Chippewa Herald * July 28, 2005

"Daughter of all vacations," part 4: Take a shortcut through Canada, eh?

Editor's note -- This is a four-part series:
[DOAV.1] [DOAV.2] [DOAV.3] [DOAV.4]

See photos for this section ( 4a or 4b) or get links for all DOAV stuff

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

While we were doing 100 on the freeway, we saw signs for gas at 85 cents and heard radio weather predictions for lows of 15 degrees. And our coins were called "Loonies" and "Twoneys."

No, we didn't enter a time/space warp -- we were in Canada! It takes a while to get used to speeds measured in kilometers per hour, gas measured in cents per liter, and temperature in the Celsius scale.

Let me back up. Our third and final week of the "Daughter Of All Vacations" began in Massachusetts. After four thrilling but scorching days in New York City, we were quite relieved to be able to spend some time in an air-conditioned home near Boston. Our friends Franklin and Mingi Bodine, who recently relocated from Chippewa Falls, had plenty of space in their new home for all seven of us. We like our camper, but it's quite a treat to spread out in a house once in a while, and to spend time with old friends.

Day 15, June 17 -- We dedicated our first full day there to a car trip through the upper New England states, taking the "blue highways" across Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Being unburdened with a trailer, we thought it would be fun to drive on winding country roads through small towns.

The little highway we were following finally hit the Atlantic Ocean in Kennebunkport, Maine. Stopping at a seafood stand for clam chowder and lobster, we bought some postcards featuring glamorous photos of the George H. W. Bush's famous summer home. We joked that it would be fun to "run into" one of the Bushes while in Kennebunkport.

While we didn't bump into them, we did stumble on a sight to behold while meandering on local roads -- all of a sudden we were right across an inlet from the Bush mansion! We recognized it immediately from the postcard.

Better yet, when we saw a person there, I zoomed in with my digital camera. With a 48X zoom, I realized that the person shaking out a rug on her front porch was none other than Barbara Bush! I was able to snap a recognizable photo of our nation's First Mother just before she stepped back in the house. I guess I'm now part of the paparazzi (although I'm unsure of the street value of a photograph of an 80-year-old lady shaking a rug).

Day 16, June 18 -- Fortunately, it was a Saturday when we decided to hike the oft-recommended Freedom Trail that winds through downtown Boston. Franklin had given us very specific directions on which exit to take and which turns to make to get to the parking ramp under the Boston Common. We followed his instructions carefully, only to be greeted with a loud buzzer, warning us that our van was too tall!

We came to know first-hand why Boston has such a bad reputation for motorists. Roads seem to wander aimlessly, following the ancient cow paths that inspired them. We eventually found a street parking spot and had a great day hiking the Freedom Trail, but when it came time for me to go back to the van and pick up the rest of the family, it took over ONE HOUR to drive four miles!

Day 17, June 19 -- We got an early start as we had to cover both Massachussets and New York states, the long way. Not much to report there, as both states have turnpikes with very limited access. (I do remember that one of the tolls was $21...a bit too much to cover with change from the ash tray as we usually do!)

The bridge between upstate New York and Canada has a great view of Niagara Falls, one of the "Twelve Wonders of the Natural World." We rode the "Maid of the Mist" boat near the falls, but we passed up most of the tourist traps there.

Day 18, June 20 -- Leaving Niagara Falls, we drove along deserted country roads to take a break from the freeway for a few hours. We found a place to set up our pop-up camper overlooking Lake Erie, only this time it was a provincial park instead of a commercial campground. We were about the only ones there -- a quiet contrast from our previous night's stay in the tourist mecca!

Day 19, June 21 -- We did a quick tour of Windsor, Ontario, a small city directly across the river from Detroit that was about 20 miles (32 Km) from our campground. I showed the kids the University of Windsor dormitory where I lived in the summer of 1981 while I interned for Generous Motors in suburban Detroit.

Our goal for the day was Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. The village is amazing! Ford built it mostly in the early 1930s, to preserve a slice of Americana. In addition to showing relocated original houses and buildings -- like Thomas Edison's lab and the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop -- Greenfield Village also featured demonstrations of crafts like glass-blowing and pottery spinning, and even included music of the era like a real live barbershop quartet. How can you not like that?

The Henry Ford Museum was also very interesting, and included artifacts such as the nation's first steam-powered electricity plant, and the car that John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was shot.

Day 20, June 22 -- We're back to travel mode. We decided that once per lifetime is enough to drive a trailer through downtown Chicago, so we took the northern route around Lake Michigan. We crossed the Mackinaw Bridge and drove west on the UP (Upper Peninsula). Of course we had to eat "pasties" for dinner, a UP traditional food of beef and vegetables in a pie crust.

We enjoyed our last night of the trip at a small campground on the north shore of Lake Michigan, watching swans swim right up to our campsite. Talk about going out in style! We had mixed feelings, excited to be heading home but realizing that our life of leisure and exploration was drawing to a close.

Day 21, June 23 -- home, sweet home! We had a great trip, especially considering how unplanned everything was. Our final score: 19 states visited, 4361 miles driven, 335 gallons of gas used, 21 days on the road, 4398 photos taken. Oh, and we did use the juggling equipment one evening, but never touched those tennis racquets and basketballs, other than to move them every time we had to set up and take down camp. I guess we'll have to clamp down even more on future pre-departure inspections.

We love to travel, but it sure is good to be back in Chippewa Falls. Unfortunately, now I have no more excuses to procrastinate on my latest effort: The Mother Of All Basement-Finishing Projects.

You can reach Tom at

[DOAV.1] [DOAV.2] [DOAV.3] [DOAV.4]

See photos for this section ( 4a or 4b) or get links for all DOAV stuff

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