Days 24 -32 Friends, Bikes Rafts and Horses

We had a nice drive up to the I90 from Cody but when we drove from there to 3 forks junction, in Robs own words “that was the most difficult ever!” combination of long hauls up and down the mountains combined with single lane road works, poor roads and very high crosswinds. No fun when you are driving a large brick shaped coach.

We arrived at Three Forks Junction and set up at the campsite. Went for dinner at the local brewery and Rob had a much needed couple of pints of the local IPA. As we were staying there for 2 nights we scouted out for something to do the next morning and found a nice bike trail, total distance was about 20 miles and it took us out to the head of the Missouri River and then back through the town of Three Forks. It was a good ride and on the way into the state park, one of the houses had over 40 bird boxes – everyone was unique. Nice lunch in Three Forks and then back to the campsite. The last 10 mins of the ride was a bit of a struggle as there was a storm front moving through and the wind was very strong but we battled through.

July 3rd we arrived at Ronan, just down the road from Polson Montana, our location for the next 10 days. Drove up in the car to see Brenda’s new home and we were treated to a wonderful dinner cooked by Dave. The house is on the top of a hill with 360 degree views of the mountain ranges and valleys all around us. My friends Zaga and Dan were also there and then if the evening could not get any better we were treated to a double rainbow! Next day we were meeting an old friend from our New York State days.

By sheer coincidence he was visiting family that week and as we follow each other on instagram we realized that we had a one day cross over in Montana. Arrangements were hastily made to meet up the next day and there was one of the largest Pow Wow’s happening at Arlee, about 12 miles from where we were staying. Double bonus, getting to see Gil and also experiencing a traditional Native American gathering. There were representatives from many different tribes. This is a video of the Snake Dance The evening was rounded off by trip back to Brenda’s and the chance to savor some amazing home made Pizza’s.

Friday we had rest day and did all the mundane things that you need to do when staying in the RV and then Friday night we had a great dinner with Dan and Zaga at the Shoe, out on the patio overlooking Flat Head lake. Saturday morning, we met Dave Brenda and Jesse and off we went to the river to try white water rafting. We knew there was going to be Cat 3 rapids but when we reached the river, they informed us that the river was running high and we were going to hit a Cat 4 as our last rapid. Wave height was going to be between 16 and 18 feet. It was a blast even getting soaked, we all arrived back safe and exhilarated.

Saturday night, back to Brenda’s for dinner and then a trip to the local dirt track for monster truck night. Lot of fun but we were all hot and tired so only stayed for the first half.

Sunday Morning we were up at 4.30am for the drive to Glacier National Park. We had to book a ticket at 7pm the day before as regardless of your entrance to the park, if you don’t have the separate road access pass you are not getting in. We got to the park just after 6am and the ride up to Logan Pass took us to just after 7.15am and the car park was already just about full (hence the reason for the road pass). We started the trail to Hidden Lake and we were treated to some great views of the Mountain Goat and Big Horn sheep. The trail was about 3.5 miles out and back and covered in snow for most of the way which made the walk very tricky. It was certainly worth the effort and we were glad to do it.

After Logan Pass we headed on to Many Glacier, our destination for the night. The drive takes you out of the park and after 40 minutes takes you back in to the park, again be careful, you need a separate road pass for that gate as well! We were fine as we were staying at the hotel on Swift Current Lake which gave us access. Arrived at the lake and had lunch at the hotel, we were about 3 hours too early to check in and so we decided to hike around Swift Current lake and also up part of the lake Josephine trail, adding another 5 miles to our total for the day. Checked in and had a lovely room with a balcony overlooking the lake. Dinner at the hotel and an early night ready for our next adventure.

Monday morning up at 6am and having breakfast and preparing for our horse ride at 8am, The stables are really close to the hotel so quick stroll over and chance to see the 7.45, 2 hour group head off. Our group was just the 6 riders plus the guide, family of 4 from Michigan and us. The ride was fabulous, we were the two back riders in the group, my horse was called Kesla and he liked to hang back a little but then trot a bit faster to catch up. Rob’s horse liked to jump some of the smaller water pools. The ride was was through the trees up through the side of Piegan Valley total distance was about 8 miles. We both really enjoyed it although we were pretty tired by the end of it.

Long drive back to Ronan with a brief stop for Lunch at St Mary’s most of the road through the park is 25mph speed limit and so we arrived home about 5.30pm for a well earned dinner and relaxation.

Days 17 -23 Good, Bad and then Great

With a heavy heart, we packed up and left Custer and headed west. Our overnight stop was the town of Buffalo. Nice little campground and really easy to get to. while looking through the information booklet, I saw that there was a commercial woolen mill just down the road. It takes fleece from the local Wyoming farmers and goes through the complete process. Scouring, carding, spinning and then converting into knitted and woven goods. They try to do it all as eco friendly as possible and everything is used or reused. Even better, they let people come in and tour around. So while Rob was packing up for our next day of travel, I headed off to the mill.

By the time I got back we were ready to start the fine journey to Cody, our home for the next 6 nights (more to follow about that )

Wednesday morning we were up bright and early for the run into Yellowstone, Cody is a good hour from the East Gate. We were really pleasantly surprised, the road from Cody to the East gate, cuts through the Wapiti Ridge and was gorgeous! We will be back to walk part of this later in the week. After going through the East gate its about another hour to the Fishing Bridge and the start of the Southern Loop and here is, for us at least, part of the “bad” its quite flat and barren, any trees that were there are dead now. But the worst part was the traffic, it was crazy busy. Also the main attraction on that loop is “old Faithful” The car park is about 4 times the size of a standard Walmart parking lot and as the geyser is pretty regular. We stood there with about 2000 other people waiting for the 10.30 eruption. It all felt very “Disney” and obviously after that point, everyone drives to the next site so they were all a challenge to get into. The high spot for me was actually the Crow picture below, we watched him undo the zip on the food pouch on a bike and remove whatever was in there. When he was done, as you can see, he was not at all bothered by us. We left the park a little despondent. Luckily when we got back to RV, I commented about it to a friend of mine from the UK that now lives in Idaho and she told us to go up through Indian Pass and Lamar Valley towards the Northern loop, but that’s for another day.

Thursday we took a walk from Hayden Bridge to the Buffalo Bill Reservoir about 5 miles round trip with some steep elevation for the last .5 mile. When we arrived at the reservoir there was a locked gate, but a very kind warden unlocked it and let us it to have a look, its really impressive.

Unfortunately a little more of the bad, something was effecting my eyes, it started at Yellowstone but by the time we finished the walk, My eyes were streaming but also really stinging. The local pharmacist suggested I take Claritin as well as eye drops. I decided that a day in the RV would probably be the best thing to do and so it took some persuading but I told Rob to go do the Indian Pass on his own. I spent the day stitching and when he came back he had some great stories and picture to share. If my eyes stay better, we will definitely do a return trip. Here are Rob’s best shots of the day.

On Saturday we went to the Buffalo Bill Museum, it was very good, it had 5 themed halls and all were worth walking around. If you are in the area and looking for a more gentle day, I would certainly suggest you go. That night we decided to go to the Rodeo and it was a fun night. Great to see so many of the youngsters getting involved. As it started to get dark, my camera could not keep up with the action, so these were all taken in the first hour.

Saturday night we made the decision to get up really early, 4.30 am, and go up over Indian Pass to the park. For those that saw the pictures on Facebook the Sunrise was great and the drive was amazing winding up and over the pass with lots of hairpin bends on both sides. Gets 2 thumbs up from us. We touch into Montana for a few miles and go through a small town called Cooke City. Although it happened too quick to be able to photograph, we were treated to a fox off to our side, twin fawns and then standing in the middle of the road before loping off was a MOOSE (that’s for all of our Colorado friends) First stop in Lamar Valley was a place known to the locals as the “Wall” its a known location to spot mountain goats, if you look really closely at the first picture, in the middle is a mum and baby. Far too far away to really be any use as a photograph but still a memory. We saw lots of Buffalo and 3 separate sightings of little black bears. A bald eagle sat in a dead tree across the river from us, again a little far for photography. Treated to an Osprey in a nest looking after their young and the mate was standing guard off to the side to frighten away any predators, It went straight after a crow that flew a bit too close for his liking. We drove up to the start of the northern loop and just went as far on it as the Tower Falls. The best was yet to come, as we started to drive back a WOLF crossed the road in front of us!!! it quickly dispatched a poor little chimpmunk, which meant that we had enough time to take some pictures. Only one animal left on my mental checklist and that’s the longhorn sheep.

On the way back we stopped at the gorge to take some pictures, it is also the only spot between other than Cody where there is a cell signal, and this was the last bit of bad, I got a panicked message from the park host to say we were due to check out that day and they were fully booked. Eek major mistake made by someone who will remain nameless, although they are 5ft 2 with eyes of blue! drove like the wind back to the park wondering what the heck we would do for that night. When we got back to the park, the host let us know that someone had just pulled out a day early just minutes before we got back and so all we needed to do was move slots. Phew, so check, double check and check again!

Days 13-16 – Shhh, don’t tell anyone else Custer SD is fantastic

Nice easy trip from Badlands to Custer in the BlackHills. Camp ground is very pleasant and just on the outskirts of town. We took a walk in that evening and scoped out the local bars, restaurants and shops, early dinner and then get ready for planning the next few days.

Nice weather planned for this morning and so we set off on the Mickleson bike trail–mickelson-trail/ We were able to join it just outside our campground and it was a great ride to Hill City, it was about 34 miles round trip. Hill City is famous for the 1880 train depot, where they sell steam train tickets through the Black hills. We opted to have an ice cream instead! Sorry no pictures of said ice cream, we were too quick eating it!

That evening we drove the Wildlife Loop through the state park, there were clouds coming in over the mountain tops so we were not sure if that would work in our favor for viewing or not. As it happens, we were not disappointed, many more Prairie dogs were around, we saw the wild donkeys, the little one is only 3 days old and we got up close and personal with the Buffalo (and yes we stayed in the car, that’s one of the benefits of a large sunroof!) on the way out of the loop we saw some of the Pronghorn including one very dashing male.

Next morning we were up and out of the RV by 6.15 and drove around the Needles Loop, it was reasonably quiet, although there were a few people that had the same idea. At the end of the Needles Loop, we drove the Iron Mountain road which brought us out to Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore was quite busy and it was still barely 9am, so glad we decided on an early start. We used the audio wands to listen to the guides as we wandered around the Presidential Trail. I have to say, I thought it was more impressive there than I thought it would be and very glad we took the time to see it

Based on a recommendation from one of Rob’s acquaintances, we drove down to Hot Springs and went to visit the Mammoth site It’s and active archaeological site at a filled in sink hole, they have not gone down very far and already found so many Mammoth remains. We went back into Hot Springs for lunch and then back to the RV for a break before our evening adventure.

Early dinner and then out to the Needles loop to walk the 3mile round trip up and around Cathedral Spires trail, the top half of which includes climbing over some fair sized boulders. The temperature was better at that time, and it was a nice hike. On the way back, I spotted some climbers traversing one of the spires and no, not on my list of things to try!

Last full day in Custer and another early start, we hiked the Black Elk loop, just under 8 miles in total and an elevation climb of 1500ft. Starting off was a gentle incline and mainly through the trees although it did get a lot steeper and less shade as we got closer to the top. The last 1/4 mile is up a series of steps to the top of the Peak where there are fantastic views in all directions, we were at the highest point in South Dakota and had a beautiful clear sky. The peak features a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938. That the tower remains is a testament to the quality of the craftsmanship and the work that went into its construction. The stone, cement and sand were hauled up more than three miles by carts pulled by horses and mules.

The last evening we went to the Mount Rushmore Brewery for dinner and were treated to a really great live band. Custer, we would love to return at some point.

Day 9-12 What did we learn?

On the Sunday we drove across Nebraska and South Dakota and we learnt that, not taking the highways on the East coast is very different to doing that in the MidWest. Part of our route took us on 24 miles of gravel road and the part that was “done” had more ridges than a roller coaster! Our poor old RV was not happy. But we arrived at the campground in good time and have a nice quiet spot here for the next 4 nights. We are right on the edge of the Badlands National park and so a quick internet search told us (and everyone else) that the best spot for a sunset picture was the Pinnacle look out. It was not the best sunset, but we did get to see the prong horn sheep and also we took a diversion on the way back and came face to face with our first Bison. It was too dark for the picture to be much good but the moment was captured anyway.

The next day we drove through the park and out to Wall with the famous Wall Drug store. We had lunch in the drug store and walked through the town, it’s a bit touristy for us but we ticked the box and said we went there. The weather had changed on the way back and the top of the ridge was covered in mist. Driving back down via a different route took us onto Sage Creek rim road, where we were able to see quite a few Bison and also some Prairie dogs.

Tuesday – we drove out to a spot and walked a 4.5mile circular route called Medicine Loop and then the return was part of the Castle trail. The views and also the hiking were very different between the two parts of the trail. We were blessed with warm weather but a nice cool breeze to make it comfortable and probably got some of best photos. Rob drove back out that evening to see if he could get a better sunset but was out of luck.

Today the weather has not been that great and so we have pretty much stayed in the RV planning our next steps on the journey and also letting me catch up on my cross stitching.

Tomorrow we leave for Custer and will stay there for the next 4 nights.

Days 4-8 The Fun and the Flipping Heck!

After leaving Paducah our first port of call was the Point Labadie Brewery in Labadie MO. We arrived late afternoon, and got ourselves settled. Wandered over to the Brewery bar just after 7 and sat out in their garden, Wednesday was quiz night, so while Rob enjoyed the local beer we both just answered as many questions as we could between us.

Next morning we were on the road by 8.30 and drove across MO to Lathrop where we were booked to overnight at a small farm. It was right out in the country side and the last mile was down a gravel track that kicked up a huge amount of dust. The people were lovely and we enjoyed a very quiet night apart from the heavy rain that came in about 9 and the sheep bleating from about 5 in the morning. We knew we had a longer day of travel and so we left early again and travelled North.

When we stopped for lunch we hit our first “flipping heck” the generator that runs AC and other things for us when we are not either driving or hooked up to electricity would not start. When you are essentially driving in a tin can and with the outside temperature in the 90’s, it does not take very long to get uncomfortable. So back on the road and on to our destination, which was very nice camp ground in Sioux City – we were on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River although the City is mainly in Iowa. Rob tried again with the generator but no success. The main issue with this is that we will need to only stay at places with electricity, no more boon docking. Rob spent the evening on good old YouTube looking for suggestions and one of them suggested that if the oil level drops, it will not start. Hopefully this is the issue and we can resolve it tomorrow.

Well this is when the other shoe dropped!! our fridge freezer has stopped working. its getting power but not cooling. It’s a full size domestic appliance and so replacement is not an option and fixing is unlikely. So our trip to Walmart went from buying some oil to “what’s our plan B for keeping food cool.” We ended up buying a top model cool box that will keep things cool for up to 5 days, a giant bag of ice and an ice making machine.

Rob topped up the oil and let it settle while we took a walk along the River and into the City. It was quite a pleasant walk and we called in at the Lewis and Clark interpretive center . Because we have been avoiding all the highways, we have seen many signs along the way designating that the route we were on matched their original route. Town was not quite the cultural experience that we were expecting. The most interesting things that we saw were these faces carved on the top of one of the building and there was also a truckers exhibition and sales expo. On our walk back to the campsite we were blown away with the underneath of the bridge, it was a mass of swallow nests and the swallows were darting in and out of their nests.

Back at the RV at last some good news, the oil fixed the generator problem, so now we just need to see how well our plans for the replacement to the fridge freezer works !

Day 3 and 4 – Paducah KY

Our campsite is lovely, very quiet and close to the the things that we wanted to see. One of the things we missed was the fact that the campsite is right next to a drag racing track. That’s on our bucket list to go see live one day but clearly not this week as it is only at weekends.

We drove over to the Land Between the Lakes state park although I have to say, every time I say or hear that name, I imagine myself in some 1950’s B movie with a swamp monster coming to get me. It’s an interesting park, it has various things to do and also has a number of themed campsites. So there is one for off-roading, hunting, equestrian and water sports to name just a few. There are also places to stop and see different activities. We went to the Wild animal area, not a lot there but all are rescues and all are well kept. Rob took the Bobcat pictures.

Next we drove through the enclosed Elk and Bison prairie and we were warned that the better chance to see any animals would be early morning or late evening and so we were pleasantly surprised to see the Bison and to get really close to one of the Elk’s

We stopped at the Golden Pond visitor area which also has a planetarium but we were there to see the exhibition that talks about the history of the area. Then we drove down to the Homestead, all the buildings are original buildings moved into the area and they also have staff dressed in authentic clothing and demonstrating the various crafts at certain times of the week. Top to bottom of the park is probably about 50 miles and the bottom part runs back into Tennessee. One word of caution, is that the only food available is limited snacks at the various stops, so be prepared and take your lunch with you.

Tuesday we drove into the historic downtown area and walked around the Main Street and along the wall of Murals (for Brits of a certain age, you will understand the urge to call them Muriels!) I found a crafting store, oh ok I had already checked on line before coming here. It is the World of Crafting, and sometimes referred to as Global Artisans. it has a real mix of everything needle based from felting to embroidery. I was quite restrained and just bought a small piece of linen and some buttons to add to my cross stitch. After a very good lunch at the German Bakery, we went to the Quilt Museum. They were all modern quilts but the craftsmanship was amazing and it is well worth a visit.

We did a 5 mile walk on the Greenway there to counterbalance all the sitting we are doing while moving from location to location. Back to the RV and some gentle stitching for me. Tomorrow we are off to Labadie MO staying overnight at a Brewery.

Big trip to Big sky – Pre Prep alongside Day 1 and 2

The plan is to head towards the north and then west. But as those that have RV’s know, if you have not used them for a while then many things need doing. For us that was new step motor, new engine battery and new tap assembly for the main bathroom. All installed by Rob alongside a massive clean up operation.

There were things that we had to finish off around the property including Rob shortening my life expectancy by scaring me to death when I saw him roll the ATV down near the woods. Thank goodness to years of riding trials bikes, he jumped off in the opposite direction and apart from my scare, no harm was done.

Friday was a busy day as we carted everything out to stock the RV with everything we think we need. Saturday morning we were up early with a planned leave time of 9.30 but with all the usual last minute items and also trying to refresh our memory on hooking up the car and we were off at 11.

We like to avoid highways and understand this will take us much longer but it is fun to see all of the small towns and different countryside. First stop is going to be a Harvest Host location (its an on line membership where you can stay at over 5500 locations around the US) some are free and some like you to buy things at their site. We chose the Bean Creek Winery in Manchester TN. Given that there.was a road diversion that added 40 miles to the trip, we stopped at a Truck stop to top up the Rv and disconnect the car. For those that ask why we don’t use the RV for weekends, maybe this answers the question. We probably drove about 250 miles and the image below was the cost to top us back up

The Harvest Hosts generally do not have any facilities to hook up to RV (electric, water and sewer) but we can go between 3 and 5 days just on the RV’s own utilities. So as you can see the parking was pretty basic. Off we went into the winery, the intent was to have a single glass of red each and then dinner and an early night. But…………… the owner came to chat with us and had us try some other wines and also how much different they tasted in the right glasses. So two very inebriated people inhaled burgers (veg burger for me) and bought 2 bottles of wine to take with us and 2 expensive German wine glasses. Doh! As many people know, neither of us can hold our drink and so it did not take much and we both suffered during the night with a bad head and very thirsty. The wine and the winery was very nice and so if you are traveling north on the 24 I recommend you stop in.

Next morning we headed to Paducah where we intend to stop for the next few days, found a lovely RV park that is really nice and quiet. The plan is to visit “Land between the Lakes” and also downtown Paducah.

And now something for the crafting crew, as most of you know, I have been indulging in many cross stitch projects lately. In fact I have not picked up my knitting needles since November 2022 and the mystery shawl debacle (don’t ask!) Anyway, its always good to have something to keep me occupied while Rob is driving and letting me loose with a sewing needle while to RV rattles around is not going to work. So I packed a knitting project that I started sometime ago, no, not the infamous shawl, and it has worked out really well. The pattern is called the Beekeepers quilt and it was designed to use up all your sock yarn odds and ends. But I bought a box of Scheejps Catona cotton some time ago there are over a 100 of these mini balls in the box and each one can create 2 of these hexies. You knit them with sock needles, I like these flexi ones by Hiya Hiya and you are knitting the complete pouch as you go, just before you cast off, you stuff them and at some point I will join them together. As its all knit stitch I don’t need to look and you are casting on to the widest point and then casting off, so just enough concentration required to keep me engaged.

Florida, Family, Flora, Fauna and Fun

We flew to Miami on Sunday January 28th and met with my sister and brother-in-law the next morning. My sister drove us to Naples where we were booked to stay for the next 3 nights.

Took it easy the first night and strolled down to see what is left of Naples pier and wait for the sunset, it was a bit breezy but well worth the wait

On the way back we had dinner at a Thai restaurant that was excellent but as we walked further on, on our way back to the hotel, we saw an amazing looking Persian restaurant and promptly booked a table for the following night.

Lazy start the next day and a brunch at the local cafe before driving off to Corkscrew swamp sanctuary which belongs to the Audubon group.

It was perfect winter weather for Florida, warm enough to not need coats but not sweltering hot and humid. There are about 2.5 miles of walkways around the swamp and while we did not see loads of birds, those we did see were quite close and I was able to use my new camera and get some pretty decent shots.

Back to Naples and the most amazing dinner at Bha Bha the Persian restaurant on 5th avenue. It was so good, I ate it instead of taking pictures!

Next morning we drove to Sanibel Island and had a walk and drive around the Ding Darling reserve. We were treated to a lot more birds but other than this great Osprey, they were further away than my camera would have done justice too.

After a happy few hours at the reserve we carried on to Captiva and had lunch sat out in the sun and watched the world and a few more birds go by! Can you see the crab in the beak of the small heron

On the Thursday we drove back to Miami, ready to fly out the next morning, we were coming back to Atlanta and my family were on their way to Martinique to start a catamaran trip.

On the way back to Miami, my sister had booked an airboat tour of the Everglades, it was so much fun, we got up close and personal with a number of alligators and this delightful little bird called a Gallinule, first time we had seen them. They were obviously used to the boat pilot as one of them came and ate a small worm out of his hand. The Airboats are quite noisy but it’s amazing how they glide through the Everglades. Thank goodness we were spared from seeing any of the infamous Burmese pythons.

We took an Uber down to Ocean drive and sat outside for dinner and people watched, to say there were some interesting characters would be an under statement! After dinner we walked along the front, admiring the architecture and enjoying the views. I was particularly drawn to the Betsy Hotel, it had two very interesting additions, the Betsy Orb which the Google describes here “The Betsy Orb is a work of public art installed to connect two architecturally significant buildings: The Betsy Ross designed by L. Murray Dixon and The Carlton designed by Henry Hohauser. Once a month, we use The Orb’s surface to project artistic videos or photographs for the community to enjoy.” And the Betsy poetry rail, again curtesy of the Gooogle “The Betsy Poetry Rail is an homage to the poets who have shaped Miami literature by including their diverse, historic, and contemporary voices: Muhammad Ali, Richard Blanco, Adrian Castro, Chenjerai Hove, Langston Hughes, Donald Justice, Campbell McGrath, Geoffrey Philp, Carlos Pintado, Hyam Plutzik, Gerald Stern, and Julie Marie Wade.”

The Trip was rounded out by a cocktail or two in the hotel bar, their speciality was a whisky sour with peanut butter and yes it was delicious. Kat and Ian taught us a new card game and Rob was happy to win at least once and so is looking forward to playing it again.

All in all a great trip and good to see family !!

And the travels begin again – just a little!

I belong to a spinning guild, the type that spins fiber into yarn not the over active cycling kind. One of our members suggested a road tip to Florence Alabama to see the Alabama Chanin clothing factory. Florence is right next door to Muscle shoals and I knew from watching the music documentary “Muscle Shoals” which, by the way, is definitely worth watching, that Rob would also really like to visit. The plan was to arrive on the Thursday and we would visit Muscle Shoals sound studio together. And then separate on the Friday, Rob would go to the Fame Studio and I would do the factory tour.

Off we drove, avoiding as much of the motorways (Interstate) as we could and had a brief stop at a very local diner for lunch. We checked in to our hotel and were given a great room overlooking the Wilson Dam on the Tennessee river.

Off we went to meet our friend at the music studio. The tour was truly excellent and the list of stars that had produced their records there was awe inspiring. They still produce records there today, although the original backing band, The Swampers, are no longer involved. Back to the hotel for drinks and dinner in the hotel bar and being treated to live music.

Friday morning the weather was pretty bad so while Rob was off on his second studio tour, I went to meet the girls and have a look around the factory earlier than planned. Apart from getting a bit wet and wind blown the tour went really well. Natalie Chanin, the designer behind the brand, has built the business around a simple series of clothing pieces that are then elevated with a lot of hand stitching, appliqué and stenciled painted patterns. The completed pieces carry a hefty price ticket but you can also buy them in kit form and do the stitching yourself. Natalie also has a number of stitching and design books that she has produced and we were lucky enough to actually meet her. I bought her studio sewing and design book and she very kindly wrote on the inside cover for me.

We met back up with the boys and then drove into town to the famous local diner and ice cream parlor. Trowbridge has been in business at the same location since 1918 and it certainly lived up to its reputation, grilled cheese sandwich followed by ice cream with hot fudge sauce, YUM!

Back to the hotel for dinner and more live music and making plans for a detour on the way home on Saturday. We travelled back via Patches and Stitches in Huntsville, a delightful shop that caters for cross stitch, needlepoint, wool appliqué and quilting.

Day 59 to getting home

This one has been the hardest to write, I kept saying to myself, do it now while it’s still fresh in your mind. And before it does all start to blur into a mish mash of fantastic memories, so here goes.

Thursday we just enjoyed the company of our friends as the weather really did not want to play ball. Although the evening was rounded out by some fabulous New Zealand lamb for Rob and yummy chicken breasts for me and yes of course there was dessert!

Friday we went out in the boat with Toni, Denise and Jim. It was fantastic and we quickly went from the lake down through the river valley and out to the beach. Jim and Rob pulled the boat up onto the beach and then we all walked out to the sandbank. It was interesting to see the scenery change so dramatically over a reasonably short distance. The lake had lots of black swans most of them in family groups with all their cygnets in tow. It was a great chance to spend time on the water and also blow some cobwebs away.

Saturday we took a run in the car with Toni, over to Bulls Creek beach and Crystal beach. They are both very close to the house although once you are over the hill the roads become very quiet with nothing but sheep and forestry. At Bulls Creek, we had to maneuver the car through the sheep to get to the parking spot and then a quick walk over the headland to see the fabulous waves crashing on the shore and a solitary sea-lion having a rest.

At Crystal beach we thought we may get to see some of the very elusive penguins but alas it was not to be. But the crashing waves more than made up for it. I LOVE the smell of the ocean, especially when there is seaweed as well. And the sounds of the waves is just music to my soul.

Sunday morning was a bit of excitement as Denise and Jim were having an old walnut tree cut down. It was really interesting to watch him strip all the branches off first and then take the tree down from the top. The strapping young guy with the chain saw did a great job taking it down limb by limb to avoid damage to the building or fence. He left quite a large stump, but Jim says it makes it easier to pull the roots out once you have dug around them, and you have something you can really pull on.

Sunday afternoon we had to pack to make sure we were under the weight limits on our bags. After another great dinner, Rob and I used the hot tub and ad a chance to reflect on all our amazing adventures.

Monday was leaving day, it was pretty tough to say goodbye to Toni, Jim and Denise and the tension was only broken by Rob’s inability to start the car (see day 1 post) and realizing that it works better if you have not left the keys on the side in the house. Dunedin Airport is the complete antithesis of most airports in US and UK. It was only a 15 minute drive from the house and returning the car consisted of parking it and leaving the keys in a mailbox!

After an uneventful flight we arrived in Auckland and traveled to our hotel. We stayed at the Four Point Sheraton and had floor to ceiling windows on 2 sides of the room which gave us great views over the city, including the sky tower. We took a walk into town along Queen Street which is the main shopping street and went as far as the harbor ate dinner and then had wonderful gelato to round it out. I do have to say that Auckland City Center is my least favorite place in the whole of New Zealand, I thought it was dirty, run down and I feel sorry for all the cruise ship people who get that as their first taste of this amazing country.

Next morning we went for another walk into the harbour and then caught a train out to the largest craft shop in NZ. Parked Rob in the husband crèche and had a good look around although given our suitcase weights, I was very restrained and just bought a couple of fat qtr of linen. Back into town, an early lunch and then headed out to the airport to start the long journey home. Auckland airport is very nice, clean, tidy and plenty of places to sit. The food options were good and the prices were not the usual outrageous prices that you get at some airports. Air New Zealand has an option in economy class called “Sky Couch”. You get a row of three seats and each seat has a leg rest that comes up level with the seat and gives you basically a twin width bed. For two short people like us, it was great and I made the most of it. We had a long layover in Houston before the final journey back to Atlanta. Arriving home pretty close to midnight. We were knee deep in leaves and our water would not work till Rob was able to fix it the next day but that was our only issues.

And so the journey ended …………. But with fabulous memories and plans for more travel so watch this space!