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Friday, 31 January 2014

Road Trip - Day 30 - Buffalo - Toronto (Wrap up)

Day 30 - January 30th.   Buffalo - Toronto (Wrap up).

And so, we are back in Ontario after nearly a month away!! We've had a blast, and it's been fun sharing this Road Trip Blog with those of you who have found it interesting. Thanks to all who have been following us and enjoying it with us. 

Someone made an interesting comment: "Was it just me... or did it seem to snow everywhere you went - after you left! HMMMMMM lol". 

We were incredibly lucky with the weather for, though it was cold from Washington up, the sky was clear, the sun shone, and the roads were great except for a couple of times in the whole month. 

We're wrapping up this Road Trip - but also wrapping up - literally! Shorts have been replaced with long pants, running shoes have been replaces by boots, and our winter coats and sweaters are now gratefully in use!

Some people have asked us what was the hilight of our trip for us? Undoubtedly, both Mark and I choose the Keys - probably because of the warm weather, the fact that we were able to swim in the ocean and, of course, the parasailing, which we loved! 

Now, we're in Toronto for a couple of days, visiting friends and watching some of the Oscar nominated movies (a 22-year old tradition with us). 

We'll be heading back to Elliot Lake on Sunday, after a brief stop in Barrie, and so will have completed our loop - after 8712 km and just over 82 hours of driving! As they say, it's been great - but there's no place like home.

We're looking forward to resuming our normal life - which is exciting enough! 

Wherever you are - keep safe, and keep warm!

Happy, Fit, & Free !
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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Road Trip - Day 29 - Washington, D.C. - Buffalo, N.Y.

Day 29 - January 29th - Washington, D.C. - Buffalo, N.Y.

We weren't expecting to see much today as we headed north to Buffalo from Washington. It was very cold, but the first 6 hours of our drive was canopied with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine - and this enabled us to see some fine views of the Susquehanna River, which we followed from Harrisburg onwards.

Stopping for gas, I commented on the beautiful scenery - fairly mountainous in contrast with the flatness of the areas in the Southern States we had visited. I was thrilled to know that we had hit the Appalachians - a chain I had thought was elsewhere - such is my ignorance of American geography. 

The views we were afforded were extraordinary and, to be quite honest, these few pics do not do them justice. The vista from Montgomery Pike Bald Eagle Mountain, at an elevation of 1083 ft, was truly splendid. The view of Williamsport was lovely and we watched as a jet arrived and landed in the valley below us. 

We came across a brilliant idea that we thought we might like to share with the Transportation Dept. of Ontario. 

After witnessing several people, including truck drivers, totally immersed in their cellphone while at the wheel in other parts of the U.S., it was refreshing to see that here, the issue is being addressed head-on. Mark believes he may have seen another sign indicating that 3 text offences would result in loss of driving licence. What do you think of that? (Comments welcome, below). 

As we turned on to I-90 to head west, we were greeted with a clear signal that we were nearer to home. The roads had been cleared, but visibility was poor, with blowing snow providing near-white-out conditions at times. 

We have finally succumbed to reality and have taken our boots out of the car and they are now in our hotel room with us to warm up overnight! 

Tomorrow, we head back across the border on our way to Toronto, where we will hold our weekly call with our wonderful team, visit some friends in the area, and take in a couple of the Oscar Nominated Movies showing in the area before heading back home on our final leg to Elliot Lake on Sunday morning. 

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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Road Trip - Days 27 and 28 Washington D.C.

Days 27 and 28 - January 27th and 28th  - Washington D.C.

Metro Map - we started at Greenbelt, top right on Green route

It certainly seems that we have come around in full circle on our road trip with our visit to Washington D.C. Having started with Abraham Lincoln on Day 4, paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on Day 6, and visiting the site of the assassination of JFK in Dallas on Day 8.... all these things have come together with a visit to their memorials here in the capital of this great country. 

The Presidential Box
We started off the day on Monday, with a visit to the Ford Theatre - where Abraham Lincoln was shot. It was another place where we felt we were on solemn ground. The box had been restored to the way it looked that fateful night. The cane chair that Mary Lincoln sat on is original. The others are reproduced. 

A solemn moment - remembering a sad event

The vestibule from where John Wilkes Booth made his assault

The Derringer pistol used in the assassination

Passing by the White House, we made our way to the Lincoln Memorial, from which Martin Luther King Jr., made his famous 'I have a dream....' speech. 

White House - North Side
White House - South Side

Lincoln Memorial

Magnificent - and gives the feeling that he is looking down at you, personally, wherever you stand

The view seen by Martin Luther King Jr. when he gave his speech

Mark points to the spot from which he gave his speech

During our 8 hours-plus walking tour, we made our way to the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, on the banks of the Potomac River. This was only completed just 8 months ago, but is a tribute to his life and his work - splendid in its simplicity. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

While preparing this blog, President Obama is delivering the State of the Union Address in the very room of the House of Representatives in the Capitol Building where we stood on Monday afternoon. The edifice was built to be impressive to all who visit the city, and it certainly achieves that goal. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit the gallery of the House of Representatives, but were not allowed to take any photos in that area. However, we were allowed to take pics everywhere else in the building. 

The Magnificent Capitol Building

Inside the Rotunda

 There were 8 large paintings around the Rotunda - and each state is allowed to send 2 statues to be displayed there, and in the adjacent room. 
Looking up at the dome

Whether one agrees with Obama's policies or not, the continual struggle to ensure that democracy survives, evolves, and grows is the thread that we have discerned in our journey through the history of this nation. 

I can honestly say that I have such an appreciation for the 'American Experiment' - knowing that they have not always got it right, but that liberation and equality continues to call them - and all of us - toward greater fulfilment and realization of those lofty principles. As well, I have a deepened appreciation and heartfelt gratitude for my own beautiful country - Canada - and for its example of leadership in the field of human freedom and development. 

Our emotionally difficult visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum this morning lasted for over three hours, and it reminded me of my own responsibility to be vigilant and to oppose the forces of hatred wherever, and however they may raise their heads to diminish liberty and freedom. The banner over the entrance states, 'Never Again' - a poignant reminder of the importance of personal vigilance.

Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The challenge to all visitors to stand up against injustice and build a respectful community for all was echoed at the JFK memorial and eternal flame at Arlington Cemetery

Together again - Jack and Jackie

The Eternal Flame - reminds me of Hope and Challenge 

 In stone, there are various quotes by Kennedy, including his famous challenge - "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country..... what together we can do for the freedom" of all. 

For me, this encapsulates the message that I have gleaned from the various places we have visited on our road trip. 

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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Road Trip - Day 26 Savannah, Georgia - Washington, D.C.

Day 26 - January 26th  Savannah, Georgia - Washington, D.C.

Another day on the road with little to report. The drive took us an hour longer because we stopped in a couple of places on the way. 

It was great to have the time to shoot the breeze together - recalling some of the funniest and/or moving times in our life together over the last 22 years; basking in the appreciation of all those people who continue to enrich our lives - our families and friends; and making plans on how we can further help and support our wonderful team members to enjoy even more successes on their journey towards freedom. These conversations were interspersed with some great music from the 60's and 70's - in particular - the Carpenters. One song seems to encapsulate how we are feeling: 'Sing'. We belted out the words, which made us feel even more joy! Here are the lyrics, for those of you who remember it (and those who don't):

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

Here's the link to the song on Youtube:   SING    If you listen to it, maybe you can picture us joining in!

When you are traveling on I-95 N in South Carolina, you can't possibly miss the 100 or so signs advertising 'South of the Border'!

We are living proof that billboards work because we found that we just HAD to stop to see what it was all about - tucked on the border between the two Carolinas. Though a bit tacky for us, there was an interesting Reptile Lagoon which featured some of our recent friends - pythons, alligators, and crocodiles. They were interesting and fun to see - especially as there were barriers between them and us!!! 

The view that accompanied us for most of the way (double lane, skirted by trees) began to change when we saw suggestions of snow when we hit North Carolina.

So, now we know we are heading towards home!  We arrived in Maryland (just 20 minutes or so away from Washington D.C. on the subway line) to see some impressive mounds of snow - probably about 2 inches in height, so we were very lucky with the weather while driving, thank goodness. 

We are spending the next two days visiting the sites of the American capital, which will round off the historical parts of our tour. 

Own Your Future!
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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Day in Savannah - Road Trip Day 25.

Day 25 - January 25th - Savannah, Georgia

In Mark's words, "What an awesome day. Started off with a great early morning hike along one of Hilton Islands beautiful beaches, then headed into Savannah to explore yet another historic and lovely city. We walked for hours. Beautiful mansions, wonderful churches, great museums, yummy free samples of pralines in chocolate!!!" 

We were happy that it was a little less colder today, though we still had our winter coats with us. The beach at Hilton Islands was accessible via a long, but perfectly manicured boardwalk from the parking lot.

Boardwalk to Hilton Head Beach 

Swing chairs

We found it interesting that the town has embraced the need for technology and provided free WiFi spots along the beaches area. (Is this a good thing or not? Can't decide! - What do you think?) 

Free WiFi

Some things were reminiscent of our home city of Elliot Lake - except the creature mentioned was different! 

Savannah, itself, is full of surprises for the first-time visitor. Taking a 'hop-on, hop-off' trolley tour helped us to get our bearings, and allowed us to choose where we wanted to explore further. Of particular interest was the Owens Thomas Mansion - a Regency period house that was typically symmetrical to the point of having 'false' doors and windows in some places that had no function other than to preserve the symmetry. We were escorted through the main building, as well as the slaves' quarters.

Front of house

Back entrance

Garden with slaves' quarters at the back, left

It was interesting to hear about the connections with England - not only through the architecture, and that the cotton trade had ties with Liverpool and Manchester, but for the fact that the State of Georgia was named in honour of King George ll. I had forgotten that obvious connection!

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was resplendent, both inside and out, with magnificent sculptures of the Stations of the Cross, remarkable stained-glass windows, and an awe-inspiring frontage that overshadowed the square and the surrounding buildings. 

Beautiful sculptures 'Stations of the Cross'

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

It occurred to me that perhaps we had been unintentionally stalking the actor, Tom Hanks, throughout this whole road trip! He keeps popping up in some areas where he is least expected. If you remember the opening scene from the movie, Forrest Gump, you may recall the feather dropping by a tall church spire and landing at the feet of Forrest, who was sitting on a bench. If you don't remember it, check it out here:  Forrest Gump - Opening Scene.  

Continuing from Mark's words, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get!" from the movie Forrest Gump. These pics were taken where the bench was when Forrest Gump made the above quote. For years, people were lined up around the block to have their photos taken on the bench but, alas one night, vandals broke bits of the bench off and took them for a souvenir - so the bench is now in a local museum." Mark couldn't resist standing behind the wall where the bench used to be - and re-enacting 'Run, Forrest, Run!' 

Run, Mark, Run!

Who stole my bench?

The famous 'feather'spire

Apparently, Tom Hanks stayed in Savannah for the filming of some of the movie at a guest house that we passed in the trolley. 

A second connection with Hanks was, of course, when we visited the Space Center in Houston where, once again, he spent time while preparing to film the movie, 'Apollo 13'. 

Perhaps the most surprising connection for me was at the beginning of our road trip when we were in Springfield, Illinois visiting the Abraham Lincoln Museum. Apparently, it turns out the Hanks family is distantly related to the Lincolns. Honestly, Tom - we had no idea!

Our day ended with a walk along the river, where the old cotton factories have been transformed by the Savannah Waterfront Association.

Reclaimed Cotton Warehouses

Steam-powered River Ferry

It's well worth a visit, and seems to come alive in the evening, with an array of restaurants, stores, and some live entertainment. 

Tomorrow, we'll have our boots out of the trunk so that we can be ready for our return to the north, via Washington D.C. where we will be staying for 3 nights. 

Happy, Fit, & Free !

Are You Toxic?

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