safely on the hard. Outboard delivered to Olde Towne Marina, repaired,
returned super quickly, super economically and the boot/trunk of car filled with
oil! And yes, I do know the boot or even the trunk is not the part of the
car that's supposed to be filled with oil. Let's not even go there.
Suffice it to say that for the next several months we will be regularly visiting
the US Post Office to collect large quantities of their splendid (and free)
Priority Flat Rate shipping boxes to use as boot liners to protect our luggage.
We are on our
way to Boulder, Colorado to house-sit for the parents of Zoe for whom we
house-sat last year in New Orleans. But before we really get going, we'll
divert to Brunswick Landing Marina to catch up with Matt & Karen on Where II.
Although our wakes have crossed several times since, it will be the first
time we've physically been in the same place at the same time since the
of Cubagua in 2009 before we headed for different destinations in Venezuela.
So a longish
lunch reminiscing and then we're off! Just under 2,000 miles to go. The
diary says the first stop was somewhere called Dublin, but neither of us can
remember it, so probably best to leave it out of your holiday plans.
Then Chattanooga, where we'd liked to have had time to stay longer, made up for
by Mt Vernon that sounds nice, but has nothing to recommend it. And next
up is Kansas City, Missouri another nice city with a proper town centre and good restaurants.
It seems to us though blisteringly hot - but we really don't know what hot is yet!
Then WaKeeney. Yes that is the correct capitalisation. Some romantic
Native American name you're probably thinking. Actually no, rather a clumsy
combination of the names of the two guys who bought a few square miles of land
from the railroad in 1877 and decided to build a town. WaKeeney is exactly,
to within a mile, half-way between Kansas City and Denver and built as a
stopping point on the railroad. That is truly it's
only reason to exist, but since the trains haven't stopped here since
1930, that's no longer a very good reason. "You're not locals are
you?" asks the lady in the general store where we've gone in search of something
to blitz in the microwave of our non-descript hotel. We are slightly
bemused - WaKeeney is in the middle of the desert, a very long way from
anywhere and has a population quite a bit smaller than my secondary school.
Unless the shop assistant is an alien recently beamed down from her mothership,
and only just learning to imitate a human, she must know (and quite possibly be
related to) every person in WaKeeney.
Is this an X-Files moment? Must double lock hotel room door!
slightly surreal feeling over the next few hundred miles as we climb
slowly up towards the mile high city. The outside temperature continues to
rise whilst the snow on the mountains seems almost close enough to touch.
I guess if you live in the shadow of the Rockies you get used to it, but for us
the initial impression is quite stunning.
nestled in the foothills at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains is spectacular, and Henry and Amanda have a
wonderful home on the edge of town in the
shadow of the Flatirons. Boulder's location alone would be enough to
attract an up-market community, but it is also home to Colorado State University
and those two things, combined with a very healthy tourist industry has produced
a greater concentration of decent places to eat than in any similar sized town
in the US. All in all it's an extremely pleasant place to spend 3 months.
is a Mecca for "The
Outdoors". There are climbing, hiking and biking trails everywhere
and even the people who aren't actually climbing, hiking or biking look as if
they're about to be.
Certainly there are a lower percentage of fat people than anywhere else we've
been in the States. One downside as a motorist in Boulder, is
that such is the priority enjoyed by cyclist, joggers and the like and so
protected are they by local laws, that many of them have long since lost the
ability to turn their head and tend to shoot out from turnings and corners without
warning. It makes driving around town a nerve racking experience - like
being trapped in some demented '80s video game, but with the added spice of
almost certain incarceration if you come into contact with any of them.
they have very large hailstones, which is why we have a new windscreen!
other negative thing about Boulder, which is not in any way Boulder's fault, is
that it will be indelibly etched into our memories as the place where we woke up
on the 24th of June to discover that the lunatics had in truth taken over the
asylum and the British electorate had voted to leave the European Union.
in Boulder sadly comes to an end on 15th September and we're on the road again. Our
destination is Toronto, Canada and that's what we have programmed into our
navigation software to get us started. We follow the Rockies north for a
while before turning right, then "Bear left in 1200 miles" chirps
the lady in the phone. That's not a direction you're ever likely to hear
in the UK. The rolling corn fields soon become monotonous.
Fortunately we have some stops planned along the route.
over places like Des Moines, which is for the best, our next proper destination
is Chicago. Say Chicago and the things that spring to mind are
electric blues, bootlegging and most of all gangsters. It was also the
beginning of the old Route 66. But our recollections will mostly be of
stunning architecture and "The Bean" at Millenium Park.
next. Home of the US motor industry, but our first stop is the Motown
Museum, an unprepossessing detached house next door to an undertakers. And
it has to be said it wouldn't really be worth a visit unless you happen
to be on the tour with a group of large ebullient black ladies who know all
the words and all the associated moves to every Motown song ever recorded.
Go with them or don't go!
it's off to the Ford factory and museum, which may not sound too exciting unless
you're a total petrol head, but actually was a really worthwhile day. I'm
sure we all have a picture in our heads of how a production line works and I'm
sure Ford's facility is by no means unique, but nothing prepared us for the
overall sophistication of the process, which is breathtaking. Not
breathtaking enough of course to make either of us ever want to apply for a job
on an assembly line - just the opposite, but truly impressive!
and damp and almost before we know it we're crossing into Canada, which turns out
to be very different from it's southern neighbour - more than we had ever imagined.
But, before we've been there anywhere near long enough to get a feel for that
difference, the first thing we notice is that Canada is expensive.
That gasoline price - is for a litre? OK, it's not in the same league as
European fuel prices, but still a shock to the system.
stop was to be Mississauga, outside Toronto, with John and Pat who'd been our
neighbours in the boatyard at Fernandina. They took us to see Toronto and
we started to get a feel for that "difference". Shopping in a
huge market which
felt like Europe - we even bought Foie Gras! Lunch in a pub which felt
like the UK. Then buying wine in the only place it's available in Canada,
a government-owned store which felt like........ I don't know - Saudi Arabia?
A day on our own to visit Niagara Falls - really, is that it? It's not very big
is it? Have you heard of Iguazu? As Crocodile Dundee would say
"That's a waterfall!"
we spend a few days with John and Pat at their cottage on scenic Lake Couchiching
before driving cross country to our next house-sitting assignment, 3 weeks
in Kanata - just outside the
Canadian capital of Ottawa. We visit the museums in Ottawa and
tour the city on a brilliantly sunny but cold day. Canada in the autumn is
truly spectacular, although all those maple leaves are much better
seen out in the country where it's not your job to rake them up!
late October by the time we leave
for Montreal and already very cold and wet - just as well the old city of
Montreal is blessed with an abundance of good restaurants without the need to
walk very far. Look for Verses if you ever visit. We drive on
through Quebec province, though sadly we don't actually make it to Quebec City.
Away from the big cities everything does now have a very rural French feel.
We stayed at a gîte overlooking the lake at Piopolis and could have been in the
Dordogne. We also discover the excellent restaurant La Salle a Diner
hidden out in the woods and only open two days a week - and I suspect (or like
to think) we are the only English couple ever to have eaten there.
following morning we wake to a decent covering of snow - not something we've
seen close up for a very long time. A sign, if we needed one, that it was
time to hurry south! We cross the US border into Maine at a place called Coben Gore. Actually, describing Coben Gore as a place is a bit like
calling Bristol Rovers a football team. Coben Gore is a gas station (on
the US side of the border of course) and a pair of immigration offices and
that is it. Inexplicably, since both countries drive on the right, the US
immigration booth has been build on the right-hand side of the road, making it
impossible for the driver to speak to the officer without either leaning across
to the passenger window or getting out of the car (in the snow) and walking
round the car. However, business is quickly concluded, our passports
returned and we're off. But wait a minute, before we get a mile down
the road, there's an odd feeling of unease - wasn't it just a bit too quick?
Lindy checks the passports. They have no entry stamps or visas. I suppose we
are at that moment technically illegal immigrants! Back we go.
to the officer in the booth there has been a misunderstanding and a very strong
implication that it was our fault. However, we are to park the car and come
into the office where we are handed over to another officer or, more correctly,
group of officers. In fact it's hard to imagine what so many immigration
officers can possibly do at this little office in the middle of nowhere. I
don't think another car passed in either direction all the time we were there.
We guess Canadians mostly come over to buy cheap gas and then go home, but it's
harder to see what brings anyone here from Maine. However, all that
aside, after much discussion and some searching in drawers, a big book and a
stamp are found and we start again. Everyone is charming, there's no
hassle, we just get the impression that it's been sometime since anyone has
entered the US here who is not either a US or a Canadian citizen so they
probably don't do this very often.
hour later we are clutching brand new 6 month entry visas and on our way again. The
snow starts to reduce as we drop down through the pine forests towards the
coast, though it doesn't seem to get much warmer.
We have a
few days to spend in Maine with its mountains and pine forests, its tiny
fishing villages and crenulated coastline it's another special place and
easy to see what draws people here - in the summer at least. It's not
actually until we reach Portland on our
way to the New Hampshire border that it really feels that we have arrived back
in the US proper. After that it was on down the East coast, we hopped the ferry
from Connecticut to the tip of Long Island so as to approach New York from the
East. In doing so we passed through one of the same Jersey turnpike booths
that Tony Soprano passed through at the beginning of every episode. If
only we'd known - we could have had Alabama 3 on the music player and bought
there on south we were on familiar territory (even to the extent of another
detour to Brunswick for dinner and much drinking with Where II) but to round
things off we were accepted for a 2 week house-sit in Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville, not
too far from the boatyard at St Marys, Georgia (and yes that's right, there is
no apostrophe in St Marys 'cos that's how they spell it here). This allowed us the luxury of being able to visit
the boat and get some jobs done before needing to move back aboard. So, by
the time we
actually climbed up the
ladder, on 18 November we'd be virtually ready to
Sorry, must have
nodded off there and entered some sort of fantasy world.
Of course we weren't ready! It would be another month when with new
navigation lights, new wind generators, new bottom paint and a host of other
stuff completed, we would be ready enough to start waiting for a high enough
tide to get us out of the marina and down the river. And just a word about
the yard at St Marys: We've been in a lot of boatyards now - North of the
equator, South of the equator and on both sides of the Atlantic. We've for
sure been in boatyards which are more sophisticated and with better showers,
toilets and laundry facilities. However, we have never, ever been in a
yard we would so readily return to or heartily recommend as St Marys. A
yard where you are welcome to work on your own boat (rare in the USA!),
where they provide aircraft boarding steps instead of ladders to get on board
the boats (a blessing for ageing knees!) and where absolutely everyone genuinely
wants to help with absolutely anything you need.
All that said there's
no boatyard quite that good that we're not happy to leave and at high water
springs on December 17th we dropped into the water and motored off to anchor
before taking the following day's high tide down the river to Fernandina.
It has to be said that this whole process would have proceeded much more
smoothly if one of us had remembered to switch the fuel supply to the main
engine back on.! As it was we ground to an embarrassing halt only a few
hundred yards from the travel lift. Thankfully in enough water and with
enough space to drop the hook whilst trying to work out just why the engine had
Our next staging post
would probably have been a mooring ball in front of Fernandina Marina, but that
had been seriously damaged by Hurricane Matthew and was completely closed
including the mooring field and the dinghy dock. So we just dropped the
anchor there for the night and slipped out of the St Marys river entrance at
first light the following morning for a wet, rolly and foggy trip down to
beautiful St Augustine. We had a mooring booked for Christmas and New
Year, which would be our third opportunity in just a few months to eat and drink
far too much in the company of Where II and to meet some new friends from Canada
on Quetico and Patty Jean.