It is much, much, more congested than the west and that would be an obvious characteristic one would think of just looking at a map. But, there are other differences. Our highway world, that thin narrow strip that connects us to new places, has changed. Instead of RVs and cars with a few trucks we now see mostly trucks and cars. Around major cities like Minneapolis the drivers are as insane and rude as they are in South Florida although that area certainly holds the title for driving insanity. Off the road, as usual, the people here in the mid west as they have been in other areas are helpful, courteous, and polite. We use Walgreens to fill our prescriptions and every single store we have been in has been unusually helpful and courteous. The only store we have ever had problems with and continue to is the one nearest our house at home. They are the worst Walgreens in the entire USA in terms of dealing with the pharmacy. We think it is because their work load is too great for that store.

Today we will pass through Indianapolis as we continue towards South Carolina for a visit with Bob's mom and dad. Then we will start our trip back to Florida for the arrival of our second granddaughter. The trip has been an amazing adventure and the blog postings are just highlights of things we have seen. We have gained a perspective on North America that will require a lot of thought and review to put into words. We have also learned a lot about the technology of keeping in touch while traveling. Surprisingly Bob's cell phone, a Nokia 3650, has been the most reliable internet connection at speeds better than dial up. Using T-Mobile and the phone as a modem for the laptop we were connected almost continuously even while traveling across Alberta and Saskatchewan on the PH-1 Highway, the Trans Canada. It was a delight to pass through a town or by a feature in the landscape with the ability to Google it while driving to learn more. Barbara has become pretty confident driving the Mothership too and that has provided a welcome break for Bob. She drives the big rig now even in heavy truck traffic and crosswinds and does a great job at it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

More Wind Generators

These things are everywhere. We just passed this.
We have discussed the subject often on the trip and have always said we would rather look at these beautiful wind generators spinning around harvesting energy from Mother Nature than look at smoke stacks from a conventional generating plant. It is such a joy to watch these things spinning and making electricity so gracefully and elegantly without any emissions or pollution whatsoever. We love them. The latest issue of National Geographic has an excellent article on alternate energy generation. I highly recommend it if you can get it. It is available in newstands or book stores in the periodical section.


Left Minneapolis yesterday. Drove through the center of the city on the interstate in heavy traffic. Continued through cheese country of Wisconsin as we left Minnesota. Heavy truck traffic all the way to Madison, Wisconsin. We decided to dry camp for the night and picked out a WalMart in Madison but when we arrived there it was in a busy construction area with a lot of traffic. We decided to go on south of Madison to Stoughton instead. We looked up the address of the WalMart there and called ahead. Barbara spoke to the manager who said parking overnight was fine. Driving to the store we passed through the center of Stoughton and found it to be a beautiful little town. Main street had Norwegian flags hanging from every light pole. We parked for the night in a corner of the parking lot out of the way of cars and were able to run the generator so that this morning we are watching the space shuttle rentry.

Stoughton, pronouced "Stowton (rhymes with snow)", is largely of Norwegian heritage. That explains the flags on Main Street. We hope to find a place downtown to have breakfast this morning and will take a few photos of this delightful little town. For more information about stoughton click here for the Chamber of Commerce web site. It is nice.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Big Things

Ok, let's recap. When you last joined our roving reporters they were in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Seems they found out that Moose Jaw has some strange subterrenean tunnels that Al Capone supposedly used as a hide out. But, most of all they have a big thing. You know you have to find big things when on the prairie. This big thing is Mac the Moose. We had some other people take our picture in front of Mac. Our "Big Thing on the Prairie." We found a web site that lists all of the Big Things but this is the only one we got close to.

On our way to Moose Jaw we passed a place called Chaplin, SK. It is worth mentioning because of the strange white mineral deposits everywhere. Turns out they were sodium sulphate deposits and Chaplin is known for producing something from it called "saltcake." I guess it is used for making glass and paper and other stuff. We were so baffled by it that we had to Google it as soon as we got to Moose Jaw.

Ok, so we left Moose Jaw and headed south towards the border into the US. The roads in Canada are quite good with wide shoulders and frequent pullouts. Now, this is weird, but just before we crossed the border we stopped at a WalMart that appeared way out in a little town on the prairie in Saskatchwan. We picked up a few things and then went on to North Portal, SK. Seems Portal and North Portal are one and the same town with one unique thing. One half of it is in Canada and the other half is in the US. Our crossing was uneventful with a nice border patrol guy inspecting us and giving us the all clear.

We then followed the stair step township and range roads in North Dakota and worked our way down to Minot. There are some tiny and remote little towns up in North Dakota and each of them must have a great story but we didn't stop as we had miles to go. After Minot we took a highway south towards Jamestown, SD having picked out a campground that looked good for the night. We traveled 14o miles from Minot to Jamestown in North Dakota with no cell phone coverage and almost no traffic on a fantastic, straight as an arrow, road. When we got to Jamestown we picked up cell coverage and called the campground. "We are full and are parking them on the grass." was the reply to our question about a site for the night. We checked our atlas and found that there was a WalMart in Jamestown so we headed for that. Arriving we found a small village of about 12 large motorhomes so we made ourselves at home. The manager, a young woman, came out to greet us and was astonished at the number. "I have never seen so many of you here." she said. She was very friendly and told us to make ourselves at home and that the store opened at noon the next day. She said that she loves having motorhomes in the parking lot but some stores cannot allow it because of municipal laws.

After our night in the WalMart parking lot we headed east through fields of sunflowers and corn until we started encountering eastern culture near Minneapolis, Minnesota in the form of grid locked traffic on I-94. Good to be back in the east. Right! Here we are in Minneapolis with a drive to Chicago tomorrow. Oh boy. What fun. We really want to get through this densely populated area but we fear traffic is going to be heavy from here on out. That's about all the news that is fit to print from the Mothership. Oh, Barbara has been getting in lots of time piloting the Mothership and is doing really well. It is nice having a relief driver to share the load.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Here are some photos from our too brief stay in Banff. As I said before, it was just too much to see in the time we had remaining. We did see some of the scenery, The Banff Springs Hotel, Banff Village, Tunnel Mountian, and we drove up to the top of Mount Norquay (sp?). The Banff/Jasper area is vast. It consists of many National Parks that are connected to each other extending for nearly two hundred miles to the north. We had hoped to drive up to Jasper to spend a few days and even see the start of the Canada to Alaska Highway, the AlCan, but realistically this is a major trip and to do it justice we would have to spend much, much, more time here. Sounds like a trip for the future doesn't it? We loved driving into the entrance to the Banff Provincial Park and being greated with a "Bon Jour." We really felt as though we had reached an exotic place hearing that French salutation. This is an absolutely gorgeous area and does indeed deserve another trip for further exploration and enjoyment.

Musings from Moose Jaw

We could not return without a visit to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. What person alive would not want to be able to say they had been to Moose Jaw? Now, our lives are complete for we have spent the night in Moose Jaw. All kidding aside this is one of the nicest campsites we have visited. It is immaculately clean and neat. All sites are paved and easy to pull through with the car attached.

We traversed 508 miles today across Alberta and Saskatchewan. The wide open spaces of the Canadian prairies are truly awe inspiring. We saw amazing quantities of hay in the fields. Some areas had giant hay bales as far as one could see. The preparations for winter are nearly completed and it is an impressive site. I will add some photos later but wanted to get this posted.

Tomorrow we cross the border back into the US down at North Portal into North Dakota. Since we will be traveling some smaller roads we may not cover the miles we did today. Hopefully we will get somewhere near Jamestown, North Dakota to spend the night.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Prairie Posting

We are traveling eastward across the vast prairies of Alberta. Our stay in Banff was a bit short but we did an estimate of our time and decided it was time to head back towards home. The scenery in Banff was spectacular but so vast that it would require a trip just for that. Barbara is driving and I am typing using my cellular connection. This is truly mobile blogging. I just wanted to be able to say I had done this.

This is a small sample of the endless fields of hay bales. Getting ready for winter is a big deal up here. Hundreds of square miles of hay bales extend in all directions. Preparing this for food for the animals in the winter is a major effort. We also saw fields of Canola and Wheat everywhere. Mostly dry prairie in the west but the moisture levels increased steadily as we drove east. Also, the more moisture, the rougher the roads. We observed that in our drive across the prairies. In the west where there is less rainfall the roads are smoother and nicer. When there is freezing and thawing of water on the ground they are rougher.

We passed another BIG wind electrical generating station at the location noted on the map. Electrical generation with wind seems to be a growing trend out here in the prairies both here and in the USA. We like that a lot. Making energy in harmony with Mother Nature. How great is that?

Glacier National Park

So far Glacier National Park is our favorite of all the places we have visited. We drove the "Going to the Sun Road" twice. It must be the most spectacular road in the United States. Every turn reveals a view of incredible glaciated mountains. Towers and peaks that look like they came from a move like "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Steep and sharp peaks of unimaginable beauty. Glaciers in the high elevations nestled among sharp rocky crages. As we drove over the Continental Divide the wild flowers were spectacular. We tried to get photos but they never do justice to fields of flowers on either side of spectacular waterfalls. The road itself is a marvel of engineering and tenacity. It took two years to build it back in the days when the only tools were pick axes and wagons. We just cannot imagine what that was like. Two stretches of the road were under repair probably as a result of rock slides or avalanches. We asked one of the workers if he ever got used to the scenery. He said, "No, it is never boring and it changes all the time."

We drove over to another less visited part of the park called "Many Glacier" where we saw a black bear feeding on berry bushes high up on the side of a mountain. We joined a crowd of people looking at him with binoculars. At the end of the road into Many Glacier there were dozens of people with high powered telescopes scanning the mountains for wildlife. This is grizzly bear country and many people, including us, hoped to see one from a long distance away through binoculars but they have eluded us so far. We think that food is so abundant this time of year in the mountains that they are quite happy in the remote areas. We have seen many deer and innumerable prairie dogs but that is about all.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Great Falls, Montana

We had to make a stop at Albertsons for a few grocieries and I made a connection to the net through my laptop using my Nokia 3650 cell phone as a modem. Cool!

There were two possible routes from Billings to Great Falls, Montana. One, the Interstate route was the more scenic. Knowing we were going to Glacier National Park, one of the most scenic places in North America, we chose the shortest route which was State Road 3. It turned out to be a very interesting drive.

We suspect someone in Ryegate has a good sense of humor. It is a place that might have one store and a few houses. In an empty field by the road was a sign that said, "Coming Soon, Hooters." You should also know that the one store in town also had a sign on it saying, "21st Annual Testicle Festival." That should also give you a clue. Now, I know that the Testicle Festivals are some sort of tradition of fringe gatherings so that might be real. Google Testicle Festival and you will see what I mean.

Just south of Judith Gap in a wide valley between two mountain ranges we came upon a massive construction project. It was a gigantic wind electrical generation facility. The wind generators were about three stories high and spread out across the valley. None were completely finished and they were in various stages of construction. There must have been about twenty or more towers. What a perfect place for this alternate form of electrical generation. It was an impressive sight. We have not had an opportunity to learn more about this project since we don't have an internet connection at this location here in Great Falls.

About half way from Billings to Great Falls we stopped for lunch at Wade's Cafe, an intersection truck stop cafe. Service was slow but the food was good. The most interesting things were the photos on the wall of Wade's Cafe demolished with a large truck in the middle of the wreckage. Seems that many years ago a big truck was coming down the hill and the brakes failed or the driver fell asleep, it was late at night and the Cafe had closed, and he blasted through the intersection right through the little place. No one was hurt because the Cafe was closed at the time. If you ever take Route 3 up from Billings stop in, have a burger and check out the photos on the wall in the souveneir area by the cash register.

Great Falls like Billings has some interesting features that we have seen all over Montana. One is the universal presence of little casinos on every corner. They are like seven elevens in Florida. They are infinitely varied in their size and shape and look like any other business except that they offer poker, keno, and other gambling along with the usual offerings of a bar or lounge.

The other universal feature of Montana other than mountains that we find interesting are the little coffee shops. Some of them are out in the middle of nowhere and many are in the cities. Most of them offer drive through coffee in a wide variety of forms and flavors. We saw one today offering Latte, Mocha, Expresso, and Big Train. I imagine Big Train would keep you going for the long haul.

Tomorrow we reach Glacier National Park. As I said in the beginning of this entry it is known as one of the most spectacular sights in North America. Are we excited about seeing it. You bet we are and yet we are still reliving the days spent with Winn and Donna, our friends in Billings. For just all around fun and good times that will be hard to beat. That hanging guard rail where the rock slide took out the Beartooth Scenic Highway still is vivid in my mind.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Beartooth Mountains

Our friends Winn and Donna took us on a fantastic tour of the Beartooth Mountains yesterday. The Beartooths are only about 45 minutes from their home. With a short drive one can pass through Red Lodge, Montana which is a really interesting alpine village, to the Beartooth Mountains. The Beartooths are steep scenic mountains with many National Forest Roads through them. Mountain streams, glaciers, rock slides, wild flowers, good friends, who could ask for more. The photos are just a sample of the area. Fantastic day and we could not ask for better and more gracious hosts than the Hortons. We have had a wonderful few days with them and will remember these days for the rest of our lives. We hope to get together with them in the future. We even talked about taking a trip up the AlCan Highway to Alaska together in the future. Thanks Winn and Donna. You are the greatest.

For those who want to know more about the Beartooths, click here
. We could not take the Beartooth Scenic Highway because of a mud slide that had occured back in May. Our friends were camping in the area when the slide occured and Winn heard it during the night. The next morning the campground was evacuated and the road is still under repair. We were able to follow a forest service road to an observation point where we could see where the slide had taken out the highway in several places. One site was particularly dramatic where the only thing left of a section of the road was the guard rail dangling across where the road had been.