Great American Western Road Trip: Summer 2018

4 weeks, 3 kids, 1 van, 16 different lodgings, 5400+ miles, 12+ National or State Parks and Monuments adds up to 1 Epic Adventure.

American Southwest Family Vacation 2017

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Manitoulin Island

Ok, so the cottages we stayed in took "rustic" to a whole new level. And by "whole new level," I mean that the floors were anything but level. Walking around the sloping floor in the dark gave me the sense that I was drunk and couldn't keep a straight line. To emphasize how off this place was: Our door was about an inch closer to the wall at the top than it was at the bottom. The bedrooms were small, with about 12 inches at the foot of the double bed and maybe 18 inches on one side. But we're not on the island to spend time inside.

The dock gives you an idea of the condition of the cottages.

I took a lot of pictures during the trip, mostly with my daughter in them. Actually, I think there is only one photo that doesn't have my daughter or her cousin in them. Anyways, my father-in-law is from the island, and the whole family visited the cemetery where his parents and other relatives are buried.
Cemeteries can be great places  for quiet contemplation.
We also went for a walk at Misery Bay...because Misery loves company? That's actually the advertising slogan they use to encourage visits to the nature center there.
Hiking to through the woods.

Rock Hopping at Misery Bay
Another place we visited was on the far west of the island, a place called Meldrum Bay. We apparently hit it on a day when the weather was quite pleasant. Last time (2010), it was cold and windy. The drive out to the Bay was kind of ridiculous, as we got stuck behind an RV on a long dirt road. I guess I also should have mentioned we were the second car in a convoy, so our visibility was almost zero with the amount of dust kicked up. Fortunately, the RV pulled over and let us pass. After taking our family photo on the rocks and eating lunch, we got back in our convoy and nearly got stuck behind the RV who was also leaving. They pulled over at the same point as last time, which kept the dust down on the drive home.
Throwing rocks into Meldrum Bay
We also made a stop at Bridal Veil Falls, where you can actually walk behind the falls on a little trail. As you'd expect, it's wet, windy and loud back there. There are also lots of rocks for throwing into the water (which my daughter apparently loves doing). 
Her hand's covering the entrance to the path behind the falls.
After the falls, we went to Lake Kagawong, which is shallow enough for little kids to run out quite far from the shoreline.
Splash heaven!
The next day we went up on a hill that overlooked the island, and it was pretty windy up there. Fortunately, there were chains for the little ones to hold on to.
So windy!
Since there were so many family members from all across Canada and the US, we ended up staying in sevarl cabins nearby. One of the other families had a cabin just down the road and much closer to the lake. Their dock, unlike ours, actually extended out into the water.

Plenty of places to hide!
And lastly, we left the island aboard the Chi - Cheemaun (Ojibwe for "Big Canoe") ferry back to the mainland. I think my daughter's expression captures how big it seems:
That's a cattle trailer you see out the side window there.

The drive back to Toronto was pretty uneventful. I think it cost us $140-$160 to fill up the tank of the Chevy Suburban. But the highlight of the drive was seeing a camel at a farm. Sorry, no picture of that, as I was driving and just barely saw it before it vanished behind an embankment.

And now, back to sunny Florida!

Friday, May 18, 2012


And so begins a 10 day vacation to the Manitoulin island in Ontario, Canada.
It's the largest freshwater island in the world, but that's not why we went there. We're going there because "everyone else was going" least one side of the family.

We left Pensacola on the 17th and we flew to Toronto...via Miami. If you know your geography, that's really flying in the wrong direction. But we arrived at Toronto (YYZ...any fans of the band Rush out there?) without incident. It was after we got to the car rental place that things started to go south quickly. Which come to think of it, relative to Canada, going south would be heading to the US, but I digress.

We arrived at the Avis car rental desk only to realize that we had left the car seat on the conveyor belt inside the secure area of the airport. So, my pregnant wife walked back to get it while I sorted out the car situation, juggling our two large bags and trying to keep an eye on our currently car-seatless toddler. We had pre-paid for a car that would seat the four adults and two car seats which we knew we'd be travelling around the island with. I'm not sure if the car they reserved for us had that capability. Why? Well, that's when the fun began.

I walked up to the car that was supposed to have the keys in it, only to find the car locked. Are the keys inside? I don't know...but I do know that I don't have them. They were supposed to be inside, but it was one of those key-less systems that just needed the key fob in the proximity of the car to activate the ignition. And, perhaps more importantly, lock/unlock the car when you walk away from the vehicle. Which is what I'm guessing the previous renter or Avis attendant did.

So I waited for 30-45 minutes for a locksmith to come out and he jimmied the door open, only to set off the alarm. And in case you were wondering, toddlers really don't like to be standing next to the alarm when it goes off. So I've got a blaring car alarm echoing throughout the parking garage in one ear and a screaming toddler in the other. And then, for whatever reason, the *locksmith* turns to me and asks me if I have the keys to turn off the alarm. Of course not...that's why you are here. Just then, my wife returned with the car seat only to find all hell unfolding in the garage.

So, I left the now three or four Avis workers to figure out how to get into the car to turn off the alarm while I went back to the service desk to get another vehicle. I did hear the alarm stop, followed by a sarcastic "Thank you!" coming from somewhere in the garage...only to have the alarm spitefully start up again. That little bit of humor bolstered my spirits enough to accept that the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada had drained all reasonably sized vehicles from the Avis inventory. The replacement vehicle we got was a beastly Chevy Suburban which we had to wait at least another 45 minutes for them to drive in from another location. This Canyonero-esque monster gets maybe 15 liters/100km (15.6 mpg) if  you drive very efficiently. Unfortunately, our plans called for us to driving for hours up to North Bay and then down to the Manitoulin and then back to Toronto. The gas bill's going to be the largest one I've ever seen. Great way to start the vacation, eh?

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