Friday, 24 June 2011

Southwards to the Pole ??

So, from Maine where I last posted...
First things first, as I'm sure you are all wondering. No, the car has behaved virtually impeccably for the last three weeks. Not a stutter or breakdown or anything serious. It even got washed today ! It does have a liking for vibration ( quiet at the back there) and will have to be checked at some point soon. A bit of a judder when braking from virtually any speed, and a definite vibration at specific road speeds, which may or may not be linked to engine speed. Enough of that, however, it still goes and has now carried me and my spartan belongings over 7000 miles. Not bad at all, in just 7 weeks.
From the damp wonders of rainy Maine, I travelled west and then south, through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and North and South Carolina. I'm currently in South Carolina, near a city called Columbia. I'm camped in a Natl Forest, surrounded by billions of trees, skeeters, clouds and much heat. It's 8 in the evening and its still about 80 degrees F out there. It's also about 95% humidity, so I'm sitting in the car with the engine running the aircon - nice and cool for the moment. The tent is going to be like a sauna when I venture forth...
The journey has been great fun, with loads to see and do, though I haven't been trying to do all the touristy things - I want to see the country, not what the country wants me to see ! The weather has been very changeable, with loads of rain, mostly of the torrential variety, and plenty of heat, much of it very humid. Driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway, over the last couple of days, there has been condensation forming on the outside of the windscreen, caused by the warmth of the outside air and the cold of the air-conditioned interior of the car - bizarre ! I've seen billions and billions of trees, hundreds of mountains, thousands of lakes and streams and rivers, and literally zillions of bugs, many of which commit suicide on my windshield. Have avoided hitting all other wildlife so far, though some deer and a few chipmunks have had close shaves. Other wildlife making an appearance have included a lady elk (I think), wild turkeys, groundhogs, squirrels, ospreys, eagles, tiny froglets and a raccoon. Lots of birds too, including robins (much bigger than UK), blackbirds (red flashes on upper wings), wrens, cardinals and a strange black thing about the size of a turkey but looking a bit like a vulture....
Next on the map are Georgia and Louisiana, with a possible visit to the Atlantic coast before I head inland. Then onwards to the wild west - Texas, New Mexico and Arizona await.
And so too will you, until the next instalment that is.
Lots of love to all my devoted followers - be sure to let anyone else who might be interested know of this site..!
John M. xxx

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Time for some more blog.

One or two people (thanks Mark H), have suggested that I should try updating this thing. Since my last post, when I was about to leave Boston, I have been to Cleveland, where I stayed with Richard and Carolyn Butterfield. While there, I bought the vehicle I had planned to buy, though it was not without much trial and frustration. The actual purchase went OK, but I went through any number of hoops and bureaucratic flim-flam in order to get the thing registered. I even sat and passed an Ohio State driving test, only to then find that they wouldn't give me the licence because I didn't have the correct category of visa ! This threatened to kibosh the whole enterprise, but a friend of a friend of Richard, suggested that I ask the dealer who sold me the car to get the registration completed on my behalf, using my Social Security Number - mission accomplished. Quite why the dealer couldn't have suggested doing that for me in the first place, I don't know. Anyway, after a week and a day, my GMC Yukon and I were legal.
Next day, Richard and Carolyn went South and I went West. Michigan was the first destination, and was found to be cold and wet. Northwards through the Upper Peninsula was next, closely followed by South Western Ontario, Manitoulin Island, the Algonquin Natl Park and then Southern Ontario. Cousin Alan was next to put a roof over my head, in a tiny place called Lyn which is very near the St Lawrence River and the US border. After 4 or 5 days there, it was time to move on, and I headed north east towards Montreal and then Quebec. More miserable cold and wet weather was withstood, before my travels were thwarted by a non-functioning ferry - about turn and run for the border.
I crossed over into the USA last Friday, and was greeted by the most torrential rain I have ever seen. However, it has warmed up and dried out since then, and I am currently sitting in my little tent in a site near Bangor in Maine. Camping has been a mixed experience, with many cold, wet mornings and only a few bright, dry days so far. A wet tent is a miserable thing, even more so when you have to put it back up still wet from the night before. Most sites have been pretty good, with showers and ablutions of similar standard, but the Natl Park sites have been more enjoyable, despite (or perhaps because of) their lack of high quality facilities. Thunder and lightning is an interesting experience in a small tent, esp at 3 in the morning !
The car is a big lump of a thing, but loveable despite that. It has 4 wheel drive, a huge 5.3 litre engine, automatic transmission and (most importantly) air conditioning. It has also had a couple of hiccups - the interior ventilation fan was unwilling to work, and soon gave up altogether, fixed by replacing the switch and connector; the starter motor gave up one morning and was replaced; the brakes had to be renewed when it was serviced; and the engine cut out when doing 60 on a motorway - had to be rescued by a tow truck - and that was fixed by sorting out a short circuit. This truck is clearly not without it's issues, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and speaking nicely to it. Seems to be working so far.
Next direction is basically southwards, gradually following the line of the Appallachians down towards Virginia and Georgia.
Look out for my next nail-biting instalment !!
Love to all