Journeys end

I’m home in Melbourne now. I flew out of LA on Monday 27th July. Azulo is waiting for a ship home!

Me with Maggie (left) and Mister

Me with Maggie (left) and Mister

Merry has had her second operation on her ankle and is doing well. It’s a bad break and she has had a bone graft. She will have to go to rehab and won’t be home for a while. It’ll be a long haul for her.

San Antonio to Los Angeles

I liked San Antonio. Apart from the Alamo and the other Spanish Missions, the City has a fabulous “Riverwalk” area. This is a sort of an “American Venice”! There are dozens of restaurants lining the narrow river…Maybe it’s a canal…I’m not sure. Anyway it’s excellent

Riverwalk - San Antonio

Riverwalk – San Antonio

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The next day, my journey to LA began in earnest. I decided however to detour a little from the main “Interstate 10” to see some interesting countryside.

I headed South West towards El Paso but detoured South to the Deep Bend National Park which is on the Mexican Border.

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I decided to lash out and stayed in a lovely Hotel called the Gage Hotel in a little place called Marathon. I really could have stayed a few days there!

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That night I had dinner with a father and son who were going camping in the park together. The son, Jack, 15, was driving Brian’s Hummer! Brian asked me if I would like to have a drive! Naturally I said yes but unfortunately we had too much to drink and the moment was lost!

Jack and Brian at the "Gage"

Jack and Brian at the “Gage”

DSC01159I had something called “deep fried chicken” for my main course….Actually it’s not chicken but beef that is “deep fried”….it tasted a bit like schnitzel to me.

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The next day was as long ride of about 700 K. Again, instead of going straight down the I-10 I detoured North towards Albuquerque stopping at Socorro where I headed West through the mountains to Scottsdale near Phoenix. This route had been suggested by my “Travel Agent” – Stuart. It proved a good choice as the road crossed some varied countryside from green mountainous to dry desert. I stopped for breakfast in a little village at a local diner and had the best bacon and eggs in a long while

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Scottsdale

I reached Scottsdale where I stayed with my good friend and ex-business Partner, Jim Josephson and his wife Susan. Jim cooked a fantastic steak on his new and very fancy BBQ. The BBQ had a special “searing element” (I haven’t seen that before???) Anyway the result is that the steak had a tasty charcoal crust which was superb. Why it had a charcoal taste mystifies me as there was no charcoal. Maybe someone can explain that?

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Los Angeles

The next day, Sunday I rode the 600 k to LA. It was a long and hot ride and I arrived around 4.00 pm.

In LA I stayed with my relative Andy Wainwright and his wife Melissa and son Alex. They live not far from Newport Beach and the GPS took me through the Cleveland National Park (I think that’s what it was called) It is a simply fantastic ride through the mountains and a biker paradise. Azulo was in second heaven with lots of long bends. What a great way to end the ride!

Alex (left) me and Andy Wainwright

Alex (left) and Andy Wainwright

We went out to a nice restaurant and later Andy and I polished off a bottle of Port sitting outside on his Patio. It was cool so he lighted a “fire table” (I’ve forgotten what it’s actually called). Again, that was something I hadn’t seen before…It’s a table with a hole in the centre where an element is heated by propane. The element is covered with glass cuttings. The net result is that it feels like you are sitting by a camp fire. I might try and get one of these for our home!

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It was a great way to finish the trip spending my last two nights with friends in their homes

Andy kindly drove with me on Monday to the shipping agent and we said goodbye to Azulo who will now be shipped home to Melbourne for a well-earned rest. Andy then dropped me off at LAX

Melbourne, Australia

It is good to be home. I got home at about 7.00 AM and received absolutely NO welcome from my two dogs! They were fast asleep. Some guard dogs.

Later Stuart and I visited Merry. It was good to see her and she is doing well

Merry - she must be feeling better!

Merry – she must be feeling better!

So, another trip is over and this is the end of the blog.

A word about Azulo, my Kawasaki KLR 650

I must make a tribute to my trusty faithful bike Azulo. He has now covered 60,000 K on my travels around the world. We have gone from Buenos Aires to LA, Vladivostok to London and Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada to LA.Over these trips, I have had no serious mechanical breakdowns. The only issues throughout the journeys have been water on the petrol in Kyrgyzstan, a puncture in Colombia, a broken side stand switch in Siberia and several problems with the pannier struts and foot pegs.

I think Mr Kawasaki should be very proud….. I should tell them!

Goodbye for now. Thank you all for reading my blog and a special thanks for those who have sent me messages.

 

 

 

 

 

Merry falls of her horse

Bad news. Stuart rang and told me that Merry had fallen off her horse, broken her ankle, has some fractures, and is in Hospital

That was late on Saturday night. Since then, she has had an operation on her ankle…She has to have a second operation soon. She was in as good spirits as possible but fuming that she has to cancel our Alaskan Cruise and drive through USA/Canada.

Poor Merry's foot after the first Operation

Poor Merry’s foot after the first Operation

It seems that because of the fractures and the second operation,she will have to go to rehab. So she might not get home for a while.I hope I can get home before her!

I’ve been pondering what to do. I’ll definitely cut my trip short as I want to get home to be with Merry but that’s easier said than done…I have to do something with Azulo. To cut a long story short, trucking the bike to LA wouldn’t save me much time and shipping from Houston is not an option according to the Agent, so I’ll ride faster to LA!

Stuart and Lucy have been fantastic and her friends are rallying around the flag! It gives me much relief to know she is in good hands

My journey from New Orleans

After that news, my journey seems a bit insignificant, but as they say…the show must go on!

I rode hard from New Orleans to Houston but took the long route via Galveston. There is a free Ferry that crosses the Bolivar Peninsula

Houses on stilts along the Gulf shore

Houses on stilts along the Gulf shore

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Houston

My Melbourne friend, Peter Harford had kindly “dobbed” in his son Philip into having me stay whilst in Houston. Poor Philip!

Philip has a lovely home with lots of room! ….

Philip Harford outside his lovely Houston home

Philip Harford outside his lovely Houston home

He kindly had me to stay for the weekend. Philip works for BHP and there are a whole bunch of Aussies here!

On Saturday we went to a Wine tasting of Australian and New Zealand wines and then onto a Bar with his Aussie mates.

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Now, as we know, Aussies like a good time and lots to drink….Boy oh boy! By about 9.00 (the wine tasting was at 2.30) I was almost on my ear! They are a great bunch of mates but I wouldn’t like to be here every Saturday night!

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The beer here is strong so I thought I would change to wine. Bad move! They serve wine in tumblers….everything is BIG in Texas!

I was talking to this Harley rider who was there with his two daughters and he had bought a tumbler of wine for one of them but she didn’t want it so he gave it to me…so I had TWO tumblers which it seems make up ONE PINT. The photo of me shows me with my PINT of wine. No, it’s not water!

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On Sunday I had a big hangover but boldly got up early to beat the crowds to visit the Space Centre. The Americans really do this sort of thing very well. There was several films and exhibits etc. and we saw Mission Control. I was hoping to see the OLD Mission Control where they controlled the Apollo Missions but unfortunately that is being refurbished

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New Orion Capsule – next generation…going to Mars in 2030

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Phil and I had a huge steak that night…the best I’ve had in quite a while…then an early night!

Austin

Austin

Austin

On Monday I rode to Austin, Capital of Texas.

Phil had suggested I go via Lockhart where there is a famous “ribs” BBQ restaurant called BLACKS. I went there and sampled the ribs…they are sensational!

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In Austin I visited the State Capital Building which is huge and impressive. They financed it after winning independence from Mexico by selling land…they had no money but lots of land!

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Inside the building is a big painting of David Crockett….Better known to people my age as Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier! There was a terrific movie of that name in the 1950’s. I went to see it five times! Every kid of my age was wearing Davy Crockett hats…I think they are beaver hats with the tail hanging from the hat! The music from the film “Ballad of Davy Crockett” was top of the hit parade for weeks! Davy Crockett was killed at The Alamo in San Antonio. Whenever I feel like irritating Merry I sing the song from the film…”Farewell to the mountains”…..I get kicked very quickly!

The point of all this totally irrelevant information is that the David Crockett in the painting looks NOTHING like the Hollywood version that featured Fess Parker! (Compare the pictures below!)

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David Crockett (Davy Crockett)

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Davy Crockett as we saw him in the Movie (Fess Parker)

Davy Crockett as we saw him in the 1950’s Movie (Fess Parker)

very disappointing don’t you think!

On a more intellectual subject I visited President Lyndon B Johnson’s Library. The LBJ Library is quite superb. Again, the Americans do this so well. It is a fantastic legacy on the life and times of their Presidents and how they carved their place in history. I spent most of the day there and was enthralled

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My last night in Austin I wanted some good Texas Ribs. Stuart kindly looked up a few places and suggested Lambert’s Downtown BBQ. An excellent choice!

Lamberts Downtown BBQ

Lambert’s Downtown BBQ

After Austin my next stop was San Antonio to see the Alamo

San Antonio

The Alamo is incredibly small…..

The Alamo

The Alamo

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The Alamo is right in the middle of town as you see from this photo. Over the years, much of the original property has been built over so it’s a bit hard to get a good perspective of the Alamo as it was in 1836

I also visited one of the other Spanish Missions, The Mission of San Jose.

Mission of San Jose

Mission of San Jose

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I’m not quite sure where I’ll head tomorrow but it will be a long ride so an early start tomorrow!

Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

I’m in New Orleans now. I’ve just had the best time on the SWAMP TOUR on an Air Boat. Amazing. It’s worth boarding a plane RIGHT NOW!

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Back to the story

The last part of my Elvis pilgrimage was to visit Tupelo, Mississippi, 160 K from Memphis.

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Elvis was born here

Elvis was born there and lived there till he was about 13, I think.

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Elvis was born here

Before doing the Elvis “bit” though, I needed to change  Azulo’s oil. I thought that would be easy but no…Could I find anywhere to do it…No. None of the car service places would help and I couldn’t find any motorcycle places. Eventually the lady in the Tupelo Visitors Centre located the local Honda Dealer so off I went

They immediately took Azulo off to the workshop and I was admiring the Honda bikes in the showroom when the Owner, David Hill came and spoke to me. He then offered to show me the sites while Azulo was being serviced. So off we went in his huge Ford truck. How kind is that!

Elvis came from a very poor family. His father Vernon spent three years in jail for forging cheques which made life very hard. They lived in a tiny “shotgun” house…They call it “shotgun” because if you fire a shotgun through the front door the shrapnel comes out the back door! David told me the Presley’s were a fairly feisty lot, ready to have a fight if you wanted one!

He said that the whole area was devastated first by the civil war and then the Great Depression so it has taken over 150 years for the area to recover and prosper. This is a familiar tale I’ve been hearing throughout the South. I never realised the huge disruption the War caused for the South with their Cotton and Sugar industries devastated when the slaves were released…not to mention the sheer destruction and huge loss of life. Over 600,000 soldiers died in the war

The tiny church where the community gathered has been moved near the house and they have a simply superb movie “re-enactment” of a Pentecostal Service.

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It was so unexpected. I was sitting in the pews and suddenly three screens come down…One in front and one each side. They completely cover the whole interior of the church. There then follows a typical service….shown on all three screens. Having never seen a Pentecostal Service it’s sort of like the Negro Spiritual…All were white in the film but there’s lots of singing and joking and the minister holds forth about the glory of god but in a showman like manner. All great fun. No photos allowed though!

Later, I met this guy who told me Elvis was dead!

I said to him that I didn’t doubt it. He then insisted that HE KNOWS FOR A FACT THAT HE IS DEAD…I asked how he knew and he said because his brother was the Paramedic who picked him up from Graceland! He added that the sheets from the Ambulance were taken and ended up in a bank vault but he didn’t know where they were now!

Azulo was waiting when we returned so off I went. David’s daughter and four Grand kids were there too so they received a koala!

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My next stop was Vicksburg in the Mississippi.

I went down the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Typical of the Natchaz Trace Parkway

Typical of the Natchaz Trace Parkway

Vicksburg Mississippi

The siege and surrender of Vicksburg was a major Union Victory in the war and like Gettysburg was a turning point. By taking Vicksburg the Union controlled the river.

Battle for Vicksburg

Battle for Vicksburg

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There was also a naval battle here and one of the Union Ironclads as they were called was sunk when it hit a mine. USS Cairo as it was known was recovered from river and preserved.

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Natchez

The next day Azulo and I moved on to Natchez. This is a town on the Mississippi where the wealthy Cotton Plantation Owners built their “Scarlet O’Hara” Mansions. There are many to see but I had time for just one…It’s a bit like seeing Churches in Europe…after a while you become “over Churched” Anyway, I visited a House called “Rosalie” which was quite beautiful

Rosalie

RosalIe

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I visited a Native Natchez Indian museum

The Natchez Indians were first discovered by the French explorer La Salle when he went down the Mississippi in 16-something. All went well for a while then there was fisticuffs between the French and the Indians so they evacuated to seek protection from the British

Natchez Indian Wigwam

Natchez Indian Wigwam

I then headed off to see a Sugar Plantation near New Orleans called Oak Ally.

The night before I stayed in a cheap Hotel about 20 k from the Plantation. The whole area is virtually an oil field and there was nowhere to eat except for…..wait for it…..CHUCK LIM’S CHINESE DINER!

Well….what a photo opportunity missed. I didn’t have my camera. Chuck Lim’s place needs a “Gordon Ramsey Makeover” …actually I think even Gordon would give up…

I ordered a Chicken Spicy Curry and Fried Rice for the princely sum of $9.00. When the food arrived I almost fell off my chair….The very large waitress carried two HUGE plates piled high with food. There was too much for 4 teenage boys. She sheepishly said …”I think you’ve ordered too much!

The other problem was that it was almost inedible! I chose poorly!

The Oak Ally Plantation is a gem. Again, the Plantation was devastated by the Civil War and the owners went bankrupt. Somehow the property has survived. A must visit if you’re down this way!

 

Oak Ally Plantation LA

Oak Ally Plantation LA

DSC00951 DSC00957 There was an excellent guided tour of the house. I love the costume and the added plastic bottle! Very authentic!

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New Orleans

I checked into an adequate Hotel in the French Quarter called Andrew Jackson. It’s only $125.00 per night which is great value here. The Hotel is on the site of the old Court House where the great man himself (General Andrew Jackson was fined $1000 for refusing to lift the curfew after the war (not the Civil War, the war of 1812)  That’s a lot of money then!

 

My Hotel..Andrew Jackson

My Hotel..Andrew Jackson

Merry and I visited New Orleans in 1977 and stayed in one of the better Hotels in town, the Royal Sonesta. It’s funny isn’t it that all these years later, I’ve slid down a couple of stars! I suppose in 1977 the A$ was 1.14 to the $US compared to .75c today. Also we both had good jobs and no kids!

Royal Sonesta

Royal Sonesta

New Orleans has changed dramatically since 1977. Then, Bourbon Street was full of Jazz Clubs playing all sorts of Jazz and lots of Dixie. That’s completely gone. Bourbon Street now is a bit seedy with strip clubs and many grotty bars. Apparently the night life has the moved to another part of town near Frenchman Street…No Jazz to speak of though. I guess it’s a sign of the times. It’s still a terrific place and the food is awesome!

It may have no jazz but it’s a great place to see and walk about

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Great Cajun dish. Sorry, not sure what it was but it was terrific

Great Cajun dish. Sorry, not sure what it was but it was terrific

 

My highlight was a SWAMP TOUR in an Air Boat.

I must thank Carrie, Stuarts friend who raved about it!

It was absolutely fantastic. The boat reaches speeds in excess of 75 KPH and swerves around through the swamps. The driver stops to see the Alligators….They’re so tame you can touch them

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There are cedar trees everywhere covered with what they call Spanish Moss. The French called it Spanish Beard and the Spanish called it French Wig!

Spanish Moss...The French call it Spanish beard and the Spanish call it French wig

Spanish Moss…The French call it Spanish beard and the Spanish call it French wig

We were told that Henry Ford used the “moss” as filling for car seats. The moss was put into cedar boxes and shipped to Detroit. The boxes were then used as floorboards for his cars. A good plan you might say…until it turned out the moss was full of bugs and lice and hadn’t been treated properly. The cars had to be recalled when people complained about lice in their cars! The world’s first “recall”! Sounds like a tall story but they claim it is a TRUE story. I’ll have to google that someday!

Sadly I must say goodbye to New Orleans. I wish I had more time here.

Tomorrow I ride to Houston. I’m looking forward to visiting the Space Center from where the Apollo missions were controlled….Remember the famous line from Apollo 13…Houston, we have a problem! 

Note about Comments:

thank you all who have sent comments. It’s your comments that keep me doing the blog so keep the coming

if you wonder why you don’t see any response it’s because I answer every comment (I hope) personally. Your comments come through to my email and I reply to your email but my reply doesn’t appear on the blog

 

 

Nashville, Memphis and Graceland

I’m now in the Heartbreak Hotel, yes, at the end of Lonely Street at Graceland, just off Elvis Presley Boulevard!DSC00873

As an Elvis fan from 1955 it was quite a trip down memory lane and I just had to “lash out” by staying here!

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Lobby

Lobby

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Back to the story

I left Asheville at 7.00 and had covered the 465k by lunchtime. It was a beautiful drive through the Great Smokey Mountains

Nashville Tennessee

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Azulo meets some friends

I did the Hop on Bus which I always do as its a great way to get a perspective of a City

State Parliament Building

In Nashville are many famous recording studios. RCA Studio B is where Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers and more made records!

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RCA Studio B Many stars recorded here

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They call this the Batman Building!

One thing about Nashville….Did you know there is a FULL SIZE replica of the Parthenon (Athens)…It’s most impressive although the effect is slightly reduced by the fact its NOT built in white stone marble…its done in a beige colour pebblecrete.

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I then walked around Broadway soaking up the music. I went to the Johnny Cash museum which was interesting.

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Johnny Cash's boots

Johnny Cash’s boots

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Now…. I regret to say…. I’m not a great fan of Downtown Nashville although it was fun walking around and soaking up the atmosphere.

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Boots in shop window. I took this photo for my daughter Lucy

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I expect there is fabulous music if you know where to go but I didn’t…. Just walking around Broadway there are dozens of bars playing mediocre music as loud as they can. They must buy the biggest speakers they can, so they can  bellow it out into the street. Each bar is doing the same thing trying to drown out its neighbour. You can imagine the din

There was a massive crowd milling around all “having a great time” You know the drill…I think this place would appeal to someone a little younger than me!

Memphis, Tennessee

This is a highlight for me! At 14 I was a devoted Elvis fan. I even bought his singles the moment they were released and some I ordered before release. I was only a fan of the early Rocking Elvis not the fat Elvis in white suits as he is nearly always remembered today. Actually I was very pleased to see that at Graceland, more attention is made of the early Elvis and his whole career is put into proper perspective

Graceland is a lovely old mansion and surprisingly modest and some of the rooms are even more surprisingly nice! Somewhat of a contrast to the Biltmore!

Elvis bought Graceland when he was just 22. Today, Graceland is owned by his daughter Lisa Marie who now lives in England, in Rotherfield Sussex,

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Parents Bedroom

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Elvis played his last song at the piano…went upstairs to rest and died. He was just 42

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It really is a very nice home and I can see why Elvis loved it there.

I saw Elvis’ two airplanes and some of his cars and motorbikes.

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He, his parents and grandmother are all buried here. Elvis was just 42 when he died of probably a reaction to too many prescription drugs. What a waste

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 Memphis Downtown

I went into Memphis to see the sites

Beale Street

Beale Street

Beale Street

Beale Street

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Mississippi River

Mississippi River

I then visited Sun Studios,where Sam Philips discovered Elvis. It’s amazing how many super stars recorded here…Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Howling Wolfe and on and on.

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DSC00883It from this very Radio Booth that Elvis first record, “That’s all right” was played. The response was instantaneous and Sam signed Elvis up immediately

Tomorrow I head South.

My first stop will be Tupolo, Elvis birth place. That’s the end of my Elvis pilgrimage! (I can practically hear Merry saying…Thank heavens for that)

After that I head for Vicksburg, Natchez Trace Parkway and New Orleans.

By the way….after my whinging last post that few people seem interested in Azulo, I have met some friendly people who have shown much interest!….. Joe and Irene Bennet shared a seat next to me at the Biltmore Winery…They have put a comment on the blog as has Kristan who served the wines! 

Also Donald and Linda originally from Illinois

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4th – 9th July – Azulo goes “marching on”

Battlefields, history and more as we head south

I’m now in Asheville, North Carolina in the middle of the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s very beautiful here.

I’m finding it hard to make the blog interesting this time. Everything is so 1st world here, (as you would expect). There is petrol, food, people speak English….The roads are amazing. No potholes here! Things work!

Frankly it’s not nearly such an “adventure” as the trips through Russia/Mongolia/Stan’s etc. and South America!….. I’m enjoying the country but it’s not as much fun…I’m not meeting so many people. Very few people stop to talk to me here….Ahhhh…

So, I’m sorry if the blog is more of a travelogue than before. I hope you stick with me though!

Back to the story!

My border crossing was uneventful. I wasn’t locked in a cage or shouted at like I was coming through Mexico. It was all very smooth and efficient and only took about 75 minutes…My average is 120 minutes….Then I was away!

I rode through New York State through the “Finger Lakes” near where they held “Woodstock” in the 1960’s…..I stopped eventually at Williamsport.

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It was 4th July and luck was with me. I picked up a Holiday Inn and, low and behold, it was just by the spot where they do the fireworks. There were the usual food stalls and VERY poor Pop Music but the fireworks were fantastic. Possibly the best I’ve ever seen live.

I slept like a log on a fantastic bed and next day headed off to Gettysburg.

The countryside is very beautiful and wooded with rolling hills. I went through many lovely little towns…. I kept off the “Interstate” .. Most houses fly the flag which I love.

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Gettysburg PA

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Gettysburg is fascinating. It was of course, the battle that was the beginning of the end for the South although they could have won it (maybe) if the Generals had followed their orders… It is also where Lincoln made his “Gettysburg Address” after the battle. I saw the house where he stayed the night before giving the address….

House where Lincoln stayed the night before his Gettysburg Address

House where Lincoln stayed the night before his Gettysburg Address

The Americans know how to show off their history. First there is an excellent film then a guided bus around the Battlefield. It was so well done. If you don’t want to do the bus tour you can take a self-guided tour by hiring a 3 wheel car or Segway or your own car of course!

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Site of "Pickett's" Charge. 12,000 southerners died in this charge which wass the defining moment of the 3 day battle

Site of “Pickett’s” Charge. 12,000 southerners died in this charge which was the defining moment of the 3 day battle

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I discovered how the name “sharpshooter”came about

Sharp Rifle...used by snipers...hence the name "sharpshooters"

Sharp Rifle…used by snipers…hence the name “sharpshooters”

They also have a “Cyclorama” This is a circular painting of the battle. It was completed in 1867 and shown in Paris. It has recently been refurbished.

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Apparently “Cycloramas” were relatively common in the 19th Century. There was one of the Battle of Waterloo shown in Melbourne!

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As I left, I nearly bumped into a local resident…

An unhappy "local resident"

An unhappy “local resident”

The next day I rode to nearby Harpers Ferry and Antietam then on to Charlottesville in Virginia

Harpers Ferry

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Harpers Ferry is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, there was a Battle here that General Robert E Lee won for the South capturing 12,000 Union Soldiers.

Secondly and perhaps more interesting is that this is where John Brown (from the Civil War Song) was captured. He was later executed but his “soul goes marching on” He was a champion of the “Abolitionists” in about the 1830’s and is regarded as someone who lit the fire that started the War. Excuse my very poor summation of history.

An unfair painting of John Brown

An unfair painting of John Brown

Harpers Ferry by the way is a really lovely little place at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry

Potomac ZZRiver from Harpers Ferry

Potomac River from Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry

This little lady wanted her photo with me…Makes me look very tall!

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Antietam

Antietam was another Battle…It was a “draw” but some 23,000 soldiers died. The largest loss of US Soldiers ever until the 2nd World War

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Major skirmish as Union Troops stormed the bridge

Major skirmish as Union Troops stormed the bridge

This Farm house was site of major skirmish

This Farm house was site of major skirmish

I then moved on to Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charlottesville VA

 

Old Town Charlottesville

Old Town Charlottesville

Old Town Charlottesville

Old Town Charlottesville

Charlottesville is probably most well known as Thomas Jefferson built his home near there at “Monticello”. It was a boiling hot day when I visited…95 degrees and humid!

Thomas Jefferson's Home - Montochello

Thomas Jefferson’s Home – Montochello

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Jeffersons Grave at Montochello. Members of the Family still have the right to be buried here. There are 2000 on the list!

Jeffersons Grave at Montochello. Members of the Family still have the right to be buried here. There are 2000 on the list!

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Thomas Jefferson wrote the “Declaration of Independence” He was also a Lawyer, amateur architect, an amateur clock maker and much more . He spoke 7 languages, He founded and built the University of Virginia. He was President for 2 terms. Clearly an amazing man.He also loved excellent French wine!

There is a contradiction though. He wrote in the “Declaration of Independence” that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Yet he owned some 200 slaves himself and only freed 2 or 3. We were told that he felt he could not tackle that issue and it was best left to another generation…mmm… seems like he didn’t follow his own words. I’m sorry if I’m upsetting any Americans reading! Please comment if you have an explanation.

Monticello is a beautiful House and was designed by Jefferson himself.

After Monticello I headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway which runs for some 500 k down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.It is very beautiful with terrific views but after about 50 k of going very slowly (there is a speed limit of 45 MPH) and looking at lots of trees….. I decided to take the by-way instead!….. I felt bad about that but the weather turned bad anyway so I felt exonerated!

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This beautiful butterfly was so tame..He wanted to come with me

This beautiful butterfly was so tame..He wanted to come with me

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Asheville and the Biltmore Estate

I reached Asheville which is a great little town in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The main “tourist attraction” is the Biltmore Estate. A huge French Chateau built by George Vanderbilt and finished in 1896

Apart from the Biltmore Estate, Asheville used to be a TB health resort and has lots of lovely Victorian Houses. There is a river here called “French Broad” They say the locals couldn’t say “Marie Antoinette” so called it French Broad instead!

 

Grove Park Inn Hotel...Obama and others have stayed here!

Grove Park Inn Hotel…Obama and others have stayed here!

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I was told about a Pub where on a Wednesday night anyone who can play a guitar or banjo turns up and just plays “Blue Grass”…..It was a bit like the Ukulele Group in the Crockham Hill Pub in Kent. It was great and I had several beers listening to them. They didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves as much as my friend Vic was in Crockham Hill!

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The Biltmore Estate

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George Vanderbilt…Grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt the Railroad billionaire built the magnificent Biltmore Estate for his family.

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DSC00779It is sensational. Words cannot express how opulent and impressive it is. I have seen many of the Palaces of Europe and French Chateaux but this is probably the most impressive  I’ve ever seen. It’s setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains is amazingDSC00773

Originally George purchased 125,000 acres here and built his 255 room mansion. The house is filled with priceless treasures…Ming Dynasty vases etc, Renoir Paintings, 15th Century Tapestries and much more.DSC00768DSC00767

George and and his wife Edith only had one child, a daughter Cornelia. The three of them lived in their 255 room home until George died at only 57 in 1914 of  an infected appendix. Mother and daughter then lived in the house together until Cornelia married.

The Estate is still held by the family although it seems George had overspent a little and with the war, depression etc they had to sell 96,000 acres and the farm and open it to the Public in 1930. It is the largest home in America! If you come this way…The Biltmore is a MUST SEE!

Unfortunately they don’t allow photos but it’s worth googling. I spent a whole day in the Estate. There is also a winery and of course i did a tour and tastings too

I’m staying in  an AirBnb place in Asheville and the Hostess said there was a BEAR in the garden the other day…I kept my  window firmly shut!

Tomorrow I leave for Nashville and then the weekend in Memphis where I’ve booked in to the HEARTBREAK HOTEL! My Elvis weekend will be quite something!

 

29 June – 4th July, Bye Bye Canada

Will I get locked up when I enter USA this time!

It’s 4th July….Independence Day is probably not  the best day to enter USA.

Last time Azulo and I entered USA was in August 2012 from Mexico to Tuscon. It was an absolute nightmare! The border guards locked me up.…..! Let’s hope I don’t end up in a cage this time!

Ottawa – I get besieged by the press!

Well…hardly….but I did get interviewed by the Ottawa “Metro” Newspaper and it has actually been published…..I was in a car park and a reporter named Lucy approached me and wanted an interview…. So, now I’m an international celebrity and a legend in my own “lunchbox” . Unfortunately the headline refers to me as a “Senior” which i suppose I am but would rather forget!…..I’ll try and put the article in the Menu in the next few days…I’m not sure how to do that so i might have to contact Stuart!!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed Ottawa. It is a lovely City. The weather was good and the town had a festive feel because it was Canada Day on 1 July.

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I visited the Parliament Building and the War Museum and took a trip on the Ottawa River. I watched the changing of the Guards. I could have spent another day here as there is lots to see.

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War Memorial

War Memorial

House of Commons

House of Commons

 

Parliamentary Library

Parliamentary Library

 

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House of Commons

House of Commons

Motorbike and Side Car...fit for Merry?

Motorbike and Side Car…fit for Merry?

Hitlers Car

Hitlers Car

I stayed at a terrific AirBnb. The Hosts, Marc and Christine did everything to make me feel welcome including inviting me to dinner.

Marc and Christine Great AirBnb hosts

Marc and Christine
Great AirBnb hosts

Me eating an CRUMBLE!

Me eating an CRUMBLE!

Toronto

On Canada Day it was raining cats and dogs again but I had to ride to Toronto. You’ll be pleased to know i was an absolute “knight of the road” and had no more altercations with the Police!

Last year I was contacted out of the blue by an old friend who I used to know when I was 7 years old!  She, “Gill,…always known then as Gillywigs” has a cousin in Toronto who kindly invited me to stay. Travelling around like I’m doing there is NOTHING nicer than being invited to stay!

Graham and Jane were perfect hosts. They had a Canada Day BBQ and were joined by son Nick and friends Marin and Jane. It was great fun and needless to say I participated in the destruction of Graham’s wine cellar. We had Canadian wines and I am very impressed! I don’t think I’ve seen any in Australia.

Graham and Jane Boyce

Graham and Jane Boyce

Martin, Jane, Graham, Jane, Nick

Martin, Jane, Graham, Jane, Nick

I hadn’t intended staying long in Toronto as i used to visit on business but Graham and Jane gave me a “cook’s tour”. I didn’t recognise anything other than the tower. It’s a big and vibrant city

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My next stop was to join the Mississauga Probus  Club Hiking Group on their monthly hike! Here’s a photo of the “boys” They seem a great bunch

The Mississauga Probus Hiking Group...and me!

The Mississauga Probus Hiking Group…and me!

London, Ontario

I took a 200 K detour to see some old friends Jim and Elaine Cambridge in London (on the Thames!!!) They too were fantastic hosts and it was great to catch up. Jim produced another endless supply of Canadian wine. His son is a Winemaker in British Colombia.

Jim and Elaine Cambridge

Jim and Elaine Cambridge

I met the most amazing “dog handler” called Rene. This is extraordinary…..Jim and Elaine have a dog, Jake. Every week, Jake sits by the front door waiting to be picked up for the day by “Rene”

Rene with some of his "customers" He puts 25 dogs in the Van

Rene with some of his “customers” He puts 25 dogs in the Van

Rene lives on a bush property with 40 dogs. He charges $25.00 per day to exercise your dog. He picks up 25 dogs in his van and they all have the greatest time

Rene with Jake (Jim and Elaine's dog)

Rene with Jake (Jim and Elaine’s dog)

 

DSC00638Rene delivered an exhausted Jake around 9.00. I could not believe his van. He said he had already dropped off most of the dogs but as you see there are still quite a few in the van!

The dogs were not barking or causing any fuss. He has total control of them. It was quite amazing. I wish he could take our two  lovable “monsters” Mister and Maggie for a weekly run. Apparently all 65 dogs are allowed to run around for the day on his property. He says there is never any issues. Amazing!

Niagara Falls

The Falls are, of course impressive

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Selfie

Selfie

I spent the night in a lovely little town called Niagara on the Lake.Apparently it was the old capital of Upper Canada and was burned down by the Americans in 1812! I met Steve Maxwell and his wife Janice from the Mississauga Probus Club. They kindly took me to the Irish Pub for dinner.

DSC00661 DSC00662 DSC00663 DSC00664I now say goodbye to Canada. I must say that, apart from the miserable Quebec Police, I only have good things to say about Canada. The people have been incredibly friendly. The towns are impressive and the countryside beautiful.

I  have met many caring people and have eaten and drunk much too much!

So tomorrow I’m off to the USA…The land of the free…Home of the brave…I do hope I don’t get locked up again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 – 28 June – Saint John to Quebec & Montreal

Great sights, some drama, a rival to PLOV and some thoughts

I’m now in Montreal. It’s been a fairly hectic time and I’m being accused of being a bit slack with the blog. Sorry. Surprisingly I haven’t had much time. That’s my excuse anyway!

The last “Post” ended with me feeling sorry for myself in a grotty Motel on the outskirts of Saint John, New Brunswick. It was raining cats and dogs and I couldn’t summon the enthusiasm to put on my wet weather gear and get on Azulo to find somewhere to eat and more importantly…to drink. I ended up just going to bed on a forced diet.

Sometimes on these trips you fall into a hole and wonder why on earth you are doing this. That night was one of those times. I was thinking I could be home with Merry sharing a nice glass or two of red….

Luckily the next day was sunny so I picked myself up and dusted myself down and went sightseeing!

Saint John is a nice town, settled in 1783 by the Empire Loyalists escaping from USA after the Revolution. Initially 3000 arrived, followed soon after by another 9000 and eventually 40,000.

Old Greaveyard and Square

Old Greaveyard and Square

The Old Market

The Old Market

The main attraction is the “Reversing Falls”. They have a very big tide here and a narrow entrance to the river from the Bay of Fundy. The tide sweeps water into the river from the sea. The level drops 5 metres, literally “reversing“the flow. It’s very dangerous and many have died. The birds have a field day catching fish

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The road to Quebec

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Azulo can’t believe how easy this trip is. No potholes to dodge, lots of petrol stations and places to stop!

It’s a pretty road in wooded countryside. Actually it’s not dissimilar to riding through parts of Siberia, (except for the roads etc.)

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A highlight along the way was the covered bridge at Hartland. Its 1282 feet long!

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I eventually reached the St Laurance at “Riviera du Loup” The St Laurance is wider than I thought.

Quebec Province – another world!

My first and continuing impression of French Canada is just how French it is and how hard they are trying to create “la difference”. Examples of this are the fact that I’ve yet to see an English menu… (Unlike France where they’ve somewhat reluctantly accepted inevitability and now go with the flow and provide English Menus). Also, whereas in English speaking Canada, the Canadian flag is proudly displayed everywhere and often on private homes….In Quebec you only see the Quebec flag and only on Public buildings do you see the Canadian Flag.

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This somewhat annoying trait (understandable perhaps…but to me…annoying…and I’m not Canadian!) is extended to road signs. It seems what is good for the goose ISN’T good for the Gander. In the English speaking Provinces I’ve passed through, all the road signs are in English AND French. Not so in Quebec. French only!

Having said all that I’ve found people helpful and friendly

I’m told that the separatist movement seems to have stalled. They very nearly got independence over the line with just under 50% voting for “independence” in the last Referendum some years ago. I’m told that percentage has declined to some 30% today I’m not sure why it’s gone off the boil.

Quebec City

Quebec is a simply lovely city. It’s the only walled city in North America.

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Again, following the theme about the attitudes in French Canada, you would hardly know that it was British for 100 years before Federation. That period is like “the dark ages” and best forgotten or at least given minimum exposure. There is a statue to General Wolfe (who conquered Quebec in 1759) but poor old Wolfe has to share his statue with his French opposite number, the French General Montcalm!

Wolfe seems to be regarded as some sort of monster setting fire to the City and bombarding it for weeks before the Battle that led to the annexation of Quebec. Compare this with the British view which holds him as a military hero. His statue in Westerham Kent, his home town (near Vic and Gills home) has him proudly waving his sword as they sweep the French away!

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Quebec’s Oldest House

DSC00482This beautiful wall painting is quite new. It shows the history of Quebec. Surprise surprise the “conquest” isn’t mentioned although there is a barrel in the picture which might represent Wolfe being rolled back to UK in a barrel of rum (He and Montcalm both died in the battle for Quebec. The ONLY representation of the British period is to the British Governor who saved the Wall from being demolished.

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Railway Station

Railway Station

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I really “did” Quebec. I went on the Hop on Bus, and two walks and also the Ferry!

The walk was great and we all had a chuckle at Aldo, the donkey with personality who seems to talk to all the tourists! Aldo’s yard is right in the middle of the best part of Old Quebec! He was given to the Anglican Minister for some reason

Aldo the Donkey with personality

Aldo the Donkey with personality

I went on a “gourmet food” walk which was a lot of fun and, believe it or not….

I find something ALMOST as horrible as PLOV!

Those that followed my journey through Russia and “the Stans” last year, may remember me going on (and on) about the awful food which was personified in PLOV…a concoction that I couldn’t escape for 10,000 k’s! It’s a sort of gluggy rice with tough meat and a carrot, covered in horrible gravy

My rival for the world’s most horrible dish is called Poutine. I apologise to any Canadians who may love Poutine but I really don’t know why!

Poutine is really Quebec’s answer to McDonalds. It’s just chips covered in gravy and cheese. I think it has some other ingredients too. I was perplexed that we were given this on a “GOURMET” food tour but I suppose it is seen as a “speciality” of Quebec

Poutine

Poutine

Me eating Poutine

Me eating Poutine

We did a bit of wine tasting on the tour which was interesting. Quebec has a very short ripening period so grape varieties have been cloned. The two we tried were “Seval” and “Vandal Cliché” Both white varieties. We also had some Ice Cider which was fabulous. You would love it Merry.

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My B and B in Quebec was run by a terrific guy called Pierre. He is married to an Argentinean lady and amused me by telling me of his amazing experience buying an apartment in Buenos Aires.

Me and Pierre

Me and Pierre

Pierre’s amazing story of corruption in Argentina

I relate this story as I thought it funny… although it’s a bit sad how the corruption is ruining that lovely country.

Pierre said he needed to transfer US$150,000 from Canada to Argentina to buy an apartment. The Argentinean Notary said that legally there would be a 30 % tax on the money he was bringing into the country.

The Notary then said he could avoid that tax by using the “Blue Line”….???  Apparently there are “Black, White and Blue lines.” The “White line” is the legal way, The “Black line” is for genuine crooks and the “Blue line” is for “honest” people avoiding tax!

All Pierre had to do was deposit the $150,000 in a German bank in the name of a Panamanian Company and the money would be delivered to the seller at settlement time. All for just a 5% commission

Not surprisingly, Pierre thought this sounded extremely dodgy but was assured it would be OK so he bravely transferred the $150,000 to the Panamanian Company (and crossed his fingers)

Settlement day arrived and Pierre and the seller of the apartment were in a little room outside the bank when “a man in a suit” arrived. He carried NO suitcase. The man closed the door and ROLLED UP HIS TROUSERS where $150,000 was wrapped around his legs!

Pierre said the final irony which amused him was when the man’s phone rang….the ring tone was the theme tune from the Godfather!

Pierre asked why they don’t stop this…the answer was because all the Government officials use the Blue Line too!

Another drama befalls me and I cause a big headache for the Quebec Police

Actually it was potentially a big headache for me.

Sorry..No photos of this!

I was riding to Montreal when I hit a big traffic jam. I did what I always do (which probably isn’t legal…but I’ve never had a problem)…I rode down the side lane

Well….A Police car stopped me and asked for my papers. She then sat in her car for what seemed like ages turning pages in her rule book. She then announced that my bike wasn’t legal in Quebec since I was on Australian Registration. This is of course nonsense but who am I to tell a Policewoman she is wrong?

She then called her Boss who arrived in a second Patrol car. They nattered away in French and made several calls.

Then a third Police Car arrived. Then a fourth car arrived. Then a fifth car arrived. It was a feeding frenzy. Can you imagine what passers-by must have thought?….. There’s this Aussie biker pulled over by FIVE Patrol cars. They must have thought this was a drug bust!

This drama lasted well over two hours. Eventually they decided to fine me for my sin of riding down on the side lane…. $350! (yes I was guilty but I thought $350.00 a bit harsh! Actually it started at $240 but they then added an “administration fee”

As for whether Azulo is legal or not in Quebec… They maintained my Registration isn’t valid but they would let me go anyway. Weren’t they nice!

I won’t be dodging traffic jams again!

I’ve checked as best as I can and all my papers are fine and I’m quite legal. It’s a problem though when the Police don’t know and get it wrong.

So I’m now in Montreal…later than I intended. There’s an International Jazz Festival taking place so I spent a few hours listening to the music.

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To be honest I hadn’t heard of any of the bands but I was assured they were Internationally renowned. Doubtless my good friend Bruce would know them.

St Josephs oratory. The world's third largest dome (after St Peters, Rome, St Paul's London

St Josephs oratory. The world’s third largest dome (after St Peters, Rome, St Paul’s London

 

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Rainy Day in Montreal. The Olympic Stadium

Rainy Day in Montreal. The Olympic Stadium

Tomorrow I head for Ottawa. I hope you have not been too bored by my ramblings. Congratulations if you’ve got this far!

 

We’re off and riding!

Gentleman, start your engine!

I was told they don’t say that anymore at the start of the Le Mans race! I’m showing my age again!

Anyway, Azulo is here in Halifax Canada and I picked him up on Monday 21 June and I headed out today, which is on schedule!

I must say the Air Canada folks and Customs here are terrific. After all the dreadful experiences I’ve had, just about everywhere, it was so nice to meet efficient, helpful and friendly people. The whole process took just a few minutes!

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Scott…One of the terrific guys at Air Canada Cargo

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Azulo scores a BMW box again!

Azulo must agree as he started first punch.

Going back a few steps to the beginning of my trip which actually started on 5 June and has been “full on”

First, shortly after arriving in England and being reunited with Azulo, I had a reunion with my old College mates in the South of France…One of the guys, Andrew, has a yacht in Menton near Nice. He made the mistake of asking us all down to Menton to sail the Med…That was tough! There are some photos of this adventure in the menu of the blog.

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Next I went to Scotland with my brother-in- law Cam. He wanted to search some family history.

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Finally I spent a few days in Kent with Vic and Gill and to finalise Azulo’s flight to Nova Scotia…..

Vic is part of a ukulele group that plays every second Sunday in the Pub. They have a great time as you see.

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The next night Vic and Gill were competing in a boule competition at the local Cricket ground. They lost handsomely but it was a lovely English evening watching boule and cricket with a “lazy Pint or two”

 

Gill showing her skills

Gill showing her skills

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It was sad saying goodbye again to Vic and Gill. They’ve been terrific hosts to Azulo.

I arrived Thursday 18th and did some of the sights in Halifax. My time and the rain meant I just did the Marina and the Citadel, both of which are excellent

The Citadel is a grand old British Fort. The French would have had no chance of taking it and even the Americans thought better of it….. All the guides were in Mackenzie Tartan kilts which interested me since my mother was a Mackenzie (I’m sure your fascinated with that piece of information!) Apparently the Nova Scotia Regiment was founded by the Mackenzie’s.

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Ive got more photos but they are on my phone and won’t seem to email…I’ll have to call Stuart!!!!

In case you don’t know, Nova Scotia has a very strong Scottish connection and in many respects reminds me of the south of the South Island of New Zealand which also has a strong Scottish connection. Most of the towns however have ENGLISH names…e.g. Halifax, Cambridge, Truro etc. Hardly a Scottish name in sight!

Over the weekend I drove around Nova Scotia. It’s very beautiful with lots of lakes, inlets and quaint towns. Saturday was beautiful and I spent time in the lovely little town of Lunenburg where I had fish and chips to die for…

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Then Shelburne which was founded by the Empire Loyalists …. They were the folks who left USA after the revolution and wanted to stay British. Again, a quaint and historical town

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Further on you get to the Arcadian area…This was originally French but they got kicked out by the British and were sent packing to Louisiana. I’m sure someone will make a comment about my history lesson!

That night I stayed at my first Airbnb at Clyde River near Barrington about three hours from Halifax. It was wonderful. The hostess, Patricia was very welcoming and cooked me dinner.

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My first Airbnb with Patricia in her lovely home in Clyde River

Patricaia bnb

I had my first “drama”…More an annoyance really. My new Nokia Windows phone had an update so I pressed install and the update stuck and made the phone unusable. This is annoying since I use “Here Maps” as a GPS (it’s brilliant and uses off line maps…highly recommended!)

If you followed my blog on my last trip you may remember I lost all my GPS maps in Kazakhstan. My son Stuart in Australia came to the rescue and guided my over Skype on how to download new maps. He was seeing what was on my PC screen through the iPad camera!

Anyway, he came to the rescue again and sorted out the phone! What would I do without his help!

On Sunday it rained all day. I returned to Halifax and stayed near the Airport at my second Airbnb. This one is with a young family, Jackie and Fraser, their six year old son Levi, cat (Simon) and dog (Border Collie named Rudi) Simon the cast rules the house as you see in the photo!

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They are very friendly, hospitable and easy going. I feel at home here

Jackie, Fraser, Levi, Rudi (dog) and the boss...Simon(Cat) in their lovely home in Waverley

Jackie, Fraser, Levi, Rudi (dog) and the boss…Simon(Cat) in their lovely home in Waverley

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I like Airbnb and will try and use it throughout the trip. My alternative is Camping (ugh) or cheap lonely hotels/roadhouses.

The journey begins! Azulo is packed and keen to get going

Fraser decided to ride with me to the Digby Ferry (to Saint John) some 250 k from Halifax. Needless to say it was drizzling at 6.20 when we left but cleared.

 

Levi adding the Canadian Flag sticker

Levi adding the Canadian Flag sticker

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I caught the Ferry and am now in Saint John

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I’m now in Saint John…unfortunately its pouring with rain again. Poor Azulo looks sadly into the Motel room!

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Thanks you all for your comments…Bye for now!

Next stop Quebec City!

 

 

 

Canada & USA – Here comes Azulo

It’s nearly time! Azulo and I are about to set out on our 2015 adventure through Canada and USA!

USA2015 map

My journey starts in Halifax Nova Scotia and ends in Los Angeles. (the red line in the map) I then meet Merry and we begin the much more luxurious part of the journey! (the blue line. The purple is airplane flights) This holiday includes a 9 day cruise of the Alaskan Inside Passage then a car journey through Canada and USA to Denver. Azulo should be on the water at that time heading home to Australia

If you’re viewing my blog for the first time, Azulo is my trusty Kaweasaki KLR 650. Since finishing the ride from Vladivostok to London in 2014, Azulo has been resting in the garage of my good friends Vic and Gill in the beautiful Kent countryside

Azulo was picked up on 15 June and waved goodbye by Vic and Gill. He then hopefully flies to Halifax where I hopefully pick him up. The….off we go!

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Azulo about to leave. Gill looks on sadly. The good news is they get their garage back!

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I hope you will again join me on my journey. If you want to get an email to let you know I have added a new post, all you need do is enter you email address in the side panel where it says “subscribe”  That is an incorrect word as you are not subscribing to anything other than to receive an email! You can unsubscribe any time.

If you send me a comment (which I love getting by the way) I’ll answer!

Bye for now!