This is part of the Seventh section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Canada
or read our previous visit to U.S.A.
25/9/01 About a half km queue with two people checking the vehicle and one checking paperwork, but despite evidence in our passports that we have been to Yemen, Oman, UAE and a lot of African countries we were not searched or unduly questioned. Perhaps Australian passport holders aren't currently under suspicion. Heading south we crossed the 45th parallel, half way from the North Pole to the Equator. Rain increased and we gave up any chance of seeing the Maine coastline. Always a dilemma, hold up and wait for the rain or fog to clear to be able to see what we are here to see, or move on. Having been caught before, waiting for days, we headed west hoping to punch through the system. West of Bangor for the night.
26/9/01 Almost every house has an American flag flying and most businesses have signs out supporting people working to stop the terrorists, "God bless America". Headed out across New Hampshire through the White Mountains National Forests and their enormous number of mature trees of fall colours. Past Mt. Washington and Bretton Woods historical areas and onto the only steam powered cog railway in North America. The city livers express their outdoors heritage in this area hiking, canoeing or just getting away from noise and concrete.
27/9/01 Despite the threat of rain this season of colours, usually peak tourist season, keeps the already high prices in the area higher, particularly accommodation. While the US economy has boomed these last 10 years so has their currency, leaving both the Canadian and Australian dollars well behind. The dollar number in America about equals that of Australia for accommodation but at 2 Aust. for 1 US it makes the price here double. We camped in a magnificent hardwood forest with colourful leaves falling all around us but with cold light rain and more than 12 hours of darkness, a long night, broken only by National Public Radio, the capitalist version of the B.B.C..
28/0/01 Travelled south in Vermont along the famed 100 highway yesterday and out into New York State and the Adirondack Mountains today. Garage sales are big here in autumn. So big this weekend that they spilt over into the streets, with every front lawn, or spare space rented out to hopeful sellers of "antiques", bric-a-brac, or plain junk. We slowly crawled along the road between stall setter uppers and early buyers as we tried to get into the mountains. The Adirondack colours at their peak. Supposedly only lasting a few days before the leaves drop. The higher the altitude the earlier the leaf changing, moving down the mountain side almost daily.
29/9/01 The seasons are just a long day, the morning is spring, summer the heat of the day, autumn the evening and winter the night. As a morning person I find the vibrancy of waking to a new day invigorating while the evening wind down a reminder to the onset of winter. However riding in Autumn with its days of constant temperatures is easier than the slow warming and rapid cooling of a spring day. At the moment the days reach their maximums by 10.30 am and stay there all day till about 5 pm which makes a cool but very pleasant ride. America is dotted with canals dug when river transport was more important than rail or road. The Erie Canal links the great lakes with the Hudson River and New York city. While now not used for commercial traffic, pleasure boats move along and through its locks. Our route back to Niagara Falls took us over the canal many times as we pondered a boat trip along it.
30/9/01 After travelling for a while and looking back, the things we remember most are the people we have met. They can be the lasting continuous memory of a place allowing a revisit in time not destination. Here in Niagara Falls we had arranged two such revisits. Jan and Anke from Germany, who we travelled with in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey and who stayed with us in Australia and Carl and Kathy from Ohio who had previously invited us from the Internet to visit them. The opportunity to relive joint experiences and catch up with each others lives since then rewarding. The plans of people change rapidly but none more so than travellers. Yesterdays future, today's dream, tomorrow's discard.
1/10/01 We are born knowing nothing and rapidly learn skills automating them till our whole lives become automated and learning slows or stops in old age. Hopefully by meeting diverse people this process can be slowed or stopped. By being in new situations and new challenges it can be slowed or stopped. By doing the same things over and over the process is accelerated. We acted as tour guide to the others to Niagara on the Lake, having been there before ourselves a month ago. We learned little of the area in comparison to the others but a great deal from the others views on the places we visited. We learnt little from talking but a lot from listening.
2/10/01 The compelling CNN squared our eyes. The news media that dribbles out just enough of the real unfolding soap opera addictive. As it repeats events of the last few days we can catch up on missed events unfolding USA's shell as we watch in real life people adjusting to living within terrorism. Gone is the initial bravado, replaced with a quiet resolve before the storm. But it's the caution at home that is more devastating than the attacks themselves. People have stopped, not shopping, flying, holidaying, just waiting.
3/10/01 It's a reasonably quick trip from here to Florida, our current plan to fly home from there at the end of this month. Again a 5 minute border crossing back to the U.S.A. and goodbye for Canada.
4/10/01 The widespread autumn colours seem to be following us everywhere in this region. The sheer number of trees on the North American continent impressive considering its high population and development. Vast tracts of land are left undeveloped for agriculture. But those developed sections are celebrating harvest festival. Farm houses and some rural town's houses have dressed up their front yards with grass scarecrows and halloween pumpkins. Made it to New York for the night.
5/10/01 Staying again with Freddie and Nathia, now married since our April visit. We spent all day popping from one travel agency to the next getting quotes for our return trip, Miami, Australia, Miami early November to January. As always the effort spent in shopping around worthwhile, with the final ticket price just 2/3 that of its nearest rival.
6/10/01 The old saying "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" a true statement now in New York. The initial fear waning but the tension in the people remaining. Banking transactions, video surveillance and purchase records have been extensively used to identify and track the terrorists. These are now being stepped up with the corresponding fear they are impinging on civil liberties. We had difficulty getting money from a bank not owning any piece of US identification and even after complaining to the management we required two pieces of photo and signature identification to withdraw money from the teller on our Mastercard as we required more than an ATM would allow.
7/10/01 Left Long Island to Staten Island. The ferry to Manhattan is closed to vehicles along with a bridge and tunnel. We took the return passenger ferry to view the devastation at the World Trade Centre site. Four weeks after its collapse it still smoulders, red hot girders are still being lifted from deep in the rubble and the air is acrid with dust. The 4000 bodies not recovered will as likely never be recovered, turning to dust with the pulverized concrete. Nearby buildings are being washed and cleaned in an eerily quiet section of New York where on our visit last April was bustling with people.
8/10/01 We had ridden yesterday afternoon to Havre de Grace to the south. A town once in the running for the American Capital now quietly enjoying attention due to its beautiful position on Chesapeake Bay, at the confluence of five rivers, and its number of beautifully restored turn of the century houses. We stayed here with Virginia, a distant, distant relative, brought together by coincidence and an identical surname. In the evening we rode to her daughter's house in Washington for an equally warm welcome for related travellers.
9/10/01 Almost a sense of relief that America had struck back. Life can now continue as the path ahead seems clear, and the certainty of their response apparent to all. We visited the Capitol building, from the outside only, as heightened security restricted almost all of the few tourists in the Capital. Washington's Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial available to us but the damaged Pentagon keeping everyone outside. The most amazing group of museums in the world is the Smithsonian Institution and the most visited is the Air and Space Museum having such incredible exhibits as the Wright brother's first plane, the Apollo 11 command module used on the first moon landing, a piece of moon rock you can touch, a back up moon lander, a back up Skylab, the first plane to circumnavigate the world without stopping or refuelling, and the gondola from the hot air balloon which recently circumnavigated the earth. Along with thousands of other amazing exhibits occupied us most of the day.
10/10/01 Our related hosts Barbara and Bob graciously offered us another night in their home as Washington DC is too grand to see in one day or even a few days. More Smithsonian museums, all free, the Natural History Museum, with its Hope Diamond, dinosaur skeletons, and no crowds, almost no other tourists. The American History museum with the enormous Star Spangled Banner flag of 15 stars and stripes being painstakingly preserved, and an outside look at the White House, all public tours suspended due to recent events. The media is here, probably no greater or less than normal, set up inside the White House grounds and overlooking the White House itself from the roofs of nearby buildings. Interviews of congressmen and other politicians regularly take place on lawns outside major buildings with a dozen or more cameras and three times that number of personnel supporting the media show.
11/10/01 There are only about six zoos in the world that have Panda bears and being almost impossible to see in the wild we visited them at the zoo here. Large and playful these tree climbing bears are one of the most endangered large animals both in the wild and in captivity. Difficult and slow breeding their future is still not assured. Rode south in the afternoon.
12/10/01 Laurie and Greg, two long time travellers had invited us to stay in their small farm near Orange. Both have chosen a minimalist lifestyle, a fresh alternative to the consumer society in which they live. Whilst they were living an alternative lifestyle prior to their world trip it has influenced their need to own manufactured products preferring to have more natural articles about their small but comfortable farm house. Many travellers return with a different view for the need for material items having seen how little other people in the world have and need and still live happily.
13/10/01 Along the Blueridge Parkway. Winding the tree covered ridge with strong winds fluttering leaves to carpet the road. Then onto the interstate to Greensboro.
14/10/01 Interstate, dodging thunderstorms, and once out of the mountains a tropical weather feel to the air. Bike shops are having sales. Yesterdays H-D scratch and dent sale allowed us to purchase some new products at about 20% of the new price. H-D owners like to chrome up their motorcycles leaving behind the standard fittings which are just perfect for our needs.
15/10/01 You never know where the end of the day will leave you. Over stand up coffee and donuts breakfast in our cheap hotel foyer, a Florida couple invited us to come and stay with their friends near Daytona. Not having seen these friends for three years they telephoned leaving a message on the answering machine saying the four of us would be visiting in two hours. Still we all received a warm welcome, food and a bed for the night. I wonder how we would have reacted in similar circumstances.
16/10/01 Biketober in Daytona is the smaller brothers version of the big event in March when 300,000 people gather with their motorcycles. This end of season meet has become more popular lately and the four day event has spread to about eight days with riders trying to arrive before the crowds and vendors trying to get set up before they arrive. We took the opportunity to look around as the bikers arrived before the next weekend crowds. Iron Horse Bar and Main Street were already busy and parking at a premium, goodness knows what it will be like in four days time.
17/10/01 Jim and Lydia invited us to come and stay at their home in Cocoa, Florida. It had been Jim Clark's 67th birthday, the reason for the meeting date in Prudhoe Bay at the top of Alaska last July. Cocoa is right next to Cape Canaveral, one of only two places in the world to have launched "man" into space. With a full sized Saturn V rocket, the most complicated piece of man made anything, responsible for putting man on the moon along with other space modules, suits, encounters with astronauts and movies a great day. Unfortunately spoiled a bit by the "over the top" hype usually associated with a theme parks rather than the more thought provoking wonder of space exploration.
18/10/01 Jim and his wife Lydia looked after us tops and showed us the Cocoa Beach area, it's high rise hotels and island feel. We also tasted the local delicacies of alligator tail and frog's legs while overlooking one of the many swampy waterways that crosshatch this sand spit called Florida. The famous air boats, V8 powered propellers, zoomed across shallow waterways nearby. With temperatures in the low 20's a pleasant change from the cold north.
19/10/01 Three great days of glorious home cooked meals and relaxed conversation unfortunately ending as it's back to the single burner stove and take aways. Back to a thundering, noisy Daytona Beach now with over 50,000 motorcycles of all makes and weirdest designs. Primarily Harleys, followed by imitation cruisers and a few Goldwings and cafe racers. Spread out across more than 40 km, bikes are everywhere travelling from one cell to the next. Iron Horse Saloon, Main Street, Nascar Speedway, the flea market or the swap meets. From hotels, campgrounds and food sources. In some areas it's like a rolling thunder both ways down congested streets. Some rode their bikes here, many trailered them in. Some camp but most stay in motels this being primarily a rich man's sport. We camped with the working man in the makeshift grounds of portaloos and trailered in showers, loud ridden bikes and louder music, and paid an "events" price for the privilege. We squeezed into Main St for a while, looked at every possible accessory for a motorcycle but mainly watched everyone watching everyone else.
20/10/01 With venues spread, light beer is about all that is drunk but still the day started late for most everyone. With motorcycle parking only, the streets were lined with chopped, stretched, lowered, alligator skin covered, beaten copper sculptured, triked, bored, V8'ed or just about any modification money and imagination could perform on a motorcycle. With each excess to look good reducing rideability. By afternoon the crowds slowly thinned, some leaving time to head home but most still lapping the busy streets.
21/10/01 Last minute shopping and farewell breakfasts and most motorcycles had left by lunchtime. We moved to a now cheap hotel to rest as the rain wet everyone still in the city.
22/10/01 Across the Florida peninsula to Fort Myers to visit old friends, Jim and Donna. Jim is retired and had travelled extensively, settling down for a while at the moment, before more planned travels in the future.
23-25/10/01 Relaxing, cleaning up the bike for its two months storage and repacking. Drawing up lists of what to bring for next trip and what to take home. A few maintenance repairs and a movie.
26/10/01 The luxury of having almost every tool at our disposal at Jim's over the last few days almost too much, and today a rare pressure wash of the motorcycle and degrease. With halloween this weekend the local H-D dealer put on a sale along with a band and free foods. Judging by the turnout you would think the US economy was booming but while the people are turning up the cash registers here, as with Biketoberfest, weren't ringing. Caution is in the air.
27/10/01 West to East across the centre of Florida, past drained farmland of sugar cane and citrus orchards to the upmarket region of Fort Lauderdale. The overflow from Miami with new condominiums alongside canals with large boats and manicured gardens. The excesses of a wealthier society everywhere. Down to Miami, now showing its age in building designs and older infrastructure. This whole East Coast of the USA bumper to bumper traffic and housing. The H-D dealer at Fort Lauderdale offered to store our motorcycle while we go home for two months. The manager thought it would draw enough attention to be placed on the shop floor. One more hurdle overcome for the trip home.
28/10/01 Florida is famous for its Everglades, now reduced in size due to people verses nature. The original flow of fresh water down the peninsula diminished resulting in a changed and managed wetlands at the southern tip. Following the recent heavy rains the entire park is awash, with 2.5 metres the highest land. Alligators can be seen, although now scattered through the park, they cluster more in the dry season in some of the few remaining waterholes. The same is for most of the wildlife and birds. The water slowly moves south, the reedy grasses filtering the particles, algae growing in warm waters, fish eating the algae. This unique tropical type ecosystem much further north than would be expected due to the surrounding warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
29/10/01 Found out today that the winds in the West Indies and the Caribbean blow from the east as do the currents flow from that direction. Rather than fight into these we decided to head down through Central America to South America next trip and if we can find a suitable boat there we will head back up to Florida through the Caribbean from Venezuela.
30/10/01 Jim Milliken had offered to show us the Keys. That long string of islands off the bottom of Florida, connected by a string of bridges 200 km into the ocean. Some islands are no more than sandy coral not much wider than the road while others harbour canal developments or state park reserves. All are surrounded by clear blue waters, that turquoise colour of the tropics. Despite strong winds and threatening thunderstorms the seas were calm, broken down by the outlying reefs. We camped at Bahia Honda, a state park, on the beach front, made available by the terrorists threats due to the lack of travellers, a site usually booked months in advance. The No Name Pub, famous here for its gigantic topped pizza and atmosphere provided our dinner and refreshments.
31/10/01 Jim showed us the Keys, particularly Key West, where he has visited many times and the southern most point of the U.S.A. There always seems to be something happening here and this week its the ocean racing boats. These long sleek high powered boats of the wealthier or corporate raced past the Keys dock with their entourage of low flying helicopters chasing the best photos. In the evening the buskers and street performers came out onto the docks to entertain. The best performance seems to be that of the trained cats. Overlooking the hyper performance of the trainer the cats perform small miracles of jumping through flaming hoops, walking tight ropes and leap from stool to stool almost on command.
1/11/01 Back down to Key West where something is always happening even in recession and cautious times. Last night's partygoers slowly emerge from the drug or alcohol induced late morning sleep with new women or men they found the previous evening. The cruise ships arrive and ferry the big spenders to the less seedy higher priced duller areas of town to buy seafood lunches and souvenirs. The street performers repeat last night's show slightly modified to perhaps get one or two extra tips and the evening bars open up their live entertainment to start the cycle again. A place of seemingly shallow existence that draws all types to its shores. A large gay population, drug users and prostitutes, buskers, body piercers, street gypsies all supported by the conservative element here to experience the edge for a few days as tourists away from their normal mundane lives.
2/11/01 Hung around the Bahia Honda State Park half way down the Keys, walking the sandy beaches and watching the pelicans feeding offshore. The winds have increased and a few more storms as Hurricane Michelle develops itself south of Cuba.
3/11/01 Yesterdays tropical storm warning has now moved to a hurricane warning for the southern Keys. Many shop fronts are being boarded up along with exposed homes. Our campground was closing as we left and an evacuation order was out on the southern Keys for all non residents. Traffic was heavy with locals filling up their vehicles with petrol, shopping for emergency supplies and just people heading out of the region to the north.
4/11/01 The whole Keys are now under evacuation orders with rain increasing near Homestead, just off the Keys where we spent the night. They take their hurricanes here seriously even allowing free travel along the toll way evacuation route. Winding down, last minute oil change, clothes washing before we fly home tomorrow.
5/11/01 Hurricane slipped by the coast to the east bringing
only rain and wind as we stored the motorcycle at the Fort Lauderdale dealer
and boarded our plane.
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