Highways and Gravel Roads I - Monika von Borthwick - ebook
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MoWuKnuffels? They are the campers's crew, consisting of two affectionate female dogs and the "little old lady" of Germany. These three girls wanted to know if they still had the stuff to take on big adventures. They started on their own across the North America continent. Their travels took them along the Canadian border, up to the Yucon and the Northwest Territories and further on to Alaska. Are you talking of a woman alone? With her two dogs? In a camper? Traveling 6.000 miles on highways and gravel roads? From New York up to the polar circle? Was this possible? Yes! It was! And they had a great time doing it ...

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MoWuKnuffels?

They are the camper’s crew, consisting of two affectionate female dogs and the “little old lady” from Germany.

These three girls wanted to know if they still had the stuff to take on big adventures.

They started some years ago, on their own, across the North American continent. Their travels took them along the Canadian border, up to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and further on to Alaska.

Are you talking about a woman alone? With her two dogs? In a camper? Traveling 6.000 miles on highways and gravel roads? From New York up to the polar circle? Was this possible? Yes, it was! And they had a great time doing it.

In the author’s diary, you will find a continuous and comprehensive account of her experiences, as well as the thoughts she had about her guest country. In this book you will read about adventurous camping friends, dog lovers, as well as motivated and independent women that she found along her way.

Monika von Borthwick

The author is a woman of an advanced age who lives in upper Bavaria which borders on Austria. These surroundings are rich with cultural activities. Even though she had a fulltime occupation, she managed to find the time to supervise bus tours as a tour guide throughout Europe. It was here, where she started writing diaries on her travel experiences.

After her husband had passed away, she shifted her priorities and started traveling with her two dogs and an RV through all of Europe. After having gathered enough experiences there, she dared to make the big jump across the Atlantic and booked a five-month travel tour which took her from Washington to Mexico. This is where her plan of doing the same, but on her own, was born. And you are about to get started on sharing her adventures and experiences.

List of contents and travel listings

MayNew York to Chicago 1500 miles

JuniFrom Chicago to the Yellowstone NP 2600 miles

JulyYellowstone NP - Glacier NP - Waterton NP - border with Canada - Calgary - Banff NP - Icefield Parkway 1500 miles

AugustDawson Creek - Alaska Highway - Watson Lake - Yukon - Whitehorse - Dawson City - Dempster Hwy – Polar Circle - Tok (Alaska) - Fairbanks - Denali NP 2000 miles

SeptemberAnchorage – a tour aroud Alaska - Valdez - Cassiar Hwy - Yellowhead Hwy - 3300 miles

Preface

MoWuKnuffels?

Who or what is behind this name? It’s not really a big secret!

My name is MOnika, WUschel, which is the name of my mixed breed dog, whose father was a Bernese Mountain dog. Knuffi is the youngest member of my four-legged family. She is very attentive and naughty. Due to the fact that her father was a dachshund, she is also very headstrong. We three have lived together for four years and are an inseparable team.

My husband passed away several years ago and since then we have been traveling with our camper throughout Europe, mastering any and all situations.

A few years ago we dared the big jump across the Atlantic and gathered all sorts of experiences with a group of campers in the USA and Mexico. These experiences convinced me, that even a woman alone could do this type of traveling! On this trip some things just didn’t work out as they were planned. I had an accident and had to get back to Germany. Back home, I came to the conclusion that my four-legged family and I would be giving it another try as soon as possible.

On my first tour I was only able to see a small part of this beautiful country and its inhabitants. This is why I am dedicating my new experiences to all people who helped me and my dogs with their friendship along our way.

My special thanks go out to Elisabeth in Florida, Cathy and Mark in Chicago, a lawyer in Atlanta, and last but not least Dee in Davenport, New York.

It doesn’t matter what people say about the way this country is being run and the people that are running it. It’s the real people, the down to earth people, the people on the street, which make this country a place that I will always keep in my heart and not forget. I am not writing a specialized travel guide. I am writing a memorial for all the people that I have met on my travels so that they will not be forgotten.

Monika von Borthwick

Getting started on my adventure

Those who travel alone have a lot more work on their hands, than those who travel with larger organized groups. Traveling in groups you will always find someone who will lend you a helping hand or give you the information that you just cannot seem to find anywhere. You don’t have to worry about which route you should take, or reading through tons of traveling literature. “Will I find myself in a snow storm if I visit this area at this time of the year? Will I find a Walmart this evening so that I can park my camper and spend the night there?” All these things and many more you can just forget about and instead, lay back and daydream of the things that will happen on your journey. But, being the individualist that I am, I chose to do it the hard way and dug into the preparations.

I found out that you can get hooked on doing all of this research yourself and, believe it or not, the fun factor is high. Not to mention all the new information that you will be learning about the country, the people, and about places that you just have to see.

Researching on the internet cost me a lot time and nerves. I wanted to buy a used camper and I wanted to find the best camping spots on my journey. I also wanted to save the money that shipping an RV from Germany to America would cost, and buy one that was already there. My friends in the States warned me about buying a camper via the internet because of the high risk involved. It is really an exciting adventure buying something like a camper and not being able to see what condition it is in. Pictures do lie sometimes.

I lucked out and found a Recreation Vehicle (RV) that was being sold by a German couple in the States. They were selling it with all the equipment, for a fair price. After sending God knows how many mails back and forth, we finally settled on a price that we both could live with. From the pictures, the camper looked like it was in good condition. It was clean and had been checked out by a camper dealer. It had a lot of mileage on its back, but in my opinion a Ford truck diesel could handle that. The only problem was that the camper was not where I needed it. I wanted to start my journey in New York. This would be the shortest route for my dogs to fly. I have friends near New York, where the camper could be parked in a storage for free. But my new vehicle was parked in Arizona!

Well, I did not have much of a choice! I had to take a short trip to the States and drive my camper from A to B. So, a girlfriend, myself, and tons of luggage got on a plane and flew to Phoenix. Three weeks and 3.500 miles later we reached New York. By the way, I left my dogs with a friend in Germany.

Through doing this I had the advantage of getting to know the owners of the camper. I was able to get the right feeling that was needed to drive this type of vehicle. I also had enough time to learn how to operate all the buttons and equipment that was on board, and to stow away my entire luggage. All I had to do now was fly back home, pick up the dogs, fly back to New York and start my adventure.

Easier said than done! I had to make sure that my insurance policies would be able to handle any and all the situations that could confront me on my journey. Especially my healthcare insurance had to be on the up and up to handle the high costs of American medical treatment. Then I needed a private accident insurance policy because you never know what fate will hold in store for you! Not knowing what type of unexpected things would be popping into the dogs mind on this journey, I would also need a liability insurance policy for them. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had a stack of insurance policies. But I think it’s better to be safe than sorry!

I terminated all the utilities in my apartment; this meant having more money that I could spend on my journey. I was able to list my apartment as a vacation rental and made sure that all the e-mail addresses were correct. Then I invited my friends for a last goodbye party.

After having spent four long months of planning and working, it was time to get started. I started from Düsseldorf in Germany on a non-stop flight to New York. My intentions were forgetting Germany for at least one year and concentrating only on the adventure that was ahead of me and my two dogs. I was a little uneasy, knowing that for most of the time I would be alone.

On the long flight, all sorts of thoughts went through my mind: Who will I meet? Will I be able to drive the camper for long hours? Will the camper survive? How will the weather be? Do I have enough money? Do I really have enough insurance coverage? Will we stay healthy? Will there be problems getting a residence permit? Will I get homesick, and most of all … will my dreams come true?

There were no problems on the flight and before I knew it, we were at JFK airport in New York. We had a long waiting period, due to the fact that six other flights came in at the same time as we did and we all had to go through customs. My poor dogs! They had to wait all this time in their boxes. I had no problems getting a visa. However, the customs officer only granted me one for six months, but he said it would be no problem getting it extended for another six month period.

It was hard to find the car rental office where I had rented my car for the transfer to Davenport. And the two extremely large dog boxes did not help the situation either. But with a little help from the airport personnel I mastered this situation.

Due to the long waiting period and time spent finding the car rental office, the day was far spent. I decided not to drive all the way to Davenport, NY. I just wanted to get out of the city and then spend the night in a motel along the way.

This was not as easy as I thought it would be. It was hard to find a motel that was willing to accept two dogs and one of them weighing 100 pounds. But after the third try we made it, and my two companions could finally get out of their boxes. I promised them that they would not need to get back into them for the next year.

After a restful night of sleep we drove on to Davenport. I found my American “Wuschelmobil” still waiting where I had parked it a month before: in the back of my girlfriend’s house. Our new home for the next twelve months … I was glad to see, that Wuschel and Knuffi felt at home right away. The small one wanted to claim the large bed for herself, but I managed to make her change her mind - at least this time. The next few days were spent getting prepared for the journey, visiting friends and getting settled in our second home. In two days the adventure would start!

May

1,440 Miles

New York to Chicago

Impressive Chicago Lake Michigan on

May 15th We are finally getting started

We’ve been on the road now for a week. Saying good-bye to my girlfriend Dee was not hard at all, because I was anxious to get started and to see what adventures would be waiting for us. On the second evening we visited all her children and grandchildren. I was really happy to hear, that her son had found a parking place for my camper for the next year. His father-in-law said, I could park the camper in his yard for one year after my trip was finished. The rental charges were cheap, so I couldn’t say no. I naturally got his address, just in case something unexpected would happen on the way.

We had an ungodly thunderstorm on Thursday evening. Thunder was crashing all around Dee’s house and around my camper. Knuffi found shelter in the last corner of my bed and Wuschel did not leave my side. All of a sudden my generator switched over to gas function. What had happened? Was the extension cord that ran from my camper to Dee’s house damaged? There was only one way to find out: I had to get out into that pouring rain and check the cord. And … you guessed it, it wasn’t the cord. Soaking wet, I got back into my camper only to find out that the on-off switch was damaged. So I knew what I would be doing the next day: driving to the camper dealer in Amsterdam, NY.

First thing in the morning: I drove north on Interstate #90 which was on my way heading westward. The mechanic at the camper dealer told me he couldn’t get the switch fixed until the next day. So I spent the rest of the day stocking up my supplies and walking the doggies. In the evening I spent the time getting my supplies stowed away in the camper and getting ready for bed. I was tired and was looking forward to testing my big bed in the camper. But Knuffi had the same idea. So my big bed was reduced in size. I did not have to pay for any camping fees. The next day they repaired my shower for free and the costs for repairing the switch were one hundred dollars.

On the road again I headed westward, but not too far. I had to find a cultivated campground because it was laundry day. We found a spacious site with the KOA near the cities of Herkimer and Middleville. It was very expensive, but it was an affordable luxury and I needed clean clothes. There was a wide stream, running along the camping, with lots of trees, hedges and beautiful green lawns all over. The dogs found a few gray geese and would have loved to play with them, but they did not seem to be in a playing mood. So my girls went for a swim instead.

Later on in the evening, after I had done my laundry, (five machines and dryers full) I laid back in my cozy camper and enjoyed the mellow feeling inside, because outside it was bitter cold.

The next day we spent most of the morning enjoying the beautiful surroundings and just relaxing. Our next goal was not far away. I wanted to drive to Lake Oneida which is in Verona Beach State Park, and then spent the night on the Walmart parking lot.

Well, what should I say, the next problem was here! My GPS wasn’t getting any juice from the cigarette lighter. What could that be now? I am definitely not a techno freak, and when it comes to electrical wires I’m totally lost. But I tried to find a solution. See there, I found it! There were some loose wires in the glove box and it seemed as if they would fit in into the socket of the cigarette lighter. Somehow I managed to get the wires hooked up right and believe it or not, it worked. My navigator was back in working order! The new problem was I had to plug the navigator into a plug that was not in eye sight. I had to keep my eyes on the road, and just listening to the voice of the navigator did not help me at all. So once again I needed help from a professional, because I’d be lost without this box, trying to drive through big cities. And how would I find Cathy and Mark in Chicago?

I really wasn’t worried too much about this situation for the moment, because I was a long way from Illinois! So, whatever, my dogs and I enjoyed the fantastic sunshine at Verona Beach. It was for free, because the park was not officially open.

Did I say enjoyed? Well, not really! It was so windy and cold, that it did not take too long and we were all back in our cozy camper. There were lots of mother day picnickers that had the same in mind as we did, but it didn’t take too long before they also headed for their cars. However, there were a few teenagers who were brave enough to go wading in the water. That’s something I didn’t need at all.

Close to evening I drove westward to Central Square which is on the west side of the lake. There was a Walmart parking lot, where I slept soundly. Sometime during the night Knuffi started barking like crazy. Was anyone outside? I really didn’t care. I just turned around and kept on sleeping. In the morning, everything was covered with light frost. Were these the American Ice Saints?

Today is May 15th. I’m sitting at my laptop with the door wide open, writing these lines. We have reached Hamlin Beach State Park (not really cheap) after encountering some adventures.

I actually wanted to drive to Seneca Falls and visit the Woman’s Rights National Historic-Park. This is where two American women founded and organized, in 1848 the first women’s Liberation Movement. Instead of doing that, I found a Ford dealer that, after a long search, checked out the fuse box of the camper, replaced the bad fuses, gave me two spare fuses, and charged me $ 1,32. Not bad, ha! Now all the plugs of the cigarette lighter were working and the navigator was back in its proper place and doing its duty.

I landed in a state park on the Cayuga Sea (Five Finger Lakes) and together with Wuschel and Knuffi I took a long walk to get the circulation back into our feet.

The Ontario Lake Parkway, which runs along the lake, is closed for commercial traffic. There were no signs, saying how high the bridges are that run over the parkway. My camper is twelve feet high. Most of the bridges were over twelve feet. So I had no problems. However, I had one real scary encounter with a bridge that was only eleven feet and eleven inches high. I hit the brakes. There was no way around. Slowly I drove through the bridge, carefully listening. Thanks god, nothing happened. No scratches! Was I glad! After this adventure I left the parkway and drove on a road that ran parallel to the parkway. This road was lined with beautiful villas that had small boats in their gardens.

I wanted to do my two companions and myself a favor. We took a rest and strolled along the endless paths that you will find in this State Park. This promenade turned out to be a fight for survival between the dogs, the squirrels, the rabbits, the muskrats and myself.

Everyone that was ever confronted with the hunting instincts that Wuschel and Knuffi have, will know what I had to go through and power that I had to bring up to hold back these two dogs. This went on for over an hour. Both dogs were now completely exhausted, not to mention myself, and were sleeping in the camper. Wuschel was snoring at my feet and Knuffi in my bed. (I have lost this fight forever.) Tomorrow I will see if I can find the Walmart in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. It’s not far from the falls and it will be a lot cheaper than the campgrounds. Everything I need is in the camper. Let’s see what happens...

May 18th Introductory Course Canada

In the past few days a lot has happened. Last Tuesday as I was driving across the Canadian border, I heard an indefinable metallic noise. Was that coming from my car? Or was it the truck that was driving in front of me? Carefully, I stopped my camper and walked around. I could not find anything that would have made such a noise. Back into the RV I started again. Shocking! Once more that noise! It came from the transmission. The brakes did not work either. Should I start panicking? No, I don’t do things like that! Looking for a parking space by the customs building I let the camper slowly roll into it. The vehicle pulled a track of pink liquid in the rear. What could that be? I wasn’t going to drive one more inch. The Canadian customs officers were very kind and called a tow truck from the Canadian Automobile Club. I lucked out there, because I was a member of the German Automobile Club (ADAC) and they will take care of the towing charges for me. I climbed into the towing truck which brought me to a garage in Niagara Falls City in Canada. I wanted to go there anyway, but not like this. What a nightmare!

At first, the mechanic said they wouldn’t be able to start work on the camper until the next day. But somehow they found the time and started working on the car in the afternoon. To this day, I still don’t know what had happened to the camper. I couldn’t find the technical expressions that were listed on the invoice in my dictionary. I probably would not have understood them in German either! Women and technique! After two hours of work, my Wuschelmobil was ready to roll again and I was several Canadian dollars lighter. That meant more nights of Walmart camping. Doing it this way, I could relieve my small budget.

Because it was still early in the evening, I decided to check in to a computer store to get some information on operating my notebook with a wireless network connection. The first person I talked to had big problems with my PC. Why? Well, everything was written in German. But no problem, an experienced senior colleague came to help. With one click everything was back in working order. He threw out my t-online connection, and that was it. Quite ashamed, I put the ten dollars that were meant for his tip, back into my pocket. He didn’t take the money and told me that it was all customer service. I went back to my rolling home and started making plans for the next day.

Our first stop on Wednesday was the cable car over the Whirlpool. A great place to walk with my “ladies”! It led us to a beautiful path along the Niagara River. After the previous day, my two pooches were in need of a long walk. Around noon we reached the falls. There were not too many people waiting. Ten minutes back and forth over the river – good-bye twelve Dollars! Quite expensive, I thought, but oh well, it’s something I’ll probably never see again. After this experience we drove into the city and parked for free on the IMAX-Theater parking lot. A little further down the street, they wanted twelve dollars for a spot. I decided to walk. It wasn’t that far anyway! I put my girls on the short walking leash and we tackled the mist coming from the Horseshoe-Falls. I was glad I had my rain poncho on.

Later on in the evening I studied my road maps. As usual we slept on the Walmart parking lot. This time I noticed some small discrete signs, saying “no overnight parking”. Strangely enough, they were not here yesterday. Therefore I decided to ignore them. I was the only one parking in this corner. Anyway, I saw two other vans doing the same in another corner of the parking lot.

In the middle of the night it came over me, and hasn’t gotten better yet. At first I had to vomit and then my bowels started brewing. I don’t know why. What Mexico didn’t achieve, Canada did. Montezuma’s revenge! None of the pills I had seemed to help. So I could forget about my plans of seeing behind the falls and “Maid of the mist”. I wouldn’t hold out that long!

The next day I didn’t eat anything at all and spent most of the day in the toilet. Later on in the day we drove out into the country, were my two dogs had the chance to run around in the fields and lay in the sunshine, watching the squirrels hopping by. At least I didn’t have to vomit anymore. I spent most of the day taking photos of the flower watch from all sides, and breathed the scent of a lilac garden. I also managed to sleep a little in between. I was really worn-out. As usual, I was not alone in bed.

Because I had slept so long during the day, I was afraid of not being able to sleep at night. But that was not the case. My pills probably did help. That night, I parked on a different spot in the shopping center, because there were more of these “no parking” signs all over the place. Even though, I saw a camper that was using his spot for the third time.

May 21st “Flying” into Chicago

The name of my new campsite was Windy City, and its facilities were as dubious as its name. For thirty-five dollars I got a spot near the interstate highway and my utilities. The showers, which were not really clean, cost extra. But I was happy to have found a spot so close to the downtown area (approximately twenty miles) of the eight-million city. It’s impossible to find a campsite in this city unless you get a little help from your friends. This will probably change as soon as I can get a hold of Mark and Cathy.

After having spent a beautiful and cold day in Niagara on the Lakes and after a long dog walk I was rested enough to charge into my next two traveling days. I had booked, as a part of the Shaw festivals, a garden tour, which allowed me an insight in many of the private gardens. It wasn’t quite what I had expected, but it was very colorful! Where else could you see yellow magnolias, and such a diversity of tulips? This was my chance to take as many photos as possible, not only of the flowers, but also of the homes as well. I could see that these homes were for the more affluent people, especially after seeing that many cars with a silver Jaguar on its hood, were parked in the driveways.

Along the Niagara River there were a lot of paths that invited me to take a walk. Due to the fact that today was the start of a long weekend (Victoria Day), these paths were crowded with hikers, walkers and bicyclists. All around me people were grilling, with their kids, grandmas and grandpas, dogs and cats, boyfriends and girlfriends. It seemed to me that no one spend this day at home. It was starting to get cold, so we headed for our Wuschelmobil which was parked on the Walmart parking lot in St. Catharine. Nice surroundings with a lot of green around it.

That evening there were a lot of fireworks around us and my two companions hid in the corners of the camper. That night was cloudy and the temperature got down to thirty-five degrees. I sure could have used warm gloves that evening as I took the girls for their last walk. As we came back I really had to start the heater in the RV (May 21st!).

The next morning we were awakened by the jabbering of beautiful brown Canadian wild ducks which were searching for something nourishing in the fields next to our parking lot.

Sunday was driving day heading west. We made two stops, one for waste removal at “Flying J” in London and one by Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Dresden. Hey, I thought I was in Canada and not in Europe! Dresden is the place of origin of the well-known novel. A pastor lived in this small, out of the way of tourist routes laid village. He was a runaway slave from the South and managed to come to Canada in the 19th century. The pastor told his life story to H.B. Stowe and she wrote the famous novel „ Uncle Tom’s Cabin". This novel turned out to become one of the most significant literature works against slavery. A small exhibition showed the agony that the slaves had to go through, but also of the helpfulness of the people there that tried to help to reduce their misery. I am always very impressed with these people who managed to accomplish so much. We spent the night in Windsor, also a well-known word in Europe. Windsor is the Canadian partner city of Detroit.

Once again, we found a very quiet Walmart parking lot outside of town, thanks to my very dependable GPS device. What a great invention! Today we reached the USA border. Unfortunately we had a very long waiting period at the border crossing. All the campers were thoroughly checked. (I was able to hide the remaining food supplies.) As the officer got into my car and saw my dogs, he quickly jumped out and with the words, “have a nice day” we were back in the USA.

I was glad to have finally reached the US, after having driven 550 miles with heavy traffic and many construction sites along the way. I definitely needed a rest, and my digestive system was not yet in order. I planned to visit our new friends in Chicago the following afternoon. Easy to say when you’re driving into a city with an eight million population. The weather here is great and warm (71°F). Its ten o’clock in the evening and I can still sit outside and write in this diary. I’m in a new time zone, seven hours difference to Germany. A real temperature roller coaster!

Tomorrow is a personal remembrance day. One year ago I had that accident near Davenport NY, which caused me to plan this new trip. Well, we’ll have a beer on that (alcohol-free)! In conclusion, here is a picture of my little princess Knuffi! I just wondering how long it will take, until Wuschel gets the same idea and I’ll find myself sleeping on the floor!

May 25th Parking in a convenient location

A lot has happened! I’ve driven through this huge city three times now, encountering every type of traffic situation that you can think of: Construction sites, stop and go, rush hour, heavy traffic, arterial roads, during the day, by night, I had it all! The driving manner is comparable with Rome in Italy. Chaotic! (Is it a legacy from the Al Capone era?) You have to have your eyes all over the place. I’ve parked my rolling home in a very quiet side street without any prohibiting signs or parking time restrictions. I’m not far from my friend’s house and from the downtown area of Chicago. A three day-pass for public transportation is affordable.

I was sincerely welcomed by Cathy and Mark and with hospitality you will only find in America! Wednesday evening my friends from lower Bavaria will also come for a visit. They got Cathy, Mark and I together. Through the accident near Cobleskill, NY last year I needed some help and Cathy found out about this through these friends. Even though Cathy did not know me, she sent me an e-mail and offered her help. Mark was the one that helped me with all the official paperwork and to convert my Bavarian English into a correct US English. Since then we’ve become friends and have stayed in touch. Now we will finally be able to meet. We did send pictures back and forth, so we weren’t really strangers.

They also helped me get the new (old) camper registered in Illinois. You’re asking yourself why Illinois? That’s simple! Illinois is one of the few states were the insurance companies at this time accept an international driver’s license. But who knows what the future will bring! In New York and Florida I needed an American driver’s license. You definitely need an address in the US for such transactions.

Last Wednesday I visited the Field Museum with its collection of Indian artifacts. This is a must when you’re visiting Chicago. I could not leave the doggies too long alone in the RV, because this day was very warm and sticky. So sorry to say: My one day admission ticket only lasted four hours. However, this museum was worth its money. The pompous entrance hall with its famous dinosaur lady named Sue! The large collection of artifacts from all the different Indian tribes in North America, the Inuit section with its totem poles! Just fantastic!

I just didn’t have enough time to see all of it in these four hours. They had the Far East section, natural history, Chinese lacquer paintings, the South Seas, the evolution of life on our planet with its many different dinosaurs, Tibet, and on and on.

As of Thursday my American “Wuschelmobil” belongs really to me. With Mark’s help we had no problems whatsoever in getting the camper registered. This had a lot to do with the charm that my helper had. The women at the counters just seemed to love him, and everything went as smooth as ice.

I am now known as 320 033 RV Illinois Lincolns State.

After supper, that evening, we were treated to a big surprise! We were kidnapped to downtown Chicago by our hosts for an evening stroll. My friends from lower Bavaria, Ingelore and Jörg had to bring their rental car back to the agency and we just made it in time before they closed. This saved them a long drive to the airport next morning.

From the agency, we strolled through downtown Chicago to the Hankock Tower. It was slowly getting dark. The skyline of Chicago just took my breath away. Sometime soon I will take the same way in the daytime, so that I can see all the architectural highlights that I couldn’t see in the dark.

The tower is ninety-six floors high and it didn’t cost us anything. In the meantime it was really dark. The city with its towers and skyscrapers had turned into a sea of lights. We had a drink at the bar, and from the windows in the ladies room, I had a fantastic view of Chicago. Around eleven o’clock we headed home, with the help of the metro and our feet. In the meantime it had cooled down somewhat and small raindrops started falling.

The change in weather fitted in to my plans for the next day. I planned on visiting the art museum with its impressionist section. With cooler temperatures I could leave Wuschel and Knuffi alone in the camper for a little longer. Now just let me sort out the images this day had left in my mind. Then up into bed. I was so tired, that I didn’t even hear all the traffic noise outside. Good night!!

May 27th Chicago intensive

Chicago is a remarkable metropolis. I always thought, the downtown area of the old gangster city would look differently than how it did. The skyscrapers were not as suffocating as they were in New York or Manhattan. The long drawn skyline along Lake Michigan is overwhelming, the way it turns to the water is magnificent. You can go for a walk in the parks that are all over the downtown area and find futuristic art or structures. It’s easy to find your way around when using the rapid transit, bus, or metro. All guideposts point in the direction to the lake. All bus, train and metro lines are in different colors. Just following the colors will get you were you want to go!

I bought a three day ticket which was good for all public transportation in Chicago. This would give me enough time to discover the city on my own. I wanted to leave the girls in the camper or if the weather got warmer in my friends air-conditioned house.

Friday was the day I would visit the art museum, and naturally only one section of it. I wanted to take my time and enjoy what I was seeing. I looked forward to discover the impressionist and older modern art. However, before I could get started, someone knocked on the window of the RV. I opened the window, because I thought it could be one of my friends. But that was not the case. A preppy policewoman was standing outside and started asking a lot of questions. What was I doing here? Did I have a dog? Was I sleeping in the camper? How long would I stay here? Why did she want to know all of this? Why was she asking all these questions? She told me, that one of the residents had called the police and complained that the dogs were barking too loud and that I was sleeping in the camper, which was not allowed. I denied both complaints and stated that my dogs were always quiet, and that I was not parking in a no-parking zone. So what did I do wrong? Nothing!

This was the first time I was confronted with the low amount of self-courage that almost all Americans have. Why didn’t the woman that filed the complaint come and talk to me about it? Why do people always have to call the police first instead of trying to settle dispute themselves? My host and my friends informed me later, that not only in Chicago, but throughout the USA most people tend to call the police first. They don’t want to get involved personally. What I found out later: I was parking in the spot in front of her house where she had always parked her car. She couldn’t park it there anymore. Because I was parking legally, in a non-restricted area, she couldn’t tell the police that I was parking wrong. She was cunning enough to use the trick with the barking dogs and that I was sleeping in the camper.

What I also found out later was that Mark had already spoken with the police and the complainant and had settled the dispute. The young police woman was not informed of this and that was why she had questioned me. I moved my car a couple of feet forward. The complainant could park her car in front of her house. The situation was resolved. She had her parking spot, and I would be able to spend the next few nights in peace and quiet. Furthermore I was only working in my camper. Wasn’t I?

Now back to my visit in the art museum. I don’t know how many of you are interested in art, but it is remarkable just how many exhibits found their way from Europe to Chicago. It’s probably all a matter of money. I spent most of my time by the impressionists, where I discovered van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, Chagall and Miro. You can’t imagine how exhausted I was as I left the museum at 5:00 pm that evening. The admission price was expensive, but it was well worth it.

I was dead-tired as I got back to the camper. I hadn’t even put my foot in the door when my hosts came and informed me that we were all going out for dinner this evening. We went to a restaurant which had specialized itself in preparing lamb chops. But we had to walk there. Well, I was as hungry as a bear, so I had to forget my tired feet and join in with the crowd.

The quaint restaurant had a twilight type atmosphere and was very busy. My friends were regulars, so we had no problems getting a table. The lamb was superb. The portions were just right for my hunger and the garlic sauce was well seasoned. There where TV’s stationed all around, so we even got to watch a baseball game. At times it did get quite loaded.

I didn’t have a chance to relax at home because my pooches had to take their evening walk. As we were walking along, we saw a lot of rabbits and you can guess what my dogs did. They went hunting and forgot what we were here for in the first place. Well, I think they will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Saturday had another highlight for me. There is an organization of volunteers in Chicago which show tourists Chicago’s attractions for free. Please don’t ask me what their name was. I’ve forgotten that! (probably Chicago Greeters?) My friends had hired one of these guides, so we all had to get up earlier than usual, because we had to meet the lady at ten o’clock in the morning in downtown Chicago.

“Niki de Saint Phalle” Exhibition in the Botanical Garden.

Well, we spent four long hours walking around sightseeing. We did have the chance to ride with the EL off and on. The highlights here were Millennium Park and the “Niki de Saint Phalle” exhibition in the Botanical Garden. At three o’clock I finally made it home. My poor friends were by themselves for seven long hours. Fortunately it was a cool rainy type of day. I won’t do that again for a while.

It was the last evening in Chicago for my German friends, so Cathy made some fantastic steaks for us. They were real tender and tasted just perfect if you know what I mean.

Mark activated my American cell phone for me. Without his help I would have had big problems. But everything was ok now and every-one could reach me here. I know that phoning from the US to Germany is cheaper than the other way round. But, I’m only going to use this phone in case of an emergency. Now, here I am sitting in my camper, overfed and tired, it’s midnight and it feels good to know that no one is going to bother me this evening. I am a legal parker and can legally sleep in my bed. Good night!

May 29th Good-bye Chicago

It’s nine thirty in the evening. Outside it still is 75.2 degrees. Sweat is running down my body. No, I’m not in a sauna. I’m sitting in my camper which is 82.4 degrees hot. It’s an unusual sticky. I’ve parked on a Walmart parking lot, my camper door is open, and I’m writing. There’s a relative strong and free internet connection in the hotel across the street (hotspot), so my report will find its way this evening.

We left Chicago at noon and drove over to the east side of Lake Michigan. Chicago was very expensive even though I spent most of the nights sleeping in my camper, parked in front of my friend’s home. When I think of, what I paid for sightseeing and admission fees: city tour $25 in a double-decker-bus, between $12 and $25 for admission fees in the museum, and naturally my RV also needed some minor repairs… But safety comes first.