7 June: Introduction:
We've done the Trans-Siberian; been to Outer Mongolia twice; ridden trains in Malaysia, buses in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, and camels in Israel; canoed in Fiji and Vanuatu; dived the Red sea.
Time now to hit the trail and see the homeland and heartland of my American born wife.
So after nearly two decades based in Haifa, Israel we are heading West to see the sights, and meet the people, and what better way than in a Dodge V8 camper van, zigzagging our way across the amazing country known affectionately by Ozi's as "0oza"
Starting Mid-July 2002, and ending early September the author and his wife will be sharing the joys, challenges and excitement of life on the road, meeting the people who make this country great.
22 June: Haifa
2 days to lift-off! We had that incredible bounty of meeting with the Universal House of Justice and being thanked by that amazing Body for our services, and being assured of its prayer for our future success in all that we do. The packers have come and our shipment is enroute to San Francisco. UPS has today taken one box of camping equipment to Cranston RI for us. Our bags are packed, our home is now just a house - stripped to the bare essentials and we are camping out in its remains.
As for the trip - We've had to squeeze more time into the North Eastern States, so have had to drop out the trip up the Mississippi river to St. Louis. Instead we will go directly from New Orleans to Dallas.
5 July: Rhode Island:
We've picke up the Van from Sister Suzie in New Hampshire, are repairing it and refitting it; we've got the Powerbook G4; we've got the cell phone-modem; we've got the Canon Digital video/still camera. Now we've just got to get it all to work together..
First lesson learned. Just because we are in the U.S. instead of Israel does not mean we can get everything done that we want to!
Our plan was to leave this morning for Greenacre in Maine - we may still get away later, but we are still trying to connect to AOL from a Mac running on the OS X (operating system).
I'm afraid I seem to have got us about 6 months ahead of the technology curve - Nobody we have made contact with can make an infrared-data-transfer cell phone and the OSX work together to provide internet connectivity, A0L needs to be started in OS 9.2 then you can download a "patch" which is happening as I type (so far connected for some 40 minutes -and much more still to come - I'm typing this on my sister-in-law's iMac which is connected to the internet by cable), and the Canon Digital video/still camera software also tried to load in OS 9.2 and got itself tied up in knots, so we need to take that back to the computer store where we bought it all and see if they can make it work, and, if not give, it back.
So at the moment, we have no mobile internet connection, no AOL connection for email, and no digital camera connection for uploading images to our web page.
Which means we can just lock it all away, sit back and enjoy a leisurely drive across the States - with no computer activity. We do have the Cell phone now so at least we can ring and let people know we are getting close.
On the road at last. Had our first night sleeping in the Van in a beautiful Camp Ground in Cap Cod on Wednesay 10th - that instead of going to Green Acre. Sherna had wanted to visit Cape Cod for 45 years so we did it at last. It was beautiful, and we may even get some photos up soon - We kept the camera after the guys at Tricom showed that is was possible to import images from it to the PowerBook. We saw it done with our very own eyes so we know it can be done! Now we just have to learn how to do it ourselves.
Cape Cod was 2 hours from Providence, so it was not a disaster when we found that we had left a box of computer cables, chargers, software (and most important of all - the FREE Apple baseball cap!) back at the family's home. So we headed back there and picked it all up before heading north to Malborough, MA, for a wonderful all too short visit with the Keenans (BWC 1980 - 1987). They live in a beautiful wooded area of the world.
Then it was back on I495 and on to Portland, Maine, where we are currently ensconced in the Nerbak's home (BWC circa 1995-7?). The problem is they are not here, but in Idaho with the Daleys (BWC circa 1995 - 98?? Will check the dates with our personal master list and correct later!) However, their house sitter Sherryl, was expecting us, and we had a wonderful warm welcome from their beautiful Golden Retriever - Saffron. Now I am on their computer - too lazy to get my own set up!
But yes, I got AOL to work in OS X on the PowerBook yesterday morning (10th) so we can use that if need be.
The learning curve for each item is steep enough - but doing it all at once has been mind blowing - we have hundreds of pages of manuals to read for the cell phone, the computer, the camera, the printer, the scanner - and at the same time are trying to learn the intricacies of the plumbing, electrical and gas systems of the RV, as well as the needs and performance of a 13 year old Dodge V8 automatic ... Too many things in two weeks - one week of which was a heat-wave with temperatures around 42 C (100 F) and high humidity which did nothing for the brain power!
Linda and Glen Nerbak had left us maps to their favorite haunts around Portland, so we had a delightful day driving around, and lunch at the Lobster shack on the point. Then headed north and east again stopping for a couple of hours in Freeport to shop in the Landsend and other outlets. After shopping ourselves out there, went on stopping again a bit further up the road to buy food for a picnic dinner to be had later on road.
We crossed the Canadian border at Calais - a very easy and pleasant crossing - and stopped for the night in a campingg ground in Oak Bay. Next morning headed on via St. Andrews to Monkton and Riverview for a night with Trish and David Daley. That evening we attended the Bah´a'´i; Feast with friends from Riverview, Diep and a family from further a field. Lovely evening, and our first Feast since leaving Haifa.
Next morning Trish and David took us to the "Rocks" - a wondeful geological formation on the bay of Fundy exposed only at low tide. The tides vary up to 40 feet, some of the highests in the world. Fascinating.
Then it was on to PEI over the huge, long Confederation bridge, to find Ann and Stephen. We arrived only a short time after Ann had returned from Halifax. Ann took us on a Picnic and a trip around bits close to home, followed by dinner with Chris and Valerie Phyllis, more friends from early days in Haifa. Today (15th was spend firstly on ensuring the car's steering was O.K. (it is - we just have to get used to the high center of gravity), and then learning about the history of Canadian Confederation, and Charlottetown. Finished the day with a huge Lobster dinner, and tomorrow head for the St. Lawrence Seaway enroute to Ottawa.
17 July: Stanhope, Prince Edward Island
With Stephen Gouthro and Ann Boyles
Just finished two wonderful days with Stephen and Ann in the land of Anne of Green Gables. Stuffed our selves silly with a Lobster Supper this evening. On Monday night we had dinner with Chris and Valerie Phillys (sp?) who spent a year in Haifa in 1986/7. Chris is an artist specializing in metal sculptures and today we saw his installation here in Charlottetown on the waters edge.
Tomorrow morning we head off for the St. Lawrence sea way - trying to catch the 5pm ferry to get to the other side
18 July: Ottawa, Ontario
With Bob and France Pilbrow.
Just arrived this evening at 9.30 from Baie Comeau on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway - a beautiful drive! We stayed last night on the road since leaving PEI yesterday morning. This has been our longest drive, but the scenary was spectacular. Hope we can put some images up soon..
Today was my 48th Birthday and the Pilbrows had made a birthday cake for me!
19 July - Ayr, Ontario
Had a wonderful but all too short visit with the Pilbrows. Sort of the "House guests from Hell!" - arrive late at night - eat their food, keep them up late and see Bob off to work early next morning from the comfort of their guest bed! Well we did get up and see him off and take some photos. And Nathan Pilbrow - their "little boy" (now 21!) and an accomplished web designer, help us upload our first image from our Canon Video/still camera. (Hence the shot of the van we are using on the right.)
Then off on the road again stopping for a lightening visit with Nan Wogel and sweet baby Nurisha (2 1/2)who nearly wanted to come with us in the Van. Spoke to Dan by phone at least - but some people have to work - terrible isn't it...
So here we are with the Palmers - John and Jaelayna ('86 - '94) in their delightful home in Ayr, about one hour west of Toronto.
Yesterday John took me on a canoe trip on the Grand River - the Banias it wasn't! Sherna stayed home to recuperated.. We really have to try to keep our daily drives down to 4 hours. Sandy Sparrow joined us and stayed the nigh on the Palmer's sofa then we all went for breakfast at a local cafe on Sunday morning. Then back to the Palmers where a number of dear friends appeared as the day wore on (list of names to come!) Now it's 7.30pm and I'm going to try to upload some more images from John's PC.
22 July - Ayr, Ontario
John and Jaellaya gone to work - we are cleaning up, repacking and heading for the home of Barbara Frost and Betty Philips on Lake Eire!
Sunday, 28 July, Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A
10:30: Moving too quickly now to get time to update this fully - we are trying to get to the Fulmer's in Clemston South Carolina by 29th.
But briefly, we left the Palmers, and dropped down to have lunch and a swim with Betty Frost and Barbara Philips ('74 - '87?) at their delightful lakeside cottage in Lowbanks. Now both in their eighties, but Betty still does Yoga daily and swims. We inspected their Camping van and they inspected ours and we shared notes from the road.
Then it was on to Niagra Fall. We spent a few hours on the Canadian side, including a ride on "Maid of the Mist #7", then re-entered the U.S.A. at one of the smaller bridge entries just before it closed at 11pm. Not another car in sight and very pleasant simple entry. Nice to know that we are "respectable" and that all our papers were in order!
Spent the night at a Camping ground an hour south then next morning had breakfast in Warsaw, NY before going to the the Letchworth (?) State park - nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the East". Nice place - and could do with more time. :) That's going to be a common complaint! Two months sounded so long when we started planning this trip!
Tried to ring our next hosts, the Wallines, but kept being in "out of service areas" as we in and out of valleys, so arrived unexpectedly on their doorstep two days earlier than they were ready for. Nertherless warmly welcomed, spent the night and agreed to return their on the appointed day to visit the friends they had invited.
Next day drove on to Rahn in Pennsylvania and found the place where Sherna lived as a baby - now a wonderful restaurant and reception venue. Also learnt that it had been build by a branch of the Hunsaker family back in the 1700's. Went on Merciville New Jersey to stay the night with the Tysons, and caught up with Sharon Karnick who came to visit.
Had a lovely night, then next morning headed back up the road to the Wallines for a evening with David and Katy (rest of the family being away) and another couple who came to visit. At 04:00, the next morning, (Fri - 26th) the Wallines left for Greenacre Bahá'í Summer school and at 06:30 we headed of to get in early to the Hunsakers in Marshal, Virginia.
Good thing we started early, because at 07:30 we lost generator power while on the freeway, and managed to get off to a repair shop in Hilltop running on battery power only. Replaced the alternator and got back on the freeway four hours later , only to loose power again a couple of hours further down the road. This time found that the next weakest link - the auxiliary battery charging system - could not cope with the high power output of the reconditioned alternator and had burnt out a fusible link. Managed to get to another repair shop on battery power only - this time a run by Menonites in Hagersville(sp?), Maryland. A wonderfuly clean, effecient and honourable establishment. They by-passed the auxiliary charging system for us, charged our dead flat battery to the point that the new alternater would not get overstressed, and a couple of hours later we were on the road again.
The saving graces were that this happened on the one day that we got an early start, and it was a wet, rainy day so Sherna was very happy curled up with a book in the back of the van as things were being sorted out.
Arrived at the Hunsakers fantastic country home in Marshal around dusk. They have just returned from eight years in Haifa, so recently in fact, that their furniture had not yet arrived (due to do so today - Sunday 28th). Seeing their beautiful wooden home in its georgeous country location really made it clear the sacrifice they had made to move to a small apartment on a noisy street in the dusty Mediterranean port/industrial city of Haifa.
Next day (Sat. 27th), the Hunsakers led us to the Collin's home here in Alexandria, VA. and then accompanied us on a 3 hour walking tour of Washington - 20 minutes at the Library of Congress (amazing place!), a brisk walk the length of the Mall from the Capital to the Vietnam War Memorial. The latter is truly a moving experience. Seeing yourself reflected behind the names of all those American youth who died, and knowing that for each name recorded countless Vietnamese had also lost their lives in the conflict, really gave the sense that you too could have been on the "other side" had circumstances been different.
Back to the Collins to meet with some friends for the evening. A warm, stimulating evening - a good night's sleep, and now at 11:30 am getting ready to hit the road to Durham North Carolina to catch up with Isik and Glen Cotton.
Monday, 29 July Durham, North Carolina
09:17 - At Glenn and Isak Cotton - had a very nice evening of slide shows and stories with a good number of the local community present. Now getting ready to head off to Clemson, South Carolina to stay with the Fulmers for a few days. Hope to catch up with emails and web page images during that three day stay.
Friday, 1 August: 21:30: Athens Georgia
Four wonderful days of Southern Hospitality with the Fulmers in Clemson SC. Their house was full of guests - we just arrived a few hours after Mary-Ann Gorski left to return to California, but Vermell Reid-Selth was still there as was Nell Golden, Carolyn's sister. We also saw ex-staff Bill and Gail Black and Cyn Massey who visited the Fulmer's to catch up with us.
Yesterday, (Thursday 31 July) the Fulmer's lent us their car to drive to Columbia to visit with Ethel Crawford. We were joined their by all five members of the Lausen family from Orangeville, and after lunch went to visit Lacy Crawford's resting place. We were sad not to have had the chance to see him before he passed away, but his spirit was very present in all that we did.
We attended the Feast in the Fulmer's community, then again in Ethel's community which was a very sweet bounty. This is our second feast since leaving Haifa. (Our first was in Riverview, Moncton, New Brunswick, to which we were taken by the Daleys.
Still no success in uploading any more images! Argh.. Too much to learn all at once, and no time to stay still long enough to learn it.
Now with the Moshtael's in Athens - sitting on their bed using his laptop to update this.
Tuesday 6 August: 11:30: Loxely, Alabama
Now with the Sebastiani's in Alabama, after a day in Athens with the Moshtael's and a day in Atlanta with Sandra Bean. We attended our third Feast of Perfection at which we caught up with quite a number of friends. See the newly created - Exstaff seen on the Oddessey page for a full listing of friends from Haifa that we have seen up to today (if we saw you and you are not listed - let us know!)
In Atlanta we attended the Sunday morning devotional gathering, and the start of their first historic Cluster reflection meeting. It was great to see such an active community life in process.
We left Atlanta and headed south on highway 65. As the sun started to go down we started looking for a place to park the van for the night, and noticed a little speck on the map called Mt. Carmel between Montgomery and Greenville. So we dropped off the Freeway and pulled up outside the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church - which seemed to be the only public building in Mt. Carmel. A friendly soul came out followed shortly by the young pastor - Sean from Florida. They invited us inside the the interior of the church. The first meeting was held on the site in 1829, and the interior of the church dates from around 1850. Sean's wife was leading a youth study class. They welcomed and were intrigued to have "drop-in" guests from Mt Carmel in the Holy Land. We left them with a give fo the Haifa Tourist Board brouchure of the Bahá'í gardens. (Could'nt help but notice only white faces in the group - then on the way out of the "town" in the gathering dusk, passed a less propserous church, probably the Black church? - but nobody was around by then to stop and talk to... pity.)
We found a lovely camp ground just outside of Greenville then continued on the next morning through light rain and cooler weather to the Sebastiani's in Loxely. We arrive early afternoon and after an early dinner they took us to the Gulf shore to dip our toes in the Gulf of Mexico. Felt very much like arriving in Elat at the end of the first Friday of the Four-Seas-Mad-Dash! but this had taken us a month!.
So now getting ready to sign off and head to New Orleans for a couple of days then on to the Conklings in Austin TX - ETA - 16:00 Friday 9 August.
Saturday 10, August: 22:30: Austin, Texas
Our evening with Marco and Penny, and their two sweet daughters, included a side trip to the beach to dip our toes into the Gulf of Mexico. It was a windy wet and cloudy evening - the result of the tail end of tropical depression petering out into the Gulf. We had an icecream with the family at a favourite location, then headed home.
Next morning, Sherna slept a lot while I wrote up the list of friends seen to date (see the link on the right), and answered emails. Penny was out for the morning, and Marco was at home with with the girls, but we were not very sociable ( sorry guys! ).
Despite our unsociable morning locked in the bedroom using their computer, Penny still made us a lovely lunch for when we finally emerged and rejoined them. So we had a couple more hours, then headed off for New Orleans.
The first night enroute to New Orleans (pronounced "N'awlins") we stayed at the campground of the Buccaneer State Park - which was very pleasant, but very warm and humid - the van only has A/C while it is driving. So the next evening in N'awlins we stayed at the Hotel St. Marie.
We managed to arrive in New Orleans just in time to jump onto a Paddle Steamer for a lunch trip up and down the Mississippi river. Wasn't very long, but at least we did it - and the steamer really was steam driven - its engine room was open to visit and was pretty fascinating.
We then checked into the hotel, had a swim in the pool, and nap - then walked around the city to see the sights.
Next morning a bit more sight seeing then we headed off for Texas, but kept off the Interstate Freeways and instead followed a wonderful coastal route - Hwy 82 through miles of swamp lands and Bayous, over the amazing intercoastal water-ways (about which I know nothing). We reached Port Arthur in South-east Texas and, since it was still hot and humid, checked oursleves into a Motel 6 for the night. I managed to get bitten by a couple of fire ants - which at least helped us to identify the strange bit that Sherna had on her feet from a few days earlier!
Bugs like heat and humidity....
Next morning after a rather late start, we head off to Austin, again staying off the Interstate which made for a rather longer trip, but a little more interesting. We arrived at John and Eleanores at about 18:15 and sat straight down to a lovely dinner. Sergy and Lindalee Valdivieso-Sinyakov and their son, Nicolai and daughter Sofia arrived and spend the evening with us.
Today we've managed to stay connected to AOL from my own laptop for the first time, so we spent the morning catching up on emails, and now the evening writing up this. I also loaded the Scanner Software in the hope that it would include some sort of image editing progamme - which it appears to do. But the scanner itself wont work yet in OS X - I need to purchase the OS X driver for it, or possibly restart the computer in OS 9.2 an run it from there.
In between dabbling on the computer, John and Eleanor took us on a drive around Austin - including a visit to their local Bahá'í centre, and lunch at an organic food restaurant.
But now it is late, and their daughter Martha and her friend have left after spending part of the evening with us - so time to sign off and go to bed.
The possibility of loading up some more images edges closer!
Wednesday 14, August: 10:0: Dallas, Texas
Had three lovely days in Austin with the Conklings, including a visit to the River walk at San Antonio. They live in a delightful two story Condo with high ceilings and mezzanine floor - and access to a swimming pool. It was wonderful to spend time with John and Eleanore both of whom had been such an influence on us during our early years in Haifa.
The first evening ex-staffers Sergey and Lindalee Valdiveso-Sinyakov and their children Nicolai and Sofia visited and it was wonderful to catch up with them and see their sweet children.
Then on to Dallas for two evening with Mark, Harriet and Katherine Gilman which included a gathering last night in Bertha Larralde's home with a few friends including ex-staffers Adam, Lisa Barrow and their baby girl Sydney and Miriam Taed. Other friends from the community also attended along with Bertha's boss who appeared to enjoy his first contact with a room full of Bahá'ís
Spent some time trying to find a Cruise Control Sensor for the Dodge without success. Dodge dealers say they are no longer available on the nationwide part's system so we need to haunt the wrecking yards. Unfortunately, that took the whole afternoon which could have been used on the Gilman's DSL connection uploading images...
Now Harriet is fixing breakfast then we have to hit the road for Lubbock - our next stop.
Monday, 19 August - Albuquerque, NM
Quite a bit more territory under our belt in the days since I last managed an update! - Dallas TX, Lubbock TX, Las Vegas (the litte one in New Mexico - not the well known city in Nevada), Toas NM, Sante Fe NM, and now Albuquerque.
The drive from Dallas to Lubbock was surprisingly beautiful. Rolling hills, gullies and lots of green grass, trees, and spring flowers. The summer rains had arrived in some abundance even causing some flooding. The road wound its way gently up an escarpment to the "cap stone", then all was flat for miles around as we rolled into Lubbock. Their we stayed with Louise Saunders, a roomate of Sherna from her college days both in California and Barcelona Spain during the 60's. She knew a Bahá'í called Mike Kelly and invited him over, and he brought ex-staffer (Security) Don Ewalt with him. Next morning after visiting Louise at her workplace, an adult education facility in the centre of town, we headed on over the state line to New Mexico passing through Santa Rosa.
The road dropped off the "cap stone" following spectacular gullies, with the mountains rising in the distance. That night we stayed in a campground near Los Vegas NM, then wound our way higher into the mountains through conifer forests, past babbling brooks and meadows full of flowers, then down again to Toas. In Toas city ordinance decree the all buildings resemble the adobe Pueblo style - even Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wallmart and the like. The result is a wonderful unified style even in the stip mall parts, although they do look a little weird set in the middle of acres of black asphalt parking lots...
We drove through the middle of the old part of town which looks much more authentic, and on to the Toas Pueblo - a 1000 year old Indian settlement that has chosen not to install running water or electricity, and so still houses a few hundred people in the old way.
From there we followed the spectacular gorge of the Rio Grand river towards Los Alamos, staying the night in the Bandelaier National Monument campground, high on a plateau overlooking the Frijoles Canyon. That evening, in the camp-ground's ampitheatre under the stars and the quarter moon, a young Indian park ranger told some traditional stories that she had learnt from her own grandmother who had passed away just two years ago. A very moving evening.
Next morning we descended into Frijoles Canyon and visited abandoned cliff dwellings. Shades of Avdat in Israel, only somewhat larger - as everything America tends to be!
Then on to Sante Fe - another place where most structures are in the Peublo stye. We found Stephen Ader, who lead us to our accommodation in the beautiful art filled home of Hal Larsen (himself a renowned painter) in the foothills of the mountains. There we had dinner there with Hal, Sue (a member of the community), Stephen and Inneé (Stepehen's daughter) and exstaffer (AVD) Darius (sp?) Hymes. Darius took many of the stunning photographs in Bahá'í World volume 20 (1986-1992) that Sherna used to illustrate the Sacred Writings section.
Later we returned to Stephen Ader's home for an evening of slides about the World Centre. Two youth were there who have been accepted to work at the World Centre. One is leaving for Haifa today, while the other leaves in October. They spoke of how they came to apply, and what they hope to do and achieve while there. Then Sherna presented the slides, and spoke of the public visits to the Terraces in the year since they were opened.
Then it was back to Hal's for the night. Next morning we spent wandering around Sante Fe which was holding its annual Indian Arts Market. Many streets had been blocked off and were filled with stalls selling an array of sliver, pottery, paintings, etc, etc, etc - all done by Native Americans. Truly a delight for the eyes and ears.
Satiated with art and culture we headed out, and followed the "Torquoise trail" (Highway 14), a two lane winding country road from Sante Fe to Albuquerque, with a side trip up to Sandia crest - a steep 10,000 ft mountain overlooking the city where the citizens ski in winter.
Finally a run from the top of the mountain down a winding dirt road into the outskirts of the city, and here we are with the Guhrkes!
For some reason of all the beautiful scenery we have passed through so far, I find it is still the rugged, stark grandeur of desert canyons that moves me the most.
Part 2 of this diary was lost when Geocities died... pity...