Travel Journal

Rock and roll baby, pedal pedal pedal, cheese, spam, jolly green giant, corn,washed out campsite, calamity jane & air rifles

(Monday 21 May 2012) by Karen O'Shea
This is a long blog…..so grab a cuppa….


Start of my northern tour from New York back to Los Angeles via Canada.

Another 4 weeks of camping……I’m an old hand at this stage!!!! There were 12 of us who started out in LA 5 weeks ago and now there were only 6 of us remaining to do this tour. Thought some more people would join us but apparently no one in their right mind is crazy enough to do this tour at this time of year!!! Just as well I’m not alone than!!!!!:-):-)


Niagara falls New York

I was expecting Niagara Falls to be in a valley in the middle of a green area. But in fact it is a town between the US and Canada. It was wonderful. The whole noise of it all was so powerful and quite mesmerizing. We took a boat out to the falls and got completely soaked along the way, but well worth it. I mean you can’t come to Niagara Falls and go home dry…..what’s that about? Saw the most amazing sunset at our campground at 4 mile creek. We were camping next to lake Ontario, ah just thinking back it was so amazing.:-)


Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame (Cleveland Ohio)

This was such an interesting museum all about the roots of r’n’r and who were the big influences. Looking at all the memorable was awesome, from Jim Morrison’s school report, to u2’s first poster to James brown’s jump suits. All great to see.

I rang my aunt Margaret today, she lives in Vermont and has done for over 50 years. It was great to speak to her. I found it sweet after living here for the majority of her life she still refers to Ireland as home. Anyway to all the O’Shea’s she and her family are in great form and were asking for ye all.

Chicago (Illinois)

On our way to Chicago we drove through the state of Michigan. It was so scenic. Real country communities. Full of timber houses with big red and white timber barns. We even came across an Amish community which was really great to witness. Didn’t want to be gaping at these folk as they are quite private, just going about their business. But it was great to see, the school kids on their way to school on a horse and cart all fully covered from head to toe.

Eventually arrived in the windy city. And yes it lived up to its name it even rained too. Saw some great blues band in the Kingston mines. Pretty awesome. I was hoping to meet terry my cousin here but it never came about as I wasn’t here for long and was trying to pack as much in as I could.:-)

The following day we went on a 4 and a hafl bike tour of the city. I was on a tandem bike with an Austrian girl Suzy from our tour. Oh guys…………It was the best laugh ever. I had never did tandem and thought why not Chicago………..it’s a good a place as any!!! For the whole duration we laughed all the way. We scooted our way in and out of traffic. A bit freaky driving on the right side of the road though. It’s so weird riding on the back of the tandem; you have no control what so ever. And we had lots of mis communication between myself and the Austrian, she would shout pedal, right leg, left leg, no pedal and stop…………..and hello she had the break leavers…..:-):-)

We saw a good lot of the city and the weather was perfect no wind. Took in the sights of millennium park, wrigley field home of the cubs baseball team. Later on that evening instead of paying to go up the Willis tower we went up the John Hancock building for free so long as you bought a drink on the bar on the top floor……………..the views were amazing. Seeing all the lights turn on in the city was pretty cool. I liked Chicago a lot and would have maybe a little more time there.


Chicago to Jackson Minnesota

Some of the drives we do are quite long but the scenery is amazing and we always stop off somewhere interesting along the way. This morning for a quick coffee stop we pulled up at “the cheese firework & gifts service station”, yeah you read it right folks.
I couldn’t wait to go in and I so wasn’t disappointed. It was a deli, service station, gift shop..(lots of cheese gifts from cheese beer holders to cheese hats…you name it they had it), and the fireworks my god so many and obviously so legal here. I love these kind of shops where your not certain what your going to find. Another shop we visited a few days back in new York sold beer, north face clothing, toys and a load of wigs…!!!!:-)

Next stop was in Austin Minnesota to visit the home of SPAM. This is where that little tin of spam we have mocked originated from. They have built a whole museum dedicated to it. What made me laugh so much about this museum is how so proud of spam they are. You could buy anything in the gift shop spam track suits, spam cups, spam plasters, spam jigsaw and of course spam itself. Apparently in the day when spam was being promoted there was no TV and radio adverts were expensive, how they promoted it was they had girls that’s travelled around the country who sang and danced on stage, they promoted the spam. So from now on folks when in Tesco’s and you pass the shelf with spam on it……….RESPECT THE SPAM!!!!!!!;-);-)

Sticking with the theme of food we stopped off in another place in Minnesota which is home to the green giant. You know the tune from the advert on the TV. Well this is his home and in his honour the locals have built a 50 foot statue of him looking over the town.


Jackson Minnesota to Badlands South Dakota

Still on the food museum thing what better way to start the day than a visit to “The corn palace” the corniest town in America. Yeah a whole museum dedicated to CORN. Love it! Only the american’s could pull this off. Actually to be honest the murals made from corn were amazing truly awesome.
Speaking of only in America I went into Wal-Mart (our equivalent to Tesco but Wal-Mart is much more interesting)I arrived up to the till with 2 cases of Heineken and a bb gun (air gun), and we just talk about the weather as if this is such a normal purchase……………well I supposed it is in the states.:-)

As it was Hannah’s birthday we stopped off at a saloon in the middle of a small town where beer during happy hour is 50 ct……………(I love America). So a pitcher was 2 dollars……………..talk about giving it away. ;-)

Later on when we reached badlands we went for a small hike. Haven’t hiked in ages as all our stops have cities. The views along the way were pretty spectacular. Well worth the hike. That night at the campsite a few of us decided to sleep out as there was only a 30% chance of rain……………..(so glad I’m not really a big gambler)…..all was fine until 2 a.m. when the skies just started bucketing down…….mayday..mayday..storm the tent and wake everyone else up along the way!!!!!!

Ah man the weather that night was unreal. Heavy rain, wind, thunder and lighting and hail the size of golf balls (the size of golf balls I was told as I couldn’t and wouldn’t poke my head out the door). It kept going for most of the night it was so loud so surprised the tent stayed standing but that it did. I must say I did enjoy the weather I have never been so close to it before. Got a good buzz out of it I must admit.


Badlands to Deadwood South Dakota

As we were cold and hungry our first stop this morning was in a place called wall which is “the home of wall drug”. For the last 350 miles we came across 72 bill boards advertising wall drug. “Wall drug, coffee 5 ct a must see”, “wall drug as told by America”, “wall drug spells fun”, “it’s waiting for you- T Rex Wall drug”. So from the signs I really didn’t know what was waiting for us but we had to go there. When we got there it was just a street it reminded me of a movie set. Wall drug was massive it was a coffee shop, gift shop, museum and amusement place. It was so funny they had a gorilla playing the piano. A T rex that made noises every so often. Wall drug did start off as a pharmacy and just expanded through the years. Must get onto the kildysart about the 5 ct coffees…..;-)


Mount Rushmore

I really had been so looking forward to seeing Mount Rushmore. Its where the presidents faces are carved into stone. It is such an iconic American symbol. I wasn’t disappointed. It was such a big task to undertake back in the day. Some amount of with into the building of it.

A few miles down the road there is another sculpture being carved into the mountain side. It’s called the crazy horse memorial and it is the largest in the world. It still is a work in progress. When it is complete it will be of crazy horse who was a native American, sitting on his horse pointing to mount Rushmore. It will be amazing when it is done. One man started it in the 70’s and his family carried it one when he passed away. They have refused all government funding as they were afraid it would be put on the long finger and never finished. So they just rely on donations which I think is pretty cool this day and age.


Deadwood South Dakota

What a great little town. Real American country town. Full of wooden shop fronts and houses and saloons. It was where wild bill Hancock was murdered at a poker table. (FYI his hand was 8’s and Ace’s ) we saw his grave and calamity Jane’s.


Deadwood to thermonopolis Wyoming

What is in thermonopolis you say absolutely nothing except 3 natural hot springs. Which when your camping is like an oasis in the desert. I slept outside under the stars, it was a little cold in the early hours but bearable. Was wearing thermals, track pants, t shirt, funky wooly jumper from Kathy’s thrift store, hoodie, hat, socks and 2 sleeping bags. God there is such preparation in getting ready for bed, looking forward to getting home and just getting under the duvet, end of preparation…lol;-);-)

Earlier on that day we stopped off for lunch at a frozen lake. We always stop at the side of the road for lunch and eat from our coolers. Anyway got to use my bb gun, oh I was so happy out. There was no one around and it wasn’t in a national park and hell it was legal so why not??????


Yellowstone national park Wyoming

I have been in so many national parks but the top of the crop are Grand Canyon np, Yellowstone np and Yosemite np. Oh my it so beautiful here. There is still snow about and it just adds to the place. Warmish by day but drops quite a bit at night. saw some spectacular scenery rivers, geezers, waterfalls and mountains.

Devon our tour leader had been here before and told us not to hold out too much hope to see bears. There are signs everywhere on what to do if you come across bears. We had to make our tents bear proof as in any food or toiletries put them into the locked trailer, so not to draw the bears to the campsite. I did find this quite exciting. Anyway it turned out to be the most successful day wildlife watching.

Saw coyotes, osprey, yellow billed marmot, bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, elks…………….and wait for it the most rewarding of all…….. got to see 5 bears,…….3 black bears and 2 grizzly bears. Whow it was amazing. Really breath taking. The grizzly bears are so big. Zooming in you could see their shoulders and faces……….whow!!! Never seen anything like it before, it was great to see them in the real wild not on TV and not in a zoo…………awesome.:-):-)

All the animals roam wild here on the mountains on the roads. The can literally walk out in front of the car and cause a bison jam. Got to hike another mountain today bunson peak. It was over 9000 feet high. It was a great hike, was covered in snow so there was so much more to deal with than just normal hiking. The top of the trail was closed cause it was so dangerous but we soldiered on. I would have been so disappointed after all the hardship and sweat and falls if we had not reached it. But we did and it felt good. The views were amazing.

Lunch today was so hilarious. We stopped off in the part where it said picnic area. Got all our containers out and our table set up. There were a bison near us just chewing away on the grass….shoving a little closer but really minding his own business…..or so we thought. Kept eye balling him as he shoved closer and closer until we had to drop everything and retreat. He just walked right past our table, thought he would tackle the food box but he just walked on by. It was so funny, people were even filming us. Anyway we sat back down to resume lunch only for the same bison and a few of his mates to come back over our way again……………didn’t have to retreat this time.

It really was the best time of the year to go to Yellowstone. The weather was warmish. The scenery especially the snow made it just epic. And also there were no traffic jams on the road, we had room to maneuver.


Glacier National park Montana (state no 28 on my trek across America….)

Stayed in a lodge for these two nights as it was supposed to snow. It did on and off for a while but nothing major. The temp did drop to about -6 ish during the night. But didn’t bother us as we were well in doors. We attempted to do two hikes but one was closed due to bear activity. I love it they let you walk about half a km and then they put the sign up. Not at the start of the trail.

The second hike we just started and Devon came shouting that he spotted three grizzly bears. So we abandoned that hike hopped in the van and watched the three grizzlies on the mountain. Again it was spectacular. We watched them for ages walking along the mountain. I should say walking down the mountain. I opened a packed of crisps as I was a little peckish with all the bear hunting……… didn’t realize their sense of smell was so good. You could see them smelling the air as our window was open. They came pretty close to us and than just walked down the road. Awesome. And Amazing and really indescribable.

We were so spoiled for choice with the amount of animals we saw over the last number of days. I mean some people go there just to see bears and never do. Our hopes weren’t high and in the end we couldn’t have asked for anything better….it was just un top able.;-);-);-);-);-)

The time is so flying by here. I have only three weeks left between Canada and America and my return. And as I am sure they will be awesome just like the last 28 weeks…

sorry no photos at this moment as the connection is slow....later y'all

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