Connecticut in the rain.

I shoulda known. All them hours of back-breaking labor to wash the beast, get it nice and shiny. Then, the rain. Moving day we got thoroughly dumped upon, to the tune of about 168 miles worth. Our destination: Nelson Family Campground in East Hampton. Talk about a stressful swim. Besides the sheets of water pounding down on us relentlessly, the route to get to the campground took us on back roads a half lane wide, severe twisting and turning, with an onslaught of low-hanging branches. I was surprised to arrive at the campground with my 2 antennas still attached to the bus. But hey, what’s a little stress in your life, eh?

Speaking of stress. We have discovered that this little corner of our world (the northeast corner of the USA) comes with all kinds of issues. All of our machines (iPhones, iPads, trucker version of on-board GPS) seem to be less than trustworthy when it comes to routing us most anywhere. Driving 40’ of bus towing a Jeep and getting routed onto skinny, hard-to-maneuver roads is not a lot of fun. Thankfully, I have only run into a couple of situations where I actually had to disconnect the Jeep in order to turn around. Again, Jeanne gets to be entertained by the depth of my 4-letter vocabulary. Additionally, it seems the various DOT’s in these here parts don’t seem to worry much about forewarning motorists (signage) regarding steep grades (grade + distance) nor give consistent warnings about low clearance overpasses. And to top it all off, finding campgrounds/parks with available space is nigh impossible. As I have mentioned previously, we do not like to do the reservation dance, preferring not to tie ourselves down to a schedule. In most of the rest of the country we have had little issue with just driving in as “walk-up” business (except the big ticket snow-bird areas like Florida). But here in the northeast, they have such limited facilities and short season, they fill up quickly for summer. We have been spending hours researching for places to stay and have to give in to the reservation way of life. &%$#@* !!!

Nelson Family Campground is a nice facility. They have tons of activities geared toward family fun; well kept pool area, shuffleboard courts, playground, horseshoes, basketball court, soccer field, movies at a pavilion, clubhouse with a snack bar on weekends, and small camp store. Our site was in an open, grassy field which is preferable for satellite reception. The sites have no sewer hookups but there is a dump on site and they do accept Passport America.

We got a break in the rain and decided to go back to college, so to speak. We loaded the bicycles up and headed into New Haven for a bicycle tour of town and Yale University. Yale was pretty impressive (it should be, it is WAY beyond my means!) seeing it dates back to 1701. Harkness Tower was particularly gothic.

Jeanne wanted to check out the Westport area, she had learned it had a beach area for the rich and infamous. When we got there we found the continuing “anti-tourist” theme of charging exorbitant fees to use their beaches. They wanted $50 for parking and day use fee. OK, it then became a driving tour. We found a property formerly belonging to Katherine Hepburn called “Paradise”, 6 bed, 2 bath, 8368 square feet. It was built in 1939, renovated in 2005, and currently on the market for anyone having a spare $11,800,000.00 floating around. Unfortunately we could not get real close to get better photos. But the photos they have posted on zillow.com are very nice.

We drove by the Old Saybrook Police Dept. and I caught a glimpse of an old patrol car in their lot, which I could not resist getting a photo op with.

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Gumball!

The town of Essex has a bunch of historical houses along Main St. That includes the Griswold Inn, touted as Connecticut’s oldest continuously operating inn and one of their “picture book” buildings.

Also nearby we found the Gillette Castle. Not the razor guy but an actor named William Gillette. Built in 1919, the state took it over and made it a state park in 1943. We passed on the interior “tour”, but walked the grounds with Woody.

Just up the road from our campground we ran across “Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center”, a memorabilia/antique style shop akin to something you might find in North Beach of San Francisco. The interior was a tight squeeze among a whole lot of “stuff”; LP’s stacked floor to ceiling, old pin-up posters (including that iconic one of Farah Fawcett in her one-piece swimsuit), black light posters, period articles of clothing (most I saw from the 60’s-70’s), photos, incense, and just about anything 1960-ish. The outside was definitely “eye-catching”!

Our next moving day took us all of 44 miles to the Seaport RV Resort just outside of Mystic, CT. On our way, we needed to burn a couple of hours since most of the folks back here insist on charging extra for early check-ins. So we stopped off at the Mohegan Sun Casino to see if I could win us a lunch or donate to their economy. Whoopee(!) it was the former. This is a VERY nice casino and for anyone interested, they do allow RV stays (free dry camping in the lot) for up to 7 days! Just check in with security…

We still got to Seaport RV a little early, but they did not enforce the early fee. The check-in gal was very friendly, helpful, and the park is pro-military/first responder as far as discount goes. We ended up paying about $41 per night for our weeklong stay. The park itself is fairly open sky, level, grassy sites with W/E only and for our week we got 2 free visits from the honey wagon. There is a nice pool facility, miniature golf, a laser tag yard, and a playground for the kiddies.

The rain continued off and on during our stay here. In between downpours we did find time to explore. Stonington is a small town area with a coastal point from which you can supposedly see pieces of NY, RI, and CT. We got there and barely saw 25 yards of ocean, the fog was England-like thick (must’ve been brought over by the Brits pre-revolutionary war).

The town of Mystic lays claim to being the home of Mystic Pizza, subject and location of the Julia Roberts movie by the same name. Besides walking the town and seeing the sights like the Mystic River drawbridge and the Union Baptist Church, we just HAD to sample the fare at Mystic Pizza. Not bad pizza (not Chicago style, but not bad). To finish off the day we found the Outer Light Brewing Co. to be a rather busy little micro-brewery. Jeanne enjoyed her pilsner style and I liked their coffee stout. And the owners are the nicest folks you could meet. They, too, are very first-responder friendly. We had a good conversation about traveling and the full-time RV lifestyle.

We found another nearby casino, Foxwoods Resort, to occupy some of our rain induced down time. That is one very large Indian casino/resort that incorporates a Tanger outlets mall into it’s mix. The size of that place rivals some of the large casinos in downtown Vegas. Jeanne was able to hold her own and break out even, while I continued my standard practice of donating to their local economy. Due to rain we also had ample opportunity to hit the grocery stores and Walmart to stock up on supplies. Now I’m gonna mention the Apple app “Shopkicks”. Jeanne’s niece Savohna got us started on this silly thing. I guess I should not refer to it as silly, I think between the two of us over the past 3-4 years we have received at least $1,000 in gift cards, mostly used at Walmart and Best Buy. Shopkicks is a conglomerate of participating retailers where you can get “shopkicks” (points) for walking in their store front door, scanning the bar code on certain products, watching short video ads, buying certain products and scanning the receipt, or finding “surprise” shopkicks while viewing the product ads on the app. And they offer different awards for various amounts of accumulated points, from gift cards up to luxury cruises. We just happen to redeem our points for gift cards. For example, a Walmart $25 gift card requires 6,250 shopkicks. Typical earnings for bar code scans can run 10-100 shopkicks, walk-in shopkicks typically in the range of 25-100, etc. And, if a shopkicks user invites others to join via e-mail, once the invitee gets established, the one doing the inviting will get a cut of the shopkicks picked up by the newbie for their first couple of weeks (at least that was the promotion way back when we got started). It really does not take long to store up for the gift cards we use. The goofy thing is, especially during bad weather, this becomes our warped sense of entertainment, wandering around the stores with iPhones in hand, scanning away. But it becomes un-goofy and un-silly when we get to buy stuff for free.

We wanted to make a short trip into Westerly, RI, and got the clear weather to do it, hoping to check out some beaches. We let Woody walk us around the historical downtown area, then headed off to Misquamicut State Beach. Big bummer. I am officially fed up with this area’s tendencies to be so un-visitor-friendly. We have found every beach we encountered to charge fees, some very high ($40-$50 range). And the ones, like Misquamicut, more doable but doggies are prohibited. The fees would not bug me so much,  but they close off ALL nearby surface street parking so we can’t even do a quick walk-on to see what they have to offer. And public beaches are limited. I have not experienced this many private beaches on the ocean, coming from California where there are virtually no private beaches.

Yet, the adventure continues. Good-bye to Connecticut and look out Rhode Island, here we come! Until next post…

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Surviving Another Holiday on the Road

We found space at the Arrowhead Marina and RV Park near Schenectady, NY. I wasn’t real thrilled with the customer service as we pulled in, however. We find in these here parts a lot of the RV parks boast an early check-in fee and late check-out fee. This one was no exception, and we knew ahead of time coming in. Some check-in times are much later than others, here it was 2:00. We have encountered parks that advertise that fee but then do not enforce it. So we motored in at noon, hoping this was one such park. No soap. The check-in employee steadfastly refused to let us check-in early without insisting on the half day’s fee for early check-in. I half expected that and took note of a large RV storage yard off the driveway which had plenty of empty space. I asked if we could leave the rig in the storage yard area while we Jeeped into town for lunch. She flat out denied my request and had no suggestions for nearby parking areas big enough for the beast. And she did it all with that “Hey, dumbass, what part of early check-in fee do you not understand?” look. So much for looking out for your customers. Even though this park was a nice park on the Mohawk River, I will never return just because of the attitude. Enough ranting.

We still fought the weather gods, it seems we have been rained on quite a bit since we entered Pennsylvania back in May. We managed to get a break long enough to venture into Albany where we did a walkabout around the Empire State Plaza area. The Capitol building was pretty impressive and not of the typical Capitol architectural styling (Greek, heavy on the columns, and usually a dome of some sort), but looked more “colonial”. The Egg was a unique structure, used as a venue for the performing arts. And there was a series of 4 look-alike buildings that are legislative offices (according to a local). We went up to the top observation deck for the Corning Tower and got a bird’s-eye-view of the plaza area as well as the surrounding countryside, including the Governor’s Mansion. At lunch time we meandered a few blocks to The Olde English Pub and had an outstanding lunch of fish and chips (Jeanne) and Beef Stout Pie (Moi). We no sooner paid the check when it opened up and downright POURED on us! We had to hole up in the doorway of the pub for 5 minutes while the storm passed.

One day Jeanne wanted to go to Waterford and check out the lock system along the Erie Canal waterways. They have an extensive 524 mile canal system which contains somewhere around 53 locks to assist boats along the waterways. We got to Waterford and found Lock E2. We just happened by at the right time, we got to see the lock in action as a boat approached. This particular lock transitions from one waterway at 48.75’ elevation to the lower waterway at 15.2’ elevation. After watching the boat continue on its way, we drove to a couple of other locks before heading back to camp.

We lucked out on our last night with the weather. The city of Albany puts on a summer concert series at Jennings Landing called “Alive at 5”. There is a nice, small amphitheater area on the river and this night The Outlaws happened to be the headliners. What an awesome show!!! The guitar shredding that went on with “Green Grass and High Tides” was amazing. These guys still got it!

So, moving day included a massive thunder/lightning torrential downpour upon our arrival at our new home, Autumn Moon Campground, just a mere 25 miles north of our last home. Being in upstate New York, we are always tempting fate by using Google Maps with the “avoid tolls” function enabled. New York has been our most challenging state as far as navigation goes; they have WAY too many low clearance bridges, we are running into WAY too many weight limited roads on the back roads, and steep grades are not well marked or forewarned. But we made it, unscathed. Autumn Moon Campground is a bit out in the sticks, terribly unlevel sites (wheels-off-the-ground unlevel), and only 30A service on the electricity. But, try finding an RV space on 4th of July week at the last minute…

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Home, at Autumn Moon Campground.

We got up the next morning and decided to start with a breakfast date in town, Saratoga Springs. We found a little dumpy diner as we entered town called “Shirley’s” which had a jam packed parking lot. We took that hint and stopped. Breakfast turned out to be the most perfectly cooked eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and English muffins that I have EVER had. That is counting 58 years of stuffing my face with restaurant fare covering 43 of the contiguous 48 states. WOW! (Nutrisystem, here I come!).

With full belly and tired of all the off-the-grid stops we are encountering in this northeast part of the country, we set out on a quest to get some form of improved wifi system. It was becoming tiresome having to hit a Walmart or a Starbucks to download photos or do any updates on “the machines” because we were either getting no service or were slowed down to a snail’s pace. We are currently Verizon users, using a Verizon Jet Pack for our wifi needs. We got unhappy with Verizon when first they convinced us to give up (and not available to reinstate) a 40 gig, 4G speed monthly plan for an “unlimited” plan that throttles down to 3G speed  after 10 gigs of use, then possibly slows further by putting us in a “priority” mode depending on the entire area’s usage, after reaching 22 gigs of use. (If that is all Greek to you, that’s OK, it is quite Albanian to me!). It translates to, after we switched to “unlimited”, we were less than satisfied (nice one, kept my 4-letter vocabulary in check!). And to top it off, FMCA had just announced an unbelievably awesome deal they were working on with Verizon for unlimited data for members of FMCA, and that one lasted a couple of seconds before Verizon pulled the plug on the deal. So Jeanne was on a mission to find a better data usage deal. She found AT&T offering an AT&T Homebase (to replace the Jet Pack) with 250 gigs at 4G speed for about $70 monthly (of course, 2 year contract to initialize, month-to-month thereafter). So, bing, bang, bong, we’re off and running to see if we achieved our goal. So far, we are happy with the change, I’ll try and fill you in on how it is working after a month or two…

We wanted to check out the Lake George area so the first chance the weather allowed we took the short drive to the Village of Lake George. It is a quaint little town, and I do mean little. The lake is a popular destination for summer boating fun. We took Woodrow Wilson on a walkabout in town and along it’s beach, then decided to do the drive around the lake. It was about an hour’s drive, the west side of the lake was scenic and led through several little town areas that were packed with vacationers. The east side was not real scenic, rarely in sight of water, either Lake George or the Erie Canal. But hey, no rain, whoopie!

When we got back to town we dropped Woody off at home and returned to Saratoga Springs for a walkabout and dinner. Congress Park was a large town park where we found one of the town’s namesake springs, Columbian Spring. The locals fill up jugs for home use at the springs that are scattered around town. While we were there a young man showed up carrying a large Red Tailed Boa which Jeanne had a burning desire to get her photo taken with so she could impress the grandchildren. The snake was a 50 lb. female which her owner feeds rats. It took some time for Jeanne to build the courage, but she did it!

The 4th of July we “celebrated” by going to town for groceries and supplies. Oh boy! But we just had to make time to go see the All American Celebration free concert. The performers were a local band called The Audiostars. They played a mix of genres and were OK according to Jeanne. I was not a fan, especially after the incomparable Outlaws experience. I was surprised that the masses appeared to behave themselves, not a lot of alcohol induced misbehavior. Definitely not what I am used to from years gone by back in California at the Guerneville 4th of July celebrations.

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The Audiostars doing their thing on the 4th of July…

Saratoga Spa State Park was suggested as a must -see by our hosts at Autumn Moon. It is a state park built on site of a whole lot more natural springs that had been developed into a spa area with the springs, mineral baths, and a performing arts center. The springs and spa date back to the 1800’s. They now have 2 golf courses, an automobile museum, some pool facilities, and numerous picnic areas, among everything else. We took Woody on a walk of some of the park, finding the most popular spring called the State Seal Spring, and discovering the performing arts area closed to the public due to an upcoming event. We had a nice picnic lunch in the shade (again, no rain!!!), then called it a wrap.

With the weather looking good for at least a few days, tomorrow I think will be a “Give the Beast a Bath” day to wash a few layers of dirt off the bus. Then, we are headed for an exit to the state of New York, enroute to the state of Connecticut. Until next post…

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Thousand Islands area on the St. Lawrence River, NY, then on to Cooperstown.

Our home for our visit to the Thousand Islands area was the Swan Bay RV Resort in Alexandria Bay, NY. This was an outstanding find for our week’s stay. Their normal rates are a bit high, but they are a participating Passport America park and we were able to get the week for $180. Gated park, paved interior roads, concrete pads with brick patios, ample spacing between sites, nice pool with a tiki bar, right on the river with boat ramps and docks, playground for the kiddies, fenced dog walk area, and right next door to a grocery store.

On our arrival we immediately met our friendly neighbors, Andy and Adair. That first day was pretty much set up, then we hit Foxy’s, a recommended establishment, for dinner with Andy and Adair. We had a table overlooking the river and it would have been a spectacular sunset scene, except the weather gods did not want to smile upon us and it was overcast. But we had a nice visit with our new friends.

Our first full day Jeanne and I took a reconnaissance spin around the area. We drove into Alexandria Bay (AKA: A-Bay), down to Cape Vincent to scout the ferry to Canada, and stopped to do a little tasting at the St. Lawrence Distillery. A little later in the week we would hit Clayton Distillery and Dark Island Spirits as well.  They were nice little local distilleries, but I’m afraid New York distilleries have got nothing on Kentucky distilleries.

A visit here would not be complete without seeing at least ONE of the castles, our choice was the Boldt Castle on Heart Island. We took the local ferry over from A-Bay and spent a few hours wandering the grounds and interior of the castle. Boldt made his money from a couple of small little “bed & breakfast” places called the Waldorf-Astoria, in NY, and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, then wanted to build a monument to the love of his life, his wife Louise. She died at 42 years old before he was able to finish the monstrous castle and he ceased construction immediately. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority now owns the property and is currently doing renovations/repairs to restore it to where Boldt left off on the original construction and then points beyond, possibly to finish it off. What has been done thus far is very nice, not on the magnitude of a Hearst Castle, but very impressive nonetheless.

For our foray into Canada, we decided to drive the Jeep over the Thousand Islands Bridge, then tour south through Gananoque and into Kingston. We did a walkabout in downtown Kingston and ended with lunch at the Kingston Brewing Co. The weirdest thing I ever saw happened while we strolled the main drag with all the restaurants and shops. As we strolled at about 12:30ish the sidewalk was jam packed, felt like we were walking in downtown NYC. We walked off the main drag to check on a couple of anciently old churches and when we returned at about 1:15ish the main drag sidewalk was a GHOST TOWN! I guess Canadians take their lunch time seriously…

The weather cleared just enough one day to allow us to give the bicycles a little workout, so we loaded them up and drove to Cape Vincent to catch the ferry over to Wolfe Island (Canada). We left the Jeep parked in Cape Vincent because I am a cheap bas#%rd and only wanted to pay the bicycle fee for the ferry, $3 each. A 10 minute ride got us to Wolfe Island and it was off to cruise some Canadian asphalt. We took a nice, leisurely pace through the countryside with all their wind turbines, to the only town on the island, Marysville, where the other ferry delivers one to Kingston. The Cape Vincent/Wolfe Island ferry is a private enterprise and very small, the ferry may be able to carry (6) vehicles at best. The Wolfe Island/Kingston ferry is run by the Canadian government and is free for use. The only problem  is this is a very heavily used ferry for the island dwellers and the vehicles line up all the way through the tiny town. One local told me the ferry here could carry maybe (55) vehicles, tops, and having to wait for the next ferry is not  uncommon. We were happy we were on bicycles.

Our last hurrah here we got together with Andy and Adair while Andy smoked some chicken and que’d some corn. We had a good time talking all things “full-timing” and about the places we were headed to.

Of course, moving day meant Murphy had to stick his big nose into my business, it rained steadily while I prepped (outside) for our travels. But we got the jacks up and it was Cooperstown, here we come!

Our home while in Cooperstown was Hartwick Highlands Campground for 3 days. At $49 per night it was about as inexpensive as could be found for the area as far as pay campgrounds goes. The campground was very nice, had a nice open field area where we were and another heavily wooded area for more of that “camping” feeling. They had a pool, arcade, store, playground, lots of cabins for rent, and a nice dog run. The site was large pull through, level gravel, lots of space (grass) between sites, and the interior road was easy to navigate.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was ultra cool to see. 3 stories of everything baseball, it took us a good 2 hours to wander through, and I know I “glazed over” parts and pieces of it. The town of Cooperstown is a quaint little hamlet that contains shops for all things baseball as well. And just for once I got Murphy to show favor upon us. Cooperstown is also home to a large youth baseball complex called Cooperstown Dream Park. The weekend we were there just happened to be check-in weekend for a tournament about to start, involving a large army of young ball players and families. We picked Saturday to visit the HOF and luckily the teams were all busy so it was normal tourist traffic at the hall. Strolling through town one day later on Sunday and holy smokes(!!!) was it wall to wall kids in uni’s, all lined up out the door to visit the hall. Thanks, Murphy!

Well, heck. Hereabout these parts they have something called the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. OK, twist my arm. Ouch. So their “trail” includes a distillery, breweries, and wineries, 8 to be exact. Piece of cake, nailed ‘em all! Got customized pint glasses for the effort. Thanks to Butternuts Beer & Ale, Rustic Ridge Winery, Fly Creek Cider Mill, Pail Shop Vineyards, Cooperstown Distillery, Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown Brewing Co., and Bear Pond Winery. Now someone we spoke with on the trail mentioned this area also has another trail…an ice-cream trail. Oh, crap, there’s the kiss of death!!!

I guess I’ll put a cork in it for now. (Ha ha ha ha, sometimes I just KILL myself!) Moving day tomorrow, our short term goal right now is to survive past the Fourth of July holiday as far as getting places to stay. This corner of the world is getting harder to find parks for any length of stay because they have such a short season and we are in it. We are also finding many with size restrictions that do not allow for 40’ rigs. However, press on we must…

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A Little Upstate Beauty in New York.

We decided we would not drive too long when it was time to leave NYC, but just long enough to get us out of the hectic mess and try for a couple of days with full hook ups for laundry catch up. Calling around looking for space we found Sylvan Lake Beach Campground in Hopewell Junction. We only got one night’s stay there, if we wanted the original 3 night’s we wanted they were going to have us move to a different site each day…a big “no go” for me. So with a destination plugged into the onboard GPS (trucker’s version), off we went. All I can say is, I needed some phenobarbital by the end of the travel day. “Rosie” started me off navigating some of the narrowest and most crowded side streets no bigger than alleyways, to get me onto the 95 North. Any of you wish to come visit this whole northeast corner of the USA, be prepared for toll road after toll road. I should have done better with my navigational research, 95 takes you across the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge. That bridge alone was a mere $84 toll for a 40’ bus towing a Jeep. All in all, I think we got fanged for a total of about $130  give or take for all the tolls we had to cough up on just this one travel day. I think a few bourbons to wash down the phenobarbital was now in order! But we got to the campground and were able to put a big dent in our pile of dirty laundry in just the one day. The park itself was SO not worth the $50 per night rate. But parks in this state are all pretty much overpriced, and there are not a lot of alternative choices available.

We did find our next stop for a week’s stay, Pinecreek Campground outside of Ithaca, NY, in the area of the Finger Lakes. Ithaca is on Cayuga Lake. The weekly rate worked out to about $40 per day which was about as reasonable as we could hope for. The campground is OK, we had a lot of space, but it was in the trees and our site had no satellite reception. And the WiFi/cell service was HORRIBLE! But the area is beautiful around the Finger Lakes.

Our first outing we wanted to check out Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake. We drove to Watkins Glen State Park and walked the Gorge Trail. That is a very nice trail along Glen Creek that has some 19 or so waterfalls. I guess they classify the smallest of drops as falls around here, I was not real impressed with the falls here as a whole. But it was a nice walk. This was the one park in this area that did not allow K-9’s on the trail, so Woody had to stay home.

Since the state parks charge for parking at most of them, and the parking pass is good for the same day at all the parks, we decided to hit a couple of the other waterfall sights. Taughannock Falls State Park contains it’s namesake waterfall, which is touted as the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rockies (215 feet, 3-stories taller than Niagara Falls). They do allow doggies on the trail here, so we picked up Woodrow Wilson and took him with us. The hike to the foot of the falls was  only 3/4 mile along the Taughannock Creek.

Woody again got to go with us to check on Buttermilk Falls at Buttermilk Falls State Park. That was no hike at all, the falls are right off the parking lot. We walked the stairs up the hill along the falls so we could get a view from the top.

The next day we actually drove all the way around Seneca Lake, with a stop in Geneva to walk Woody along the boardwalk area. On our way home driving the west side of the lake we discovered pretty much the whole west side was their Wine Country area, nothing but wall to wall vineyards and wineries. Sorry, but the tiny size of the vineyards we saw is NO COMPARISON to the size of those from whence we come from (Napa/Sonoma Counties and the central coast area in California). California’s vineyards cover whole mountains and valleys and acres and miles, many for as far as the eye can see…

A few other waterfalls in the area called to us. We found Ithaca Falls in downtown Ithaca. Triphammer Falls is located on the campus of Cornell University. Both of those required no hike. Our final waterfall was a few miles of hiking, right from our campground into Robert H. Treman State Park. We took the Gorge Trail here to Lucifer Falls. This was a very nice trail, a bit strenuous (series of steep stairs), but Lucifer Falls was very scenic.

Jeanne wanted to visit the Corning Glass Museum, a tribute to all things glass. This was a neat little museum, with displays of art, science, and live demonstrations of glass blowing.

Tomorrow is moving day, headed up to the Thousand Island region near Canada. We’ll tell you all about it…next post…

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The Concrete Jungle!

Big Apple, we have arrived! Not without some stress points however. Just about the only place to stay in the area for RV’s is the Liberty Harbor Marina and RV Park in Jersey City. This is truly a dump of a park but the proximity to NYC is outstanding and the staff here are about the friendliest and most helpful you’ll find anywhere. $95 per night makes you want to cringe, but it is the only game in town. And to get to the park in a 40’ beast towing a Jeep traveling through the skinny streets jam packed with traffic will certainly test your mettle. More like melt your mettle…

Like I mentioned last post, we learned quite a bit of information from Nina of wheelingit.us as far as getting around without using your toad. There is a PATH train-stop just outside the park, and 2 different ferry docks at or near the park that will get you to either the 911 Memorial area on the Hudson River side of the city or to the back side of the peninsula at Pier 11 at the mouth of the East River. Then all kinds of choices for transportation abound. It appeared the main choice of transportation for the folks was shoe leather. The city has a large fleet of City Bikes that are rentable and stations for renting or dropping off are everywhere. Then there’s good ol’ taxi cabs, Uber, or Lyft. And for the adventurous there are 26 subway lines covering the city. I’ll talk a little more about our chosen methods of transportation a little later in this post. The entire post may turn out a little disjunctive. There is SO MUCH to see and do in NYC and a week is nowhere near enough time to explore, so we are going full speed each day and I will be adding to the post every now and then so I can try to avoid leaving things out. And I apologize in advance for my photos and whether I get any of their information mixed up. There really is a lot to see and some of it just runs together in my pea brain. But I’ll do my best. Some of my pics will probably be cutting parts and pieces off too, the dang scenery here is so immense I can’t fit a lot of it onto a simple screen. (Good thing I did what I did for a living, I would never make a decent living as a photographer!).

Our first excursion was to take Woody on a walk over to Liberty State Park, just a few miles walk from the RV. The stroll took us by some pretty fancy boats moored along Morris Canal. There was a very nice viewpoint at the end of the park facing NYC, it gave us a nice skyline shot. Fog and smog were regular features here and they offered some eerie viewing of the big city. Circling around the Hudson River side of the park got us a fairly close view of Lady Liberty’s back side and of Ellis Island. By the time we got back to the rig, I think we broke Woody. He was about as wiped out as I have ever seen him. (And he had a big limp for the next couple of days to boot…).

The ferry to Ellis Island and Liberty Island was a nice smooth boat ride. It gave us a real good view of Lady Liberty from her front side. We did a walkabout at Ellis Island, the immigrant processing station, now a National Park. Then another short ferry skip to Liberty Island. For me, it was awe-inspiring in similar nature to Mt. Rushmore. We were glad to be here at this time of year, I think we beat the REAL crowds that I can only imagine appear in, say, July-September.

We got back to Liberty Harbor early enough to go eat, regroup, then decided to head over to the 911 Memorial. The Liberty Harbor Ferry has a landing at the end of Warren St. just a short walk from the RV park. We purchased the 10-ticket special right on the boat, 10 1-way rides to or from the 911 Memorial area for $55, then sat back as we headed out to “sea”. Maybe a 5 minute ride and we were stepping onto NYC soil (OK, concrete). A couple of blocks walk and there we were, Ground Zero, with a very large contingent of fellow tourists. The whole WTC area was pretty much an emotional rollercoaster; between the 2 memorials and the Memorial Museum, it evoked some of the initial feelings of rage from that dark time.

Still some “gas in the tank”, we hoofed it down to the financial district to check in with the Charging Bull. This little jaunt was just a quick pass-by of Wall Street, we would return another day to spend more time there. Basically just across the street was the Trinity Church. Originally dating back to 1698 (original buildings had been destroyed by fire in 1776), there is a cemetery on the grounds that contains the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton, among many others.

The Brooklyn Bridge was quite the beast to see. Hordes of people (most of them foreigners of the rude variety) on foot and on bicycles packing the pedestrian part of the bridge. You learn real quick to stay clear of the bicycle half of the path, they scream down the road with their hair on fire. It gave a nice view of the Brooklyn skyline. We trouped across and back, acting like human pinballs, then found ourselves near City Hall and the courthouses. Of course I had to get my photo in front of One Police Plaza. And then I had to take Jeanne’s photo on the “Law and Order” steps (from the TV series, one of the opening shots is the stars on the steps of this building).

From there we wandered back to Wall Street. We got to check out the area of the Stock Exchange, the Federal Hall Memorial, the Federal Reserve building, and the other half of the Trinity Church cemetery.

We did not get to enjoy the big city without rain intrusion. One day of rain and it became a road trip day. I got to experience driving in downtown NYC as we took the Holland Tunnel over, then dodged potential TC’s (sorry, that would be “traffic collisions”) through a small part of downtown to get to the Manhattan Bridge. That took me over to Brooklyn/Queens area, past La Guardia and JFK airports, then on out to Long Island. We drove to the Hamptons, Southhampton to be exact, and immediately found the rich folk are not real invitational with regards to their beach areas. The only beach accesses we found were $40 parking with no surface street parking allowed at all. Not a particularly nice day for beach-bumming, we passed on the beaches and just drove around the residential areas gawking at the mansions scattered about. On our way back we stopped off at the Long Beach boardwalk where we found ample free parking, hoping to let Woody give us a walk along the boardwalk. But the city of Long Beach is not a dog-friendly city, no dogs allowed on the boardwalk, so back in the Jeep we went and it was back to the rig we went. By the time we returned to Jersey City, the skies had cleared and we took Woody on a walk over to Liberty Park to view the NYC skyline at sunset and beyond. It was absolutely gorgeous!

We wanted to give the PATH train (subway) a whirl, since the Grove St. station is just a few blocks away from our “home”. We caught the Journal Square to 33rd St. train and a mere 20 minutes or so later we were walking the midtown area toward Times Square. It cost us a whopping $2.75 each for the ride. The cost and convenience sure made me a believer. We wandered midtown on foot with a few thousand others while we saw the sights. Times Square was very cool. We got to see things like the Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Church, Trump Tower (they were having a pro-Israel parade go by while we were there), the Empire State Building, NBC studios HQ, and FOX News HQ. What made my day was while we were standing in front of FOX, Ambassador John Bolton walked up on his way to work as a FOX contributor. He actually took the time to take a photo with us! And the kicker to that…just a few blocks away we happened upon Ed Henry, FOX News’ Chief National Correspondent and he, too, took the time to take a photo with us! We had to end our foray into midtown for the day, Woody had to be left at home and he is only good for 5-6 hours before we need to return and tend to his needs. But rest assured, there is more on midtown to follow, there is so much to see and do.

More rain was not enough to dampen our exploratory spirits. Another foray into midtown and we got to experience Central Park. We saw Strawberry Fields and walked over to the Dakota, the apartment building where John Lennon was living when he was murdered. Central Park was very scenic and nothing like what we expected. We passed by Madison Square Gardens and Penn Station, spent more time around Times Square, and walked an old elevated train line that has been converted into a park called The High Line. Very cool “park” to check out.

Our last day venturing into the city landed us in the midtown area. New things we saw were Union Square, Grand Central Terminal (Station), Bryant Park, and ate with the rich folk at Del Frisco’s across the street from FOX News. It was a weird feeling, they have no dress code and we were in shorts (but I DID have on the rare button up, collared, Hawaiian print shirt). Everyone else who came in were wearing $1,000 suits (OK, probably not that much but still pretty hoity-toity). Good lunch though…

So, final tally on our preferred method of transportation (shoe leather) according to my Fitbit. For the 8 days we spent here at Liberty Harbor RV Park, I walked 192,665 steps for 87.99 miles. We used the Warren St. Ferry to get to the World Financial Center, then hoofed around town from there. We never used a cab, City Bike, or the NY subway system, we preferred the foot experience. We used the NY Waterways Ferry that took us from the Paulus Hook dock to Pier 11 by the Brooklyn Bridge. And we used the PATH train which is a subway train that runs from Jersey City (our stop was on Grove St., just a few blocks from the RV park) to 33rd St. in NYC. We expected a navigational and transportation nightmare during our stay here but were pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get around and find your way in the megalopolis that is New York City. As far as safety concerns, we had none. We could not turn around without seeing multiple law enforcement personnel everywhere. I spoke with one of the Port Authority coppers and he said that NYPD alone had over 40,000 sworn. Add to that the Port Authority, school cops, Homeland Security, State Police, and whatever other L.E. presence is in NYC and that adds up to a couple of flat-foots on the beat.

Walking amongst the masses, and I do mean masses, was also not as bad as we expected. Yes, we did play a little pinball, it is pretty much unavoidable because of the sheer numbers, but it was entertaining to watch so many walking with head down in their cell phones; every now and then one would not see a low hanging branch until it was too late. The car drivers were the rude bunch, nobody obeys lanes, lights, or signs. I think I figured out the national anthem/fight song for NYC. Sung to the tune of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns, & Money”, it must be titled, “Jackhammers, Horns, & Sirens”.

Tomorrow, we are outta here. Still trying to figure where we are headed, but it will probably not be too far so we can decompress for a couple days, catch up with laundry and shelf stocking, and then get back focused on our chosen profession of “Recreational Wanderers”…

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A Little More Delaware, A Little More Maryland, and on to New Joy-zee.

Holiday Park Campground was next in line for our new home. Located out in the sticks in a “town” called Greensboro, MD, this was another overpriced stopover along our east coast journey. Thick trees, water and electric only, sites of gravel and mud, it definitely did not warrant the $44 per night rate. But then, like most of the scarce RV parks we are encountering, people are willing to pay these high prices, so they can keep charging them. And this half of the country has very little public lands (BLM, Nat’l Forests, etc.) for those of us who would rather pay zero and boondock every now and then.

Still fighting the rain, we only had the opportunity to check out a couple of spots. First up was New Castle, DE. We loaded up Woodrow Wilson and road tripped into town. As luck would have it, New Castle is a very small, quaint, piece of history and upon our arrival we fell into their Historical Society’s big “A Day in Old New Castle” celebration. The old town area gets all dolled up and folks dress in period costumes to give tours of some of the old residences/buildings, to the tune of $25 per ticket for each adult. I’m still a cheap bast*%$, so we walked Woody around the town without touring inside. Some of the places still standing have been doing so since the 16-1700’s. Very cool…

The other place we got to see without getting wet was in Cambridge, MD. We drove out to the Choptank River Lighthouse and walked around the  park there and the Cambridge Yacht Club. The folks there have a couple of bucks, judging by some of the toys floating on the water. Another thing we are seeing a lot of on this half of the  world, the people here are extreme patriots and thankful to our servicemen, as evidenced by the sheer number of war memorials we are encountering.

Time to move on, reservations had been made (covering Memorial Day weekend), so off to New Jersey we went. We snagged a week at  Shady Pines MH & RV Resort in Galloway Township outside of Atlantic City. Still pricey, but the week gave us time to stretch and breath while we got to experience the Jersey Shores, AC, Ocean City, and Cape May. Still a bit rainy, but we gave it that good ol’ college try anyways.

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Our home at Shady Pines MH & RV Resort.

We did not know what to expect in Atlantic City and at the boardwalk. With the past hurricane damage and on-going restoration, I thought the boardwalk might have been back to “business as usual” by now. We were a bit surprised at the number of businesses still closed up and the lack of humans frequenting the businesses that were open. Even the boardwalk casinos seemed like ghost towns; lots of empty floor spaces, majority of card tables closed and scant few gamblers to be found. But the actual boardwalk itself showed no signs of hurricane damage (at least to we who have never seen it before the hurricanes). It was good to see state run casinos are the same everywhere, no problem in allowing us to donate to the local economy.

Cape May is home to the Cape May Point State Park. There we found the Cape May Lighthouse and the remnants of a WWII gun emplacement bunker on the beach. I guess I did a lot of sleeping in history class, I was not aware of a lot of WWII activity on this coast. But we are running into a lot of WWII bunkers of all sorts, as well as lookout towers all up and down the coast. Further down the coast we found what was left of the S.S. Atlantus, one of several experimental ships made of concrete during WWI, which sunk and now stands partially exposed just off the beach. Downtown had a large outdoor mall shopping area we let Woody lead us about, until we saw the teeny, tiny, itty-bitty sign that prohibited dogs in that area. Oops…So we headed down some of the skinny streets lined with historical Victorian homes, many of which have been converted to businesses, particularly B&B’s. We wanted to stroll the promenade (concrete boardwalk) which fronted the beach, but, alas, not a dog-friendly city.

We wanted to check out the further reaches of the boardwalk, away from the central area, so a jaunt to the North Beach area in the city of Ventnor was in order. On the way we wandered by the Absecon Lighthouse. Kinda strangely situated a bit distant from the water, it was not open to the public at the time of our pass-by, so one quick pic and on to North Beach. We were happy to be able to park on surface streets without having to pay through the nose (free, but with time constraints). A short walk got us to the beach where we ran into a unique situation. Now, up to about 5 years ago we have been California “lifers”, lived there all our lives. I grew up in Orange County, in the heart of the Southern California beach lifestyle. We’ve been all over the country, visited innumerable beaches. Evidently, this area of New Jersey makes you pay to enjoy the beach. They required a “beach badge” which we were supposed to purchase at some location undisclosed on the signage. Don’t tell anyone, but we became scofflaws and ventured out onto the boardwalk and beach without said “beach badges”. (Oh, great, now all of our travels will include the added stress of constantly looking over our shoulders for Johnny Law, always on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of our pursuers). And the beach here in Ventnor City was further unique in that posted signage prohibited dogs, alcohol, picnicking, and ball playing…basically all the reasons, except for the sun, for anyone wanting to go to the beach. The only prohibitions they need to add are no swimming or suntanning. There was a fishing pier where one has to pass through 2 gates. The public is allowed to the second gate, but then only paying “members” could pass gate #2 to the end of the pier and only members were allowed to fish off this pier. I was surprised they did not have a sign prohibiting fish hooks posted somewhere. The boardwalk was crowded, this being Memorial Day Weekend, with joggers and bikers, and the beach had ample “sunbathers” even though the weather was not great with overcast conditions. While strolling the boardwalk we passed by all the beach houses, many of which were your typical beach rental properties, some of them very impressive in structure. One of them was for sale and out of curiosity a quick check of realtor.com revealed the selling price of just short of $3M. I’d hate to have to live like that (piled on sarcasm here)…

The rain is still with us here, planning our escape for tomorrow. Jeanne has been feverishly working on research/itinerary for our weeklong stay near New York City. A very large part of that research involved other folks’ blogged experiences. Particular shout out and thank you goes to Nina of wheelingit.us , one of the blogs we regularly follow. She is very detailed when it comes to the bolts and nuts of planning attacks on destination locations. So tomorrow, we’re off to play our new reality game, “Avoid Those Toll Roads!” ’Til next post…

 

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Hangin’ out with Abe, Edgar, the Babe, and some crabs.

So after careful consideration, painstaking research and planning, many megabytes of data usage, we closed our eyes and stuck a finger in the mapbook, settling on the Washington DC area for our next stop. We found the Greenbelt Park, a National Park run campground, in beautiful downtown Greenbelt, Maryland, just outside of DC. It is a typical old NP campground inside a heavy cover of trees, sites and interior roads not real big-rig friendly and on the whole not even close to being level. The sites are dry-camping only with potable water scattered around the loops. They do have bathrooms fairly convenient in the loops, and in Loop D, recommended for bigger rigs, there is (1) shower stall in (1) of the bathhouses. Our problem here was the thick tree cover, coupled with the several days of rain, trumped our solar power system, so we ended up running our generator a bit each day. But there is always an upside, I needed to give the generator it’s monthly “work out” anyway. The rate here is $20 per night, $10 if you have the NP pass, so that was a big plus. But if you do have a bigger rig, you cannot be shy about brush scratch, the park maintenance folks don’t keep the branches trimmed back very well.

We fought rain most of the 5 days we stayed here in Greenbelt. Our first outing we pretty much got rained on the whole time. We drove into Annapolis and over to Kent Island, mostly off of Hwy. 50. The Bay Bridge was cool, but it did cost us $4 in toll extortion money. In Annapolis we got to see the Maryland State House and the Governor’s house while ducking and dodging raindrops. It is mind numbing seeing all that is history on this side of the continent, dating back into the 1600’s/1700’s/1800’s. Being from the Loony Tunes State of California there is no comparison as to volume of things to see dating back that far.

The rain kept up all night but let up enough the next day to take a bike ride from East Potomac Park, a short run through the Jefferson Memorial area and onto the Mt. Vernon hike/bike Trail. We rode the trail into Alexandria (somewhere around a 9-mile one way trail) and back. Once we returned we pedaled around the Washington Monument area, then returned to base camp. Parking in these high traffic areas is a bit pricy at times and we were happy to find the East Potomac Park with all of its free parking. We noticed on one of our rides as we passed Reagan Int’l Airport they had parking listed as $17 per half hour for the first 2 hours, then more thereafter (I did not pay attention, the $17 per half hour was enough to send me into a tizzy).

We got more break from the rain and took a drive into Baltimore for a day. Jeanne had several sights picked out for visits so visit we did. She discovered the Westminster Church and Burial Ground was the final resting place for Edgar Allen Poe. We stopped in to pay respects and Jeanne’s apprehension level got raised to the top of the creepiness meter over the whole macabre vibe she was receiving.

When in Baltimore… just gotta see Camden Yards, a mainstay in our history involving the boys of summer. Home to the Orioles, the park was vacant now with the home team out of town for the week.

Among some of the historical sights downtown were the original George Washington Monument, the Peabody Conservatory and Library, and numerous places of historical significance which, almost without exception, goes hand-in-hand with an architectural “wow” factor.

Jeanne had also learned that Federal Hill Park affords one an impressive bird’s eye view of the downtown area of Baltimore. It was an OK view of the harbor area, and was a fitting end to our tour of Baltimore.

We lucked out weather-wise and were able to do another bike ride around the capitol mall as well as take the Rock Creek Parkway trail to the Nat’l Zoo. It was nice to be on bikes at the mall area, easy to get around despite all the tourists jamming the area. I was not surprised at the rudeness of the foreign tourists, I watched as a wheelchair-bound person tried to navigate a sidewalk full of non-English speaking folks and they kept crowding and cutting him off. I was ready to wring some necks…

Of course, the weather cleared up on our travel day. We headed out in the direction of the great state of Delaware. I found the Delaware Seashore State Park to be an acceptable temporary home, near Rehoboth Beach. Nice, paved level sites with FHU’s, no tree cover, right on the Indian River Inlet at the bridge of the same name. $40 per night, we were good to go.

Besides some beach walks for Woody, we went to Cape Henlopen State Park and did part of the Dunes Hike there. Despite the name, the trail did not traverse any dunes but meandered through a marsh area instead. Not a real impressive hike. To make up for that, we went into Rehoboth Beach and walked the boardwalk there. It was a small boardwalk, but the weather was nice for a stroll through that typical beach town.

The next day we gave the bikes a workout and rode to Ocean City (Maryland) and back for about 42 miles worth. They had nice bicycle lanes the whole route and I got to see quite a few cool rides cruising south on Hwy. 1. Apparently there are many local businesses in that area who are putting on car shows scattered all over. There were some pretty mean looking muscle cars as well as many classics motoring or being towed that way. I wasn’t fast enough to snap pictures of most of them, but I did get one classic ride on film (OK, digital media, geez!).

On the eve of our travel day, we partially mapped out our destinations as we creep northward. We found it is getting close to requiring reservations at various parks, many being full up or with limited availability. So we found space at several parks for the near future, I’ll expand on those stops and locations in the next post…

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