Archive for the ‘North America’ Category

Stroudsburg, Falls and Indian

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

After yesterday’s long drive down from Niagara Falls we decided that we deserved a little “lie in” this morning.  This was not a difficult thing to achieve considering the beautiful bed, the magical surroundings and the peace and quiet that surrounded us at Bischwind.

Upon waking we readied ourselves and headed straight down to breakfast – the shower could wait.  This was our first morning here at Bischwind and it was a real treat.  The breakfast surroundings in this magnificently decorated establishment meant that we were continuously looking around.

We were joined at breakfast by a couple from Pennsylvania and we enjoyed swapping stories of our travels to different places in the world.  It was nice to learn about the travels of another couple and to get some great “intel” on the Poconos.

After breakfast we showered and changed and headed out into the grounds surrounding Bischwind to take some photo’s.  However, the sun was a little too high in the sky and this lead to some harsh light and challenging photography.  I guess it is all learning!

Today our aim was to take in the sights of a town called Stroudsburg.  This small town is located near the Delaware Gap and it came to our attention after reading an article in a flying magazine that I get – Pilot Getaways.  Indeed, this is how the Poconos came to our attention and the reason why we are now here.

The drive to Stroudsburg took around 50 minutes – a pleasant drive along some well made country roads and some very large freeways.  Our Nokia GPS kept us on the rails and finding the town was an easy affair.  Love the GPS!!

On driving into the small town’s main street we spotted a Starbuck’s store and quickly found a car park out the back.  Nothing like a morning heart starter and the ambiance of a local town.

After our morning coffee we walked the main street and went found info center.  We took some photo’s however the town was quite small so it did not take too long to capture any of the sites that presented as “photo worthy”.

From the main street of Stroudsburg we drove out to the small airport that was featured in Pilot Getaways magazine.  I love small airports and it was a real treat to drive around this picturesque little place.  There were a couple of very interesting hangars located on the field.  They looked like big clam shells.  The Princess and I just had to take a look at them so we parked the car and walked around for a while.  Some local aviators were happy to share their knowledge about the design of these interesting structures.

We left the rural airport and headed off (with the help of “surfer dude” – our talking GPS) to Dingman’s Falls – about 20 minutes from Stroudsburg.  The information that we had picked up at the tourist information center in Stroudsburg highlighted this lovely little place so we thought we would take in some of the local scenery and capture it on our Canons.

After arriving at the falls area carpark we took a beautiful short walk through the forest to the subtle yet very picturesque falls.  We took quite a few photo’s of the falls and spent some time talking to a couple from Florida.  We took some photo’s for them and their grand daughter took some photo’s of us in front of the falls.  We also used the tripod to take some self portraits with our cameras.

The early evening sun was getting low in the sky just as we left the falls carpark – a sign that is was time to put the cameras away for the day and head back to Bear Creek.

We drove back toward Stroudsburg before joining the highway toward Tannersville.  On the way down to Stroudsburg we passed “The Crossings” premium outlet stores and we decided to check out this huge outlet mall area on our way back “home”.  We spent around an hour meandering in and out of shops and picked up some “bargins” to add to our already “too full” suitcases.

While walking around the outlet area our stomachs let us know that it was time to eat so we headed off in the direction of Tannersville in search of a place to eat.  After a very short distance we found an Indian restaurant called the Tandoor Palace.  This “not so interesting from the outside” restaurant served excellent food and our table was located inside an old train carriage.  The family dining next to us (from New York) were interesting to talk to over dinner – a very pleasant evening indeed.

We were still some distance from Bear Creek so this meant a late evening drive back to our “digs” at Bischwind. “Surfer dude” came in very handy and guided us back with expert precision.  We are becoming very big fans of GPS technology for our road trips!!

What a great day out – photography, falls, aviation, some retail therapy and some great Indian food to finish it all off.  Happy holiday makers!

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Driving New York and Pennsylvania

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Today was the day we had chosen to leave Niagara Falls and travel through New York state and down to the Poconos region of Pennsylvania.  With quite a long drive mapped out for the day we decided to rise  early and get on the road by around 8.00am.  To achieve this we got up around 5.30am had a shower, packed the car and headed off in the direction of the USA.

We crossed into the US via the Rainbow bridge and, fortunately, at this time of the day is was very quiet (another reason for getting up early).  There was some confusion with my entry permit because when I came into the US (on the 2nd of August in San Francisco) the immigration officer didn’t give me the “arrival/departure card”.  Fortunately I had a copy of my electronic travel authorization (ETSA) and the immigration officer at Rainbow Bridge was happy with this so he let us through.

After leaving the immigration post we drove down to Buffalo Internationl airport in order to sort out the new contract for the car.  When we arrived in Toronto we hired the car under a Canadian contract and to reduce the cost of the hire they suggested that we “return” it to the company in Buffalo and rehire the car in the US.  It saved us a lot of money so we didn’t argue with the logic.  The staff at the Buffalo airport were wonderful and we were sorted out and back on the road in less that 20 minutes (same car). We drove into a nearby strip mall and found a nice Starbucks restaurant in a place called Cheektowaga.  We had a lovely mid morning “breakfast” – coffee and a bagel whilst sitting outside in the small dining area they had setup.

We returned to the road and traveled via the beautifully paved Interstate Highway 90 (i90) toward a place called Clifton Springs.  Just past Clifton Springs we left the i90 and turned south onto Highway 14 and drove down the western edge of Seneca Lake (one of the beautiful lakes in the “Finger Lakes” region of New York state) before heading east on the across to the i86 toward Binghamton.

The last part of our 6 hour trip saw us arriving in Pennsylvania from the north on i81.  The relatively short trip from Binghamton to Scranton, past Wilkes-Barre and onto Bear Creek was a pleasant drive along the now forest lined highways in the beautiful Poconos region of Pennsylvania.

With our very trusty “surfer dude” talking GPS (Nokia x6) guiding us around the side roads near Wilkes-Barre, we found our palatial accommodation (the beautiful Bischwind B & B in Bear Creek) around 5.00pm.

Our lovely host, Billi, met us on arrival and checked us into our beautiful room – The Bear’s Den.  What a beautiful place!  This incredible family home is an icon in the Bear Creek and Wilkes-Barre area and we felt like royalty in the place.

After settling into our stunning room we returned to the main dining area a met the “Queen Mum” (Barb). Barb is Billi’s mother and it was a real pleasure to be able to spend time with this beautiful lady and learn more about the history of Bischwind.

After familiarizing ourselves with the house and the environs we headed back into Wilkes-Barre to pick up some take-away pizza and a bottle of wine.  I had my mastermind call on this evening so we decided to “eat in” and relax after a long drive down from Buffalo.

Falling to sleep in the delightfully comfortable bed in “The Bear’s Den” was very easy and we achieved this task around 2300.

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Niagara Falls – Day 2

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

We rose a little later this morning – the bodies needed to slow down a bit after a few days on the go. With a couple of late nights and a few early starts it was time to honour ourselves and stay in bed for a little longer.

After getting ourselves ready for a day of touring around Niagara Falls we walked across the road and ate breakfast at an “all you can eat buffet”.  We don’t eat much for breakfast and this morning was no exception.  I think we would have been better to eat in the room or somewhere else.  The meal was pretty average breakfast when it was all said and done.  However, we achieved the aim of placing something in our stomachs so we figured that this was a good start to the day.

The plan for today was to “shoot and video” the falls and some of the surrounds so after cleaning our camera gear in the room we headed out in search of a Starbucks – not too hard to find in Niagara!  Our “mission” was accomplished after a short walk from the hotel.

It was nice to sit down for a while in Starbucks and during our time there The Princess and I reviewed some of the basic lessons we had learned during our recent photography courses.  I was able to help The Princess with some of the “exposure triangle” considerations and she took some shots of me to consolidate these lessons.

We started off our walk today by taking in a very low density tourist area and this walk took us past the beautiful Carmalite College and Spiritual Centre then down the “long way” to the botanic gardens area before walking to Dufferin Islands – a small island group that sits on the southern side of the Niagara River.

From Dufferin Island we walked back along river bank and past the old hydro’ power stations.  With no particular agenda we enjoyed videoing and photographing the sights and sounds along the river bank and of the river itself.

We arrived back at the area of “Journey Behind The Falls” and took some time out to enjoy a nice feed of sushi in the dining area.  We had returned to the “tourist center” of Niagara Falls and it was rather crowded in this tourist attraction venue – to be expected in summer!

After lunch we walked along the top of the cliff top and down to the Maid of The Mist for an “up close and personal” journey to the base of Niagara Falls.  Fortunately the lines were not too long so after about 30 minutes we were boarding the boat for what turned out to be a very wet view of the falls.

We shot quite a bit of video of our experience of being under (literally) the falls and you can take a look at it on our video gallery.  Needless to say, we ended up very wet despite having raincoats on and taking precautions with our gear.  Part of the fun – an it was a lot of fun!

After drying out a bit we decided to go and sit in the sun at a nearby Starbucks.  Again, we didn’t have any agenda so we enjoyed sitting in the sun and drying off the remainder of our damp clothes.

The Starbucks we chose was located at the base of the Skylon Tower and we had decided to take the trip to the top of the tower for some “bird’s eye” views of the falls and the surrounding area.  The lovely girl in the boot (Samantha) provided an excellent service and before we knew it we were on our way to the top of the highest point in these parts.

The views from the top of the tower were spectacular and we were glad that we had carried an array of lenses with us in the camera bag.  We had a great time swapping of lenses and taking a lot of photos as the sun dipped down lower in the western sky. I had borrowed a friend’s fish eye lens for the summer vacation and came in very handy for the bird’s eye shots from the tower.  You can take a look at some of our shots on our Flickr gallery.

From the Skylon tower we walked back to the hotel through the casino – a relatively short walk considering the distance we had covered during the course of the day.

After a quick change and freshen up we headed across the road to My Cousin Vinnys – an Italian restaurant that had a great street appeal.  We were not disappointed with our choice of dining establishment.  The service was excellent and the live music made for a great backdrop to the fantastic food and tasty wine.   We really enjoyed our night out – a warm summer night with great music, excellent food and, of course, a stunning dining partner!

The short walk (across the road) had us back at the hotel around 10.30pm.  We took time to pack our suitcases and “regroup” for our early morning departure tomorrow.

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Sunday Cruisin’

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

When we looked out the window the morning it appeared that the weather was going to remain kind to us for our second day of riding the Hog.  Today’s plan included booking our aircraft hire for Thursday, a foothills tour, a visit to the resting place of The Princess’ Dad, Grandad and Gran’ and some lunch in a small town called Okotoks – a full day to say the least.

After breakfast in the hotel we drove over to Mum’s place and prepared the Hog for the day out.  Jill looked on in amusement (though a little less worried today) as we unloaded the hire car and loaded the Hog.  Who would have thought that a motorbike could carry so many things!

With The Princess on the back I fired up the big V-twin once more and headed off on the same route as yesterday – skirting around the city and along the “trans Canadian”.  However, instead of continuing all the way out to Banff we turned off at Springbank and made our way to the Springbank airport.

I had promised The Princess that I would take her flying over the Rockies during our time in Calgary and to achieve this I needed to find a place that would hire an aircraft to me.  We took a look around the small airfield and selected an flying school called  Springbank Air Training College, a professional looking establishment on the main road leading into the airport.

After parking the Harley we went inside and took a look around the school, asked a lot of questions and booked a check ride and hire for Thursday 12th.  The staff were friendly and very helpful and before we knew it we were back on the bike and heading for the nearby town of Cochrane.

The road leading out to Cochrane (known as “The Cowboy Trail” – Hwy 22) is one of those roads you could ride on all year long.  It is smooth, cambered correctly and wide enough to ride safely should someone decide to crossover onto the wrong side of the road.  Well done Alberta!

The ride from Springbank to Cochrane takes about 15 minutes and it ends with a lovely descent into the Bow Valley and down into the small but quaint town.  Apart from wanting to put some miles on the Hog we went to Cochrane in search of a coffee.  The town is big enough to support the a Starbucks and it wasn’t long before our noses sniffed out the familiar smell of a Starbucks shop.  With bike parked and locked we entered the shop, found a nice seat and settled into our standard morning brews – cafe latte and chai tea latte.  Mmmmmm……

I was keen to get back onto the blacktop of Hwy 22 so after downing our brews we saddled up the big V-twin and road the reverse part of the trip we had just taken.  However, this time we kept heading south, over the trans-Canada and down toward Bragg Creek.  As we headed deeper into the foothills the clouds became lower in the sky and off to the west there were visible signs of rain – bugger!  Not to be perturbed we continued along the Cowboy Trail south and took in the beautiful vistas that presented at each bend of the road.

The rain kept moving toward us from the west so we opted to let discretion be the “better part of valour” and pull over to don our wet weather gear – I couldn’t have my Princess getting wet (or me).  This turned out to be a good move because the rain came down quite heavy for the remainder of our ride to the little church in Millarville – the place where The Princess’ Grandpa and Gran are buried.

We pulled off Hwy 549 and into the pebble covered drive of the Millarville church just as the rain started to slow down – it must have been a sign!  The sound of the bike’s hot engine hissed with each rain drop that fell on it and it seemed that this was the only noise being made in the quiet of the afternoon air.  We said “g’day” to Grandpa and Gran and spent some time taking a look around the beautiful grounds before getting back on the road to Black Diamond.

The rain was still falling (but not as heavily) as we rode the short distance to Black Diamond.  The Princess’ Dad (Frank) is buried in the hillside cemetery in Black Diamond and we had to take the bike there for him to have a look at!  Frank was an Indian man at heart however he would have been happy to see The Princess arrive on a bike.  Negotiating the slippery and, at times, steep unsealed road up to the cemetery was interesting but we arrived unscathed and said hello to Frank.  The views from the cemetery back over the valley are beautiful and it was nice to stop and take in the vistas in the presence of Frank.

The not so thirsty engine of the hog needed to be fed with some more fuel so we rode down to Turner Valley and filled up the tank before joining Hwy 7 for the short ride east to Okotoks for a mid afternoon lunch – our own tanks needed to be topped up!

The ride back to Calgary from Okotoks takes around 30 minutes and the road is smooth and dual lane the whole way.  Perfect.  This was to be the last “open road” ride for the weekend and we were not in hurry to get the bike back to Jill’s place.  I took the Deerfoot Trail (“the long way”) and soaked up the very pleasant views as we headed north back to the city.

With the thumping sound of the EVO engine silenced once more the bike was unpacked and secured in the backyard at Jill’s.  What a wonderful day out!

After sharing our day of travels with Jill we headed back to the hotel, freshened up and drove down to Chinook Mall.  We had planned to take in a movie at the cinema however, when we arrived we learned that the times were not going to work out.  Bugger!

Plan B?  A light supper and some wine on the outdoor deck of Chop – a very nice restaurant on the outside of the mall.  The temperature was a little on the low side but the gas heaters took some of the bite out of the air and the red wine warmed us up on the inside.  We shared a couple of starters for dinner due to the late lunch in Okotoks.  A very nice way to finish up a day of riding!

Our very satisfied bodies fell into bed at the Travelodge and before long we were fast asleep.  A great day indeed!

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Hogging The Rockies

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

We were rather excited about making the most of the weekend hire of the Harley and we were keen to mount the hog and get on the wide open roads out to the Rockies.  This combination meant that we were up and ready to go around 0700 this morning.  The weather was shaping up to be perfect for riding.  Few clouds, light winds and no sign of rain.  Perfect.

After taking in another “standard” breakfast in the hotel dining room we sorted out our riding gear and took the short drive to Mum’s place.  I readied the bike while The Princess readied the gear we were taking.  The large pannier bags and big luggage storage area on the Ultra Glide meant that we could pack enough gear to cover most eventualities.

With the gear and ourselves on board I fired up the big V-twin, waved goodbye to Mum and let the neighborhood know that there was a Harley departing Jill’s house!

It wasn’t long before we were on the relatively quiet roads heading out of Calgary and despite some roadworks for the new C-train line we were joining the trans-Canada highway in no time.

The big touring Harley ate up the blacktop and with The Princess settling into the armchair like seating I set the cruise control and let the hog breathe.  Ah…… what a feeling.  There is something very special about being exposed to the environment and a big touring bike.

We had set our sights on the town of Canmore as the first stop.  We knew that there was a Starbucks in the village and this was going to be a perfect way to compliment the cool temperatures.  The bike moved along the highway effortlessly and before long the turn off for Canmore appeared in our visors.

At low speed a big bike needs to be respected and so it was when we entered the carpark in the shopping centre in Canmore.  I have dropped bikes in the past and it is never a good thing.  Firstly, you can get hurt but generally you just embarrass yourself and need to get some assistance to stand the bike up again.  Fortunately I seemed to have learned my lesson and we arrived safely out the front of Starbucks.

We warmed our insides up with a nice “brew”, emptied the bladders then remounted the beast for the short ride to Banff.

During the next part of the ride The Princess decided to video some of the scenery as we rode along the highway.  She did a very nice job considering the noise and slipstream effects.  You can take a look at her efforts here (Harley Riding).

We had to wait in line for a while at the Banff National Park entrance.  Being a Saturday and being summer meant that tourist and Calgary locals were keen to get out and explore the beautiful Rockies.  However, it didn’t delay us for too long and, besides, sitting on a big shiny bike on a beautiful summer day is perfect!  The Princess took some really nice photo’s of us while we were waiting in line and you can check some of them out here (Calgary – 2010).

After entering the park we rode the short distance to Lake Minnewanka.  We have been to this beautiful lake many times and it is always great to return.  We parked the bike in a safe place and took a walk down to the lake’s edge.  The tiny squirrels were very active and we enjoyed taking some photo’s of them.  Unfortunately the general visibility wasn’t that good (fire in British Columbia) so we were not able to take nice scenery photo’s.  However, we have plenty of these shots from previous visits.

From Minnewanka we rode into Banff township.  We passed a lot of native deer along the way – glad we didn’t have any of them walking out in front of us!

We found a convenient place to park the bike and went in search of a place to dine for lunch.  The very touristy tourist town was very busy however we found a nice outdoor place to dine and settled in for an hour or so.  Watching the “moving sidewalk”, reliving our trip out from Calgary and watching other bikes come and go was a nice way to pass the time as we ate.

We weren’t in a hurry to get back into Calgary.  The sun stays up until 10.30pm so getting back before the sun went down wasn’t a concern.  However, we had promised Mum that we would dine with her tonight so after a lazy lunch we strolled via some shops and back to the bike.

The trip back to Calgary was another beautiful experience – wide open spaces, the Rocky mountains as a backdrop, the thumping sound of a Harley under our bums and being together on a beautiful summer’s day.  Does it get much better?

Our almost compulsory afternoon Starbucks was taken at the Starbucks store located in the suburb of Tuscany (located on the NW outskirts of Calgary).  The Princess lived in this area before moving to Hong Kong and she was interested to take a look at the recent expansion of the suburb.

From Tuscany we made our way back across the city to Jill’s place and put the bike to bed for the night.  Jill was happy to see us back safe and sound.

Our choice of dining establishments for this evening’s fare was The Keg Steakhouse and Bar on Macleod Trail.  The food and service here is very good and it was nice to dine out with Mum.  Again, we took quite a lot of our supper home with us (or at least Jill did – she inherited ours) when we left.  The Keg is worth a visit if you are in North America.

We dropped Mum home around 11.00pm and headed back to The Travelodge for a well earned night of rest.  What a wonderful day!

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Taking In Glemore and Picking Up The Hog

Friday, August 6th, 2010

We were in need of a bit of fitness today so after dining in the hotel we sorted ourselves out and headed off for Glemore Reservoir for a walk.  This man made reservoir dams the Elbow river and forms part of the water supply and flood mitigation for Calgary.  The pathway around the reservoir provides and excellent bike and footpath access around the whole waterway.

The Princess and I sauntered along the pathway for about an hour and took time to take some photo’s and skip some stones along the water.   We started our walk near Heritage Park (one of Calgary’s tourist attractions) and we enjoyed watching the parks old paddle steamer negotiate the reservoir near where we were walking.  A very nice way to pass an hour or two.

We shared a tasty Subway roll for lunch then headed off for Kane’s Harley to pick up the “steed”.  The bike, a brand new 2010 Electra Glide Ultra Classic was being returned around 2.00pm and we were due to pick it up around 3.00pm.  Keen to get back on the “hog” we arrived at the dealership a little early so we could take a look around and to get the juices flowing.

The staff at Kanes were wonderfully helpful and before we knew it we were trying on some safety gear and sorting out the paperwork.  We weren’t happy with the rental safety gear so we decided to purchase some brand new helmets and some gloves – never willing to risk one’s head!

We chose some really nice helmets and gloves and after about an hour we were ready to pay for them.  The young assistant that processed our payment accidentally put an extra zero into the keypad of the amount we were due to pay and the machine didn’t display the amount when I entered my PIN.  When I signed the receipt I realised she had overcharge me to the tune of $CAD 9000!  The poor girl was so embarrassed but we told her it wasn’t a problem and to just cancel it and try again.  However, when she went to cancel it she couldn’t.  A long story short – we took the Harley and our riding gear and they worked on the debt issue.  I figured that we had a hog worth a lot more than $9000 so it was all fair!

I rode the beautiful machine back to Mum’s place and The Princess followed me in the car.  It felt great to be back on a bike again.  I owned a Tour Glide Ultra Classic when I lived in Australia so the bike wasn’t new to me however, it had been some time since I rode.  I took it easy (for about 5 minutes) but enjoyed opening up the injectors a bit when pulling away from the lights!

We were able to get the bike through the narrow side gate at Mum’s house and park it in the backyard – a little more secure this way.  The bike had a nice security system on it but I wasn’t prepared to leave it parked out on the road for the night.

With the bike securely parked for the night we thanked Mum, said our goodbyes and returned to the hotel to get ready for a night out “in town”.

We decided earlier that we would take in some of the city nightlife on 4th Street Downtown.  This lovely little area of the city has some great restaurants located along the “strip” so we decided to be adventurous and find one that “took our fancy”.

Finding a parking spot was rather easy (Calgary never seems to get busy) and before we knew it we were treading the pavement in search of a place to dine.  Being a Friday night meant that most places were rather busy but there was room for two in most.

We settled on Mercato – a interesting deli style Italian place on the south side of the street.  The atmosphere was unique and, despite being a bit noisy, we enjoyed the ambiance.  The food, wine and service was excellent and, like most places in North America, we took some of our supper home with us when we left.

With a desire to get up early and get on the hog for a ride out to the Rockies we retired at a reasonable hour (albeit that it was still light outside) and drifted off to sleep easily.  Life’s very good.

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