You are currently viewing Trip “Home” – Canada/US  – Part II

Trip “Home” – Canada/US – Part II



June 9th

Today we had a long driving day to make it to Big Sky, MT to visit Serena & Kurt with one stop enoute:  The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas at Arlee, MT. It was an okay/interesting stop but we wouldn’t call it a must do.  It was an overcast day so a good day for driving rather than sightseeing.

As Kurt is employed by the Big Sky Resort, he kindly got us an employee rate on a room at the lodge and after checking in, we met Serena after work and she took us for a drink while we waited for Kurt to join us and then we all went for a nice Thai dinner.  We drove to their place so they could grab their swimsuits and join us in the lodge’s outdoor hot tub for a dip.

Distance: 763 km / 474 m

Sunday morning, we were treated by Kurt driving us all (including their dog, Toby) up Lone Peak Mountain to the tram base in a resort pick up truck where we rode the tram to the actual peak, free.  The morning was perfect: blue sky and a little wind…

Pics while awaiting the tram:

but by the time the tram was ready to take us up, the clouds had begun to gather.  We went up anyway (we were SO happy to have our new down jackets!) despite getting very little view.  Nice to have “connections”.

The Civic has been making a weird noise when it starts recently and we had Kurt’s mechanic friend, Eric, listen and he confirmed Doug’s diagnosis that the starter was going so we’ve ordered one (yes you guessed it!) on Amazon to be delivered to our friends in Minnesota where Doug has arranged for a mechanic from Craigslist to install it.  We’ve also been feeling some shimmy from the brakes so we also ordered pads and rotors and we’ll have the mechanic look to see if both need replacing or just one set.

Upon returning to Serena & Kurt’s condo, they packed an overnight bag, we took some stuff out of our trunk and put inside their condo to make space in the car and we all piled in and took a back road: Jack Creek Road (a private road Kurt obtained permission for us to use) to drive to Ennis saving us over 50 miles!

Enroute we saw elk, a marmot and prong horns.


We had a motel booked in Ennis but continued past the town to Virginia City, a historic “ghost” town which is the only one in the country that has never burned down.  The town was founded in 1863 and in the 1940’s a couple, named Bovey, purchased the buildings and the town has become preserved and is a tourist attraction open from Memorial Day through Labour Day (we’ve tried to visit on at least two other occasions but never at the right time of year).

After having a rather inexpensive bite to eat at the Bay of Hale Saloon

We strolled the four blocks of the main drag viewing the buildings and browsing some of the shops including an old fashioned candy store.

Darn we’re too early!

We returned to Ennis, checked in and then strolled that little town before relaxing for a bit and then going out for dinner.

Distance: 86 km / 53 m

Monday morning, we took Serena and Kurt back to Virginia City as they needed to go to the County Courthouse to register the vehicle they’d purchased a while back and were ready to put on the road. It was amazing how fast they got this down – about SEVEN minutes!  Enroute to Big Sky we encountered snow!:

We then began our drive to our “residence” in Rapid City to renew our Driver’s licenses tomorrow morning – we have appointments early in the day.

Distance: 994 km / 617 m

Sidebar:  We are sure enjoying driving our Honda Civic for such a long road trip in a relatively short amount of time.  We are able to drive three times faster than driving in Tigger in Latin America with nearly four times the fuel economy! 

 We arrived in Rapid City by 6pm and were happy to crash for the night!  Long day of driving – thank goodness for 80mph on the I90!

Distance:  971 km / 603 m

Tuesday morning we were at the DMV when it opened and after a hiccup or two (our bad) we were handed our brand new licenses on the spot – no more waiting for them to come in the mail – yeah!

After a stop in downtown Rapid City to see Art Alley

we proceeded to drive east once again and stopped at Wall Drug for a short stroll

then a couple of hours driving through Badlands National Park – we’d been there about ten years ago but it was late November at the time and today was so sunny and beautiful it was worth the detour.  We not only saw the Badlands, but also buffalo, pronghorn deer, mountain goats and prairie dogs.

We decided that since we are legally South Dakota residents, we should check out the state capital so we drove off the I90 north to Pierre where we saw the capitol building and spent the night nearby.

We took in a movie: Ocean’s 8 before calling it a night.

Distance: 338 km / 210 m

Wednesday we were not so rushed but continued east into Minnesota and spent the afternoon and evening in Mankato before making our way to Eagan on Thursday.  Christine and Matt have received ten’s of parcels from Amazon for us so it feels like Christmas.

Distance: 549 km / 341 m

That afternoon Doug took the car to a mechanic to have the new starter and brakes installed (one more part was needed – a brake caliper) but it all got done that afternoon and the horn is now working.  Turns out this guy was a former mechanic at the dealership where we bought out Civic back in ’05.  Matt and Christine both had plans that night but offered us leftovers for dinner and then we went to visit our former neighbours, Linda & Brad, where we sit on the deck drinking beer and wine and their daughter, Amy, arrived half way through the evening. It was a lovely reunion that went far too long into the night.  😉

So Friday, Fran did a few Amazon returns and errands and that night, Matt had landed two tickets to the Doobbie Bros./Steely Dan concert and Fran went with Christine.  It was an enjoyable evening out in downtown St. Paul after dinner with our husbands.

Saturday morning it was raining and Doug enjoyed a long run on his old running route.  Later, we met our friends Kathi & Joe for lunch at our old fave bar/restaurant – Chili’s.

We spent the afternoon on the internet and getting ready for a potluck party Fran and Christine had arranged with several of our former neighbours.

Six couples joined us for a bbq and salads and of course, beer/wine and we had a wonderful evening despite the 90°F with 78% humidity weather.  This neighbourhood has been the most welcoming and warm neighbourhood we’ve every lived in and we always enjoying meeting back up with them all.

We left Sunday morning and continued east – made it to Chicago that day with a plan for pizza!. We got to the hotel and ordered in pizza and it was SO good.

Distance:  689 km / 428 m

Monday, we awoke to clear skies but still quite hot and muggy.  We decided to drive the turnpikes/toll roads and made our way towards Cleveland; wasn’t all that scenic but it was quick.

Our destination today as Cuyahoga Valley National Park – our fifty-fourth national park in the US.  It was a hot day for hiking but we did manage a few short ones:  Brandywine Falls, The Ledges, Blue Hen Falls, Bridal Falls and the Canal Overlook.

As we’ve now crossed into the Eastern Time Zone, we lost an hour and by 5:30 we called it a day, found a hotel, bought some junk food for dinner and crashed for the night not far from the park and Cleveland.

Distance: 539 km / 334 m

We awoke to the end of a rain storm and it seemed to have broken the heat/humidity but it was still quite overcast.  As we were headed downtown to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which did not open until ten we were not in a hurry.  After looking for some less expensive parking, we toured the museum for about two hours.

As we headed east it began to clear and as we crossed the state line into Pennsylvania (our fourteenth state that we’ve driving through!), we decided to make it an early day to relax a bit and found a hotel outside Erie, PA.

Distance: 162 km / 100 m

So Wednesday we took it a little easy and made our way to Buffalo to the place Fran had arranged to store our car when we leave North America.  She’d been corresponding via email with Amanda but we wanted to actually see the place and be sure we were comfortable with it as well as meet her and confirm the details before leaving the Civic next month.

We met Amanda and saw the property and it looked secure and she was most welcoming.  She even told us we could ship stuff to her address (she may regret that!).  We proceeded then to cross into Canada near Niagara Falls and took a leisurely drive through Niagara-on-the-Lake, a pretty little town right on Lake Ontario.  Then since we were so close, we had to stop and see the Falls themselves.

Distance:  249 km / 154 m

We spent that night a hotel just outside the hustle and bustle of the tourist section.

Joshua had ordered a new phone from the US which he’s shipped to Christine’s in MN for us to pick up so Doug suggested we surprise him by taking it to him a day early.  So we called and met him for lunch and he was pretty happy.

We drove into Toronto (huge city with horrible traffic!) and we spent that night with Donna, the cyclist we’d met in Peru who was now home.  It was a nice evening of swapping “on the road” stories and catching up her with.

Since we were going to be in the “big city” we met up with old friends, Maria & Bruno, for lunch that day before meeting Josh and the grandkids at his house later that afternoon. We spent the rest of that afternoon and dinner time with them before heading to our hotel where they joined us the next morning for a couple of hours.  The plan had been to swim but the pool was closed that day; Arya and Cyrus were pretty disappointed.

Distance: 201 km / 124 m

After seeing the kids, we checked out of the hotel, they went home and we drove to Ottawa for the weekend where we visited old friends of Fran’s family: Sandy & Dave who live in Stittsville (and kindly put us up for Saturday night),

then on Sunday they took us to see the neighbourhood where Fran and they used to live back in the 60/70’s – a trailer park – yes Fran came from trailer trash – guess what goes around comes around, eh?  It looks WAY different than when we left it in 1975.

In the early afternoon we visited her Aunt Noreen in Nepean where she lives in an assisted living community, then our nephew (and Fran’s godson) Alex and his fiancé, Emily,  in Ottawa before making it to Embrun where her cousin, Louise lives and we got to see her Aunt Georgette as well.  We spent a night at Louise & Ron’s as well.

Distance: 77 km/ 45 m

We met Josh, Arya & Cyrus at Costco to have a cheap lunch and grocery shop.  We are staying at the Residence Inn Marriott Inn in Kingston in a suite (Josh managed to swing this free for a week through his credit cards).  After checking in, Fran went to visit her Mom at the Manor, Doug went for a walk and Josh took the kids swimming in the hotel pool before dinner.

Distance: 183 km /  113 m

Tuesday was the twins’ fifth birthday.  Boy, were they excited!  Fran went off to the salon on the morning to use the gift certificates Josh gave her for mother’s day/her birthday, Doug went for a walk and the kids went swimming in the morning.  We all met at Mandarin Buffet for lunch:  that’s what the kids wanted instead of a birthday day – the chance to only eat dessert and all they could eat!  It was yummy and they sure ate their fill and didn’t get sick.

We then picked up Fran’s mom from the Manor and she joined us at the park while the kids smashed the piñata we brought/made them, opened gifts and played soccer.

Upon returning to the hotel, Fran’s sister, Cynthia and her husband Serge, joined us for a drink and to give the kids more presents and we partook of the free meal offered by the Marriott as we didn’t want much dinner really and no one wanted to cook.

Wednesday we awoke to some clouds rolling in so after breakfast, we went for a walk doing some geocaching along Lake Ontario; we found two out of three.  Then it began raining so we returned to the hotel where the kids opened even more presents and got pool time.

That afternoon we all walked over to the home where Fran’s mom lives and the kids got more presents!

Thursday, we walked, played lots of games, had pool time and of course, Fran visited her mom.  Friday Doug and Josh took the kids to the locks to try out their new fishing rods after which Doug went for a looooong walk and the kids returned to the hotel.  Fran, Josh and the kids took Fran’s mom out for lunch and then it was back to the hotel for swim time.

Saturday after a walk and games, Fran went to visit her Mom while Doug and Josh took the kids to play and then picked up Fran after which we spent the afternoon at Fran’s sister’s place enjoying their outdoor pool and a bbq dinner.

Sunday was Canada Day and during the morning we went to check out Confederation Park but we were a bit disappointed by the offerings.  We returned to the hotel for lunch then Fran went to get her Mom and Cynthia & Serge joined us downtown.  We wandered from Conferederation Park to City park where there was lots more going on: plays, face painting, art in the park offerings and a water park.  It was darn hot today so the latter was very welcome.

Monday, our last day together, started with a final swim in the pool, followed by breakfast and the drive back home to Josh’s place for the rest of the day enjoying the park and its accompanying water park.

Now I used to post a link to my Flickr page so you could all see photos of our time with Josh, Arya & Cyrus but Flickr is no longer so I cannot do that. Sorry, but we need to respect the wishes of their parents in not posting photos which are downloadable.    

Distance:  296 km / 183 m

We stayed in a hotel that night and early Tuesday we made our way to Buffalo to run a few errands and get the Civic ready to store for six months at the place we’d checked out a couple of weeks back.

After a stop at USPS, UPS, Walmart for an oil change & tire rotation and a bit of last minute shopping, we went to a car wash, aired up the tires and drove to the storage place we’d arranged.  Amanda had a few more Amazon packages for us and we got the Civic covered and secure.  Amanda and her husband store boats and stuff on their huge lot and will have a key to start it up once in a while although has set up a solar charge to trickle charge its battery.

Distance:  189 km / 117 m

All totaled we drove 11,530 km / 7,179 m in 6+ weeks of travel after our week in Las Vegas!


We Ubered to our final hotel near the Buffalo airport, watched the England/Colombia world cup match while trying to pack everything up in appropriately weighing bags, had dinner at Denny’s and after what could be our last really good hot showers for a while (sigh…) we crashed early for a 4:10 am wake up call.

We flew to Lima via Washington, DC & Houston so it was a looooong day arriving in Lima at 11pm.  We had arranged a shuttle pick up to a nearby hotel and the next morning we flew to Cusco to find Tigger safe and sound and our friends, Joe & Josee hanging out there.  We haven’t seen them since Colombia in October of last year.   They kindly made us a hot lunch and we spent the afternoon unpacking.