Travel

The Two Bill’s – Part 4 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

The Other Bill

 

I chose Cody, Wyoming as our next stop, after Yellowstone. It is only a couple hours out of the park, and it looked like a good place to get off the bike for a day. It is also the hometown of Buffalo Bill Cody, famous buffalo hunter and founder of the wild west show in his name. The local dam, the town, and museums there are all named in his honour.

Checking in early, we were able to catch up on some laundry, have a swim and take a little cat nap. We were only a ten minute walk from downtown, so we strolled that way to check it out. Wouldn’t you know it? One of the first places we saw was a micro brewery. We stopped and sampled, but weren’t all that impressed with the beer or service.

We walked around the historic downtown, deciding that the bar at The Irma Hotel was the best place to hang out. The place was built by Buffalo Bill, and named after his daughter. It opened in 1902. The collection of photos and memorabilia on the walls is outstanding. The cherry wood used on the bar was a gift to Buffalo Bill from Queen Victoria. Some of the drunken regulars in the bar were as colourful as the hotel’s past.

Our hotel was next door to one of Cody’s western museums—there’s a couple that are reportedly top notch, but we’re not really the museum kind of folks. On our second day there, after a leisurely breakfast, we went to the Old Trail Town. It’s a collection of historic old wooden buildings that have been relocated on the site where William Cody first laid out his town. The buildings, furnishings and artifacts are all genuine.

One cabin that was relocated there was used by Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-wall gang. The replica frontier town has a saloon where the gang frequented, a blacksmith’s shop, and stables where vintage wagons and a hearse are on display. A small museum houses various weapons from both the cowboys and the Indians.

On the edge of the old town lies its founder, William (Buffalo Bill) Cody. His grave is there along with others, like Jeremiah Johnson, who was portrayed by Robert Redford in the movie of the same name. The town is authentic, right down to the tumbleweeds that grow in the dirt street.

A lazy afternoon by the pool finished our day, and we walked back downtown for dinner at The Chophouse. The place was packed and the food excellent. (more…)

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The Two Bill’s – Part 3 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

The Way Back

 

Usually, going somewhere is more fun than coming back. Whenever I plan a trip I try to take that into account. I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I hate covering the same ground twice. I’d much rather make a loop and go out of my way, than drive down the same road more than once, unless something is worth seeing again, from a different perspective.

Cathryn and I had a great ride getting to Vancouver, but I knew I had my work cut out for me trying to find an eventful and scenic way back home. The whole idea of the trip was to cover new ground, since both of us had been out west before. Seattle came to mind. Although I’d been there twice, I never had time to see more than a few token attractions on the waterfront.

I loved what I’d seen in the city before, and I knew it had a lot more to offer. Cathryn had not been there. From Surrey, my sister and her boyfriend suggested taking the truck route south, across the border to the states. Seattle was only a couple hours from their home, depending on traffic at the border and on the highway.

On Tuesday, July 19th, we crossed back into the states of Washington. Our Nexus cards made the border a breeze, and we enjoyed about thirty miles of quiet roads, before being dumped on Interstate 5 South. I’d called ahead to our hotel for an early check-in, figuring we’d arrive around noon.

Merging to the right put us on Highway 99, which parallels the Interstate, and is an express route to downtown Seattle. Our motel was right on the highway, and it soon showed up on the GPS. Sometimes the machines are a pain in the ass—this was one of those times. There was a cement barrier down the middle of the highway, leaving us no access to the opposite side of the road where our motel was.

Cathryn got a bird’s eye view of downtown from the elevated highway, because I couldn’t turn around for a couple of miles. Turn’s out there was a way to do it earlier, but it was cleverly hidden under the highway. Live and learn. Checking in at the Marco Polo Motel was a hoot. The Chinese owner/operator should have been a comedian, kind of an Asian Gary Shandling.

The man loudly repeated everything I said, and even though I’d called ahead and was promised an early check-in, our room wasn’t ready. He yelled at another Chinese man to get it ready. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I’d made arrangements to meet an old friend downtown for lunch, at 1:30. It was noon.

After showering and changing clothes, I asked the manager if he could call us a cab. He suggested Uber. I got frustrated fiddling around and trying to download the app. I asked him again for a taxi.

He said one would be there in ten minutes. After waiting twenty, I went back into the office to ask him if he could check on our cab. He was on the phone with someone who called to reserve a room. He yelled back to them, telling the caller it was first come, first served. He repeated that at least three times without taking a breath. He nodded yes and waved me back out the door.

When the cab finally pulled up, Gary came out into the lot. He held the phone to his ear and yelled at someone from the cab company. We laughed and waved, and went on our way. Even with the delays, we walked into the restaurant right on time. My friend was impressed at how we drove across the whole country and managed to be so punctual. (more…)

The Two Bills – Part 2 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

Wind & Terrain  

It was Monday, July 11th, and we had to be in Kelowna, B.C. by Wednesday night to meet my sister, Bonnie, and my brother-in-law, Larry. That meant we had to cover 1,100 miles in three days, with most of it on two-lane mountain roads. So far in the trip, Milwaukee was the only 400 miles day. We would have to do three of those. It wasn’t part of my original trip plan, but we had to get to Kelowna a day earlier to hook up with everyone else there.

The day started out nice, with the sun shining down on us. The road was quiet and dry, heading northwest. US 212 clipped the northeast corner of Wyoming, and by midday it put us in Montana. The wind picked up with the later hours of the day. The rolling green hills were nice to look at when the wind wasn’t punching us like a giant boxing glove.

The Custer National Forest kept the wind at bay, but in the open, we blew right by the Little Bighorn battleground. US 212 joined Interstate 90 just outside Billings, where the speed limit is 75 mph. Heading directly west at that point, the gusts made it difficult for me to stay in my lane at the posted speed. We had intended to bed down in Bozeman that night, but the air-hammering got the best of us, and we called it an early day in a town called Big Timber. (more…)

The Two Bill’s – Part 1 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

Westward Ho

Cathryn’s big question was, “How do I pack for a whole month?” She was faced with the dilemma of how to get her clothes, shoes, and toiletries into one small suitcase, that fit into the trunk portion of our Harley Davidson motorcycle. I had laid out a plan to ride all the way to Vancouver, and back, within a month…or so.

“You only need to pack for five to seven days,” I offered, “We can do our laundry along the way when we stop for more than a day.” I broke the trip into segments, staying in a few different places for more than one night at a time, so we could take a rest from the bike, and not have to be on it every day of the trip.

We met with our friends Greg and Brenda, to discuss the first leg of the trip. They changed their final destination, deciding to only ride as far as Milwaukee with us. It didn’t matter, we were going on with or without them. Figuring traffic would be lighter, and a hotel in downtown Milwaukee cheaper, we left at 9am on Sunday, July 3rd.

The border traffic was light, but they didn’t have the Nexus lane open and we had to wait with all the other peasants. We jumped on Interstate 94, and headed west to get out of the city, with a plan to take the back roads as far as we could. I got carried away, and hit Michigan Avenue (US 12) around Dearborn. It was definitely the scenic route, all the traffic lights allowed us plenty of time to look around.

The road opened up after Ypsilanti. It was a beauty day with lots of sun and a big blue sky. We stopped for an early lunch in Cement City, where Brenda had a chicken quesadilla that could have fed all of us. I really wanted to help, but I was trying to adhere to my low carb diet for as long as I could. I didn’t even have a beer. (more…)

Coco

By Ed Gagnon

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

“Most of my treasured memories of travel

are recollections of sitting.”

– Robert Thomas Allen   

I hadn’t been in Mexico a week but I quickly and easily became a regular at one particular local watering hole. A good pub is a melting pot, where all sorts of people come together in the name of imbibing, for their own reasons. If you watch and listen closely their particular lives are unveiled right in front of you.

Many homo-sapiens from the northern hemisphere, called snowbirds, migrate south for the winter to places like Puerto Vallarta, in Mexico. One of the local watering holes I grew attached to there was a place called, Sweeney’s. It’s in the heart of old town Vallarta, only a couple blocks from the beach.

In my case its location was perfect for a pit stop on the way home from the beach, after the sun had left me parched and in need of hydration. Daily, you could count on the same bar staff and regulars, usually planted in their particular seats.

Other than the cold beer and good food, there was really nothing special about Sweeney’s. It was on the second floor, above another restaurant, on the main drag in old Vallarta. It was easy to miss the stairway entrance if you didn’t know it was there or were too drunk to notice it. (more…)

The Star That was the Sun – Part One

Ben V.

The room was cold.  Paul could see his breath billow out and fade away.  He hadn’t been so close to the surface since the evacuation.  With the sun dimming the surface was a cold inhospitable expanse.  He couldn’t tell how close to the surface he actually was but the chill in the air along with the level of security in the halls told him he was closer than he would have liked.

He was in a sparse room.  The walls were bare and Paul sat at one of the two simple metal chairs that were on either side of a metal table.  There was nothing else in the room but the intermittent cloud of Paul’s breath.  He sat quietly and wondered why he had been sent for.  It had been nearly an hour, in Paul’s best guess, since he had been at his post in the filtration plant.  He felt his bracelet buzz and went to the guard station.  They directed him to the elevator and he was ushered into the room.  Paul hoped his time was being counted but doubted it.  Everyone had to take a rotating shift at the plants that provided the refugees with water, food, and air.  Paul was debating asking someone if this counted towards his time when the door opened to a man dressed in a military uniform. (more…)