USA Road Trip and Canada!

Canada Holiday – Update 3

 From the USA to Canada

day 20 November was pretty uneventful.  I drove 6-1/2 hours from Nashville, Tennessee to Charlotte, North Carolina.  I had to be in North Carolina by 3.00 pm, so I counted backward and worked out if I left by 7.30 am then I would have at least 90 minutes spare in case I needed or wanted to stop anywhere.  Problem was, I forgot that North Carolina was one hour ahead of Nashville.  That meant that I only had 30 minutes up my sleeve and I used most of that at the first stop for gas and coffee!  But there were no dramas, I got to the airport by 3.30 pm and had no issues dropping the car back and checking in for the flight to Toronto, Canada, eventually arriving at my hotel around 10.00 pm.  And guess what… was snowing when I arrived in Toronto, not heavy but enough to coat the ground in white.

Niagara Falls

I finally got a sleep in, as the bus tour I had booked was not arriving at my hotel until 9.30 am.  Once we got on the road, our first stop was a winery near Niagara on the Lake where we got to sample Icewine.  Icewine is made from frozen grapes harvested directly from the vine in mid-February, when the temperature drops to between -10 and -14.  The grapes for the white icewines is harvested by machine directly from the vines.  The grapes for red icewine have to be harvested by hand and this is done at 3.30 am when the temperature is at its lowest.  They say they only get a drop or two out of each grape and so this is a very expensive wine to make and purchase.  The icewines we tasted were very sweet, which means icewine is usually a dessert wine.


We stopped at Niagara on the Lake for shopping, lunch and ice cream!


On the way from Niagara on the Lake to Niagara Falls we passed Fort George, McFarland House, the Living Water’s Wayside Chapel and the Floral Clock.  Fort George and McFarland House both played a part in the War of 1812.  The Red Coats fought from Fort George and McFarland House was turned into a hospital during the war.  The Wayside Chapel holds the record as the world’s smallest Chapel, and the floral clock actually had quite a few flowers left



Finally, we arrived at Niagara Falls.  WOW!!!  It’s hard to say anything else, as there aren’t many works that can actually describe what you are seeing.


I had booked the boat ride with Hornblower, who took over the contract from Maid of the Mist a few years ago.  Our bus driver told us that Maid of the Mist used to close down at the end of October, while Hornblower stays open until 6 December.  It’s an amazing experience but absolutely freezing cold in late November, especially once you get wet….but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!


The Falls are amazing.  Niagara Falls is actually made up of three separate falls….the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.


After warming up with a hot chocolate it was time for the bus ride back to Toronto, which didn’t seem to take anywhere near as long as the trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls.

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Tuesday I visited Black Creek Pioneer Village.  Some of the original buildings are still standing and other buildings have been brought in from other areas to make the Village.  The old Mill building is still standing, as well as the schoolhouse, church, cemetery and a number of other buildings.  Buildings that have been brought from other areas include the Blacksmith, the doctor’s home/surgery, the printer’s and the Mennonite meeting house.  It was an absolutely freezing day, but I enjoyed wandering around the village and checking out some of the history of this area.


The lady at the doctor’s house told me that in 1954 the area the village is build on actually flooded during a hurricane and so the local government decreed that companies could not build businesses on the land due to the threat of flooding. However, the hurricane that hit in 1954 was apparently an anomaly as the woman told me that they don’t get hurricane’s in Toronto…that was apparently the first and last to hit the area.  The village trust then purchased the additional land and moved some old buildings from other areas in Ontario and created Black Creek Pioneer Village.  It was a good way to spend the day.


Toronto Downtown

Today I checked out of the hotel, took the shuttle to the airport and left my luggage in storage at the airport before taking the train downtown.  From Union Station I took the Skywalk to the CN Tower and checked in to the 360 degree restaurant where I had some pretty good views of the surrounding area.  They say on a clear day you can actually see Niagara Falls from CN Tower.  However, today there was a lot of cloud cover and it was pretty hazy in the distance.  The restaurant rotates 360 degrees in 72 minutes.  I think I got about two thirds of the way around by the time I finished my lunch.  I then headed downstairs to the Observation Deck and then another floor down to the glass floor.



After a bit of wandering around and a quick visit to Eaton Shopping Centre I took the UP train back to the airport and am now on a plane headed from Toronto to Calgary.  The flight to Calgary will take around 4 hours and 17 minutes.  After a layover in Calgary we head to Sydney.  The entire trip from the time we left Toronto until we land in Sydney will take 20 hours and 38 minutes!

Looking forward to being home and sleeping my own bed after 4 week of travelling, but it’s going to be hard to do all my own cooking, washing up, make my own bed, etc.

Hopefully I will get a chance to catch up with some of you but please tell me if you’re not interested in checking out any of the more than 8,450 photographs I took during this trip.




USA Holiday – Update 2

St Louis, Missouri

I arrived in St Louis on Wednesday evening, a little later than anticipated because I made an unscheduled stop at Santa Claus, Indiana.  I stayed with Paula and Jim Murphy and they were absolutely wonderful in not just showing me hospitality but also in looking after me and ensuring I had a great time!

Jim and I have been Facebook friends since 2007.  He started a Facebook group called Big Mac Land and being a Cardinals fan, I liked the group.  When a Cardinals player hit a home run into Big Mac Land, all members were offered a coupon for a ‘free’ Big Mac.  Jim sent me a message asking which McDonalds I wanted my voucher for and I asked him if the vouchers were good for Sydney, Australia.  Unfortunately, they weren’t, but Jim and I stayed in contact and since I can’t use the 2 Cardinals tickets I get each year as part of my Cardinals Nation membership, I send my tickets to Jim and if he isn’t able to use them, then he passes them on to someone else.

Thursday morning I spent a few, almost quiet, hours at Powder Valley Nature Reserve.  This was only a five minute drive from Paula & Jim’s house.  I spent some time looking around the information area, found a quiet spot to drink my coffee and finish my first update, then took the 1/3 mile hike along the Tanglevine Trail to look for wildlife and take some photographs.  Unfortunately, there were far too many people around and no wildlife.  There were quite a few grandparents entertaining noisy grandchildren and yelling at them not to get too far in front.  There were school groups on day excursions…..and of course there were young mothers decked out in the latest active wear, with their babies strapped to their fronts or pushing prams as they got in their daily exercise!  I did, however, see one squirrel and a few birds.


From Power Valley I decided to try and find somewhere for lunch.  After my GPS system took me to a totally different address, I decided I might as well just head downtown to the Arch and would find somewhere to eat there.  I decided to park at Forest Park and take the Metro, which worked out to be fairly simple, until it was time to collect the car and head back to Kirkwood (but more about that later).

When I got downtown I headed toward the Arch and bought a ticket to the top at the ticket office in the old courthouse building.  I bought my ticket at 1.20 pm and my ride to the top was at 1.50 pm so I decided it was best to head straight to the Arch as there is a lot of construction work currently going on in downtown St Louis.

What am amazing experience!  The ride to the top of the Arch only takes around 4 minutes, but you have to see the ‘tram’ cars to believe them.  When you buy your ticket they ask you if you are claustrophobic and after being in one of those tram cars twice (once up and once back down), I can surely understand why the ask that question!  To say these tram cars are small is an understatement.  They have 5 seats in them and I could not sit up straight as I kept hitting my head on the roof.  The woman who rode up in the car with me said her husband would be very proud of her when he found she had gone to the top of the arch as she doesn’t like small spaces…..Umm, I’m pretty sure that what claustrophobia means lady!!!  Well, we made it to the top without any issues.  However, I’m not sure what happened with her on the way down as she didn’t stay at the top very long.


By the time I had taken enough photographs to make a book about the view from the Arch, the wind had picked up a little and the Arch began to sway.  That was fun!  As I made my way bsck down, I was put in a tram car with a husband and wife.  We were sitting in the car waiting for the doors to close and you could feel the Arch swaying.  The wife decided to voice her opinion that she didn’t like the feel of the swaying.  The husband laughed and said it was fun – if looks could kill!  My response was ever so pragmatic, “You’ll be down in 3 minutes”.  Well, it would be 3 minutes once the doors closed. J

After getting down I spent some time looking around the gift shop trying to decide what I wanted to buy and who I should buy for, before making my way back to the Metro station to start the journey back to Kirkwood.  I didn’t have long to wait for the Metro and things were going along swimmingly as I made my way back to the car and entered the address into the GPS.  That’s when things started to go a bit crazy!  A trip that should have taken around 22 minutes ended up taking me almost 40 minutes.  That stupid GPS woman would tell me to tiurn one way and then tell me I had gone the wrong way and needed to do a u-turn, then after I did the u-turn she would tell me I had gone the wrong way and needed to turn around and go the way I had originally been going.  By the time I got back on the right road, I had wasted almost 15 minutes going round and round in circles.  But I did eventually make it back to Paula and Jim’s in time for dinner.

Friday morning Jim had scheduled a tour of Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals baseball team play all their home games – 82 of them each year!  This time I decided to drive all the way downtown and I parked in the Baseball Village carpark.  I was early, so I wandered for a it.  Unfortunately, by the time I got to the Stan Musial statue where Jim and I were to meet the change in weather they had forecast had finally arrived….and with it came the rain.  At least the tour was inside.


The tour was amazing.  Our tour guide’s name was John and he had so many stories to tell, not just about the history of the ball park and the Cardinals organisation, but about players as well.  John told us a story about one of the former owners of the Cafrdinals, Gus Busch.  Apparently, one year at Spring Training, not long after he had purchased the St Louis Cardinals, he invited all the team to dinner at the hotel where he was staying.  There was one African-American on the team at the time and he told Gus Busch that we wouldn’t be able to attend dinner at the hotel.  When asked why, he explained to Gus that he was not welcome at the particular hotel.  The next day Gus told him he would see him at dinner that night with the rest of the team.  The player again explained to Gus that he was not welcome at that particular hotel.  Gus turned around and told him that he would always be welcome at that particular hotel as he had just bought it.

John also made the tour fun with his jokes (they were like dad jokes and not really funny, but the way he told them you couldn’t help but laugh).  We got to visit the Cardinals dugout and sit where so many Cardinal players have sat in the 10 years the stadium has been opened.  Unfortunately, we were not able to go onto the field as they were preparing it for new grass.  Apparently Sir Paul McCartney did a concert there a while back and those Beatle fans made such a mess of the grass it had to be dug up and will be replaced over the coming weeks.  Sir Paul McCartney has a lot to answer for in John’s opinion! J


After the stadium tour, we went over the Hall of Fame and Museum.  The Hall of Fame isn’t very big as it’s only been going a few years and so there have not been many players inducted yet.  The museum itself was very interesting, showing the changes in Cardinal baseball over the years.  Jim had to go back to work, so I finished looking around the museum, pretended to call a couple of baseball plays in the booth and then headed downstairs to eat lunch.

It was a long day finished off by Paula’s parents taking Jim and myself out to dinner.  They are amazing.  Caroline and David are both in their 80’s and last year visited Australia as their son lives in the Melbourne area with his family.  This year the family is coming to the US for a holiday so Caroline, Paula and Mia (Paula & Jim’s daughter) will fly to Las Vegas to visit with them.

It’s been an enjoyable few days in St Louis with some very wonderful people but tomorrow it’s time to head to Nashville!





Update 1

Dollywood and the Dixie Stampede

 Today was the first ‘official’ day of my holiday, although I did kind of have a half day yesterday when I drove from The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina to Lexington, Kentucky….and I also had Saturday when I drove from Charlotte, North Carolina to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and went to Dollywood and the Dixie Stampede…..and what an amazing day that was.

For $65 (US) I saw four live stage shows, including a musical version of the Jimmy Stewart movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  I also saw a Gospel quartet, The Kingdom Heirs, a bluegrass group who sang Christmas songs and a show called ‘My People’, which was a story of Dolly Parton’s life and included one of her brothers, two of her nieces and two of her cousins.  They sang some of Dolly’s songs and told stories about her growing up.  Dolly appeared in the show through a DVD recording.  I know a lot of people back home thought I was a bit strange going to Dollywood, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely go again as I only saw a fraction of what I wanted to see….there were a number of other Christmas plays and groups I wanted to see, but I just didn’t have the time!


The Dixie Stampede was a good night as well.  It started with pre-show entertainment and followed up with some amazing food and good horseback riding, races, storybook songs and a dramatization of Christ’s birth.


Boone and Asheville

Sunday I drove to Boone, North Carolina and spent Monday at the Samaritan’s Purse offices and then drove to The Cove on Tuesday morning where I spent the morning with Middy Bower who showed me around the premises.  I saw my first wildlife (if you don’t count the squirrel I saw at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte the previous week!).  I also spoke with Will Graham, who promised me wild turkeys and maybe a bear or two….I didn’t see either! L


After lunch with Middy I began the drive to Lexington, Kentucky where I spent the night before heading out on the long trip to St Louis on Wednesday morning.


From Lexington I drove to Frankfort through the early morning mist.  Frankfort is the Kentucky state capital.  I decided to drive in to Frankfort so that I could go to the cemetery and visit the gravesite of Daniel Boone.  While I was there, I had my second deer sighting.  Problem was, the deer ran right past me before I realised what it was and so I only got shots of it running away from me.  It did stop at one point and look back at me, but by the time I had raised the camera to take a photo, it had taken off again.


From Frankfort I headed off to Louisville, Kentucky to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum.  The scenery along all my drives has been amazing.  The colours or red, green, yellow and orange mix together to make some amazing photographs.  Unfortunately, driving along interstate freeways and highways there are not many places to stop and take photographs and there are signs all along the roads saying ‘emergency stopping only’, so it leaves little opportunity for taking photographs.  There was one amazing cloud shot yesterday as I was nearing St Louis and the sun was setting.  The cloud formation looked like Chewbacca from the Star Wars movies – honestly!  Unfortunately, by the time I came to a spot where I could take a photograph the trees around the rest area were blocking the view.

Anyway, I digress.  The Louisville Slugger Museum was amazing.  I had the opportunity to hold a game used by belonging to Albert Pujols, who used to play for the St Louis Cardinals but now plays for the Anaheim Angels (his loss!).  I saw how they used to make all baseball bats by hand and how they are now made by machines using die casts, as well as how they put the logos on the bats.  Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the workshop but we were able to take photographs in the museum area.


From Louisville it should have been a straightforward drive to St Louis, with the GPS system advising me I was due to arrive around 3.50 pm.  However, Jim and Paula (the friends I am staying with) would not be home until around 5.30 pm so I figured I could always stop in downtown St Louis and visit the Arch or something.  However, as I was driving through Indiana I saw a sign on the highway advertising Santa’s Toy Shop at a placed called Santa Claus, Indiana.  Emma at work loves Christmas, so I figured if it wasn’t too far of the main highway it might be fun to get a few photographs.  Well, I ended up spending more than an hour there looking through the Ornament Shop and didn’t even get to the Toy Shop.  I did however, get some great gifts for a few people for Christmas!


I finally arrived in downtown St Louis around 5.25 pm and the 12 minute drive to Jim and Paula’s house took around 30 minutes as I hit traffic heading home from work.  It was a long day but a very enjoyable day!

Looking forward to spending the next few days in one place before heading off to Nashville on Saturday morning!