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North America

East, South, West, North – 18,068km through Canada and USA (Week 1)

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The following post relates to Week 1 of mine and Adela’s road trip from Jasper in theRocky Mountains across Canada into America and back toVancouver covering a total of 18,068 km in just 7 weeks.

We brought a Dodge Caravan for £1600.00 with 230,000 km on the clock off mates of ours who had converted the back into a double bed with storage underneath for our snowboards and other impractical travel items.  I was able to just lie down entirely flat with my feet touching the back windows and my squished head against the back of the front seats.  For once I was glad I was not six foot tall.  Our plan was to drive from Jasper in Alberta, across Canada to the furtherest East Coast point in Nova Scotia before heading down to New York and back across to San Francisco and up to Vancouver.  The only planning was that we had roughly £100 per day for expenses, a week booked inNew Yorkin a few weeks time and a flight onthe 22nd October 2010out ofVancouvertoLondon.  So onthe 4th September 2010we headed off…

Day 1 – 04/09/2010 – After gorging ourselves to the max at the breakfast buffet at my bosses family restaurant we were off.  Adela was upset to be leaving and I was very apprehensive about money, the distance and the car breaking down.  Considering the car already had 230,000 km on it and I had already changed the front brake pads after they were rubbing metal on metal and wearing down the rotors I was worried that anything could go wrong, even just metres down the road.  Our first planned stop was Banff and the usual 4 hour drive took over 7 hours as we marvelled at the beauty of this great Country stopping at Sunwapta Falls, another random waterfall where Adela fell on her butt (hilarious), the Colombian Ice Fields, Peyto Lake and Lake Louise before coming to a halt for our first night at the Tunnel Mountain Village RV park.  The highlight of the day, even with the bus loads of tourists had to be PeytoLakewith its pristine blue colours from the glaciers melting.

KM travelled = 321 km.

Spending = $28 (campground), $13 (medication, we had the flu), $10 (dinner) = $51 total.

Day 2 – 05/09/2010 –  saw us meet up with our Jasper flatmates, James and Kylie, for a hearty McD’s brekky in Banff before goodbyes all around.  We headed down the road to Drumheller and took in the worlds largest Dinosaur sculpture and Royal Tyrrell Museum.  Along the way we tracked down some hoodoo’s (rock formations) with every other stupid tourist doing a great job of wandering all over them and wrecking these thousands of years old natural structures.  I can’t decide whether its a good thing that these sorts of features are not roped off, as it allows you to see them up close and personal, but also allows idiots the chance to ruin them.  However, we managed to find a free camp site next to theRed Deer riverwhich always helps the pennies and cooked up a mean feed.

KM travelled = 421 km.

Spending = $15 (brekky), $10 (internet), $53 (petrol), $20 (museum), $64 (car accessories), $26 (more food!) = $188 total.

Day 3 – 06/09/2010 – We spent the next morning Mountain Biking around the Dinosaur Provincial Park in the Canadian Badlands where hundreds of bones have been found over the past century.  There were some amazing rock formations and existing bone yards that you can explore at your leisure.  Finally, managed to navigate our way along some extremely remote country roads passing one or two cars every hour before reaching a friends place, Tanner, in Cabri, Saskatchewan.  The town has only 500 people and as far as the eye can see (and further) lay the very flat farms of wheat, peas and canola.  A highlight of any trips is meeting the locals and it was a great night spent with some great hosts who treated us like family.  Our only regret was that we could not stick around for longer for the beautiful home cooked roast and deserts.

KM travelled = 482 km.

Spending = $2 (shower for Adela), $32 (petrol) = $34 total.

Day 4 – 07/09/2010 – Another hearty breakfast and another goodbye seemed to be the theme of our trip as we left Cabri to make up some time across the Saskatchewan and Manitoba provinces.  I was sure glad that we ended up choosing a comfortable car to do this trip because today was the first of a few long 10 hour days of driving over the next few weeks.  Not all that exciting and were lucky that Adela stumbled upon a cute camp ground on the edge of a lake at Delta Beach.  With no open reception we just had to leave $5 under the mat of the shed on site when we left the next morning and hope they got it.

KM travelled = 810 km.

Spending = $12 (present for Tanner’s family), $51 (petrol), $15 (food), $5 (camping) = $83 total.

Day 5 – 08/09/2010 – ADELA’S BIRTHDAY!!!  And it was scorching hot.  Unfortunately for Adela we were still making up time so we spent another fun day driving from9.40am to9.30pm with stops for food, gas (twice) and photos as we drove into a new time zone in Ontario.  Some neat lakes, including Falcon Lake for lunch, along the route before we checked into Kakabeka Falls camp ground which again had no one on site apart from us (stoked – freebie).

KM travelled = 821 km.

Spending = $60 (petrol), $8 (food), $40 (petrol again) = $108 total.

Day 6 – 09/09/2010 – Since we had arrived in the pitch black we could only hear the waterfall not see it until this morning.  And what a great sight to wake up to.  The falls dropped away 40m into a deep ravine winding its way below us.  Very cool.  Breakfast was enjoyed at the Terry Fox Memorial lookout, who in 1980, with cancer and one leg amputated attempted to run across Canada to raise money and awareness for Cancer research.  Unfortunately he had to withdraw once the cancer became to great for him to overcome but his foundation is now holds the largest one-day fundraiser each year.  He put our efforts in a car to shame.

Although the Trans-Canadian highway can be boring, this section was dotted with beautiful lakes around every bend with holiday cottages built on rocky islands in the middle only accessible by row boats.  We kept wishing we had more time to explore.  Lake Superior on the other hand is a totally different scale with no shoreline visible on the other side in the far distance.  A great drive along it with hundreds of bays and inlets.  Adela’s favourite was Katherine Cove with a beautiful stretch of sand and views out to all the little islands dotted along the shoreline.  I still wish I had a swim even though it was freezing.  My favourite was seeing the Ojibwe rock paintings inAgawaBay.  Of course, being in North America and not New Zealand there were signs everywhere advising it was very dangerous and slippery and caution should be taken with non-slip shoes… so we headed down in our jandals.  An American couple couldn’t believe it and were telling us to watch out the entire time.  Finally stopped for the night at Pancake Bay Provincial Park and managed to get out on our bikes for a couple of hours to stretch the legs.

KM travelled = 682 km.

Spending = $63 (petrol), $16 (food), $37 (campground) = $116 total.

Day 7 – 10/09/2010 – An unusually leisurely morning for us with driving start of 10am.  This meant we had time to explore Pancake Bay some more and stroll along the beach just enjoying the sunshine and warm weather.  Unfortunately the tranquility was interrupted by the fact we had to head to Toronto, which was still 8 hours drive away and had nowhere lined up to sleep.  We did find one good stop along the way (see picture below).  However, one of the great things about large corporations is that they can basically do whatever they like and Walmart was no exception.  Throughout North America they actually allow you to park your campervan (or in our case, tight squeeze for two) in their car parks overnight.  The only downside being that you don’t have any toilets or facilities until they open again bright and early which Adela was not so keen on!  If you do use their car park, please return the favour by buying some food or items from their store so that fellow travellers can continue to use this service.

KM travelled = 747 km.

Spending = $55 (petrol), $6 (McFlurry’s for a late birthday present for Adela), $30 (food) = $91 total

Week 1 Total KM Travelled = 4,284 km!  

Week 1 Total Weekly Spend = $671 (Yay below budget)

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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North America

The Best Way to Stay in LoDo Denver

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The Mile High City welcomes all comers with open arms. Denver is a unique city, and not just because it is located exactly one mile above sea level. No, Denver is unique because of the amount of fun it contains in one neighborhood. Meet Denver’s Lower Downtown, colloquially referred to as LoDo. LoDo is the most popular neighborhood in Denver, thanks to its incredible location. A stay in LoDo puts you within easy walking distance of Denver’s Contemporary Museum of Art, the historic Larimer Square, and the always impressive Coors Field. To be honest, we don’t feel any pressure to sell you on this, because LoDo Denver speaks for itself. However, we do want to point you in the right direction when it comes to picking a place to stay in LoDo, as that is a much less discussed point. There are a near infinite number of places of various sorts for you to stay in, but today we’re going to compare and contrast two of the most popular venues: hotels and vacation rentals. Let’s begin, shall we?

Travel Apartments

Travel apartments are vacation rentals don’t have to be used by people on vacation. Travel apartments let people who are visiting a new city stay in their own private residence. Rather than having to share space with in-laws or strangers, you can stay in travel apartments, which give you own space while in LoDo. Each travel apartment comes with a private washer and dryer, along with a fully functional kitchen. Let’s examine some of the other benefits.

Pros

  • Privacy. As mentioned, your travel apartment will be yours and yours alone. No housekeeping to worry about, no noisy neighbors; this is your home during your stay in LoDo.
  • Amenities. And even more amenities. In addition to your private kitchen and laundry room, you get a spacious, well-lit, upscale apartment to live in. Take your pick from any of the travel apartments in Denver linked above, because each one will have a sleek design and comfortable layout. There are more small amenities than we have room to enumerate, so we’ll let you discover those for yourself.
  • Location. Every travel apartment is located in the ideal spot for vacationers in a new city. Pick any one of the LoDo travel apartments and you’ll be within walking distance of the best attractions, restaurants, and bars in the Mile High City.

Now let’s look at some of the disadvantages.

Cons

  • You’ll need to book in advance. If just reading this article has convinced you to book a stay in Denver right now, it’s possible there won’t be a travel apartment available for you. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance.
  • You’ll have a specified leave date. Similar to the first issue, you can’t just purchase another week’s stay at the end of your trip, because someone else may have reserved the space. Be sure to book yourself a long enough stay the first time!
  • You’re unlikely to get that native influence. Privacy is great, but talking to Denver natives gives you a fresh perspective on the city. You’ll need to make a point of going out and meeting some locals during your downtime!

Hotels

You know what a hotel is, right? Okay, cool. Here’s the pros and cons of hotel living in LoDo Denver.

Pros

  • Availability. Hotels are everywhere, with a huge range of pricing options. No matter what corner of Denver you wanted to stay in, you could find a hotel there. Moreover, with that many options, it’s easy to find one that fits your budget.
  • Helpers. You have someone to clean your sheets and a concierge to answer questions any time of the night or day. If there’s a place to stay where you can order food straight to your room besides hotels, we haven’t found it.

Cons

  • Noise. Hotels are loud, nothing to be done about it. When you’ve got people living above, below, and to the left and right of you, things are bound to get a little noisy. All you can do is hope that the kids don’t start crying…
  • Unreliable advertising. Hotels all seem eager to advertise their tranquil oasis of a pool area. Sorting out which pools will actually fry your hair with hyper-chlorination can be exhausting.
  • No privacy. Between housekeeping, your four sets of neighbors, and that one guy from the next room over drunkenly swiping his key card at your door, it can be hard to find space that’s yours and yours alone.

So, what’s the right way for you to stay in LoDo Denver? Hotel or travel apartment? Ultimately, the choice is yours and yours alone. Of course, if you hate being indoors, maybe glamping in Denver would be more your speed? No matter what you choose, you’ll have the time of your life flying high in LoDo Denver.

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City Guides

The Best Dog-Friendly Attractions in Portland, Oregon

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With a green focus and an animal loving attitude, a superb collection of pet-friendly hotels and many fantastic pooch-welcoming bars and restaurants Portland is one of the most dog friendly cities in the USA. Check out our top dog-friendly attractions…

1 Sellwood Riverfront Park

With a 1.5 acre off-leash area which extends to the river this is a great place to bring your dog especially if yours loves to run and play with other dogs. You’ll need to put your dog back on the leash to use the connecting paths which take you through the forest, parks and neighborhood areas but there’s plenty of places for them to enjoy sniffing around. Make sure you bring your own poop bags and drinking water for your dog. The park provides picnic tables where you can rest after your walk.

Funny Jack Russell Terrier Dog Walks Down Street On A Leash. Dog Looks Directly Into Camera. Wide Angel Lens Shot.

2 Wildwood Trail, Forest Park

Situated at NW Germantown Road, this wilderness area is for serious hikers and canines of a high fitness level as its 30-mile hike takes a couple of days to comfortably get around. It is recommended that you consider getting a map of the Forest Park to find the best way to get around the trails as some are more challenging than others. You’ll need to keep your dog on a leash the whole time and you’ll have to bring your own water and poop bags as these are not provided.

3 Portland Saturday Market

If you and your pooch are the socializing kind then the open-air arts and crafts Saturday Market and Farmers Market at 2 SW Naito Parkway is the place to be. You’ll have to keep your dog on the leash at all times while you’re browsing for delicious baked goods, meats and cheeses but dogs are made welcome with plenty of drinking water stations and lots of shady spots when the weather gets too hot.

4 Portland International Raceway Dog Park

If you’re looking for somewhere you can let your canine really stretch their legs, the fenced off dog park here has got to be the best place to go. This is a very well maintained area where the grass is kept short and neat and garbage is constantly cleared away so take poop bags with you at all times. Portland International Raceway is the home of drag racing, auto racing, motorcycle racing and motocross as well as Cruise-in specials and all these are held at various times throughout the year so why not make a weekend of it and enjoy plenty of thrills, excitement, music and great food and drink. Remember though that your pet must be properly supervised, on-leash at all times and must be cleaned up after. Some events do not allow pets so check before you book.

group of dogs in the park walking with professional dog walker

5 Plum Hill Vineyards

How about this for something a little different? Plum Hill Vineyards, situated between Forest Grove and Gaston this family-owned concern brews its own wines and not for nothing do they say it’s ‘your dog’s favorite winery’! It has to be one of the very few places where you can enjoy the company of your canine friend and at the same time sample some of the delicious wines the Plum Hill Vineyard has to offer. This place is genuinely dog-friendly as well-behaved dogs (and their humans) are allowed into the tasting room and onto the outside patio area. There is a large fenced dog run right next to the Vineyard where you and your dog can play. Poop bags, water and treats are thoughtfully provided for you.

6 International Rose Test Garden

If you love to walk around well tended gardens that are full to the brim with the sweet aroma of more than 10,000 beautiful roses, other plants and attractions then this is well worth a visit. The International Rose Test Garden, the oldest public garden in the US, is pet-friendly and extremely easy to get around on paved paths. You can take one of the free public tours or just stroll around at your own pace to enjoy the fountain, statue and gardens. Why not bring a picnic lunch and sit a while to enjoy the superb view, provided it is a clear day, over the city and Mt Hood in the distance. The garden is open all year round but to see the roses at their best you should visit in June. There is free admission and a gift shop on site as well.

Four funny cute dogs ex abandoned homeless adopted by good people and having fun on the pillows in the pet shop enjoying new life selective focus

7 Sandy River Delta, Thousand Acres Park

Although known to locals as simply Thousand Acres, and located just off I-84, 20 minutes from downtown Portland, this is actually 1,400 acres of doggy paradise. Consisting of open fields, wetlands, hiking trails, two rivers (the Sandy River and Columbia River) and numerous blackberry bushes you and your pooch can enjoy as much off-leash fun as you can handle. If your dog loves to swim, run or just take a leisurely stroll at your side you should come here to appreciate all that the Thousand Acres has to offer. It isn’t solely for dog walkers either – the Park is popular with birders, waterfowl hunters, horseback riders and mountain bikers. There is one part of the park that you won’t be allowed into however as one third of it is an off-limits wildlife habitat so be aware of this. The park is open all year round from dawn until dusk and there is car parking on site. The US Forest Service is responsible for the upkeep and development of the Park as well as maintaining the off-leash regulations for doggy visitors. These state that dogs should be kept on-leash at all times in the parking lot and within 100 feet of the Confluence Trail.

8 Hotel Monaco

Canine and human visitors to Portland will need a dog-friendly place to stay and the Hotel Monaco is one of the best. The hotel welcomes all dogs whether large or small, pure-breed or mutt. On arrival you and your pooch are greeted by the hotels’ own canine, a Golden Retriever, to make you all feel at home. You can order up a dog bed, food and water bowls and mats if you don’t want to take your own. The hotel’s nightly wine reception welcomes guests and their pups and you’ll be glad to know there are a good number of dog-friendly restaurants nearby.

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North America

What to Do on a Day Trip to Niagara Falls

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Millions of people have added a visit to Niagara Falls to their bucket list. While some have the time to spend a whole weekend or even longer in this part of the world, which sits on the Canadian-United States border, others are short of time.

If you can only squeeze in a day trip to the Niagara area, there are ways to make the most of your trip and have a fabulous – if long – day. Whether you’ll be traveling from Toronto, Buffalo, Rochester or elsewhere, there are certain key things to do.

Journey Behind the Falls

Seeing the famous waterfalls is no doubt one of the main reasons why you’re planning a day trip to Niagara Falls. As such, buy a ticket to the Journey Behind the Falls experience. This option will get you up close to the Falls but from behind and below, as the tour takes visitors underground. You’ll travel down approximately 150 feet via an elevator and end up in purpose-built tunnels.

The hundred-year-old tunnels take you to Observation Decks that offer safe cocoons to see and hear the powerful waterfalls as they launch over the cliffs above and thunder down. As you complete the tour, check out the various posters on the tunnel walls. These detail the history of the Falls and the hallways.

Take a Boat Cruise

No trip to Niagara Falls is complete without seeing the waterfalls from the front, from a boat. Take a ride on a vessel operated by Hornblower Niagara Cruises if you’re on the Canadian side of the Falls, or hop on the Maid of the Mist when on the American side.

Both companies take passengers up close to the waterfalls, so you’ll hear the roar of the water and get drenched unless you’re wearing the supplied rain ponchos. The cruise lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes and will ensure you truly witness the wonder of Niagara Falls.

Picnic in the Botanical Gardens

Within the Niagara area, there are many excellent restaurants where you can stop for lunch and digest what you have seen. However, one way to take in more of the region while also refueling and learning something is to have a picnic in the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. Take a packed lunch with you and eat it within the 40-hectare site. The only problem is deciding where to set up your picnic.

The rose garden is particularly popular with visitors. There are approximately 2,500 different rose bushes here, which not only look lovely but also provide a delicate floral scent to take in while you relax. After finishing your meal, explore the Butterfly Conservatory. This enclosed space is home to over 2,000 butterflies, hailing from over 45 butterfly species.

If your legs are tired from all the walking during the day, hop on the Gardens’ horse and carriage tour. This way, you can conserve energy while seeing more of the gardens. This tourist attraction is found ten minutes’ drive from the center of Niagara Falls.

Explore Clifton Hill

Next, head to the fun suburb of Clifton Hill. It’s on the Canadian side of the waterfalls, only a block from Horseshoe Falls. Clifton Hill is a happening spot bursting at the seams with entertainment, shops, museums, and other attractions. There is, for example, a 36-hole mini-golf adventure course, a massive bowling alley, Canada’s biggest entertainment complex (it boasts 300-plus interactive games), and a haunted house.

Pick up souvenirs at the Canada Trading Company, and novelty gifts at the Fun Factory. If you need a sugar hit to keep you going, stop by the Fudge Factory for a vast array of sweet treats. When you’re ready for dinner, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Clifton Hill, too. There are dozens of excellent restaurants here, with something to suit every taste.

Ride the Niagara SkyWheel

Also located in Clifton Hill is Canada’s tallest Ferris wheel. Round out your day with another look at the waterfalls from 175 feet in the air. Ride the Niagara SkyWheel once the sun goes down so you can watch the Niagara Falls fireworks and light show. This stunning show lights up the Falls in every color of the rainbow.

The SkyWheel has air-conditioned and heated gondolas for comfort no matter the weather, and each ride includes at least four rotations. You’ll get expansive views of the Falls plus the surrounding region.

While Niagara Falls is famous around the world for the waterfalls that gave the city its name, there is much more to do in this area. Prepare yourself for a full day of activities and you’ll be ticking off items on that bucket list in no time.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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