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 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

Nantucket

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.

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.