Category Archives: weather

September 15: In which I run into a couple of old friends. Very old friends.

I saw this on my way out of Bismarck.  Made me wonder if there were transplanted Roswell, NM, residents here.
I saw this on my way out of Bismarck. Made me wonder if there were transplanted Roswell, NM, residents here.

It rained a bit during the night, but had cleared up by this morning. The weather prediction was for it to be overcast most of the day, with a few scattered showers, and I believed it. More fool me.

To be fair, it didn’t do much more than spit as I drove north from Bismarck towards Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark built their home for the winter of 1804-05. There they stayed from October till April, waiting for the temperatures to warm up from the minus forty it hit several times that winter, and for the ice to melt on the Missouri River before they headed on upriver to the Pacific Coast – eventually.

It was funny how much the reproduction (the original is under the shifted Missouri River somewhere) fort looks like the reproduction Fort Clatsop in Oregon, where the Corps of Discovery spent their second winter. Or maybe not. Anyway, it reminded me of home, in an odd way, hence the subject header of today’s post. Not that I’ve ever lived in a hand-built log fort or anything…

I love this quote, for obvious reasons.
I love this quote, for obvious reasons.
The front of Fort Mandan.
The front of Fort Mandan.
One of the pierced tin lanterns, lit up.
One of the pierced tin lanterns, lit up.
Inside Fort Mandan.
Inside Fort Mandan.
A blunderbuss.  I'd read about them, but I'd never seen one in person before.  The guide let me try to lift it -- it's *heavy*!
A blunderbuss. I’d read about them, but I’d never seen one in person before. The guide let me try to lift it — it’s *heavy*!
The obligatory statue of Seaman, Lewis's Newfoundland dog.  I'm pretty sure every L&C site I've ever been to has had one.
The obligatory statue of Seaman, Lewis’s Newfoundland dog. I’m pretty sure every L&C site I’ve ever been to has had one.

It had started raining again by the time I left Fort Mandan, and was coming down fairly well by the time I got to the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center a few miles back down the road. It’s a very nice museum, dealing with both L&C as well as North Dakota agricultural history, which is more interesting than it sounds, especially as the first farmers in what later became North Dakota were the Mandan Indians. Apparently a fair number of our commercial corn and bean varieties are descended from those the Mandans grew, including my favorite dry bean, the Great Northern. I’ll never look at taco soup the same way again [g].

Double life-size statues of L&C and the local Mandan chief in front of the L&C interpretive center, just down the road from Fort Mandan.
Double life-size statues of L&C and the local Mandan chief in front of the L&C interpretive center, just down the road from Fort Mandan.
Nifty bison statues at the interpretive center.
Nifty bison statues at the interpretive center.
The Missouri River near Fort Mandan.
The Missouri River near Fort Mandan.

The rain did not stop. Oh, it slowed down a little, but when I arrived at the Knife River Villages National Historic Site a few miles to the west, it was too wet to go hiking out to see more earth lodges. But there was a fellow in the visitor center who played a wicked Native American flute (I wish I could have recorded him – he was that good), and a very helpful ranger who gave me the phone number of the ranger station at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit.

See, the last time I was in this part of the world, in 2012, the road into the North Unit had been closed because the land underneath it had slumped. Slumping is the primary way the badlands of the western Dakotas are formed, so it’s nothing unusual, but I had been rather disappointed at the time. So I wanted to see if the road was open again before I drove out of my way to go see it. And yes, it is. And the campground is still open this late in the season, too.

The beginning of the Badlands.
The beginning of the Badlands.

So on westward I went, through the rain and about twenty miles of unpaved road construction (dear godlings, was that not fun), and finally made it here to TRNP’s north unit, where I’m ensconced in a campsite, listening to the rain pound down on Merlin’s metal roof (I’m always glad I’m not tent camping, but I’m really glad tonight).

It’s supposed to clear up tomorrow, and it darned well better. I have a drive I want to make [g].

September 13: Would you like some lutefisk with that, Thor?

What a pretty day. Seriously. My first stop of the day was at Detroit Lake, which is the centerpiece of the eponymously named town of Detroit Lakes (no, I didn’t see the other lakes, but that’s okay).

I’m still seeing wildflowers even in September in this climate, too, which makes me happy.

Sunflowers and asters at Detroit Lakes.
Sunflowers and asters at Detroit Lakes.
Across far western Minnesota.
Across far western Minnesota.

I reached Moorhead, Minnesota, on the North Dakota line, around noon, and went looking for [googles to get the spelling right] the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center, which is nominally the local historical society, but in fact is the home of two enormous fascinating artifacts. The first is a sort of Thor-Heyerdahl-in-reverse authentic Viking ship reproduction that was built nearby, then sailed from Duluth, Minnesota, to Oslo, Norway, back in the early 1980s. I was a fan of Heyerdahl when I was a kid, so the story of Robert Asp and his dream becoming a reality was fascinating to me, and the ship was impressive, if difficult to photograph.

The outside of the museum.
The outside of the museum.

The viking ship, and now you see why the odd roof [g].
The viking ship, and now you see why the odd roof [g].
The other huge artifact is a reproduction stave (pronounced, to my surprise, as STAHV, not STAYV) church. It’s an exact copy, made by another local man, Guy Paulsen, of the Hopperstad Stave Church, built during the 12th and 13th centuries in the backwoods of Norway. I’d always wanted to see a stave church, after seeing pictures and film of them, and since I’ll be lucky if I ever get to any part of Scandinavia in this lifetime, well, I jumped at the chance to see this one.

The stave church.
The stave church.
The front door.  Look at all that beautiful hand-carved wood.
The front door. Look at all that beautiful hand-carved wood.
It smells like my father's workshop in there.  They do use the building as a wedding venue.  Can you imagine a cooler place to get married?
It smells like my father’s workshop in there. They do use the building as a wedding venue. Can you imagine a cooler place to get married?
Looking up at the inside of the ceiling.
Looking up at the inside of the ceiling.

The museum has the usual local history exhibits, too, but aside from the church and the ship, the temporary exhibits were what caught my eye. One was a traveling exhibit about the history of the education of the blind, and the other was about the history of liquor in the area. Apparently because North Dakota’s liquor laws were much stricter than Minnesota’s, and due to its proximity to non-Prohibitioned Canada, Moorhead was a very exciting place to be in the early decades of this century [g].

This is probably the most amusing image from the liquor exhibit, a guy dressed up as a can of beer.
This is probably the most amusing image from the liquor exhibit, a guy dressed up as a can of beer.

The museum’s café sells a mean bowl of vegetable beef soup with homemade noodles, too. No lutefisk, though, thank goodness.

Crossing the Red River of the North from Minnesota to North Dakota, and from Moorhead to Fargo.
Crossing the Red River of the North from Minnesota to North Dakota, and from Moorhead to Fargo.

There wasn’t really anything I wanted to see in Fargo itself (as opposed to Moorhead), so I drove on through and out onto the Great Plains. I’m back in, “Oh, god, don’t anything step on my van! It’s really not a bug even though it looks as small as one!” country, and I am so happy about that. Oh, my gosh, I love the prairies. They’re so gorgeous.

And I got an interesting history lesson when I stopped at a rest area on my way to my stop for the night in Jamestown, too. I knew a little about tree claims, from reading my Laura Ingalls Wilder, but not this much. Too cool.

I don't normally take photos of rest areas, but these cottonwoods were part of a tree claim.
I don’t normally take photos of rest areas, but these cottonwoods were part of a tree claim.
Self-explanatory [g].  Interesting, huh?
Self-explanatory [g]. Interesting, huh?
I loved these clouds,.  They almost look like they're whirling, but they're not.  And look at the size of that *sky.*
I loved these clouds,. They almost look like they’re whirling, but they’re not. And look at the size of that *sky.*

Jamestown’s claim to fame is the world’s largest statue of a bison. I’ll go see if I can find it tomorrow morning.

September 12: Frost? Really? Already?

According to the weather forecaster on a local Fargo, North Dakota, newscast (I’m almost 70 miles southeast of there tonight), the average first frost date is September 18th. And the forecast is for frost over the next couple of nights, with a high in the fifties F tomorrow. My word.  According to the Geyser Gazers FB group, it’s snowing in Yellowstone.  I’m starting to feel the need to get back over the Rockies soon, for some strange reason…

Oh, and I didn’t get a photo of it, but my habit of reading road signs the way I used to read cereal boxes and mayonnaise jars as a kid (when I ran out of any other reading material) paid off today. An adopt-a-highway sign was claimed by Wreck-A-Mended, a car collision repair company [g].

I got a late start this morning, and after a couple of errands that included picking up maps at AAA for my revised route, finally left Duluth a bit berfore eleven. It was interesting watching the thick forest gradually change to prairie with the only trees at low spots and along waterways, the farther west I went across Minnesota.

Other than that, and hitting a patch of mizzle (to use a Pacific Northwest term for a combination of mist and drizzle) this afternoon, that was pretty much the day. Well, and passing lake after lake after lake. This is Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes, after all. Although the AAA book says it’s more like fifteen thousand, and I have no problem believing that.

It was gray gloomy all day, which was fine (I didn’t have to fight my sunglasses [wry g]), and I stopped for the night here in the small town of Perham, Minnesota. A small town with an enormous quilt shop, actually, so that was fun. I suspect they do at least 75% of their business online, because Perham itself is only about 2500 people, and even if they attract a regional customer base, it’s still pretty huge for a place like this. I was good and bought only one fabric panel, a two-thirds yard-sized photo-like image of a double row of fall-foliaged trees.

Speaking of fall foliage, I saw a lot of birches just beginning to turn yellow today.

As of yesterday, Merlin has 14,000 miles on him, and I’ve been on the road for three and a half months. I suspect I’ll be home about the time I hit four months.

And the cold is improving. Or rather, I am. I’ve even got most of my voice back!

If this is a water tower, which I suspect it is, I need to add it to my collection of odd water tower photos. Too bad I can't remember which small town it belongs to.
If this is a water tower, which I suspect it is, I need to add it to my collection of odd water tower photos from this trip. Too bad I can’t remember which small town it belongs to.  ETA:  I’m told it’s in Brainerd, and that it is indeed a water tower.  Thanks, pmrabble (from LJ).
The last time I saw the Mississippi River, I was in St. Louis, Missouri, over two months ago.
The last time I saw the Mississippi River, I was in St. Louis, Missouri, over two months ago.
The river itself.
The river itself.
Heading out onto the prairie. I'll be on the Great Plains until I hit the Rockies in western Montana.
Heading out onto the prairie. I’ll be on the Great Plains until I hit the Rockies in western Montana.
Yet another Cool Sky Photo [tm].
Yet another Cool Sky Photo [tm].

September 8-11: Catching up

It does occur to me that I should bring this up to speed, being sick aside [wry g].

I woke up on Manitoulin Island the morning of the 8th to a misty, moisty morning. It rained on me off and on as I drove north to the swinging bridge, which is the only other way, aside from the ferry, off the island. It’s called the swinging bridge because that’s what it does to let boat traffic through. Not a drawbridge, but a swinging bridge, which supposedly is closed for fifteen minutes every hour on the hour for this very purpose, but I got there right on the hour, and it wasn’t closed. Then again, there weren’t any boats in the passage, either, and it would have been silly of them to open it if no one was waiting.

Rocks and trees and trees and rocks [g]. At least three different people described the scenery in western Ontario to me using this phrase, and I have to admit they’re right. It’s still pretty, though, and I stopped to enjoy a little cascade called the Serpent River Falls, and to note the glacial marks on the rocks nearby.

The cascade of Serpent River Falls north of the Lake Huron shore.
The cascade of Serpent River Falls north of the Lake Huron shore.
There's a term for this sort of glacial etching, but I forget what it is.
There’s a term for this sort of glacial etching, but I forget what it is.  ETA:  Thnidu from LJ suggested striations, and that’s exactly the word I was looking for.  Thanks!

I was getting tired much sooner than normal by the time I reached Sault Ste. Marie, so I found a motel and holed up for the rest of the afternoon. The following morning was worse, so I paid for a second night, and the only time I got out that day was to go get food and hit a drug store for some meds and vitamin C and more tissue.

The next morning, September 10th, I was feeling enough better (and stir crazy) that I wanted to go ahead, so I crossed the border back into the States, where the only thing the pleasant customs officer asked me was if I’d bought anything to bring home over the past month. I told him about the cross-stitch patterns and the quilt fabric and the kitchen magnets and the three prints, and he smiled and waved me on through. Which was a good thing because getting the receipts out would have slowed things down considerably, since they were stowed away in one of the bins under my bed in the back.

It’s actually sort of a relief to be back in the land of miles and Fahrenheit again, if only because now I don’t have to peer down at my speedometer (I can’t read the kilometer part without taking my sunglasses off, which has been really annoying), and, more importantly, do all these calculations in my head all the time (exchange rate, too — I can’t seem to help myself [wry g]). I love Canada, but it is just enough of an uncanny valley for me that I don’t feel quite “right” there – I’m not explaining it well, but anyway. Like I said, I probably should have done it as the first part of the trip, when I wasn’t so worn out.

Crossing over into the U.S. on a very large bridge.
Crossing over into the U.S. on a very large bridge.
Doesn't this look like mountains behind clouds? Or maybe I'm just homesick for mountains, I don't know.
Doesn’t this look like mountains behind clouds? Or maybe I’m just homesick for mountains, I don’t know.
"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down Of the big lake they called 'gitche gumee'" Lake Superior from just east of Marquette, Michigan.
“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee'”
Lake Superior from just east of Marquette, Michigan.
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead When the skies of November turn gloomy" Well, skies of September, anyway.
“The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy”
Well, skies of September, anyway.  The lyrics are from Gordon Lightfoot’s song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, about a famous shipwreck on Lake Superior in 1975.

Anyway. I drove about halfway across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the absolutely pouring rain yesterday. I actually had to pull over once because the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with it and I couldn’t see where I was going. Fortunately, the really hard rain didn’t last long, but it did rain all day long.

I spent the night just outside of Marquette, Michigan, in the little, rather oddly-named town of Ishpeming. I’ve been through this part of Michigan before, which was why I had originally had my heart set on driving up and around through western Ontario in spite of the drive being longer, but oh, well. I ate a pasty for dinner. I had vividly good memories of one I’d eaten in Marquette the last time I was here, but this one wasn’t as good, alas. A pasty is a meat pocket (hand-held) pie, filled with beef and potatoes, and, I think, turnips, and they can be delicious. This one wasn’t bad, just not as good as I remembered.

I actually overslept this morning, which was wonderful since I hadn’t really slept all that well for a few nights, and I am feeling better, although I still don’t have my voice back (why, oh, why do I always get laryngitis when I catch a cold???). Which is great fun when you have to communicate, especially with strangers. “Why are you whispering? What did you say?”  Laryngitis isn’t painful, at least not for me, but it’s really annoying.

Yup, it's going on towards fall, and here are the asters to prove it. There are some leaves around and about to prove it, too, but I didn't get any good photos of them.
Yup, it’s going on towards fall, and here are the asters to prove it. There are some leaves around and about to prove it, too, but I didn’t get any good photos of them.
This fellow was in front of the casino on the Bad River Indian Reservation, and what I'd really like to know is what kind of shenanigans that river pulled to get a name like that.
This fellow was in front of the casino on the Bad River Indian Reservation, and what I’d really like to know is what kind of shenanigans that river pulled to get a name like that.
I have a lot of cloud formation photos this week, just because there's not been a whole lot else to take photos of, but this one in particular was kind of cool.
I have a lot of cloud formation photos this week, just because there’s not been a whole lot else to take photos of, but this one in particular was kind of cool.

Anyway, I drove the rest of the way across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and all the way across the top of Wisconsin to Duluth, which is just across the river in Minnesota. Not really as far as it sounds, maybe 150 miles? I got here in time to watch my Seattle Seahawks (actual Jeopardy question from a few years ago: What’s the only NFL team whose name starts with the same three letters as their city?) win their season opener against the Miami Dolphins at the last moment by the skin of their teeth (final score: 12-10).

I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do tomorrow, or for the rest of the trip, for that matter. I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning, but I suspect I’m back in the States for good. We’ll see.

September 7: My third ferry of the trip, believe it or not.

I’ve ridden ferries in Virginia, Maryland, and now Ontario. This one was by far the longest ride, though, almost two hours.

I got a late start this morning, and was eating breakfast at the picnic table at my campsite when I heard a soft rat-a-tat-a-tat. I looked up, and saw a woodpecker. Bigger than a downy, considerably smaller than a pileated, I’m assuming he’s a hairy woodpecker, but I’d love confirmation (hint, hint, Katrina [g]). Anyway, he was a brave little fellow, and just looked back at me as I walked over to get a better look at him. A nice way to start the day.

A friendly neighbor this morning.
A friendly neighbor this morning.

I went back to Tobermory, looking for somewhere to go out of the humidity, and also looking for wifi because I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up somewhere that had it tonight. The librarians at the Tobermory library were very nice about letting me charge my computer and use their wifi, so I sat and scribbled for a while, then uploaded blog posts. Then I walked over to the local bookstore just around the corner, and bought another fridge magnet as well as perusing the books.

By that point it was time to get in line for the ferry. There were rather a lot of us crossing over to Manitoulin Island. The ferry holds 143 vehicles and I’m pretty sure it was full. The boarding process was smooth, if a bit slow, and we pulled away pretty much on time.

The beginning and end of the ride are dotted with islands, but for at least an hour the view is nothing but lake. I am told it can get pretty interesting during a storm, but today the ferry was gliding across still water, which made me very happy. And the views, even when it was just water, were so pretty.

The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
The second lighthouse of the day,
The second lighthouse of the day,
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.

We arrived on Manitoulin Island right on time, unloaded much more quickly than we loaded, and off I went up Highway 6 towards the tiny hamlet of Manitowaning, where I found a motel room for the night. Showers and wifi and TV [g]. The desk clerk/owner directed me to the only place serving cooked food in town, a place called Loco Beans, which mostly serves coffee, but which served me a chicken veggie wrap and a butter tart, so I’ve now eaten one (they’re pretty tasty, and not as much like a pecan-less pecan pie than I thought they’d be) and can officially cross the border into Manitoba when I get there without getting in trouble [g].

The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.

I haven’t decided how much dawdling I want to do here, vs. heading on west. We’ll have to see how I feel about it in the morning.

September 6: Full fathom five thy father lies

Otherwise known as a national park named after a Shakespeare quote (it’s from The Tempest), which has got to be one of the coolest things ever. Unlike the weather. The whole time I was at the Forbers’, the weather was relatively cool and dry and lovely. Today we’re back to heat and humidity, but not nearly as bad as some of what I’ve been through on this trip, at least.

This morning I drove down to the Bruce Peninsula/ Full Fathom Five National Parks visitor center, which had one of the best national park visitor center museums I’ve seen in a while. Too bad I wasn’t here in June to see the forty different kinds of orchids that grow here, but I did get to learn more about the Niagara Escarpment, which is a huge land formation that runs from Wisconsin way up into Ontario and then back down to New York State. Niagara Falls is a result of that escarpment. Also, the Bruce Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in Canada, follows the top of it from that visitor center to within a few miles of Niagara Falls, almost 600 miles long.

See, Christine?  The Bruce Trail *does* end rather than terminate at Niagara [g].
See, Christine? The Bruce Trail *does* end rather than terminate at Niagara [g].
The skull on the right is a normal-sized beaver.  The one on the left is of the extinct giant beaver.    Makes you wonder how big a tree *he* could have felled.
The skull on the right is a normal-sized beaver. The one on the left is of the extinct giant beaver. Makes you wonder how big a tree *he* could have felled.
I just liked this.  A lot.
I just liked this. A lot.

I also learned that the fisher is the only real predator of porcupines, and that the way they catch them is to bite them in the face and flip them over so that they can eat from the spineless stomach and avoid a mouthful of quills.

The ferry landing at Tobermory where I'll be leaving tomorrow.
The ferry landing at Tobermory where I’ll be leaving tomorrow.

After that I went into the tiny town of Tobermory on the very tip of the peninsula to find lunch – which was basically a choice between fish and chips or fish and chips, but that was okay. Then I went back to the visitor center and walked a trail to the water’s edge, which was lovely. Heavily wooded all the way to the end, and a nice little deck above the water with the obligatory Adirondack/Muskoka chairs (Ross, I was told in the Maritimes that calling them Muskoka chairs is an Ontario-centric thing).

The trail from the visitor center to the water.
The trail from the visitor center to the water.
The view from the end of the trail.
The view from the end of the trail.
I finally let someone take my picture in one of the ubiquitous Adirondack/Muskoka chairs that are in every Canadian national park.
I finally let someone take my picture in one of the ubiquitous Adirondack/Muskoka chairs that are in every Canadian national park.
I've never seen cedar berries like those before.
I’ve never seen cedar berries like those before.

I also went to a place called the Singing Sands, which was a lovely little beach, but the sand didn’t sing today, at least not so that I could hear it.

This was at Singing Sands.  Not where I was expecting to run into Mr. Muir, but I don't know why I was surprised.  That man got around.
This was at Singing Sands. Not where I was expecting to run into Mr. Muir, but I don’t know why I was surprised. That man got around.
The pretty little beach at Singing Sands.
The pretty little beach at Singing Sands.

Then I came back to the campground and kicked back for the evening, and here I am.

Tomorrow is a two-hour ferry ride! And the biggest freshwater island in the world, apparently, with at least one lake on the island that has islands of its own.

August 26: The lower part of Old Town, and the Musee de Civilization is amazing

So. They call the stairs that run from the upper part of Old Town to the lower part the Breakneck Stairs, and when they’re wet, as they were this morning, yeah, the name fits. But I was careful, and I made it to the bottom just fine. All almost 300 steps of them, or so I’m told (and, no, I didn’t have to climb back to the top, thank goodness).

Anyway, I knew there was another whole part of Old Town, but I don’t think I’d realized just how much more was down there. I’d gone down there because of a history museum (which turned out to be much more), but there’s a whole other warren of streets and shops and stuff (and a cruise ship dock, of all things).

The weather was still awful, but I was headed for a – hopefully air conditioned – museum, so I grinned and bore it.

The Musee de Civilization is, at least in part, a museum about Quebec-the-province’s history, so the local equivalent to a state history museum like the ones I’d visited in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine. It was extremely well done, and since before I arrived here I knew next to nothing about how Quebec came to be Quebec (including the name, which is from an Indian term meaning where the waters narrow – the waters in question being the St. Lawrence, which narrows appreciably at Quebec City), I found it enthralling.

But that wasn’t all they had to show at the Musee de Civilization. There was a temporary exhibit about Australian Aboriginal art, which was fascinating (and completely unexpected by me), and an another temporary exhibit about cats and dogs, including a virtual reality thingy where you could see what they think it’s like to be a cat or a dog. That was hysterical, actually, esp. the part where the mouse went into the garbage can, the cat went in after it, and the garbage can lid fell on the cat, completely freaking him out [g].  And yet another temporary exhibit about Nanotech, which, for some reason, had a lot of SF stuff in it [g].

But the best part of all was the huge exhibit on Quebec’s First Nations (the Canadian equvalent, so far as I can tell, for Indian tribe). Artifacts were just the beginning. It was the stories that were the best part (and the part that’s really impossible to photograph). And these wonderful enormous screens in the background running this incredible film of Quebec’s natural world and how its original inhabitants relate to it. I could have watched that film for hours, and I did sit and watch it for a long time. It was moving, the same way I found the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York moving when I was there on my last Long Trip seventeen years ago. I wish they’d had DVDs of that film for sale in the gift shop, but they didn’t.

Anyway, that’s how I spent most of today, and after I left (I ate lunch in the museum’s café – you know you’re in a place that values food when even the museum café has great food), I wandered through the lower Old Town towards the funicular.

The funicular is why I didn’t have to climb all those stairs back up. I’m not normally big on that sort of manmade height, but even though the weather had dried out a bit (and warmed up, but drier was better) while I was in the museum, I put aside my nerves and rode it back up to Dufferin Terrace.

The last thing I did today was go inside Chateau Frontenac. It’s got quite the lobby, but my favorite thing was a sculpture that you can see below. And then I stopped at a little grocery store for supper fixings, and realized about three blocks after I left it that I’d left my camera there. So I ran back, got it (thank goodness), and came back to the hostel for one more night. And here I am.

I have a motel reservation for tomorrow night just outside of Montreal. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to spend much time there. I’m sort of leaning against it right now, because I still have Toronto and Ottawa to go before I head across western Ontario (more people have tried to warn me against western Ontario in the last couple of weeks, for some reason) to the prairies.

At the bottom of all those stairs.
At the bottom of all those stairs.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
A fou -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
A four -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century.  This is part of one of them. And it's blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century. This is part of one of them. And it’s blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they're meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of "Indian-ness."
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they’re meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of “Indian-ness.”
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town.  Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town. Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town.  There's a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town. There’s a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
See the funicular in the background?
See the funicular in the background?
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac.  I love her.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac. I love her.

August 25: Dear godlings, the humidity! And Abraham Martin’s son.

I woke up to more than 100% humidity this morning.  Not all that hot, maybe 80dF by afternoon, but that wasn’t the point. I know more than 100% isn’t physically possible, but trust me, I think it was more like 142%. It did rain a bit, but mostly it was just air so thick you had to drink it. I sweated far more than I did in DC, and that’s saying something, especially since sweating in weather that wet does nothing but soak your clothing and drip into your eyes, making them burn.

Dear godlings. Seriously.

I went to the parking garage to look for my umbrella (no way could I actually put my raincoat on in this – it would be like wrapping myself in saran wrap or something), but I couldn’t find it, so I put my camera in a plastic bag and resigned myself to getting soaked. But by the time I came back out of the parking garage, the rain had stopped.

I had decided that today was the day I’d go to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham, where British General Wolfe and co. fought French General Montcalm and co. to decide the fate of North America. Well, sorta. Or part of it. Or something. Anyway, I wound up in the Battlefields Park Museum (the official name of the Plains of Abraham is Battlefields Park nowadays – back about 100 years ago they turned the whole thing into a big, gorgeous city park). The museum about the battle was very interesting, but the bus tour through the park (the rain had begun to come down again, so a dry, air-conditioned bus was just the ticket) was what was worth the price of admission.

It was driven (he called it the Devil’s Chariot) and conducted by a young man playing the part of one of Abraham Martin’s sons (Abraham Martin was a local landowner the field was named after back in the 18th century), in full costume, and, yes, he was informative and interesting to listen to, but he was also fall out of your chair hilarious. His tongue was so far over in his cheek I thought it was going to come out of his ear. I really do wish I’d asked if I could take his photo, but I didn’t. That bus tour was one of the top five best things I’ve done on this entire trip so far. Seriously. I haven’t laughed so hard and learned so much simultaneously in my life before, I don’t think. If you ever get to Quebec City, go to the Battlefields Park Museum and ride Abraham’s Bus. It was so worth it.

After I caught my breath from laughing, and the rain stopped again, I walked over to the Citadel. Apparently it’s in dire need of reconstruction work or something, though, because the labyrinth to actually get through the equipment and stuff was quite the to-do. I did finally make it to the gate, however, and took a photo of one of the guards, but then the skies opened up again, and I was already so sweaty that I looked like I’d just taken a shower fully dressed, that I decided, you know, I’d seen the one at Halifax and I needed to call it a day.

Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe not. I’ve got another museum I really want to see tomorrow.

Along the wall between the parking garage and the  Citadel.
Along the wall between the parking garage and the Citadel.
Another view of the wall.
Another view of the wall.
I'd never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter.  This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
I’d never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter. This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
One of the gates in the wall.  There's a city street going through there.
One of the gates in the wall. There’s a city street going through there.
Battlefields Park.  This is roughly where the battle took place.
Battlefields Park. This is roughly where the battle took place.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
This carving looks like celery to me!
This carving looks like celery to me!  Even though I know it’s supposed to be acanthus or something.

August 23: Two bouts of serendipity, and wishing for more than a few words in French

I woke up to a world that didn’t look like it rained a single drop yesterday. Not a cloud in the sky (for the morning at least – it did cloud up and shower just a bit this afternoon and started coming down good again about bedtime) and Goldilocks temperatures (not too hot, not too chilly).

I drove north on Trans-Canada Hwy. 2 until I saw a sign that said Grand Falls. That sounded interesting, so I got off the freeway (basically Canada’s answer to the Interstate) and drove down into a cute little town with an enormous waterfall right in the middle of it. A sign nearby said that during the spring freshet, the waterfall has 9/10ths of the volume of Niagara. Of course it’s late August now, but it’s still pretty darned impressive.

Grand Falls, New Brunswick
Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

My next stop was for lunch in the town of Edmundston, then a few miles almost to the Quebec line, where I saw a sign that said Jardin Botanique. Well, even I can translate that! The New Brunswick Botanic Garden, complete with butterfly house, was charming. Absolutely charming. The late summer flowers were in full bloom, the grounds were beautiful, and it was just the right size to while away a couple of hours on a perfectly sunny afternoon.

The entrance to the New Brunswick Botanic Garden, just outside of Edmunston
The entrance to the New Brunswick Botanic Garden, just outside of Edmundston.
Inside the butterfly house at the New Brunswick Botanic Garden
Inside the butterfly house at the New Brunswick Botanic Garden.
What the butterflies in the previous photo look like when they're in flight
What the butterflies in the previous photo look like when they’re in flight.

I had an interesting conversation with a gardener in the potager (kitchen garden) section of the place, my first real attempt at a conversation with someone whose English wasn’t much better than my all but non-existent French (northern New Brunswick isn’t quite as Francophone as Quebec, but almost). Anyway, I asked her what those berries in the photo were, and she told me they were related to blueberries, but needed to be cooked with a lot of sugar so they wouldn’t be disgusting (her word) [g].

 The subject of my first discussion with someone whose English was only slightly better than my French.
The subject of my first discussion with someone whose English was only slightly better than my French.
 An artichoke, which is apparently hardier than I gave them credit for
An artichoke, which is apparently hardier than I gave them credit for.

There were some rather odd sculptures, apparently a temporary exhibit, and a stonehenge, my second one of the trip (the first one was back in Washington state at Maryhill). And just a lot of lovely scenery.

The rose garden was pretty much over for the season, but the fountain was still pretty
The rose garden was pretty much over for the season, but the fountain was still pretty.
A view of the aboretum
A view of the arboretum.
Flocks and flocks of phlox
Flocks and flocks of phlox.
A sedum I'm not familiar with
A sedum I’m not familiar with.
Monkshood, which is one of my favorite perennials because it's such a true blue
Monkshood, which is one of my favorite perennials because it’s such a true blue.
 A view of the garden pond and gazebo
A view of the garden pond and gazebo.
 Isn't that an amazing dragonfly It's about 3 inches long and you can just see its transparent wings.
Isn’t that an amazing dragonfly? It’s about 3 inches long and you can just barely see its transparent wings.
 Looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, doesn't it?
Looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, doesn’t it?
My second stonehenge of the trip
My second stonehenge of the trip.

I crossed over into Quebec right after I left the garden, and all of a sudden everything was monolingual – in a language I don’t speak! I’ve never been to a place where my native language isn’t the primary language before, let alone driven there. It’s a good thing I had a couple of weeks worth of bilingual road signs before I arrived here, because at least I recognize most of the common road words (sortie for exit, convergez for merge, directions, that sort of thing). Anyway, buying gas (about 10 cents more a liter in Quebec than in the Maritimes) and getting a campsite were interesting exercises, too. The campsite is right on the water, and very lovely.

Now they're taunting me with moose in French!
Now they’re taunting me with moose in French!
The view from my campsite tonight, over the St. Lawrence Seaway at low tide.
The view from my campsite tonight, over the St. Lawrence Seaway at low tide.

I decided planning was the better part of valor, so I have reservations in Quebec City’s hostel for three nights starting tomorrow. That has me leaving QC on Saturday, Christine, Elizabeth and Marna, so it looks like I actually won’t get to Ottawa until at least Monday, and Mississauga after that, depending on whether I actually spend time in Montreal or not. I hope that works out for everyone!

August 18: A windswept fort and feeling stretched

Today I drove the forty or so miles down just past the modern-day town of Louisbourg, walked through a visitor center, and caught a shuttle bus into the past.

Louisbourg Fortress (a fortified town, as opposed to a fort, which is just a fort) was built by the French, back when they were battling the Brits for supremacy in North America. The current fortress is something like Williamsburg, only even more so. With Williamsburg they had a few existing buildings to start with. With Louisbourg they had archaeological digs and historians. What they’ve achieved with that is pretty astonishing. You really do feel like you’re walking through an 18th century (they’re portraying the 1740s here, the height of Louisbourg’s prosperity) walled town. You almost feel like you’re in France, not Canada, which is rather disconcerting.

Louisbourg Fortress from the shuttle bus across the bay.
Louisbourg Fortress from the shuttle bus across the bay.
The soldier who wanted to be bribed with rum to let us in [g].
The soldier who wanted to be bribed with rum to let us in [g].
The main gate into Louisbourg Fortress.
The main gate into Louisbourg Fortress.
Looking up the hill at the main town.
Looking up the hill at the main town.  The big yellow gate is actually fronting on the water.
A lovely tapestry in one of the buildings.
A lovely tapestry in one of the buildings.
A pantry exhibit in one of the buildings.
A pantry exhibit in one of the buildings.
A painting of what it must have looked like here in the 1740s.
A painting of what it must have looked like here in the 1740s.
One of the gardens.  I was rather surprised that lavender does this well in this climate (the cool windy summers as much as the cold winters), and ended up in a nice discussion about the local climate with a man working in the garden.
One of the gardens. I was rather surprised that lavender does this well in this climate (the cool windy summers as much as the cold winters), and ended up in a nice discussion about the local climate with a man working in the garden.
Piles and piles of slate shingles.  Those were for the houses of the rich.
Piles and piles of slate shingles. Those were for the houses of the rich.
I've never seen an oven like this one before.
I’ve never seen an oven like this one before.
Another bit of garden.  Not sure precisely what the yellow flowers are, but they may be Jerusalem artichokes.  They sure do look like the googled images of them, anyway.
Another bit of garden. Not sure precisely what the yellow flowers are, but they may be Jerusalem artichokes. They sure do look like the googled images of them, anyway.  The green bristly things in the foreground are teasel, used to card wool back in the day.
An interesting part of the church paraphernalia inside of the building in the next photo.
An interesting part of the church paraphernalia inside of the building in the next photo.
This was officially the officers' barracks, but there was also a church and a jail in there -- along with a huge exhibit on how Louisbourg was researched and rebuilt back in the 1960s.
This was officially the officers’ barracks, but there was also a church and a jail in there — along with a huge exhibit on how Louisbourg was researched and rebuilt back in the 1960s.

The living history part of the deal is toned down here, though. Not a lot of demonstrations, at least not today. But a good many of the buildings were filled with exhibits, about how they did the research and the rebuilding, and telling the stories of some of the people who lived here. I was surprised (although I have no idea why I was surprised) to discover that a few African slaves lived here. I was also fascinated by the hierarchy of the place, who was on top, and who was unfortunate enough to be at the bottom. I learned about the soldiers’ lives, and saw where they lived, and all in all it was another part of history that I didn’t know about. I also had a very nice chat with a gardener about the local climate, and another with a soldier on the ramparts about how most English language military terms come from the French language.

I’ve been charmed by the way I’m greeted with “hello, bonjour” ever since I crossed the border into Canada. I keep meaning to mention it, but what I’ve learned is that this is how they ask you which language you speak.  You’re supposed to respond in your language so that the person addressing you knows how to go on. Which is pretty nifty, IMHO.

I spent most of the day at Fortress Louisbourg, in a misty moisty morning and cloudy (and windy) was the weather, and then just in the brisk wind that made me glad I’d put my hoodie and my raincoat on.

After I left Louisbourg, I wasn’t in the mood to make a decision as to what I was going to do the next day, so I stopped at a provincial park campground nearby – and promptly got read the riot act for speeding in the campground. I had not been speeding. I’ve been paranoid about the whole kilometers vs. miles thing ever since I crossed the border, and I know for a fact that I was not speeding. But I didn’t argue with the man, and he didn’t do anything more than fuss at me.

I’ve already been feeling sort of weird about Cape Breton ever since I got here. I’m not sure I can explain it, but I’m more than ready to leave. It’s almost like I’m a rubber band, with one end fastened in western Washington, and apparently Cape Breton was just stretching me just a little too far.  That’s also part of the reason I didn’t go on to Newfoundland.

There’s more to see here, and I could have stayed another night or two, but I’m ready to head west. Not directly west, not yet, but west.