February 10, 2003

We have been on tour for two weeks now, the beginning of our huge spring tour that takes us from Victoria BC to St. John's Newfoundland, via California, Texas and Virginia.... Five months of living in RV parks and people's driveways! We'll be home again at the end of June.

The tour has been great so far. We spent a week in Oregon where we met with Mary Bywater Cross. She's a quilt historian who wrote the book (Treasures in the Trunk) which I used to write one of my quilting songs: "A Quilt and a Kettle", about the Oregon Trail. She arranged to have me meet Billijean Hill, a member of the Allen and Rachel Bond family, and from there we've actually found the copper kettle I sing about in the song! Here's a picture of it:


Photo by Scott Shephard

Through Washington and Oregon we saw rain, rain, rain. But marvellous scenery all the same, and lots of snow geese and swans dotting incredibly green fields on their way north. As soon as we could, we headed out to the coast and hugged it all the way to our next gig in California. Happily, the tires hugged the road well too, because the road is quite twisty and turny, overlooking steep cliffs to the sea. We wished for our house-truck to transform itself into a little sports car so we could put the top down and really enjoy it! I'm glad we weren't in a hurry.

We drove through the redwoods which are always awe-inspiring. We've seen clumps of them periodically down the coast, depending on how much fog is in the area. But the really big ones are in the north, in southern Oregon.

This is the season of migrating grey whales on their way down to the Baja. We've seen many many spouts off the shore, and occasional flukes as they dive. We've also seen lots of sea otters and elephant seals. This is the time of year of the birthing and mating of elephant seals and one of the best places to see them is just off Highway 1 near Hearst Castle at San Simeon. We found this out last year on our trip here, and made it a point to visit there again.

Bull Elephant Seal calling

While we were in the San Francisco Bay area we also spent an afternoon at the salt marshes watching birds, trying to identify the ducks.

We got to spend an afternoon in the Sonoma Valley - one of the best wine areas in California. On the recommendation of our friend, Don Coolidge, we headed up to the "Dry Country" and Russian River area of the valley, his favourite. The evening before, we had met Tomi Speed at the Moonlight Quilters guild in Santa Rosa, who invited us out to the winery she works at, Gary Farrel Winery. She gave us a wonderful private tour of their facilities, followed by a wine tasting of his best. Fantastic! We broke the bank a bit on a couple of bottles of their red - a Zinfandel to die for, and a Cabernet Sauvignon (still awaiting our
palates!) Too bad we live so far away....

It may sound like we're just having fun on this trip, and you'd be right, but there have also been a few gigs so far (7).  The quilters are really enjoying the new songs from the second CD (how could they not love John's rendition of "Quilter's Husband's Lament"?) I haven't been buying MUCH fabric so far, although yesterday I did pick up a pattern and fabric for a new quilty stage outfit at Fabrics 'n' Fun in Milpitas CA, which I'll make when we get home. I do have my sewing machine with us this time, and I've started a bit of work already. Hopefully by the end of the tour, I'll have it all done!

So, that's the scoop on the Miller-Bunge front. We're here in California for another week and a bit. Then we're on our way to Las Vegas and Arizona. More adventures to come!


March 1, 2003

Greetings from Arizona!
So much has happened since our last travelogue, this will probably be a long one...

We left you in Morro Bay California, about to do the last of our California gigs. In Modesto, we stayed with Linda Cover, whom we met last year. Linda lives on a walnut farm, and has invited us back during walnut harvest season to help out. She also has a row of orange trees, and we left with a large box of freshly picked oranges (alas, they're all gone now - but they were fantastic).

On our way down to Simi Valley (pronounce that "See Me") just north of Los Angeles, we had to divert because of a mud slide on the interstate highway, so we went back along the coast. It was the longest drive on the tour so far, adding about 4 windy and rainy hours to our trip because of the detour. We stayed in the hills with Bill and Judy Ragan, who are RVers too (much bigger rig than ours). They have lived there for 30 years, in an area with sand bridle paths intertwined through an otherwise "normal" residential section. The developer believed that horse owners should be able to keep their horses on their own property, so made his subdivision "horse friendly"! It was neat to wake up in the morning and see horses go by outside the window.

We had a day off after our Fresno gig, and headed up to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. This is where the biggest trees (in mass) in the world reside. It was a misty day - quite high, and we were in the middle of a cloud when we arrived at the grove. As we approached the General Grant tree, the third largest tree in the world, it was very spooky and mysterious. It was somehow appropriate, considering the age of the trees, but we bought postcards so we could really see it!

Last Monday was the first time my "Simply Quilts" episode on HGTV was broadcast (episode #833). It was very exciting - a friend of Katherine Cavanaugh's in Merced taped it for us and I was VERY happy that I hadn't embarrassed myself too much on the program! There was a flurry of activity on the website as well as on our telephone at home. Everyone said they liked it! WHEW! I taped it with Alex Anderson last June in Burbank CA. It was very stressful before I flew down to get everything done, but once I was there, Alex and the crew made it easy. It was especially great to be able to see it for the first time with Kathy Cavanaugh - a good friend from last year's trip to California (who now has a pepper grinder in her well-stocked kitchen!!).

The last gig in California was in San Francisco. Last year John and I spent a day doing the "touristy" stuff in SF, including the cable car, the walk through Chinatown, lunch at Fisherman's Wharf, etc. So this time, we headed for Fort Mason, and a show of Australian Immigrant Quilts, featuring our friend Jenny Bowker from Australia. It was a lovely show, especially the Artists' Statements and especially Jenny's powerful quilt.

Thanks to our next appearance, we can now say "We've done Vegas" (surely that's gotta count for SOMETHING on the resume?). Nancy's Quilt Shop sponsored a show for us, and took very good care of us while we were there. We had an extra night in town, and managed to catch some "Strip" action, including the Cirque du Soleil show "Mystere", a combination of circus, Chinese acrobatic troupe excellence, drama, great music, and all the staging that money can buy. We lost $4 at the slot machines (John had more fun with his loss than I did - one punch of my button, and it was gone... He at least won a bit before he lost it!) Then, at midnight, we walked along the Strip a bit. What amazing constructions! At the Venezia Hotel, you can actually take gondola rides through a reproduction of Piazza San Marco in Venice. At the Mirage, there is an "active" volcano that "erupts" every once in a while. It is absolutely amazing what money has bought in this desert city of 1.2 million. We were very happy to also get an idea of how everyone else lives in Las Vegas - away from the bright lights. Our friends there (hi, Nancy Astle!) said it's a great place to raise your kids... Our cab driver taking us to the Strip said he was from Wisconsin (his mother runs a quilt shop there....) and has never seen any of the shows there, despite living there for years.

Before we drove over the Hoover Dam on our way to Arizona, we were stopped by security, who searched the house truck. The dam would be prime target for terrorists, I guess, and they aren't taking any chances. No trucks or buses allowed, either. I didn't seem to prevent people from going to gawk - lots were there for a Saturday drive.

Our day at the Grand Canyon was perfect. Cool, but clear and sunny. The first view of the canyon was dizzyingly overwhelming. It takes a bit of time to get used to the vastness of the view. Like in the mountains, the light is changing all the time, highlighting various aspects of the red rock, the cliffs, the depths, with occasional views of the river - W-A-A-A-Y down at the bottom. We got our bicycles out and rode along the rim road, stopping as often as possible at lookout points. Then we walked back right along the rim trail. There were ants further down that we could see through our binoculars - people doing the full-day hike. Clusters of donkeys. The pathways were clearly visible, switchbacking their way down the cliff. One day we'll pre-plan our visit so that we can do the full hike to the bottom, stay overnight and hike back up the next day. But we'll have to do some high-altitude workouts before that!

Cathy and John at the Grand Canyon

A day later, we were in Sedona Arizona to meet friends from Thunder Bay. Carol and Carl Rose are very familiar with the area, spending a part of the year in Mesa. They were our tour guides in a very interesting part of the state. After rolling hills and flat sage-covered plains, we emerged from the Oak Creek Canyon to towering red rock spires, carved by the wind. There are four energy vortexes there, and, consequently, a huge number of New Agers have moved there, in addition to a large number of the Golden Agers!!. We went for a great hike around the base of Bell Rock, with a bit of scrambling over the rocks to find our way (no trail around the whole thing). It was fun, even if a cactus got me....

Our next gig was in Flagstaff yesterday (two days later), but the weather forecast called for 2 feet of snow, so we went up the road right away, hoping to beat the storm. We ended up getting maybe 5 inches in all, over three days. It was a bit dicey on the roads last night, so we only got 20 stalwarts from the Coconico guild last night. We did get the treat of staying with a new friend, Wendy Wetzel, though, and I got 5 hours of quilting in while we were there!

Now we're heading to Texas. Once we got below 5500 feet en route to Phoenix, the snow disappeared, and it's time to put our shorts on again! We are back in the land of saguaro cactus, limbs reaching for the sky, looking like lonely sentinels (stick 'em up, Bud) of the desert. My favourite kind of cactus!

It continues to be a wonderful adventure we're on. And we've only been away from home for 5 weeks! More again in a couple of weeks!


29 March 2003

Howdy y'all! From the wilds (?) of northern Georgia, here is another instalment in the tale of John & Cathy's wanderings, taking us from Arizona across Texas into the Eastern time zone!

At last report we were headed down the hill from Flagstaff, into warmer and drier weather, after a show for the Coconino quilters, somewhat reduced in numbers by the blizzard. Well, heading south solved the weather problem and we managed to get as far as Lordsburg NM to finish off the month of February. On through hot and sunny El Paso TX to Midland in the heart of the Texas oil patch. Not a very thrilling landscape, but Midland is the birthplace of the current President of the USofA. (This must be the presidential tour: we've overnighted in Simi Valley CA, home of Ronald Reagan, driven through Crawford TX, spent a night in Little Rock AR, and a couple of nights in Nashville, not far from the home of Andrew Jackson, US president in the early 1830's!)

We reconnected with the Luke family in Weatherford for a night before continuing on to Houston, to spend a leisurely evening with Gary Holmes and Anne Reekmann, our hosts during the International Quilt Festival in Oct/Nov. Our next gig for the Bay Area Quilt Guild brought back the remembrance of the Columbia space shuttle accident as the big NASA complex is nearby. The guild there is making a quilt for each of the families. It will mean more, I think, made by neighbours than anything from far away. Before the show we drove down to Galveston where one of us dipped a toe in the Bay of Mexico! From sea to sea (to sea)! And why were we humming Glen Campbell songs all day..???

Our time in Texas involved a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between north and south, so we took the opportunity to drive on as many two lane roads as we could. This enabled us to get a better sense of the country than being hemmed in by 18-wheelers on the Interstates!! On the way north to Dallas we stopped overnight with Peggy & Kyle Freeman near Henderson TX. Peggy is a fan and had written us a letter, so we made the acquaintance of her and her herd of donkeys on their 100 acre property.

From Dallas and Weatherford south we motored down Hwy 281 to San Antonio for a Saturday morning show. While there we wandered along the Riverwalk and happened on a re-enactment of the fall of the Alamo, complete with guys in costumes and cowering women and children and guns smoking and making loud noises! You may remember that the Texans seeking independence from Mexico had holed up in the Alamo and were over-run by the Mexican army, but at a subsequent battle 6 weeks later the rallying cry of "Remember the Alamo" spurred the Texans on to victory and the eventual establishment of the largest state in the Union.

Back to Weatherford and a couple of shows in Gainesville and Arlington before we attended the preview night of the Dallas Quilt Show. We met Ken and Carol Bryer Fallert there (Cathy was thrilled), and saw some very impressive quilts under the tutelage of Gay Boston, our host from Arlington. Prior to this event we visited the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas's Westend, from where President Kennedy was shot in 1963. A very tasteful display of his impact on domestic and world events.

South again on Hwy 16 to Kerrville and Fredericksburg for another Saturday morning show, and then a wander back north past Texas' version of Australia's Uluru (Ayers Rock)! The Enchanted Rock when viewed from the southern approach appears somewhat like Ayers Rock with the Olgas tacked on either end. Unfortunately this weekend was the end of the school break and we were turned away as they had too many visitors scrambling over the site!! That night we camped next to a lake on Texas's Colorado River (not to be confused with the one which has excavated the Grand Canyon), in between a number of fishermen from Wisconsin and their quilter wives! The gals spend their winters there quilting and doing weekly "shop hops" together. We even paid for our campsite in CD's!!

After shows in Waco and Temple we returned to Weatherford on Wednesday, under instructions to be there by 1:00 o'clock! Pam Luke's weekly quilting bee was at her place and we wondered what was in store. On entering we were introduced to the ladies, and the last one was Jenny Lanham (and her husband Rod), Pam's quilting buddy from Brisbane!!! This had been cooked up last year when Jenny heard that we were going to be at Pam's in March. Cathy wrote a song "Healing Hearts" on her latest CD about Jenny, but had never met her. The surprise was perfect: Cathy was "gob-smacked"!!!! We had wondered why Pam had been somewhat stressed on our previous stops at her place. Not a word from anyone who had known, including Pam's children Brendan and Erin!!

Pam, Jenny and Cathy
being hugged by Jenny's Healing Heart quilt

The surprises kept coming: at the Parker County guild meeting the next night we had both Erin and Jenny and their quilts on stage as we performed the songs in which they featured! Not a dry eye in the place! This was certainly the emotional high of the trip thus far. Our last show in Texas was at the Trinity Valley guild in Fort Worth. We attended a Rodeo at the Fort Worth Stockyards, with bull-riding, bucking broncos and ladies barrel racing. Something we never did get around to in Calgary!

At one point Cathy wrote in her journal: "Texas is: black vultures wheeling overhead, Mickey Mouse cactus, Oil wells, mesquite, dead skunks, blue bonnets (the state flower was blooming EVERYWHERE in the hill country), "Y'all", town centres built around large imposing court houses, armadillos (flat, mostly), Tex-Mex food. (tho' we did have a wonderful chicken fried steak at the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Temple TX)".

With some reluctance we headed east from Texas, where we had renewed and made friendships, but the east coast beckoned! On, on to Little Rock AR (another presidential spot) and then to Memphis TN. After a brief impromptu performance at the Uncommon Threads guild in Memphis (where we met Nancy Jackson - who used to be president of the guild we sang at last fall in Cornwall Ontario!!), we paid a visit to the old home of "The King". Graceland is now one major tourist trap. Lots of memorabilia collected over Elvis's career. And he and his parents and grandmother are buried in the backyard. Well, it's a huge yard, with a horse paddock, racquetball court, and trophy room behind the huge main house which is set well back from the road. Across the road is his automobile collection, and his airplanes, and a long line of souvenir shops. Just a bit tacky, IMHO.

On east to Nashville, "Music City". We tracked down the gravesite of Capt William Driver, who flew the "Old Glory" around the world at the stern of his ship in the early 1800's and retired to Nashville (Cathy's song "Old Glory" from "A Quilter's Embrace" cd).

William Driver's grave in Nashville TN

We spent an afternoon visiting RCA's Studio B where Chet Atkins created the Nashville Sound and in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Now that is a great place to spend a day or two!! The studio is where most of Elvis' hits were recorded and a great many more too. The university is refurbishing it to its original greatness, and the stars are lining up to be the first to record with the three track, live-to-tape studio. They created an echo effect with a little room up in the corner, a speaker to send the voice and a microphone to catch it when it came back. We even saw the Red Chair where Elvis sat. At the Hall of Fame the three storey building traces the history of country music with tons of memorabilia and music playing, and on the weekends it features songwriters, and country performers, in small program spaces. We could have stayed on but they were closing place and we had to find a campsite!

Yesterday we tromped through the Gaylord Opry Resort with its 3 huge climate-controlled atriums and the adjoining Opry Mills, a big shopping mall with a Gibson mando, banjo and dobro factory (alas, no ukeleles) as a part of the development. Then last night we attended Friday night at the Grand Old Opry, two and a half hours of a country music variety radio show which went out live on WSM! A great collection of old and new performers, with some bluegrass thrown in!! If you're ever in Nashville try to get tickets. I think we're all country music fans - W-a-a-a-y down deep.

What a month it's been! It would be difficult to hope for more joy in our adventures of the upcoming days, after our incredible time so far, but we're only just half way through the tour now, and Virginia and Newfoundland await. It has been quite fascinating to travel through especially Texas with the onset of the war in Iraq. We've met many people who have sons and grandchildren over there in the military. They seem to have a much less philosophical perspective than the rest of us: their job is to support their children, no matter what. There have been many prayers sent out at the guild meetings for their safe return. Our program seems to be a much needed relief to the worry and uncertainty surrounding their lives, which is good. The only other comment about the war was when Sandi in Temple offered someone her Dixie Chicks CD (previously her favourite) because one of the Chicks said she was ashamed that George W Bush is from Texas.... Sandi figures this is the end of the Dixie Chicks' popularity in Texas. (Grafitti seen in the grime on the back of an 18-wheeler: "Dixie Chicks = Bagdad Broads" - not our opinion!)

We have another few days of "vacation" before our first gig in Virginia. We'll collect the stories again and send another missive when we get a moment. Tonight, it's a rainy night in Georgia (but they're forecasting snow for N Carolina!!) Hope the weather is better where YOU are!

love, John & Cathy


April 25, 2003

Hello from (Almost Heaven) West Virginia!, heading for Paducah KY.

We've just finished the Virginia part of our spring tour, and what a time we've had! You might think from all these travelogues we've been sending you that we're having fun. You'd be right.

We left you in Nashville on March 29th. We still had a week to go before our next gig in Norge, Virginia. We heard that North Carolina had received 6 inches of snow, so we headed SOUTH - to Savannah Georgia. A bit out of our way, but the right decision. We went via Chattanooga, where we toured Chickamauga Battlefield (Civil War site), and learned about the battles fought in the area as well as an overview of the whole Civil War - handy for our travels around Virginia.

From there, we continued on down through Georgia, following somewhat the trail of the Union General Sherman in his march to the sea, towards the close of the American Civil War. He sacked and burned Atlanta, and spared Savannah, so the early old buildings there are very much in evidence. It's a charming city, laid out by an early English settler, Oglethorpe, with many community squares surrounded by magnificent private homes from the 1700s that have been restored. This is where "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is set, and it is filled with the grace and elegance - and ghosts - that pervade the book. There are trolley tours around the city - one of which we took - and after-dark ghost tours - which we didn't. Have to save something for next time. Savannah was full of blooming azaleas, Spanish moss, liveoak trees, and Greek columns. Lovely.

After a couple of nights here, we started north, hugging the shore and watching birds. In Myrtle Beach SC (happily quiet during the off-season) we stayed right on the Atlantic Ocean in the largest campground to date - over 1,200 sites! and saw huge numbers of miniature golf courses, each one of them featuring bright BLUE waterfalls (do they get a cheap rate on blue dye or what?)

We camped in Manteo NC the next night - home of Andy Griffith. For those of you who are TV fans of a certain age, this is the town Mr Griffith modelled Mayberry after. The campground park owner had wanted to sell his property to a shopping mall (he says it's zoned for a shopping centre), but Mr Griffith mounted a campaign to stymie the plan, and succeeded. It would sully his idyllic Mayberry! We didn't meet Andy, alas, but it was a near brush...

Every day is an adventure when you're travelling like this, and the next day, after driving down the Outer Banks to the Pea Island wildlife refuge (quite a few migratory birds), we went to Kill Devil Hills (well, there's actually only one big sand dune there and fairly constant winds), where Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first flights. And you thought it was in Kitty Hawk? Perhaps "Kitty Hawk" sounded better than the real place. It was 81 degrees F that day, and the redbud trees and wisteria vines were painting the forests purple. Getting warmer! It has been great following spring northward from Texas, through Tennessee, Georgia and up the east coast!

Our first performance in Virginia was for the Colonial Piecemakers guild in Norge, just north of Williamsburg. We had a great time with them, and then spent a day and a half at Colonial Williamsburg. Most places you go, someone has taken an historic location and restored a building, or maybe two. There might be a few interpreters around and some artifacts. But in Colonial Williamsburg, through the beneficence of the Rockefeller family, a large area within an existing community with over 800 buildings, has been purchased and restored as if it was still 1774. And hundreds of costumed interpreters to explain what life was like. It was fascinating. This was the time that the US was facing up to colonial rule from England, and just about to write its own Declaration of Independence. The Boston Tea Party had just happened. We ate supper (lamb, and "game pie") there that night by candlelight in a restored tavern, drinking ale from pottery tankards and being serenaded by a colonial troubadour. We emerged into the night and wandered down to the church to hear a concert of music on English horn, oboe and church organ.

Then we were into the bulk of the performing in Virginia. Norfolk, Hampton, Centreville, Grafton, Rockville (MD), Springfield, King of Prussia (PA, Fredericksburg, Falls Church, Smith Mountain Lake, Reston, and Burke. Everyone was enthusiastic and wonderful. Our home base for the Virginia shows was the driveway of our good friends Barb and Bill Tricarico in Vienna, who were unbelievably great hosts. We did quite a bit of sightseeing in the DC area, walking around on the Mall and through some of the various Smithsonian museums. At the American Museum of National History, we managed to see the original "Old Glory" flag (remember we visited William Driver's grave site in Nashville?). This was his flag and I wrote a song about it. They are also working on restoration of the original Stars and Stripes ("Oh, Say Can You See" - someone else's song!), cleaning and strengthening it. We were surprised that there are large chunks of it missing - including a whole star! It seems that at least one of the previous owners of this flag decided to allow "deserving" people to take pieces of it for themselves. So it's certainly looking more than a bit tattered!

We also visited the Canadian Embassy on a Saturday - when it wasn't open for business). It's a striking building, in keeping with the grand architecture of downtown Washington. On the outside is a lovely Bill Reid sculpture and an apparently useless rotunda, flanked by tall Greek columns and a continuous burbling waterfall. We saw three people lingering there for a bit, and decided to check it out. It turns out that the rotunda is actually an acoustic bell, where you can experience natural reverb while standing in the centre! We stood there and sang a Gumboots song (Long Johns), marvelling at the sounds. The other three visitors appreciated our impromptu "show".

However, we were struck by the large number of concrete barriers and traffic prohibitions there are in place in Washington these days. You can't drive in front of the White House, nor up to many of the monuments. The annual White House Easter Egg Roll was restricted for the first time in history to military families; the general public was not allowed. There was a sizable demonstration at the World Bank offices the first day we went and many of the streets were blocked off - even though the police by far outnumbered the protesters. But kids are still climbing on the Albert Einstein sculpture and eating ice cream on the Mall, and there are still cricket and baseball games on the lawns.

Our last touristy visit in Washington to the Arlington National Cemetery provides another good story: After 9-11, our friend (and Cathy's Australian quilting teacher) Jenny Armour put out a call to SCQuilter friends for small quilts to be made to a pattern she designed which commemorate the victims and be sent to New York and Washington. After attending the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, visiting Robert E Lee's pre-Civil War home and the gravesites of the Kennedy brothers, we went to see a quilt show at the Military Women's Memorial. Fifty or sixty quilts made by lots of people - including some by schoolchildren. There, we saw 13 of Jenny's little quilts made by Australian quilters! There were about 100 Aussie quilts in all sent to Washington, and those not in the show were distributed to the families of victims of the Pentagon crash. Cherie Clum (from the Burke quilt guild, who was instrumental in organising the display) said they were really appreciated by the families. Way to go, Jenny!

We had a great time at all of the quilt guilds we visited. There were even a few "groupies" who attended more than one of the guild shows in Virginia!! At the Springfield meeting, they actually put together a choir to sing for us at the end! Two songs: quilty versions of "12 Days of Christmas", and "Happy Quilts to You" (Roy Rogers, eat your heart out!).

So, the bulk of the performances are now over on this tour, even though we still have two more months till we return home. We are heading to Paducah KY for the final day of one of the largest quilt shows in the US. There, Eleanor Burns will be celebrating 25 years of quilting teaching in a big tent, and featuring two of Cathy's songs. Gotta see that! Then, we'll be on our way to Newfoundland, via a touristy visit to NYC, and a show for a guild in upstate New York, near Albany.

More later! love, cathy and john


May 19, 2003

Well, here we are at the most easterly point on our tour: Newfoundland. From here, it's all westward and homeward!!

Last message ended as we were headed to Paducah KY, to attend the second largest quilt show in the US. Paducah is a quiet little town at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, which at the end of April, attracts quilters from around the world and transforms itself into a major centre. Every bit of accommodation is taken up and even the campgrounds for miles around are full of quilters!! We drove into a KOA campground about 25 miles east of Paducah to find that it was full! However, we were allowed to park outside the activity centre where there was a plug-in and a hose. As it happened, that evening the owners were hosting a show-and-tell of quilts of the attending campers, and asked if we would join in and perhaps sing a song or two. So, under the pouring rain on the tin roof, we did. The Paducah quilt show has been in business for 19 years, and some of the returning camper folks had been to every show! There was a woman there from San Antonio Texas who had seen our performance there in March. It's the first time we've been able to combine RV-ing and quilting together. We thought we were the only ones!

The quilt show itself is spread around the town, with the main concentration in the hotel/convention centre on the waterfront. Nearby is the American Quilt Society's Museum of the best of show quilts over the years as well as special displays. This year's was "Man Made" featuring quilts made by MEN!! Some very interesting quilts. But one of the primary attractions in Paducah for us was the Eleanor Burns tent. She has been in the quilting business for twenty-five years and had put together a commemorative show of the passage of time in her quilting life. One of the items in the show was a music video based on my song "One Hundred Ways to Hide Your Stash". The video featured her son finding fabric everywhere in the house, it having been squirreled away by her assistant. Very funny!! In fact the whole show was a hoot! She is a very funny woman. Here's a picture of us on stage at Paducah:

Photo by Diane Shink

From Paducah, we drove east to Lexington in the heart of bluegrass country, and up to Columbus OH to spend an evening with Cathy's cousin. We then pointed the housetruck east through Pennsylvania to Red Bank NJ, where we reconnected with John's former babysitter from Cornwall Ontario for a couple of days. So he had to mind his P's & Q's!!

The Big Apple was our next destination. We met Barb and Bill Tricarico at his father's home in Brooklyn, and managed to squeeze our housetruck into the driveway. There is not a lot of free parking, especially for house trucks, in NYC! A trip to Rockefeller Centre, the top of the Empire State Building (once again the tallest in New York), the Guggenheim (showing its age somewhat) and then to Ground Zero. The World Trade Centre site now looks like a construction site, but there are still a couple of neighbouring high-rises shrouded in black plastic and undergoing restoration as a reminder of what took place there on 11 Sept 2001. But New York is a BIG city, and in a lot of ways like other big cities. We are small town people, and can only stand so much excitement and stimulation!! 8-))

So we were happy to move on north up the Hudson River to our next gig outside Albany for the Quilt North guild in Clifton Park. East across Vermont and New Hampshire (through the Green and the White Mountains) to Maine. Here we finally caught up with the leading edge of spring's northward march. A rainy night and distinct lack of leaves and blossoms!! It had been a great trip north from Savannah GA, in the company of spring - new green leaves and the ubiquitous redbud tree with its reddish purple flowers. But as we moved north along the Maine coast, it was clear that we were the advance harbinger of spring! Ah well, the furnace in the housetruck has been equal to the task!!

We crossed back into Canada (land of Tim Hortons and truly national banks) at St Stephen NB on the 7th May. It was good to be back in our ain countree! We had our first lobster dinner there, and then spent the night at a cottage on 8 acres overlooking the St Croix River. Cathy got out her sewing machine at their place and, while John did some banking and shopping the next day, continued to hone her machine quilting technique on a Bear's Paw quilt she's working on. It was the best view of any sewing room to date! With any luck and a bit more time, it could be completed by the time we get home at the end of June!!

We took the ferry across to Digby was the next day. We crossed to Lunenburg where we saw the Bluenose II undergoing its annual refit for the summer season (young strapping deckhands hanging from ropes to smear goo on the mast - not a bad view there, either!). Then on through Mahone Bay and Chester to a campground just north of Peggy's Cove. While in Chester we parked the housetruck to call in at the Fo'c'sle Tavern and exchanged greetings with the occupant of another similar rig. He spied our license plate asked if we were from BC. It turns out that he was from Yellowknife, touring the Maritimes with his wife and her parents. When Jane returned, having attempted to open the door of our rig (thinking it was hers), she and John recognised each other. She works for the Dept of Education in the building where John used to work!! We are certain that we have passed other Yellowknifers along the way but we haven't actually met any before this!! Another small world story....

The following day we drove out to Cape Breton. We spent the night near Baddeck and then circumnavigated the Cabot Trail in a clockwise direction. A stop in Cheticamp to pick up some Acadian folk art, and then into the fog. Happily, over the top and down the east side we were in sunshine, though the drifts of snow alongside the road bore testimony to the hard winter.

That evening we connected with Diane Shink, a quilt appraiser from Montreal whom we had met in Houston last year, and again in Paducah! Another lobster dinner, in Baddeck!! The Alexander Graham Bell interpretive centre there is well worth a few hours. He was quite a fellow, and devoted himself to inventing things, having guaranteed his living well from the sale of his patent of the telephone. He moved his family to Baddeck from Washington DC around the turn of the last century, and his family still owns the property where he developed his ideas.

We had a little extra time in Baddeck, as we heard on the news that the ferry to Newfoundland had experienced a fire about half an hour out of Channel-Port-aux-Basques. When we checked with Marine Atlantic, they said the sailing we had booked on was cancelled, but we were guaranteed passage on the next boat at 5:30 pm. In recognition of the disruption to our schedule, they gave us free passage (but not the housetruck) and a complimentary dinner!! Hopefully by this coming Wednesday the schedule will be back to normal from the "load and go" scheme they initiated to cope with the backed up traffic. The Smallwood was replaced by the smaller Lief Erikson.

The ferry crossing was calm and uneventful, apart from the port generator giving out around 10:00 pm. This meant we bobbed about on the Gulf of St Lawrence for about half an hour, and without lights or PA system for a little while. No drama!! The purser came round and announced that we would be under way again shortly. And the complimentary dinner was good!

We "broke trail" for the rest of the tourists in Newfoundland, since it was still very early for them. It was pouring rain when we disembarked around midnight, so we pulled into the Visitor Centre and dry camped (no electrical or water). In the morning we went in to the kiosk, and obtained some information and maps. This was their first day and all they had was the 2002 Tourist Guide and Map. No worries - things don't change that rapidly on the Rock! Anyway, the 2003 Map had eliminated 9 community names and replaced them with New Wes Valley. The residents were not amused and their plight was a news item on the CBC! Where is Newtown and Wesleyville now???

On to Pasadena, where we parked in the yard of Jackie and Glenn Philpott. Jackie, a former president of Canadian Quilters Association, had heard us at Quilts Canada in Edmonton last May and was an enthusiastic booster for our performance at the Long Range guild in Corner Brook. The following day we chugged up to Gros Morne National Park, and were amazed at the fjord-like coastline. We stopped at the warden's office in Glenburnie and were encouraged to have a climb up behind the Discovery Centre (not open until the next day) for a view of the Tablelands and Bonne Bay. This we did until the rotten snow and lowering cloud convinced us to retrace our steps rather than forge on to the lookout. The geology here is really unique - so much so that the park is on the UNESCO's World Heritage list. Some of the oldest rocks on the surface of the earth can be found here!! We saw five moose on the drive along the northern shore of Bonne Bay, and checked out the Gros Morne Interpretive Centre near Rocky Harbour (which was open - Day 1!). We were the only campers at the Gros Morne RV Park that night.

One of the benefits of travelling early in the spring, is that there are no crowds. The downside is that a good number of the information places are not open. But that doesn't matter when the sights are natural. At Cape Bonavista we saw ICEBERGS!!! A large number of medium sized bergs were floating in the bay and around the Cape. And the road links together a lot of smallish fishing villages, each with a waterfront location and aspect to die for! Unfortunately the cod fishery has been closed so many of these communities have a tenuous future. The crab and lobster fishery keeps most of them going.

Icebergs off Cape Bonavista NF

In Bonavista there is a gem of a display at Ryan Premises National Historic Site, which outlines the history of the Newfoundland fishery over the last 500 years. Very enlightening and well put together! From Bonavista we headed south to Cape St Mary's to visit the Ecological Reserve with its sea stack "Bird Rock". Thousands and thousands of gannets, murres, kittiwakes, herring gulls and cormorants come here to nest, on sites protected by separation from the mainland and very steep cliffs. The gannets being the largest, take the open sites on the top of the rock, while the other species nest on the ledges and crevices lower down. The entire rock appears white from a distance, covered with birds! And keeping watch over the scene we also saw a bald eagle, and a sharpshinned hawk. Looking for lunch?

Our next stop was Bay Bulls, where the O'Brien family runs a boat out to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Loyola O'Brien provided a well-informed and humourous (sometimes even musical) commentary as we cruised by the island which provides nesting sites for thousands of Atlantic puffins. The puffin is the provincial bird of Newfoundland, coming back to land in the summer months only to nest and raise the young, before heading off to winter in the open North Atlantic. We saw lots of them flying by, and lots of burrows, awaiting tenants. A second island, more rocky, is the summer nesting site of murres. And hove to in the harbour at Bay Bulls was one of the giant offshore drilling rigs in for a refit. Huge!!

Today we turned around at the most easterly point in North America: Cape Spear, and spotted another sizable berg floating off the entrance to St John's harbour. They call house-sized hunks of ice "icebergs", anything smaller is called "bergy bits". We saw lots of both.

So, now it's all westward ho! The visit to Newfoundland is certainly one of our highlights on this trip. The quilters we met, especially in St. John's, were highly accomplished and are doing world-class work. We started talking "funny" ("I likes to camp in de gravel pits, b'y!"), tried bakeapple jam and fish and brewis (salt cod and hard bread). We thoroughly enjoyed our too-short time there. Next time, we'll try to get there in the summer!


July 1, 2003

Well here we are, home in Victoria, after 5 months on the road! We finished the tour with a performance for the Lions Gate Quilters Guild in North Vancouver, and then on to the ferry the next morning! After this long away, one muses (from time to time) why we need the house and all that stuff in Victoria, when everything we've needed since the end of January has been with us in the "housetruck". However, we don't think we're quite ready to sell it all up and take to the road permanently!! 8-)) It's great to be off the road, and not have to drive anywhere for a bit.

Our last report was sent to you from the most easterly point of Canada in mid-May. After a day poking around St John's NF and the evening show for the Cabot Quilters Guild, we said au revoir to Pippy Park campground and raced (?) back across Newfoundland to Channel Port-aux-Basques to catch the night ferry to North Sydney. We had a grand day, with light winds and full sunshine across the province, only to drive in under a fog bank at the port. However, after a supper in the van in the loading area, we boarded the MV Leif Erikson, piled into our bunks and slept until breakfast the next morning.

A fairly longish drive that day to Halifax for a show for the Mayflower Quilt Guild's windup banquet. We spent a couple of days with friends in Chester, and then caught the ferry over to Prince Edward Island. This was John's first time to the "potato" isle, and we celebrated with a "Cows" ice cream on the boat! Yummm! Our campsite that night looked out on Murray Harbour where we could see a number of mussel farms, one of the other primary products of this province. Charlottetown is a charming city, with a good display about the beginnings of Canadian confederation. We caught up with an old friend, Craig Mackie, at CBC Charlottetown, and through his efforts, another friend of John's from Yellowknife, Winnie Fraser Mackay. The day before our performance for the Kindred Spirits quilters we explored the north shore dunes in the National Park at Greenwich and moseyed along the shore of St Peters Bay. The railway which used to run the entire length of the island is now a hiking/cycling track. This is quite a popular excursion for visitors in the summer and it would be fun to plan a trip around it. Before we left PEI we journeyed out to O'Leary, famous for its Potato Museum and the Guardian Drugs quilt shop. Both of these establishments merited a visit, including lunch at G&E Restaurant, where their "Fries and the Works" (fries, hamburger, peas and gravy) has been made famous by Wayne Rostad, who has a CBC television program. The McAusland Woollen Mill nearby is one of the few wool processors in Canada still catering to the individual, and you can bring your own sheep's wool to them for dyeing and spinning. They make blankets too. Cathy is not a knitter (yet!) but couldn't resist buying a couple of skeins of their fabulous wool. Our last evening on PEI saw us sampling their famous blue mussels at a restaurant in Summerside.

We chose to take the Confederation bridge back to New Brunswick. It was foggy and mysterious, and a long drive! In New Brunswick we stopped to find out more about the Acadians at Monument Lefebvre in Memramcook. Although the museum wasn't officially open yet, they allowed us to look around and find out the tragic history of these early French settlers. We also stopped by the Flowerpot Islands at low tide and walked on the ocean floor.

A performance in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea finished off our Atlantic Canadian jaunt, and we headed for Quebec. But not before we popped in to the Canadian Quilters Association juried show in Fredericton to see Cathy's "Buddy & Strider Around Australia" quilt hanging there!! Spring had caught up with us again, and there were flowers and leaves again. We had a rainy day in Vieux Quebec, wandering through the old town and walking on the Plains of Abraham. History everywhere. Quebec City is not a great place to try to find a parking spot for a house-truck, but we managed to find one and walked for hours, even down to Lower Town. The shops were charming, and the cobblestone streets very beautiful. The sun came out again as we approached Montreal.

Before we released the first quilting CD, we visited the Beaconsfield Quilt show (just west of Montreal) and admired the work from that guild. It was a delight to finally sing for them. And their Show and Tell was very impressive too.

After another performance in Mississauga Ontario, we had 11 days off before Pittsburgh. We have lots of friends and family in southern Ontario, and had no trouble filling up the days. One notable meeting was with Joyce Watson in Port Dover. We have been in contact about the Changi Quilts story (on the first CD; the song is called "Time Flies"). It turns out that Joyce met Freddy Bloom (from whose perspective I wrote the song) before she died, and also has done extensive work on finding out about Ethel Mulvaney (whose idea it was to make the quilts in the first place). Joyce came upon this story thanks to finding a cookbook at a garage sale in Port Dover, called "Prisoner of War Cookbook" written by "starving women". She tracked down information about the author - Ethel Mulvaney herself, from Manitoulin Island, Ontario - and continued her research, although Mrs. Mulvaney had died by then. Joyce has a lot of information that has helped fill in the story for us, and was kind enough to allow me to photocopy what I wanted. She's also become a new friend, through the process.

While we were in Ontario, we were able to see a couple of shows at Stratford, take in a horse show near Magnetawan with John's brother and sister-in-law (oh! those black flies!!!), attend a party for Cathy's new grand-niece (hey, Quinn!), see The Quilt show for breast cancer research in Stratford and generally have a wonderful time.

We crossed into the US again for a performance for the Three Rivers Quilt Guild in Pittsburgh, we high-tailed it for Alberta. We were to sing four days later at a retreat in Sylvan Lake. Three lo-o-o-ng driving days (and a short 7 hour drive on the fourth day), and we made it. The gang of 55+ gals have been getting together once a year for three years now. They came from California and Texas, but mostly from Western Canada. What a hoot! Their work was very inspiring, and they were clearly having a great time. We saw some old friends from our visit to the retreat two years ago (in Strathmore AB) and it was good to get caught up with them. Shirley Paterson had appliquéd a jean shirt with Australian parrots on it. It was a real surprise and delight when she gave it to me.

We were down to three more performances, and only 5 days to go before we got home. It was a little difficult to concentrate, but we made it. The enthusiasm from the audiences in Kimberley, Fernie and North Vancouver made it all easy. We finished off with a radio interview for the CBC with Sheryl MacKay, who runs a BC-wide weekend radio show. It was great to tell her about our travels, and show her the map, all highlighted with our route.

We can't believe it's over! It has been the most amazing trip, as you can probably tell. We racked up 39,000 km on the house truck through 26 states and 9 provinces. We were able to combine the concerts with some serious sightseeing, some extensive learning about history and geography, almost enough time for quilting, and a lot of meeting new friends. We've heard at least a hundred stories from quilters everywhere, and have a lot of new guild pins and fabric (not all of which Cathy bought...). John has even started his own stash....... We have memories that will last for years.

If you see us in the next little while, you will be required to take the guided tour of our photo album with all the pictures of the tour. Be prepared! Now, we are home, and working slowly through the mountain of mail (and the thatch of weeds in the garden...) and getting ready to spend summer in one place (mostly!). We'll be heading out again in September for a shorter jaunt of two months to Ontario and back.

We hope you all have enjoyed our travelogues and we wish you a wonderful
summer. See you in the fall!

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