DAY 5 – May 15 – A Whale of a Time!

When I was at Wood’s Seafood yesterday, I asked about Captain John’s Whale Watching Tour, located right next to the restaurant. They highly recommended it, so I called and made a reservation for this morning on the 8:30 tour…the only one scheduled for the day.

I was up early at the hotel, had a bite to eat and coffee, and headed down to the dock. I found easy parking so I was at the boat by 8:15, with about 6 other folks…and waited around, and waited, and waited while maybe 50 more adults and kids slowly wandered down the dock. Finally, at 9:20 they let us board the boat, we cast off and we were headed twenty miles out into the Atlantic Ocean to the reef where the whales like to feed.

It took about an hour, but it was a beautiful, sunny and cool morning. It’s a great day for a boat ride. Then the Naturalist on board pointed out that the bow of the boat is called twelve o’clock, like a clock has 12 at top center. A short while later she announced on the PA “there’s a whale at two o’clock” and everybody rushed in front of me to that side of the boat. I saw a tiny bit of black whale hump. Every sighting was announced, and the naturalist kept up a running dialog of information. With all of their electronics gear, they are able to identify each whale by name…maybe the whales have a tracking device attached. I also saw a large number of porpoises swimming beside and across in front of the boat. Long story short(er), the naturalist told us on the trip back that we had “contact” with over 50 different whales, at least 15 Humpback, 16 or 17 Minke, and a few other assorted smaller whales. It was a lot of fun.

I could not get a good photo with everyone rushing to whatever rail was closest to that sighting, so I put my camera away and just enjoyed seeing so many whales so close…some within 25 feet of the boat as we quietly idled among them. We even saw a number of them “blow” the water out of their blow-hole (or whatever that’s called). After two hours, we returned to Plymouth, another one-hour ride. Nice day! It was well worth the $45.00 I paid.

DAY 4 – May 14 – To Plymouth Rock!

Left 8:45 am    Sunny with temps in the 50s. My GPS took me a long way through old city streets in Schenectady and Albany before I got to the I-90 bypass. It was a nice ride from there through some very pleasant parts of the Berkshires…they call them mountains…that are reminiscent of the hills and bluffs in western Wisconsin near the Mississippi River. It is very pretty country. T

raffic increased as I neared Boston but my route took me around on I-495.While cruising along, I suddenly saw a cloud of dust and a sudden movement ahead of me that came from a large boat (maybe a 24 foot offshore cruiser) and trailer that had disconnected from a big Ford dually pickup. When the tongue of the trailer hit the road, the whole works went up into the air, with the boat leaving the trailer, the trailer doing about a triple-flip in the air before smashing into the guardrail. The boat that had gone straight up and came straight down, hit the pavement and skidded until it stopped crossways in the middle of the Interstate. This happened in the time it took me to hit my brakes and swerve to my right without hitting anything and come almost to a stop. Luckily, traffic was light and the other cars behind me also slowed with no danger to me or others. We all slowly drove past the whole mess. That was too close!

Lesson: Make sure your hitch is locked on, use safety chains on the hitch, and tie the boat down to the trailer. The truck was all painted up and belonged to a Marina boat dealer. You would think they would know how to pull a trailer…I guess not!

Well, after that excitement, it was time for a bathroom break and gas stop.

 I then continued on into Plymouth, Mass., home of the famous “ROCK”.

FYI: 1. that rock may not be the actual rock that those Pilgrims landed on and it supposedly came from about three miles from where it is now enshrined.

2. It is about the size of a coffee table, it would fit into the back of my Kia. I remember from grade school that the “Rock” was some really big landmark, it’s not really big, but it is a landmark.

3. One more thing…the Pilgrims actually first landed on Cape Cod, but decided to move across the bay to the site of present-day Plymouth after about six weeks. What’s up with the “first landing at Plymouth Rock” story? 

Oh well. Plymouth is a thriving tourist town now and you can get fresh lobster in many of the multitude of restaurants in town.  And, you may be able to find a t-shirt or postcard for sale. {:>)

My lobster was live, dropped into a boiling kettle of water, and served whole. It’s kind of messy cracking the tail and claws open, but yummy. Very nice for a $14.99 full dinner…and I saw the boat bringing in the lobsters as it pulled up to the dock behind Wood’s Restaurant, where I ate. Thanks to John Ridge for the “must eat at this place” tip. 

The only point of my visiting the “Rock” is that the motto of the Yellowstone Trail is: “A Good Road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound”.  That was a catchy way of saying coast-to-coast.  

So, here I am. After I explore, in the next few days, a bit of Cape Cod, the sea coast areas south and north of Boston, and go on a whale watching boat cruise, I will be following the YT back towards home. I have many maps to use and verify, and to make notes or corrections on.

DAY 3 – May 13 –Schenectady - 6 States / 3 Days

I Left the motel at 6:15 am.

I have been in parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York since Saturday.  Woke at 3 (couldn’t sleep), got up at 4, had some coffee, fought with e-mail problems.  Cloudy, windy, and cold with 40s temps and light rain showers.  I planned a visit to the Remington Arms Co. Museum & Factory in Ilion, NY …but that was a bust. My first shotgun was an old Remington Model 10 pump that I bought for $15 from a retired guy on my paper route who no longer hunted. I have owned at least one Remington gun and usually 3 or 4 since then. Their current website brags about their wonderful antique firearms museum, so I drove a long ways out of my way and wondered why there were no signs anywhere. After wandering around for a while, I came across a really big and very old and decrepit looking unmarked brick factory that must cover 20 or 30 square blocks right in the middle of town. It looks like it was built to make guns for the Civil War. After driving around three sides of it, I finally saw a small Remington sign. I could not find any Museum or visitors center so I finally pulled up to a truck entrance gate and asked the security guard where the heck the museum was…I jokingly told him “I drove 900 miles to visit the museum and I can’t find it”. He replied “you wasted the trip, the museum closed a couple years ago”!

I made Schenectady by 2:00 pm, found a motel and took a nap. McD’s for dinner. Another 300 miles today, about 900 total so far.

DAY 2 - May 12 - Toledo to Buffalo                                                                                           Left 8:45 am, 38 degrees…“An unseasonably cold air mass will continue to take hold across much of the Eastern part of the Nation.”

Up at 6:30, coffee, net, hotel breakfast of mini-muffins, left 8:45. Light rain at times, and cloudy. I had only brief views of Lake Erie while driving almost the entire length of it, until I got near Buffalo…where I could see that it was very windy with giant waves crashing over break walls there…I’ll bet no one was walleye fishing today. I checked into a motel that was so bad that I checked back out and went to a nearby one that was a little better. Convenience store turkey sandwiches for supper. Ah, the joys of travel!

 

DAY 1- May 11 - Home to Toledo, OH

Left home 10:00 am, 60 degrees, tolls paid: Il. =$17, IN =$12, OH =$3.75, so far.

I hit a lot of construction and traffic in Illinois, Chicago’ loop was a mess at noon on a Saturday. Once Out of IL, traffic was light with rain, cold 50s temps through Indiana and into Ohio.  I stayed at a slightly shabby (but not cheap) hotel in Toledo. I ate some food I brought from home and went to bed early.

Packing up! May 10 

I am leaving tomorrow morning, so I’m doing a lot of last minute stuff today. I decided not to use my trailer hitch carrier this year, as I anticipate a lot of traffic…there will not too many open prairies or mountain Forest Service roads out east. That means carrying a few less items and packing a bit more carefully, but I got it all in, even my $10 lawn chair!                                                                                                        And, though it’s no big deal, today is my birthday. Age? let’s just say that I was born in the first five months of the “Baby Boom”. I will post in a few days and report my progress. First night in Toledo, OH, second night in Buffalo, NY. Boston in 4-5 days from home. Lobster dinner!

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I’m setting up my Tumblr posts for this year.

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Day 36 + 1 – July 8, 2012 Final Trip Report

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I spent today unpacking and sorting out the many items that I either took along or accumulated on the trip. I also ran my friend of 7 ½ years, Kia, through a “deluxe super-duper” car wash, as she deserves nothing but the best. After the faithful service of 6,650 miles on Interstates, two-lanes, one-lanes, gravel, and mud, while serving as my bedroom for eleven nights, Kia never missed a beat.  She is now looking pretty good for her age and over 111,000 miles. I will do a full detailing when it cools off a bit.    

Misc. trip notes:

1.    I am “pass-ed out”. I went over 11 mountain passes, many more than once, for a total of 20 crossings. I also drove to the top of one mountain: Mount Walker in Washington’s Olympia National Forest.

2.    I slept in one Wal-Mart parking lot, one Oregon State Park, one city park, one American Indian Reservation camp, seven NFS or NP camps, and one camp owned by Warren Buffet. I enjoyed every one.

3.    I also slept in 17 different motels for a total of 24 nights. I enjoyed some of them, too. I was burned by the rate increases over this year’s long week of the 4th of July…some of these so-called “budget” places raised their rates by $20, $30, $40, or more. Supply and demand, I guess.

4.    I burned 360 gallons of gas ($1,300+) and got 18.5 miles per gallon in 6,650 miles. That’s less than last year’s 21.3 mpg, I suspect due to high altitudes and heavy winds. The state of Washington was over $4 per gallon for most of my visit. I paid anywhere from $3.24 to $4.19 on the trip.

5.    I ate anything I wanted; fast food, fat food, and a bunch of motel donuts, but I did not gain a single pound! I guess that old saying that calories do not count on vacation is true!

6.    I exceeded my self-imposed budget by about $1 a day.

Now it’s recovery time, with laundry, grocery shopping, and lots of neglected Yellowstone Trail Association duties.

Thanks for “riding along”…I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know at mmowbray@yellowstonetrail.org

Mark

Day 36 – July 7 Back in Packer and Badger Country

I left that sleazy motel in St. Paul at 6:15 a.m. and hurried over the St. Croix River on I-94 into my home state of Wisconsin, where I stopped in Hudson, a key YT town, for a donut and coffee…well, 2 donuts actually, as they were on sale. (good excuse, huh?)

It was a glorious day, cool and sunny, so I followed the Yellowstone Trail / US 12 route from Hudson to Menomonie, also on the YT and home of my Alma Mater, UW-Stout. I spent about an hour there in Wakanda Park, on the lake and in the shade. Very nice.

There I sorted through all of the “stuff” (booklets, maps, brochures, etc.) that I had collected on my trip, and also dug out the 110 pages of Washington draft maps so I could loan a lot of that “stuff” to John (President) and Alice (Secretary) of the Yellowstone Trail Association. They live in the Eau Claire area, my next stop.  They are the “Founding Godparents” of our modern day Association, and they will use those materials to supplement their vast research of the YT. 

We had a fine visit…4 ½ hours…talking about my adventures, looking at the maps at some surprising “lost” parts of the YT that I “found”, and I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and I am sure that they did too.

But, home beckoned me, so it was back on I-94 towards Janesville. Traffic was a bit heavy from about Tomah to my exit, where the temperature had dropped to only 88 degrees.

Everything was just as I left it at home, so I kicked on the A/C and unpacked a few things. Tomorrow I will get everything sorted out, get some groceries and Sunday papers, and try to shed this “road trip mode” I am in…I am so used to hitting the road every morning…it will take a few days to get used to being back in the real world. I’m not really sure that I want to though, as I had a very good time on this trip and I will miss the adventure and fun.

I’ll post a trip summary soon.

Day 35 – July 6   Long Drive, Rain Like Car Wash, Then Hot

I woke in the dark, had a coffee and donut, and left Bismarck in the rain at 5:30 am. I hit some areas where it seemed like hurricane conditions…almost a white-out of rain and wind across North Dakota and into Minnesota. (OK, I bootlegged that photo, there are not really palm trees in Fargo {:>) )

I was following the storm that was also moving east, sometimes driving out from under it. By central MN, I left it completely and instead, found myself in very heavy Friday afternoon traffic.

It was in the upper 90s when I finally got to St. Paul after 460 miles today. I checked into a fleabag motel and watched the storm catch up to me.

Early to bed…and looking forward to being back home in Wisconsin tomorrow with lower temps predicted.

Day 34 – July 5 Eastbound and down, Big Prairie Chicken, and Rain

I pulled out of Forsyth, MT this morning at 9:30 and pounded eastbound on I-90. My intention was to go 200 or so miles to Mandan, ND and camp again with the wild horses and prairie dogs at the Teddy Roosevelt Nat’l Park.

I have already explored the YT in eastern Montana, both last year and last month, so it was Interstate time. I drove past Fallon, where I waved good-by to the Yellowstone Trail, as it wanders southeast from there through Ismay (sometimes known as Joe) Montana and on to the Dakotas.

From Wikipedia: Ismay is a town in Custer County, Montana. The population was 19 at the 2010 censusAs a publicity stunt coordinated by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, the town unofficially took the name of Joe, Montana, after the NFL quarterback Joe Montana.

By the time I got to Mandan, it was very windy and black clouds were rolling in. A quick check of the weather forecast and radar on my ‘droid phone told me to forget camping…severe storms and lightning coming. May as well keep driving, so I did.

Somewhere in North Dakota, during a break in the windy, rainy, and boring ride, I came across a statue of the “World’s Largest Prairie Chicken”. Really…I even took a photo of it (see above).

Off and on rain brought me to Bismarck after 330 miles, to a nicely remodeled motel that I reserved earlier from Mandan. It’s super.

I’m pretty burned out after 34 days, so I will do long drives for the next few days…hopefully getting home after the heat wave breaks (it was 104 there today, only 88 here).

St. Paul, MN tomorrow, 440 miles away.

Day 33 – Happy 4th of July! Parade…but No Fireworks

Most of central and eastern Montana, and a lot of other areas of the country, are designated Red Flag Fire Danger areas. Camp fires, BBQs, and fireworks are banned. Local fireworks shows are usually produced with or by the Fire Departments, but are cancelled or postponed this year. Thus, no fireworks for me…but I did see a parade, a really little one.

My day started in Livingston with clear skies and forecast of HOT. I had a brief setback when I discovered, after I had checked out of the motel, that I had lost the memory card for my camera. I had it in my room to download pix to my laptop last night. Long story short, the desk clerk let me back into my (former) room and I found that I had dropped it under the desk chair. Was that caused by the full moon???

Even though I could not get a ticket to the rodeo last night, I drove past the rodeo grounds this morning anyway. The contestants are still there for tonight’s show, which I will miss. It was pretty quiet, with the horses and calves resting, but I saw a neat Model T with flags on cruising past. I tried to follow him, but traffic made it hard to catch him, so when he pulled into the parking entrance of the wonderfully restored former Northern Pacific Railroad Depot, I quickly parked.  I had a long and enjoyable visit with the old timers (the guy and the car); he’s a local fella who has two Model Ts and has helped restore many others over the years, and I took some pix.

After he left, I toured the Livingston Depot Center Museum…very, very nice. One thing I noticed was that the “Smoking Room” (now a place to watch a DVD of rail travel in the good old days) was a place for the bigwigs to have a cigar while waiting for their train way back when. That is not politically correct today, of course, and smoking is forbidden. I’m a smoker, and I wish a few places treated me the way they did those bigwigs. One other thing that struck me was the fact that the Women’s Rest Room is located off the Smoking Room, while the Men’s Room is located off the area that was, and is labeled as Women’s Lounge (now gift shop) at the other end of the depot. Hmmm. What’s that about?

I then made a stop at the newly, and very well-restored Yellowstone Gateway Museum where visited with Paul, who I had also visited a month ago on my way west.

Man-o-man, I spent the entire morning touring the town, but now it was time to hit the road for a 230 mile jaunt. I-90 took me past Laurel, Billings, and a few other towns I have visited and mapped in the past. I stopped into a Rest Area on I-90 where I saw my first "Doggy Rest Area", complete with a fire hydrant.

I remembered a really good burger and “buffalo chips” (spicy fries) I had with the Aussie guy last year in Custer, so I stopped in again. He said “you’re just in time, the parade starts in half an hour”. Who is he kidding…a parade in this tiny, dead little burg? Where is everybody? But, sure enough, some folks showed up in the bar parking lot and along the road, and they started the parade almost on time…with two Model T’s, two small wagon “floats”, a very well-trained horse team, a couple of little 4-wheel ATVs, and two small fire trucks. Seven or eight “units”…so the parade didn’t last very long…about 5 minutes! No band, as the Custer schools closed years ago. But hey, it’s 4th of July, they have lots of spirit, and I got to see a parade. By the way, the burger and buffalo chips were really good.

Then, it was off to Forsyth, one of my favorite stops in eastern Montana, for a restful night at the very well maintained, catchy-named, and historic Restwel Motel. Ask Diane or Dan why it’s historic.

It looks like a 200 miler to Theodore Roosevelt Nat’l Park tomorrow, with a forecast of “hot and nasty”.