Category Archives: Expedition Vehicle Travel

An expedition vehicle is basically a four season capable RV that does not depend on hookups and has 4×4.

The other “Haitches”

We then headed north to visit a friend from our Botswana days.  At her suggestion, we visited Haddon House, another fabulous medieval house, which had retained its “pristine medievalism” because it had been shut up for 200 years (its lord got an upgrade and moved to a bigger house) and it was only reopened in the early 20th century! 

So while Hardwick Hall reflected the heights of Elizabethan, rennaissance, sophistication, Haddon Hall took you back to an earlier, more rough edged time. The kitchen, for example was more of a true medieval kitchen with fewer mod cons. 

The family is actually still in residence now, but in a modernized section! Absolutely amazing. It was the middle of the week, so we had a very pleasant visit and a lovely lunch. 

The first mentions of a house/fort at Haddon date from around 1150. Around 1195, the owner was granted permission by John of Mortain (Later, King John. Yes, THAT John.) to build a low and un-crenellated wall around the buildings – hardly a serious fort. The building grew in fits and starts until 1703, when the owner was elevated in title and moved to Belvoir Castle. (Better view!) The site was then basically abandoned until the early 20th Century when the ninth Duke and Duchess of Rutland began a restoration program. Close to a time capsule.

John Henry, the 9th Duke, looking a bit like a fugitive from “Brideshead Revisited.”
Lower courtyard with Banqueting Hall entrance.
Nifty Roman votive pillar in the entrance way. When you invoke the Gods, remember to acknowledge your debts!
Not exactly a gargoyle, but impressive none the less.
Great chandler in the Great (Banqueting) Hall.
The head table.

All of that eating required a lot of cooking. The kitchens were large and, over time, connected to the Banqueting Hall by a large passage.

A lot of scullions have raced through this passage to wear down the stone steps!
Denise admires the kitchen fire, perfect for roasting whole critters! Nice and warm in winter and unbearable in summer.
This one is the real deal. Think how many people have sat here over the years.
If one did not drink “fayre”, that is, if you drank too much or too little, you would have your wrist manacled here and drink poured down your sleeve. Etiquette has so many rules!
Veganism was not a big thing, so you needed a large chopping block to cut up all the various meats.
A few modern innovations crept in during the renovations!

Haddon Hall has a small museum of things found over the renovations, mostly lost behind the paneling. The laundry tally falls into the category of never-seen-one-of-those-before. (

Horn book with prayers.
Simply amazing laundry listing device, to keep track of items of clothing sent out to be cleaned.
Graffiti from the 1800’s.

The Earl’s Apartment, One of the upstairs bedrooms preserves royal graffiti from over the centuries. Some of it dating way back, and some of it VERY modern!

The Hall has been owned by two families. Their crests are in the left photo and the Order of the Garter is in the right photo. The colored glass still glows on a sunny day. The diamond shaped panes are each set at a different angle to maximize the sparkle.

The Manners on the left and the Vernons on the right.
Both were knight of the garter.
Carved wooden paneling.
Sadly, not playable.
Date is clear.
Beautiful painted alabaseter reredos from behind the altar in the chapel. A modern relocation, may have been part of the original rood screen.
The bridge at the bottom of the hill is a classic English post card.

Two Halls, but four “Haitchs”

Four “H’s”?? Read on. We continued north towards two famous, and very different, halls, Hardwick and Haddon.

Bess of Hardwick was an amazing Elizabeth era woman. In today’s world, she would be outstanding; in her era, she must have been a force of nature. ( Read the fine print; when your first husband is 14 years old, it gets complicated! Besides being very rich, her husband was, from time to time, the keeper of the captive, Mary, queen of Scots and Mary and Elizabeth would sew together. You thought Downton Abbey was a stretch? Even Julian Fellowes couldn’t write this stuff.

Hardwick Hall is almost as interesting as Bess herself, being very modern “(Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.”). Sadly, you cannot visit the four banqueting rooms, in each of the towers.

Notice that the height of each floor increases as you ascend. The four “towers” were banqueting rooms.

One of the odder things about Hardwick Hall is that there are actually TWO of them, right on the same site. And one is National Trust and the other, “Old Hardwick Hall.” is English Heritage. The old hall has long been abandoned, but was never torn down.

You walk down the lane between the two properties.
The “old” hall is famed for its plasterwork.

Hardwick Hall may have been built strictly as a residence, but it was still sited on a hill with steep defensive slopes. The result is great views.

The Great Hall is pretty, but is clearly Elizabethan, rather than medieval.

In the days before elevators, there were stairs everywhere. Some elegant, intended to impress, some smaller and practical, but most well worn with centuries of use.

Interesting side stair. Wonder where this goes?
Be impressed, by the width the stairs, the expensive hangings, and the fact that you are still only half way up!
Granted, this is not granite, but think of how many feet have run up and down to wear like this.

The joy of these great barns is sometimes in the smaller details.

Not Elizabethan, but old. Think of the challenges of running wiring in a building this old.
Beautiful detail on the paneling of one of the upper rooms.

The upper rooms, where the family lived, are every bit as amazing as you would expect, with beautiful plaster work, paneling, and rich hangings. Conspicuous ostentation was the goal and Bess and her successors achieved it.

This was Bess’s de facto throne room. People today stop and stare, as they must have done in Bess’s time.
Seal over the fireplace.
Look REALLY closely. Can you see the change in the motto?
Even today, the carvings are lifelike. Note that they were not sterile statues but burst out of the walls with realistic color.

The motto of of the monarch of the United Kingdom, said to date from Richard I is “Dieu et mon droit.” Literally, “God and my right.” Bess covered Hardwick with her initials, “ES,” Elizabeth of Shrewsbury. The letters crown the towers. Now go back and enlarge the image of the seal, you will see that the motto has been modified to include the letters “E” and “S.”

Hours and hours of hand stitching.
Hiding in the car park.
There were three of these on display. The cost must be incalculable.
Dinner at the Wheatsheaf Hotel.
Denise at the gate.

We are members of Harvest Hosts, a system that lets you stay overnight at vineyards and similar establishments in the US. Harvest Hosts recently acquired Brit Stops, a similar organization for pub stays in the UK. ( After driving past a few times, we found the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Baslow, jammed ourselves into their carpark, and had a great dinner. (

That is two”haitches,” Hardwick Hall, down, two more to come.

Northward Ho!

After leaving the south coast, we fought the joys of the M-25 and M-1 on a Bank Holiday weekend. For those who may not be familiar, the M-25 is to London what I-495 is to Washington, D.C. – a ring road.

Only, on a Bank Holiday Weekend, it is simply a multi-hour parking lot. Think lots and lots of clutch pumping. Finally, we were able to join the M-1, the UK’s main north/south axis (think I-95) and start north. This may be a good time to introduce some essential Anglicisms – “tail back” and “queue,” both words usually pronounced with a wide range of select obscenities! That was the bad news. The good news is that UK motorways are excellent with some very nice features.

First, most on ramps are two lanes wide and join at two points on the road. This smooths out the traffic flow immensely.

Secondly, most British drivers are simply more courteous than their American counterparts. For example, regular drivers, not just truckers, routinely move out of the slow lane to let you merge – especially nice if you are driving a heavy and underpowered truck.

Finally, passing on the left, or slow side (Same as passing on the right in the US.) is almost always illegal, so again, with a slower vehicle, you are much, much less likely to get “trapped” in a faster lane should, for example, you move over to allow an HGV (heavy goods vehicle, or “artic” – articulated lorry or, in ‘murican, a semi) to merge. And speaking of HGV’s some are double trailers and some are double height, and lots are foreign; a wild new world. (We will return to this theme later.)

After some hours, we reached our first UK campground, the White Mills Marina just south of Northampton.  ( A lovely spot to gather ourselves together, take walks along the towpath beside the River Nene and make a shopping trip to complete our supplies.

View down the Nene, with White Mills in the background. Traveling by narrow boat, this would be what you saw looking for a riverine rest stop or service area.
The marina was full of boats of all types.
Narrow boat leaving the marina.

The marina was an interesting insight into the parallel world of river boat travel with lots and lots of narrow and wide boats. Some are floating hotels, some are day trippers for tourists, some are rentals, and lots are simply people full timing, just like their cousins in RV’s. And the marinas offer all of the same amenities as an RV campground. White Mills is simply nicer than most.

We first discovered this world when, some years ago, we took a short trip on the “Wessex Rose.” She has new owners, but looks to be as lovely as ever. ( Geek note: The Wessex Rose is a “wide” boat. Some of the hotels are two narrow boats, a powered boat with day facilities which tows a second boat which contains the sleeping accommodations. At night, the two tie up side by side.

On to the halls!

The UK Adventure Begins

We had expected to wait about a week for our truck to appear, but plans have a habit of going awry and the ship carrying the 917, the Hawaiian Highway, was about 2 weeks late! 

Because of the delay, Denise’s brother ended up hosting us for a total of three weeks, which really was above and beyond the call of duty.  We were, needless to say, very grateful.  And, as always, we had great fun together!

Easter included plum pudding napalm.

While near Chichester, in Sussex, we were able to explore the area a little. We made several visits to Chichester, a lovely Roman town with fragments of wall still existing and the traditional Roman cardo layout, with four main streets leading to the medieval cross in the center of town.  (“Chester” comes from the Latin, “castra” meaning fortress. See also Doncaster, Leicester, and all the rest.) There are lots of fun shops (for a few important purchases) and wonderful coffee shops for a coffee or light lunch.

Little hill in a city park? Yup! Original motte from a motte and bailey castle.
Chichester cathedral

On a rather chilly day we went to the Wetlands Reserve at Arundel, a nearby town, to view its amazing selection of different ducks, coots and swans.  They are free to leave if they wish but most obviously do not.  They looked quite at home.

Photographing the geese.
Arundel castle as seen from the wetlands.
Local pub had Scotch eggs.

Fred and Denise’s brother, Trevor, snuck out for a quick visit to the little Air Museum at Tangmere. Devotees of the Battle of Britain will have heard of Tangmere, one of the many RAF bases. ( The little museum is well worth a visit for the extensive memorabilia and, next time, the flight simulators!

Crashed Hurricane, dug out of the ground.
Peering into an intake you find the engine inside.
Pondering the difference between a Harrier and a Sea Harrier.

In 1937 the Gloucester Gladiator became operational with the RAF; the last biplane. It even served during most of WWII. ( In 1943 the Gloucester Meteor became the first operational jet fighter on the allied side – a span of only six years. ( Considering that the first jets were only conceived of in the late 1930, this was an insanely short time. The Meteor was so secret that pilots were no allowed over German lines least one crash and be recovered. The Meteor was used to intercept V1 flying bombs and to tip them over with the wing so that the gyro would fail and the bomb would crash. That would have been a wild maneuver.

Fred was amazed; he knew that the Allies were working on jets, but did not know that any were ever operational.

Gloucester Meteor. (The Jordanian air force used these as ground attack aircraft into the 1950’s.)

Chichester also has a Ship Canal and we enjoyed a lovely walk along the towpath one morning.  In the early 1800’s, there was an idea to connect London with the sea near Chichester. The goal was route to carry heavy cargo that was protected from French raiders on the Channel. The canal never reached London or made any money, but it did make it to Chichester. Quite an interesting little artifact. ( Again, we saw a selection of ducks, coots, and moorhens.

The final basin in Chichester,
Clever art. Expand the image and look closely at the wings.
Waling the tow path.
Little tug used to move barges, now only for maintenance.
Old machinery
Chichester cathedral from the canal.
And in 1828, by Turner.
End of the canal near Bosham. The lock gate is due to tides.

We were back in Arundel a week or so later to visit the Castle and to explore the gardens during the Tulip Festival.  The Festival had been delayed for a week as with a chilly spring, the tulips were not flowering!  

The displays were wonderful, though some flowers were still not open. 

The tour of the Castle, which is the home of the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal of England, was most interesting.  ( (You don’t want to meet the current Duke on the road; he is under a six month driving ban!)

The castle is old, parts are Norman, huge, in good condition, and still occupied by the family. Needless to say, it has been expanded and altered many times. Some of the bedrooms you can visit are still used for guests! This leads to the odd anachronism of telephones and modern magazines in odd places. Arundel should definitely be on your short list of castles to visit, if only for the only intact portcullis the first that we have ever seen. (

The Dukes of Norfolk are hereditary Earls Marshal. While this used to mean tending to the king’s horses, now the primary duty is to organize major state occasions. For example, the funeral of Elizabeth II and, more recently, the coronation of Charles III. (

Those are real watch towers, once manned day and night.
The portcullis was the emergency gate to a castle. Should an enemy succeed in arranging a sneak attack, a swing of the sledge hammer and the portcullis would drop to bar entry. This would allow time to close the gates and raise or burn the bridge.
Counterweights made it easier to raise the portcullis. Usually, there were two; outer and inner. In the event of a sneak attack you dropped both to trap the attackers in the gate house where they could be killed with arrows or noxious things dropped through the “murder holes” in the roof and walls.
Looking from the old, Norman tower and walls to the newer living quarters which were added when the castle no longer had a military purpose.

Denise admires the great hall.
Simply stunning stairway.
The third Duke of Norfolk, aged 66.
Victorian loo
The family is still staunch Catholic. There is much Catholic art everywhere.
The Norfolks built a beautiful Catholic cathedral, just across the street from the castle. Castle gardens in the foreground.
Teeny-hopper tourists
Unusual fountain of Mary, Queen of Heaven.
A royal telephone. When not open to tourists, the family use the public parts of the castle for guests.
Denise, celebrating the sun which is peeking out.
The second effigy, underneath, is the “momento mori,” the reminder of mortality.
The effigy on the top of the tomb is pretty strait forward, dripping with symbolism.
Some of the original color remains, a reminder that these were never cold, stone images.

If you read the Bayeux Tapestry in the original latin (doesn’t everybody?), you will learn that Edward went to the church at Bosham before leaving on his ill-fated trip to what is now Normandy. WE went to Bosham to have fish and chips at a great pub with Denise’s cousin, visiting with his wife from Iceland. (Small world. His wife’s nephew is a great guitar tech at a guitar shop in Arlington and performed an amazing setup on Fred’s Strat!)

Bosham is an interesting little town as parts of it flood every high tide. And even though it has been doing this since Edward’s time, people still park in the wrong places! And, fish and chips enjoyed, we also visited the church, which is still there, if greatly expanded. (

Mary Collins and her son, who died in 1918 at age 24.
And Thomas, who drowned in a storm in 1759, age 23.
Denise, believing the sign.
Ya think?
In this case, the threshold doesn’t hold the thresh, but keeps out the tide.
Ice creams available – limited time offer!

We spent a lovely morning at the Weald and Downland Museum.  Our first visit in about 30 years!  ( The Weald and Downland museum is a large, open air collection of “vernacular” buildings from the Middle Ages on. Basically, the buildings in which real people, not the nobility, lived and worked. It has parallels in Colonial Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. If your image of the past begins with castles and stately homes, this museum completes the picture with houses of more ordinary people. It has expanded a bit and there were new exhibits.

Beautiful roofing work, but no chimney.
Bedroom with “bed clothes.”
Table set for dinner.
Pegs to hold your shingles in place.
House of a wealthy merchant or farmer.
Early RV
Wealthy merchant, a garderobe.
Nasty job, cleaning the cess pit.
One of our family pastimes is noting family names that are actually professions. In this case, Thatcher.

This is one of the more modern houses; it has a chimney – required after the fire of London.
Medieval radio
Fans of Georgette Hyer will approve of “The Toll Gate.”
This is simply one of the houses you can see from the museum.

I suspect that this one has indoor plumbing, heat, and power.
A reminder that when these building are relocated, every single stone and beam has to be marked for reassembly.
And here are the tolls to be collected.

Finally, we had word that we could pick up the 917 in Southampton.  We really appreciated the train system around that area.  We had taken the train from Gatwick Airport to Trevor’s local station, Barnham, when we arrived.  Later we took the train from Barnham to Chichester to shop and now we took the train from Barnham to Southampton to pick up the truck.  A great system.  The Brits always complain about the trains, but would that we had similar service around DC. Oh, we did. And we had street cars in DC – until the great Firestone/General Motors campaign of the 1950’s. Breaks your heart.

And she has arrived, in perfect condition.

We spent a day unpacking our clothes as we had shipped some in the camper.  We had also locked most of our possessions in the back garage, so that all needed to be organized and sorted. 

Those who know our family know why this was an ESSENTIAL provision for the trip!

Then we visited the camper storage facility that we had thought to use during our returns to the States only to find that they thought us to to be “inappropriate.” So we are currently looking at alternatives – stand by; trains may be involved again!  We had our first shopping trip and then headed back to prepare for departure.

The M-25 awaits!

Barcelona Rambla

In 1955 the S.S Exeter sailed into Barcelona harbor.

On deck was a five year old Fred who remembers to this day – Spanish railway cars have four big wheels and not eight small wheels like US trains, and that the clamshells on dock cranes don’t have teeth so they don’t puncture the hulls of ships as they load and unload things like coal. His father took two pencils and some string to explain how cargo booms can more items between the pier and a ship. Useful things for a five year old to understand!

Our arrival in Barcelona began with a pretty sunrise.

Barcelona harbor is still busy and now has a huge section devoted to cruise ships and ferries. We disembarked and grabbed a taxi to our hotel, conveniently located down near the water and deep in the gothic district, aka, tourist central.

Hotel Colonial, originally build as a bank, in the 1880’s.

We like the hop on/off busses available in many cities as they allow you an overview and can help you to get an impression of a city and to start to get your bearings. We bought a two day ticket and set off. We had thought to get off and admire the new Familia Sagrada (Sacred Family) cathedral, but the crowds were huge and it was not clear that we would be able to get on the next bus.

So we got off at the top of La Rambla, the main tourist strip and inspiration for the title of this post, and went looking for lunch. This turned out to be a nice little restaurant in an ancient cellar. A tourist trap to be sure, but a very nice trap. (

Lunch is down here
Denise and paella
Fabulous wash stand
Hams and sausages in the market.

After lunch, we continued back to the hotel, admiring (?) the crowds.

Dinner was a wander through the neighborhood in search of tapas. We especially enjoyed the Chorizo Napalm.

We loved this apartment, built over the street.
Xorizo flambé
Glorious views down every street.
(Santa Maria del Mar)

Tourism would begin in earnest on the morrow!

The Euro Saga Begins

As 2020 opened, we began to get serious about our plans to spend a year or three traveling in Europe and North Africa in the 917.

The idea was fairly simple – ship the truck to Europe and start traveling in a part of the world that had mostly been fly over countries for most of our lives. Then came COVID. 

Now, in 2023, it was time for another look. Several things had changed – the increasing enforcement of the Schengen Agreement which limits time in the European Union to 90 days in, followed by 90 days out, was a major complication. Although there are reports that enforcement is variable, the penalty for overstay is a ban from entering the EU for three years, so this is not something that we want to risk. So this means that we will be traveling in and out of the UK, where we can get 180 days at a time, and then dropping into the EU.

So we launched into a siege of repairs and upgrades, picked a shipping company, and made a reservation. Denise found a repositioning cruise on Viking with very low rates, so we chose that as an alternative to flying. In the end, as the ship carrying the truck is running about two weeks late, this was probably not a good idea for the initial trip – would have been better for subsequent returns to the UK, but it was a lot of fun. And an interesting opportunity to compare/contrast with our almost identical trip on Seabourn.

We drove up to Baltimore to drop off the truck, to almost exactly the same place where Fred recovered his Blazer in 1975, after the trans Sahara trip. ( When Fred received the truck in ’74 it had been completely looted – here’s hoping that we do better this time!

The 917 settled in with new neighbors on the pier. Ended up sitting there for two weeks.

We flew to Fort Lauderdale to join the Viking Star. Boarding was easy and we set out to explore the ship which, while larger, was almost the twin in layout to the Seabourn Sojourn. It was fascinating to note what was the same and what differed from the other ship. In the end, they were more alike than different. 

In the old days, you boarded from dark, dingy pier warehouses. Now you use the same type of jetway as an airport.
Home for the next week.
Viking has wonderful baths on both their river and ocean ships.
Looking around the harbor we noted a RoRo of the type that would take the 917 to England.

After an easy departure, the Pilot went ashore and, later, we waved goodbye to Miami. We were finally en route.

We settled into the routine at sea. And we enjoyed the wonderful weather.

Passengers gathering to photograph part of the dining staff against the sunset.
The formal portrait. (I sent it to the chief of restaurant services, the gentleman on the right.)

We skipped going ashore in Phillipsburg, but were looking forward to Madeira, a kind of magical place. It is easy to see why it it is so high on the European list of vacation spots. With only a four hour visit, we skipped the the packaged tours and set off into town to in search of coffee and a visit to the cathedral.

Funchal is really pretty.

Our first stop was the park where we admired a statue of Bolivar and had a chat with a lovely lady who had just moved back to Madeira after living in Venezuela for years.

Fortified with and espresso and a gelato, we visited the cathedral, a rather plain, gothic building, dating from the late 16th century. One of the few intact buildings from the early colonial period.

Nowhere near as large or gaudy as some the the large European cathedrals, Funchal is still very nice.
The ceiling was spectacular.
Galleon style tour boat, sailing in front of the downtown.

Sailing away from Funchal we passed Kong’s island. 😉

(Kong was not receiving visitors.)

Sadly, we passed through the Straits of Gibralter at night.

Allegedly, the Viking Star is very “green” and most of this is water vapor.
We passed on the Moroccan side.

The next day we sailed up the Mediterranean coast of Spain towards Barcelona.

The Penon d’Ifach (A really big rock)

As the sun set, we passed Ibiza. Barcelona tomorrow morning.

Barcelona, Parte Dos

After finding our bearings on day one, we had a better idea of what we wanted to see on day two.  We started by taking the Hop On Hop Off bus on its second route.

The arches on the bull ring harken back to the Romans and the Moors.
American Cultural Imperialism!

Everyone recommended the Barcelona Maritime Museum ( So we “hopped” off the bus at the front door. It is an amazing place with a full size reproduction of the galley “Real”, the flagship of the Holy League Fleet at the Battle of Lepanto.  (1571)

This beast is massive and, for fans of classical galleys, note that the ram is now well above the water line. This allows the ship to be faster than a Greco/Roman galley. These ships were fitted with cannon in the bow.

The world is divided into two types of people, normal people who have never heard of the Battle of Lepanto and geeks like Fred who love this stuff. ( He remembers a young adult book about the battle which turned on the adventures of a young fisherman who was there, met Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish author, and had other adventures. Cervantes was badly injured during the battle.

Fred needless to say, knew all about this and was absolutely fascinated by both the small scale model and the full size reconstruction, which had been built for the 300 year anniversary. (Build a few more and we could make a great movie!)

Large scale model

Displays about the life led by the enslaved rowers were interesting, if depressing.  While there were some paid rowers, as in Roman times (sorry, Ben-Hur is wrong), most were slaves who spent all their time chained four or five to the oar. When not in battle, the ship was typically rowed by only a quarter of the rowers at a time, but they never left their oars, day or night, while at sea. Moslem scholars noted that you could smell a Christian galley before you saw it.

Denise showing off the fine lines and shallow draft. (Of the galley.)

The Ottoman admiral (amir al-bahr, now you know where the word originated – literally the commander of the fleet), Ali Pasha is supposed to have told his Christian galley slaves, “If I win the battle, I promise you your liberty. If the day is yours, then God has given it to you.” John of Austria, more laconically, warned his crew, “There is no paradise for cowards.”

The building housing the Maritime Museum is itself of great historical interest.  It dates back to 1500 and was built as a multi-lane shipyard, where the original ship was built.

Each of the galleries in the shipyard is huge. Amazing to consider that most of the Spanish galleys at Lepanto were built in this very building.

History records that by the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the galley was being replaced by the galleass. ( Most scholars attribute much of the Holy Leagues success against the Ottomans to placement of six galleasses at the front of the fleet where their unique ability to fire broadsides devastated the Ottoman galleys which could only fire forwards.

The reconstruction is beautiful.

By the Battle of the Armada in 1588, almost all of the ships used were galleons with no oars, but lots of cannon on the sides. But, it is reported that there were four great Venetian galleasses that were seaworthy enough to cross the Bay of Biscay.

Outside of the museum, the paving was being repaired. And right underneath was ancient paving. Roman? Medieval?

On a nice bright sunny day we took a cable car from the port up a hill to the south of the city.  The views were spectacular and included full city views (See pictures at top of page) plus the loading of a ferry to Morocco.  We even saw a Unimog camper being loaded.  And enjoyed a nice cappucino coffee with our view!

These ferries go all over the Mediterranean; Italy, Morocco and beyond.

We visited more museums while in Barcelona.  The first was the Picasso Museum. The mature Picasso is a specialized form of art. But we had learned that the Picasso museum featured his early work as well, and that aspect of the museum was absolutely fascinating – to watch him evolve from a superb, but very “classic” painter into an avant garde artist. While Fred is not a fan of the avant garde, it is clear that he would never have become as famous had he continued in the traditional vein.  (No photos)

But our taste runs to music rather than Picasso and after another wonderful tapas dinner, we enjoyed an excellent Flamenco guitar and dance concert at the Palau de la Musica.  The guitarists were stunning and we even bought a CD! ( They are a local group and the audience clearly liked and supported them.

Incredible ceiling
The hall was beautiful and had a definite Barcelona/Gaudi vibe.
Your photo with the band.

The second Museum was the Casa Batilo, remodeled by Gaudi with a free hand and deep pockets.  The result is an absolutely different house design, though based on some very interesting science, with no straight lines anywhere. ( Casa Batilo means “bat house” but sometimes it seemed more batspit crazy!

Even the exterior is unusual. Not unique, as there are many buildings in Barcelona with the fantasy curved lines.
Big crowd
Bent walls and underwater colors
Wild colors, but this air shaft is actually practical.
Denise, debating whether we need a new front door.
The last hurrah of the visit is a hallucinogenic light show. The ’60’s live!

Lastly, we simply enjoyed wandering the tiny streets of the Gothic section near our hotel.  You never know what you will find….we found ice cream shops (with wonderful ice cream inside), apartments and bridges built over the streets.

Sadly, the cathedral was covered with wraps.
A confusion of walls and arches. Always reuse what is already there.

A seminal event of modern Catalan history was the Siege of Barcelona during the War of Spanish Succession. ( The results were far reaching in many spheres, and one result was the leveling of the Born district to make a clear fire zone outside the city walls.

When it was restored, a large, modern steel market was built. 

And when it reached the end of its commercial life, it was to be razed. When this started it was discovered that the market sat on an extensive range of ruins and, even better, because of municipal records, the exact details of almost every building were known. (

And, with that, it was time to pack for the flight to Gatwick.

The Sweet Wine Tour

Traveling in these COVID times is somewhat challenging but we feel a little safer when in our camper. A trip to Florida in November 2020 proved harrowing a couple of times but we survived and even had a wonderful time.

We try not to travel for more than four hours a day if we can help it, so our first night’s stop was a most pleasant vineyard, Hinnant Farm Vineyard and Winery in Pine Level in North Carolina, courtesy of Harvest Hosts. (Home – Hinnant Vineyards) This was our first taste of the muscadine family of grapes which grow well in the south. We much prefer dry wine but found the sweeter wines novel. 

As we both like history, we next stopped near Charleston to visit the Macleod Plantation Historic Site. (McLeod Plantation Historic Site | Charleston County Parks and Recreation (

The classic allee approach

This is a former cotton plantation with a Georgian-style mansion, slave cabins and tours. It is one of the very few original plantation houses around Charleston. Most were burned by the Union Army during the Civil War, but this was commandeered to use as a headquarters.

We were interested in the history of the Gullah people of the area. We first heard Gullah in a museum in New Orleans and were stunned; Gullah sounds almost identical to the West African Pidgin that we knew in Cameroon. We were lucky enough to have a tour guide with Gullah origins, who had grown up in Beaufort nearby. He was a wonderful source for information about the unique sea island cotton grown previously at the plantation. This cotton is finer and softer even than Egyptian cotton and is exceedingly expensive. As a boy, our guide had worked in the cotton fields, so he was able to give us first hand memories.

The wealth of the plantation owner depended on the people who lived in these quarters.
After the Civil War some of these buildings were reused as churches and schools.

Ancient Tree
Sea Cotton Boll

We stayed at the Campground at James Island County Park, which proved to be a real find. (The Campground at James Island County Park | Charleston County Parks and Recreation ( Although a large campground, it was designed for maximum privacy with foliage separating campsites. There was also a shuttle bus to the Macleod Plantation, (which is also part of the County Park System), which proved useful in the rather heavy traffic. The park had also just opened its drive through Holiday Light display all around the campground and beyond. We took advantage of our location and drove through!

Our final stop, on the way to Orlando, was the Adamson Oaks Farm, again courtesy of Harvest Hosts. Here we enjoyed a farm tour and saw a variety of animals including horses, sheep, goats and llamas. But the highlight was the recent pecan harvest and the wonderful pecan pie, which we purchased! Friends all received fresh pecans for Christmas!

At a llama farm, you pet the llamas!

Our visit to Orlando included a visit to the Lakeridge Winery. (Welcome to Lakeridge Winery) Lakeridge is a huge winery complex with several sites and a selection of wines from locally grown muscadine grapes and blends using west coast juices. Again, the sweets predominated, especially with the local grapes. It was a lovely afternoon out as the grounds are extensive and the weather not too hot.

After a quick visit to St. Petersburg, where it was cool and windy and rather spoiled Denise’s beach walking plans, we headed north by stages.

Our first stop was the Pioneer Florida Museum, near Dade City. A low-key, open-air collection of historic buildings. Some nice insights into the old citrus industry and an insane collection of old Lionel electric trains! (Fred always had American Flyer, but, you get the idea.) (Pioneer Florida Museum, Dade City, Florida)

Trains moved citrus and timber
Citrus Packing Plant
We always visit the old houses

Then on to to Colt Creek State Park to relax and do some bicycling.  It proved to be a lovely spot and we enjoyed it although again, it was surprisingly cold.

Fred is getting to the point that he can assemble both bikes in about 20 minutes.

Out of Florida, we stopped at Fort McAllister State Park, just over the border with Georgia. (Fort McAllister State Park | Department Of Natural Resources Division ( We have stayed here a couple of times and enjoy bicycling around and visiting the fort. Finally, after with another quick overnight at Hinnant Farm Vineyard and Winery, we were back home in Arlington.


Our initial plan was to go to the Hovenweep ruins as we headed west, so we went south to a very nice campsite on the edge of the Rio Grande to catch up on chores and evaluate the tales of heat that we were hearing from the news and friends in the west.  After considerable research, we decided that this was not the year to head west and that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan sounded like a better idea.   So, we retraced our steps and, after another night spent outside Leadville, we headed north-east to a town campground in Brush, Colorado.  Surviving this night proved our decision was wise.  It was hot, over 100F, and the Blue cat was so distressed that we had to hold him under the tap and cool him off in front of his personal fan. All the while, our air-conditioning labored to bring the temperature down to 85F inside the camper.  It was an unpleasant evening, and we were happy to continue heading north the next day.

Moving on into Nebraska and Iowa, we again used Harvest Hosts for some fascinating overnights.  The Anchor Meadow Farm in Milford, Nebraska, raises a specialized breed of pig and chickens and we enjoyed roaming, watching the evening feeding as all the pigs rushed to the meadow fence at 5:00 PM. (Be impressed; our first attempt at embedding a video.)

Blue cat met chickens for the first time and was not impressed.  Our generous hosts gave us power for the night and we enjoyed a night of air-conditioning.  The meat and eggs we purchased were wonderful.  While in Nebraska we stopped at the Homestead National Monument.  Who knew that homesteading started with Abraham Lincoln and continued until 1969?  Quite fascinating.

The museum looks out over the prairie. Very symbolic.
Homesteader’s cabin.

In Iowa, we stayed at the Wolf Creek Trail Ranch in Anthon, where it was wonderfully cool at last!  We also enjoyed a highly caloric visit to Le Mars, Iowa, Ice-Cream Capital of the World, and specifically to the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor.  Every Blue Bunny flavor was in view and the number of sundaes and milk shakes available quite made it difficult to choose.  But we did, and sat down to enjoy it!  It was well worth the visit!

Tasted as good as it looks.

On into Minnesota, we saw our first lake at the Split Rock Creek State Park in Jasper, Minnesota.  Well, it is supposedly the land of 10,000 lakes and we did see many more!  The state park was small and pleasant, and we enjoyed our stay.  We admired the Prairie Hill, which inspired the park’s creation, and which is believed to be an authentic prairie hillside.  We visited the Pipestone National Monument nearby, the source of sacred red pipestone quarried by many Indian tribes for making pipes. 

We wandered the trail, admired the quarry rock face, the prairie area and visited the waterfall. 

You can see the red sandstone everywhere.

Fred marveled at the inscription left in the 1800’s.

The explanation helped a lot.

We made a brief stop in New Ulm, Minnesota, in search of German food. We were not particularly successful, but but we visited the Hermann (Arminius – hero or villain of the Teutoburg Forest victory/massacre ) ( Fans of the TV series “Barbarians” will know at least one version of the story. New Ulm was a “Turner” community, founded by German socialists in the wake of the revolutions of 1848. (,_Minnesota) We visited the Carillion and the Hermann Heights monument.

Our next stop was Minneapolis so Denise could ride the river boat at Sweetwater.  We ended up taking a most pleasant evening supper cruise and even found a parking lot beside the river where we could park to ride our bicycles. 

New Bridge to Wisconsin.

We returned the following day and, as rain threatened, we rode across the new bridge into Wisconsin, took the bike trail back to the old bridge, and crossed back to Sweetwater for a pleasant outdoor lunch.  We got back to the truck and loaded up just as the rain began!

Our next stop was to be Duluth but we were unable to get a camping reservation for the Saturday night, so we headed back into Wisconsin for another winery stay, this time with live music. We should have stayed here in the first place!

Play that funky music, ol’ boyz! And the gentleman on the right even has an Ovation, similar to mine.
(He just plays it better.)

We continued to Duluth on Sunday to the Waterfront RV Parking at the Lakehead Boat Basin.  ( This proved to be a wonderful find, a marina with RV parking on the water.  During the winter, the space is used to store boats, but in summer it was an amazingly pleasant little park.

Our stay included a great Italian meal, bike rides along the lake, and lots of ore carriers going through the raising bridge with loud horns on both the bridge and the passing ships. 

Bridge down.

A couple went through at 5 AM which was exciting. We loved it!

The ore carriers are enormous and sized to fit the locks exactly. Lake ships are divided in to “Lakers” and “Salties” – ships that go all the way to the Atlantic.

Duluth has lovely gardens, with a view of the harbor and a peace bell from Japan. (

We never pass up a railroad museum. Duluth’s museum is a bit different as it has exhibits dedicated to all of the women, wives and fiancées, who came as immigrants to join their husbands and boyfriends working in the mines. They were detained at the station until someone came to pick them up. And, of course, great trains from different ages.

The classic 4-4-0.
Dinner is served.

We had decided to come to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (UP) seeking cooler weather. But, without camping reservations. This proved to be a bit challenging, and we found ourselves constrained by reservation options. All the State Parks and most of the town camping parks were full.  But it all worked out.  As Canada was still closed, we headed east to Ontonagon Township Park, where the campsite assured us that if there was a space available, they would save one for us!  A little nerve racking but we drove there as quickly as possible with our fingers crossed.  And indeed, we were given a space, not beside the lake, but close by in the forest.  We biked into the town a couple of times and had a great visit to the Adventure Mining Company copper mine in Greenland.  (  It was our first visit to a copper mine, and we learned all about it!  Amazing to consider that the copper can actually be too pure and the nuggets too large.

Narrow Gallery
Large Room
Air Drill

We made a brief stop in Marquette for a wonderful Mexican lunch on the deck overlooking the town, a visit to the first ore dock, the one that established the standards for ore transport on the lakes.

The railway tracks led to the top. The train dumped its ore and then, when ships tied up, the ore flowed by gravity through the chutes on the sides. Simple, fast, and effective.

We then drove on to our next stop, Munising.  We had managed to get a reservation for several nights, including July 4, at the KOA campground, albeit in two different sites.  The weather was still quite hot, but the sites were fairly shady, and we were able to keep Blue cool.  Munising proved to be a great base and we enjoyed our time there.  The only pity is that the campground was on a narrow, very busy two-lane road with rumble strips on the shoulders, which made us reluctant to use the bicycles. 

Two boat rides, one to look at various wrecked boats and another one to view the Pictured Rocks National Park from the water were fun.  (Click for captions and full size images.)

The boat ride to the Pictured Rocks proved to be the right choice as you cannot really see the colors from the cliff tops. (  We also visited a waterfall or two and enjoyed miniature golf for the first time in years.  The ice-cream shop at the miniature golf course sold us an ice-cream flight which was a wonderful idea!  We also tried the local specialty, a pasty, which we found rather heavy.  We much prefer the ones sold in Devon and Cornwall in the UK.  On the other hand, we loved the white lake fish and chips we bought from a food truck(!) – it was simply amazing.

Fred wanted to go to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point.  And as we did not want to drive there and back, we found a most interesting campground called Kritter’s Northcountry Campground.  ( )  Although full, they agreed to give us a tent site, so before our arrival there, we seized the day to visit the Seul Choix Lighthouse.  (  Unfortunately, the ghosts took the day off, but it was a most interesting visit and we climbed to the top of the tower to admire the view. 

We also went to Palms Book State Park near Manistique, where a Big Spring (Kitch-iti-kipi) has a large raft which can be moved across and back by means of a large wheel and some tourist muscle power.  (

We were early enough to walk onto the raft though by the time we left there was a considerable line. (Did we mention the crowds everywhere?)

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum has displays of various shipwrecks including the Edmund Fitzgerald, which has always interested Fred because of the song by Gordon Lightfoot. We were there nice and early and were absolutely stunned by the number of people who found their way to it. 

By the time we left, it was packed with people and parking was difficult.  (  (And yes, the Edmund Fitzgerald is still sunk.)  We then wanted to visit the Taquamenon Falls and could not even get into the State Park, let alone park there.  Cars were lined up on the entry road outside.  It was becoming clear that after the July 4 holiday, tourism had increased in the area and that it was time for us to head south and home.  Also, the weather had turned rainy and cold, and we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge, saying goodbye to the UP.

We stopped in Petoskey, Michigan to spend the night at the Boyne Valley Vineyards.  (  What an amazing place!  Our designated camping spot was deep in the woods and we happened to hit the night when the Petoskey High School Alumni Steel Band was performing.  So, not only did we enjoy tasting great wine and flatbread, but we got to hear a wonderful concert (and a free hotdog!).  Altogether an amazing experience.  Oh, and the wine was good as well.

We stopped off at the Historic White Pine Village and had a great time learning about the lumber industry and chatting with Civil War reenactors. (

After another night spent at Christofferson Fruit Farms in nearby Ludington, we continued south to the Detroit area, where Fred had plans to visit a guitar playing friend. 

Running early, we stopped off at an outlet mall for some shopping.  As we were leaving the clutch suddenly dropped right to the floor – we were immobile.  Panicked telephone calls to our mechanic friends (Thank you, Rob!) ensued.  Worse, all of the local tow companies told us that, as it was a Saturday night, tows weren’t available.  In the middle of all of this, a gentleman walked up and said that he owned an expedition camper company, about a mile away. His company turned out to be Adventure Mobil and he had even visited our Tiger at a show some years ago.  (  Would we like some help?

Would we?  We jumped at the kind offer.  So, his friend, visiting from Tennessee quickly pulled the cab apart and diagnosed the problem as a small, broken piece of plastic in the clutch linkage. What to do?  “Oh, I’m good at speed shifting, I’ll just drive the truck to the shop and we can fabricate a new piece.”  And he was a good as his word. Denise was impressed, hills and crossing a four-lane road notwithstanding, he only stalled once. (Fred is now practicing speed shifting!)  Once at the shop, the troops turned to and, in an hour or so, had fabricated a replacement part out of a billet of aluminum – even stronger than the original!  As they refused any payment, we took the troops out to dinner. 

After the repairs were finished, they offered us a wonderful overnight camping spotand we all settled in for a snooze.  Sometimes the overland gods are kind! 

From there we made our way home.


(In which we get on the road)

As we decided to travel in the US again this year, we set off at the end of May, full of plans to visit Colorado, Nevada, California, and perhaps, Oregon, before returning via Canada.  Enough said!  Some of that worked, most of it did not, but we had a great trip anyway!

We started out a bit late, at the end of May, due to some commitments in Arlington and headed west. Our first two nights stays were courtesy of Harvest Hosts and we enjoyed sampling the wine at Christian W. Klay Winery Ravens Glenn Winery  We also paid a visit to the Fort Necessity National Battlefield

A reconstruction, of course, but it wasn’t much when it was built. Depending on who you believe, George Washington may have single handedly started the French and Indian War here.

As a friend of ours put it, there is not much there!  But we enjoyed our visit to the reconstruction of the site and to the excellent visitor center, and we chatted with several of the rangers who came to see our “strange” camper.

The French lines are believed to have been at the present tree line.

Next up was a visit to friends in Columbus, Ohio. We then continued our trip west with a night at the Tuscan Hills Winery  And on into Kansas which can be such a big state to cross!  The fan in the bathroom died at this point, which was annoying as we use two fans to keep the camper as cool as possible for Blue, our cat.  So we went to a Camping World, found one last fan on their shelves and bought it quickly!  We then spent a couple of nights at the Kansas City East/Oak Grove KOA where Fred spent an entire day removing one fan and installing the new one.  Murphy was, as usual, alive and well, but was vanquished in the end!

After this trauma, we gave ourselves a break and camped for two nights at the Kanopolis State Park in Marquette, Kansas.  Our campsite had a beautiful view of the reservoir and sunsets looking across it. 

Yes, we really are in Kansas!

We enjoyed some bicycling in the park, especially the ride across the dam.  As we headed out, we also visited Mushroom Rock State Park.  Just up the road but, unfortunately, too far to bicycle.  This is a very low-key park with some amazing rocks that look like, well, mushrooms!  Quite fun. 

Denise contemplates a magic mushroom.

There were actually people wild camping here. It was really very pleasant.

Still enroute for Colorado, we set off again and were horrified to discover a window had been sucked out of the camper by a tractor trailer which cut in close while on the interstate.  We can only suppose that we had not latched it correctly.  A trip to a wonderful and helpful ACE hardware store in Colby, Kansas ( produced a sheet of plexiglass to fill the hole until we can obtain a new pane.  (Three months later we think we have found a vendor in the UK and we await shipment, we hope!! Further update – the windows arrived in time for Christmas.)  So, minus an important window for cross ventilation, we continued onwards.  (Months later we realized that we should have swapped the good window from the passenger side, where the door limits its opening, and put the plexiglass in its place! Duh!)

As we approached Colorado Springs, we spotted the Paint Mines Interpretive Park on the map and, as lunch time loomed, we decided to stop and explore.  ( It proved to be an amazing place, a little like the Painted Desert National Park in miniature, but with stronger colors and various trails to explore throughout.  A great find.  Lunch was good, too.

The entire area was not that large
The colors were deep and amazing.

We were staying in Manitou Springs at a Boondockers Welcome site. (Boondockers Welcome has been acquired by Harvest Hosts. It is in Crystal Park, a gated community, up a steep and winding mountain road with incredible views toward Colorado Springs.  It actually rivaled roads we had driven in the Andes, only there you must use your horn on the blind corners.  This was not encouraged here!

Back in the 1930’s you they ran touring cars up the road which was so narrow that they used a turntable to turn the cars for the descent.  But we made it up the mountain and met our wonderful hosts and settled in.  We were already feeling the effects of a warm summer when in downtown Manitou Springs but found it delightfully cool at our 8,000-foot-high camping spot.

Looking out towards Manitou Springs.
An afternoon visitor.
Touring car turntable.

We had already booked seats on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and once we sorted out the logistics of where to park the camper and where to take the shuttle, we spent an enjoyable, bright and sunny day on the mountain.  

Colorado Springs below Pike’s Peak
These diesel railcars from Switzerland replaced the old steam engines.

We also visited the Garden of the Gods, with its interesting rock formations.  A special treat was a concert by the Peak Horn Ensemble and Woodland Park Wind Symphony, to which we were invited by our hosts, one of whom was playing French horn in the concert.  A wonderful evening which made our stay even more memorable.  A tour at the Cave of the Winds completed this visit to Manitou Springs and then we headed to Leadville for the Tiger Rally.

We always enjoy Leadville and this time was no exception.  We camped in the diverse camping area just outside Leadville, where the cell phone reception is great(!) and then met friends in town for lunch one day before heading to Camp Hale. Some will recognize Rick and Kathy Howe, ( and Ron and Ton Corbin. ( It is always fun to meet up with old friends who share our silly passion for travel.

Denise keeping hydrated.

We were prepared for the weather to be chilly but to our surprise, it was warmer than we expected in Leadville and much warmer in Camp Hale.  No coats or hats need apply; t-shirts were the order of the day.  We enjoyed meeting old friends and current Tiger owners and hearing their news.  Fred led a couple of discussion groups on batteries and how to manage them.  Then it was time to head out.