26 Jun 2014

Land of The Midnight Sun

Apologies for such a long break but internet in Northern Canada is worse than Mongolia! Please also note that I forgot to hit Spot when we got to Inuvik so Spot does not quite hit the spot as it were.

So - After Niagara, we passed 2 huge lakes and did not see them as the terrain was flat and lots of trees, but it got more interesting around Lake Superior, more undulating (and superb weather). We did not see Manitoba or Saskatchewan as it rained solidly all the way over. Things improved a little when we got into BC, but nothing special to report on the scenery front. Reached the Alaska Highway, some interesting scenery, but the mountains still in the distance. Robert Campbell Highway, mostly gravel and good for animal life and then the Dempster Highway and into the Arctic and here the scenery is quite amazing,.another gravel road and this one certainly justifies the cruiser.

We have spent the last 2 days in the Arctic Circle and have had temperatures of up to 30 degrees. Last night rained all night and we had to wait for the tent to dry a little before packing up and the road had turned into a quagmire, certainly worth having the cruiser today. Just south of the Arctic Circle now and apparently the road has been closed to motor bikes after an accident.

So, the mosquito hats Chris,s mother bought in Australia have come in very useful, we stopped the night at the hot springs at Laird and went for a dunk and now we are heading for Alaska.

11 Jun 2014

Back in the Groove

After all the trials and tribulations before we left and then US customs, it has took a few days to get into the groove, but after 600 miles in the last 2 days we are finally back in traveling mode, having now completed just over 1100 miles since New York. The plan being to get to the top of Alaska in good time, then slow down as we head south.

First stop was Niagara Falls. The US side was easy, finding a 2 hour parking spot on the side of the road and walking down by the rapids to the falls. A trip on The Maid of the Mist, the boat which takes you right under the falls, then across into Canada (with no more hassle than coming back from France into Dover).

The views are better from the Canadian side and everywhere is much better manicured, but parking is miles away and expensive. We then did another 20 miles and stopped at our first camp site in Canada.

the next day we pass Toronto (very busy), and after 200 miles the two lane motorway turns into a two way road wandering through the forest, much of it virtually on the shore of Lake Huron, though the trees prevent little more than the odd glimpse. Today started overcast and turned to rain after 100 miles, but 100 miles later we arrived at lake Superior, the clouds ended the sun came out and the terrain became more mountainous, providing a wonderful last 100 miles of the day, with frequent views of Lake Superior,

We did have to stop for some essential supplies though, mosquito repellent, bear repellent and beer.

The Cherry bombs start as flares and make a loud bang and are used by the locals as bear repellent.

6 Jun 2014

Good Bye New York and back on the Road

Things moved quickly yesterday and we confirmed at 11.00 this morning that it had just arrived at the warehouse ready to collect.

 We completed the paperwork and it was driven out for us. I moved it out of the way to sort things out, but when we were ready to start it made an awful noise and smoke started poring from the passenger seat foot well, never seen Chris move so fast. It only occurred to me then to check the battery terminals (the battery was disconnected whilst in transit and as it was driven out of the warehouse I assumed that it had been re-connected. In fact the terminal had been placed on very loosely. I tightened everything up and it turned over OK but would not start. Checked fuses, 2 blown, changed them and off we went phew!

By the time this was sorted and we found diesel (many appear to be petrol only) we were right in the rush hour - Friday afternoon - leaving New York, it was like a 5 lane M1 on a bad day. After 60 miles we had had enough (already) and followed a camp site sign - but no camp-site. 35 miles we followed another and fortunately this one did exist. We have just had one of the best steaks we have ever had at the Amber Steak House at Mount Pocono, with a couple of Yuengling Amber Lagers almost as good as Doombar!

5 Jun 2014

From Times Square to Soup Kitchen

After hitting Manhattaan with a view of doing as much as we could in 2 days and not really bothering too much about what things cost we now feel in hindsight we could have done things a little more cost effectively. In general we have found sight seeing buses a good way to get a feel for the city, but at $60  (£36) each this was an expense we could have avoided as we now find out it is only $30 each for a weekly bus/subway pass.

So now we need to cut down a bit and had an excellent Minestrone soup for lunch today at Zabars cafe for $3.95 including a large onion roll onion roll. Zabars store to which is connected is quite amazing and the deli has more cheese than I have seen anywhere.

It rained heavily over night and this morning, and that coupled with the purchase of a power converter good enough to charge all devices means it is time to update the blog (which is why a number of episodes have the same date).

The sun is out again now and forecast good for the next few days and looks like we will be here until at least Monday, so we will probably hire bikes for a couple of days and hang the expense.

Escape from New York

Where is Kurt Russell when you need him! Customs have now decided they want to do a full inspection, which means moving the container to a separate building and taking the cruiser out to search it. Not only does this mean considerable further delay but we are told will cost between $500 to $1,500 dollars! Together with £100.00 per night plus food will end up costing over £2,000.00 before we have even started!

We check the internet for Hotels and even the one we are in is shown as full but fortunately we had told the Receptionist we might need to stay longer and she had held the room for us. We could get rooms for half the price outside Manhattan but with the aid of google earth we could see that they were all in isolated locations which would be a problem without transport, so we decide to stay put as they are happy to let us stay as long as we need. so, given the location, next to Riverside Park and close to Central Park, plus a host of good value restaurants we decide to stay put.

Happy Hour - is something of an institution in New York, anything from $2 a drink off to half price, and in our little area is typically 15.00 to 20.00 and at 20.00 one of them changes the board to 50% off draft from 20.00 to midnight (Tuesday to Thursday).

Intrepid - even in New York

Tuesday - Today we here that customs want to open the container to see if the vehicle has any mud on it. As there is no chance today we hire bikes for the day and take the bike/pedestrian track which goes most of the way round Manhattan (with plans to complete in the near future). This is definitely the best way to travel and it is packed with cyclists, runners, walkers and people on skates, but all very organised with lanes each way for pedestrians and cyclists.

The weather is perfect (and except for the heavy rain on Saturday has been perfect so far) and we cycle down to the bottom of Manhattan, up and over Brooklyn Bridge and down to the waters edge for views of Manhattan across the water. As we cycle back the skies get very black in the distance and we make it back to a bar on the water front before the skies open, so we make good use of  'Happy Hour'.

Time moves on and the rain does not ease, so we are soaked by the time we drop the bikes off and are drowned rats by the time we get to the Hotel, but it is not cold so not too bad.

The second picture is for Paul at bar Alioli in Spain, I was going to take one in a more iconic setting on the way back when the sun would be in the right place, but it had disappeared on the way back and we were more intent on avoiding the rain (at least until we had had a beer).

An Englishman in New York

After so much time preparing for this trip we finally arrive in the US and are through immigration and customs faster than the average arrival at Stanstead. Despite the Immigration Officer insisting on a return flight ticket and being somewhat confused when we showed him our return ticket from Buenos Ares in 11 months time, but once we explained what we were doing he became interested, wanted to know all about the vehicle and our route and through we went.

We then found the shuttle bus to Times Square at $16 each, except I got mine for $8 as I am over 62! (oddly some places senior is 62 others 65). It was a bit of a drag from the bus stop to the Hotel, but eventually found it. The Warwick Hotel in Times Square for 3 nights courtesy of  Nat West Points and the lady that advised me that I had 104,000 points that I would need to use before I cancelled the card. Despite some of the reviews the room we had was large and comfortable, with a large comfortable bed. Once checked we were back out for a couple of pints of Guinness in an Irish pub down the road and a walk round Times Square.

Saturday starts with a pedicab ride (bicycle rickshaw) round Central Park in perfect weather, a little expensive, but I have a foot problem after dragging the bags round the streets last night. After which we jump on a sight seeing bus. Our bus had a very scratched perspex roof over the front half (and the rear half was full) so we jumped off in favour of a completely open one, but a soon as we were on the heavens opened, so out came the free capes (basically a bin bag with a hood).

Sunday we took the subway to South Ferry and took the boat to Liberty and Ellis Islands and despite being told there were 2.5 hour queues I walked straight up to the ticket desk (with another $4 discount for being 62!) and were on the boat in 15 minutes. After which we walked up to the World Trade Centre and Ground Zero (just outside, we didn't go in).

Monday we are told that due to a shipping delay the cruiser will not be available for another couple of days so we manage to find a cheaper Hotel on the Upper West (side of Central Park). This Hotel is very tired throughout and a very small room, but the bed is comfortable and has a good bathroom. At £100 per night was the third cheapest we could find without moving miles out of town (the reviews on the cheaper ones reporting bed bugs in the cheapest and partitions (a foot lower than the ceiling) instead of walls in the next cheapest, so we did alright really.

As we dragged our bags from the bus to our new Hotel we stopped halfway for a coffee at an Irish pub and found the area delightful, with lots of pubs cafes and restaurants all competing with each other to provide the best food at the lowest cost this was to became our regular haunt for the next few days.

That night we go back to the Irish bar and when the singer establishes we are English performs an excellent version of an Englishman in New York.