When I was in Maine, I did not make it to Portland. I decided not to make the
same mistake when I was in Oregon. I know it is bemusing to mock the United
States and Canada for having several cities and towns with the same name within
their own country. But before you start doing that, may I remind you we do that
a lot in Europe as well. There are, for instance, four towns in Denmark called
A full moon settling over the Columbia river next to Mount Hood as seen from
I did not stay in the city of Portland, but on an island within its city limits,
called Sauvie Island, which is the largest fresh water island in the United
States. My friend there should me Portland by night. Or at least, some of
Portland by night. Friends of hers had recently purchased a tugboat, that they
are using as a place to hold parties.
The night as seen from the tugboat near the St. John's Bridge. The bridge is
behind the camera.
That first night, however, there was no party, so mostly a dark boat. So we
went to White Eagle, a McMenamins saloon in North Portland's industrial
neighbourhood. Here a cover band was playing classic songs from a bygone era,
resolving in me being among the youngest there.
This is not the engine room, but it is engine room adjacent.
That was a fun experience, I should say. It was a cover band for the Greateful
Dead. If you are familiar with their music, you are older than me. Or
interested in music from this era. Their music was definintely better than the
beer, but I was too young to remember a lot of this music. Or at least remember
Like proper musicians they are looking down at their instruments and not just
pretending they are playing instruments.
It was unfortunate that I was quite exhausted from my travels during most of the
day, so we left before midnight. But boy that full moon was pretty. I really
enjoyed my first night in Portland.
Capturing the full moon and its rings is hard, but I may have succeeded.
And I would like to send a special thank you to my host for my two nights in
Portland. I hope it will not be the last time.
After Seattle - or, I should say, Kirkland, because I was never really in
Seattle - I drove back to Idaho, where I had been prior to my return leg into
Canada where I ended up in Vancouver.
The reason I came back here may in retrospect seem on the wrong pretext, but I
fully enjoyed my two nights return to this part of the US. It gave me a time to
Cœur d'Aléne, or Coeur d'Alene as the Americans spell it, is a fun and pretty
enough town in Northern Idaho, but other than that, I doubt it is a city that
has a place in the collective conscience of the American people. Perhaps due to
its strange name? Cœur d'Aléne means 'heart of the awl', an awl being a tool to
make hole in things. This term was applied by French fur traders in the region
to the Native Americans, because of their sharp wit and cunning trading skills.
When the British traders came to the region, they just used the French name - of
course pronounced completely incorrectly, as English is basically just French
with bad pronounciation - and the name has stuck ever since.
I actually stayed nearby in Post Falls, but I did see Coeur d'Alene and enjoyed
both stays in Post Falls. Particularly my return stay, where I stayed at a
wonderful Bed and Breakfast. Indeed, until McBride in British Columbia, I had
so far only stayed at hotels and motels (except for the nights I stayed with
Breakfast at Ida Home. Highly recommedable.
And there I had a realisation of how enjoyable a B&B can be. And this, Ida
Home, was particularly enjoyable. Indeed, that may have been the most
satisfying part of the whole ordeal.
But before this entry just turns into an advertisement for this particular Bed
and Breakfast, let me also give a shout out to Les Schwab, a tyre garage chain
in the United States.
My left rear wheel was leaking air, and so I had it checked out at a local Les
Schwab. The problem turned out to be a nail. The tyre was repaired and was
soon back on my vehicle. Despite the quickness and quality of service, I was
asked for no charge. Much to my surprise.
I guess not everything here is about money. Good to see that at least some
of my prejuidices proven wrong.
Originally, my plans had been to take the ferry from Ontario into Ohio during my
leg from Toronto to Columbus. However, looking at the ferry schedules, that
would have been a tight trip, and I would have arrived in Columbus very late,
which would have met a meeting with a friend there very unlike, which would have
been very unfortunate. 
A second motivation for me to take the ferry route was to avoid a busy border
crossing for a few reasons. I have heard stories about the treatment of some
people at border crossings, and I wondered how being in a car on European plates
would work out. Despite these fears, I took the risk and crossed from Fort
Erie, Ontario into Buffalo, New York.
Port Angeles, Washington, where two container ships were already waiting.
However, for my leg for Vancouver to Seattle, I decided to stick to my ferry
route plan. This was a busier route than the Lake Erie journey, particularly
due to the size of Victoria on Vancouver Island, so there were more crossings
than back east.
A 1931 Hot Dog Van driven by a man whose character perfectly fitted the
vehicle. Also notice how packed the cars were on board.
Still, I had not realised how tight I was stretching it by the time they were
packing the ship. I was the second to last to be let on the ferry, and I
arrived an hour early than its scheduled departure. Because while there was
a crossing every hour between Vancouver and Victoria (technically Tsawwassen -
Swartz Bay), there were only four crossings a day between Victoria and Port
Angeles a day. And yet - somehow - I made on its second crossing for the day,
avoiding a wait of 5 hours before the next crossing.
KWK Excelsus out of Singapore, waiting in the port of Port Angeles for...
From Port Angeles, I went West, I wanted to drive around the Olympia Pennisula,
and see the rain forest on its western side of its national park. I got to
experience a fun drive on route 112, which was a slight detour from the main
route 101, but all the more worth it. I admit, given the nature of my car's
handling, I do occassionally make detours purely to have fun on the road.
A water fog rising over the shore near Clallam Bay, Washington. Driving
through it yielded only a sense of fog, not its contents.
It is unfortunate, that I did not have much time to get to Seattle, because I
did not get to see much of the Hoh Rain Forest in the national park. Should I
ever be in Washington again, I could see myself visiting this national park
again. And I do plan on returning to Washington, because I did not actually see
Hoh Rain Forest in Olympia National Park. Odd to have a rain forest this
far north and in this climate. But, well, there it is.
Indeed, I stayed in Kirkland and basically remained in Kirkland for the entirety
of my stay there. But I had the opportunity to meet two friends there, which is
worth more to me than the sights in Seattle. Seattle will wait for another
time, just like Chicago, which I had skipped alltogether during my drive from
Columbus, Ohio to Elk Horn, Iowa.
For those interested, the route was to take a ferry from
Leamington, Ontario to Pelee Island in Lake Erie. Then from that island take
the ferry to Sandusky, Ohio. However while the schedule for the former was
favourable, the schedule for the latter was only twice a day (and that was
only on Fridays and Sundays, otherwise the crossing occurred once).
I would start by apologising to Vancouver (and apologising is a proud Canadian
tradition, so I am sure it will go down well), for not seeing more of it while
I was there. I would also like to apologise to you, the readers, because this
was intended to be the day where I actually did a lot of updates for this
This is the hotel I stayed at. Probably one of the older buildings
cluttering the Vancouver skyline.
That is not to say I did not see any of Vancouver, and I truly enjoyed my stay
there. Walking around Stanley Park was very nice (as Canadians would say), and
around English Bay, you could see the large container ships seemingly moored
not far from where people were bathing. A strange view from a public beach, I
suppose. But the ships has to be some way, I guess.
Yes, rocks indeed. I do feel disappointed that they forgot to add a 'sand'
sign for the rest of the beach. And possibly a 'water' sign.
The walk around Stanley Park, called Seawall, also has a bike lane next to it.
However, the bike lane was further from the ocean than the walking path, and
was raised. Resulting in a potentially dangerous situation where bicyclists at
high speed hitting the curb and possible hitting pedestrians as they lose
control getting down from the curb.
The path on the left is the walking path, the raised area is the bike lane.
Now I realise why it was built this way, so that water from the ocean as waves
hit against the seawall would be able to escape back into the sea. But have
invented pipes and sewage systems that are far more complicated than what is
necessary here to keep the bike lane lower than the walking path, as it ought
But I know why; this is the half-assed solution. Indeed, a lot of
infrastructure feels half-assed. As if there is never really money enough, or
political will, they just seem to find the cheapest solution and it always feels
a bit half-assed. But when regulations do not require better quality, why would
Siwash Rock by the Seawall. I was not the only one to take a picture.
Regardless, I went back to my hotel to relax. The same night I went to a
restaurant called Forage, just near the hotel, which was excellent, if a bit
more pricey than I expected. Although I did pick the most expensive item on
the menu, so it might be my own damn fault. No regrets, though.
The Vancouver Skyline. Can you spot Trump Tower?
All in all, I had a great time in Vancouver, even if I only managed to see very
few sights there. And later, you will see how Vancouver gets its revenge, as I
stay two nights near Seattle without ever actually seeing Seattle. Take that!
After Yellowstone and a drive to Idaho through a dirt road path, with some
excellent driving roads while where it was paved, and a lot of dead trees from
a forest fire, I headed North back into Canada.
Dead trees in Montana. Although, some clearly survived.
And what an appropriate day to visit Canada: On 1 July, Canada Day. And as I
have mentioned before, Canada was celebrating its 150 birthday. So arriving
over the border, the border patrol agent gave me flag with "Canada 150" written
on it. I wondered if the Americans would give me something similar if I arrived
in the US on 4 July (spoiler alert; they did not, but then again, perhaps a
241st is not as impressive as a 150th one).
Not that I got to see a lot of Canadian civilisation on Canada Day, as I spent
most of it driving around their Banff National Park in Alberta, just on the
border with British Columbia.
Lake Peyto in Banff National Park. Here, delibrately with some pine in the
Athabasca Falls in Banff.
I then spent the night in a small town called McBride in British Columbia, thus
meaning that driving in from Idaho and into Alberta and back to British
Columbia, meant I had to cross the same time zone line twice. Indeed, the time
zone lines are a bit odd at times, particularly when one state or province does
not have a single time zone. No state or province in North America is
practically large enough to require more than one time zone, yet some do,
because they allow the counties to pick their time zone.
Then again, you could have a situation like Europe, where everyone 
is using the same time zone, even though they do not really match their actual
location compared to, you know, the sun. The reason? As with everything else
in Europe: Hitler.
Far off in the distance, a helicopter arrives. And it will later land on the
road in front of us.
After staying overnight in McBride, the next day's travel was to Vancouver,
where I had decided to take a beautiful detour towards. My plans were hindered,
however, as I am driving South on the 97 just before Cache Creek, the traffic
suddenly halts. Police arrive on the scene, and within minutes a helicopter
lands on the road. The road was closed and would be closed for 8 hours at
least. Meaning I would have to go back again, resulting in a detour of
effectively four hours.
I should probably not have been as irritated as I was, but I was bothered by the
fact that I did not get to see more of this road to Vancouver, and instead had
to endure a late arrival - I was beginning to be slightly exhausted - in
Vancouver. So I got to do some motorway driving, and in British Columbia
the speed limit is a more reasonable 120 km/h (almost Danish conditions!).
But I now understand why they do not use the term 'motorway'. Apparently,
bicycles are allowed to ride on them! At first I thought the cyclists were
madmen, but then there were signs warning drivers about them! Clearly endorsed
by the authorities. When authorities endorse madness, no wonder these people
are mad! But to Vancouver I arrived without hitting a bicyclist. Or anyone
else for that matter.
'Highway' may be one of the most ambigious terms over here. Now, North
Americans may suggest that it is not, but my impression is that they really do
not care about precission. Indeed, that may be one of English's greatest flaws:
It is not very precise. And not a very good technical language. But alas, here
we are, using English. (Everything would be better if everyone spoke German.)
The thing about 'highway' is that it basically refers to any larger country
road. Be it a secondary or primary route, or a dual carriageway or even a
motorway. In my mind, those are four different types of roads, but over here;
they are the same. Or rather, referred to by the same term: Highway.
Which makes the term useless. But let us not rid ourselves of it so quickly.
Indeed. I propose to use 'highway' to refer only to secondary and primary
routes. That is, significant country roads. Or - to be more precise, as
this language would we would rather not - country roads with a route number. Be
it a federal, a state or a county road, they are all highways. Now that is easy
Dual carriageways are called 'divided highways'. I cannot decide on which I
prefer, so I default to the British; dual carriageway. Wikipedia struggles to
compromise on motorway, so its article on Wikipedia is called 'access controlled
highway'. That does not flow off the tongue. Secondly, while a highway can
refer to a motorway over here, they might also call them 'freeway', 'thruway',
'expressway' or 'turnpikes'. But they are all access controlled highways, and
therefore motorways. If you pay toll, we call it a toll motorway.
While I am on the subject of fixing the English language, motorway exits. In
the UK, these are called junctions. Weird. In the US, they are called exits.
Makes more sense. But in the US, 'exits' also refers to forks in the
motorway, where you switch to another motorway route number. But that is not an
exit; I will not be leaving the road type after all. Exits are only for when
you leave the road type!
So let us clear this up: Junctions refer to when motorways meet one another,
or - for precision's sake (Shakespeare must be spinning in his grave) - motorway
junction. Forks refer to when the motorway divides into two or more motorway
routes; usually at a motorway junction. And exits refer to when you leave
the motorway, that is onto a differen type of road. Such as highway, perhaps.
There is no need to thank me.
If you have read this far, you may be inclined to think why road types and terms
matter. Again, precision. But a proper understanding of different road types,
also helps one to understand the different behaviours one should strive for on
them. And let me just clarify, I have seen a lot of bad driving behaviour over
Note: Hopefully I will add pictures later. But I am really arriving late
at hotels these days and getting out early, so I do not really have much time
to write these!
Rapid City is a strange name for a city. Particularly considering that it did
not feel very rapid. In fact, nothing over here does. Indeed, it is not named
after its people, but rather the rapids in Rapid Creek by which the city is
Driving into the Black Hills, people really only do it for one purpose: To see
Mount Rushmore. I do not care much for crowded areas with tourists. It is an
experience in a city like New York, but tourist sights far from civilisation?
Forget about it! So I decided to approach Mount Rushmore from a more American
perspective: Simply driving by without stopping.
Drive by sight seeing. Is this not the most American way to see sights?
Here you have Mount Rushmore from the road.
Besides, Mount Rushmore is not as impressive as I had anticipated. Fortunately
a Canadian warned me before hand. Indeed, what I found more impressive was a
sight nearby called Crazy Horse. This unfinished carving into the mountain was
more interesting given its lack of completion and the fact that they are still
Sticking to my guns, I decided not get too close to the sight while seeing
After a bit more pondering as to why they are so keen on carving out faces in
this area, I drove off into Wyoming. And headed North to something called
Devils Tower. For some reason, the apostrophe in "Devils Tower" has vanished at
some point. But then again, the name itself is a mistranslation of the native
name "Bear's House", so who cares? It is technically speaking a butte (not
pronounced like 'butt', it comes from French).
This was the photo location that they recommended, so I took it. And this
time I could get my car in the shot.
And skipping on that sight, I then went over to Yellowstone after a beautiful
drive through the mountains. I thought I had arrived late, so there would less
people, but alas I was wrong.
It was not just people who were there, but also bisons crossing the road.
National Parks are rather different from those we have in Europe. National
Parks over here are not just protected areas, but commodities, that people can
visit for a fee. There are entrance points where you drive your car in. There
are plenty of forests and other natural sights in Europe to see, but seldom is
it treated like a museum.
Drive around Gorges du Verdon in France, that is an incredible sight to behold,
but there are no fees to pay, and two challenging roads line either side of the
canyon. That is another thing I have noticed about driving in North America,
even their more challenging roads are not as challenging as those you see in
Europe. Their hairpin turns are not quite as hairpin as what you would expect,
if you are more familiar with European mountain roads like I am.
To me, there are two main aspects to a road trip: The route itself and with
those you travel. You may wonder about the last aspect, considering I am alone
on this trip. (I do not have a partner, much less one with whom to do this.)
But I am not alone. This is a trip, on which both me and my car is. I am
together with my car. So let us talk about my travel partner, and in
particularly what makes it special to me.
My Xantia near a dirt road.
The Citroën Xantia Activa V6 is definitely a future classic. In a sense, this
car actually ought to be in a museum. But truthfully, it deserves to be driven.
Mine is from 1998, which is the second of the three years this particular
variant was made. Only a total of 2,700 Activa V6s were built. So to begin
with, the car is already rather rare.
Like a proper large Citroën,  it has hydropneumatic suspension, which
means the car runs on mineral oil and gas spheres under high pressure, rather
than coils or springs. The end result is a suspension that can react almost
instantiously to unevenness in the road, thus creating an incredibly comfortable
ride, even over very rough terrain.
You may point out, that Mercedes have an electronic suspension that reads the
road and prepares the shock absorbers accordingly. But that suspension was
introduced on the S-Class in around 2008. Not only is Citroën's suspension from
1954, it was also available on cars that were compareably much cheaper than
the equilivant of an S-Class at the day.
If you want a more true comparison, consider what a Xantia cost in the 1990s
compared to an S-Class of the same time. Sure, an S-Class had more features,
but the suspension was almost similar, because Mercedes actually used a slightly
modified version of Citroën's suspension for several decades.
My Xantia stuck in the rain on the road to the Yellowstone National Park.
The Activa portion is an addition to the regular hydropneumatic suspension,
which adds anti-body roll arms to the wheels. While the hydropneumatic
suspension already kept the Citroëns very secure and stable, as the wheels
would cling to the road, they would still do quite a bit of body roll in
corners. The Activa variants do not. There is no body roll.
The Activa variant was previously available with smaller engines, but with the
ES9 V6 engine, the variant finally achieved what it should have been. The end
result is a car that feels like a scaled up go-kart, while at the same time
maintaining a significantly comfortable ride quality, even in the corners. Plus
the car is based on a standard French family car, so it is also very practical.
This is why this car is perfect for this trip. It is excellent on motorways and
it is excellent on twisty country roads. And remains practical all the way
I say 'large Citroën', because I also consider the 2CV, Ami 6 and
Méhari proper Citroëns, they were just too small for the suspension.
Additionally, the Traction Avant is also definitely a proper Citroën, but the
suspension just had not been invented until the very end of its production.
I know understand why a significant portions of centrally placed US states are
referred to as the 'plain states'. But they are not plain in the sense of
being simple, but rather that they are mostly plains. Although, you could
argue, that from a geographic point of view, they are simple. Their topography
are mostly flat.
My Xantia together with a CX and an H-van in Columbus, Ohio. What is less
obvious in the picture is an additional CX and H-van in the garage, along
with a DS hidden behind the garage.
Driving from Columbus to Yellowstone is a long drive. And the lack of changes
in scenery makes it all the longer. It is just fields and fields for hundreds
of kilometres on end. So I took the motorway from Columbus through these
flatter states. Country roads would not prove interesting. Or rather, not
But I did manage to find one spot I wanted to visit on my way through these
plains: Elk Horn, Iowa. This town has a large group of descendents of Danish
immigrants, that they pride themselves on, and presenting Danish culture to an
The Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa, where you can learn about
the story of Danish immigrants in North America.
I should note, though, that while their history of Danish America was in of
particular interest to me, their take on Danish cuisine is off. There are a lot
American oddities intertwined with it, and some of it has origins in
neighbouring countries, like Germany or Sweden. But it was fun to visit, and I
slightly regret only having such a short time to visit it, before I had to head
out to Rapid City in South Dakota.
When you get this far west in the US, it becomes more and more clear that the
borders between states are purely drawn based on longitude and latitude with no
regard for the physical terrain. I understand why it is less important when the
place is flat, but once the Rockies begin to show themselves, the nature of the
borders feel far more arbitrary. But considering these lands were divided
before they were properly explored, I suppose it made sense.
In their defence, we still have odd borders in Europe here and there. And we
have had centuries to fix them. And I know it is not for a lack of trying, just
consider Napoleon and Hitler.
In Toronto, I got the pleasure of meeting up with Citroënvie's President,
George Dyke. After having eaten lunch with him and some of the local
Citroënists, he decided to show me around Toronto. In a 1985 Citroën Méhari.
You know your Xantia is rare, when a guy arriving in a Jaguar E-Type wants to
look at your Xantia.
Now, the Méhari is probably the complete opposite of my car. The Xantia Activa
V6 is quite possibly the most complicated car Citroën has ever built, to this
day. On the other end of the spectrum, the Méhari may quite
possibly be the simplest car they ever made.
The Méhari is based on a 2CV, which to begin with is already quite simple. But
Méhari went further to reduce cost, increase longivity and ease maintenance.
The car is effectively a plastic car on top of some wheels, with 2 cylinder
600 cc engine (same as in a 2CV).
The Méhari we drove through Toronto. Its original paint had fainted only on
one side, so they decided to give it this paint job.
As you can imagine, this is a car that gives you attention around a big city
like Toronto, where we went through all the trendy neighbourhoods and downtown.
In the suburbs of Toronto, a couple of people were meeting in expensive cars
like Ferraris and Lamborghinis. But the Méhari was the one that got all the
attention for the brief time we were there. We had to leave again, we did not
want to upstage inappropriately on these guys' event. I mean, when you have
paid hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Lamborghini, it must feel tough to
get upstaged by a small plastic car, the windscreen of which can fold down on
It felt it was inappropriate to take a picture of their vehicles, so here is
instead a picture of Toronto from the passenger seat of a Méhari.
It was quite an experience, and I must unfortunately add, that I now have added
a Méhari to my car wishlist. I am still not sold on the 2CV, but the Méhari got