Category Archives: Roadtrip: West -> East

G’day from Sydney

We were due to stop for a day in Eden, a very small and quiet, but pretty town on the coast south of Sydney. This plan was scratched at the last minute by the ship’s captain due to high seas in the area, and the fact that we were not going to be docked, rather using tender vessels to get people to shore. The captain was concerned that the conditions for that process would be unsafe, so he ended up deciding to go to Sydney a day early.

Not one person on board the ship was upset by this change of itinerary. Everyone was excited to spend an extra day in Sydney. And Eden, though a “nice” town, and a “pretty” area, pales in comparison to what Sydney has to offer. At least that is the way most people felt about it. I am sure the people of Eden were very disappointed.

But not only would we be in Sydney, but we would have almost 36 hours docked at Circular Quay, which is a small cove wedged between the Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It is one of the most spectacular places in the world to spend some time. Hotels and apartments in this area are rented for astronomical rates, so we were all glad to have the chance to be there at no extra cost.

The Volendam docked in Circular Quay, Sydney.

The Harbour Bridge at night

Sydney Opera House photographed from the ship.

Part of the welcoming party, this was with Tony, Carmel and Sylvie.

The Volendam docked in Sydney next to the Opera House.

You have probably realized by the lack of updates, that we have in fact been in Sydney for some time. After disembarking we were whisked away to our salubrious accommodations in the Blue Mountains with my parents. We spent about three weeks there, and we jumped into action on our hit list and quickly found ourselves busy looking for a rental townhouse in Sydney and move forward on various other fronts…. looking for a car, getting health insurance, getting drivers licenses, bank accounts, retrieving our shipped belongings, etc etc (its a loooong list). So the blog has once again fallen well behind.

To cut the long story short, I can tell you that we have indeed found a place to live and all our belongings that were shipped have been delivered, and we are now comfortable and well settled. But it is still a busy time trying to get the last of the loose ends tied up (buying a fridge for example).

There may not be too many more posts after this one, the point of the blog was just to document the journey, but I will try and put up a few more photos of where we finally ended up if I get a chance.

Thank you so much for following along on the journey. Please come visit us in Sydney any time if you can – we have space for visitors. I hope this trip was not a “once in a lifetime” deal because it was way too much fun. We loved spending time with various friends and family along the way. The road trip was incredible. Travel by ship was without any doubt the best decision we made. It was such a calm and relaxing way to travel with a family – and although airplane travel offers almost instant gratification in terms of supersonic speed, we found ourselves often enjoying the slower journey, getting to know a few people, enjoying our time with each other as a family, seeing places here and there when we stopped and just enjoying the ride. For our family, in our circumstances, this was a stress-free and relaxing way to travel.

And now we just have to pay for it all 😉

Resting in Connecticut

Apologies for a lack of updates, we’ve been busy and also have not always had ready internet access. We finally made it to Poppy and Memere’s house in Connecticut. The weather has been warm and humid but we still enjoy eating outside when possible and playing in the yard.

Milo enjoys lunch on the back deck

Talia gets some baseball tips from Poppy

The R.V gets a much needed scub down and de-bugging

All hands on deck for the big cleanup

Riley lends a hand

New York and Connecticut

Another night of non stop hail (a.k.a. very light rain falling on the RV) and we woke up and hit the road. The destination for this leg, Newington, Connecticut, was just 3.5 hours away and everyone was excited to get there. We mad a bee line for I-84 freeway and blasted through New York (at the speed limit of course!). Rain and cloudy skies broke, the sun came out, and we and pushed on through to Connecticut. Arrived at lunch time and were warmly welcomed by Bob and Lee Ann. Had a relaxing afternoon with no driving. Talia and Milo were happy to nap in real beds.

Our route today from Waymart, PA to Newington, CT

Waking up at Keen Lake, time to fish.

Heading to I-84

In Connecticut

The backroads of Pennsylvania

Had our first real rain last night. Back in the Bay Area it doesn’t really rain at all between about April and October, so we had not seen rain in a while. Last night a number of us woke to the sound of what we believed was hail. We found out the next day it was just light rain, but inside the RV, even light rain is very loud.

Today was a full day on backroads through Pennsylvania and it was beautiful. Went through the Allegheny National Forest where we stopped for lunch by a river. The roads were free of traffic mostly, and very few trucks. Route 6 was our friend for the afternoon. We passed through lots and lots of small and very small towns and saw all kinds of people doing all kinds of things, none of which we would have seen on the freeways, we were so happy to be off the freeways.

Today we took down our “Australia or Bust” sign, since it was hanging off and about to fall anyway and looking worse for wear. So we no longer get all the laughs and funny looks, beeping horns, etc. Now we have become just another boring RV so nobody pays us any attention at all. We had been getting some great reactions to that previously.

We pulled in late to a great campsite next to Keen Lake. This and the previous one are places we could have stayed for a few days. But since our Lake Michigan beach stop, we kept moving onward to we can spend more time in Connecticut.

Our route today from Transfer, PA to Keen Lake, Wayamart, PA

Lunch break by a river

The Clarion River

Riley helping Milo get down the path to the river.

Exploring the river

Rainy afternoon

The great state of Oh-Hi-Oh

Click here for the song that hoes with this post.

Today we left the lake house, and traveled initially into Indiana, but most of the day was in Ohio. We ended up in Pennsylvania, near a town called Transfer – just over the Ohio border.

There’s not a whole lot to say about Ohio. No offense to anyone who lives there is intended. Maybe its just that much of the day was spent on interstate freeways, or maybe it was the overcast weather. Maybe its that we have been through some really stunning areas. Somehow Ohio didn’t really stack up so well compared to the preceding states. Iowa for example, with all its farmland and endless cornfields, looked like Disneyland when compared with Ohio.

If Ohio has one saving grace (and yes it does), that would be the fact that it has some Trader Joe’s stores, and you bet we managed to hit one of them on the way through. It was a quick stop but we stocked up on all the goodies we like and we were all very happy all of a sudden. The kids perked up and got back into the RV content with their new snacks.

The reason we spend most of the day on the interstates was that there’s really not many good alternatives at this section, due to the large lakes to our north. This is a bit of a constriction forcing a lot of traffic on to I-80/I-90, and we just knuckled-down and pushed on. There were a LOT of trucks, we must have seen many thousand trucks today – way more trucks than cars. Is a busy section of freeway.

After Cleveland we were able to branch out again into the backroads. We passed through many Amish communities, saw the people riding their horse and carts, and even pulling their kids in wagons, which was quite a sight for us, since we own (thanks to Bob & Lee Ann) an Amish-built wagon and have pulled our own kids many miles in that and it is much treasured. So we can kind of relate 🙂 It was too difficult to photograph any of this Amish stuff, we needed to stop and spend more time. But as far as photos go, here’s what we did get in Ohio:

The route we took today

Lots of Trucks on the freeways in Ohio

Ohio Landscape, overcast and a little dreary

At least we got off the freeways

By the end of the day, after a few GPS (and driver error) snafus we finally made it to our campground. This was one highlight of the day since it is a top notch campground with lots of open space and trees, and a feeling of privacy. The evening was peaceful, the cicadas handed off to the crickets, and fireflies circled around doing what fireflies do. Aside from the insects, I couldn’t hear a thing as I took a walk around the campground in the dark, it was just so peaceful and serene… except for one permanent resident here, who has a gigantic outdoor bug zapper. When you walk past that camper all you hear is the continual sound of bugs being fried at 30,000 volts, as you try to contemplate the beauty of nature. Great food for thought 🙂

More down time at Lake Michigan

Our friend Amy’s house was so comfortable, and the beach so ideal for kids, we stayed an extra day at Lake Michigan, the opportunity was too hard to pass up. It was Monday so a lot of people were at work and the beach was much quieter.

We loved this stop but tomorrow is back on the road.

Amy’s lake house

Walking to the beach

The beach.

Kids on the beach

The road to the beach.

Talia at the beach

The road to the beach.

Lake Michigan

According to Wikipedia, the source for everything:

Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the United States. It is the second largest of the Great Lakes by volume and the third largest by surface area, after Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

After a lot of driving we are happy to spend two days here at a beautiful beach town on Lake Michigan. We are all enjoying the beach with it’s warm fresh water – perfect for swimming on these hot humid days. Our friend Amy is hosting us at her spacious and comfortable lake house just 5 minutes walk from the private beach (local residents allowed only).

The road to the beach.

Heading down to the beach

Our set up at the beach

Riley at the beach

Talia at the beach

Hanging out with Amy

South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan… phew.

We overnighted in Yankton, South Dakota, close to the bottom left corner of that state. The troops had a good night’s sleep and were up and packed for an early start. This was going to be our longest drive yet since we decided not to stop again before getting to our friend Amy’s house, near Chicago. We planned to drive into the night, as long as it took, and we had an E.T.A of around midnight.

On arriving in Iowa, we noticed that large areas of Sioux City were underwater due to flooding of the Missouri River. There are dams upstream which the Army Corps of Engineers say they were forced to spill water from, due to unprecedented snow and rain. Sioux City and Dakota Dunes as well as other areas downstream have apparently been underwater for a couple of months.

Sioux City was a blip on the radar as we rumbled along. Our RV seems to be in great shape and the engine purrs as we break free from the city and the interstate freeway, and out onto smaller country roads through seemingly endless corn fields. The US produces over 332 million metric tons of corn a year – that’s more than any other country in the world, and more than twice as much as China, the next largest grower. 40% of all that corn is used to make corn ethanol, used as a fuel additive. If we ever saw a farm not growing corn, it was usually soy beans.

Charles Kuralt once said:

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.

We chose our route through Iowa because it looked to be a backroad, however many sections of Route 20 were actually freeway-like conditions. We have found that you don’t loose much time by traveling off the interstates, and the backroads are much more interesting. The interstates are cluttered with billboards, trucks, cars, RVs, and bad food options. On the backroads we see more of the real America, more local people, less tourists, and more interesting sights. So as much as possible that will be our M.O, although there will always be some times when we need to revert to the interstates for some reason.

Iowa farmalnd scenery was great, but it didn’t seem to change much, and it took a long time to cross the state. At the Illinois border, we crossed over the Mississippi River. The scenery seemed to become more varied. We were amazed at the number of motor cycle riders in Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois that ride with no helmet. This is common in many states, but we are not used to it. I don’t think I would have the guts to do that even though it probably feels a lot freer.

Near Rockford Illinois we found a cute historic town called Cherry Valley, where we had dinner in a local diner. We got the kids into their PJ’s and lowered the shades, hit I-90 for the long drive into the night. The kids soon fell asleep, as we negotiated the many tolls, cramped freeways, and sketchy drivers in greater Chicago. After 620 miles and over 11 hours of actual driving time not including meal breaks, it was a long day just as expected, we had been in five states today:
– South Dakota
– Iowa
– Illinois
– Indiana
– Michigan

We finally arrived after midnight at Amy’s lake house in a little village called Union Pier, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan. But more on that later. Here are some pictures from today:

Our actual route for today

Flooding at Sioux City

Some of our bug collection in the radiator. There are more all over the front of the vehicle.

Corn.

Windmills in the corn fields

A typical Iowa farm view

Flowers by the roadside, I think this is known as a yellow cone flower, a native wildflower.

The RV at our roadside lunch spot.

One of the backroads we followed

A day in South Dakota

We woke up in the tiny remote mining town of Wright, Wyoming. Not much going on there, but it was a nice enough stop.

Just near Wright on the map, you might notice “Thunder Basin National Grassland”. On the map, it looks like a National Park, right? Wrong! Just for the record, this is really just a euphemism for one of the largest open-cut coal mining operations in America, along with some small scale oil wells to boot. However, let’s not detract too much from Wyoming’s in-your-face raw natural beauty. While they are trying their hardest to mine and squeeze every dollar out of this state, the natural beauty still abounds.

We headed up into the Black Hills, and over the mountains down into Rapid City, South Dakota. Our GPS directed us to a health food co-op where we stocked up on fresh foods for the next leg.

If Wyoming is rugged and beautiful, then South Dakota might be described as developed (farming) and gently undulating (lots more faming), with farms in all directions.

With all these crops and grass lands, there comes a lot of bugs of all descriptions. I mean a LOT. When we stop for gas, we peel back layers of bugs from the front of the vehicle (mostly dead) and it’s interesting to see the different species. Today I found a live grasshopper on top of the cab, and it was obviously annoyed that I was poking it to see if it was alive, and promptly jumped away. It looked like it had been there a long time, just hanging out and enjoying the ride.

The kids are being very patient – as patient as they could be for their ages. We are putting in some long driving days right now, with the intention of taking a bit of a break near Chicago where we’ll meet up with our friend Amy. Lots of excitement from all quarters on that plan.

Route map for today

Are we ready to go? – VIDEO

Mmmmm…. smoothies all around.

Photos from today:

Hate your job? There’s a group for that.

The Black Hills

Goodbye Wyoming, Hello South Dakota

Corn

Hay

Roadwork

Scenery

Silos – not sure what was in them, but they looked worth a photo.

Sun setting on South Dakota

As the sun sets on South Dakota, so too does our visit. Tomorrow we visit a new state. What is the state immediately to the east of South Dakota? If you don’t know, check back tomorrow for the answer.