As we planned to leave Moab, we had some big decisions to make. We had to get Camel to New Jersey by the 22nd April to get her loaded into her container (after being drained of fuel and oil and having her battery disconnected…good grief!). We really needed the Tentipi to be dry so that it would not rot while being stuck in a container for several weeks. The weather had started to turn horrible and the route back to the east coast was sure to take us through some wet and windy situations. The tent was actually totally dry (yeh!) so we decided that we would do no more camping. We rearranged all our kit and headed out , after admiring this slightly comical looking scorpion; I bet it could still give you a nasty sting!
I asked one of the neighbours to record the moment we finally packed the tent away to head on home
We then headed west on the Interstate 80, covering 1400 miles over five days. The first day was wonderful as we climbed up through the Rocky Mountains,
winding our way through fabulous scenery and looking enviously upon ski resorts until we found a cheapish hotel in Silverthorne. There was even a decent brewery/ restaurant just over the road. I really needed to renew the data on my iPad, as we would be needing to book all kinds of places to stay over the next couple of weeks, but it became a real headache. The AT&T place just up from the hotel was closed until ten am, apparently nobody needs to talk to anybody about phones early in the morning (or the guys who run phone shops know a good thing when they see it). We then stopped at a small town just down the road and their only AT&T place had closed down months ago. We stopped at another shopping centre where we tried to sign on with another provider, but they charged $40 extra for the privilege. Blow that for a game of soldiers! We finally found an AT&T shop, but, after about half an hour it transpired that their computer was down. Onwards we went and found yet another provider, who would not sell me any data because I was foreign, on to another who could not sell me any because my iPad was outdated (REALLY, its only a couple of years old) and then onto yet another town where there seemed to be an AT&T shop in the local mall. Nope, it was over the road, having moved out with all the other phone providers. We could see the shop, just across the road, but THERE WAS NO WAY TO CROSS THE ROAD BETWEEN TWO LOTS OF SHOPS ON FOOT. We had to get back into Camel and drive for over a mile to cover the hundred or so yards to them. We then were greeted by a nice young man, who finally pointed us to another nice young man who finally got me some new data for my iPad. Good grief, what a palaver!
The next day, however, gave us the shape of things to come. Long, long straight boring roads through totally flat country that just went on and on and on for ever. Luckily for me (no driving wimpy woman) Tim was more than happy to drive along listening to music while I read (the first time on the trip, but it did stop me from gouging my eyes out from boredom) (I paid for my pleasure, as I ended up with the most horrendous crick in my neck). We stopped at a McDonalds for a cup of tea one morning; I was feeling pretty desperate as the hotel didn’t serve tea or even provide hot water to brew my own. Not only did that McDonalds not serve tea, they refused to give me any hot water either, on the grounds of health and safety. The woman told me that not a single takeaway establishment in the valley was allowed to serve hot tea. Of course hot black coffee is so much safer. Poor Tim, he was cooped up in Camel with a very grumpy tea starved Janet for hours.
After five days of driving, we thought we would take a break, so I managed to find us an Airbnb apartment in Chicago. We had been given mixed reviews about the city, but, if you listen to people, it seems you will be safe there if you stay on the north side of town. The apartment was pretty good with tons of space, a decent kitchen and two shower rooms. The flat is really close to Chicago zoo in Lincoln Park, and so we wandered there, not really having very high expectations because it was free. Boy, were we surprised. They have a fabulous primate protection scheme, and we saw very well looked after chimps and (much more exciting) gorillas.
They try to keep them in as natural an environment as possible and are involved in serious programs to preserve the species in the wild. To stand so close to gorillas was amazing and then we were able to watch the silverback learning sign language; he knew to come up for his treat due to a green symbol the keeper showed, but it was his choice to go there.
The rest of the zoo was excellent and we loved the meerkats, but felt very sad for the pigmy hippo and the few larger animals that they had, as they looked pretty cramped.
I really wasn’t too certain about the cockroach enclosure
nor was Tim too happy with the giant spiders (at least he didn’t make me go into the snake house, phew!)
The next day we walked into downtown Chicago, really enjoying the feel of the place.
Unlike a lot of cities we have been to, the car didn’t reign supreme (which probably explained the huge traffic jams and stress we experienced driving into the place) and we managed to cross the many roads without feeling as if someone was about to mow us down on a crossing (made a nice change). It was, however, blooming cold. The maximum temperature that day was five degrees C and the wind was howling through the place. Despite the bright sunshine it was very uncomfortable; don’t let anyone convince you it is called the windy city because of the politicians! I had been told by several people that the best thing to do was to take an architectural tour on the river, so we found a boat tour and gave it a shot. At first we cowered down in the nice warm salon, but the tour guide told us that it would be meaningless unless we got out on deck to see the sights.
It was very good and most interesting, but we were desperate for it to finish so we could find somewhere nice and warm where we could eat some hot food. It occurred to me that it was fairly typical of us that we had trouble finding an Irish pub in a place so Irish that they dye the river green on ‘St Paddy’s’ day. We eventually found a place that would sell us bowl of chilli and nice drinks, which was just as well as I think bits of me were about to fall off. We walked back along the lake shore, admiring the cycle paths and thinking that it would be a pretty good place to live (in the summer).
Having had our confidence boosted about Airbnb, I thought it would be good to try some other places, as we were doing very well on the mileage front. I found a nice sounding place in a small town called Bowling Green, so I booked us a couple of nights there. It was a bit of an eye opener; I should have paid a bit more attention to the ‘pet friendly’ bit. The apartment was pretty spacious, but it smelt of wet dog and it felt a bit grubby (I spent the whole time itching from (luckily) imaginary flees. It cost about the same as our luxurious place in Chicago, but it appeared that the owner had just nipped off to stay at a mate’s house, as he had left a fridge full of his food and he had left his dirty towels in the bathroom. The bed was so soft that Tim and I ended up shoved together in the middle and I felt like I spent the whole night hauling myself up a cliff face. Mind you, the town of Bowling Green was very nice and we strolled the mile or so to the centre and had ourselves a very pleasant meal.
The next day I had booked a very nice sounding place called Lackawanna, near Buffalo. We were greeted by our lovely host, Steve and shown around a most luxurious space (it cost the same as the previous two places!!!!). There were so many room we actually had problems finding our bedroom a couple of times. The fridge was full of drinks and tasty treats. There was delicious homemade cake. There was a whirlpool bath. The place was beautifully decorated. The whole stay would have been outstanding and we would have seen Buffalo, having not stopped there previously on the way through from Niagara, but I ended up with a stomach upset and couldn’t bring myself to go far from the bathroom. Still, if you have to be unwell, then doing it in luxury with a huge great TV to watch easy-viewing stuff has got to be one of the best ways to do it. As we left we remonstrated with our hosts that they were undercharging. They said that they didn’t want to rake people; they are seriously some of the best people we have met! The Rose Garden at 856 Ridge Road West is probably going to be impossible to beat as a place to stay.
Our next stop was just off the freeway in a pretty little town called Watson Town in Pennsylvania.
The high street was very attractive and we went for a nice little stroll down by the river, where there were a myriad of wildflowers, that slightly assuaged my longing to see the UK in the spring.
Back at the hotel, we had an excellent meal and repaired to our windowless and airless room for the night (well, it cost less that fifty dollars), before moving on to our next Airbnb place in Philadelphia.