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Andvord Bay

Our last zodiac adventure! 😭 But our first chance to put foot on the continent proper. Not an island off the content but the actual Antarctic continent!! 🐧The beautiful sunny weather of the morning had turned misty and cloudy by mid afternoon.

Lots of views of Gentoo penguins, and one lost Chinstrap!

The Gentoos were coming down to the water to take a swim/much needed bath, and then got spooked by our zodiac. As we were sitting offshore we saw four of them swimming toward us. They were underwater but we could see them very clearly. Suddenly they swooped right under us and flew out of the water onto the shore. Nobody had a camera or video going or it would have been the most spectacular shot of the trip.

As we drifted away, I did get a couple great sequences of them diving off the rocks into the water.

Damoy Point

This expedition is just so amazing. Every time you think you have seen “the best” then another day comes along with another bay, or a change in the weather to a beautiful blue sky and you are just standing there once again wondering how can it get any better than this?

We started the day with a landing on Damoy point, home to thousands of Gentoo penguins as well as British and Argentine emergency huts. The British hut was open so we were able to walk inside and have a look.

The penguins were cute as usual, although a bit more pungent than usual if you ask me. The bay was just incredible with mountains on either side soaring skyward. At one point we were hiking and Jane and I both stopped because we heard “thunder” it was an avalanche in the distance somewhere. We didn’t see it, and according to Ignacio by the time we hear it the slide is already over anyway.

World Navigator at Damoy Point

The really incredible part of the morning came after we were back on board and sailing through a big s-shaped area, the sun was out, the sea was dead calm and the reflections were beautiful.

So many reflection pictures, and it was just incredible to stand there in awe of it all. Then along came some penguins swimming and diving in the water. It was amazing we could see them under the water as well as when they came flying out of it. Look closely at this picture there are three penguins!

Close up:

Argentine Islands

Antarctica is a continent. It is not “owned” by any nation, but is governed by an international treaty. Countries may maintain research bases in Antarctica but no country can claim a part of the continent as their own territory.

Today we got to cruise by a Ukrainian station. Under other circumstances we would have been allowed to visit the station, but unfortunately they were in the middle of a resupply process and could not accommodate visitors.

Vernadsky Research Institute

Resupply ship Noosfera

So, we cruised around and saw a little colony of Gentoo penguins. Visited an “iceberg graveyard” and saw some seals!

But the new animal for today was the Weddell Seal. Just lounging around on the ice pack.

The highlight of the afternoon will be cruising across the Antarctic circle. We were just commenting at lunch today that it was amazing how much we have seen but we have only seen a tiny tiny fraction of the continent. Everything we have seen and will see is part of the Antarctic peninsula that extends farther North.

Right now I’m watching a lecture on the Cetacians of the Antarctic. We have seen a lot of humpback whales, but there are also Minke whales, Fin whales, Right whales, and even Sperm Whales. Note that Sperm Whales are toothed whales not Baleen. Orcas are also quite common, including the ice pack Orca. This is a group of Orcas that engage in pack hunting. They will actually find a seal on the ice and attack the pack ice from below breaking up the ice and leaving the poor seal floating on a tiny bit of ice. From there they will push the seal off the ice and enjoy their lunch.

Yolaour Island

An easy afternoon to see some Adélie Penguins. So this is the third species of penguin that we have seen: starting with Chinstrap, then Gentoo (yes like the Linux distro) and now the Adélie. The Adélie is the only true Antarctic penguin.

The hike was easy and flat, and we were the first group this season to visit this large colony. We know that because our guides looked for a staircase from a previous ship and could not find one, so they had to dig one for us.

Our first bit of penguin drama came when the Skuas arrived. These are birds that are predators on the penguin eggs. They are very brazen predators as well, landing right next to the penguins laying on the nest! You can see it here with the one penguin looking quite alarmed, and the other just meekly pointing at the Skua as if to say “help?”

This guy however was definitely putting up a braver front! I got more of a “None shall pass” vibe.

But, the Skuas can’t be everywhere so there were plenty of additional Adélie to observe and enjoy their expressions. These three really got me.

Of course all is not just work in penguin land. I can’t imagine two penguins having more fun than these two little guys!

Finally, just a purely lucky shot. Our guide Ignacio has been talking about different techniques for composing shots and has talked about “frame in a frame.” I saw this from the zodiac heading back and thought it was a nice frame in a frame. It wasn’t until I got the photo onto my iPad and did a little cropping that I saw the Adélie in the middle of the frame!

Flanders Bay

What started as an ordinary excursion turned extraordinary when we found ourselves surrounded by humpback whales!

We were just cruising through some brash ice and looking at some birds when we heard the radio call from Jonathan. “I am nine o’clock from the ship and have four humpbacks.” We quickly made our way toward his position, gliding in very quietly the last 100 meters.

Then we heard and saw them a short distance away. Breath going out the blowhole, whoosh. Sometimes they would just glide along the surface like a giant surfboard, sometimes they would arch their backs and slowly sink back under the water, sometimes they would dive and show their tails as they disappeared under the water.

At one point two of them headed straight at our zodiac. One went directly under the bow, the other surfaced on the starboard side so close we could have reached out and touched its barnacle covered skin. We have been whale watching several times, but we have never had an experience like this! So close, and the whales just seemed to be curious about “the intruders” into their beautiful calm bay. At some point I just told myself to put down the camera, put my hands in my pockets, and just enjoy this rare experience. Some memories will just have to live in my mind.

After returning to the ship and sorting through the photos from this morning I favorited more than 50! Gotta be a little more choosy for this post, so here you go.

Tail, ship, mountain, sky

Coming at you!

Enterprise Island

This morning the waves were larger than yesterday and the skies were much grayer. So we had another zodiac experience, but much bumpier and wetter than the previous day. While not as lucky as the day before, the highlight of this trip was to visit a Norwegian shipwreck.

Although called Enterprise island, this island was originally named Nansen island, after the Norwegian explorer and Nobel winner Fridtjof Nansen. (Yes, Luther friends, that one). But the British decided it would be better called Enterprise. The ship itself was here from Norway to help the whalers in the area stick it to the Brit’s. It had a processing system on board that would turn the whale blubber into oil, thus avoiding a particular British tax on whale blubber.

The pictures from this morning are all from Jane. I didn’t take our larger camera because we were warned that we and everything we took was likely to get rather wet. And it was fine, sometimes it is good to just take in the experience and not worry about getting photos every few minutes.

Useful Island

One of the guides is sponsoring a Haiku contest:

Cute little penguin

Penguin Personality

Penguins are stinky

We could smell the colony of Gentoo penguins long before we could see them. And then we were there amongst them all. The wind was blowing hard and it was snowing. It was kind of miserable to be honest. But we had come to see the penguins and we were treated to a show. We saw them sliding down the hill, or just “swimming” through the snow. Some were laying on eggs. If they are on the rocks and laying they are on their egg. Some were swimming in the water. Several of them jumped up out of the water onto the rocks right where we were getting off the Zodiac! Curious little buggers.

Darn kids! Get off my rock.

Did you hear?

Thank you, Thank you, I’ll be here until April…

Guarding the egg.

Just trying to stay warm!

Ready… Set….

Just keep swimming

For an afternoon where the weather was not so good I have even more fun photos of these penguins.

Recess Cove

This afternoon’s excursion was a zodiac cruise, rather than a hike. Everything we saw we saw from the side of the boat. We were lucky enough to have our Excursion Leader Jonathan as our zodiac driver, so we had a super knowledgeable guide for the trip.

The main highlight was a couple of crab seals. One was sleeping and molting, but another was awake and a bit more active and we saw him dive into the water. He resurfaced again and we were hopeful he would climb back on to his little iceberg but he decided to keep swimming. We learned that these seals have teeth that they can use to hunt seals, but they are all kind of trident shaped and when the seal closes its mouth it acts like a mesh. So a seal can gulp up a huge mouthful of water containing krill and then close its mouth, expel all of the water through the teeth, and it is left with a yummy mouthful of fresh krill. This is exactly what Baleen whales do on a much larger scale!

We also learned a little about how to read the history of an iceberg. Since the ice on an iceberg melts faster than the ice out of the water bergs will often rotate many times. You can see on this one how that is the case. They call the left of the on pictured below the keel. And you can see the rings on the right as well.

On this one you can see how the center of gravity has shifted more to the right, lifting the thinner part up out of the water on the left.

Today was really quite a day. The guides all told us at recap that we had been extremely lucky and we had seen about 75% of the things we were likely to see in an entire trip in a single day! Which was funny because I had just commented that if for some reason we suddenly had to leave today, I would still have counted the trip a great success. I’m glad that we will have more days to see and re-see so many interesting things.

Palaver Point

Achievement Unlocked - seventh continent visited.

This morning was very exciting! We awoke to a sunny day, and very calm seas knowing that in just a short time we would be taking our very first hike on Antarctica. A colony of Chinstrap penguins and a little climb to a beautiful overlook. There were humpback whales, just chilling, off the bow of the ship. What a day!

We went through the drill of putting on our wellingtons and parka, hat, gloves, life jacket, backpack… I felt like the Michelin Man. We had our first experience with the automatic boot scrubber (to keep contaminants off the continent) and got onto the zodiac. It was a short ride, but the excitement began to build early when a bunch of penguins started jumping out of the water just ahead of us. Once we got on land there was a path to follow to allow us to see many views of the colony without getting too close. I’m definitely glad we invested in the new lens. We were well back from the penguins but the lens makes it look like we were much closer. So, walking in the snow, enjoying the views… There is not much more to write so I’ll just share some of my favorite photos from the morning.

Zodiac Arrival

Penguin Choir

Penguin Conductor

The climb and the ship

Leopard Seal - molting

Crossing the Drake

How many oceans are there on earth? Most of us learned about four - Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic. But there is a fifth called the southern ocean that surrounds Antarctica. We need to get across it. This is also often referred to as the Drake passage. The winds have free rein to go all the way around the earth unimpeded by any content in this region. So, yeah, swells, big ones. And, uhhhhh seasickness for many many passengers.

I’m getting a little ahead of the story, but the early morning trip to the airport and the charter flight to Ushuaia were uneventful and pretty uninteresting. After arriving we took a motor coach tour of Tierra del Fuego, which was interesting since we had been there before with much more time to hike, so we kept trying to remember exactly where we had hiked. We pulled up to our yacht at 3:00 and were among the first passengers welcomed aboard. No lines, no reception checkin. Here’s a glass of champagne! Sit on the couch here and let me scan your passport and take your picture on my phone. OK, here’s your key, you are now checked in! We were scheduled to leave at 6pm but we were told that due to the holiday things were running behind. By the time we headed to bed right after dinner we were still in port. We were too tired to care, and we slept until 8AM the next morning. Between the time change and the lack of sleep it felt great.

At our first briefing of the day we learned that not only had we left late, but we had also picked up 20 passengers from our sister ship that was having engine trouble after passing through a storm on the Drake passage days ago. We learned more about our excursions off the ship and that the first three rules are “be flexible” The captain and the expedition leader work together to find the best, safest, most interesting landing spots for the day. With changing conditions that is often not known until hours before we are told and ready to go. We were so impressed with the expedition crew! Lots of specialties and advanced degrees in all kinds of fields will be leading us.

By the time of this first briefing we were well into the Drake and there were a LOT of seasick passengers. I know I am not immune to it, but I am lucky that I don’t get seasick easily, so far so good. Jerry and Jane have not felt the best but thankfully they haven’t got sick either.

Later in the day we got fit for our parkas, life jackets and boots that we will wear whenever we leave the ship. We also had a fascinating lecture about the Albatross in the drake passage. This is the best place in the world to see them, and we have enjoyed watching them soar and dive amongst the swells. They can literally fly for up to 9000 miles without stopping. With their 12 foot wingspan they are some of the largest birds in the world. Unfortunately they are endangered. As creatures of the sea (they are only on land to breed and hatch and care for their young) they have been really affected by plastics in the ocean, and by bad fishing practices. Eat your seafood responsibly people! And, do what you can to reduce your use of plastics.

My first photo of an Albatross

By dinner time we were all feeling pretty good. We had a very nice meal and enjoyed some after dinner entertainment by our cruise director before turning in for another good nights sleep. The winds and the swells were predicted to increase during the night, and that proved to be the case. We were definitely rocked and rolled to sleep. Waking up a few times as the bottles in the mini-bar all clanged together. During the recap briefing we were asked to predict when we would see the first iceberg. Not “bergy bits” or pieces of floating ice, but a real true titanic size iceberg!

Our first iceberg

I didn’t expect to see one on day two, but there it was just after lunch! I was looking out the window of our room and for a moment thought it was another ship in the distance, but once I got the binoculars it was clear that it was a berg.

Of course the other side of the ship had an even bigger one to see!

Iceberg 2.

We still have a good long distance to go before reaching Antarctica, but things are going to get more and more interesting.

Buenos Aires

We decided to splurge and book our overnight flight to Buenos Aires as Delta One tickets. There are some nice perks with that. Easy drop off of checked luggage and access to the Delta lounge while you wait. The seats lie totally flat for the overnight flight. Maybe we will be able to sleep, we thought. Not so much as it turns out. But we made it, having left Minneapolis at 3:00pm on Tuesday we arrived at 9 something the next morning in BA. An hour to get through customs and an hour to get downtown in a cab, It was pouring rain, the hotel lobby was packed with people waiting to leave on their Viking cruise. And our room was not ready, to be fair checkin was not until 3, and we were not the only tired travelers arriving on an overnight flight.

We had booked a bike tour to keep us going in the afternoon, but that was cancelled due to the rain. So we hung out in the lobby, watched some soccer, and had a light lunch waiting for our room or for our friends Ann and Jerry to arrive.

The highlight of that first day was the dinner experience we booked at Fogon. Everything is cooked with the highly elaborate Argentine grill called a perilla. There are 9 courses on the menu, but the 2 surprise courses brought the number to 11.

The Parilla

The chefs were all very friendly and very entertaining. The food was absolutely delicious and a celebration of being a wine loving carnivore.

Smoked “eyebrow” with a pinecone

Our dinner didn’t start until 7:30 which is very early for the Argentines, and it ended sometime after 10 when most of them are just getting started. We were glad to get back to the hotel and put our overstuffed bodies to bed for the night. We had an all day tour of the city booked for the morning beginning at 9:30. Note that Buenos Aires is 3 hours ahead of Minneapolis so we were not too jet lagged, but still quite sleep deprived.

The tour of BA was fabulous, our tour guide’s name was Fabio and he was both knowledgeable and an excellent story teller. We had lots of questions and he seemed to really thrive on our back and forth. Our first stop of the day was at the government center. It was a big day/weekend as they were inaugurating a new mayor as well as a new president. Our impression was that this new president was going to be a trump-like disaster for Argentina, but it seems most people remain hopeful, that he will be an influence for change but moderated by the legislature that he must work with. Democracy in Argentina over the years has not been easy with many coups and rebellions. I won’t try to recap it all in this post, but I feel compelled to re-watch Evita with a new perspective. We did see the balcony that Eva Peron and Madonna both used.

Speaking of Evita our second stop was at the cemetery where she is interred. Her mausoleum is one of the most visited places in the city. This cemetery is just amazing as everyone is in some kind of crypt or mausoleum. When a family buys a place there they own it forever, but if they stop maintaining the site then it begins to decay. So we saw many amazing graves and many that had been grand years ago that were now full of spider webs and weeds. It was like a small town all to itself with streets and avenues going all over.

Having had our fill of beef the night before we politely asked Fabio for a different option for lunch. He pulled through and brought us to a small family run place that made killer empanadas. By this time it was well after 1 and we didn’t finish lunch until 3. We still had one more stop on our tour!

The highlight of the final stop was a drive by of the stadium where the Boca Juniors play. The club of Maradonna! The blue and yellow colors of the teem seemed oddly familiar to me, and I’ll tell you why. It seems that there were two teams in the city with the same colors, and they had a match to see who could keep the current colors, the loser would have to choose new colors. The Bocas lost, and the owners declared that they would adopt the colors of the next ship to dock in the harbor. That ship turned out to be flying the Swedish flag!

It was 5pm by the time we arrived back at the hotel. We were going to have dinner, and then take in a Tango show which didn’t start until 10! On top of that our bus to the airport for our charter flight to Ushuaia was going to be leaving between 4:30 and 5:00 AM the next morning!! Sound a little crazy? Well, we made it through, and are enjoying a couple of down days on the journey to Antarctica to catch up on sleep. More on that in the next post.

The dinner was pretty forgettable, and 3 out of 4 of us enjoyed the Tango show. OK, the music was good, I just have never learned to appreciate dance. For me the show could have ended after an hour but it kept going for another 40 minutes with various flourishes and bows and a dramatic rendition of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” to wrap up the show. It was after midnight by the time we walked back to our hotel, and yes, the alarm needed to be set for 4:15AM. There will be time to sleep later.

Mesa Verde

Today started out with another harrowing drive. We received about 3 inches of snow overnight, so my first duty was to clear the snow off the car. The snow was melting off the streets and it was warm enough that I really wasn’t worried about the drive. Until we started up the million dollar highway, on snowy, icy, roads, with no guard rails! We were doing 5-10 miles per hour on some parts. Luckily once we reached the summit things improved dramatically, but it was a very long first hour of driving.

The highway was built in the 1880s to connect Silverton with Ouray. It is supposed to be stunningly beautiful. Hopefully we can return in the warmer months to find out.

Our Journey for the day

From Silverton we continued on to Durango and then Mesa Verde National Park. It was a great time of the year to visit as the crowds were pretty small. The downside is that the ranger led tours of the cliff dwellings had ended a few weeks ago. Still, we were able to see a lot of the detail of the construction extremely well.

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Mesa Verde, Machu Picchu, and other ancient constructions always astonish me. How could they have done all of that building? So much progress in engineering that seems to have been lost. What happened?

Westward Migration

Today began just North of Denver, dry roads and a cloudy sky. We had coffee and got our day started, we were on the road by 8:00. Our path today would take us to Ouray with a stop at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Not our usual route out of Denver, up I70, but rather down US285 and over Monarch pass. Not more than 20 minutes down the road the conditions changed drastically. Cars in the ditch and ice on the roads. We slowed our progress considerably and soon the ice changed to water, but the skies got cloudier and the snow started. The conditions were not too bad until we climbed up toward Monarch pass. A pickup (pulling a camper!) had slid off the road, we slowed way down and joined a line of other like-minded travelers.

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Once we were over the pass, the temperatures warmed above freezing and the roads thawed and the sun came out. We paused for lunch at the Alpine Brewing company in Gunnison. We continued west toward Montrose but took a detour slightly North to take in Black Canyon NP. It was cloudy and we could hear thunder in the distance. Its odd to look down on the clouds in the Valley.

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I kind of felt like maybe I could hear the dwarves from the Lord of the Rings.

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The thunder got louder and closer, and before we knew it it was sleeting like crazy. In less than five minutes the roads were completely covered in slushy ice. But once again as we descended slowly the roads cleared.

We continued on our way toward Ouray and were treated to a beautiful sight as the clouds briefly cleared.

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Our evening in Ouray was pretty uneventful. We walked around downtown, but it was pretty quiet as it was cold and rainy. We had dinner at Brickhouse 737 in Ouray and it was a great meal. Quite a nice change from breweries and other on the road meals.

Happy Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving! or Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s day! We are in Canada and Thanksgiving and Columbus day are on the same Holiday. It seems really weird for us to hear people wishing other people a Happy Thanksgiving on a Monday, much less in early October! But it was a day to be thankful for after all!

We started our day by visiting Niagara Falls! Our first stop was the behind the falls experience. It was a little unnerving to walk through a tunnel realizing how much water was flowing just feet over your head! But the sights were quiet nice.

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We thought the view from above was even better. This is one of my favorites!

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The Canadians clearly were lucky in that you can see Horseshoe falls as well as the American falls so much better from the Canadian side.

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The afternoon was a fun afternoon of wine tasting in the Niagara region. Starting with the Wayne Gretzgy distillery and ending with a very nice pork chop on our grill back at the camp ground. At this point vacation is basically over and we have two days of driving to get back to Decorah. I’m almost sure the adventure is not over yet. So stay tuned for further updates.

Rainy drive to Green Lakes State Park

After a fitful night of sleep due to the on again off again rain, and in between the rain the wind blowing the rain out of the trees along with many leaves. We finally got up and decided to head down the road. It was just lightly raining when we broke camp, but as we drove west toward Syracuse NY we drove in and out of fairly heavy rain. Nothing nearly as bad as the moment we arrived at our campground!

It wouldn’t be a good trip if you didn’t get to use your raincoat. So we put them on and used the dump station and added some fresh water. Do I look happy or what?

Dumping

When we found our site, it was basically a shallow river. Despite our excellent rain coats we were pretty wet by the time we got backed in and leveled up. I was wearing my crocs for some dumb reason so my feet ended up soaked too. I decided to do some work, which was a mistake, as something broke, so I couldn’t run my Saturday updates.

We thought about heading out to a brewery for dinner and the hope of watching MNUFC take on LA Galaxy. In the end our internet was good enough that we decided to make chili and stay in. The Loons miraculously won, so that is something. Their playoff hopes, however dim, are still alive.

The morning was cool and partly sunny but very windy. I spent the morning working on my problem and finally found the solution I needed. Jane took a walk around the campground. We had hoped to bike along the Erie Canal, but it was way too windy and cool.

Green Lakes state park

Then I got the board book for the Luther board meeting and saw the schedule for Thursday, so we called another audible and decided to head out to Niagara Falls today, which will allow us to arrive in Decorah on Wednesday instead of Thursday. You gotta stay flexible when you are on the road.

Franconia Notch Stat Park

Onward to New Hampshire! We have turned the corner and started heading back west. We got to Acadia a day early to try to maximize the nice weather, and are doing the same to try to enjoy some New Hampshire “leaf peeping.” Personally I’ve now done enough leaf peeping to last me a while, but everywhere you turn there are hillsides full of vibrant colors. Jane has a higher level of enthusiasm and can’t get enough of the leaves.

Here is a beautiful view from “Height of the Land,” one of our first stops in New Hampshire.

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We arrived at our campground at Franconia Notch State Park. It is a very compact campground and took a lot of fancy driving for Jane to get our camper backed into our spot. Its one of the most unlevel spots we have had and took some stacking skill on my part to get us level left to right. But it was a beautiful site, with a nice fire pit.

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After a long day of driving it felt good to go for a short hike at Artists Bluff. It was a good workout of climbing over rocks to get to the top where we could see hill sides in every direction, a small pond and even some of the ski slopes. It had turned quite windy so we didn’t stay on the bluff as long as we might.

Instead we headed back to camp, got a couple of bundles of wood, and made a nice campfire with happy hour and some burgers on the horizon. This will be our last campsite with no electric hookup. Also no place to dump, so we’ll have to haul our gray and black water with us to New York.

We have reservations for three nights, but we are anticipating leaving a day earlier as it is supposed to rain and we can drive to Syracuse and break up the drive to Niagara.

The highlight of day 2 at Franconia Notch was the hike to the Flume Gorge. This was a fun hike through a granite and basalt gorge. covered bridges and walkways. Fall colors were everywhere despite the overcast day.

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When the hike was over we still had a drive on the “Kanck”. A well known highway with lots of turnouts. This weekend is a long weekend with Columbus day and Canadian Thanksgiving, which seems to be widely celebrated in the Northeast. So it is one of the busiest weekends of the year for leaf peepers. But despite the crowds there was plenty of beauty to go around.

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We stopped for lunch in North Conway at a restaurant that was featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives called Barley and Salt. We had the Thai chicken tacos which were really delicious and which I am determined to recreate when I have more than a camper kitchen to work with.

By the time we got back to the camper, which was round 6pm it was starting to rain so we packed up the chairs and had everything stowed and ready to take off in the morning. The rainy night was a perfect night to use some of the left over ragu in the freezer. We both feel like we we are in the home stretch now. We will be in Decorah in six days. The time has flown by, but looking back at our initial stops in New York feels like a long time ago!

Acadia Day One

Lets get going by 9 Jane said. No problem, time for coffee and morning puzzles etc. My watch and phone said it was only about 8:15 and Jane was pacing, “ready??” Her iPad said it was 9:15. Some of our devices had not made the switch from Atlantic to Eastern timezone. Not surprising given the lack of internet connectivity around Acadia.

The result was that we got an early start on our hike up the Beehive Trail, which was good because we definitely beat the rush. Here are some pics to highlight our hike/climb.

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Yep, this hike features vertical climbs up metal rungs. A couple were even past vertical. I must admit that the pictures definitely look more dangerous than it felt at the time.

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The climb was definitely worth it as you could see forever, and it was beautiful.

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With the hike finished we headed back to the camper. The sun and solar panels had already done their job of recharging the batteries for the camper. We had worked up an appetite so I cooked some hash browns, bacon and scrambled eggs on the griddle.

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Acadia has highways, park roads, and carriage roads. The last are thanks to the Rockefeller’s from way back. The carriage roads are for bikers and hikers and horses only. So it is a great way to see the park free from traffic. Getting to the carriage roads from our campground, however, is a bit of a challenge. We had to start on one of the park roads for a few miles and then walk our bikes up the bank to the carriage road once we got there.

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We really enjoyed Jordan’s pond and Eagle Lake and the Bubble Pond… The fall colors were really brilliant

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The last bit of our ride was back to hiking. To get from the carriage road to the highway that brings us back to our campground required some fancy maneuvering!

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With plenty of exercise for the day, we rested for a few minutes and then went in to Bar Harbor where we had a dinner reservation. Bar Harbor was busy I can’t imagine what it is like there during the summer months. But we found a brewery with good WiFi to catch up on a few things and then walked around the shops before heading to Geddy’s for some calamari and pizza.

It was not a late night, as we need to get up at 4:45AM to drive up to Cadillac mountain to watch the sunrise…

Halifax for Jane's big six oh

Halifax has a nice food scene and a pretty boardwalk along the bay. We saw several cruise ships leave and arrive, and got to try a local specialty. A Donair.

A Halifax Donair shares some history with a Gyro, except that they are made from beef and have a special Halifax sauce. Crispy thin sliced beef with a creamy, sweet, garlic sauce with plenty of tomatoes and onions. We split one from a shop on the boardwalk so as not to spoil our appetites for Jane’s birthday dinner.

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The boardwalk was fine, but I wouldn’t say spectacular. We found a nice Irish pub for some drinks, and they had a live band. So it was fun to sit and listen. Not as cool as the ceilidh back on Cape Breton, but still good.

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Birthday dinner was at The Bicycle Thief restaurant. It was a very nice meal, Jane had Seared Atlantic Halibut with brown butter & parmigiano fregola, charred asparagus, vino bianco, roasted sweet tomatoes, lemon & caper beurre blanc. I had Old-School Lobster Thermidor, Whole NS Lobster, wild mushrooms, shallots, Brandy crema, gratinéed with breadcrumbs, gruyère & parmigiano, truffle spaghettini & fresh asparagus. Both were delicious. We had a nice bottle of Chardonnay from Long Meadow Range in Anderson Valley. For desert we split the Creme brulee… slightly warm, with a really crispy crust, in short perfect. Top that off with a little sip of Port or Courvoisier and you have completed a near perfect meal.

Riding the Adventure Trail in Nova Scotia

The plan was to bike about 14 miles to Lunenburg, have some lunch at a brewery, and then bike back to where we parked. Drive back to the camper and make some Peruvian chicken for dinner. That was the plan. It was a beautiful day, It was a beautiful ride, although the trail was a bit soft in a number of places, and in a few it was completely washed out.

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However, 15 miles into the 14 mile ride we called a halt to consult the map. Somewhere along the way we had missed a turn that we didn’t even know to look for. Now we were almost to Bridgewater, quite a distance from Lunenburg.

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What to do now? Trying to make a triangle out of the situation was not a good solution. No trails from here to there, and the distance would have made the ride too long. So, we decide to turn back, maybe stop at a brewery along the way back, and see where to go. Riding along and discussing the options further, we decide to just head back to the truck and then drive from there to Lunenburg. Jane really wanted to see Lunenburg as it is a UNESCO site.

To get there we had to drive through Mahone Bay. What a zoo! We drove into their annual Scarecrow Festival! People everywhere. Cars everywhere. Astronaut scarecrows, firefighter scarecrows, They were everywhere. Kind of funny and clever. One of the few things we didn’t take a picture of, sadly.

Eventually we made it to Lunenburg where we found a good viewpoint to take a photo of the town, with its colorful buildings and tall ships in the harbor.

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Around four O’clock we parked and walked to the Shipwreck Brewery tap room. The smell of pizza was a little overwhelming as we walked in! We hadn’t much to eat, and had just ridden 30 miles. After looking at the menu we decided the chicken could wait! One small pizza and one lobster roll to go with our beers please.

The Cabot Trail

I have to admit I was a little whiney. Not yet 7am and Jane was ready to go. It was barely even light outside. But we had to get going. We are driving the Cabot Trail today, around Cape Breton island including many many short stops in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Spoiler alert… even though I was a bit grumpy starting out this was one of my favorite days. This drive is just so beautiful. In Jane’s notes it was described by some other blogger as follows:

The Cabot Trail is a road that hugs the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the rugged northwestern edge of Nova Scotia, where around every bend you want to pull over, spew expletives of joy at the stupendous vista, and take another snapshot.

Our first fun stop was to take the worlds shortest ferry ride on the Englishtown ferry. We had a lovely chat with the ferryman during our three minute crossing which covered everything from the state of education to English Premier League football, to the relative strength of various hurricanes, to whether the Packers (he saw our Wisconsin license plate) would win their Thursday night football game. We covered a lot of ground!

Englishtown Ferry

Our next stop was Middle head. A really nice hike which we cut short because we were still worried about time. Jane had read that it was really difficult to get the whole loop done in a day

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After that it was just turnout after turnout of stopping to take in the scenery. Our next real goal was to do the Skyline hike.

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The skyline hike was four miles out and back. With a set of boardwalk steps at the end that give you a pretty spectacular view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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More scenery followed the Skyline hike…until we arrived in Cheticamp, where we decided to stop for lunch at the Doryman’s pub, rather than eat another day’s worth of turkey and salami sandwiches. We had a great view of the bay and I had fish and chips and Jane had chowder. The chowder was great. My irish red ale was also very good. We think that our waitress secretly could not believe that Jane would like the IPA she ordered and so brought her a bud light instead.

At the end of the trail, Jane made a “wrong turn” that led us to the Big Spruce brewery instead of our camp ground. We enjoyed a couple of pints before heading back to relax for the evening. We made a campfire, thanks to our neighbor who gave us some nice dry kindling and paper to get it going! We were still very full from our mid afternoon meal that we warmed up some leftover pizza on the Traeger for an evening snack.

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The Table

Last night we had a fabulous dinner experience! On Prince Edward Island there is an old church, that once was a barn, but is now a restaurant. It is open every night for dinner for one seating of around 20 people. Their menu says they are “a love letter to Canadian food and wine.” The menu changes every week, and they don’t repeat, ever, at least not in 8 years.

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All the foods are local, that is they use ingredients from PEI that mostly come from just a few km away. They don’t use any ingredients that are not grown in Canada. So, no lemon, or lime, or black pepper. Instead they make pepper from the flower cluster of the Green Alder, They are super creative and the food was just awesome. One of the highlights of the night was the Halibut. One of their friends/suppliers, a fisherman, showed up on their door a couple of days ago to let them know he had a 50 pound Halibut he had just caught, he thought they might want it. We are glad they did!

The kitchen area is open for everyone to see the small staff working to prepare the next course. And before you eat the course the chef explains what you are getting. Then as you are eating he walks around to answer questions or just chat with every table. They pair each course with a Canadian wine. The result is a 7 course meal that goes from 5:30 - 9pm, a beautiful night of food and drink.

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  1. roasted carrots, marinated carrots, cows’s blue cheese fritters, basil aioli. The blue cheese fritters (Choux batter with blue cheese mixed in) were better than any fried cheese curds I’ve had in my life!

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  1. celery root soup, roasted celery root, pickled mustard seeds, celery.

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  1. french river halibut, clam cream, dill oil potato, chives. SOOOO GOOD. We were imagining the staff milking the clams, but it turns out it is more like homemade clam sauce mixed with cream and then reduced.

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  1. belle river rock crab mezzalunes, charred tomato aioli, cured egg yolk. What? Cured egg yolk salted and dried and then they grate it over the pasta! I’m gonna try it.

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  1. cold water shrimp, our bread, herbs, crispy shallots. The chef described it as a mid meal snack! Yummy.

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  1. braised island short rib, potato puree, market vegetables, ox tail jus. I’ve hated beets for 50 of my 59 years. But I have to admit that these were not bad!

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  1. geoff’s apples, maple granola, mint oil, whipped sweet clover cheesecake. The apples were warm, but still crunchy, and the whipped cheesecake was like a thick whipped cream. A delicious ending.

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Jane’s favorites: The carrots and the Halibut

Brad’s favorites: The Halibut, the carrots were a big surprise and the fritters were just so good. Learning about cured egg yolks.

Day One Cabin to Indiana Dunes NP

Mostly just a travel day, but with a short hike at the end. Going through Chicago is never fun, but gave us the quote of the day from Jane: “Oh my gosh we are getting passed by an Oscar Meyer Weiner!”

Passed by the Oscar Mayer truck

The Indiana Dunes National Park is the newest National Park. It is located right along the shore of Lake Michigan, with plenty of beaches and sand dunes to explore. Here we are on the beach, Jane is pointing at downtown Chicago, which we could just make out through the haze.

Downtown Chicago from Mount Baldy

It was a very nice campground, but no electricity so we decided to cook over an open fire. We had bought a bundle of wood at the gas station but it was very wet, so it was a struggle but we eventually had enough coals for some turkey burgers. It was a very nice night to enjoy the fire, but we have a long day of driving to get to New York so it was an early night.

Relaxing campfire

Where does all our stuff come from? Going through the Canal.

I grew up in farm country so I’m pretty familiar with how food gets to the grocery store. But what about all the other stuff we buy at all the other stores? Well here is a clue for you…

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One thing this trip through the panama canal has made me realize is just how amazing, complex, and expensive the global shipping system is. Have you ever wondered how much it costs for a ship to go through the Panama canal? Take a guess? Our cruise ship cost about $370,000 and larger ships can cost over a million!

I can’t even begin to guess the value of everything in those containers but just think about it. Cars, wood, electronics, furniture, carpet, gas, oil, grain, it all makes its way around the world in giant ships. In Colon there is a huge duty free area where buyers go and order containers of various things. Oh, I like these shorts I’ll take 2 containers of medium 1 of large, etc…

Going through the Panama canal you really see where this all comes together, literally, to fit through a bunch of locks that are a thousand feet long and 160 feet wide. Plus the new locks for the even bigger ships.

Our route through the canal started at the Gatun locks. These take you up 85 feet to lake Gatun. You can see our ship the Celebrity Millenium in the background just entering the first lock. The white and blue ship is a car carrier heading the opposite direction.

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Here we are in the lock looking backward you can see a tanker heading out.

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We then travelled across the lake (formed by damming the Chagres river) to the Pedro Miguel locks which stepped us down about 50 feet and then on the the Miraflores locks which took us down to the Pacific Ocean.

This sequence just shows us at the Miraflores locks dropping down the final step before we head out. IMG 1129

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Panama City in the background.

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The whole thing is such an engineering marvel. And not done with new technology! Much of the canal has not changed since it was built over 100 years ago. No pumps are used, it is all gravity fed. Which means that in order for the locks to work they are draining the lake. Of course it is refilled by the river, but each ship uses about 52 million gallons of water to traverse the locks. The rainy season has not been very rainy this year so the lake level is down which means some ships can’t go through, or they have to unload some cargo before they go. One interesting addition that helps conserve water is that now we can use water from the side going down to halfway fill the side going up. This is a nice bit of recycling that saves about 50% of the water.

A Day in Panama

After docking in Colon we joined our tour group for the day to see some of the sites in Panama. This tour included stops at the new locks – Wide enough for the “neo” class ships that do not fit in the original canal. It also included a stop and boat ride on Lake Gatun where we visited the village of some indigenous people and looked for wildlife along the shore.

I had this idea (probably from childhood) that the Panama canal was one long canal. Which is not true at all. The canal is actually a series of locks that bring the ship up into lake Gatun then you cross lake Gatun and go down some more locks to bring you back to the ocean. So, the constraints on the ships are really the size of the locks. In 2016 they opened a new set of locks at each end to support the really large ships. Now the main constraint is really on the depth of the water in the lake.

Here is a view of both sets of locks on the Atlantic side:

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The left side is the new lock which runs one way, They go one way for half the day and then the other way the other half of the day. the right side is the old locks which run both ways most of the time, but they can shut it down and switch to one way traffic if they have maintenance to do.

Here is a view of the village we stopped at.

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A nice addition to cruising is pickleball at sea! We just got on the ship so its too early to tell if the court will be busy. Playing on a metal floor definitely gives a different feel.

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