Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summary of Trip Across Canada May/June 2010

 Our cross country adventure lasted 43 days.  We departed Vancouver on May 1st and returned June 12th.  We stayed in hotels for 29 nights and stayed with friends or family on the other days.   Our average cost per night of a hotel room was $98.11.  We stayed in a Super 8 nine times and four nights in a Howard Johnson.  The rest of the hotels were one nighters except for Comfort Inn which was two nights.

We drove 16,613 km or 10,323 miles at a cost of $1304.17 for gasoline.  That works out to 13 cents a mile or 8 cents a kilometer.   

Tolls – In Canada we paid $47.25 (includes bridge to PEI)
           In the U.S. we paid $56.95 plus we had tolls in NJ that were paid by our hosts who let us use their transponder. After Chicago, there were no more tolls. 

Food and spending probably accounted for about $3,000 which included about $500 for tipping alone.  In all, this trip probably cost us about $7,650 or $3,825 each.  That works to $89/day each, if my math is correct.  We stayed in decent hotels and ate well (too well if the truth be known) and did some shopping and all the sightseeing we wanted.   I think that I am fairly close the the budget I had.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 44 (actually 43) to Vancouver - Spring Chickens are Home!

A sunny day, an easy ride, until we reached the border.   Today is Sunday, June 11th and the Douglas Crossing is closed until 5:00 p.m. for a "Hands Across The Border Celebration".  We are stopped on I - 5, a few miles away.

We decided to take an early exit from the interstate as soon as we could and found our way on back streets to the truck border crossing.  We originally overshot it so we were able to turn into the line-up on a side street from the east and were through in about 40 minutes.  Possibly, because of the long lines, the border questions were short and quick.   

At the beginning of the trip, I was talking to Julie about a situation and I described the people in the story as "no spring chickens".  It was an expression Julie had not heard before.  Throughout the trip, Julie would comment on Spring Chickens - being slow in front of us or following us or just showing up in so many places that we were going.   We even had a huge busload of  Spring Chickens take over our hotel and breakfast room one day.   We would watch Spring Chickens do things that we would never do. 

Before I dropped her off in Richmond, Julie asked me to let everyone know that we, two Spring Chickens, made it home safely.

Day 43 - Saturday June 11 to Spokane, WA

This is our last hotel on this trip.   We booked into a Howard Johnson in Spokane, WA.  This is the third HJ we have used on the trip and the nicest.   We have been tending toward Wyndham Hotels (like HJ and Super 8) to accumulate points for a free night.   The magic number is 6500 and we have probably accumulated that amount but the hotels are slow-to-not-submitting-at-all so we cannot use a free night on this trip.  (And the magic coupon we have been using this week nulifies the points (if you read the small print).

Julie last visited here - (Exspokane) when expo was happening some time in the 70's.   She drove down with friends from Vancouver.  The driver of the car was a nurse who had just come off night-shift.  They drove right through with only one driver.

Day 42 - Friday June 10 - to Bozeman MT

We stopped for a break at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in ND near the border of Montana.  The park is encouraging the return of buffalo herds in this area.  It was windy, cold and rainy again and I suspect that the buffalo were hunkered down somewhere to keep warm.  Some other people spotted a few in the distance but I didn't see any.  There is however some of the Lewis and Clark expedition information available to see  in the park building.  We are following part of their original route.

We are on the last side of our last map going home.   We were originally heading for Billings but were making good time so decided to push through to Bozeman.   We found a Super 8 but were unable to use a coupon as the weekend had begun.  In fact, we got the last room with two double beds. 

Our day count is off again.   We have been on the road 41 days. As it is so close to the end, I won't re-adjust it.

Day 41 - St Cloud to Bismarck ND

We are bee-lining it home.   This is easy driving now - no more large cities - all double lanes - good roads.

We stopped for lunch in Fargo, ND and found a very good inexpensive Chinese buffet.  

Between Fargo and Jamestown ND, we saw a sign for the height of land - all rivers flow west from that point  ??  It seemed a strange place as it was still prairie.  The highlands were still many miles away. 

Using a coupon again, we booked into an Americinn in Bismarck - first time using this hotel chain - I was very impressed.  There was an especially good continental breakfast in the morning.   At dinner, we found grilled chicken Oriental salad again at Applebees just across the street (2 for $20.00 including a shared appetizer).  As this is the capital of ND, we had lots of services available including easy access to banks we recognize once again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 40 - Hoffman Estates, Il to St. Cloud Minnesota

When we left New Jersey, both Julie and I agreed that we had had enough 'vacationing' and were ready to go home.   We purposely skipped Chicago and stayed in a distant suburb on the west side.  

We got a fairly early start in the morning and motored right past Minneapolis, only stopping to shop at an Outlet Mall in Albertville, west of the city.   Julie found more shoes and I bought a light jacket.  We really were a little shopped out by this time. 

We stopped for the night in St. Cloud MN at a Best Western.  This place had two good things going for it.  We were out of the heat wave and we found an interesting restaurant called Michaels right next door.

Michael's was run by an Austrian and we really should have ordered the Schnitzel as it looked fantastic as it was served to the adjoining table.  Instead Julie opted for her (almost) usual 'liver and bacon' and I ordered spaghetti and meatballs.   Both of our meals were exceptionally good - fresh salad, well cooked main and very plentiful and inexpensive.

As we were dining late, the owner/waiter, Michael, spent some time talking with us and describing his visits to Quebec over the years.   In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that his chef had recently married a woman from the Philipennes whom he had met on a sewing materials site on the internet. In no time at all, he called out his chef who was introduced to Julie and I.  We compared Filipino food and talked about his new wife's origins and how she was adapting to a climate with a long cold and snowy winter.  All in all, it was a delightful way to end an evening.

Hotel Bargains

Julie's cousin, Andrea, told us about booklets we could pick up at tourist sites along the way that contained coupons for hotels along our route.   Up to this point, we had been for the most part following the advice in the AAA/BCAA books and using their discounts for hotels and restaurants. 

We used the coupon for the Quality Inn on the first night out of New Jersey and got a much better discount that AAA offered.  We still relied on the AAA books for quality, but if there was a coupon in the flyers we picked up and the hotel was recommended by AAA, we booked it with the coupon.  

The second night we also scored with a reasonably priced Red Roofs Hotel.  It even had a flat screen TV with movies available - We watched Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  We had all this plus a lot of excitement.  As we were coming back from eating - a salad at the pub next door - several police cars were in the parking lot and surrounding a unit a few doors down from us.  They were looking for a mother who had abducted her child.  She was foreign and could possibly plan to take the child out of the country.  They even knocked at our door to ask if we were harbouring her. 

In all, we used these coupons four times and probably saved about $40.00.  Unfortunately, hotels do not honour them on the weekends.