USA Vermont: Killington

13 June – Pennsylvania: Wellsboro

Leaving Gettysburg and heading up towards Vermont as I passed some beautiful rivers and then found a hotel for the night in Wellsboro. Another one of those accidental finds. What a sweet little town with an awesome Chinese restaurant.

14 June – New York: 5 Fingers lakes, Cayuga Lake

Taking Colleens advice again (it pays to be in with the locals) I took a route via the 5 finger lakes in New York. What a stunning area. A combination of wine country full of vineyards (as I was riding I only tried to grape juice, but if that is anything to go by I bet the wine is good), forests, picturesque towns and of course lots of water. I went to one of the locks and met the sweetest old lady who was going fishing, walker an all. She told me that she usually caught 2 to 3 fish a day. I rode past the biggest outdoor store I have ever seen so had to stop and take a look. It was fantastic, the choices are just incredible. That is one thing I can say about the US, you are really spoiled for choice. Just going into the petrol station and trying to decide what to drink is an adventure. I love it. It is a good thing I’m travelling by bike or I’d have left that store with everything including a bunch of fishing poles…I’m not sure what I would do with them but let’s just say it was very hard to leave empty handed. I mean it solve Boats and quads…right there in the store, not a boat store but just an outdoor store.

15 June – Vermont: Killington

The reason I wanted to go to Killington is that I worked there in 1991 and wanted to visit my old stomping ground. When I finished university, I signed up for a student work program and got placed in Vermont at the Killington ski resort as a waitress. The program offered students 6-month work visas and you could choose between a summer beach resort or a ski resort, but not which ones. I think I hit the jackpot getting Killington and had an absolutely fantastic time.

Coming back to Killington was great, just riding up past the wobbly barn brought back a flood of great memories, and a tinge of nostalgia for a misspent youth. Including throwing a hissy fit because I wasn’t invited to the New years eve party until Ruth (my roommate) showed me a picture of myself…at the new years eve party…must have been a good night.  Killington has grown but not nearly as much as I thought it would and was still quite recognisable. I did realise, seeing it again, that we really did spend out time between work (at the Little Red Inn), the wobbly barn (our local hangout) and the slopes. In fact I think that was our entire existence for the ski season, except Christmas lunch. Chris and his wife, two of the long time locals, arranged for a lost souls (the foreign students who didn’t go home to families over Christmas) Christmas lunch including ice skating on the pond outside the restaurant. Fun time.

It was truly great to be back and go back in time for just a moment.

There are have definitely been a lot more slopes added over the years. One fun memory is that back in 1991, snowboarding was only just taking off and the ‘’pesky’’ snowboarders were restricted to boarding on Bear Mountain to the left. Leaving the rest of Killing to us skiers. Since I’ve become a snowboarder myself I’m damn glad things changed 😊

The good old Little Red Inn. Sadly no longer a hotel but an Asian Restaurant, which was sadly closed the day I was in Killington.
Quechee Gorge

USA Pennsylvania: Gettysburg with Gus and Barbie

I got to meet more of Colleens family members thanks to her persuading me that Gettysburg is a must see. I can totally second that opinion. I’m not really sure where to start except to say that I know I won’t do the weekend justice.

I arrived after a great day riding partly on back roads and partly on the interstate. Being really tired I opted to stay in and have a quiet evening getting to know Barbie and Gus.  Such an interesting couple and so nice, friendly, hospitable and funny. Barbie and Gus are retired military couple and have lived in a lot of places including Germany and Saudi Arabia during their 20 and 22 years in the military. Gus as a paratrooper and Barbie in the air force my understanding transportation logistics. All sounded very interesting to me and Barbie now works as a volunteer in an animal rescue shelter…now that is my kinds woman. They live just outside Gettysburg in Aspers, a stunning quiet suburb where foxes and deer visit their backyard. Gus has the biggest best man cave I have seen and after our sightseeing day in Gettysburg the 3 of us sat there watching the 4hr directors cut of the movie Gettysburg. I can highly recommend watching the movie especially before or after visiting the  battleground as it perfectly puts it all together. We were visited by Nicky the maine coon and a for a brief second a very shy Stormy.

But I’ve jumped forward. So back to the night I arrived. I fortunately had a very small lunch ( I think I just had a yoghurt or banana) so was quite hungry and got fed a hoagie…. I had no idea what this was and no it’s not just a sandwich, it’s a SANDWICH. This one was an Italian Cheesesteak and all I can say is YUMMMMM

Just a small part of the Cyclorama

On Sunday Barbie and Gus took me into Gettysburg to see the battlefield. Gus is a great guide and very knowledgeable. We started by going to the centre to look at the Gettysburg Cyclorama. This is an absolutely massive oil on canvas painting. Painted in the 1880s, the dramatic painting depicts the famous Pickett’s Charge with lights and sound effects really bringing the battle to life. We then drove around Gettysburg and the battlefield, which is huge, stopping at various places. We walked up Little Round Top which, as the guide book says ‘’was once the scene of the most decisive encounter of the battle. From atop the small, rocky hill, you can take in commanding views of the battlefield and learn about the Confederate’s unsuccessful assault on the distinctive landmark’’. It was incredible to stand there and imagine (which you cannot do in your wildest dreams) marching across the battlefield under heavy fire in unbearable heat and not turn tail and run.

General Lee. General Warren atop Little round top. Looking down from Little Round Top. The clump of trees that Lee aimed his army towards. The last picture’s are of the battlefield seen from the side of General Lee and a mile away from the side of General Mead

What you cannot comprehend without standing on the battlesfield is the size. The army stretched a mile wide, and there was a mile between the confederate army lead by General Lee and the Union army lead by General Mead. This battle however was on day 3 after 2 days of fighting. As the guide books say ‘’ The Battle of Gettysburg marked the turning point of the Civil War. With more than 50,000 estimated casualties, the three-day engagement was the bloodiest single battle of the conflict.’’

Looking down from Little Round Top

A fascinating trip, including a great lunch at the Irish pub. So much I couldn’t even face eating dinner. We did however stop at the chocolate shop. Gettysburg itself is a lovely historical town, and well worth a visit. I really wanted to stay longer as there is so much more to see but needed to head off on Monday morning and continue my ride north to Vermont.

USA Pennsylvania: Falling water at Mill Run

On my way to Gettysburg I stopped for the night near Mill Hill and decided to go visit the falling waters house on my way out of town. WOW what a treat, stunning. I’m so glad I came across this place.

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Fallingwater is a house designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania. As explained by the tourist guide – The epitome of “organic architecture,” Fallingwater’s design symbolizes the harmony between people and nature. Through thoughtful design that is seamlessly integrated with its natural setting, the building, its furnishings, and the surroundings become cohesive parts of one unified, interrelated composition.

It is stunning and I can highly recommend a visit. One of the little things I loved were all the chipmunks….sooo cute I could have watched them for hours.

USA Ohio: Frazysburg

Heading out of Sandy Hook and the first surprise this morning is that gas has gone up to $5.09. When I arrived in the US on the 24th May it was $4.30. Well it is what it is. onward and upwards, but not before stopping for the best Hawaiian Pizza with EXTRA pineapple yum. I could only eat half of it and couldn’t eat more than a sausage for dinner.

My friend Collen arranged for me to stay with her sister Jennifer and her brother-in-Law Paul in Frazeysburg, Ohio. They live in the back of beyond in a quiet country area on a farm surrounded by forest and open land. It is totally idyllic, although I arrived a lot later than expected.

I had selected avoid tolls and highways on my GPS in order to ride some small country roads … GPS took this very seriously and decided to test the v-strom. It took me through some serious hilly bad dirt roads. The pictures I took do not do the steep roads justice, but needless to say even on road tires the v-strom did an awesome job.

Surviving the roads, I arrived at Jennifer’s place and had a lovely afternoon watching the birds and squirrels with Paul. I also got to play Frisby with Hermani (aka Pony) the most awesome yellow lab. He also showed me his woodwork studio and the amazing furniture he makes. After Jennifer got home, she introduced me to her horses and the next day we went for an awesome ride, spotting a deer and plenty of bunnies. Paul then took me on a great ride through Amish country before I said goodbye and headed off to Pennsylvania.

USA Kentucky: Sand hook

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After riding in heavy rain yesterday, and with the threat of more thunderstorms along the route today, plus missing my two boys, I woke just not feeling great. However, this changed as soon as I was on the bike, as is usually the case. AND What a fantastic day, one of the best riding days so far, sunshine, great roads, meeting nice people and beautiful scenery.

It’s days like these that remind me why I ride, that free, fun experience travelling from one place to another seeing and experiencing so much. On a bike I feel so much closer to where I am, really more a part of it, not closed up in a climate-controlled car. Yes cars are very comfortable but I can’t explain the feeling and experiences you get from travelling on a motorbike.

I only had about 180km to go from London to Sandy Hook so only took the back roads. I had this mistaken image of Kentucky being flat and dry a bit like I expect Montana to be. How wrong was I. I guess this is one of the reasons I travel…to learn. Kentucky is very pretty with rolling hills and it’s GREEN. The backroads were practically empty with a mixture of open fields and almost tropical looking forests. Once again, the houses were a mixture of stunning huge house, to pretty mid/small sized ones to ready beat up ‘’come on throw your trash out’’ small houses and trailers. What’s interesting is that you find all 3 varieties in one road.

I cheated and downloaded this picture as I wasn’t comfortable taking pictures of these houses and risking getting shot at

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On the way I saw a beaver (well I think it was a beaver, I couldn’t see the tail and am not sure if there is another animal that looks similar from the front) I also saw a ton of squirrels again and a deer. I nearly hit the deer and was glad I was on a back road and going slowly. There I was riding along looking straight at this animal thinking ‘’damn that deer statue, in that garden under that tree, looks so real’’ Then it moved and then it ran across the road DAMN moving statues get you every time.

Pretty little country church of which there are many

I arrived at The Little Sandy Lodge around 1pm. What a gorgeous little place recommended by my friend Colleen and so pretty and great value. The owner is so nice I really liked her. I asked her where I could go for a walk and she recommended the Laurel Gorge down the road. Such a pretty place, quiet with loads of birds and dragon flies. Fortunately I didn’t see any of the local snakes. The waterfall was not flowing but that did not detract from how much I enjoyed the walk.

USA Tennessee: Leaving Memphis, the Rippavilla Manor and not the Tail of the Dragon

Leaving Memphis I decided to spend some time off the interstate again, this combination is working well for me. The interstates get me from A to B quickly but I get to explore and see some interesting sites on the back roads. This time taking the picturesque Natchez Trace. I lovely easy road through the forests of one of the many state parks. This country really does have a lot of open space, it’s stunning. One other thing that I have found really good so far are the rest areas, very clean.

I’ve met a few interesting people this way. I met a lady who reminded me of Darlene, the character from Ozark, the other day. She was the splitting image of Darlene and talked my ear off. I had stopped for a water break in a backward little gas station and was sitting inside drinking my water. She sat down with her hubby and just started chatting as she’d seen my helmet. What a character told me all about when she rode Harleys, she must have been about 70. It was yet another great interaction with a total stranger, she was sweet and funny. I do these kinds of trips for encounters like this. When you ride in a group or even just a couple people are reluctant to approach you and you miss out on a lot. I have come to realise that a lot of what we see on TV / movies is real. The characters the out of the way gas stations and diners that look like something from days gone by. It is fascinating. I love how friendly and also how patriotic Americas are (although sometimes that can be a bit in your face)

Another one of my little finds outside of Nashville in Spring Hill was the Rippavilla Manor. WOW this was one of the larger plantations in the area and with a house to match. Stunning. Once again, I was there during the week and early in the morning, also out of season, so I got a private tour. I am no architect or historian but I love seeing old buildings and learning about how people lived in past eras, and this is the reason I wanted to see Rippavilla. Thus I did not think that my trip to Rippavilla would get me interested in the civil war…

I know a bit about the civil war and learned about it in school but old battles were not something that interested me too much. As I mentioned I was the only person at Rippavilla so got a private tour and Kristi the guide was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the Battle of Franklin she was re-enacting parts of it and had me riveted. I won’t do it justice by trying to explain it except to saw it was a disaster in which the confederate state suffered a major defeat.

Interesting factoid: General Schofiled and General Hood were best friends and roommates at West Point.

Kristi was also very knowledgeable on slavery the area / era. The plantation has 75 slaves at one time, but as Kristi explained to me this was not just a plantation situation but most people owned or rented slaves at that time. Even the pastors, who in fact published booklets explaining that it was not wrong to own a slave. There are written records of these and also invoices for the rental of 17 year old enslaved men for 12cents a day, who would have been required to do everything from building roads to houses to harvesting etc. There is so much to learn about the past that I just did not know.

Leaving Spring Hill I headed up towards Lenoir city, where I stayed the night and, from where I’d be able to head up to Deals Gap and ride the Tail of the Dragon before continuing my journey to Kentucky. The weather however had some different ideas. I woke up to heady rain and started having second thoughts about riding the tail of the dragon with a lot of other idiots (or so I have been told I’d find on this stretch of road) I then thought the weather might change so off I went.

15kms in absolute torrential rain, although through some pretty areas, I realised that I still had 60kms out of my way to go just to ride some twisties…in the rain. What an idiot. SO I stopped did a U-turn and heading towards Kentucky. A decision I got happier with as the weather worsened. Ending up like a drowned rat I stopped early in London Kentucky. The tail of the dragon can wait for another trip.

USA Tennessee: Flying in Memphis

Oops I did it again. Went rolling in another plane. These rolls are just fun fun fun.

Spent an absolutely awesome day with my brother, Anthony, who I haven’t seen for 8 years. His friend Bill took me flying: did a couple of rolls, let me fly a bit, did some low level flying over a friend of his farm and most spectacularly did a lot of formation flying with Ant in his white Yak 50 and their friend Gene in his yellow Harman rocket. (I had to write down the names of the planes because to me they are, pretty white plane with wings and cool paint job yellow plane with wings 🤣🤣)

What a nice person, he also treated us all to Vietnamese for lunch YUM.

Ant, Gene, Bill and Glen who proved that even in your 50s/60s/70s men still act like boys when they are together.

Ant and I topped the day off by going to see Top Gun: Maverick. Great movie, extremely comfy movie theatre (the seats are huge and have fold out leg rests)

I also got to see my nephew Justin’s hanger with my Dads Auster which was very special. Justin is not only a pilot and aircraft mechanic, but a very talented artist. I saw one of his paint jobs up front on a plane that he built. Wow so interesting.

I also got to see my old Kawasaki DLR 650 that I rode through South and Central America and left with Justin in -Memphis hello old girl great see you again 🙂 that brought back a few memories.

Ant lives on a smallholding just outside of Memphis which is home not only to his two funny loving dogs but a few racoons and a load of squirrels.

Ants dog the lovable dork Avo and more sensible Chunky with the ”OMG this damn dog” look

Awesome awesome very memorable weekend ❤️

USA Tennessee: Sightseeing in Memphis

From Glitz, to Grit, to Glamour- A very interesting day in Memphis.

Welcome to disne..oops I mean Graceland, very interesting. Extremally kitsch including green shag carpets on the ceiling. Graceland is a great glimpse into the life of a rockstar even so long ago. His cars, motorbikes, horses, planes, stunning house (bar the kitch decor) All in all a worthwhile visit.

The Civil Rights museum. Very interesting, hard hitting- Not a great claim to fame of my name i.e. the motel in which Martin Luther King was assassinated. I learned so much, but was surprised, almost sad to see that the I was only 1 of 2 white people there. This really is a museum for everyone to see. Its history don’t ignore it. We as humans struggle to learn from history but we should try.

Some interesting thing I learned about slavery from one of the guides on the plantation: We in the west learn that the plantations were these mega right cotton farms that owned slaves. However the reality is most people earned or hired slaves at that time. Plantation is just another name for farm including the 10% of mega huge ones that on which one would find up to 100 slaves. The smaller middle class roughly 605 of the plantations having around 12 to 25 slaves ie. under 50. However people in the cities owned salves sometimes 1 to 12 to look after their houses, children and houses i.e. cook etc. Even pasters owned slaves usually 1 or 2, and the churches published booklets explaining to people why it was not wrong to own slaves. who were seen as heathens needing to be saved. There is documented invoices of 17 year old slaves being hired out for 12cents a day. They could be used for anything from cleaning house, harvesting to building properties or roads.

There is a movement to stop using the larger plantations for weddings etc, however as has been pointed out the courthouses were built by slaves, the bricks in most building were built by slaves. This is history deal with it, it’s ugly but it needs to eb faces and the contributions of the slaves need to be recognized. But trying to change it to tear it down doesn’t help anyone,

As Mandela, my heroes said: I walked out the door towards my freedom. I knew that if I did didn’t leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind that would still be my prison.

The Woodruff-Fontaine House 1871 Victorian mansion, very interesting with lots of history about that period. My only criticism is that the rooms were full of great stuff, but I am 100% sure during the 1800s they would not have been quick so full and it was hard to focus on everything. However don’t let this put you off it was a great tour with a fantastic tour guide.

My tip for all these places: Find slightly off the beaten track places. Go during the week, off season and early in the morning. That way you have a change of being the only person on the tour and you will get so much out of it and can ask a hundred questions. You will get a ‘’living’’ history lesson worth far more than you can read in a book.

USA Tennessee: Davie Manor House

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Just outside Memphis I went to visit the Davie House Plantation. What a great museum with the most knowledgeable curator Kat. I arrived to find a sign on the door saying walk-in tours Friday to Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday by appointment please call, with a number.  I was so disappointed as I had checked that they were open. So, I called the number to see if I might be able to book a tour for later. Well Kat answered the phone and said give me 1 min to open the door I’m just in the back, and then proceeded to give me a 2-hour private tour. It was fascinating she knew so much and I asked a hundred questions.

The first thing she explained was that the big plantations we see in movies like Django and Gone with the Wind only comprised about 10% of the plantations at that time and belong to the wealthy upper-class. Then there were about 60% of the plantations that were like the Davies House plantation and considered middle class. They did grow cotton and the people owned slave, about 15 to 22 at one time, whereas the large plantations would have up to 100 or hundreds.

It was so interesting to learn how the house built in 1807 is still standing due to the way it was built and the materials used. It stated as a 1 room cabin built by the family and grew into the house there is today. I find it fascinating to see how people lived in the past, and am also super grateful that I live now and not back in those times. For example, when women prepared to give birth they prepared for death as well, because of the high rate of deaths in childbirth.

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One of the many interesting stories Kat told me was that Ellen Davies wrote a lot of books and in one explained how her sharecropper Moses, who she often used as a Butler, was an amicable trustworthy man that she was fond of. However, from interviews with Moses daughter you hear the other side of the story about hose Moses was terrified of Ellen Davies. He did everything in his power to please her to keep on her good side and keep his family employed as share croppers on the property. Basically, sharecropping is like indentured work, so legal slavery without the cruelty. As it was explained to me.

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The property itself is stunning and I got pretty close to some deer.

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USA Tennessee: Road to Memphis

Tuesday, 31 May

I left Savannah this morning after having a small meet and greet with a homeless guy. He was really sweet he stopped outside the hotel when I was packing the bike and told me my bike was really nice. He asked how I could carry so much luggage, that he would struggle to carry even though he’s really strong. He then proceeded to show me how strong his arms were. He said he’s so strong because he’s a vet. He then said and with arms like these can I guess how old he is.

I didn’t want to guess as he looked about 70 but I was guessing by what he was saying that he probably wasn’t. He told me was 57 ”can you believe that”. Well I couldn’t but just said wow that’s impressive.

I’m pretty sure that he was homeless which is just very sad. He wished me a safe journey and all gods blessings and I rode out of Savannah.

I did ballpark about 450 km today about 400 on the interstate and then about the last 50 year off the interstate. The interstates are really great roads; huge, easy, good quality and hardly any traffic. So really easy to cruise along and no one sticks to the speed limit. Plus there are no speed cameras so I just cruise along at 75 to 80 miles/hour (113 to 120 km/h) I never really been a fan of the bigger Harleys style cruiser bikes as that is not my style, but I really do see the appeal on these big motorways. They must be really fun and would get you to places quickly.

Pretty little lake I saw somewhere off the interstate in Alabama

Generally what the roads off the interstate look like

When not riding off the interstate I found a mixture of some sweet towns like Newman and some very squirrelly looking one, very run down. Also a huge variety of houses from run down dumps to lovely looking family hones, to huge mansions. I especially love the South fork style mansion set well back on massive farms.

County courthouse in Newman

I came across this place by just riding along the backroads in Newman. What a find, looks stunning and haunted to me

On Wednesday, 01 June. I carried on spending some time exploring roads off the interstate and also hopping on the interstate to just put some miles behind me. As usual when riding I spend a lot time thinking in my helmet and this trip is no different.

My thoughts on the USA so far: Not political as I don’t live in the US so have no interest in discussing US politics. Although I don’t want to say anything negative but I’ll start with a negative of which there is really only one thing… the food, the portions are ridiculous I know this from every trip I’ve made here but it still slaps me in the face and kind of gets to me as I end up wasting so much food. It’s also not the healthiest food by far. No vegetables and I love my vegetables. I’m not vegetarian but eat a lot of vegetarian food and have radically reduced the amount of meat I eat, but I do love my vegies.  Some of the food is really cheap not just in price but in quality. I went to the waffle House for example, and you know you have to tip 20% here, with tip  it cost me six dollars for waffle and it was awful so I won’t make a mistake again. When I arrived in Savannah I wanted to have a really good meal so I found a great restaurant and had one of the best meals I’ve ever had in this country. Scallops on couscous with broccoli and was the right portion and it was just absolutely fantastically cooked and cost me 36 bucks so with a tip we talking 50 bucks for a meal in America that is exorbitant and it’s yeah well it’s a… Swiss prices so that’s crazy. But I’d say on average for a ‘’good’’ meal I’m paying 15-30 bucks

My healthy roadside lunch. With one of the good yoghurts.

 The other thing that’s really expensive as accommodation when I came to the state before, in 2016, I was paying on average $35-$55 and I think before the most I paid was $75. These are for the hotel just off the interstate for comparison.  Now I’m paying between $100 and $150, my average is $129. It’s just too ludicrous how expensive things are. Gas is a lot more expensive at $4.50 a gallon but still a lot cheaper than Switzerland which I think will work out to about $8 or $9 a gallon. But back to the food that’s again the negative thing is the quality and the sizes and trying to find healthy food. The hotel breakfasts are yeah hmm lots of cereal one of them had oat porridge which was cool that was good. They all have bananas and which is great. Every hotel so far has also served scones which are called biscuits here. So that I like to have coffee and scones and a banana. I had tried the yoghurt once (and I know you can get good yoghurt here as I had some at Matt and Mayas place) But in the hotel it was like strawberry jelly mixed with milk powder…. Hmm maybe that is how they made it yuck. I had a boiled egg in one hotel that the yoke was so pale it was almost white. It was a proper fresh boiled egg I de-shelled myself but completely tasteless. Every hotel also serves the food with paper plates and plastic cutlery. There is plastic everything everywhere, and almost zero recycling. I’m not sure where the environmental movements are I see on the news but they sure are not driving around this country.

There are pockets of places where I have seen a lot of garbage on the interstates, but mostly the countryside is very clean. I often see people walking along the roads cleaning up, and there are notices indicating who sponsors the roads, so I guess they keep them clean. Not sure why that is needed I mean just throw your trash in a bin people.

Right to the other side of what I noticed here. People are friendly, really friendly, and polite. It’s not just the homeless guy who chatted to me but I’ve met soooooo many nice friendly people just in gas stations. It’s cool 😊

There is also soooooo much space here. I just love riding along and seeing these huge wide open spaces, it really does the heart good and puts me in a great mood every day. It’s a beautiful place and green as anything. I have seen some stunning birds and deer. I saw a few racoons at Ants place and many many squirrels everywhere. I just love it.

Riding to Memphis I crossed from Georgia to Alabama and eve a tiny bit of Mississippi before entering Tennessee. I think I’m going to get to see a lot of the US and the North, mid, South , East and West are very very different.

Just outside Memphis in the suburb of Bartlett I did some more house exploring.

 

Had to wait for this lot to take their time to cross the road…and they have wings 🙂
The garden the geese came from, I think they were taking advantage of the fountain.