Duluth to Sandstone, Minnesota

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

July 13 ~ Day #64
Budget to date
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3856 [4437]

Current Location: Campground, Sandstone, Minnesota

Today’s Total Expenses: $143.05

Transportation: $33 (gas)
Accommodation: $48
Food: $3.86 + 57.79 groceries

We are planning to camp for several days so we went back to the CUB store for perishable stuff like milk, meat and cheese. We managed to spend another $57.79 so it had better last for awhile.

CUB appears to be a local chain but we were very impressed. The sort of prices you expect at Costco but in regular quantities and no membership. If you are lucky enough to live in Minnesota and haven’t tried them you should definitely check them out.

We didn’t have far to go so we told Madge (our GPS) to take the scenic route. It’s a lovely day and we have lots of time.

Vicky managed to catch a cold and “pink eye” while at her daughter’s and is coughing quite a bit so we stopped at a Walgreens along the way and got her some cough drops and suppressant. I don’t have it yet but I’m sure it is just a matter of time.

Since we arrived in Sandstone via the scenic route we thought Madge was lost because where she wanted us to turn did not match the directions we had been given. Several miles later we realized that Madge had been right all the time.

The campground has over a hundred acres and a very active membership. They even have a community theater group that writes and produces their own plays and skits.

This weekend is their annual open house and they are expecting three or four hundred visitors form all over the USA and Canada. They are also producing a new play they have been rehearsing for weeks.

We pitched our tent in a shaded spot not far from the stage and just a short walk to the showers and restrooms.

Mosquitos, Mosquitos and MORE Mosquitos!

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

June 30 ~Day #51
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Current Location: Green Haven Sun Club, Balgonie, Saskatchewan

Today’s Total Expenses: $62.24

Accommodation: $24.00
Food: $38.24

Mosquitos Everywhere

We knew we were in trouble when we set up the tent last night and a hungry hoard of mosquitos descended on us.

Lots & Lots of Rain Followed by Sunny Weather

That’s what happened here in Saskatchewan. There was so much rain that a portion of the Trans Canada Highway collapsed near Saskatchewan’s boarded with Alberta.

So now there is a lot of standing water and hot, sunny weather – a perfect environment for mosquitos to breed.

No Rest At All

If either of us got any sleep at all last night, I’m sure it wasn’t much.

I guess we expected to be bitten while we were setting up the tent, although the sheer number of mosquitos was totally unexpected.

What we weren’t prepared for was the second onslaught as we tried to settle down for the night.

Lurking in every corner of our tent and Jeep (don’t forget that we actually sleep in the Jeep) were hundreds, if not thousands, of bloodthirsty mosquitos.

We both got up several times through the night to try and kill as many as we could. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Many of them had already bitten us, so when we squished them they spurted blood – OUR BLOOD! There are now blood stains on the tent walls and even on the ceiling of the Jeep. I have no idea how I’m going to clean that up.

But it didn’t matter how many we killed, they just kept coming – wave after wave.

We even tried to bait them. We would each take turns just laying there and letting mosquitos land on us while the other one killed as many as possible.

Nothing worked. Nothing stopped them from biting us, buzzing in our ears or even trying to fly up our noses!

In despair, the only thing we could do was to cover ourselves completely with our sheets and blankets and try to get some fitful sleep while being dive-bombed all night. If an errant piece of flesh poked out, rest assured, a mosquito was on it.

Without a doubt, last night was the worst night we’ve had on this trip. I’d happily put up with freezing water pouring on me again or frosty nights. They’re a piece of cake compared with last night.

Taking Action

From what I saw, I do believe that Geoff suffered more bites than I did. And, that’s unusual. Any biting insects just seem to love me.

The main difference between us, though, is how our bodies react to the such bites.

Geoff says his bites are no longer itchy. I sure wish I could say the same. Mine are horribly itchy, red and welted. I really do try not to scratch. I know it will only make things worse. But, sometimes it is nearly impossible not to give in.

We both decided that we can’t possibly go through another night like that. We may even have to leave this campground.

In an effort to try to control the situation and salvage the days we had planned to spend here, we headed into Regina in search of an anti-itch cream, some insect repellant to prevent more bites and an insect spray, like RAID, to kill the ones still hiding in our tent and car.

Our first stop was Costco, who was totally sold out of both repellant and insecticide spray.

Looks like were weren’t the only ones to be experiencing this problem.

Next stop was Wal-Mart who was ALMOST sold out but we did manage to get a can of RAID and a bottle of Muskol lotion but their shelves were pretty bare.

Wish Us Luck

We have now liberally sprayed both the Jeep and the tent and plan to do so again a couple of hours before bedtime.

I have applied my anti-itch cream, which is helping a bit. We have both slathered ourselves with the Muskol lotion, yes, we even put some in our hair as the little buggers (pun intended) even bite us on the scalp. And, we will do that again before bedtime as well.

Stay or Go?

If we are able to get the situation under control and get a good night’s sleep then we will probably stay a few more days. If not, then we will have no choice but to move on to somewhere with less of a mosquito problem.

Canada Day

Finding an alternate place to stay may be a problem in itself as tomorrow is Canada Day.

Mosquito Post

I’ll bet you weren’t expecting a post all about mosquitos, were you.

I’ll let Geoff tell you tomorrow about how things go tonight.

Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Little Mountain, Old Country Market, Cathedral Grove

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

June 17 ~Day #38
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Current Location: Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC)

Today’s Total Expenses: $6.27

Food: $6.27 Costco hot dogs

Vancouver Island is about 300 miles long and 60 miles wide so even though we were driving all day yesterday we have only explored a small section. Vicky’s sister-in-law ‘F’ was a sales rep for grocery products for many years and traveled the island extensively so she knows the area very well. Since Vicky’s brother had to work today, F offered to drive us around to explore some of the communities close to Nanaimo. I think she was trying to sell us on the idea of moving to the island because she made a point of showing us places where we could buy some nice properties.

We drove through Parksville and in Qualicum Beach stopped at an artsy store full of cute carvings, home made jams, jewelry and furniture. You know, the sort of store a man can check out and dismiss in about five minutes and a woman can wander around in for hours.

Since I was outnumbered I found myself a comfortable chair and just dozed a little while waiting for the girls to reappear.

Surprise, ‘F’ actually bought something – a plaque for a friend. Usually the women spend hours browsing – they call it shopping – and then never buy anything.

Cathedral Grove
Our next stop was Cathedral Grove on Hwy ##. This was the highway we took to Tofino yesterday but we didn’t have time to stop.

Cathedral Grove is one of Canada’s oldest pine forests containing trees up to 800 years old. These things are immense, over xxxft high and xxxft in circumference.

A forest fire swept through the area a few hundred years ago so there are not many of the 800 year old giants left but most of the others are over 400 years old and they are pretty big, too.

Little Mountain
On the way back to Nanaimo we took a short detour up to the top of Little Mountain. The road has one of the steepest grades I’ve ever seen. There are some spectacular houses all the way up to the top. I can’t image how they manage in the winter when the area gets some snow.

Goats On The Roof

One of the oddest sights you will ever see is at the Old Country Market in Coombs. This single storey log building has a grass roof and on the roof lives a family of goats.

The property has developed into quite a tourist attraction with various art, trinket and clothing stores taking advantage of the traffic the goats provide.

Canadian Costco
Supper was still several hours away so we stopped at a Costco for their famous Polish Sausage and drink deal. Except this was a Canadian Costco and for some reason they only have hot dogs – oh well it was still good and a good deal.

Banana Cream Pie
One of my favorite desserts is Banana Cream Pie and it just happens to be one of ‘F’s’ specialities. It was well worth the extra belt notch – thank’s ‘F’.

Jeff Trachta and Juneau, Alaska

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

June 11 ~Day #32
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At Sea

Current Location: Juneau, Alaska

Today’s Total Expenses: 222.76 + $28.00

Entertainment: $28.00

It Would Be Beautiful If The Sun Was Shining

Yes the rain is back. If you are planning a trip to Alaska be sure to pack rain gear and umbrellas – you will need them. I guess we have been quite lucky with weather; the only bad days have been in Ketchikan and here in Juneau. Of course the locals don’t notice the rain until it’s falling horizontally but I think that’s because they’re covered in moss.

Juneau, Alaska’s Capital
Juneau is unique as the only state capitol that you cannot drive to. The only way in or out is by sea or air – there are no connecting roads.

Mendenhall Glacier

If you take the highway out of town just past the Costco, Walmart and McDonald’s you will find the Mendenhall Glacier. It really is that close. The tour is advertised for $7 – that’s $7 each way per person for a total of $28 which takes you to the face of the glacier in Tongass National Forest.

We would have liked to have stayed there longer and taken some of the hiking trails but the rain was pretty miserable and we are not equipped for it.

More Jewelry Stores

I hope I don’t get Vicky in trouble with other woman but she is fairly practical when it comes to jewelry. She has a few nice pieces but she doesn’t pester me all the time for new trinkets.

Over the course of the cruise we have been following a kind of a treasure hunt using the coupons in the book we got when we boarded. If you visit each of the stores you get different coins and charms free at each store. It’s just junk but I’m sure the grand kids will like them.
Anyway the collection is now complete so we could get back on the ship, out of the rain and grab a late lunch.

Another Formal Night

Formal nights on a cruise ship are one of the few remaining chances the average person has to dress up. I would probably feel a whole lot better about it if I had a tailored Tux.

I grew out of my last tux many years ago and never bothered to buy a new one. What I really need is a big cumber bun to hide my big tummy.

My current dinner jacket does not fit well and I frankly find ties about the most uncomfortable thing there is to wear. We have clothes for six months traveling packed into one duffel bag – there is not a lot of room for fancy duds.

Dinner and a Show
Except in our case – since we have late sitting – it’s show and dinner.

This was the best show of the cruise. We have never heard of Jeff Trachta but apparently he was on the soap opera The Bold and The Beautiful for several years and appeared on Broadway in Grease. We thought he would just be some pretty boy singer but wow were we wrong.

He has a high tech show that uses pre-recorded video of him playing multiple parts that make up his chorus. He has a great voice plus he is possibly the best impressionist I’ve ever heard. All in all an excellent hour.

This was followed by a surf and turf dinner ~ almost worth getting dressed up for.

San Antonio River Overflows

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

May 14 ~ Day # 4
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
San Antonio river overflows its banks

Location: Houston, Texas to San Antonio, Texas
Mileage: 176 Total: 1461
Today’s Total Expenses: $137.33

Transportation: $53.00
Accommodation: $44.00
Food: $40.33
Entertainment: $0.00

I’m glad we pushed through to the west side of Houston last night so we didn’t have to deal with the morning rush hour traffic.

The Free Continental Breakfast at the Day’s Inn was the typical uninspired selection of bagels, cream cheese, sugary cereals, muffins and white toast. I always wonder why these places don’t spend another $1 a guest and make their free breakfast something spectacular.

Every so often you run across a place that does it right. A make it yourself waffle machine, boiled eggs, wheat toast, fresh (not packaged) donuts and big Costco style muffins. Once in a great while you are offered omelets or porridge.

Anyway we had our bagel and cream cheese plus the coffee I need to pry open my eyes in the morning. Vicky is one of those annoying “morning people” that wakes up wide awake and then chatters about the day ahead for the first hour or so. Even after 22 years of marriage she still doesn’t understand that until I’ve had my first coffee I just don’t hear her.

Anyhow today is my birthday so I was serenaded by several chorusses from the Beatles – When I’m 64. Which of course is why we are doing this mega trip. Do it now because if you don’t it’s a crap shoot that you will be able to next year. Not that I plan to give up any time soon but I get a little shiver any time I hear of someone my age checking out early.

The original plan had been to make it to San Antonio yesterday but that was just more driving than we wanted to do and then we would have to put the tent up in the dark which we haven’t done yet. We only had a couple of hundred miles to go so it was going to be an easy day – or so we thought.

About 50 miles outside of San Antonio we came over a small hill and faced an ominous black cloud on the horizon. Within the space of ten miles the temperature dropped from 80ºF to 60ºF and the sky opened up to dump every last drop of rain directly on us. Sure glad we had Madge (our Magellan GPS) to guide us to our destination otherwise we may not have found it.

San Antonio is one of the few places in the US we have not yet visited so the plan is to stay a couple of days before we move on. We are staying in a 25 acre camp right beside the San Antonio river. Two pools, hot tub, club house and high on Vicky’s must have list – a laundromat.

It was still raining when we arrived so we delayed putting up the tent and spent an hour in the hot tub. The sky soon cleared and we got the tent up then learned from a fellow camper that the tree above us was full of caterpillars that were searching for places to build their cocoons. We soon confirmed this by looking at the picnic table and the ones that had already claimed their spot on our tent. So with the help of another couple we picked up the tent and moved it to another spot.

Vicky made and extra special supper of filet steak, cheese and broccoli rice, and vegetable melange. She followed this with fresh whole strawberries. Pretty spectacular for being prepared on a single burner camp stove.

The sky was pretty clear when we crawled into the back of the Jeep and drifted off to sleep but the weather gods had not done with us yet. At about 2 o’clock in the morning………

But this is Vick’s blog day so you will have to wait for tomorrow’s exciting episode.