A Night Crossing

On Wednesday night we took the overnight ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland aboard the Marine Atlantic ferry Atlantic Vision. The night crossing took us approximately 16 hours.


This was Big Red’s 8th trip on a ferry. Not bad for a car that lives in Minnesota!


Truth be told, the vessel is more like a small cruise ship rather than a ferry. We even had our own “state room” with four bunks and a private shower/toilet. It certainly was better than the last overnight ferry I took in China 4 years ago. You can read about that adventure here.


Early morning brought us our first sight of Newfoundland coast.


We could have driven straight to the capital city of St. John’s, but we opted to take the scenic route around the Avalon Peninsula. In other words, upon driving 2000 miles to get to Newfoundland, what is the first thing we do when we get here? Go for a drive.

Yes, we are nuts!

We are now in St. John’s for a couple of days, staying at a lovely AirBnb. Here’s the view from our apartment:



Got Chips?

Canadians seem to love their chips. On our drive across the eastern half of the country the past few days, we’ve spotted numerous roadside eateries bearing the name “Chip Shack,” or “Chip Shop,” or some variation thereof.

Since Canada still has Queen Elizabeth as their Head of State, they are employing the British meaning of the word “chips” — what we Yanks would call French Fries. Mind you, as a french-fry lover myself, I really don’t care what they are called.

In American English, however, “chip” is something different — it’s flat and crunchy.


In preparation for our road trip, we stocked upon things to eat. My sister offered to purchase a multi-pack box of chips from Costco. Not being a member of Costco, I assumed a multi-pack box would have a dozen or so bags of chips. Not so. When my sister and her husband showed up to load the car on Friday morning, she had a giant box of 100 chips in tow!

No, we did not bring all 100 bags of chips; we put a bunch of them into our snack bag. On Day 5, however, I can say that we have officially reached the “sick of chips” point.

If you are in Nova Scotia, and see a Red SUV with Minnesota plates on the side of the road with a “chips for sale” sign posted nearby, that will be us.

Road Trip! Back to Newfoundland

It’s time for another epic road trip! Having been so captivated by Newfoundland last summer, we decided to make a return visit, this time to the eastern side of the island.

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Some people say we are nuts.

I say “guilty as charged.”

Another photo from last year’s trip for inspiration:

rose blanche lighthouse

Related Posts: 

Who is St. Louis and Why is He Laughing?

Road Trip Reading

A Former Fjord

Breaking Bread

The Newfoundland Pittmans

Newfoundland and 9/11

Farewell Newfoundland


Iceland in Winter

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, my first thought was “I dreamed a friend and I went to Iceland for 5 days.” Then I remembered that we had actually done the trip; it was not a dream, but a dream come true.

The dream actually started more than a year ago when we had seen an Icelandair ad for some low-cost package tours to Iceland to see the northern lights. We weren’t able to get in on the action last year, but when the deal popped up again this year, we decided to go for it!

Here are a few random observations and photos from the trip:

1. I will (hopefully) no longer fuss about the short days in Minnesota during the winter. In Reykjavik in December, the sun rises around 11:15 and sets around 3:15. The twilights preceding those two events, however, are long (and gorgeous), which meant we had a little more than 6 hours of daylight in which to do our sightseeing. It did make for some great lighting, however.


2.  There are no words to describe the beauty of the northern lights, and photographing them is extremely difficult. This is especially true if you are on the deck of a moving boat. It’s blurry, I know, but here’s proof that we saw them.


3.  Our trip to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa was on a cold evening, so we floated and bobbed around in a thick cloud of steam. I’m sure the water was blue, but we had no way of seeing that. Watching heads emerging and disappearing in the steam made me think we were on the set of Gorillas in the Mist.


4.  If you love trees, you might find Iceland hard to appreciate. My mom is a tree-lover, and all she could say when I was telling her about the trip was “No trees? How can a place with no trees be beautiful?” Trust me; it is!


5.  In a city known for its hard-partying and world-class drinking, here’s what our night out on the town looked like:


6.  How’s this for the perfect rental car?


7.  There is something mildly appealing about a country that doesn’t have Starbucks and MacDonald’s.

8.  In 2008, the economy of Iceland, which was based on financial services, collapsed. They are rebuilding it on tourism. I say “hat’s off” to the Iceland Tourism Bureau, because in the middle of December there were tourists everywhere. And from everywhere. In fact, at each place we visited, we stumbled across a bus load of tourists from China!

And finally, here are a couple more of my favorite photos:



Go here to see more photos on my Flickr page.

And I was right about one thing this might do — whet my appetite for a longer visit. In the summer.

Time to Use the Visa Again

I’m heading back to the Middle Kingdom for a couple of weeks, which means it’s time, once again, to make use of my 10-year visa!


I thought this would be a good time to re-visit my post from last April on 10 things to know about the 10-year visa:

1. It’s real. I admit that when it was announced that China would be issuing a 10-year tourist visa last fall, I was skeptical. But I applied for it and got it, so I know first hand that it is real.

2. This new validity period is the result of a bilateral agreement between the United States and China that was announced in November and designed to encourage more travel between the nations. Visa requirements for Chinese tourists and students coming to the US have been relaxed as well.

3. In section 2.1 of the application form, check “tourist.” (see an application example here)

4. In section 2.2 of the application form, check “other.”

5. This 10 year visa seems to be the new standard issue visa; however, the embassy/consulate reserves the right to issue it at their discretion.

6. You need to submit evidence of a booked flight itinerary. This can be a ticket or evidence of a booked, but not necessarily purchased reservation.

7. You need to submit evidence of confirmed lodging. You can book a hotel online, and cancel it later, if need be.

8. The visa is multiple-entry; this means that in the 10 years of its validity you can enter/exit China as many times as you want, staying up to 60 days at a time.

9. It is valid for 10 years even if your passport expires, SO LONG AS you retain possession of your expired passport and have it with you upon entry into China.

10. The cost is the same as the 1-year tourist visa, which means its ten times cheaper!

If you’ve got a China trip coming up and need to get a visa, I wholeheartedly recommend the good folks at Allied Passport in Washington, D.C. They are great to work and can turn around an application very quickly. You can visit their site for a detailed explanation of the requirements to obtain this visa, as well as a sample application form.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of their affiliate program. When you apply for a visa through Allied, you can write my name (or the name of this blog) on your order form to get a $5.00 discount. In addition, I’ll get a referral fee.

The way I see it, everybody wins!

1912 Road Map

I love road trips and I love maps. In fact, when I take my road trips, I still use the good old Rand MacNally Road Atlas to figure out how to get from one place to another. No GPS for me, thank you very much!

Two weeks ago I had the chance to do a long and fast road trip from the Twin Cities to Colorado and back to attend a memorial service with my sister and mom. We had friends visiting from England, and we piled them into a rented mini-van with us so they could experience an American road trip. We left home on Tuesday morning, and returned on Saturday evening.

After we got back I ran across this fascinating map on a site called Internet Archives. It is a 1912 AAA road map of the United States, published in a magazine called The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review.

I was particularly interested to see how one might have traveled by road from Minneapolis to Denver in 1912. (Please go here to see a larger version of the image.)

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Interestingly, you can see the ancestors (so to speak) of both I-35 that runs from Minneapolis to Des Moines, and I-80, which connects Des Moines to Denver (via I-76 spur).

If you’re interested in knowing more about the development of the US interstate system, I heartily recommend the book The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways, by Earl Swift.

The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways

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An Impromptu Road Trip