Retired and on the Move

My Photo
Location: BC, Canada

Thursday, October 26, 2006


As we travelled east and the autumn caught up with us, or we caught up with it the display of colours became progressively. By Tennessee and especially by Virginia they were in full display.

Annapolis, Maryland- US Naval Academy

As a young boy growing up on Lake Ontario in the post WW II era, with a neighbour in his late 20's who had served as an officer in the Canadian Navy it was natural for Roger to take him as a role model. A few years later the US Navy supported a TV programme about the midshipman of Annapolis. The life appeared very attractive to a 14 year old with wanderlust. Roger went on to serve in the RCN as an officer, meet many midshipmen and officers from the US Navy, but he had never been to the United States Naval Academy. It took another 50 years but here he is too grey, too tired and too decrepit to bash around their parade ground, to keep up with them in a rowing shell, or to chase after them on the soccer field, but at least here he is at the Academy.

Ship handling without risk in the Chesapeake.

The WW II memorial overlooking the Academy.

The chapel at the Academy.

The streets of downtown Annapolis (actually the historic part of the city) remind us of Europe with their narrow passages, while the wood construction and colour schemes bring back memories of trips to St. John's Newfoundland.

We had too little time here and would definitely return.

Monday, October 23, 2006


We see them all the time and they are usually a pain in the posterior, cutting us off, hogging the passing lane, kicking up heavy spray with their 18 wheels, slowing down traffic on hills.

Travelling with trucks on I-40 in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and Arkansas has been a different experience. The trucks outnumber the motorhomes and 5th wheel vacation trailers which in turn outnumber the cars. At least that's the pattern in October. The speed limits are typically 70 mph (120 km/hr) and trucks are sometimes limited to 65 mph. Ever been passed by an 18 wheeler while your driving up a long hill at 110 km/hr? The first few times it was a big surprise.

We have been impressed by the variety of makes, styles and colours of these long-haul rigs. So Roger started taking pictures. One driver asked why we were wandering around truck stops taking pictures. He thought Roger must be an insurance adjuster.

The traffic in October is no doubt better than the summer when more motorhomes, 5th wheels, tent trailers and cars would be on the highway. But in October it has been a real pleasure to drive with all these trucks. The drivers have been invariably good, courteous and helpful.

So this post is dedicated to them, with thanks for sharing with us.

Their highway seems to run to infiniti - both east and west as reflected in this stainless tanker.

The Pilot Fuels truck stop in Amarillo, Texas has 11 lanes for trucks to be fueled simultaneously, too many to capture in one shot. The first time we saw this stop there were 50 trucks fueling and another 100 parked for supper, sleeping or chewing the fat with other drivers.

Marie-Claire gets up close and friendly with an armful of trucks.

and with a huge Peterbilt. If you want to feel petite, stand beside one of these. The large stand-up sleeper behind the cab is the norm today in long-haul trucks in North America. It affords the solo driver or a team more privacy and more comfort.

Contrast these with cab-over, or tilt-cab, trucks that were common in Canada and the USA in the 1960's to 1980's, and still are widely used in Europe today.

Perhaps softer lines and colours are more appealing to you.

There is a lot of variety in the styles, shapes and windows of the sleepers.

How about a "stealth" truck in midnight black?

Or pick something in white - you even have a choice of sleeper style and windows. Who said trucks ain't beauuuuuutiful?

Choose some different graphics. Yes indeed all these trailers are 53 feet long - some are longer.

Maybe you'd prefer to drive a rig with twin trailers and 20 wheels perhaps for FedEx or UPS.

Maybe you'd like to deliver US built Yahama pianos. This guy is actually deadheading east back to the factory with an empty trailer.

By the way, they're definitely not all guys. There are lots of lady drivers out there.

If you're a graduate of McMaster University you might choose a maroon cab and sleeper and gray trailer. But if you're a grad of Mac you are hopefully making more than the 39-42 cents per mile that we see advertised.

Or a grey cab with an older style sleeper?

So the next time you see one of these giants give some thought to the man or woman piloting this mass of steel, fiberglass and aluminum at high speeds, fully loaded down the highway or in the congestion of city traffic. Don't tailgate them - it's true that if you can't clearly see their mirroirs, they can't see you. Don't cut in front of them; they're concentrating on keeping several tons of moving mass straight; and yes they do make wide turns around 90 degree corners -if their flasher indicates they're turning right and they veer into the left lane, don't pull up on their right side - it's a good way to get squashed.

Share the road, share the spirit.

A Note to New Readers

"Let's start at the very beginning - cause that is the place to start!"

Hold on a minute, Marie-Claire is not a blonde nun searching for her vocation; nor is she Julie Andrews; and this is not the Sound of Music.

So in this case the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning.

To put it another way, hopefully more clearly - the blog runs from the bottom (the beginning entry Launching Retirement/Simplifying Life) to the top (the final entry at any given time). That makes it a bit awkward to read the first time through, but easier to follow once you are up to date.

If you can't find Launching Retirement/Simplifying Life and other earlier posts, check in the Archives.


After Elvis' house we check the weather forecast - tonight there will be a low of 28 Farenheit (-2 Celsisu). The days have continued to be generally sunny and warm but the nights and the early mornings are another story. We finally chicken out after 17 days on the road with each morning colder than the last and get a hotel near Brownsville.

As we're unpacking the car Roger spots a guy in this field of cotton picking and putting cotton in a
small plastic bag.

Harry is actually from Alabama where he raises some cattle on his 26 acres, but he's moved to New York where he lives aboard a power boat in Long Island Sound. He's going to take the cotton to the "Big Apple" to show his friends where their clothes come from. It turns out that Harry has a connection to Helen the retired psychologist from Laguna - he works on the railroad as a rail grinder, running a big machine that tunes the rails by grinding them down. He's just finished working the rails that Helen was complaining about as being rough. Big country. Small world.

Memphis, Tennessee

We crossed the big muddy (no bridges like this in the days of Tom and Huck) and entered Memphis, Tennessee.

The Welcome Center just off this bridge over the I-40 is a good introduction to the city and its roll in the birth of Rock 'n Roll. Sculptures of the great B B King and Elvis - the King (with an admiring fan).

Everyone over 50, maybe even everyone over 30, knows what Memphis is famous for – the birth of Rock and Roll and Graceland. The big debate is whether we go to Graceland, which we expect will be full of schlock and glitz, or continue down the highway. Having been teenagers in the 1950s, we opt for Graceland.

Our expectations are met; it is lots of schlock and glitz, but it is also interesting and fun. Being seniors, we got a break on the price and a further break for being members of Automobile Association. So instead of paying $60.00 plus tax, it cost us $48.00 and change, for two.

Here's a picture familiar to all Elvis fans and one from a different perspective.

We'll only put up a few shots from the interior so as not to bore anyone. It is full of memorabilia, gold records, instruments etc. A Quebecois would describe the decor as "quetain".

It is clearly a house to play in as well as a residence. No flashes are allowed for pictures so some are a bit dark.

This is the piano he played and sang at with some friends the day of his premature death.

The office where his father Vernon managed affairs especially after Elvis' death.

The requisite kidney-shaped pool was one of many toys that ranged from a gun collection and target range to golf carts for impromptu races, horses, pianos and guitars, multiple TV's in the same room so Elvis could emulate LBJ by watching several networks simultaneously.

He had a number of cars and motorcycles, including the famous pink Cadillac.
Probably his largest single purchase was the one bedroom, two bathroom, one dining room, two salon jet for tours and for occasional family/personal use.

Sirius satellite digital radio has a 24/7 Elvis channel, so his music definitely lives on as he recorded it.

Some would argue that his music lives on in the variations of the genre that have developed from the eclectic mix that he created in the form of Rock n Roll.

You'll be listening to him forever (if you were born in the 1960's or earlier).

And you can always come to see his grave, beside those of his grandmother, mother and father.


Little Rock looks like too large a city to explore in a limited time so we opt instead for Hot Springs. The travel information office suggests a scenic route - Highway 7 - to take us from I-40 to Hot Springs. It is not a route that we think will impress people from BC. It is picturesque and winding but there are no view points. Maybe we are just too blase after the stunning scenery of Oregon and the scenery we see every day in BC. The leaves have begun turning so this adds a feature that we haven't seen on this trip.

We locate ourselves in the nicest KOA we have seen, set up on several different treed levels so there is lots of privacy. Next morning we set off to see some of Hot Springs starting with the exterior of the house where Clinton spent much of his youth and the Baptist church where he apparently went each Sunday on his own.

In the historic center of the city it quickly becomes apparent that Hot Springs has been developed from a perspective and philosophy that is very different from Banff National Park. With the exception of a small reserved area, free enterprise has ruled the day.

Some of the smaller buildings remind us of Banff, but the overall impression is of a larger scale and more freedom for unfettered development.

There are over 40 hot springs flowing from the mountain and each has been used at one time or another for commercial bath houses. The natural temperature of each spring is 56 Celsius - stick your hand in water like that - it is hot , so hot that only a few have been left open for public access. In the baths, cold water is blended with the hot to make them safe and bearable.

Looking for a washroom we find a large, opulent though somewhat faded hotel - The Arlington - and end up staying for lunch.

While taking Mari-Claire's picture, Roger is asked by this lady if he'd like her picture too. It turns out that Helen is a retired psychologist from near Laguna Beach, Calif. who has travelled alone by train from California to Michigan to visist a son and then down to Arkansas and plans to stay in the Arlington for 2-3 months. She has many interesting tales to tell and talks about the rougness of the right-of-way and how she was thrown off her feet at one point.

We wear off lunch by climbing Hot Springs Mountain for the view and then coming back down to the main street to explore more of the springs.

The park headquarters is located in a former bath house - The Fordyce - that has been preserved and is open to the public.

It has all the amenities we would have expected and many more.

There is marble everywhere - bath tubs, shower enclosures, floors, stairs, tables etcetera - enough to sink a ship. Lots of stained glass, steam cabinets, retiring rooms, parlours for the ladies and a billiard room for the men, dressing rooms, podiatry rooms, massage rooms - hand, electric and mechanical. A Beauty parlour for the ladies. Everything that the beginning of the 20th century could imagine for the "cure".

If yoou're a fan of Banff these shots will demonstrate the radically different approach that has been taken around this hot springs national park and the level of commercial development. Coincidentally we ended up sharing a hibachi table in a Japanese restaurant that evening with a developer and his family. Roger bit his tounge in his efforts to be a good guest of their national park.

Tomorrow it is on to the mighty Mississippi, bold in Roger's memory from his childhood reading of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Come to think of it he subjected his own children to the same bedside stories.