16 February 2007

As we motor across west Texas, I have a moment to start our tour tales for this exciting 5 month tour. We will be traveling the perimeter of the United States over the next while, and doing almost 60 performances for quilters as we go and driving upwards of 40,000 km in our little VW diesel Jetta. (yes, we were able to fit everything in, just not see out the back window!)  John has been working hard at booking this tour for over a year, and he's done a great job. We'll be doing a combination of new guilds and ones we've visited before, as well as seeing lots of good friends and family along the way.

We left on February 4th, the day after my birthday. After spending about an hour and a half with the border formalities, we were driving down I-5 on Superbowl Sunday. This is the day when all the guys stay home with beer and too many snacks to watch the final football game of the season. So Aunt Mary's Quilt shop in Arlington WA decided to have a day-long quilting retreat. We dropped in on our way through town and sang a couple of songs for them.

Our friends Mary and Dusty in Salem OR were kind enough to offer us a bed for the night again. We have bonded over not only quilting but also family genealogy, and it's always great to compare notes on our findings.

We dropped in on the Piecemakers of Southern Alameda County in Fremont CA a couple of nights later. We sang for them two years ago, and we were happy to see everyone again. The program that night was Ellen Edith, a cartoonist who has moved her creativity over to quilting.  Her quilts and fabrics are very whimsical and fun. Quite a bit of it went out the door that night with everyone (but not me, alas - no room in the car!!!)

The beginning part of this tour is not too onerous, which means we can do a bit of sightseeing. Our first "official" performance was at San Juan Capistrano, just south of Los Angeles. The Beach Cities Quilt Guild was enthusiastic and generous. The next morning, before we left, we visited the Mission there. Originally built in 1776, it was severely damaged (the Stone Church was destroyed) in an earthquake in the 1800s.  But much of it remains, including the oldest mission chapel in California, in continuous operation since its inception. 

San Juan Capistrano was immortalized in song earlier in the 20th Century by Leon René in "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano". The mission priest realized that local merchants were knocking down the mud nests of these messy birds, and decided that the mission would be a haven for them. He noticed that they often return to Capistrano in November, on the feast day of St. Joseph. The story caught the songwriter's ear, and the rest is history.



Here are the bells of San Juan Capistrano. The two small ones are original. The large bells were recast more recently, and the originals are hanging in front of the church ruins.


One of the joys of having a little extra time is being able to try different roads - NON-Interstate.  We were heading for the Palm Springs area that day, so we went through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains to the Coachella Valley on highway 74. It was absolutely beautiful, with long views between the mountains and lots of cacti. We had left winter behind.




We paid a quick visit to the Coachella Valley Quilt Guild in Palm Desert the next morning. We sang for them a couple of years ago and wanted to let them know about the new CD. In Palm Desert we met the first of a series of Snowbirds escaping winter in the north.  While their husbands golf the many courses in the area, the women are quilting up a storm. I met a woman from Victoria BC who was attending her first meeting, to see if it might be something she wanted to get involved in. I hope she does. We enjoyed an inspiring presentation by Don Beld, a quilter who got started after he lost his wife and son months apart. He has devoted his quilting life to community service now, and started the "Home of the Brave" quilts for the families of fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. They are all hand pieced, mostly hand-quilted, and very powerful.

We had the remainder of the day in Indio, so we thought we'd be able to fit in a hot-air balloon ride.  We tried a couple of years ago in the Sonoma Valley of California, but it was cancelled due to wind. We met our pilot Bill and 6 other adventurers at 3:30 that afternoon. Signed our lives away with the release form, got the safety spiel, and took the van out to the launch site. Only then did Bill mention that our flight was still weather dependent. He called the weather bureau, got detailed predictions, and took on-the-site anemometer readings for wind speed.  No go, alas.

Nor was it a go the next morning at 5:00am. Our flight will have to wait till another time!  Here's a picture of us with the basket, and of another balloon that DID fly that day!


Our next performance was in Yuma, Arizona, but we had a couple of days to get there. Leaving Palm Desert heading south, we stopped at the Salton Sea, the largest lake in California, and 25% saltier than the Pacific Ocean. It sits between two major fault lines, and was created when a sink was formed between them. The Colorado River has filled the sea several times during its history.  Now it is fed by runoff from the agricultural area surrounding it, and consequently it is becoming saltier. Once or twice a year an algae bloom takes over, and depletes oxygen in the water, causing many of the fish to die.  That was occurring when we visited. The waves at the south end of the sea (where the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge is) looked BLACK! (hope you don't mind - I didn't take a picture of the dead fish....)

Yuma AZ is Snowbird Heaven. Hot, dry, with a great many retirees looking for something to fill their time.  As you can imagine, there are lots of quilters (and golf courses) there! In the local shopping centre, we saw more BC license plates than Arizonan. Arlene Rich, whom we met in Wenatchee WA a few years ago, organized a sold-out performance in the local church on Tuesday afternoon. Great fun, to sing for such an eclectic group from all over North America (even one visitor from England!). And John was happy that a few quilters' husbands showed up too.

A day's drive from Yuma, we spent a couple of nights in Tucson AZ. One reason was to see John's cousin Tom, but we had stopped there before and were intrigued by the area. It was a great opportunity to explore a bit more. Apart from the magnificent Southwestern architecture (very Spanish-inspired, lots of adobe), we were delighted to be surrounded by Saguaro cactus.  These are the most impressive cacti, resembling 15-20 feet tall humans with arms reaching toward the sky. The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum allowed us to get up close and personal with them, as well as learning about the many wonderful flora and fauna in the area. It is an excellent, 50+ year old facility, highly recommended.

Aren't they wonderful? These ones are probably 150 years old!
The one on the right is a crested saguaro, quite rare.
Usually they are straight at the top, like the one on the left.

So, now we're back in Texas. We've already been "Y'all"ed at dinner last night at K-Bob's Steak House in Fort Stockton, and the speed limit is up to 80mph (130 kph). The skies are clear, but the temperature has dipped and we're back in our woolies until it warms up. Hey, it's much warmer than the rest of the country, and there's no snow here! We're on our way to Hill Country today to sing in New Braunfels tomorrow. Lots more great adventures to come, if our first 10 days are any indication!

25 February 2007
Just north of Tampa, Florida

There was hardly enough time in Texas to say "y'all", in the end.  We loved our gig in New Braunfels - a German area of Texas just NE of San Antonio. It's a very charming place, and we were able to enjoy the hospitality at the Accents of Gruene B&B and had dinner at the Gristmill Restaurant in Gruene, just north of New Braunfels. We have been eating very well on this tour so far!

After the performance in New Braunfels, we aimed for Corpus Christi for two nights. This is an important birding area, flavoured by the culture of the Gulf of Mexico. There are lots of seafood restaurants, pelicans, and car washes for washing boats as well as cars. We ate at Catfish Charlie's, which was a wonderful find - inexpensive, fun, and our first taste of Cajun cooking. Very popular, too.  Corpus Christi was our base for birdwatching at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where the whooping cranes nest. We saw three flying overhead on our way in, two more from a great distance within the refuge.  We stretched our legs on the walkways through the refuge, which was nice after all the driving we'd been doing. There were alligators, pelicans (white and brown), a roseate spoonbill, herons, javelinas (wild pigs), and two armadillos!  There were also a few dolphins that we saw on the ferry across the Intracoastal Waterway. All in all, a great day for wildlife watching!

A quick visit to the far south of Texas, to Harlingen.  This is another place frequented by Snowbirds looking for the sun. They must also want to find other snowbirds!  I found it quite ironic that, now that we are no longer traveling with an RV or trailer, this was the first time we'd actually sung at an RV park!  Lots of BC and Alberta licence plates there!

We had an 8-day break between gigs, so we took advantage and stopped in New Orleans on our way towards Florida.  We did wonder if they would be ready for visitors again, after the horrific devastation of Hurricane Katrina and broken levees.  They are!  Virtually everyone we met thanked us for visiting, and asked us to tell everyone that New Orleans is open for business (and tourists) again!  We arrived the day AFTER Mardi Gras (timing.... ) to find Mardi Gras beads scattered everywhere, even on some of the sculptures, and bits of feathers from the masks that everyone wore. The first night, we were hard pressed to find a restaurant open - a lot of them were closed for recovery.  One day, we will have to get there in time for Mardi Gras - it sounds like it's a GREAT party!

Flowers, beads, balls, shiny stuff - happy Mardi Gras!

The French Quarter was not affected by the flooding, and we stayed very near what's called the Vieux Carre (pronounced Voo CarrAY). It's a charming, European-feeling area, with restaurants and street musicians everywhere.  We didn't hear a bad musician once. Jazz guitarists, trombonists, bassists, vocalists - all wonderful, every one whom we would be happy to spend a whole evening listening to. We ate the obligatory Muffalettas (Italian bread with cheese, prosciutto, and olive spread), Cajun gumbo, beignettes (a crispy doughnut with oodles of icing sugar).  Yum! 


On our second day in New Orleans, we took a "Katrina tour", looking around at the damage still very much in evidence, a year and a half after the event.  Our tour guide and driver, George, was a survivor: he and his wife evacuated to Beaumont TX a day before Katrina landed, and came back eventually to find that their house, like most of the other 125,000 damaged homes, were flooded out, not wind-damaged.  They had moved important stuff up to the second floor before they evacuated, but because the levees broke, the briny water from Lake Pontchartrian poured in, filling their house to a depth of 12 feet.  Once the levees had been repaired and pumps restarted, the flooding was removed, but by the time George and his wife  were able to get back to their home and begin repairs, the mould had taken over.  They have since relocated to another suburb which was not inundated.

Abandoned house with watermark halfway up the front door



It was very sobering to drive through these previously flooded suburbs, and see street after street of derelict homes, still with the waterline very much in evidence, and no sign of repairs being made.  George indicated that less than 10% of damaged homes had been repaired, and something less than 10% were in the process of repair.  The big problem is that insurance payouts and other government financial assistance are very slow in filtering through the bureaucracy, and of course there is a major shortage of skilled electricians, carpenters and plumbers.  There are trailers parked in front of some homes, indicating that the owners have returned and are attempting to put their lives back in order, but a majority of the evacuees have not been able, or willing, to return: no accommodation, and no job.  The scale of this disaster is hard to imagine unless one sees it, and the situation is repeated in many communities along the Gulf coast.  There is no quick and easy fix.  One small bright spot in this dark situation is the work of Habitat for Humanity which is constructing new homes in a section of the 9th Ward, intended primarily for musicians, who are an essential component of the life of New Orleans.

Brand New Habitat for Humanity homes in 9th Ward

We also toured St. Louis Cemetery No 1 the next day, where because of the very high water table, caskets are "buried" in above-ground brick tombs.  An interesting way of coping with the interment of the deceased!!  The tomb of the "Voodoo Queen" is located there, and one can see the evidence of the visit of many fans, with candles and offerings placed around the tomb, and XXX graffiti written on the tomb to ward off evil.

On then to Mobile Alabama, and into the Florida panhandle, keeping to the coastal road as much as possible.  Here we began to encounter many more vehicles with license plates from Ontario and Quebec, as well as from the northern states.  The Gulf coast is known for its flat, white sand beaches, and the snowbirds flock here each winter.  Our friends, Dave and Sylvia Irvine, drove down from Nova Scotia to a condo on Anna Maria Island, and we were able spend a night with them, before continuing over to the Atlantic Coast for our first Florida gig in Satellite Beach.  We have eight shows in this state over the next couple of weeks, and will be soaking up the warmth before we head north along the eastern seaboard.  More later!

19 March 2007
Leaving the South

As we head north towards Virginia, it's time to catch up on our travels in balmy Florida!  We've spent the last two and a half weeks in sunshine with many old and new friends. We encountered many people from  northern climes - not a surprise, considering how popular snowbirding is.

We started our adventures by driving along the Gulf coast towards Tampa Bay. Our old friends Dave and Sylvia from Nova Scotia were renting a place on Anna Maria Island for a couple of months. We had a lovely long walk on the pure-white sand on the island. It was like walking on icing sugar.

Our first performance was a retun to Seaside Piecemakers in Satellite Beach FL. Satellite Beach is just south of Cape Canaveral, where the space shuttle blasts off. The big news while we were there was a hailstorm that slightly damaged the shuttle, and delayed its departure. We drove north along the coast to New Smyrna Beach, to see university friends of John's. Ski and Fred now live there full-time. The thing to do in Florida in the winter seems to be beachwalking and we set out for a marathon 4 hour walk (oops, I forgot my sunblock!), catching sight of lots of joggers, walkers, kite-flyers, pelicans, and motorcyclists. It's Bike Week in Daytona, and there are motorcycles EVERYWHERE!

Our performance in Port Orange was held in a gated, fly-in community. We were unfamiliar with this kind of community, and found it fascinating. Unfortunately, the night before our program there, a small plane had crashed in a field within the gates, after takeoff.

Then we drove to the big city of Orlando. We met new friends, Kim and Dave, who share our love of folk music and quilts. Dave is an accomplished Appalachian dulcimer player and treated us to a couple of songs when we arrived.  Kim invited us to stay for the next morning, to sit and sew with her "Land of Cotton" quilters. It was lovely to have some sewing time, and to meet everyone. We sang a few songs for them, too. Alas, there was not time in Orlando to visit Disney World - but we did see the nightly fireworks on our drive home that night.

The Villages was our next stop. We thought we had seen how snowbirders and full-timers live in Florida. It's a slower lifestyle, with lots of water-oriented activities. But when we  landed in The Villages, we saw another life.  This is a planned community of about 70,000 people, each with their own private home. What makes it enticing is the huge array of activities contained within the walls of the town. They have a number of walled, private residential areas, and large, fully-stocked recreation centres for each. There is a town centre surrounded by restaurants where people spend the evenings dancing. They have all sorts of leisure activities, including softball tournaments, 23 golf courses, theatre troupes, polo grounds, a philharmonic orchestra,  and a quilt group that currently has NINE satellite groups of anywhere between 25-70 members , each meeting on Tuesday mornings. It seems that everyone drives around within the confines of this large community in golf carts. It truly was amazing.

Welcome to The Villages, Florida

The best way to get around in The Villages

We took the Florida Turnpike (toll road) down to Stuart, on our way to Miami. We spent a delightful couple of nights with Ann and Bob, Long Islanders who live for quilting (Ann) and fishing (Bob). We sure haven't been meeting many native Floridians!

A return to the Miami quilting guild, which meets in a charming church that started its life as a private home, then we had a little fun.  Ater our performance Kitty was our tour director and took us to the Fairchild Gardens, a tropical gardens with a huge extra: a display by the glass artist, Dale Chihuly.  We saw a similar display at Kew Gardens in London England a year and a half ago, and were keen to see how his art would show in Florida. It was stunning, as it was in London too. We also saw iguanas there, although they were not welcome, as they eat the hibiscus plants.  Our tour guide advised us that we could not remove plants from the garden, but the iguanas were fair game!

Two male iguanas, at the end of their orange mating colouring.

We left Kitty at the end of our visit to the garden, and struck out on our own to see South Beach, Miami Beach. This is THE PLACE TO BE on a Saturday afternoon, it seems. We crossed over the causeway, past four cruise ships, the island where Oprah Winfrey and other famous people own condos, and inched onto Ocean Blvd. We were interested in seeing the Art Deco architecture, and perhaps see a couple of models (whom we were assured are seen along the street and in the restaurants). We drove about a mile and a half along the Boulevard, in about 90 minutes. The Art Deco buildings were amazing, but no moreso than the wide range of humans we saw in various stages of undress (it is right beside the beach). We think the Winter Break crowd was there to party.  Instead of a bird or fauna count, we did some car-spotting: 1 Maserati, 1 Bentley, and 2 Lamborghinis! It was amazing.

South Beach Strip on a Saturday afternoon

Two years ago, on our last tour to these parts, we had planned to go on a getaway to Key West.  Unfortunately, the day we were to go, I was flat on my back with the 'flu, and we had to cancel. This time, we did the 4-hour drive from Miami along the long thin band of pavement to the southernmost part of the USA.

Key West is one of the unique places in the US, and, if I were to characterize it, I would say it is the land of Hemingway, wild roosters, conch (chowder, fritters, etc), sunsets, cruise ships, and Margueritas. You can watch ex-pat Cubans hand-rolling cigars in their shops, or pick up a Key Lime pie from any number of places who claim theirs as the "best". At sunset, everyone gathers on Mallory Square to watch multitudes of street performers perform amazing stunts (always with the help of audience members), just before the sun drops into the Gulf of Mexico.  We're told that usually the accumulated throngs applaud the sun when it has departed, but on this day, the two cruise ships were still in port, blocking most of the view, and leading to lots of disgruntled mutterings.  It was still lovely.

Everybody had to squeeze together to see the sunset!

One of our favourite drives is along the Tamiami Trail, highway 41, through the Everglades. The last time we did this was in 2005 (check out our Spring 2005 travelogue). At that time, we were traveling in a Chevy Astro Van and pulling our little trailer. This time, the only negative thing I can say about our VW Jetta diesel is: it's not quite high enough to see clearly over the guard rail. The result is that we couldn't see as many alligators from the car on the way. Still, I counted 41 alligators, 11 Great Blue Herons, 5 Little Blue Herons, 10 Anhingas, and 8 large turtles. Not bad, for not seeing very clearly!

I had a surprise waiting for John when we arrived at our friends' Joanne and Charlie's place on Pine Island. It was his birthday, and I had been working on a surprise memory quilt for him, with the help of 48 of his friends and family who had contributed blocks for the quilt. Amazingly enough, it remained a complete surprise for John, and when he opened the box, he was "gobsmacked"! Thanks to everyone who helped in the making of this, including Susan Purney-Mark who completed the binding for me and mailed it from home.  It's very difficult to keep something a surprise when we spend every day together.  It's also very difficult to hide a quilt in a car for 5 weeks, which I happily didn't have to do! Before we left Pine Island, Charlie and Joanne took us out to lunch by boat with friends. It was a lovely, relaxing time. We wished we could have stayed longer.

John and his new quilt!

A performance in St. Petersburg followed, meeting Barb and Bob (another quilter/fisherman combination - we should introduce them to Ann and Bob!) (Is there some reason all the fishermen have the name of "Bob"?!?). Then a return to the centre of Florida for our last performance in Leesburg.  We stayed only a couple of miles south of our accommodation in the Villages, but outside of the town proper. It was a tremendous gig, with a wonderful reception from the Quilting Sisters Guild, despite the fabric sale that was awaiting them after our show. One shouldn't get between quilters and fabric - it could be dangerous!!

So, that was the end of our time in Florida on this trip.  It looks like we'll be back again in a couple of years - a few of the guilds we visited have already asked us to come back.  We don't mind coming to Florida at all at this time of year - we've been living in shorts and t-shirts, eating large amounts of seafood, and walking on beaches.  It's been lovely.  It's also surprising how many people have come from other places we've visited up north, or are going to go home and talke their guilds into having us come for a program.  Thanks to our new friends in Florida for their kindness, and we look forward to our next visit!

We stopped in Jesup GA on our way north, after leaving Leesburg. Mavis Rosbach suggested a song title for the "In The Heart of a Quilt" CD: "Done Is Better Than Perfect". When she heard we would be passing through Georgia on our way north, she invited us to sing for her guild. It's a small guild of about 25, but they were very enthusiastic. I also taught my Turtle class to them after the performance. Mavis and her husband Jeff are transplants from Washington state, and they were perfect hosts, introducing us to the joys and finer points of Georgian life. They took us to an amazing restaurant in the middle of farm country, called Reedy Creek Restaurant, which we would recommend to anyone travelling through. The challenge would be: how to find it. They served some of the best steaks we've had, amid the bare boards of an old Georgia homestead. It was wonderful.

Reedy Creek Restaurant in Jesup GA

And now, we're back on I-95 heading north to Virginia. A reminder of winter overnight was a temperature dip to 30 degrees F, so today we are back in our woolies.  The sky is clear, though, and it promises to warm up.  Now, we will follow the spring blossoms north. On the weekend we'll find out how far spring is progressing in England, as we'll be flying from Washington DC to Scarborough to sing for the Quilters Guild of the Brisih Isles AGM. More to come!


May 12 2007

Oh, my, where has the time gone?  We were very busy during the month of April, as promised.  We had a great month!

From Georgia, our travels took us north by car to Virginia. The first weekend there, we flew over to England to sing for the banquet at the Quilter’s Guild of the British Isles AGM in Scarborough, Yorkshire.  It was a wonderful time.  We stayed in a hotel that was perched on the cliff overlooking the town, and the wild North Sea. The spring tides were particularly high and the first night the waves were crashing over cars parked at the Spa, where the conference was held.  The North Sea is chilly at the best of times, but at the end of March, it was particularly frigid.  We were amazed to see 15 or 20 surfers stoically riding the waves every day we were there. I stopped one of them for this photo op – he was fully rigged out!

Winter surfing in Yorkshire - is he crazy????

One of the most wonderful things in Scarborough happened just after we left the stage.  Janet Rae introduced herself to me. She was the author of “Quilts of the British Isles” in 1987, and is responsible for “finding” the Rajah quilt. She is the first to have published a photograph of the quilt, and she helped to liaise between the Edinburgh owners of the quilt and the Australians, who eventually purchased it. It was fascinating to hear her version of the events.




 We returned to the US to continue our tour of the Eastern Seaboard,
with shows in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
We had the opportunity to visit Hershey, PA, the town built on chocolate.
This was particularly wonderful for John, the chocoholic in the marriage
(although I’ve come to enjoy it too….. LOL!). 

The influence of Hershey’s tastiest commodity has permeated the town,
as evidenced by their choice of street lamps on Chocolate Street.






In Beaver Falls, PA, we met Linda McCuean, who just won the big prize for the 2006 $100,000 Quilting Challenge. Yes, she won  $100,000!  Although we did not see the quilt, she described it as a whole cloth quilt she did on her long-arm machine that was voted as best in the contest by the readers.  She was VERY happy! 

In Attleboro, MA, we had a very “hot” time – at dinner with Dotty Blair, we had just started in on our Caesar salads when the fire alarm went off. Someone had disposed of their cigarette in the garbage in the rest room, and the entire fire department (plus supervisors and volunteers) descended on the restaurant.  Needless to say, we all had to leave. We should have brought our salads with us, as we ran out of time after about 45 minutes, and moved on to another option before the meeting….Hello Wendys!!!

 At that meeting, I met a woman who had made 4 sweaters for the oiled Fairy Penguins in Australia, which I sing about in James Gordon’s “Sweaters for Penguins”.

 In April we did a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing, across Pennsylvania to Ohio (through some snow) and back to the coast. Spring was emerging as we traveled. Daffodils and flowering trees everywhere.  One of the joys of spring touring (if we’ve planned it correctly) is the ability to follow spring, and make it last for months. We met hundreds of wonderful quilters and saw their amazing work.  Repeat visits to Deltaville, Fredericksburg VA (after having had to cancel our show there two years ago due to illness), Trappe PA and Woodbridge VA.

 While in Northern Virginia, we heard about the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, and met many people who knew students there. It was a very emotional time for everyone. We also bade a final farewell to fellow SCQuilter (Southern Cross Quilters, the on-line Australia/New Zealand internet group) Kathryn Sheehan, who succumbed to breast cancer.  The week before she died, she attended one of our concerts, and we were happy to be able to make her smile during the show.

At our performance in Trappe PA, two very important people attended the show: Arlene Greenwald told me the story of her growing up in a  quilting family in Pennsylvania, and I turned it into the song “One Pot of Soup” on the “In the Heart of a Quilt” cd. Vickie Lopresti asked permission to use my song “Trapper and His Bride” as inspiration for what turned into an award-winning quilt. To see her quilt, check it out at <www.singingquilter.com/inspired.htm.  Both of them were there, with quilts to show. It was a great night.

Cathy with Brian and Arlene Greenwald
We are holding one of her grandmother's quilts.

We had an interesting afternoon at the Salem Witch Museum in Salem Mass. I didn’t know that only 19 people died during that horrible time, all as a result of a few hallucinating teenaged girls (possibly affected by poisoned food). It wasn’t a very happy time to live, I think.

We had a few days off in the Boston area and took the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing.  We heard that the “Big Dig”, the ambitious plan to tunnel the main Interstate highway underneath the city centre, was $333,000,000 over budget (yes, that’s $333 million!). We drove it twice, and it sure was nice to avoid the major slowdowns that would have been happening before that. We found out later that that section of the road is also known as “the Car Wash”, in that it sometimes leaks.  Hmmmm….

Entrance to the "Big Dig" - windshield wipers working?

We took one day to explore Boston city itself, and followed the trails (and trials) of Paul Revere. We walked the streets of old Boston to find ancient gravestones, churches, and Paul Revere's house, one of the oldest buildings still standing. We ate Boston Cream Pie and New England clam chowder (couldn’t find any Boston beans, though….). One day we walked the hallowed paths of Harvard Yard and the Boston Common. On another we visited the impressive John F. Kennedy Museum and Library, just south of town.

June 17, 2007

Greetings from Grand Junction Colorado!  Oh, boy, have we been traveling since our last report!  I have so much to tell you.

 We left the Boston area and headed north to Ontario, Canada. Our gig was in Timmins – believe it or not, I have never sung there before, although I have sung nearby.  We sang at the 4th annual get together of all the quilt guilds in the north-eastern Ontario area.  Marnie Mascioli arranged for us to be there.  They took over the local high school, and there were quilts draped everywhere. We sang in the beautiful theatre/auditorium in the afternoon. Timmins is the home of the country music star Shania Twain, and the town boasts a Shania Twain centre, which is unfortunately about to get moved because they are going to expand the mine to that site). But the real tragedy for the locals in the mine expansion is not Shania’s relocation, but the destruction of the hockey arena. It’s where Frank Mahovalich and Tim Horton got their start, after all! 

Are we the only ones to find this sign for the Shania Twain Centre AND the Underground Gold Mine tour ironic?

We made it back to Ottawa in time to see the famous Tulip Festival. There are two best times to be in Ottawa: in the fall, when the maple leaves have turned to red, and in the spring for the blooming of thousands of tulips. They are a reminder that Canada was very kind to the Netherlands during WWII; not only were we on the front lines to liberate the country, but we also took care of the Royal Family during the war. In fact, the Canadian government ceded a part of the Ottawa Civic Hospital so that the Princess could be born on Dutch soil!!  As a thank you, Ottawa is never short of tulip bulbs.

Tulips everywhere!!!

It was then a whirlwind couple of weeks with shows in Pembroke Ontario (check out the deer parts at the back of the stage on the photo below, Orillia ON, and Toledo OH, then BACK to Toronto to attend my niece’s wedding, seeing family in Buffalo NY and Cleveland OH, and another gig in Columbus OH. Then back to Ontario to do some serious family genealogy work (Cathy’s side) and meet up with some new-found relatives. It was a very full and wonderful time, but we were happy to get back to singing again in Whitby and Kingston and on Manitoulin Island.

Yes, that is what you think it is on the left! And note the very attractive deer feet holding up the gun....


Manitoulin Island is where Ethel Mulvaney, the instigator of the Changi Quilts (see "Time Flies" on the "One Stitch at a Time" cd) came from. One of these days we'll have enough time to actually visit her grave, but there were women in the audience of the Manitoulin Island quilt retreat who knew of her. We sang in an absolutely gorgeous retreat camp on a lake. Wish we could have stayed!!!

Following the north shore of Lake Superior, we saw one moose, a bear, lots of deer and many turtles on the road.  In Thunder Bay we reconnected with quilting friends, and Miller relatives there and in Fort Frances, before crossing the border again to Duluth.

Our next performance was in Waite Park MN, a suburb of St. Cloud. It was Gruber’s Quilt Shop’s 25th anniversary, and we were a featured entertainment. What a great quilt shop! Not only do they have lots and LOTS of fabric, but there’s also a side room full of wool and fancy yarns. Next door is a scrapbooking place. The florist is across the courtyard. And across the street, they have a building devoted to quilting retreats, with 14 beds and kitchen facilities and two large rooms set up for sewing. Heaven!  I had to pry myself out of the yarn shop, and then pry myself out of the fabric part of the shop. 

We continued west from Minnesota, on the final leg of this tour. We made our way south through Iowa, by chance through Sac County. John spotted the first barn with a quilt block on the side. Then he saw another, and another, and many more after that.  It turns out that Sac County is famous for their “Barn Quilts”, and you can find out more about them on their website <http://www.barnquilts.com>. What a neat idea! 

Before we sang for the Columbine Quilt Guild in Arvada CO, we ventured out to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden. They have a lovely spot, nestled in the mountains outside of Denver, and lots of beautiful quilts.  We were able to take in a talk by Ellen Anne Eddy amid her amazing thread-painted quilts.

We had a few days off after our performance in Arvada, and we headed south to Colorado Springs, where more beauty and adventures awaited. First off, we took a walk through the Garden of the Gods, where towering red shapes in stone fascinated us. During our walk, we heard music, and it wasn’t the music of the gods, but a classical trio getting ready for a wedding in the park. What a magical place to get married!

The trio awaiting Bride and Groom                                          John in the Garden of the Gods        

The next day we hopped on the Cog Train up to the top of Pike’s Peak.  People have been doing this for more than a century, using much the same technology. Two hours later, at 14,000 feet and 30 degrees cooler, we were on top. With snow. What a view!  This is as high as I've ever been while still standing on the ground!!

Colorado is a particularly beautiful state. We had a lovely drive through the mountains, along the Arkansas River (where there were many, many rafters in wet suits), and over the Continental Divide to get to Delta, in the west of the state. Barbara Murdoch had seen us perform in Yuma at the beginning of this tour (way back in February!), and asked if we could stop by and sing for her community. She advertised it to all the quilters in the area, and enticed almost 100 (including some courageous husbands!) to attend. It was a very hot day, and I think everyone was happy to be indoors.

That was yesterday. Today, we drove over Grand Mesa, one of the largest flat-topped mountains in the world. It was lovely to be in such a lush area with spectacular views of desert below. The temperatures have been very hot in the lowlands, and it was so refreshing to be cool again.

This was our lunch stop just before descending from Grand Mesa.

There are three more concerts to go on this tour – and one class to teach – before we head for home.  We’ve had such amazing adventures during the last five months, we can’t possibly include them all here, but I hope you’ve enjoyed following along. We’ve met hundreds of wonderful people, and seen so many places. Thank you to everyone who made this tour so delightful. We’re tired, but happy, and looking forward to getting home to our own bed again soon.

Tuesday, 27 June 2007

Well, we are home at last, after a very exciting end to our tour. 

In Grand Junction CO, we explored superficially the Colorado National Monument, a cliff-face of exposed red rock, and then joined a rafting trip down the Colorado River from Grand Junction to Fruita.  A very leisurely float with no effort at all. 

John and our vehicle of the day.

Our next gig was in Provo UT for the Utah Valley quilters, where we spent an evening with Megan Legas, who organised a potluck supper with the board on our behalf.  And then on south to Kanab for an overnight en route to Flagstaff AZ.  Our route south from Kanab followed US89A to cross the Colorado River again near Lee's Ferry.  Quite a picturesque route, and on in to Flagstaff to meet up with our friend Wendy Wetzel and a performance for the Coconino quilters before returning north to Blanding UT for "Quilting Under the Blues".  Our  route north took us through the iconic Monument Valley, and we finally caught sight of the Abajo Mountains, otherwise known as "the Blues". 

Monument Valley - where's my horse?

This quilt festival was an inaugural event, and we were mightily impressed by the friendly warmth which radiated from all of the organisers and participants.  Janet Wilcox was the prime mover behind the event, and made us feel like we belonged.  It was a high point on which to end the tour!!

Janet with quilted cakes. She - and they - still looking fresh at the end of the show!

A couple of long days on the Interstate system and Washington state highways brought us back into Canada at Oroville WA/Osoyoos BC, and after a night with John's daughter in Oliver, we eventually caught the ferry home!  Again our thanks to all of our contacts and new (and old) friends, who contributed so much to the fun and success of this tour: 36,500 km (about 23,000 mi) in the five months.  See you next time!!


Back to Tour Tales