On The Road Canada – Day 11 -13: St. Lawrence River, New Brunswick

Day 11

I watched the sun come up this morning over the St. Lawrence River. It was 5:00am here when that event occurred.  It turns out that the bed in our little motel room just proved to be too hard for my bursitis, so I spent most of the night in a chair waiting for the aforementioned event. It was worth it. The only other person arousing at that hour was a lonely fisherman. I watched him for about ten minutes. He didn’t catch any fish, but I don’t suspect that was the true reason he was out there. I think he, like me, just wanted to savor his surroundings.

Given all this time to think I have pretty much decided to forsake the two to three day trip around the peninsula and just head over to Nova Scotia instead.  That is if I can convince my wife. She seems to have veto power over almost everything I do now days.  But, since she seems to be sleeping pretty soundly right now I will have to wait to pose that alternative route.  I think I would rather spend a few days in a row at one place in the maritime providences than another day in French Quebec.

My wife says I am fixated on it, but I just can’t seem to get over the seeming arrogance of the French-speaking Canadians. As I said before, everywhere we went in Ontario, and I expect everywhere we will go in New Brunswick we will see dual English/French signs, menus and about everything else. But in French Canada there is almost nothing in English here.   While it would be nice to go to some local museums we have come across I’m pretty sure there would be nothing in English for us there so what would be the point. It just seems hospitable if you are surrounded by people speaking another language you would provide basic things in their language as well as your own.

Day 12

It seems every day in our visit to Canada is not without its challenges. But, then again that is what makes life interesting, I guess.  It is kind of like in 1987 during our first vacation as a married couple I lost my wife in a Walmart store in Bozeman Montana. I don’t remember too many other details about that vacation, but I do remember searching for my new bride for over an hour before I found her. But that is a story, so I will get back on track.

We are now in a small motel room in Riviere-Tois-Pistoles. It is a very small town about 200 km north from Quebec (don’t ask how many miles that is as I have yet to figure that out). It is a pretty crude but clean room. The sign above the small sink says don’t drink the water. The motel is off the main road going into town and about a 1/2 mile down a gravel road. There is no a/c or TV, but that is ok. What makes this room so special is its location; it is about 50 ft from the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River. And believe it or not it has wireless internet access, at least up close to the office. The picture here is of a young fellow dipping his feet in the St. Lawrence, which I also plan on doing before we leave in the morning.

Riviere-Tois-Pistoles doesn’t have a restaurant, but it does have a small store that is pretty well-stocked with cheese and such, so that is where we went to get our supplies for supper tonight. I think eating in the view from the picnic table where we will dine will be much more pleasurable than the food and that is how it should be.  It was in the upper 80s when we left Quebec but right now it is in the upper 60s with the wind blowing off the River which is probably a mile wide here. I guess I will have to haul out a warmer jacket from the luggage to keep warm.

But now on to the challenges for the day. We are taking Quebec Highway 132, which is a two lane road that goes all the way to the mouth of the river. It will take about two more days to get around before we come back down into Nova Scotia. During our first 200 km of travel we have only come across two small pull-offs where you could stop and take in the St. Lawrence view. One of the difficulties is that for the most part all the land that adjoins the St. Lawrence seems to be in private hands. But we did find the secret to alleviating that problem and that is to seek out the Catholic Church in each town; they are usually against the river, so their parking lots make excellent viewing stands.  But there are no restrooms there, so we have to stop again later for my wife’s frequent necessity stops.

The last challenge for the day was when we stopped for a late lunch. We went to a chicken place called Saint Ambien, I think (by the way almost everything in Quebec Canada is named Saint something.) We ordered from the counter and then went to a table to wait for our food. A few minutes later they said our food was ready, but we couldn’t eat it at the tables we were sitting at as we ordered our food from the “Rapide” counter. We tried to explain that we had no idea there was any difference about where we ordered but they at least feigned understanding of English. Except for one, all the tables in the room were empty, but they insisted that we could not eat our food there.  The apparent manager of the place came out and told us again that we ordered from the take-out counter, so we had to eat our food outside in the parking lot!  As usual my wife took this much more calmly than I did even though she deemed her chicken uneatable because it wasn’t cooked enough for her.

Anyway here we are with our nerves settling down and getting ready for the challenges of tomorrow.  I want to include one final picture in this unusually long post (sorry about that). I will undoubtedly be taking many more as the sun sets over the river.

Day 13

Here we are at the end of day 12 of our Canadian adventure, and we are now in New Brunswick Canada. As I had hoped my wife agreed to skip the rest of the peninsula route and to move on to another English-speaking province.  Coping with french only was becoming tiring to me and apparently to her also.  We drove about 350 km today to get to Campbellton New  Brunswick which is the gateway to the rest of our trip. I’m sure the New Brunswick folk don’t consider themselves a gateway but many vacationers probably do.

Tomorrow we will see an historical site that has been restored around the Acadian history. From the literature it looks like a Williamsburg type event.  I am looking forward to it with great anticipation. Since we were on the road for the most part of the day no unexpected events happened.  We even managed to find a pretty good restaurant that allowed us to eat our lunch at a table inside. But, of course, it was located in English-speaking New Brunswick. 🙂

On The Road Canada: Day 10 – Old Quebec

This is day 10 of our Canadian adventure and we in Old Quebec. That is the last major city we will see in Canada. While Old Quebec was much more enjoyable than Montreal it was still a hectic time. But we did find the major stopping point we were looking for and that was Place Royale. It was part of the very old Quebec that has been completely restored back to its 1600s roots. That is except for the 21st century add-ons. Above is a picture of the main square in that area. We didn’t even attempt to get into the “new” Quebec, But I will grudgingly admit that I enjoyed the old town for the four hours we spent there.

It was a very festive place as shown in the picture gallery below. The painted murals on the walls were of the magnitude and beauty I have never encountered. I ended up spending quite some time just trying to take in the details. Even though I could not hear them the various musicians around the square were a pleasure to watch. I am certainly glad we didn’t write off this portion of the trip.

Of course this area is adjacent to the St. Lawrence River as it was the river was a major highway in its time. There were lots of nice restaurants and shops in the area, so I had trouble keeping my wife out of some of them. But, it ends up I was the one to spend for a major item which was a unique jacket. We found a parking space relatively close to the area and after plugging in about $10 worth of coins we got an hour and a half on the meter.

I made sure that I got a few pictures of the young french ladies in the area. I watched the one in the picture here put up her hair on top her head and as a result found that they follow the French in more ways than I thought. When she raised her arms to set her hair she revealed a full crop of hair under her arms. I knew Europeans don’t shave their armpits, but I was surprised to see the French Canadians don’t either. 😉

The next few weeks are bound to be less hectic than the previous one as we will not likely see another city exceeding 10,000 people during all that time. We plan on taking the local highway that runs right next to the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic for about 400 miles or so. When we find a really nice place with the scenic views that my wife relishes we will likely stay for a few days to recharge our  batteries.

I want to close out this report with more pictures of Old Quebec. It was a very picturesque place that I’m glad we visited. Click on any picture below to see a larger slideshow version.

On The Road Canada: Day 8 – 9 – Thoughts, Montreal, Quebec, Sunday Morning

A unique site at the Canada Agriculture Museum.

I guess I must tell you up front that this trip was taken in 2011. That was a time in the infancy of GPS map apps so that explains all the problems when we used Google Maps for guidance. Things have changed drastically since those early years.

Day 8 – Canada Agricultural Museum & On The Road To Montreal

Here I am sitting in our hotel room on a Sunday morning blogging again. Somewhere along my long life path I became a morning person; I do my best thinking then. It would be nice to read a paper, I mean the actual paper kind, that just seems to be more soothing for Sundays but since I could only discover the French version that isn’t happening. I’m looking out the window at a twelve lane road that goes Montreal, and it is hard to believe that it really is Sunday morning. Wait a minute I had better check on the date; yeah it is Sunday 😉

But first some morning thoughts about the only French Province in the western hemisphere. But, first I think we need a little geography lesson. As shown on the map above Ottawa is on the very tiny sliver of the Ontario Province. Up to now we have been almost a week in Ontario and things will change pretty drastically when we move just a few miles north this morning.

For one thing the French insist on French language signs everywhere in Canada but go into their Province and you will find few English signs there. They are kinda like the Republicans in the US. They want everything their way but don’t expect anything in return. Maybe I shouldn’t get political with my on-the-road reports, but the thought just hit me and I had to put it down.

Anyway I had better get moving now and get the beard shaved and shower taken so we can hit the road.  Oh just one more difference we have discovered in Canada, they don’t offer free breakfasts here or anything else free for that matter.

Yesterday decided to go into Montreal today and do a dash-in, dash-out approach.  But before we do that we want to see the Canada Agricultural Museum. We don’t want to spend our entire vacations in the big cities. The purpose of this trip was to travel along the St. Lawrence seaway and visit Nova Scotia; that is country stuff not city stuff.

They had the mandatory cows, pigs and chicken on display but what made the time so special was the creativity and uniqueness of the place. The first thing to greet us was a windmill like no other I have ever seen. Being an old farm boy I can’t say that the museum was very educational, but it was a nice place to visit and unwind from our more hectic experiences of the last few days.

Here is a small photo collection:

Jumping across into the Quebec Province

After leaving the museum I anticipated that since it was Sunday our quick trip through Montreal would be a leisurely one. I was so WRONG!!   We did get to the two Montreal sites on our agenda today, but it took almost four hours, instead of the expected two hours driving to accomplish that!  At first, I decided to try to navigate using  just the atlas. I found Mont Royal on the map and after a few misdirected turns and about 45 minutes of bumper to bumper traffic we were at that location. The trouble was that it was not “Parc du” Mont Royal. So, after admitting I couldn’t get us there (it takes a lot of gumption for us guys to admit to something like that) we turned the task over to Google Maps.  It ends up we only missed our destination by about eight miles.

We were then directed by Google maps through several streets and told to turn left which would have been the wrong way on a one-way street several times. After re-routing and taking about a half hour to go the required 8 miles we finally arrived. The view of the city was everything we thought it would be. There is a picture of it here. It was about a half mile walk from the parking lot to the site on this sunny 90 degree day. Yeah, I guess it gets up to 90 degrees F in Canada too.

After the Parc du Mont Royal we decided to try to see the Olympic complex here.  That was the one for the 1976 Olympics, I think.  My manhood was too fragile to take another serious hit, so we let OnStar take us there. As usual there were several misdirected turns and about an hour of driving, but we did get there. We turned into the visitor parking area and were told the parking would be $13. That seemed pretty high but since we had suffered all the near collisions with the crazy french drivers we paid the price.  As usual there were no elevators there for us senior citizens, so it was up a few steep stairs and finally to the big pylon that hung over the complex. It was pretty neat, but it does show its 40 years of age.  We planned to go up to the top but for that, they charged another $20 apiece, so we skipped that.  We did get into the sports area without paying any extra. It was smaller than it looked on the outside.

Anyway after four hours of fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic we decided we had seen enough of Montreal and headed north. We are now in Trois -Rivieres just south of Quebec. If we can get some of our unsettled nerves calmed down we will try a short hop in to Quebec tomorrow and then it is on to the St. Lawrence seaway up to Nova Scotia.  I don’t anticipate that there will be much of a traffic problem  up there but since I was so wrong about Montreal who knows.

Day 9 – Quebec – Parlez vous français?

Here it is at the end of day nine, and we are now fully immersed into the providence of Quebec.  It seems that everywhere we went in Ontario there was always an English sign followed by one in French.  Now that we are in Quebec the English signs have all but disappeared?  When we checked into the hotel for the night close to Montreal we did have English-speaking front desk person. That was a relief since we spent almost 4 hours going the 100 or so miles we drove today. Half of that time was trying to find a hotel for the night. 🙂

There are immediately several different things we have come across in the French speaking area. One is that the highway interchanges are much farther apart than we have yet encountered. If you want to get off at a major road you must plan well ahead or end up back tracking several miles as you accidentally pass it by.  The other obvious difference is that Google Maps, which I use through my smartphone, is just not very accurate in this area.  I found a Holiday Inn near Quebec City on the phone at the next interchange. When we got off, we followed the directions given on the active map and ended up by a concrete making establishment. No hotel in sight.

When we did finally get to where we are now staying we got off the highway and saw the hotel but couldn’t find a way to get there. Every road we tried ended up going someplace else! After four attempts we finally found the correct path and got checked in.  Now on to the final obvious difference for today. When we got to the room it was fairly well equipped suite with a TV in two rooms. But both of the TVs had the closed captioning buttons diverted to go to the hotel information. The people there seemed oblivious to know what closed captioning was or what it was for.  Since it was supposed to be a day for us to relax today we didn’t feel like doing that battle so I will settle down tonight with cruising the internet, blogging, and reading my Kindle books.  It is probably better that way anyway.

With all the experiences of today we are thinking of just skipping Quebec City entirely and heading for the St. Lawrence seaway instead. Needless to say I am not too impressed with the only French speaking area of North America. But maybe that will change. I’ll let you know how that turns out tomorrow.

On-The-Road Canada: Day 4-7 Ottawa

Day 4

We went to the Canada Science and Technology Museum before trying to check into our hotel. They had a lot of neat exhibits there and a wall of fame that had about thirty pictures and related bios there. I recognized a few, but not many, names on that wall. Of course one thing they did invent here was the snowmobile. Here is a picture of one of the first ones. They claim Alexander Graham Bell as their own; I think he was born in Canada but spent most of his life in the U.S.   Anyway the museum proudly presented the accomplishments Canadians have had in science.

After the museum we were off to our hotel.  I got a really good rate at a premium hotel on-line, but it proved to be a pretty old hotel with pretty a poor Internet connection. We will be moving to another place tomorrow.

Since we are downtown among all the historic stuff we will be doing most of our touring on foot tomorrow. We will be staying here for a couple of days before heading north. We haven’t decided whether we will go to either Montreal or Quebec, or maybe both, from here. I guess that will be decided tomorrow.

Some Initial Observations…

I know I have only been in Canada for four days now, but I am ready to come to at least one conclusion. That conclusion is that Canada is not famous for food.  Maybe they just take the “eat to live” mentality pretty seriously here. We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner last night and that, along with most of my previous meals here, was the basis for this observation. When we sat down we were given the usual salsa and chips, but the salsa was really nothing more that diced tomatoes. There was no cilantro, jalapeño, onion, or anything else included. It was just chopped up tomatoes. When I told the waiter, I would like something with a little kick in the salsa he managed to find a bottle of hot sauce.

I ordered my usual Chimichanga and when it came it was composed of a tortilla wrapped around pinto beans and a small amount of pot roast that was baked in an oven until the bottom of the tortilla was pretty much black. Again, there were no spices, no red or green sauce, no cheeses of any type. Just a dried out baked tortilla!  Beside that was another pile of pinto beans and some white rice. I guess I should have known better than eat at a Mexican restaurant in Canada. I don’t expect many Mexican to make it past the U.S. to get into Canada.

But in looking back at the meals of the previous days I can see a trend here. All the meals have been pretty much bland with little or no seasoning involved. I am coming to love the Canadians that we meet here, but God bless them they just can’t cook. 🙂  I am hoping to be proven wrong when we move closer to the maritime provinces in the next week or so. Surely, they will know how to cook at least seafood.

Before our dinner last night we did take a one and a half mile, or maybe I should say a 3 km walk around Ottawa. This is going to be a very interesting day for us. There is much to see here, so we are already extending our stay through till Saturday morning.

Day 5

Parliament Building

As expected today was an exciting time. We spent most of the day around the Parliament complex. Here are some pictures of that. We also toured much of the area around the complex and went to the Museum of Currency. It was also a very beautiful day here in Ottawa, sunny and in the 70s. I forgot to take a hat along with me so now I have a sun burned bald head! Gotta remember the hat for tomorrow or I can expect some peeling scalp later in the week.

One of the many cathedrals in the city

The brochure provided at the places we visited gave us a somewhat abbreviated history of the country. Of course it parallels that of the U.S. in some regards but is different in others. Where the U.S. had a north/south struggle over the issues of slavery the Canadians had one over language/culture. It was quite some time before they finally resolved that and unified into one Canada. There were a good number of heroes statues around the building and a brief history of each in the brochures.

Museum of Currency. Quite a place

I think I most admired Lester B. Pearson who was prime minister from 1963 through 1968. He gave Canada a peaceful and compassionate face by his work in helping form the U.N. and bringing universal healthcare and pensions to the nation. I wish we had someone like that to guide us in the U.S. into a more compassionate track. I had hoped that our current president would fit that mold but that doesn’t look to be the case.  Of course another thing about Canada is that even though they are not completely separate from England they still have a great love for the mother country.

I will finish here with a final picture. Of course, it is a mandatory one of an RCMP. What trip to Canada would be complete with a picture of an RCMP on his (in this case her) trusty steed. Tomorrow we will be going to the national gallery, the mint, and to the By ward market. More on that later.

Oh, by the way, we did have a very good and properly seasoned dinner tonight, so maybe I will have to rescind the previous post 🙂

Day 6

We spent a good bit of today at the National Art Museum here in Canada’s capital Ottawa.  In some ways the building was more impressive than the art it contained. I would say about one-third of the exhibits were for modern art which is really not so much my taste.  I picked out my favorite one in that area and I called it “Big Black”.  It was about a 12-foot square mural of solid black; nothing else!  They seem to have pictures just like that in about every modern art exhibit I have been to.

But they did have a pretty fair amount of wall space dedicated to photography and that was nice. My collection of 20,000 and growing daily now of photos contains some that deserve to be on those walls too.  

Reflection of old on new is quite unique to Ottawa

One of the neat things I haven’t mentioned yet is the combination of old buildings and modern glass buildings found throughout the city. They are pretty much interspersed, so it is neat to take pictures of the old ones being reflected off the newer ones. Kind of artsy stuff. We have many such pictures now that I will eventually share on this blog in the future.

After leaving the museum we stopped by the Notre Dame Cathedral and then  took a long leisurely lunch to rest our legs before strolling over to the Byward market. This is a very large outdoor/indoor market of vegetables, flowers and crafts. We picked up some berries for snacking; I am eating some of them now.  This market reminded me of  the one I have been to several times in Guadalajara Mexico. We happened upon the U.S. Embassy while we were in the area; that reminded me that we are in a foreign country even if it doesn’t seem like it at times.

Instead of hiking back to the hotel like we have for the last two days we got lazy and took a taxi back. Tomorrow we will go to the national experimental farm and then begin heading for the next adventure and that will be Montreal.  We were talking with the waiter in the restaurant last night about trying to decide whether to go to Montreal or Quebec, we decided we only want to do one more big city before heading north-east for the coast.  The waiter said without hesitation that we should see Montreal. He gives us several good tips on what to see there.

To our new Canadian friends

On our last night in what is now one of my favorite cities we came across this group of young people celebrating a birthday. Oh, to be young again.

We will likely spend at least one day in the hinterland between here and Montreal for a little R&R before starting walking tours again.  More on that later. I wanted to throw out at least one more picture here and that is of the big spider outside the national gallery that was about to eat my wife. I, being the superhero that I am, saved her just in time. 🙂

On-The-Road Canada: Day 1-3: Sudbury, Would You Like Gravy With That?

But First, A Little Introduction

This is the first of many on-the-road reports to come to RJsTravels about my visit to all 50 States, Mexico and Canada with camera in hand and history in mind. I believe that these personal stories are more interesting than just giving you the same facts and figures that most travelogues provide. My version of travelogue tells you in a “John Steinbeck – Travels With Charlie” account of our adventures. I hope you find these stories interesting. I hope you find them enjoyable.

Day 1 -2 Travel

Day 1 – Upper Michigan To Sault St Marie

(photo from the tourist bureau website)

Since we started out near Green Bay Wisconsin and most our first day was spent in the wilds of the upper peninsula (UP) of Michigan. The UP is about the least populated area of the country except for maybe Alaska. After leaving the Lake Michigan coastline there is very little there except for forests. It was a six-hour drive to Ste St. Marie where we stopped for the night. I have been to this beautiful city on several occasions and as usual we enjoyed a peaceful stroll down the riverfront boardwalk and a nice meal afterwards. Looking back, I wished we had spent another day touring the city, but we were just too anxious to officially get into Canada across the St. Mary’s River.

Day 2 – Sudbury, Ontario – Would you like gravy with that?

Since we were only planning a four-hour drive this day we spent the morning at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre learning about one of the major means of transportation in northern Canada and then hit the road.

One of the first things you almost immediately about Canada is that there are almost no franchises here. So, at the end of this day’s drive what should have been a routine thing turned out to be quite an adventure. We stopped at a small motel just short of Sudbury and asked to see one of the rooms. What we found could have been directly dropped from the 1920s. It had a very hard bed, velvet bedspread and one-hundred year-old very used furniture and lots of wallpaper on the walls. It even had that old hotel smell, you know what I mean. It is mainly found in motels that have been used way beyond their useful life. We were tempted to stay there but just didn’t think we would get much sleep on the rock they call a bed. We politely said that we decided to drive some more before stopping.

We did eventually find a place closer to Sudbury that was clean and cheap but with no Internet connection and had a TV out of the 1950s with only one usable channel. 🥴 The bed was well worn but without any protruding springs, so it proved a restful night after two days on the road.

French Fries with Gravy??

After we got settled in the room we went out for dinner to a place called Hardrock 42 Gastropub. No, it is not one of those Hardrock places with the loud blaring music as found in the US . It ends up that Hardrock is what they called the miners in the area years ago. I guess this place was kind of like where they used to eat. It was similar to a New Jersey diner in that they had a lot on the menu including what I chose which was a pulled pork sandwich with Jack Daniel’s sauce and french fries. So, here I am in Canada having sauce made from Tennessee whiskey I hardly knew I was out of the U.S.

The waitress who took our orders  was a very nice young girl. After I told her what I wanted she asked me if I wanted gravy with that? I wondered why they would put gravy on a pork sandwich with sauce already on it. She saw my confusion and said the gravy was for the french fries. I decided to go with the flow and try it. After I said yes, she commented that you guys must be from the U.S.? She just didn’t understand why we didn’t put gravy on our french fries in our country. After trying it I can say that gravy on french fries is really pretty good; maybe I will ask for it at McDonald’s when I get home.🥴

Tomorrow we keep going on toward Ottawa which is the capital of Canada. We will spend at least a couple of days there before heading towards the St. Lawrence River.

Day 3 – Travel

Day 3 – Sudbury To Ottawa

We made the last trek through the seemingly endless pine trees this morning and afternoon and finally got into the city of Ottawa. Since the first two days of this trip were travel days I considered this day 3 the official start of our adventure. I, like a giddy school kid can’t wait.

Upon entering the city my first impression of Ottawa is that there is a lot of traffic for 9:30 on a Wednesday morning.  After that soaked in I started noticing quite a few older building in the downtown area. Since this is the capital of Canada I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. We found a nice hotel in the downtown area and pretty much vegged out there for the rest of the day, even eating in the hotel dining room.😎 Tomorrow we will be visiting all the capital sites, and then who knows where…



Nantucket is a tiny island off the coast of Cape Cod Massachusetts. It takes about two hours by ferry to get to the island. While we were living in New Jersey for four years we visited the island because my wife, who is an avid basket collector” insisted that she HAD to have a Nantucket basket. 🥴 When I got online to try and make a reservation for two nights I found that everything was booked up for two months. Being the Spring of the year I guess that Nantucket is the “go to” place. I finally found a small garage converted into a maid’s quarters, converted into a guest room. It was only $200/night (1997 prices).

Since I have been to Mackinac Island in upper Michigan several times before this visit I couldn’t help comparing Nantucket to it. The most glaring difference is that autos are not allowed on Mackinac whereas cars sometimes overwhelmed the scenery at Nantucket. The other comparison is that Mackinac, while it is also somewhat expensive, it is really more of a middle-class place to go. Nantucket on the other hand is where some of the nation’s wealthiest have summer homes, including Google’s Eric Schmidt (net worth: $13.8 billion) to former GE CEO Jack Welch. Many of the year round locals, who primarily are service people and shop owners, admit that the island very expensive, very exclusive, and very preppy, some say snobby.

Click to see the official guide

Nantucket is known for whaling during the 19th century. Scallops, foggy weather, lighthouses and endless boutique shops are the main interests today. Main Street which is packed with high-end boutique shops. Most importantly to my wife was the “Basket Shop” which was a short distance out of the main town. There she learned how the island’s baskets are made. The original lightship baskets which were used on the whaling ships are very expensive today, but recently made ones can be purchased from $150 to $750. Fortunately, my wife chose one in the middle of that range.

If you are interested you can download an official travel guide by clicking the picture here. Below is a gallery of pictures I took on the island about twenty years ago. I don’t imagine much has changed since then.

In closing, our two days at Nantucket provided a much-needed respite from the last hectic year of my corporate life. Since I chose to retire back in the Midwest where my roots are I likely will never visit the island again, but it was an interesting experience to rub elbows with the upper-crust.

Antonito Colorado – Cano’s Castle

Golden Nugget Nite Club – Antonito Colorado

Let me say up front that Colorado and New Mexico are two of my favorite States to visit. They have so much history including Santa Fe, Fort Bent’s Historic site, Ouray, and Mesa Verde National park. I have been to those several times and hope to get in at least one more visit. In both States are thousands of small towns with very little population but quite a bit of history, if you dig deep enough to find it. It’s amazing that they have survived as long as they have. Some have a population of zero, but most have at least a hundred or two citizens.

For this travelogue entry I will be concentrating on Antonito Colorado history which in some ways is typical of many. The town was formed, like many other Colorado towns, by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The town currently has about 600 residents, although we only saw four of them during our visit. It has several abandoned buildings and a couple still open including the Golden Nugget Nite Club shown above. I suspect that is a very active place on most Saturday nights. 🥴

Antonito has without any doubt one of the most eclectic residences I have ever been. When we stopped in front of the Golden Nugget to take pictures we chatted with a couple of locals who told us about a house “we just have to see”.

We followed their directions and came up Cano’s Castle. We never saw anyone around, but later discovered that the builder/resident was a very private man who seldom talked to any visitors, announced or unannounced.

Later we found out that Cano’s Castle is well known throughout the country. It was built by Dominic “Cano” Espinoza. He is a very private man to says God built the castle, not him. He has been living in this off-the-grid abode since 1987. If you are interested in more of the story click here. He certainly is quite a character

Click on any picture below to see a larger slideshow view.

Bishop Hill – IL

Bishop Hill, IL – A Lutheran Community

Bishop Hill, which is located in central Illinois between Peoria IL and Davenport IA. It is a small community of about 200 people but has well preserved history as a once thriving Lutheran community. Its early citizens were almost entirely Lutherans who were escaping persecution in Sweden because they dared to believe differently than the norms of the day.  In my travels across this country I have found that escaping religious persecution is very much at the heart of America history. We don’t, except for a few incidents, persecute someone for their religious beliefs.

The community was formed in 1846 by a group of 400 religious dissenters led by Eric Janson who were escaping persecution from the State Religion of Sweden which was Lutheranism. They arrived in the winter of 1846 at Chicago and then walked the 160 miles to Bishop Hill! About 100 of them died from that trip and the winter weather. The community would expand to 1,000 over the next 15 years.

The primary reason for the sect’s persecution was that Eric Janson claimed to have direct inspiration of God to form his teachings and many were contrary to the State’s version. Among other things he demanded education and self-expression and that opinions should be formed by reason rather than revelation or authority.

Janson led the community for the first ten years before was killed by a dissident in 1855, it was then lead by a committee of trustees for another six years until it eventually dissolved and all the assets were distributed to its current inhabitants. During that fifteen years of shared community existence, they built a dozen very impressive structures. In 1962 restoration began on many of those structures. Most are displayed in the gallery below.

There are a lot of interesting places to see in central Illinois. While Bishop Hill is not a worthy day-long trip, when you add it to Springfield and Peoria it makes a nice stop over that will take a couple of hours to see.

On a personal note, I have developed a fascination with utopian communities and continue to study them. One of the most famous communities, New Harmony, is less than 100 miles from my homestead. Sometime in the not too distant future I will be writing a collection of posts about that topic. It’s amazing how people are willing to give up everything to obtain the “perfect” utopian life. Many are based on religious things, but many are also base of general philosophical matters. As I repopulate the “new” RJsTravels Travelogue, special emphasis to be placed on helping those who are also interested in this topic.

Take a look at the gallery below for some pictures of the restored buildings:

Travels With Charlie

By featuring this book as its own post I think I have made it abundantly clear how it has influenced me during my traveling life. I originally read this book in 1962, soon after it was published and have re-read it about a half-dozen times since then. In 1962, I was in the middle of my high school years. That was the time when I was devouring books by Steinbeck, London, and few others. This book started me on a lifelong journey of my fascination with John Steinbeck and just what makes America what it is. I ended up reading all of his novels before I graduated from high school.

Part of this story was about how he took a pickup truck and had a homemade camper built for the back of it. He named his rig “Rocinante” after Don Quixote’s horse. Little did I know when I read this book that I would be doing the same thing about 50 years later. 🙄 I took my truck with 100,000+ miles that was used in my furniture making business and turned it into my own version of Rocinante. I have been traveling the roads with history in mind for the last 6 years in it. I, like Steinbeck, just want to see the country on a personal level. I have many stories to tell you here about those adventures.

Here is a little of what Wikipedia says about this award-winning book:

Travels with Charley: In Search of America is a travelogue written by American author John Steinbeck. It depicts a 1960 road trip around the United States made by Steinbeck, in the company of his standard poodle, Charley. Steinbeck wrote that he was moved by a desire to see his country on a personal level, since he made his living writing about it. He wrote of having many questions going into his journey, the main one being, “What are Americans like today?” However, he found that he had concerns about much of the “new America” he witnessed.

Steinbeck tells of traveling throughout the United States in a specially made camper he named Rocinante, named after Don Quixote’s horse. His travels start in Long Island, New York, and roughly follow the outer border of the United States, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, down into his native Salinas Valley in California, across to Texas, up through the Deep South, and then back to New York. Such a trip encompasses nearly 10,000 miles.

SOURCE: Travels with Charley – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Steinbeck’s most famous books were probably “Grapes of Wrath” or “Of Mice and Men” both of which I have also read several times. Steinbeck had a gutsy way of describing events in his novels. A very American way in my mind.

For the last forty plus years whenever I hit the road on a vacation trip I always think of how Steinbeck described his 10,000 mile journey across America and I try to see America with his visions in mind. This book opened my world up to way beyond the small rural town I was living in.

Woody Guthrie Center – Tulsa OK

Woody Guthrie has been a hero of mine since the 1960s when I fell in love with folk music. Woody was one of the original performers in that genre. He became popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s. I know folk music has lost its charm to many but even though I am deaf now, I still remember many of Woodie’s songs. His most popular one was “This Land Was Made For You And Me”. I have been on a lifelong journey to make it our national anthem. It talks more about the “real” America instead of a little known battle in a little known war that is current our national song.

I think the reason I only listened to folk music instead of the Beatles and such is that the lyrics almost always gave a message for many of my generation. Peter, Paul, and Mary simply sang what I believed in those years. Simon & Garfunkel did the same. But I was primarily a Bob Dylan fan, that is until he turned electric in the 1970s. His songs talked to my soul.

I was so excited to see that Woody Guthrie finally had his own museum I couldn’t wait to visit. Here is a gallery of pictures for your pleasure. There wasn’t any Internet in Woody’s day so the two men wearing placards trying to find word during the Depression was the best they could do. If you are ever in Tulsa plan on a visit to this museum and take the time to stroll through the rest of the Brady District where it is located. If you are not fimilar with him it is still worth a visit to understand the messengers of my generation.

They also have a large archive of many of his artistic stuff. He was into way more than just folk songs. If you were a devoted fan you can probably spend half a day there, it not a couple of hours will like dlyo. That area of Santa Fe is very artsy in nature and worth the visit.

Here is a gallery of some of the things you will see there.

National Railroad Museum

I was definitely impressed with the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay Wisconsin a few years ago. My in-laws are in that part of the country so I have been to the area many times. I don’t know how I discovered this hidden gem, but I am glad I did .

It is a relatively new museum in that it was founded a little over sixty years ago. It is amazing how complete it is now. I was planning on spending a couple of hours there but ended up most of the day. I will let the pictures below tell you the rest of the story. If you find yourself in that area of the country, consider visiting.

Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger slideshow view.

On-The-Road Reports

RJsTravels has been on the web for more than a dozen years now. It has had a number of names including InSearchOfAmerica. In that version, which ran from 2012 to 2019 I had several posts where I reported daily while I was on the road. Those posts were very popular but time-consuming.

This blog is inspired by John Steinbeck’s novel entitled Travels with Charley – In search of America. That was one of Steinbeck’s last novels that was written a year or so after he had a custom truck cap fabricated to take him on a multi-month trip around America. I feel in love with the book as an early teenager and daydreamed that one day I would do the same. It took me over half a century but I too have made a custom micro-RV (µRV) and have been traveling America for the last five years although only on brief trips.

With this post I will be doing more on-the-road style reports in the future and since RJsTravels is meant to be a travel guide I will be updating older posts to put some of them in the on-the-road format.

Thanks for browsing RJsTravels, and if you have time drop a comment to let me know how I am doing.

Rendezvous – Fort Bridger Wyoming

Even as a young kid I imagined that I once lived as a mountain man in the Rocky Mountains. No, I’m not a Shirley MacLaine type who remembers all my previous lives, it was more about the fascination of living a solitary life in the Rockies. I’m sure my Aspie traits had something to do with it, but it was also brought on by my overactive imagination. 😉 I don’t really remember the books I read as a youth to spur the dream of being a mountain man, but I’m sure they existed. For that reason Ft. Bridger has been on my bucket list before I even knew there was such a thing.

A Little Background

Fort Bridger was the biggest rendezvous in the mountain man days. As shown here it took place between 1825 and 1840. There is an annual reenactment in the first weekend of September and is the largest such gathering in the nation.

The town of Ft. Bridger itself has a population of about 300 people and I think has one gas station/general store. There is also a some small mom-and-pop rental cabins and a campground that I expect is reserved years ahead for this particular weekend. From a cursory view, it looks like a fifty-mile trek to a city of any size. So, needless to say the first weekend in September is THE event of the year.

I knew before my visit that this rendezvous was one of the biggest in the US. I got there early so managed to get a parking spot near the entrance. If it had been a couple of hours later I would have had a mile long trek to get to the gate. As soon as I got through the gate it struck me that this rendezvous was quite different from any I had been to before. Almost everyone dresses for the event. I think they drew about 10,000 the day I visited and most had on 1840’s garb.

To keep from looking out of place, I quickly found a booth to buy things that were period appropriate and then rushed back to my µRV to change. Upon entering the gate properly attired I discovered just how big it this rendezvous was. I had visited a couple of dozen others and this one was likely bigger than all of those combined. But since it was spread out a couple hundred acres or more it did not feel crowded to this city guy.

I spent about 10 hours there and walked over 10 miles and I still don’t think I saw everything. But what I remember most was the frying pan throw and the Native American dances and rituals and the recreated fort with all the surrounding activity. Booths, demonstrations and storytelling were everywhere. There was also a women’s shooting range and of course, the compensatory tomahawk throwing contests lined the venue throughout the day.

This was the longest trip I have taken to a rendezvous but well worth the time. I am putting together a more thorough on-the-road storytelling report about this trip that will soon be available over at one of my other blogs that is dedicated to storytelling. I will give you the address here when it is completed.

Enough for now I will let these pictures tell you the rest of the story. If you have any questions just drop a comment or note and I will try to answer them.

Click on any picture to see a larger version slideshow:

Mississinewa 1812

I spent much of 2019 traveling around the country to reenactments. It was surprising to see the best one of that year within 200 miles of my home. The Battle of Mississinewa took place in 1812. This was a time before the forming of the State of Indiana. It was a time when all the Native Americans were being driven out of their homelands of the “State of the Indians”. The battle took place in December 1812. It was between 600 federal troops and a few hundred Native Americans who aligned with the British to try to desperately hold on to their native lands. Of course the federal troops ruled the day and therefore wrote the history of the event. This reenactment is supposed to be the biggest one of the War of 1812.

I was amazed at the diversity of the encampment and the attendance. There were lots of people there but it was well worth it. There were many musicians around the event that I dreamed of hearing. One of the things about my deafness of thirty years is that I no longer can remember what musical instruments sound like and that is a very frustrating thing when I saw the fellow below playing.