Monday, June 26, 2017

Eight States Tour


Ludington, MI. Pic by RB.
Thurs 18 May:
Richard and Jack to Toronto: Air Transat Flight TS323, Club Class, LGW to YYZ Toronto. Depart 12.00, Arrive 15.03. Great service on plane, plenty of drinkies, cute diminutive cruet set to take home.
I pick up hire car at 14:22 from Enterprise Rent A Car, 859 The Queensway, Etobicoke, ON, M8Z 1N8: White Chevrolet Malibu, registration BZAN 523, reliable and suitable with capacious trunk, a bland inoffensive vehicle from "Government Motors" with poor rear visibility.
Pick-up Richard and Jack at airport, drive to Inverness B&B, 287 Humberside Ave, Toronto, M6P 1L4, Ontario. Tel: 416 769 2028. Evening at The Station, 2457 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S 1P7. Mill Street Organic lager, 4.2%. 90F degrees and muggy. Richard and Jack note that, in Bloor West, many signs reading "Say no to double density." (Creeping condos unlikely to be stopped though.)
Fri 19 May:
Leave Toronto 06.55 a.m. for Ludington, MI. Heading west, 08:28 took gas off-highway at Pioneer Energy, 151 King George Road, Brantford, ON: $71.50.
09:00 breakfast at 230 Truck Stop, 535 Mill Street, Woodstock, ON, $46.75 plus tip. (What has become a traditional stop when heading out on a road trip.)
Enter USA at Port Huron, across the Blue Water Bridge over the St. Clair River, arriving 11:30, departing border post at 12:00. A result.
Pitstop at tourist information for state map, then Tim Horton's, 8099 Gratiot Road, Saginaw, MI. (Tim Hortons don't use the apostrophe, but I do.) Old Tractors for sale on the road to Marlette. Many houses are mobile homes. Then via Route 66 (different one) from Six Lakes, then Hwy 10 after Barrytown, passing through Nirvana, to arrive at Comfort Inn, 5323 West US Highway 10, Ludington, MI, 49431, before 18:00. $118.66 per room.
I did all the driving on day one, fairly tired on arrival. After scouting near hotel take taxi to town and bars. Supper at ersatz Sportsman's Irish Pub, later watching Delilah Dewylde and the Lost Boys. Then nearby Michael's Bar & Grille. Richard provided assistance to a girl chalking up band details for the next night.
Sat 20 May:
Dep hotel 07:00. Stop for photo-shoot on East Ludington Avenue in town.
09:00 car ferry S.S. Badger, Ludington to Manitowoc, WI, across Lake Michigan. Last coal-fired steam-powered passenger vessel in the U.S. Twin-axle Squarestream loaded in reverse. Fairly calm four-hour crossing with tailwind, arrive 12:00 approx with time change. During sailing sat in empty saloon as staff bedded in on the second day of the season. Mexican wrap for lunch. (Bingo onboard.)
First sighting of Piggly Wiggly at Manitowoc.
Fuel at Mills Fleet Farm Gas Mart, Denmark, WI: $25.25. Map $5.99 plus tax. Also tyre pressure gauge $3.10, addressed rear low tyre pressure warning possibly due to 'bump' on car ferry.
To The Attic Books and Coffee, 730 Bodart Street, Green Bay. US10 after Waupaca, through Custer, (not the last one seen), Hwy 10, Subway at 6018 Main Street, Auburndale, WI 54412: $18.28. Final approach on Hwy 12. Hotel booked whilst on ferry, press on to: Super 8 Eau Claire WI, 1151 West Mac Arthur, Eau Claire, WI 54701. Rooms $95.34 incl tax. Suitable.
Walk to supper at Green Mill, 2703 Craig Rd., Eau Claire, WI 54701. Drinks at the bar, then table service where staff are curiously anxious to get everybody to vacate. Restaurant bill $70.63 plus tip. (Venue holding many graduation parties.)
Sun 21 May:
To Duluth, MN. Dep 07:25, then 09:20 Subway, 1201 Elm Street, Cumberland, WI 54829, for breakfast, $23.15. Hwy 12 to Elk Mound, 40 to Colfax, 170 to Wheeler.
Hwy 63 at Turtle Lake (first reference to Turtle Fence). 53 divided-highway from Spooner. McDonald's, 2115 E 2nd St, Superior, WI, for coffee and wi-fi. Cold and wet.
First photo-shoot at aerial lift bridge, Duluth, a Transporter Bridge until 1929. Major tour objective achieved.
Duluth is the largest freshwater port in the world. Retreat into Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center to get warm, where Richard purchases book re transporter bridge. Attributed to Mark Twain, probably apocryphally: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Duluth." But stuck due to its validity.
Lunch at Grandma's Saloon & Bar, 522 S Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802. They have their own brand of ketchup - nobody knew where it was manufactured beyond "Made in the USA." I am trying to find out.
To Lake Superior Railroad Museum, 506 W Michigan Street, Duluth. Difficulty finding parking, and then paying for it, turns out to be free on a Sunday.
Just in time to catch 15:00 excursion train on North Shore Scenic Railroad for 90-minute round trip. Sit in largely-empty unheated carriage away from the crowd. Lake Superior Kayak beers on train.
Quick tour round museum on return. Lincoln's Funeral Carriage. Giant steam engine from Missabe range, #227. Articulated loco that could haul 18,000 Tons. (Rupert points out the stupidity of Hitler thinking he could take on the USA.) Could easily have spent several more hours at the museum.
Overnight at Duluth MN. Holiday Inn & Suites, 200 West First Street, Duluth, MN 55802. Sneaker's Sports Bar & Grill, part of the hotel, was rather down home but had no hot dogs. Typical sports bar with intrusive TV screens. and a quiet but bitter argument breaks out between the beer-pouring barmaid, and the barman who circulates among customers, as to who should have taken our order when we wanted to order food.
Mon 22 May:

Duluth, MN. Pic by RLT.
Breakfast at hotel in Duluth, where waiter reveals the hotel was due to close for refurbishment. Second photo-shoot at Transporter Bridge with marginally better weather. Leave Duluth for Oshkosh, WI, original home of the trendy baby dungarees.
Via Hwy 2, take fuel at Mobil, 9670 E US-2 CR-D, Poplar, WI 54864. Through Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Bear Crossing, 107 E Broadway St, Glidden, WI 54527 for lunch supplies. Second breakfast ordered through hatch. Hwy 13 through Butternut and Phillips.
15:15 checked out strip mall at 2707 Schofield Ave, Schofield, WI 54476. Richard scored Skyscraper book for $5 at Goodwill, Rand McNally Road Atlas $9.99 plus tax at Target. Cuppa and wi-fi here. County Road J through Shantytown, deer crossing the road.
Pitstop at Subway in gas station, Fremont, WI, Hwy 110, at 90 degree turn, last stop before Oshkosh.
Overnight at AmericInn, 1495 W. South Park Avenue, Oshkosh, WI 54902. $222.48 incl taxes. Booked that morning via Booking.com. The car park is full of white pick-up trucks, belonging mainly to Latino gardeners/road crews. Short walk to supper at West End Pizza, 1414 West 20th Avenue, Oshkosh, WI - cavernous shed, choice of beers, good service, opposite airport. $98.88 plus $15 tip.
Tues 23 May:
To Chicago, IL. A picture of the Concorde plane in the hotel looks like it was at the nearby Oshkosh airfield, strangely dubbed Wittman Regional Airport. When you have a world-renowned name why not use it? The Concorde appeared on a number of occasions at the famous airshow.
We make a stop at a Horicon thrift store, but it was not yet open. Through Slinger and Ridgefield. Gas at County Line BP, Colgate, WI 53017: $26.17.
Pitstop at Peiffer's Piggly Wiggly, N81W15182 Appleton Ave, Menomonee Falls, WI 53051, including purchase of Andy's Seasoning Fish Breading, $2.19. The man packing our supplies studied English literature and is keen to talk to three Brits.
Stop at Milwaukee Harley-Davidson Museum, $48 for three after $12 discount applied. Particularly enjoyed Topper scooter and H-D XA (Experimental Army), a BMW-inspired flat-twin shaft-drive motorcycle made for the US Army during WW2. The bikes on display are not restored, but in fine condition.
Lunch in "Motor" Bar at the Museum, 401 West Canal, Milwaukee 53204 - Jacket potato, Burger, Salad, 2 beers and Sprecher Cream Soda - $64.51 plus $10 tip.
Leave for Chicago, via Kenosha, Zion, Highland Park. Stop at Starbucks, 3300 W. Grand Avenue, Waukegan, IL 60085.
Great run-in to Chicago from north through Skokie and Wilmette, then along lakeshore. Richard elected to drive. Jack impressed by view of city from lakeshore.
2 nights Chicago: Essex Inn, 800 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605. They had fouled up our booking and still could not find it after the reservation number was quoted. Eventually we made it indoors. The hotel has seen better days, and looks due to be demolished in a redevelopment. Restaurant and on-site parking already gone, one lift out-of-order. $47 for max 36 hours parking nearby.
Walk to popular Lou Malnati's, 805 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605, with coupon from hotel, brushetta, 3 x deep-pan pizza, 3 x beer, $67.96. Enough for take-away snack next day.
Weds 24 May:
Day in Chicago: walk to Studebaker/Fine Arts Building (an early tall building), Artists Café breakfast muffin, walk to Hector Guimard Metro entrance at Van Buren Metra station, start of Route 66 at Michigan and Adams, The Bean, Trump Tower, Lakeshore Drive double-decker bridge, then 10:00 a.m. Architectural River Cruise (Michigan Ave & Wacker Dr). Lunch at Corner Bakery, 360 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601, $16.44, walk to Union Station (much refurbished since previous visits).
12:44 Old Navy, 150 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60601: Jack bought socks, 2 pairs, $11.47 incl taxes.
Rode 'The Loop' train to Chicago Architecture Foundation on Michigan Ave to view city model, which features annual updates using a 3-D printer. Discussion re Chicago Skyride, which operated 1933-1934 (though not a transporter bridge, claimed as such by the Americans). I purchased a tray with Chicago cta passenger rail map.
After in-room snacks to Kitty O'Shea Bar at Hilton Hotel, lamentable service and small tip, retreated to Artists Café at Fine Arts Building.
Thurs 25 May:
Out through south Chicago, direction Indy. Through Hegewische, Calumet, Lansing, IL. 08:40 pitstop for food/gas at Dunkin' Donuts, Dyer, IN, - at the state border with Illinois - avoiding high gas prices/taxes in Illinois. Sign in shop: "No Illinois taxes here." Old Lincoln Highway nearby. Encounter intoxicated driver on the road, Jack rightly cautious.
To Lowell, IN, checking out the antique stores. Richard scores toy tin cash register, $15, from Hodge Podge Fine Furnishings, 307 E Commercial Ave, Lowell, IN 46356; Jack pink Chicago Bears shirt, as new $12, from Aunt Nae's Gifts Old & New, 250 E Commercial Ave, Lowell, IN 46356.
Through Morocco, IN, to 11:48 McDonald's, 104 N 7th St, Kentland, IN 47951. Through Fowler to 14:12 Subway, 3605 Osborne Lane, Lafayette, IN 47909, $12.59. Across the flatlands along Hwy 47 through Lebanon. Back in Eastern Time Zone.
4 nights at Staybridge Suites, 535 South West Street, Indianapolis, IN 46225. Top digs. Our host: Kate Burzynski, Guest Services Manager, Roadtrips: www.roadtrips.com
Hoosier 100 for sprint cars in the evening at The Fairgrounds is cancelled due to earlier heavy rain. Disappointing, but learnt about Saturday night race in Anderson, IN. We make a rapid return to Basey's Bar, 419 S West St., Indianapolis, IN 46225. The bar owner Greg Basey lets slip that the former Indy F1-race was worth more to him financially than the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 combined - folk stayed longer. His shtick is to insult his out-of-town customers. The novelty soon wears off.
Called sissy-boys when Rupert makes his customary request for gnats (weak beer), and refuses to take the Budweiser Intestinal Challenge. (This becomes our self-deprecating nickname for the rest of the tour.) Elysian Space Dust beer 8.2%, and Jack had a 9% beer whose name he could not remember even shortly after drinking it. In conversation with a Kiwi Elfin-FJ owner and driver, Bruce Edgar, Rupe mentions a front-engined Elfin but Bruce declares that it cannot be - they were all rear-engined. A little research later at the hotel proves Rupert correct - of course!
Fri 26 May:
In Indy: walk to Post Office and Lucas Oil Stadium. 10:17 Colts Pro Shop Store, 500 South Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46225. Jack buys $50 Colts football shirt.
Carburation Day at the track pretty average - only an hours practice, lots of yellow, plus 40-lap Indy Lights race. Not exactly hardcore. $20 parking, $30 entrance per head. Dismayed to find my ticket didn't cover this. They let me in then kicked me out again. They were obviously as confused as I was. The very small print at the bottom of the ticket told the story. You would need glasses to decode.
Fernando Alonso fifth in final practice. Local opinion has it that he is an F1 sissy-boy, getting far too much publicity, who can't possibly win the 500. By the way James Hinchcliffe blew his motor in final practice.
The Indy Lights "Freedom 100" race was won by Brazilian Matheus Leist who led all the way. Third was Canadian Dalton Kellett. Reba McEntire sang the "Star Spangled Banner" intro - son Shelby Blackstock was ninth in the Lights event.
The concession stand ran out of beer. They insisted on checking my ID - political correctness gone mad - can't The Donald do something about it? Rescued somewhat by display of old Indycars and warm weather. We had tickets to Indy Hall of Fame (visited previously) but it was so crowded that I couldn't face it.
Overall I wouldn't bother attending Carb Day again. Much ado about nothing.
17:00 by hotel bus to Roadtrips Reception, Sheraton Hotel. Not many in attendance but good bunfight with beer and snacks. Bus back to Basey's Bar, bill $19.99. New barmaid Mila, from Belarus, coping well with bar-room nonsense from patrons.
Sat 27 May:
In Indy: we decided not to go to the track, even though we had tickets for Keith Urban. Watched Monaco quallie in private sitting room at the hotel on the big screen. I said "Great performance by Kimi - will Ferrari tell him to let Vettel thru?" Suffice it to say Vettel won on the Sunday.
Walk to downtown Monument Circle for the parade. There are Jesus Freaks everywhere, promoting oddball brands of religion. Then to "Soupremacy," 7 E Market St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, a friendly coffee shop opposite the Hilton Garden Inn.
10:00 The Circle Center, Carsons, 1 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Jack bought some Levis, $42.
Watching parade in the sunshine, which proceeds at a glacial pace. Vintage bicycles, Police Motorcycle Display Team, Marching band with "World's largest drum", Camaro pace cars, cheerleaders, horses etc.
To Hilton Hotel to buy a copy of the Indianapolis Star. There were apologies on the PA re protestors - who could they mean?

Anderson, IN. Pic by RLT.
Dep 16:00 for saturday night at the PAY LESS "Little 500" presented by UAW/GM, a sprint car race at Anderson, IN. 16:09 Speedway Indianapolis, 46225: gas $25.95 ($2.199 per gallon). Sprint cars feature 900 bhp V8 on quarter-mile asphalt oval. Winner was #5 Kyle Hamilton of Indianapolis. Former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart was third. Veteran Ken Schrader also in the field. The race was a sellout with capacity crowd. We had to stand on uneven pavement throughout. Accompanied by Bruce Edgar, the Kiwi FJ racer, due at Mosport later in June. Delayed departure as we'd lost Bruce. Woman complaining of migraine from our car headlamps, apparently not brought on by 33 roaring V8s.
Anderson, IN, is an old GM town, which has lost many plants and jobs. On the way to Anderson I note a billboard promoting South Bend, IN: "An Urban Playground." I've been in every state of the union and never felt more frightened than in South Bend: "Where they close the cash machines at sundown" would be a more accurate slogan.
Sun 28 May:
Indy 500 - police-escorted coach #2098 from Staybridge Suites to the race.
Started watching Monaco G.P. in the hotel. Then satellite TV and Apple phone on the bus. The handheld filled in the gaps when we lost the satellite among the skyscrapers in Indy. Lengthy walk to Paddock Stand, high rows, opposite pits. Much confusion among race-goers about where to sit.
Planes towing advertising banners overhead. Much hoopla before the start of the race. Mike Pence, VPOTUS, makes an appearance to warm applause - he is after all a Hoosier. There is a parade of old drivers: A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Arie Luyendijk, Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford, Kenny Brack, Dario Franchitti, Gil De Ferran, Bobby Rahal, Al Unser Jr.
Scott Dixon, the pole-sitter, and Dario Franchitti had been robbed at gunpoint in a Taco Bell drive-through earlier in the week by two young punks, bringing unwelcome publicity all around the world. An Armed Forces parade proves they have forgotten how to march.
Music by Jonathan Jackson + Enation, an indie rock band. They did not get a mention in the running order. (The Indy 500 is desparately trying to attract a younger audience before all the old geezers in the stands die out.) Then numerous anthems, hymns, invocations etc. "Back home in Indiana." Finally the main event gets under way. An interesting race, with good information on placings and number of laps, until Dixon has a crash with Jay Howard on Lap 53, which looked bad but both walked away. This brought out the red flags.
Alonso and Hunter-Reay both had a Honda engine grenade. Alonso, with rookie stripes on the back of his car, looked like he had been doing this all his life. Later picked up R-O-Y gong.
In all there followed 50 laps of yellow at varying intervals, which added significantly to the time the race took to complete and frequently spoilt the excitement of the close running and overtaking. The loudspeakers encouraged the crowd to look forward to all the restarts - more than the race itself, it seemed. Max Chilton (4th) and Helio Castroneves (2nd) faded in the late going. Ed Jones was 3rd. Takuma Sato, with Honda engine intact, won the Indy 500.
(A reflection on the race event demographics: Jack noted only 3 Afro-American people among the 350,000 crowd. One was on the stage singing, and two were VIPs in the pit-lane.)
Basey's was occupied, but doors locked front and back and entry impossible, so anticlimactically we went to the Holiday Inn for a nondescript pasta and a few beers. The lone waitress, surprised to be serving at the only open bar in the neighbourhood, did very well but was run off her feet.
Mon 29 May:

Indianapolis, IN. Pic by RLT.
Solo walk round the downtown. Great old buildings, motel, welding shop etc. To Eli Lilly HQ: "Research is to see what everyone else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought." - Albert Szent Györgyi.
There are fresh bike paths everywhere. Indy has Pacers Bike Share, Blue Indy electric cars (part of an effort to make Indiana the electric-car state? Electric cars do not reduce congestion? Are these just fads?) Why doesn't Indianapolis create a cycle-highway from downtown to the race track? They could incentivise race-goers to arrive by bicycle? Provide secure bicycle parking? Get some eco-kudos? Motor racing is often criticised for wasting gas - most of which is burned up by the spectators getting to and from the track and sitting in jams.
New buildings - J.W. Marriot Hotel, Lucas Oil Stadium, Convention Center - evidence of renewal. Walked to the interesting new bus station, opened in 2016, along "The Franciscan Way" past the Monon County Jail. Many streets have alternative names for race drivers e.g. Alonso Ave. Much evidence of the town trying to re-invent itself, boasting 28m visitors annually. Still too many people sleeping rough and high anxiety using cash machines. The race also attracts religious crackpots.
Second visit to "Soupremacy," Market Street, a friendly coffee shop opposite the Hilton Garden Inn.
10:30 Leave Indy, heading south for Kentucky. 252 Hwy to Morgantown, IN. Richard buys vending machine at yard sale, $8.

Martinsville, IN. Pic by RB.
Back track to Martinsville, IN, Car Show. Firehouse Pub, 21 N Jefferson St, Martinsville, IN 46151. Busted Knuckle beer turned out to be rocket fuel, much too strong. The Campaign for Weak Beer suffered a severe setback. Richard and Jack tour car show. Hwy 37 past Bloomington. Now in karst country, place called Oolitic. Turtle crossed road - second reference to "Turtle Fence." Through Orleans and Paoli. Junk at Hardinsburg. Corydon, IN - Purchase of Pyrex insulator, Snap-on socket, cheap tyre pressure gauges, Corydon Panthers Tee-Shirts. Mauckport, IN, then across Matthew E. Welsh Bridge over Ohio River.
Overnight stop at Days Inn, 2010 N Mulberry St, Elizabethtown, KY 42701. Cheap and cheerful. Purchased beers from Etown Liquors next door.
Supper at Texas Outlaw BBQ, Commerce Dr, Elizabethtown, KY 42701 (after walking-out at Ruby Tuesday). I enquired: "Are we in the south?" Answer: "Can't you tell. Everybody talks to you!" Verdict: Glad we switched.
Tues 30 May:
Walking in downtown Elizabethtown we blunder into Bullmoose Brothers Bicycle shop (Bike Friday etc). Meet owner Adam Lobert. Walk to Vibe Coffee, 34 Public Square, Elizabethtown, KY 42701. Tea kindly provided by local networking club. Thanks!
Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum, 1012 N Dixie Hwy, Elizabethtown, KY. Copy of letter, from Clyde Barrow to Henry Ford, commending the Ford motor car. Do not miss this free attraction.
Into central time zone beyond Upton. Photo-shoot of concrete wigwams at Cave City, KY.
National Corvette Museum, 350 Corvette Drive, Bowling Green, KY 42101. Lunch in café. Museum now makes much of famous sinkhole incident.
16:07 T Mart, 625 North Main, Franklin, KY: Gas, $28.91. ($2.099 per gallon). 3 nights at Fairfield Inn & Suites Nashville Downtown/The Gulch, 901 Division Street, Nashville, TN 37203.
Pub crawl on the lower Broadway: Legends Corner, Rippy's Smokin' Bar & Grill, Tootsies, Second Fiddle, Roberts Western World. The bouncers wanted to throw me out of Legends Corner for drinking out of a glass: "Nobody does that in here." They thought I had acquired it elsewhere! (You know you are not a redneck when you drink out of a glass!)
Having said that Legends had the best music, most insults of the audience and, no coincidence, most alcohol drunk by the band. A hapless patron admitted to being Australian at which point the didgeridoo noises started. Impressive "Won't Get Fooled Again" at Rippy's. Drank Falls City Hipster-Repellant IPA. Then Tootsies, Second Fiddle (Richard chatting to pedal-steel guitarist from Legends), and finally Roberts Western World. Taxi to hotel.
Weds 31 May was "Guitar Wednesday:"
Visit to Gibson Custom Guitars went pear-shaped, so proceeded to Carter Vintage Guitars, 625 8TH Ave S, Nashville, TN. Early lunch at busy Arnold’s Country Kitchen. Then GIG museum at The Lila D. Bunch Library, (corner of 17th Avenue S and Acklen Avenue, near Beaumont Mansion), where we had a conversation with George Gruhn. On to George Gruhn Guitars shop and Antique Archaeology (American Pickers southern store), old Marathon Motor Works building.
Early evening drinks at the bar in the historic Union Station hotel, 1001 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203. Relaxing in splendid surroundings. Spendy. A charming but limited local financial-adviser enquired, "How far are you from that lake you go rowing on, is it in Germany? Turns out she meant Venice.
Station Inn closed for private gig, so supper outdoors at The Pub, 400 11th Ave South, Nashville, TN 37203, in the Gulch (Calamari starter, salmon and rice etc).
Thurs 1 June:
To Lane Motor Museum, 702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37210. My third visit, helped by manager David Yando with research into Hobbs Transmission, Tatra, Wartburg and Jikov. Trip to basement, 250 more cars! We tried to go to RCA Studio B on Music Row. No direct access so boys to Country Music Hall of Fame, but no Studio B bus side-trip due to museum snafu. Richard negotiated a 50% discount. Jack a return visit to Carter Vintage Guitars. Time out for me.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Nashville rooftop bar at hotel, great if you like watching freight trains (which I do), but cheerful bar staff could not mask slow sketchy service. We headed for Otaku Ramen, 1104 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203, for supper. Good food, service and ambiance.
Station Inn, 402 12th Ave South, Nashville, TN 37203 - Rachel Baiman, support Adam Chaffins, not really bluegrass but folk, too many slow dreary songs, best number the lively Do-Re-Mi (Woody Guthrie). Enough virtue-signalling! Time to go.
Fri 2 June:
Leave early at 06:50. Retrace our steps to Bowling Green, KY, then second breakfast at Waffle House, 2026 N Mulberry St, Elizabethtown, KY 42701. To Bardstown, KY, then via Blue Grass Parkway to Lexington, I75 to Cincinnati and Dayton. Visit to National Museum of the United States Air Force, 6 miles NE of Dayton. Arrive 14:45, entry free. Checking out Douglas B26K aircraft, which served in the Congo in the early sixties. Very wide range of post-WW2 jet fighters.
Overnight at Red Lion Inn & Suites, 6960 Miller Ln., Dayton, OH 45414. $84.91 x 3. Hooters for drinks, then supper at Max & Erma's, 6930 Miller Ln., Dayton, OH 45414. No cold beer, but suited us Brits fine. Best veggie burger of trip. Doing good take-out business.
Sat 3 June:
Breakfast at hotel - best scrambled egg of the tour. Leave early for Dearborn. More yard sales. Some items scored free of charge.
Turn off highway to Lima, OH, old steam-locomotive town, visit shop with Huffy bicycle for sale (made in Dayton, OH), Salvation Army sale: $2 suitcase, four 'T' shirts $1. Lima Museum closed but Shay engine #10 on display in window. Pitstop at nearby McDonald's Restaurant, 575 Market Street, Lima, OH 45801.
Yard sales around Ottawa and Leipsic. 10:44 Walmart, 1720 North Perry Street, Ottawa, Ohio 45875. 11:57 Tim Horton's, 1508 Wooster Road, Bowling Green, OH 43402: $19.72.
Past Toledo, drive on to Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn MI. Very helpful receptionist encouraging realism about what could be seen in the time available. Among the exhibits in Henry's giant toybox is Jim Clark's Indy-winning Lotus 38/1, the last remaining Dymaxion house in the world.
Overnight at Hotel St Regis, 3071 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit MI 48202, situated in Midtown. Valet parking obligatory. La Musique Restaurant: bar bill $147.34. We learn that the first leg of the Detroit Grand Prix has been won by Graham Rahal.
Sun 4 June:
To Toronto, quickly across the Ambassador Bridge and through the border to Tim Horton's for breakfast at 1875 Huron Church Rd, Windsor, ON N9C 2L6.
We decide to avoid the highways and take the pretty way home through rural Ontario. Quilts on sides of barns aplenty. Further yard sales. Pitstop at Tim Horton's, 41 Park Ave E, Chatham, ON N7M 1V8.
Late lunch at Hicks Café, 61 Ontario Rd, Mitchell, ON, nice to avoid the chains, friendly in an old historic building, stayed open just for us. Recommended.
Jack and Richard to Inverness B&B, 287 Humberside Ave, Toronto, M6P 1L4, ON. Jack and Richard to Mackenzies: "very good food, decent service, diverse, too noisy."
Mon 5 June:
Day In Toronto, drive to Sherway Gardens (Lunch at Szechuan Express, $52.87, Indigo, The Bay), hunt for Milani cosmetics at Rexall - "a drugstore brand." Canadian Tire, Lowes. Dark Horse pub in the evening.
Tues 6 June:
Jack and Richard fettled B&B owner's Brompton bicycle and Pashley trike. Day in Toronto, drive to Cherry Beach, walk by the lake and then T&T Chinese Supermarket. Return hire car 13:02. Total 3165 miles (5094 km). Dinner for four at Kenkou Sushi, 2370 Bloor Street West, Toronto, M6S 1P5, $122.04. Then Dark Horse pub.
Weds 7 June:
Bike ride downtown, 20 miles approx. Two Bromptons and 'Goldie' Traveler bike. No bike issues. Lavazza Coffee house, Good Neighbour Espresso Bar for tea. Evening at Yellow Griffin pub, understaffed but trying hard, some items off menu, choice of beers, unhurried.
Thurs 8 June: Day in Toronto then Richard and Jack bus to airport and fly to Gatwick, all on time. Air Transat Club Class Flight TS422 Toronto to LGW. Depart 22.05, Arrive 10.05 on Fri 9 June.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pittsburgh: the old and the new


SAT 11 Mar
Depart 12:35 from Toronto City Aiport, 5 mins late on Porter Bombardier Q400. Steamwhistle Pilsner on plane. Arrive Pittsburgh 13:35, very quiet at the airport. Uber/Lyft stand at the airport shows they are moving with the times. 28X Flyer bus, free for seniors, blagged my way on without proper ID, Annette $2.75. Busway and tunnel to city centre. About 45 minutes.
After short walk from bus arrive at trendy Hotel Kimpton Monaco, 620 William Penn Place, at 15.25. Then stroll round downtown. First impressions: shuttered everywhere. Pittsburgh has contracted so much that it is overprovided with buildings. But the city is an architectural treasure box, to rival Chicago for interest, if not scale. There are all but no cranes to be seen. Nashville it is not - approximately 500 miles and a world away. Nevertheless Pittsburgh has tried harder than most rustbelt cities to recover from the loss of the once-dominant steel industry.
The iconic Kauffmann's Dept Store (later Macy's) is closed, famous for "meet me under the clock." Irish Fair in the Square is underway with band "The Hillbilly Way" grunge-country rockers cranking it out in the freezing cold. "The twang's the thang!" Decided against supper on the square as it was full of drunk revellers celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Bought milk at Rite-Aid, very down home. Retreated to the hotel where more persons in green attire were partying. Free local beer: "Penn Pilsner."
Supper at newly-opened Talia next door. Spendy at $115 incl tip. Food and service good. Farrotto main course - barley-based, similar to risotto, Montepulciano red wine (no house wine here).
SUN 12 Mar
To The Commoner in the hotel for breakfast, pierogis and poached eggs, oatmeal, coffee, $39 incl tip. Duralex glasses at the table.
71C bus to Point Breeze, via Oakland, University of Pittsburgh, Penn Avenue for Frick Museum (at Penn and Homewood). About 40 mins ride. Car museum and small motoring library. Bought book: Meet You in Hell - Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Bitter Partnership that Transformed America, by Les Standiford, $16.05 incl tax.
Clayton House Tour (the home of Henry Clay Frick), $12, Seniors $10. German Welte Style 6 Concert Orchestrion in the sun porch facing onto Penn Ave. It was not working when we were there. I wonder who will repair it?
Lunch at The Cafe at the Frick, 7227 Reynolds St. Hot tea, soup and sandwich, $32.64 for two. Supper from Subway, 414 Smithfield Street, $12.95 takeout.
MON 13 Mar

Pic by ALT.
Walk via Union Trust Building ($100m renovation) to Apollo Cafe - veggie omelet and coffee, $14.34 for two. Spotted Uber "driverless" Volvo SUV. The old and the new in Pittsburgh. Purchase 2 x $7 transit passes at Steel Plaza, go anywhere all day. Take subway/street car across the river bridge to Station Square and the old Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railway station, superb interior, now a restaurant. Old railcars outdoors. Subway remarkably clean and safe. Purchased Bomber Harris - His Life and Times, by Henry Probert, $4.98 remaindered at Bradley's Bookshop, in the old engine shed.
Cross the street to the Monongahela Incline for Mount Washington, coffee at Grand Brew, Shiloh St., walk one mile along Grandview Avenue to the Duquesne Incline, spectacular views, descent, then bus to downtown.
Cold. Winter Storm Stella is expected. One O'clock lunch at Au Bon Pain, 625 Liberty Ave., soup and bagel, $11.52 for two. Panhandling conman in evidence.
Supper at The Tap Room bar, at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Fish & Chips, Salmon Salad, $55. We note that the hotel is an old haunt of bandleader Lawrence Welk. Also that former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stayed here on Thursday 24 September 2009. The socialist 'son of the manse' knew how to get his snout in the trough!
TUES 14 Mar
Breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels, "Authetic New York Style," 531 Grant Street, $13.23. A haunt of low-lifes.
Walk to Amtrak station, a magnificent old building, now private apartments. Due to the bad weather the Amtrak train from Chicago is short-stopped at Pittsburgh (engine #112). Parked at the platform is the Ohio Central private rail car "Sugarcreek." Amtrak-employee Richard Mayorsky cheerfully answers our questions. At his suggestion we walk up the side of the station to view an old Pennsylvania Rail Road sign.

Pic by ALT.
Walk on to the Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street. The man at the cash desk says Pittsburgh is the "most liveable city." We watch a film of old-time city streetcars, sat aboard PCC trolley #1724. There was a time when streetcars inspired composers viz: The Trolley March, J.S. Duss, 1901. Like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh has lost its streetcars downtown (they are now underground). They could have exploited the tourist potential, exemplified by San Francisco.
On display a 1936 stainless steel Ford Deluxe Sedan, built by Allegheny Steel and the Ford Motor Company to demonstrate the practical and promotional uses of stainless steel. Old sign on wall for Horne's Department Store at Penn Ave/Stanwix Street, name changed to Lazarus in 1994. Displays re Heinz Ketchup, which has the keystone on the label. The company started out making horseradish sauce and later became known for pickles. Splendid archive facilities on sixth floor. Lunch at the museum, among the exhibits, $7.76.
In the evening to Earth Inspired Salads, 61 William Penn Place, $21.14, There was enough food for three meals. So we took a doggie bag back to the hotel to make a supper for the morrow.
WED 15 Mar
Breakfast at busy Starbucks, Omni William Penn Hotel, $11.34.
61C bus to Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Library, Forbes & Craig. I do some research at the (free) Library, while Annette tours the art museum and natural history exhibits (nominally $20, but free for school teachers). The Cafe Carnegie, 4400 Forbes Ave, for lunch: Pumpkin Pasta Bake, Veggie Pot Pie, $42. Suitable on a cold day.
After lunch to Caliban's Bookstore, 410 S Craig St., purchased Maigret and the Killer, Georges Simenon, $12. Back to town on #58 bus, going all round the 'burbs. Jimmy John's for cookie and sandwich, 501 Grant St., $9.28. Put together with leftovers made a supper for two.
THURS 16 Mar
Walk to The Strip. In the Kitchen store, 1725 Penn Ave., where Annette scores a Garlic Saver, $5.34. P&Gs Pamela's Diner, fifties style breakfast, $27 incl tip. Backtrack to Bradleys Book Outlet, 2019 Penn Ave: Treasure Hunt, an Inspector Mantalbano Mystery, by Andrea Camilleri, $2.12. Old industrial buildings refurbished as flats. The salvation of Pittsburgh must lie in persuading people to live downtown. Then to The Store at Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman Street, aka Contributions non-profit space, still going after 40 years. Wooden salad tongs and spreader made by Jonathan's Spoons in Pennsylvania, $37.45.
Evening Penn Pilsner beer at hotel happy hour, then Yuengling draft at The Commoner, Half-Chicken, Tofu Tikka Marsala, $51.36 plus tip.
FRI 17 Mar
Breakfast at Einstein Bros Bagels, in the Koppers Building, 2 x Lox Bagels, coffee, $21.14, quiet, no hassle. This chain is known to us from our visit to Scranton, PA. Walkabout to PPG Place. A showpiece development lacking tenants. Coffee at Crazy Mocha Coffee Co in a pleasant atrium. Walk back to hotel, dep 28X Flyer bus for the airport.

Pic by RLT.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Boomtown Showdown

[This blog post specially for Nick Murphy.]

Nashville is booming. There are cranes everywhere. Renewal is all around. Research says the hotels are more expensive than NYC. Apartment rents are sky-high. (Allegedly the largest U.S. city without a long-distance passenger railroad connection.) If America is making a comeback it is happening here.

Up early in Toronto on a snowy Christmas morning. Catch the blue night bus right outside our apartment, 06:48 direct to Pearson Airport, $1.95 seniors ticket. In about 30 minutes we are at check-in. Through U.S. Passport check with minimum hassle. Both flight and customs procedures now semi-automated. Long walk to gate A6e.
We board Westjet flight WS360 for Nashville. The Bombardier Q400 Nextgen aircraft is full. Depart 09:45, fifteen minutes late. A jolly Christmas mood prevails. We leave the white Christmas of Toronto behind. Sipping two Canadian Molson beers on the flight.
Arrive Nashville airport, the Gibson guitars are still in their display cases, just as I remembered them. Catch Jarmon shuttle bus to hotel - $55 return for two people. Dave, the driver, is not on his normal run to Kentucky, picking up soldier boys from Fort Campbell. We arrive at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriot, Nashville Downtown/The Gulch, 901 Division Street, Nashville, TN. High of 73°F.
We walk downtown via the Broadway. Everywhere is closed. We catch the free bus which goes all round the town. The driver is plagued by down-and-outs. We hop off at The Gulch, declining a four-course Christmas lunch at the Marsh House, $72 per head. It begins to look like McDonald's! One last throw of the dice and we head for the Union Station Hotel, where we luck out, lunching at the bar in the fabulous foyer. Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese, Spinach Salad and Grilled Chicken Sandwich, $36.14 plus tip. Back at McDonald's we buy some milk.
After time out, we head for the Station Inn for some old-timey live bluegrass music. No entry charge on Xmas night for the jam session. Drinking $4 Yuengling beers from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, $12 pizza to share. Short walk back to hotel.
26th: Walkabout in The Gulch: checking out Arnold's Country Kitchen, Carter Vintage Guitars, Downtown Antiques. Walk via Rosa L. Parks Boulevard to the Tenncare Building (former Bureau of Medicaid), an old government building now sadly being demolished. Nearby is the Hilton Homestead Suites, where Billy Ray Cyrus rents studio space. We backtrack to Tin Cup Coffee in the Horton Building, 136 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard. A trip to the Tourist Information Visitor Centre is followed by a pleasant lunch at Wild Wasabi, Cummins Station, with the Dunn family.
We check out a used bookstore where I purchase: "The Last Lap - The Life and Times of NASCAR's Legendary Heroes" by Peter Golenbock, 1998 hardback, well sold at $15. A couple of howlers in the book - he can't spell Carroll Shelby (error repeated in the index) or Dick Hutcherson (he becomes Hutchinson in photo captions). Golenbock relies too heavily on interviews without supporting research. He does however detect the rigged nature of NASCAR racing, which tarnishes their back story. The author is not a car guy in any real sense. Overall a potboiler.
Supper at City Fire, 610 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203: shrimp and grits, followed by Apple Crisp, Chocolate Bread Pudding à la mode, Yuengling beer, $71.08 including tip. We ask our server, Meshach Jackson, a test question: what is the difference between a mandolin and a dobro? His detailed reply gives away the fact that he is a musician and songwriter, as we suspected.
27th: Walk to Belmont Mansion, 1900 Belmont Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37212, via Music Row, Vanderbilt University. We take coffee at Provence Breads & Cafe, 1705 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212. We blunder into Bookman-Bookwoman, 1713 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212, next door and already on our to-do list. We discover it is closing after 21 years. Annette scores eight paperback books for $8 (valued at $64).
After Belmont Mansion tour, $12 each, we take #17 bus along 12th Avenue South to Division Street. Subway takeaway lunch.
Evening walk to Bridgestone Arena where the Nashville Predators are playing the Minnesota Wild in the NHL. The Preds lose 2-3 in sudden death overtime. Also present: Peter Frampton; Vince Gill (singing backup with the Gypsy Rose covers band). $10 Stella beers, ouch! They insist on checking my ID - the second time I say: "I'm still 65!" Politically correct lawyers gone mad.
28th: Tour of the Downtown Antique market, next to the railroad tracks. Early lunch at Arnold's Country Kitchen, 605 8th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203. They say you can't have have fast, cheap and good. Wrong. Arnold's has southern food to die for! Fried catfish, baked squash, stewed okra and black eyed peas. Get there early to beat the crowds.
We catch the free green bus to Walgreen's, where we score half-price Walker's shortbread biscuits among the Xmas remainders. I send a solitary postcard from the Post Office in the old arcade. We avoid the George Jones and Johnny Cash museums. Supper at Otaku Ramen in the Gulch: Veggie Miso, Donburi Hot Chicken fusion.
29th: Breakfast at Slow Hand Coffee, 300A 10th Ave South, Nashville: coffee and "Basic Biscuit," a zesty cheddar scone. Two buses to the Piggly Wiggly at Dickerson and Cleveland, 85 cents for seniors. This is Food Stamp country. A sign on the door says: "Free ride in a police car for shoplifters." "Take on Me" by A-ha is playing. Carroll Shelby turns up again with his own-brand Chili. I note the food carts are all from Home Depot.
We take the bus back to town and walk some distance to Marathon Village, an old factory that is home-from-home to the American Pickers TV show, spotted from a distance by the old water tower. Lunch at The Frist Museum, BBQ pork sandwich, good value for two at $21.08 plus tip. Taxi back to hotel - we have walked far enough.
30th: We have been wondering where folks in The Gulch get their groceries, when we spot Turnip Truck, hawking "Urban Fare." We take the #5 bus to the Piggly Wiggly at 2900 West End Ave. Annette is thrilled with a Piggly Wiggly souvenir shopping bag at $1.99. You can't beat a good groceteria. We walk on to The Parthenon, a giant replica of the real thing, in a park. Why bother to go all the way to Athens when you have a facsimile right there in Nashville, which is in much better shape and devoid of panhandlers? Tee shirt: "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard."
Rite-Aid is beckoning with the never-ending quest for Goldenberg's Peanut Chews. "Chewing it old school." We are relieved to find Philly's finest at $1 a pack of eleven. Across the street to Barnes and Noble bookstore. Half price diary at $5, made by Gallery Leather, 27 Industrial Way, Trenton, Maine 04605. I feel I have made a small contribution to keeping Americans in employment. I also buy the book "Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed" by John F. Ross, remaindered at $6.98.
We walk back to the Gulch via Vanderbilt University, where the Robin has set up home for the winter on the lawns. I've never seen so many. We lunch at Sambuca, a cavernous bar: soup followed by fish and chips, grilled polenta, $30.24 plus tip.
In the evening we walk to the Lower Broadway for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl "Downtown Showdown." The Nashville Volunteers, (the Vols, UofT football), have defeated the Nebraska Huskers, 38-24, at the Nissan Stadium. The crowds are streaming across the bridge over the Cumberland River to celebrate on the Broadway, Nashville's honky-tonk heaven. $6 cans of beer are on sale from stalls, no ID check, no problem drinking outdoors.
To get the party started we have the band Locash, low-rent rockers, who feature songs about trucks and getting drunk. After some redneck buffoonery - "Hey bubba, why are you wearing sunglasses in the dark?" - we head for the warmth of the bar at the Westin Hotel for supper and a Yazoo beer, $48.18 plus tip.
31st: Next morning it it all going too well as the Jarmon bus picks us up at the hotel at 08:30. At the airport I realise I have lost my notebook for the trip. A frantic search for the bus and I can see my book through the window. We locate the lady driver who unlocks the bus and my sanity is restored. A lucky save. Turns out our flight is delayed so we are treated to another rendition of "Frosty the Snowman." Don't rock the jukebox.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Living on an Island

Our summer tour took us to Vancouver Island, which included house hunting. (It came down to a shortlist of Victoria and Sidney, to the north of Victoria, between the airport and the sea).
BC Trip Monday 11 July - Tuesday 2 August 2016:
Monday, 11 July, WESTJET Flight: WS 711, Departure: YYZ TORONTO, TERMINAL 3, 12:55PM, Arrival: YVR VANCOUVER , MAIN TERMINAL, 3:00PM.
WESTJET Flight: WS 3222, Departure: YVR VANCOUVER, MAIN TERMINAL, 4:15PM, Arrival: YYJ VICTORIA 4:46PM.
YYJ Bus to downtown Victoria, with running commentary, drop off at the Swan Hotel & Brewpub, Pandora Avenue. Short walk to Airbnb accommodation at:
409 Swift Street, Suite 310, Victoria, BC, V8W 1S2 (Mon 11 July to Mon 18 July, on the waterfront near Johnson Street Bridge, water taxi stop at Mermaid Wharf, adjacent to China Town.)
First evening walk to China Town to get some milk. Supper at Canoe Pub opposite our digs, squid and beet salad, $6 Belgian beer special, $42 for two incl tip.
Tuesday Day 2: After watching the Tour de France on tablet, walk to Honeybun Café, 805 Yates Street for breakfast, Fry Up and French toast, $26 incl tip for two. Shopping at Shopper's Drug Mart and Market on Yates (checked out 10:00 am), checking on prices.
Wednesday Day 3: Stroll around downtown. Decaf Americano and panini at Sandwich Corner, Courtney & Gordon. Meet Jeannie and the boys at RBC Museum. Adjacent food trucks for lunch. I take the water taxi while they take in the Imax. In the evening walked to Delta Grosse Point Hotel for drinks and dessert, harbour view.
Thursday Day 4: Bus 2A to Oak Bay ($5 bus deal "Rover ticket" - any bus all day). Coffee at Serious Coffee, Oak Bay Ave, a local chain. ReMax real estate, Library.
Bus #2 on circular route round Oak Bay, then stroll to Oak Bay Marina, lunch at Dockside Eatery. Watching heron in the harbour, also belted kingfisher stalking a sea otter, hoping for leftovers. In the evening to Famoso Pizzeria, Douglas St, $5 Driftwood Brewery Fat Tug IPA (later I discover this is 7% alc/vol - hard to find a session beer in BC).
Friday Day 5: Walk to James Bay. Coffee at James Bay Coffee Co (with bookshop), on down to seashore, along Dallas St, check out a house on San Jose Avenue, then Ogden Point. Walk on to Fisherman's Wharf, lunch at Barb's Fish & Chips, later meeting Jeannie and the boys from Seattle. Water taxi back to digs.
Saturday Day 6: Meet Margaret. Breakfast at QV Bakery, Government St., cheap and cheerful. Car to Cook Street, walk to Fairfield Plaza and back, coffee at Starbucks. Deer live in the suburbs, often seen, they will come and eat from your veggie patch. Some gardens have high fences and are deer proof.
Then by car to Esquimalt, The Gorge, then Willow Beach for stroll. Logs on the Beach. Lunch in China Town.
Sunday Day 7: Bubby Rose's Bakery, Cook & Fort, to meet Emma and Paul, newly arrived from Toronto. Pleasant and not too busy at this pavement café.
Mon 18 July to Mon 25 July: Switch digs to 760 Johnson Street 1005, Victoria, BC V8W 0A4 (Juliet Building, corner of Johnson and Blanshard. Coffee at Mochiato, downstairs, while waiting to get the keys.)
Bus to Oak Bay Marina for lunch. Meet Clive and Anna on vacation from Toronto.
Tues 19: To Sooke with Clive and Anna for rented mountain bikes and ride on the Galloping Goose trail. About three hours, I manage to climb the hill into Sooke on return. Drive to Sandcut Beach, among the trees, along the Juan de Fuca Strait. Pitstop at Shirley Delicious, on the way back, for cookie and lemonade.
Wed 20: Walk to West Victoria to see the old E&N railyards and roundhouse. Coffee at Casa Nova Catering, 492 Esquimalt Rd. Early supper at Margaret's House in Gordon Head.
Thurs 21: To Chapters to buy Victoria map book, Trains magazine. Bus to Oak Bay. Lunchtime snack at friendly Good Earth Coffehouse, 1971 Oak Bay Avenue.
Fri 22: Walk to breakfast at Relish Food & Coffee, 920 Pandora. Bus to Cook and Fort, checking out the shops. Car to lunch outdoors with Margaret at Milestones by Victoria harbour in the sunshine. The Hot Rods are arriving for the big show.
Sat 23: To "Jaguars on the Island" car show at Windsor Park, Oak Bay. Strolling on leafy streets to Fairway Market, bought jelly babies while checking on prices. Lunch at Penny Farthing "English" pub, Oak Bay. We enjoyed Northwest Deuce Days in Victoria, some 1200 Hot Rods plus "outlaw" muscle cars. We sat out at an intersection in the warm Saturday evening watching the cars cruising the town. It was like appearing in "American Graffiti."
Sun 24: We were up early on Sunday to see the Hot Rods assembled round the harbour, many top notch cars up from California. The show runs every three years. On our last night in Victoria we found the Veneto Bar at the Rialto Hotel, Government & Pandora. Less noisy, less blokey than some.
Rudyard Kipling, writing in 1907, likened Victoria to Bournemouth with the Himalayas in the background. (There are snow-capped mountains in the distance, in the US. Victoria being below the 49th parallel.)
Mon 25 July to Tues 2 Aug: travelling around Vancouver Island.
We backtracked to the airport on the YYJ bus to pick up a rental car, catching the bus at the 'Save on Foods' Memorial Centre, a hockey stadium in Victoria. We set off through the spectacular Malahat Pass, in a black Nissan Sentra, stopping at Duncan for lunch. Three hours free parking, by the old train station, pausing to listen to a folk concert outdoors. Pleasant lunch at Gourmet Gardens, 161 Kenneth Street, Duncan, BC V9L 1N5, outdoors under a grapevine.
Ride on to Qualicum Beach Inn, 2690 West Island Highway. Period circular bar and dining room, great location with sea view. Stock-keeping not their strong point - they were running out of tonic at the bar and had no bacon for breakfast. I managed to scrounge some real milk to go with coffee in the room. Meet up with Reb and Billy and walk to The Shady Rest Waterfront. The restaurant was not firing on all cylinders.
Next morning quick vist to QB Airport, park at the old train station, then stroll in the 'chocolate box' downtown where they are making a movie. Drinks at Qualicum Foods, a trendy supermarket, followed by a visit to the latest incarnation of Pancake Manor studios, in an old school classroom.
Then short ride to Port Alberni via "Goats on the Roof," a hokey tourist attraction, and Cathedral Grove, a magnificent forest. We enjoyed three nights at Port Alberni to the max. Great breakfast by the river at the Blue Door, 5415 Argyle St, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 1T6 - "Home of All Day Breakfasts" - old timey without the greasy spoon. Shopping at Walmart and No Frills - best prices on the Island.
Superb ride in the speeder car (known locally as a crummy) to McLean Mill, approx 35 minutes. There is a crazy lady en route who waves flags at all passing trains while dressed in costumes, house decked out with flags.
We toured the lumber mill, which wasn't operating that day, but it didn't matter. Many photo ops of old vehicles and machinery without any crowds. The crew of the speeder car, which used to carry up to 30 people to work sites on the railway (more in a trailer, not present), were very friendly and afterwards took us back to the engine shed in the speeder to see the old Shay locomotive, a shaft-drive rarity which seems to turn up on our travels e.g. in Australia. They need $200,000 to make the Shay fully operational. (We had checked at Victoria Tourist Information ref the train ride and been told it was no longer running - we took steps to put this right.) We drove out of town to find the old hill climb racing course from the sixties at Alberni summit. The road off Hwy 4 near the brake test area is now blocked off but we are fairly sure we were in the right place. I am on the trail of pictures and film etc. We walked to supper at Bare Bones, a popular fish and chip place in an old church, with a simple choice of red or white wine.
Next day we walked up the trail to the trestle and waterfall, watching the steam train 90 foot up in the air. Only snag here 75 inches of rainfall annually, mostly in winter. (The rainfall varies greatly over a short distance e.g. 75 inches in Port Alberni, 28 inches in Victoria.) Can't fault a place that sells Eccles cakes!
We are sorry to miss "Thunder in the Valley" in Port Alberni. Usually a quarter mile drag race at the airport, this year they are refurbing the airport with runway extension and new lighting, so have moved the event to town with an improvised eighth-mile strip outside our hotel. Gotta love the spirit of these people. The lady that booked us into the hotel is driving in the drags. Another sign of making the most of things is that the hotel is a stop on the railway - our speeder driver, Pete Geddes, told of a special train stopping at the hotel to pick up a wedding party.
Parksville reminded us of New Zealand, with single-story buildings and nose-first angle parking. We stopped by the disused railway station and chatted to a lady with an AMC Spirit car, before she disappeared indoors to the pottery shop: "I don't watch the news, it's a bliss thing!" We spotted a Stedman's department store, a name no longer seen in Ontario.
We check in to Best Western Northgate Inn, 6450 Metral Drive, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 2L8 for two nights. Folk had said uncharitable things about Nanaimo, but we enjoyed strolling on the harbourfront, taking coffee and sandwich at Javawocky, #8 - 90 Front Street. Nanaimo, BC V9R 5H7. Walk to supper at Milano's Ristorante, Suite 300-6551 Aulds Rd, Nanaimo, V9T 6K2.
Next morning we went to search for the remnants of the No. 5 Mine at Wellington, in the northern suburbs of Nanaimo (now incorporated). We explored near Diver Lake, but apart from a plaque there was little to indicate that this had once been a busy coal mining area. Scored $2 Bodum bundle at a thrift store, where they recommended Buzz Coffee Shop, 1861 Dufferin Crescent, Nanaimo, BC V9S 0B1. We also checked out Country Grocer supermarket opposite.
After lunch we caught #50 bus at the Woodgrove Centre, which turned into #7 at Prideaux Street downtown, and then set off south into the boondocks dropping us in Cedar, about a mile from the Crow & Gate "English" pub, a Mock-Tudor building in the middle of nowhere. We met up with Reb, Billy and Jaynie for supper. This unlikely place qualifies as a "Home from Home." Lift back to hotel, via Nanaimo railway station, now a restaurant.
Next morning we set off southbound via Ladysmith, then Chemainus (well presented murals and a sad little railway station) for Sidney. Back track to coffee at Saltair Station House, 10445 Chemainus Road, Chemainus, V0R 1K2. Lunch at The Surly Mermaid, 9891 Seaport Place, Sidney, V8L 4X3, (fish and chips, very fresh).
Two nights at Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites, 9775 1 St, Sidney, V8L 3E1. Walking tour of south side. Early evening drinks at Charles Dickens Pub, 2280 Beacon Avenue, Sidney. Pizza supper at Woodshed Restaurant, 2369 Beacon Ave, Sidney, BC. Last gasp at noisy Haro's Restaurant & Bar, 9805 Seaport Place, Sidney, V8L 4X3. Coffee at welcoming Red Brick Café (2 for $3.50), Tour by car taking in the northern suburbs, airport and Patricia Bay. Last night treat at Beacon Landing Restaurant & Lounge, 2537 Beacon Ave W #107, Sidney, V8L 1Y3. Scallops.
Tuesday, 02 August:
WESTJET Flight WS 3277, Departure: YYJ VICTORIA, 2:00PM; Arrival: YVR VANCOUVER, MAIN TERMINAL, 2:28PM.
WESTJET Flight: WS 718, Departure: YVR VANCOUVER, MAIN TERMINAL, 4:00PM; Arrival: YYZ TORONTO, TERMINAL 3, 11:29PM.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Broken Spoke Tour - Caen to Pau by Brompton 2016


Sun 8 May:
Lewes to Portsmouth, train as far as Havant, rode Bromptons the remaining ten miles into Portsmouth. Jack having potentially serious issue with loose pivot pin on the rear triangle of his Brompton, duly kludged. Supper at the Ship and Castle at Portsmouth Docks, where by chance we meet Iain Rowley and Paul Jenkins, headed for the Pau historic car races (via Monaco) with a Formula Junior Lola. We shall meet again.
(Chap at ferry terminal off on a solo 4,000 mile cycle ride to Croatia and back.)
Brittany Ferries, 22.45 sailing to Ouistreham, outside berth cabin for 4, ensuite facilities. Light breakfast served in cabin.
Mon 9th May: Arrive Ouistreham 06.45. Depart 07:15 for Domfront (71 miles). Easily picked up the Voie Verte, along the canal via the Pegasus Bridge, to Caen. First pitstop at Bar Le Newport, 74 Quai Vendeuvre, 14000 Caen. Past the Bir Hakeim bridge, easy going on old railway line to Thury-Harcourt, following the valley of the Orne, headed for the Suisse Normande. The cycle track peters out in the hill country, just when you need it most. We got separated after leaving Clécy: Richard and Nigel had taken a right fork (D1) signposted Pont d'Ouilly. Jack and I hadn't seen them, and so we took the left fork signposted, less visibly, with a bicycle route (D168/D23). I was unhappy with the ups and downs of our route, mainly along the Orne. When we met R and N however, it turned out that the main route had included an extremely steep long climb. Gruppo compatto at the Bar de L'Isle in Pont d'Ouilly.
I got tailed off on the D25 on the long climb to Athis-de-l'Orne, so decided to ride into Flers and find the Office de Tourisme. Soon picked up the flat Voie Verte, after La Selle-la-Forge, for the last 12 miles into Domfront, pausing for drink and energy bar at a picnic table. My companions are already in the bar at the hotel, which is ideally situated close to the path, but report roadworks at Le Chatellier, hostile drivers on the highway and hazardous hilly conditions.
This day voted the "Queen Stage" of the Tour.
Logis Hôtel de France, 7, rue du Mont-St-Michel, 61700 Domfront. Tel+33233385144, Dining on site. Breakfast €6.50. Spacious and suitable for cyclists, avoiding climb to town centre.
Tues 10th May: To Laval (52 miles). The red Voie Verte exit Domfront is completely unsuitable for touring bikes, best left to rockhoppers and mudpluggers. The French need a grading system for paths as they vary from the sublime to the ridiculous. Rupe followed this for a while, rest returned to town, bypassed Torchamp.
Route via Torchamp, Mayenne. Regrouped just before Ambrières-les-Vallées. Some running on railpath with adjacent Vélorail. Lunch at Saint-Fraimbault-de-Prières, Pays de la Loire, boulangerie and bar. Later long stretches riding beside the Mayenne river, after Mayenne. Many weirs and locks. Chatting to a Brit couple on a tandem. At the top of a long hill: Kyriad Hotel, Boulevard des Trappistines, Laval, 53000 Tel +33243028888. Dining on site. Breakfast €10.00.
Wed 11th May: To Angers (64 miles). We resume the riverside path, making good time to Chateau Gontier for a tea stop at the Café Brasserie du Vieux Pont, in town by the Mayenne. Path quality reduced when changed departments. Chambellay shut. Later we divert to Le Lion D'Anger, via a horse-race course, in search of food. We are late for lunch and all we can find is a bag of crisps.
I lose my companions near Port Albert and I make the disastrous decision to take a footpath, thinking the worst that could happen was that I would have to push the bike. On this path a walker would need crampons, rope and a chainsaw. Eventually I can neither go forward or back, so I fold the bike and climb the cliff by the Mayenne, returning to retrieve my luggage, and making good my escape via a farmer's field. The farmer fails to spot me as I use the old trick of standing perfectly still. My troubles are not over. I reach Montreuil-Juigné, rehydrating at a sympathetic campsite. Lost once more, I puncture on a service road, retreating to Cave et Bar V&B Avrillé, ZI Croix Cadeau, 49240 Avrillé, in the suburbs of Angers. "Taxi pour Monsieur Thomas!" I finish in the broom wagon, some 2½ hours late.
2 nights Hotel Marguerite d’Anjou, Place Du Président Kennedy, Angers, 49100. Tel +33241881161. Breakfast €8.50. Cosy bar. Dining at nearby Cambodian Restaurant Shantou, in the Rue Toussaint, as a heavy storm breaks, with flash floods. Front page news next day.
Thurs 12th May: day off in Angers. To Le Velo Bar, 69 Rue Bressigny, 49100 Angers. Interesting vegetarian restaurant/bike shop with quiche to die for! (Réparation Vélo - Café Bio). Flat fixed, broken spoke removed with plan to reach Pau unmended. Italian restaurant supper at La Piazzetta, 9 Rue des Lices. Good value. Late drinks at Matt Murphy's, 25 Rue Maréchal Foch, full of Dutch truckers from Scania in Zwolle.
Fri 13th May: To Bressuire (52 miles) via Les Ponts de Cé (multiple river crossings, easy going leaving the Loire Valley), Thouarcé, lunch in the Place Charles de Gaulle, Vihiers, then skirting Argenton-les-Vallées. Pit stop at Bar Chez Didier Pizza, 4 Place de la Mairie, St Clémentin. I notice another puncture. We try to carry on but forced to give up at Voultegon, where a lady at Garage Pascal Metais was most helpful. I finish by taxi once more, fixing the flat under cover outside the hotel entrance. Inter-Hotel Plume, 4 Espace Bocapole, Bressuire, 79300. Tel +33549818283. Breakfast €9.00. A shed on a characterless trading estate, no bar, suitable but pricey. Dining nearby at Au Bistrot Gourmand, a smaller shed, also suitable. Tired.
Sat 14th May: To Surgères (66 miles). Tea stop at classy Les Arts, Breuil-Bernard. Then lunch outdoors at L'Absie, on to Saint-Pompain. Pitstop at Benet, Pays de la Loire, at a motorhome park. We transit Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon, a stop on a previous tour. Bushwhacking late in the day led to lost companions, and going round in circles at Saint-Saturnin-du-Bois, eventually reaching Chaillé. I found the Office de Tourisme in Surgères, which was shut. Finally at Bed and Breakfast H de Surgères, 52 rue Audry de Puyravault, 17700 Surgères. Tel +33611460197. Evening meal at 20:00 and breakfast. Top digs, gourmet food, excellent value. Recommended. Early evening beers a short walk away at Café Français, 2 Avenue de la Libération, 17700 Surgères, with meaty terrine snacks.

Pic by RLT.
Sun 15th May: To Pons via Rochefort (58 miles). Jack and I stop at Baghera Boulangerie Pâtisserie for lunchtime supplies at Rochefort. Catch up with advance party at the Transporter Bridge, one of only eight left in the world, at Echillais, sadly hors de combat. Hair raising crossing of adjacent highway bridge on the D733. Lunch in town square at Pont-l'Abbé-d'Arnoult.
Drinks at Alimentation, by the church, Rue de Saintonge, Nancras. Jack and I stop at bar Chez Colette, Cafe de la Gare, Tesson. On final approach to Pons we encounter a bicycle race. Quirky Chambres d'hôtes de l'Auberge Pontoise, 15, 17 Rue Gambetta , Pons, 17800. Tel +33546940099. Lady of the house going to great lengths to provide a good breakfast, €8.00. Total €239.00 for four. Beers and dining in town at Café du Donjon/Le Français in the Place de la Republique.
Mon 16th May: To Libourne (61 miles). Richard now suffering from slowly deflating rear tyre, decides to soldier on, pumping regularly. Tea stop at Restaurant Bistrot de la Poste, Jonzac; lunch at Chevanceaux, Poitou-Charentes. Further stop exit Guîtres at Bar Hotel Restaurant St Roch on the D910.
Both legs and backside now hurting. Relieved to get through a tough day, through the vineyards to 2 nights at Mercure Libourne St Emilion, 3, Quai Souchet, Libourne, 33500. Tel +33557256418. Breakfast €15.50. We succeed in opening the bar at the hotel, which is curiously deserted, and overall fails to ring the bell. Supper at nearby Hotel Restaurant La Tour du Vieux Port. Acceptable.
Tues 17th May: Day off in Libourne. Fix flat tyre on black Brompton in hotel courtyard, then to friendly CYCLE SHOP, 9 avenue de Verdun, 33500 Libourne, for sundry spares, including spray jollop for sealing inner tubes and tyre pressure check all round. Walk to splendid Bar au Rallye, Rue du Président Carnot, Libourne. Walk to supper al fresco at la Guinguette de la vieille tour across the river. Pizza pretty average.
Weds 18th May: To Bazas (63 miles). Pit stop at Relais de Naujan, 28 Bis rte Bordeaux, Naujan-et-Postiac, where the lady makes up some baguettes. Shortly after picked up the excellent Roger Lapébie bike path, turning off at St Brice. Pitstop at Salle des Fêtes, Gornac, exit D228. Across the box bridge over the Garonne on the D15, to reach Castets-en-Dorthe. Themed Hotel le Rodin, 1, Cours du Général De Gaulle, 33430 Bazas. Tel +33556250996. Breakfast €8.00. 1st drinks: Café des Sports, 8 Cours Maréchal Foch. 2nd drinks: Le Boeuf Pop, Place de la Cathédrale, Bazas, Aquitaine. Dining at nearby Restaurant Le Maquignon, 4 Cours Maréchal Foch. Recommended: Buffet starter plus meat course etc. Top value.
Thurs 19th May: To Aire-sur-l’Adour (53 miles), via Captieux, tea stop on N524, we bought lunch in the boulangerie over the road and in the Casino superette a few doors down. Jack and I lunched in a bus shelter beside the old railway line in La Gare, after a 15-20 kilometre due south run, virtually car-free, through the pines, during which two red deer jumped out. R and N ran miles at 19 mph. We commented at Captieux that we were spoilt for choice of boulangeries, cafes and shops whereas other towns would be just as likely to be closed for the day!
Then Roquefort/Sarbazan, Villeneuve-de-Marsan etc. Riding through the Landes on quiet roads much of the way. Traffic on final approach to N’Atura Hotel, 28, avenue du 4 septembre, Aire-sur-l'Adour 40800. Tel +33558716617. Good digs by the river, beers on arrival, suitable for cyclists (others in residence, also pilgrims on Compostella walk). The circus is in town and exotic animals, including camels, are grazing on the riverside. Walk into town across the bridge. Dining at La Villa Toscane, 33 Rue Carnot, Aire-sur-l'Adour, Aquitaine. Further failure to find Floc de Gascogne, otherwise good. €138.40 for four.
Fri 20 May: To Pau (40 miles). Long climb out of Aire to reach D834. First views of the Pyrenees. The boys go bushwhacking. First of three long drops beyond Garlin. Turn off to Saint-Armou. Via D206 to warm welcome at Bar Restaurant Le Castine, Saint Castin (Perrier and Orangina); then Maucor, Morlaàs. Charging downhill, elated to arrive at the Pau sign. Then stopped on final approach, in parkette on Avenue Général Leclerc, for snack and waiting for tour party to catch up.
3 nights Logis Hotel le Bourbon, 12, Place Clémenceau, Pau, 64000. Tel +33559275312. Breakfast €7.80. Comfy digs, ideally situated close to Boulevard des Pyrénées and race track. Late night revellers a nuisance to some.
Pete Webber arrives via London City Airport, Orly and Pau. Under doctors orders to restrict alcohol intake. He kindly brought a copy of Autosport from the UK featuring the Hamilton/Rosberg carambolage in Spain.
Meanwhile beers on arrival at a curious organic bar in the Rue Valéry Meunier. The boys went to the circuit while I had a further quiet beer outside at bar Les Contrebandiers, 12 rue Gachet, near the hotel.
I meet Iain Rowley and Paul Jenkins on their way back from the track. They are staying at our hotel and provide race tickets for the bicycle tour party. It is just amazing how fair people can be!
First evening at Cambodian restaurant Sorya, 1 Bis Rue des Orphelines, 64000 Pau.
Saturday morning: In the paddock at Pau races in glorious sunshine. Photography, note-taking and making new friends. Saturday afternoon: Jack, Pete and I took the Coxitis electric bus, free, to Le Supervie Bar Brasserie, Rue Noghé, Pau. Saturday evening: Restaurant Tagliatella, 8 Rue Gachet, 64000 Pau.
Sunday morning: Enjoyed Formula Junior race in the rain at La Gare. Then Bistrot La Salle, Eurl.Lucas et Fils, 6, Avenue Gaston Lacoste, 64000 Pau. By the race track, a marvelous bolt-hole on a soaking wet day. Good nosebag: Merguez et Frites.
Sunday evening: after snooze late pasta supper at Etna, 16 Rue du Château, 64000 Pau. Even later tapas, for Nigel, round the corner from the hotel. Watching drag racing on the big screen.
Mon 23rd May: By Funiculaire to Pau Station. 1st class train to London via Bordeaux, Paris. 07.52 from Pau; arr 10.15 Bordeaux St Jean, snacks at Café opposite the station, retreating in a downpour; TGV dep 11.28; arr 15.18 Paris Montparnasse; ride across Paris cutting it fine for Eurostar dep 17.01 Paris Nord, non-stop for St Pancras, 18.32.

Total: 583 miles approx.

King of the Mountains: Nigel Lewis.
Most improved young rider: Richard Banks.
Domestique: Jack Kellett (for planning ahead and saving our bacon with catering services).
Lanterne Rouge: Rupert Lloyd Thomas.

Plus Points: Minimal luggage; GPS navigation/direction finding; weather mostly good (some wet but not too hot); health benefits (the gift that keeps on giving). Bromptons generally reliable. Mobile phone mitigated separations. Painkillers (Ibuprofen).
Downsides: Punctures (crevaison). Getting separated particularly late in the day when fatigued; cycle paths a mixed bag; too much bushwhacking. (Forgot my sunglasses.)
Learning points: The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyre a must for touring, particularly beneficial on rear wheel. Should save on downtime. Carry spray jollop as backup. Need to feed.
Overall: Longest, toughest tour yet, but felt good to be alive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Full throttle at Revs


Pic by ALT.
I first visited Florida in 1972, when I hitchhiked there from Washington D.C., and have been there, on and off, ever since.
Sat 12 March
Dep 16:50 Air Canada from Toronto Pearson Terminal 1 (YYZ) to South-West Florida International Airport (RSW). Pickup blue Hyundai Accent rental car at Alamo, Fort Myers Airport. The lady at the check-in desk insists I look like Donald Trump. I wonder what training course she attended?
Via I75 to check-in at Ramada Naples. Late supper at the Cheesecake Factory, 1900 Tamiami Trail, veggie burger, pasta, $34.80, $40.11 incl tip.
Sun 13 March
To Downtown Naples, drive around, park at 5th Avenue. Walk to lunch at "The Café" 821 5th Ave South, fruit yoghurt, ham and brie Panini, $26.98 plus tip. A touch precious for our taste.
To Publix grocery, 1981 Tamiami Trail, shopping $64.34, including 750 ml Lindemans Pinot Grigio $5.99, "Dixie Lily" quick grits $1.35 (to take back to Canada). Supper at the hotel room including Entenmann's Lemon Cake. Pitstop at Pompano Surf & Turf (the hotel bar), three pints Bud Light $10.50, plus an 18% service charge which comes standard, baffling to European visitors. A good old boy is sat at the bar, in his eighties, complaining about an underdone burger. He tells the bar staff to fire the chef. They give him a slice of cheesecake to placate him, which he donates to Annette. Turns out he had worked in Toronto managing the Claussen pickle factory, back when Hogtown made things. He used to stay at the King Eddie Hotel.
Mon 14 March
To the Revs Institute, also known as the Collier Collection, for 09:00 research appointment.
This is a stunning facility dedicated to preserving the history of the motor car. The phrase "World Class" is overused, particularly by a certain Toronto politician, but applies in this case.
Put simply the museum has a car collection; facilities for restoring and maintaining the cars; plus a document, photograph and film library.
We talk to Paul about the provenance of an AC Cobra he is researching. Could the steering wheel have switched sides? A bunch of guys are lamenting the quality of petrol used at Le Mans in the nineteen thirties. One of them does not want to let a precious document out of his sight. This is petrolhead heaven.
I particularly admire a silver 1962 Lotus Elite Series II SE, Serial No. EB 1661, registration 300 TKK. We book to visit the car collection on Thursday.
Lunch at Spanky's, 1550 Airport Road North, is recommended to us. Soup, Tuna Melt, Chili, sitting among the memorabilia. We stop at Walgreen's for Flossups, $8 sunglasses for Annette and find Goldenberg's Peanut Chews. (Walgreen's are taking over Rite-Aid, our favourite U.S. pharmacy, so now we know they will be in good hands.) To Barnes & Noble, 5377 Tamiami Trail, $29.68 for two Lemony Snicket hardbacks. Back at Pompano Surf & Turf Annette orders a Keylime Pie.
Tues 15 March
To the Waffle House, 6531 Dudley Drive, for cooked breakfast including grits, $20 for two including tip. The Waffle House is reassuringly familiar - you could be in Brooks, Kentucky, St. Robert, Missouri or Tupelo, Mississippi - stops on previous tours. Annette tops it off with raisin toast and apple butter.
We drive on to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, 375 Sanctuary Road West, run by the Audubon Society, $24 for two, $2 off coupon, no tax applied (plus $3 for one binocular rental). "Welcome to the swamp."
Worthwhile guided tour, lasting 90 minutes, conducted by knowledgeable volunteer docent. Unseasonal rain in January means that the swamp is much wetter than normal, affecting the breeding habits of the Wood Stork. They are apparently giving it a miss for the second year in a row. We hear of the devastating effects of an estimated 10,000 Burmese pythons, rampaging through south Florida and killing 90-95% of the small mammals and birds of the Everglades. They are thought to have originated from a Homestead, Florida, petstore set free during a hurricane. This shows the folly of allowing the import of exotic pets. Attempts to stamp them out are proving futile.
After a coastal tour among the highrise apartments at Vanderbilt Beach we are hungry. We stop at Cibao Grille where the patron triumphantly announces they are closed for lunch at 13:30. We retreat next door to Rosati's, a Chicago-style Pizza Restaurant, at 818 Neapolitan Way. The reception is altogether more convivial. The lady running the place is from Wheaton, Illinois. We order the special, a large mushroom Pizza to share, with unsweet iced tea. $24.37 plus tip.
Wed 16 March
Get some cash at First Florida Integrity Bank, 895 Fifth Avenue South. To 5th Avenue Coffee Company & 6th Street Diner, for morning coffee and cookie. Spacious corner location, pleasant atmosphere midweek with reasonable prices. Reading the Naples Daily News. Earlier we saw a McLaren supercar parked outside.
After a stroll we took lunch at the newly-opened Crispy Seafood & Wine Bar. This proved to be a mixed bag. The wait staff were green. There was no iced tea, a $5 fail for two of us, and lady customers were being advised to use the gents as their washroom was out-of-order, not something you wish to contemplate while lunching. The food however was excellent.
I move on to Tin City, some old sheds selling souvenirs, by the water. I met up with my nephew Owen and family, reflecting on how we both managed to be in Naples at the same time. On return to the parking garage I saw what appeared to be an abandoned vehicle next to mine, with extensive rear damage, door open and files or folders on the passenger seat. Nobody was about apart from somebody sitting in a nearby SUV. Not wishing to become part of an incident I beat the retreat.
Thurs 17 March
For breakfast we drive to 360 Market, 2891 Bayview Drive, a trendy restaurant by a boat dock. They have a Vince Lombardi quote on the wall, something like: "I am not remotely interested in just being good."
California Benedict for Annette, Fryup for me, $36 plus tip. Then to Naples Botanical Gardens, total $27.90 for two, $1 off coupon. Two green parakeets entertain us in the parking lot. Strolling round this splendid place is relaxing but pay heed to the gator warning signs. We have a quick snack back at Spanky's, 1550 Airport Road North. At 12:00 we are due at Revs. We produce our booking number at the cash desk. The lady says that number has been cancelled. We all are momentarily puzzled but then she recalls we are to get in free! So begins a marvelous tour of the car collection. The core collections are the cars of Briggs Cunningham and a sammlung of Porsches, including an Elva-Porsche, built in Sussex. Everybody is most gracious, showing us behind the scenes, including the workshops and the library. Quote: "Nobody gets in the library!" We head out with a Briggs Cunningham mug on the house!
The swamp, the botanical gardens and Revs have something in common: donations and volunteers.
To Grouper and Chips, 338 9th Street North, we share a crabcake starter and two-piece grouper basket with chips. Recommended.
Back at Pompano Surf & Turf I chat to Greg at the bar, a Porsche fan, who is unaware of the kampfgruppe from Stuttgart nearby. He vows to visit Revs soon.
Fri 18 March
Drive south to Marco Island. Having enjoyed the 5th Avenue Coffee Company in Naples we call at their store at 740 North Collier Boulevard, Marco Island. The boss meets us outside afterwards and thanks us for stopping by. While enjoying breakfast outdoors we have spotted Winn Dixie across the street: "Proudly serving the southeast since 1925." We cannot resist a visit, acquiring the ingredients for crab rolls and "cheese flavor" grits to tuck in our luggage. You can't beat a good groceteria.
We have our sandqwiches at Caxambas Park Marina, a small boat launch, where we see pelicans, egrets up close and, in the distance, dolphins. Evening meal at Cosmos Ristorante and Pizzeria, 536 Tamiami Trail. A Sardinian restaurant: Calamari starter, Pasta Special (Fettuccine with seafood), Risotto al Salmone. Good for a last night treat but a bit spendy at $83.92 including tip. Walking distance from the hotel so we saved on cab fare and I could enjoy an $8 glass of wine.
Sat 19 March
Depart hotel at 05:20. I have chosen the option to return the car to the airport empty so we are hypermiling just in case. We pass Pelican Landing, Bonita Springs on Hwy 41, turning right at Corkscrew Road. Arrive at airport 06:07 for the flight to the frozen north. The holiday has ended all too soon.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Fares slashed to save UP Express

The inevitable fare reductions on the UP Express Train, linking downtown Toronto to Pearson Airport, come into effect on 9 March 2016. The Globe and Mail has the story. Just as PunchBuggy predicted last July fares have been slashed. The premium service is toast and the scapegoating has started. Uber anyone? They didn't see it coming.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Old dog learns new tricks


Pic by John Lawrence.
One of the highlights of 2015 was kart racing at Downsview, Toronto, at the end of January. Part of a stag night, most of the drivers were less than half my age. I qualified eighth out of nine. Pathetic. I spoke to the pole-sitter about the correct lines to take and determined to drive through the field come race time. I thought some of the others were bound to crash and determined to keep it off the guardrails. The plan worked and I drove through the pack to third place. Not bad for an old git!

Moving on...


On 13th December we took a U-Haul cargo van to Guelph to deliver some furniture, surplus to requirements because we are moving. Near the rental place in Toronto we came across this Jaguar restoration shop:
Pics by RLT.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

IGS tour – part 2

Switzerland
31 JULY: Dresden to Zurich, Swiss Flight LX915, Dep 9:20, Arr 10:45.
My birthday. We took an early 07:00 taxi (Toyota Prius) to Dresden (rhymes with Neasden) airport. This is quiet with few flights. Croissant and baguette breakfast. Short and uneventful flight to Zurich, where you are in the shops before you know it.
Zurich Flughafen to Zurich HB: Train 718 IC, Dep 12:13, Arr 12:23.
Zurich HB to Luzern, TRN 2647, Dep 12:35, Arr 13:25.
Annette forages for snacks while I guard the luggage.
Luzern to Interlaken Ost: Train 2928, Dep 14:05, Arr 15:55.
Climb through the Brünig Mountain Pass, then via Meiringen.
On arrival for six nights at Best Western Bernerhof Hotel, Bahnhofstrasse 16, Interlaken, phone 33 826 7676, incl breakfast. This is adjacent to the Interlaken West railway and bus stations, and convenient for quick getaways. The hotel issues a ‘free’ bus pass for local travel. Birthday supper at Per Bacco, Rugenparkstrasse 2, 3800 Interlaken, near the station, incl Port wine.
It is soon apparent that staying in Interlaken is a mistake – the city is so cosmopolitan that there is little Swiss about it – not at all like a previous visit. We resolve to explore the surrounding villages.
Saturday take the #103 post bus to Iseltwald. Walk by the lake, birds and ducks, then uphill on the Wanderweg. Return by bus to Bönigen, The Edelweiss airship is circling overhead. Back in town we ride the Funiculaire to a picnic on the Wanderweg, enjoying a free bottled beer handed out in town. It is Swiss National Day and there is a parade in the afternoon. Later a beer stop at a wine bar, fireworks.
Sunday we take the bus to Ringgenberg, changing to the train for Brienz, to ride the Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB) to Planalp. We do not go all the way to the top as it is cheaper and less frightening, although the ride through the fluhs is quite hair-raising. This is a rack-railway using the Abt system, our engine being a diesel-fuelled steam engine from 1991, built by SLM Winterthur. At Planalp we walk three minutes to a café, crowded with a hiking grupo, for coffee and peppermint tea. A railway fundi gives us a copy of Dampfblatt, a newsletter for BRB volunteers. Lunch at a lakeside restaurant in Brienz, generally good but charged 3 euro for a glass of tap water. Walz tea room & restaurant & hotel, 3855 Brienz, 42.70 Sfr. Best avoided. Back in Interlaken picnic supper on a bench, followed by Bärner Müntschi beer at Hüsi Bierhaus, not too blokey.
Monday bus ride to Thun. Police posters warning of pickpockets. Shopping for batteries, book. Teashop outdoors at Loeb/Schönholzer’s. Picnic on park bench then walk to the Schloss. Bus to Spiez Hauptbahnhof, walk downhill to the lakeshore, boat ride to Interlaken West on MS Bubenberg, tea and two beer trip, 15.10 euro. Snack supper from Konditorei.
Tueday early bus to Beatenberg, a twenty-minute hair-raising ride into the mountains. Walk back from end of the line to Bel-aire tea room, on the terrasse. Bus back down mountain, switch to the #103 for lunch at the Strandhotel, Iseltwald. Lunch with local Rugenbräu beer and Ramseier Süessmost (Jus de Pomme), 50.60 euro. 13:28 bus back to town. Short bus ride to Unterseen, for the Touristik-Museum-der-Jungfrau-Region. Interesting feature re the first Thomas Cook's Tour of Switzerland, 25 June-16 July 1863.
Wednesday bus #105 to Wilderswil, change to BOB train for Lauterbrunnen. Bought a bike shirt for 50 Sfr. Walk to Staubbachfall, a waterfall which inspired Goethe and Byron. There is nobody about, we have the place to ourselves. In the scramble for the Jungfraujoch the grockles have missed a peach. More ruminations on the nature of mass tourism. Continue on up the valley before hopping bus #141 to the Stechelberg Hotel. Annette enjoys an apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce. Walk back down the valley to Lauterbrunnen, about seven miles in all. Laundry at Thai Restaurant. Supper at Altes Hüsi Bierhaus, burgers and drinks, 39.90 Sfr.
06 AUG: DB ICE 08:05 from Interlaken to Thun (destination Berlin), change for Burgdorf, for pleasant diversion through the Emmenthal. Arriving Burgdorf there is a large 'F bomb' in graffiti on final approach, the station itself lacks name boards, you could be anywhere. Extensive bike racks, coffee at pavement café. Then local train to Bern.
6 Aug to 9 Aug: Wild Rose B & B, Mayweg 7, 3007 Bern, Switzerland +41 31 331 44 72. From Stn #3 tram dir Weissenbühl, 5th stop Beaumont. Lunch in Restaurant Terrasse, Eigerplatz 5; 37.90 Sfr. In evening ride in VW Golf to Restaurant Mänziwilegg, 3068 Utzigen. Spectacular views looking south, with outdoor cowbell chorus.
Next morning we went to find the old Bremgarten motor racing circuit in Bern.
Tram to town then rented bicycles (first four hours free), at Hirschengraben, near the Hauptbahnhof, for the short ride to the old Bremgarten circuit. While the park remains, there was nothing to tell that Grand Prix cars used to race there in the fifties and before WW2. The old circuit has been severed by a motorway and the park seems much more overgrown than in the film.
Return bikes and take #10 bus to the Rosengarten, overlooking the city. Restaurant Rosengarten, Alter Aargauerstalden 318, 3006 Bern. 57 Sfr for two, lunch special outstanding, Felsenau – Mein Berner Bier. To the Altstadt where the Busker Festival features a kids show. Roland Zoss and the Bandidos are singing a song about muesli. Supper at Toscana Ristorante Pizzeria, Seftigenstrasse 27, 3007 Bern.
Next day by car to Gruyères, a cheesy hilltop town, with a French accent (free parking). On the way we visited the La Roche-La Berra hill climb course.
Return via Fribourg, walking in the old town and down a long stairway to the River Aare. Snack lunch at Café Bar Les Falaises, Rue de Neuveville 37; 39.70 Sfr for three. The chatty lady in charge spoke of hard times in the tourist trade.
Back in Bern to the Brocki (thrift store) where I scored a Bodum coffee cup, a Lancia wrench, a Stahlwille socket and a Langnauer Keramik butter dish for Annette, 4 Sfr.
09 AUG: After morning stroll in Bern, DB ICE train dep 13:04, arr 13:59 in Basel.
Steinenschanze Stadthotel, Steinengraben 69, 4051 Basel +41612725353. (#30 bus from Stn.) We stayed here last year and were glad to be back. Last time we failed to see the Rhine River, so we took the #30 bus and walked along the towpath some distance. Tram hopping. Supper at the Stadthof Basel, Gerbergasse 84, 4001 Basel; 72.60 Sfr. Walked back to hotel.
10 AUG: Dep Bern on #30 bus to Hauptbahnhof, change onto #50 bus to airport. Short Lufthansa flight BASEL – FRANKFURT, V LH 1203, Dep 11:05, arr 12:05.
Frankfurt Airport is ghastly – buses, a train, walkways, escalators and miles to walk. (The employees ride bicycles.) Delays. The customs man confiscates my small Lancia wrench, with a sadistic look that only his breed can conjure.
Condor flight FRANKFURT – TORONTO, DE 1060, Dep 14:05, arr 17:05 (9:00h). The passengers in front keep tilting their seats, tipping all my stuff on the floor, including a meal, four times during the flight. YYZ is an utter shambles on arrival – the customs hall being busier than ever. The trip ends badly.