Travel journal USA en Canada 2012 - 2013

by Claudia and PJ Potgieser

 

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October 2012, Netherlands
We send an email around that we will soon be on the road again.
"But where to should I send my Aurora Calendar?" Is the reply of our friend Heidi, a gifted Northern Lights photographer whom we met two years ago in Yellowstone.
"We will pick it up at your home," is PJ's spontaneous response.
"Really? You know how to make a woman happy!" is the enthusiastic response of Heidi.
"PJ, do you know where Heidi lives?", I ask.
"Yeah, just about."
I grab the map of North America. "Look, this is where we are going to land", and I point at Calgary in Canada. "And Heidi lives here", and point at the northernmost point of the state of Minnesota.
"Holy shit," mutters PJ.

                A = Calgary, E = Heidi

And this is how our road trip begins through many states where we have not been before!

On Sunday, October 28th we fly to Canada. We are not affected by hurricane Sandi that plagues the eastern states of the USA. Not even a hint of turbulence.
From the air, we have a beautiful view of the sun setting over the snowy city of Calgary.

 

 

We have checked the weather closely these last weeks, because we did not want to have to dig out the camper and just as in the Netherlands it was a beautiful mild autumn. But just as in the Netherlands the last week was quite a bit colder and in Alberta the first snow fell.

So it is bitterly cold an hour after landing in Calgary when we are standing outside waiting for the free shuttle bus that will take us to our hotel.
We check in, bring our luggage to the room and then quickly walk a few hundred meters to a McDonalds for a fat snack. There is one inch of snow on the streets and the wind-chill factor makes it feel like 23F. Our ears are almost freezing off! At 8:30 pm we are in bed, both exhausted in the warm room.

The next morning we are very curious how our camper is hanging in after more than four months in an outdoor storage. After a huge breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, Belgian waffles, cereal, muffins and loads of coffee we take the free shuttle back to the airport and there we take a taxi to the store. Yes, we remain cheap Dutch eh?
Our taxi driver is an Indian guy with a blue turban and a huge white mustache and beard. He  is taciturn, but knows to find the storage faultlessly 3 miles down the road.

The camper is looking good - what a shame that squatters have pooped all over the truck - but unfortunately the engine does not start. PJ brings out the generator, but after five minutes that one quit.

   

So PJ 'borrows' a truck at the office and jump starts the batteries. After two attempts the engine starts, but then also check engine light (go immediately to the nearest dealer) is blinking. Hell no, that's pretty much the reason we have sold the previous truck!
We drive to a Dodge dealer and explain the problem to the workshop manager and hope that it has to do with the empty batteries and the jump start.
"That seems very unlikely," is the dismal response of the technician, but he promises to check it out today.

After three hours comes the redeeming answer: yes, it was caused by the dead batteries. After the computer in the pick-up is reset and we have paid 100 dollars, we are back on the road.

We buy some groceries and quickly drive to the winter RV park northwest of Calgary. We arrive here at 4:30 pm; the day has slipped through our fingers.

So we unpack the suitcases and store the groceries and check out what is not working in the camper. The boiler has been frozen during the previous winter storage and we have not yet fixed that. The water pump of the camper does not work (frozen?) and the toilet does not flush, so we have to rinse with a bucket. We bought a small electric heater and soon it is toasty in the camper.
We check the weather (snow) and distances and have not decided yet what to do and which way we will go first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 30, 2012, Calgary, Canada
When we wake up, it is still dark (annoying that jet lag), but as soon as the first rays of sun colors the horizon I go outside with a camera. A full moon sets slowly and the sun comes up with a great fanfare.

   

              

PJ repairs the broken water pump, which turns out to be only a blown fuse, but when he turns on the pump, we hear water running through the kitchen cupboard!! Unfortunately, the water filter has broken and water sprays through the cabinet! PJ fixes this temporary with a screw in the plastic pipe. The toilet will have to wait until we get into warmer weather.

When we wake up on October 31 (again at 6 am), it's Halloween, 21F (-6C), and I am a year older.
My visit to the shower building is a little creepy. Of the three coin showers (I hate coin showers, especially if you just paid C$ 39.- for the RV park), two are out of order. While I am undressing in the only available shower cubicle, suddenly the shower next to me starts running! Halloween ghosts? And without starting my shower with some coins, it also starts to run hot water. So I jump under this free shower.
I more often wear flip-flops under the shower, but this is the first time in my life that I keep my knitted hat on! Wow, it is cold in this building!
After the shower we decide about our route. We have repeatedly checked the weather. I would like to enjoy the winter weather a bit longer, so I ask PJ if he would like to take a detour North through Banff and Jasper National Park over the Icefields Parkway through the Rocky Mountains and then from Edmonton back to Calgary. Well, of course he cannot refuse a birthday girl!

                              

The first part from Calgary to Banff is a bit disappointing, there is only snow on the shoulders, but nothing on the trees. But when we get to higher altitude, there is even fresh snow and the trees with a little snow in the air.

We spent the night at a "RV park" in Golden. I write this in brackets, because there are only a few places next to a motel with power, but without water or showers. And Wi-Fi costs C$ 5, so we pick that up illegally from a neighbor. Golden is much lower in altitude, so the snow is now rain and it is 41F (5C) outside.
Tomorrow it is going to rain all day, that would mean snow on the Icefield Parkway, so we decide
to stay another day around here and will drive the Parkway on Friday. We do not expect to see bears, maybe a few elk, but this will be mainly about the beautiful scenery with hopefully lots of snow for pretty pictures.

November 2, 2012, Golden Canada
We drive the Icefield Parkway, a route that runs at 6000 feet along many glaciers, hence the name. It is a bit disappointing, because there is no snow on the trees! We specially stayed another day in Golden, so we would miss the bad weather, but the forecasted sunny day for Friday is not there and it is a gloomy cloudy day. But the Icefield Parkway remains a beautiful route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               


We spend the night in a 'winter camping' in Jasper, but that turns out only a parking lot with power (no dump and water) and hot showers. Our electric heater is running nicely and the showers are clean and the spray is fantastic. I stay there for fifteen minutes (without a hat) and I am not known as a somebody who takes long showers.

November 3, 2012, Jasper, Canada
Another gloomy day with even a little rain. We drive the Maligne Road where we shoot some bighorn sheep.

 

In the afternoon we have e-mail contact with Martin, a Dutch high school friend who lives in Edmonton. We ask him if we can come over today instead of Sunday. Of course we are welcome.
While we are driving the Yellowhead Highway from Hinton to Edmonton, there is suddenly a lot of snow on the roadsides and on the trees. But we want to arrive in Edmonton before dark, so we have no time to stop and take pictures. So I have to do with snapping pictures from the moving camper.

 

At 6:30 pm (still after sunset) we arrive at Martins. It has been over 28 years since we last saw each other at a reunion and it is good that I became 'Facebook Friend' with him a year ago, otherwise we would not have recognize him! From a 16 year old teenager, Martin has turned into a handsome guy of 48.
PJ and I both know him from high school and after our graduation 30 years ago he emigrated with his parents, brothers and sister to Canada. Everybody went back to Holland after years of living in Canada, but Martin stayed behind with his Canadian wife Marianne and their three children. Unfortunately Marianne is not home, she is in with relatives in Australia. Martin immediately orders a large pizza and we talk all evening together. What has happened a lot in those 30 years!

The next day is a bright sunny day and time for some memory photos.

 

From Edmonton we drive diagonally down through the provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan that prove to be terribly boring. We camp at a winter RV park that has no water and dump. This is now starting to be quite annoying, especially because they let us pay C$ 28 per night.

 

November 6, 2012, Canada-USA Border
Today we cross the border Canada-USA in Fortuna, North Dakota. A female customs officer negotiates everything, asks many questions, but remains polite and friendly. So, that is an easy border crossing. Finally we have the advantage that we flew into Canada and cross into the USA via a land border. Now we can stay on our 90 days visa in the USA, and then leave the United States via Mexico. Because if we fly into the USA, the rule is that you after 90 days you have to fly home. Now we can winter in Mexico and come back in March to  the USA on a new visa. Do you still get it?

It is an exciting day because the Presidential election is today. Who will it be, Barack Obama for another four years or will it be Mitt Romney? The world is holding their breath.
To continue the Presidential feeling we drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we arrive in the dark. The campground is completely empty.

November 7, 2012, T. Roosevelt NP, USA
I wake up with a deafening silence! It is long since we were parked somewhere for the night, where there is no noises. I have to think about it for a while to realize where we are and why I do not hear anything!
After a while the birds wake up and we see wild turkeys foraging. They are oblivious of the fact that Thanksgiving is in two weeks.

 

 

 

   

We photograph cannon balls, round stones with a diameter of three feet that have fallen straight out of the soft rock. Unfortunately, it is a bleak and cloudy day, so we move on. We read on the Internet that Obama may try it for another four years.
It is now a 12 hour drive to Heidi, who eagerly is waiting for us. In her enthusiasm she proposed a program like we would stay for a month, instead of a few days. At least we feel very welcome. We hope that we can shoot the Northern Lights one of these nights.

November 8, 2012, Babbitt Minnesota USA
Babbit, the home of Heidi and her husband Tom is in the middle of nowhere. There seems to be no end to the road through the miles and miles of forest in Minnesota. But we are happy that we have finally trees around us, because we are fed up with the barren plains of Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota. We see many hunters and assume that they hunt for deer, but this turns out to be wolves. Not good!

 

The welcome is warm (even from their two dogs) and what is it nice to Heidi in her own environment. Heidi had written that they do not have a spare room, but of course we can sleep on the couch. This is obviously not necessary, because we always bring our house with us. I wonder how small they live, maybe they live in a mobile home. But of course Americans do not live small, Heidi and Tom are living in a normal house with three bedrooms (both occupying a room as their home office), two living rooms, two bathrooms, a sunroom (more about this later), garage and a huge garden with evergreens.

 

We park our camper in the driveway of the neighbors, because they are on vacation.

Heidi promises Eggs Benedict for breakfast. It turns out that Heidi was a chef, before she became a full-time nature photographer, and she can cook very well. Full of admiration I watch her poaching the eggs and whisking the Hollandaise sauce. The English muffins are in the oven, the ham is heated, the table is set, cupcakes are laid out on a beautiful crystal bowl, fresh coffee is made. Wow, what a welcoming breakfast this is.

Heidi tells us that Christmas with her family always have a theme night. "This year we are going to celebrate a Dutch Christmas!". I think this is very funny and what a coincidence. I give Heidi some Dutch recipes of the treats we eat in December. Too bad that this time we did not bring any Dutch treats from home, so they could eat samples.
But when a month later she sends us a picture of the giant Windmill cookie she baked, I know that it all worked out.

                           

One evening we play the board game Sequence in the sunroom. This is a room with lots of glass that is actually meant for late summer nights or balmy spring evenings. But Tom keeps the fire going, Heidi has made pizza which stays warm on a hot plate, drinks at our hands, so without sun we can stay all evening there in the sunroom without being cold. The next evening we play sequence in the living room, for a pleasant change.

 

 

On Sunday Heidi takes us to the International Wolf Center in Ely, a place where you can study a pack of wolves behind glass. There is also an exhibition are, many stuffed wolves and lots of information on the conservation of wolves. One of Heidi's Aurora pictures is hanging on the wall.

   

Then we drive to the end of the road. From here there is only one more lake and then Canada begins. This is the place where many of Heidi's beautiful Aurora photos were taken. We would have loved to stay up all night with Heidi to shoot the Northern Lights, but unfortunately it rains all weekend.

 

 

 

 

November 12, 2012, Babbitt Minnesota USA
On the day of our departure it snowed, it is bitterly cold and we bid farewell to the dear Heidi and her kind husband Tom.

 

 

 

 

 

After a day of driving we arrive at a Wal-Mart in St. Cloud, Minnesota. When we step into the camper, it appears to be 30F (-1 C) inside! The gas heater is working overtime, we pick up very slow Internet and with much effort we write an e-mail to Regina, our next place to stay, to ask where she lives. After two hours the stove has not enough power from the batteries and starts to blow cold air. We crawl under the covers to keep warm, but also our reading lamps on the bed are giving virtually no light. This is no fun anymore. We urgently need to check on the batteries, because after a day of driving, they are not charged by the pickup. In the morning the outside temperature is 17F (-8C) and 29F (-1.5) in the camper!

 

In southern Minnesota we pass through a village called Holland. We cannot resist taking some crazy pictures.

 

 

  


From Babbitt it is a two-day drive to our next girlfriend: Regina, a park ranger from Hyder, Alaska. When we first met her she was only 19 years old and now 12 years later she is married, has a daughter of one and a half and lives in Sioux Falls. We arrive at the end of the afternoon. Her husband is on a business trip for a week, but what is it nice to meet her daughter Rory. The reunion with Regina is much fun and soon we are laughing at silly things like we used to do in Hyder. I just love Regina sense of humor. When Regina was a ranger in Alaska we spent many hours on the platform, waiting for bears. And in her spare time Regina took us on adventure trips through bear infested woods, climbing to an ice cave or camp overlooking the Salmon Glacier. When PJ turned 40, she surprised him to appear in a Smokey the Bear costume on the platform and on another birthday she baked a bear cake for him.

 

   

Regina has to go to class the next evening and she asks us if we want to look after Rory. With no effort we play, read, eat dinner, clean a diaper and bring Rory to bed and the three hours fly by. What a lovely girl, that does not talk yet, but seems to understand everything.

 

   

November 16, 2012, Sioux Falls, South Dakota USA
From Sioux Falls we drive westward throughout the state of South Dakota to a number of National Parks and tourist attractions.
As we drive along Mitchell, we cannot resist to visit the corn palace. Palace might be a bit big word, but this building is plastered with corn kernels, grains and grasses. This has been done since 1892 and each year the murals have a different theme. This time it has to do with sports. Inside it appears to be a basketball arena. Too cheesy for words, but always nice to have just seen. And the only appropriate thing to eat after a visit is a bowl of creamy corn chowder made by Regina.

 

 

                                 


Badlands National Park covers an area of nearly 250 thousand acres and consists of ravines, canyons and hoodoos, - caused by water and wind erosion - interspersed with large areas of  grass prairies. The Badlands is a dry area with little vegetation and soft rocks. Therefore, the steep slopes with loose, dry soil, slick clay, and deep sand look like a moon like landscape. I did not expect wildlife in this dry desert area, but we are surprised by a Rough-legged Hawk, mule deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs, coyote, bison and a badger.

 

 

We get up early to photograph the sunrise over the rough terrain and despite the thick layer of clouds on the horizon, we are pretty satisfied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next is Mount Rushmore National Memorial: you know, those four president's heads carved out of the rock. We drive the winding road to the place where the heads can be seen best and read that we have to pay 12 dollar to park and you cannot stop anywhere along the way. We think this is a rip off, especially because the memorial is in the National Park pass and yearly three million people come to visit. So we drive back and forth a few times, while I shoot pictures from the truck window. Seen it, done it, this was on PJs bucket list.

   

   

November 18, 2012, Wind Cave N. P. South Dakota USA
At the end of the afternoon we arrive at the Wind Cave National Park and we missed the last cave tour of the day. So we camp at the campground for only U$ 6. Great, these are the nice prices.
The next morning we get ready for the tour. It will be only 50F (10C) in the caves, so I dress in multiple layers, my hat, gloves and sturdy walking shoes. Well, only the latter are necessary, because the caves have a humidity of 90% and soon I am sweating like an otter.
Because there are only have two couples in the tour, the guide asks us if he can take us for a longer tour, two hours. Perfect! The walk begins with an elevator and that makes me giggle: PJ always asks whether a hike is wheelchair accessible, because he is does not like hiking.
 

The caves are impressive, you will not find any stalagmites or stalactites here, but creations called boxwork. It reminds me of delicate lace, sugar or crystallized ice.

   

 

November 19, 2012, Douglas Wyoming USA
From South Dakota and Wyoming we drive into the town Douglas where we can camp for free in a city park with an RV dump, water (the water is everywhere already closed for the winter, so we are urgently in need water), Wi-Fi and even hot showers! I shoot a beautiful sunset while mule deer frolic through the grass.

 

 

 

November 21, 2012, Longmont Colorado USA
We have contacted Bob and SueAnn in Colorado, which we affectionately call our fossil friends. B & SA have no house, but are living in a trailer parked next to the Baptist Church and School in Longmont. Also them we first met in 2000 in Hyder, Alaska. But with this couple we have traveled extensively to photograph wildlife. For example Moose in Alaska, Grizzly Bears in Bella Coola and Bighorn Sheep in Jasper.

We are invited to a Thanksgiving lunch with friends of Bob and SueAnn. The table is nicely set and everyone has a made a dish. The dessert is four kinds of pie.

   

                

      

It strikes me that Americans are not beautiful dressed for a dinner, as we do for a Christmas dinner. Jeans is not a problem and everybody has left their shoes at the door.
After dinner and the dishes the men are bulging on the couch and watch American Football and the ladies start leafing through a large pile of advertisements papers. Tomorrow is Black Friday, the traditional day to buy Christmas presents with huge discounts. It is therefore the busiest day of the year for retailers. Some people stay days in advance at the store's doorstep (and miss their family dinner). But nothing is sacred, not even Thanksgiving and the stunting of the retailers begins on Thursday evening, much to the dismay of many Americans. But not for this family and they are working out a plan to be in time for the rows in the store. And this staying in line goes on through the night, each store has its different times for different offers. The shoppers leave at 8 pm and we are brought home by Bob and SueAnn at 9 in the evening. What a privilege to join this traditional celebration.

   

November 23, 2012, Longmont Colorado USA
Meanwhile, a photographer friend of Yellowstone responds when she read on Facebook that we are in Longmont, Colorado.
"I live only 15 miles away, are you coming to visit us?".
Of course we will and Cathy and Rick turn out to live in a forest, near Rocky Mountain National Park. The deer graze in the garden and at night black bears and the occasional mountain lion wanders through the backyard!

 

We have a nice evening together and the next morning we drive in two days to Utah, where we pick up our stuff for Mexico from the basement of my niece Diana and her husband Randy. Because we do not like to schedule our route to the North or South always via Utah to retrieve summer or winter clothes, this time we leave as little as possible in the basement. Because of the new flatbed construction that PJ built last year, we have much more storage space and we can take not only our thick winter coats but also things like an electric hot plate, our hammocks and bird feeders (which we only use in Mexico). 

November 26, 2012, Plain City Utah USA
This morning we went to a Trailer builder. The batteries of the camper do not charge while driving, so that is checked. It appears to be oxidized connections and are replaced. Hopefully the problem is now solved.
In the afternoon we go to another garage to have something done on the suspension of the pick-up truck. There are four new shocks installed.

November 28, 2012, Utah USA
We hurry south, because tonight is the full moon and we want to shoot this from Bryce National Park. I think this is the most beautiful place on earth (we go there now for the fourth time).
When we arrive at the observation point, the horizon is covered with a thick layer of clouds. That's a little disappointing, but we are still able to shoot some nice landscape photos with the light of the moon and a slow shutter speed.

 

At the campground we read a sign that in September a cougar was spotted at the campground! I know that this is more than two months ago, but the idea that this illusive night animal has wandered near people, is exiting enough for me. If we had been here in September, I would have stayed up all night for a week.

 

 

 

This picture of a live mountain lion was taken at the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson

November 29, 2012, Bryce Canyon NP Utah USA
We get up at six o'clock to be on time for the sunrise of 7:30. The time well before the sun rises is the best time to photograph the natural amphitheater. Bryce Canyon is famous for its unique geological rock formations. Due to forces of freezing and thawing, the limestone and sandstone formations slowly eroded, forming the so-called hoodoos. The worn peaks provide beautiful formations in the first sunlight. The soft light creates shades of the colors on the rocks and seem very mysterious. The colors range from pink to orange.
While PJ tries to capture bright orange horizon, I focus on the ever-changing colors of the canyon. We really enjoy it and are happy with the result.

 

 

                            

From Bryce Canyon we drive through Red Canyon.

 

           

We stumble on Coral Pink Red Sands Dunes State Parkon by accident because our camper is too high for the main road to Zion (due to a tunnel) and we take a shortcut along these Pink Dunes. It turns out to be a beautiful scenery that reminds us of the red sand dunes of Namibia.

 

 

 

The last bit (only 3 miles) is unpaved and when we are back on asphalt and stop for a drink, we see what a mess it is in the camper!

 

                 

1 to 8 December 2012, Parker Arizona USA
For about a week we stay in a beautiful spot on the Colorado River in Parker, Arizona. Around us are bare red mountains and planted palm trees. It is like an oasis in the desert. It's not real RV park, but a huge park, where most large trailers camp without power, with only a water tap. Dry camp they call it. We are very lucky, because we are allowed to park at an unofficial site near the boat ramp, with a picnic table, electricity, water and we pick up WIFI from the clubhouse for only 17 dollar per night! Every evening a beautiful sunset and at night we hear coyotes howl that sounds so close that I go out a few times to check if they really not sitting under the camper.

 

 

 

                           

November 9, 2012, Yuma Arizona USA
We meet for Happy Hour in Yuma with our friends Jim and Linda. We met this Canadian couple years ago in La Penita Mexico. Four years ago they bought a park model in a senior park and spend the winter in the mild climate of Arizona. They take us out to dinner at a grill buffet restaurant and we eat far too much. Very nice to see them again.

   

           

December 11, 2012, border USA to Mexico

                            

After three lovely months in Mexico we cross the border into the USA again in March.

March 23, 2013
The first check is jovial, but then we have to park the camper for a food control. To PJ's displeasure we will not cross the border with an empty fridge and freezer, but with all kinds of meat, fish and vegetables.

The female customs officer is very friendly. We have to get used to her slurred speech: she sounds drunk, but probably she had a stroke. We are allowed to import shrimp, chicken, beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers and cucumber, so I am glad that I did not throw anything out before we crossed the border.

Then we have to go into the building for immigration. This time it is very difficult. The officer is not familiar with visas and for a long period checks his computer where all our data is stored.
"You are border hopping", he claims.
Well I would not call it border hopping: we have just spent three months in Mexico and we have been for a whole year in the Netherlands.
"Where are you going now?"
"In two week we fly home from Calgary home".
"Calgary? What is Calgary? "
We will blame our accent, because Calgary is a well-known and major city in Canada ...
Ultimately, the immigration officer gives us a 90 day permit.

We spend the night at the RV park in Why, Arizona.

After a refreshing night and a hot day we drive north to Phoenix, where we spend the night at the Walmart parking lot.

March 24, 2013, Arizona USA
In Flagstaff we go grocery shopping and I see a headline of the local Sunday newspaper: 'At last Grand Falls is flowing again " with a photo of an impressive red-brown muddy waterfall.

Back in the camper we googled Grand Falls on our laptop. This waterfall in the Painted Desert is only impressive in March and April when the waterfall is fed by snow melt. The rest of the year it is a pathetic trickle. The waterfall is about 50 miles from here (in the wrong direction) and partly on a dirt road, but we nevertheless we decide to drive to it. I take the directions of the Internet on all turns and distances, because the waterfall is not a well-marked attraction in the Navajo Indian reservation.

We drive through a flat desert landscape and it is hard to imagine that somewhere flows a 56 yards high waterfall. After PJ parks the camper at the Little Colorado River crossing we see a pick-up gets stuck mid-river! After some wiggling the truck  loosens up and drives back. We remain on this side of the river. Through the Internet we know we still have to walk a mile on a flat path, so I walk on my slippers.

 

The first view at the waterfall is impressive. Not so much the surprising extent, but especially the many terraces where the chocolate milk colored water flows over before it falls deep below us into the Little Colorado River.  

  
 

But PJ sees immediately that he wants to shoot the waterfall from the bottom of the gorge. After all there are people walking there.
"But I'm on my flip-flops!", I complain.
We are not the only ones who come to admire this magnificent spectacle and I attribute that to the Sunday headline.

We walk along the edge of the canyon looking for a place where we can climb down and find that too. The path is fairly simple - with a few jumps - we reach the bottom of the gorge.

PJ experiments with slow shutter speeds (I had been carrying the tripod) and we enjoy this cool spring spectacle.                                                                        

 

 
                                                                                              And now we have to hike back again!

We drive to the Grand Canyon National Park to photograph the sunset, so we are in a hurry. To our amazement a huge line of cars is at the entrance and we proceed very slowly. When we finally arrive at the ranger station entrance booth and show the ranger our Eagle Park Pass (free entry to all National Parks) we ask what is going on.
The ranger replied surprised: "It's Spring Break".
Oops, we had not thought of that. Then, of course, all the campgrounds will be full too.
We drive quickly to the first viewpoint, but the sun is already so far set that the canyon is already in the shade. Too bad!

We try out all viewpoints, but nowhere can we take good pictures. We drive out of the park on the east side and camp for free along the way.

March 25, 2013, Grand Canyon USA
What is it cold! I look at the outside temperature and see to my horror that it only 17 F! Just three days ago we were in Mexico with 82F degrees. What a transition. It really is time that we get our winter duvet from the suitcase, which is strapped to the roof.

The temperature slowly rises to 52F, but the air is clear and the sun is shining.

We drive to Utah and enjoy the view of Monument Valley.

 

We decide to ignore this Indian Park, because we want to drive the Valley of the Gods tomorrow. The landscape of Valley of the Gods is very similar to that of the more famous Monument Valley. Also in Valley of the Gods you see beautiful sandstone buttes that are scattered in an otherwise empty, expansive desert landscape. Via a 20 miles dirt road you can drive through the lonely valley. Admission is free and because it is not as well-known as Monument Valley, you have the desert to yourself.

We stay for free in Goosenecks State Park with stunning views on the San Juan River, 1,000 feet below. This river flows here 8 miles long here through an area that is 1 mile wide. The water seeks the path of least resistance, and because it is often not the shortest way there arise bends in the river.

  

PJ climbs on the roof to open the suitcase and throws the duvet and our winter coats down. But what a letdown: mildew in the jackets and they smell musty! Fortunately the duvet was in an airtight bag. We air everything in the sun and I leave the coats out overnight.

March 26, 2013, Goosenecks State Park USA
We slept well under our down comforter, but wake up to a cloudy sky! We are very disappointed, because these rocks rising from the desert have to photographed with a blue sky with maybe some clouds.
The foul smell has not gone away from out winter coats.

We still drive the dirt road through Valley of the Gods, but we do not shoot really pretty pictures.

To travel further north, we take Utah State Route 261, called a scenic byway, which begins north of the town of Mexican Hat (named after a rock formation) and which ends near Natural Bridges National Monument.


                                                                   Find the differences

Most of State Route 261 is paved, but there is also three mile gravel area. This part is called the Moki Dugway and rises after a number of steep but well graded switch backs (10%) to almost 1,200 feet high in the Cedar Mesa Plateau.

The views of the area and the road is magnificent, so I suggest that PJ drives the road one more time riding up and down so I can take pictures. This is time consuming, but we end up with spectacular photos.

 

We drive through grand Utah with a tiny bit of sunshine to Goblin State Park, but unfortunately the campground full. We were looking forward to a hot shower, but we have to boondock again. PJ finds a swell spot in the San Rafael desert and I photograph the setting full moon in the early morning.

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2013, Utah
The next day we drive to a town RV park, take a shower and wash our winter coats at the public Laundromat. The mildew smell is almost gone. I start packing the suitcase. For the longest time we have doubt if we would change our flight tickets and stay longer in de USA, but when we hear that Yellowstone National Park will open a week later than planned and that would mean that we have to wait another month. We do not want to, so we will catch the plane of April 2 from Calgary. We drive to Ogden for the technical inspection and stay with my niece Diana and her partner Randy. It's almost 68F in Ogden!

March 29, 2013, USA
We leave Utah and drive in the state of Idaho. There is still snow on the ground and the temperature drops to 59F degrees.
   

We are visiting girlfriend Melissa in Victor at the foot of the Grand Teton Mountains. She lives with her three dogs, two cats and a rabbit in a log cabin. We socialize and go out for dinner. The next morning Melissa already left early for work, so we drive further north.

   

March 31, 2013
Today we cross the border of the USA - Canada. There is a huge line (it is Easter Sunday) and we have to wait more than 40 minutes in line. Everyone is friendly and we get a visa for six months. We stay for free in a parking lot of a mall in Calgary.

               

1 and April 2, 2013, Calgary

As we drive past the Canadian Superstore supermarket, we cannot resist to go inside for some cheese and cinnamon rolls. At the bakery a lady is just glazing the cinnamon buns with icing. She sticks her gloved hand in a bucket of icing. When she offers us the sandwiches, I suddenly blurt out: "Can I lick your fingers." First she looks shocked, but then she starts laughing happily.

At the winter RV park north of Calgary we pack the suitcases and PJ prepares the camper for a cold storage. He replaces all the water in the tanks and boiler by antifreeze. At 4.30 pm we are at the storage and pay for four months. We do not know exactly what we are going to do, but we can always pay extra later. We then take a taxi to the airport. Our flight does not leave for another four hours, but could not arrive later at the storage.

We have quite a lot of food and drink leftovers, so after we checked in, we sit down in front of customs on the leather sofas, with a good bottle of red wine, diced aged cheddar cheese, cheese and cinnamon rolls and watch some television shows on the Internet.

We fly from Calgary to London and then to Amsterdam, where we arrive in the evening. We are picked up by my father-in-law and he brings us to our mobile home. Our dear friends have done breakfast shopping, turned on the heater, bought flowers, and took our car out of storage and connected the gas/water. What a treat!