The Incredibly Green States of Vermont & New Hampshire

Our “last hurrah” with Jeanne’s sister Denise was a road trip into Portland, ME. We found Cushing’s Point which was an area the government took over and created a WWII shipyard. There is also a lighthouse called the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, aka: Bug Light. Just a stone’s throw away we found a second lighthouse, the Spring Point Ledge Light. We strolled the area and got some very nice views of Fort Scammell which is on an island just off shore.

 

 

Our next stop was just a short 2 day stop at Partridge Hollow Camping Area, in Monson, MA, just outside of Sturbridge. The evil rain gods raised their ugly heads on us again and we fought rain for the 2 days. Jeanne made a valiant attempt to go see the Old Sturbridge Village (an outdoor recreation from Revolutionary War times), but I vetoed that prospect because of the rain. We ended up standing in line, in the rain, at the Tree House Brewery, a VERY popular spot for locals. I think it was the grand opening weekend for them opening on the new site. Got to talk to lots of folks and even listened to a two-man guitar team play some pretty good tunes. The double IPA they call “Haze” was actually pretty tasty to boot.

 

Still doing battle with the reservation thing in these here parts, we got our next home at Rest N’ Nest Campground in East Thetford, VT. It was a very nice campground, level grass sites with FHU’s, plenty of family activities available and an above ground Doughboy type pool that was clean.

 

Our first order of business was to run into Lebanon, NH, in search of new phones. Both of our current iPhone 6’s have been acting strangely lately, something goofy going on with the batteries. So Best Buy, here we come! We got hooked up, Jeanne with the 7 and I got the 7 Plus. Don’t ask why we didn’t wait until September when the new version iPhone comes out, the 10 year anniversary version, but we decided we needed the change now. There’s always going to be a “new” version anyway. Jeanne got a bonus too. She picked up a Garmin GPS for her Jeep, so no more using the phones as GPS in the Jeep.

Woodstock, VT, was just a short jaunt from our new home. There we found several covered bridges, more historic homes, and a quaint downtown area that was easily covered in a short walkabout. We also quickly discovered we dropped into this area smack dab in the middle of their yearly homage to the Stanley Steamer steam engined cars. Stanleys were EVERYWHERE!

 

On the way to Woodstock we encountered the Quechee Gorge. We took Woodrow Wilson on a walk along the gorge for more of that boring old beautiful scenery.

 

 

Sugarbush Farm is a popular stop for tourists in the Woodstock area. They do various tastings of their products such as cheese, sausages, jellies, maple syrups, etc. They have quite the diverse selection of cheddars…

 

Rosie was getting close to her 10,000 mile service, so I managed to get an appointment at  the Freightliner of New Hampshire shop in Lebanon. On moving day, we started at the shop. Anybody looking for Freightliner/Cummins service and happen to be in this area, I was happy with our service at Freightliner of NH. They were prompt, fast, and did not rip any of my arms or legs off for payment. From there it was on to the next stop, Maplewoods Campground in Johnson, VT. This was another very nice campground that did not break the bank. We got a week there, only because they had a “break-down” cancellation. I felt bad for the prior reservee, but glad it worked out for us.

 

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has a factory in Stowe, VT that we just HAD to go see. $4 for a short tour and tasting, then a stop at the outside snack bar for a real cone-full. Unfortunately they prohibit photos inside the factory area, so, in the spirit of the Soup Nazi on the Seinfeld TV sitcom, “No pix for you!” (Well, not a lot.)

 

The rain continued to plague us at this stop. We tripped up to Smuggler’s Notch State Park hoping the rain would take a break and let us do a little hiking, but no such luck. The park is in the ski area of these mountains and nearby we found an offroad trail that was named “Toll Road.” They have a different way of doing jeep trails around here. “Toll Road” starts out as a quarter mile of asphalt, then morphs into a trail up to the top of the ski mountain. The “different way” I mentioned is that they charge you a fee to use the trail, $31 for 2 persons in a Jeep to be exact. No thanks, I don’t expect this trail to outshine any of the multitude of Jeep Trails scattered throughout the southwest desert that cost you a total of $0 to use.

Rain off and on, we drove over to St. Johnsbury to check out the Dog Mountain Chapel. Now, we have already seen a dog cemetery in the form of the Coon Dog Cemetery near Red Bay, Alabama. The Dog Mountain Chapel is the product of an artist’s passion for his K9 companion. Stephen Huneck is the artist, his K9 is Sally the black lab, and the Chapel is “where people can go and celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs.” The walls are covered with K9 owners’ remembrances (in the form of notes) to their dearly departed pets. There are vast grounds to let your dog(s) run wild with other dogs and a nice pond area for those puppies who have a fondness for water.

 

From Dog Mountain we decided to continue north into Newport near the Canadian border. It is on the shores of Lake Memphremagog and quite a scenic little town. We came across a small campground called Prouty Beach Campground. They have 54 RV sites, some right on the lake, and with this being the height of the season as we drove through they still had a couple of empty spots. $45 per night gets you one of the Prime Sites right on the lake. I wish we had found this one earlier, it would be worth the extra drive north.

 

We finally got a rain break, so we decided to take Woodrow Wilson for a walk along the Colchester Causeway at Lake Champlain just outside of Burlington. It was almost 5 miles round trip with beautiful views on both sides of the lake and mountains.

 

Since we were in the area, Jeanne found something called the Church St. Marketplace in Burlington. The town being very dog-friendly, we were able to take Woody with us on a stroll down the marketplace, basically a very busy outdoor mall. We even got to take him to lunch at the Vermont Pub & Brewery.

 

The scenery throughout this area has been pretty spectacular. On our drive home we passed the Fairfax Hydro Falls. I’m gonna take a wild stab at this and say this would be a hydro-electric power producing station, just a guess mind you. A couple more covered bridges and it was back at home to finish the day.

 

In this north part of Vermont they have a trail-in-progress, the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, stretching from St. Johnsbury to Swanton, soon-to-be-covering about 93 miles, one way. We grabbed the bikes and headed to a section that was completed, catching it in Johnson and biking over to Morristown. It ended up being about a 25 mile round trip, winding along the Lamoille River, through some vast corn fields and across a couple of bridges over the river. Very scenic and peaceful.

 

With another break in the wet stuff, Jeanne and I set out to do a walkabout in the tiny downtown area of Stowe. Another town full of historic old buildings (looked like most were of the 1800’s era), our walk was a good choice of travel on that day. Seems the townfolk had lost someone, probably of some type of noteworthy status, and the church smack dab in the center of town was the site for the funeral. That made vehicular travel pretty rough, the tiny streets were bumper to bumper and folks seemed to park anywhere they felt like it, further choking off streets to cars. But we got around on foot very well.

 

After our little stroll, we loaded into the Jeep and headed out to check out a couple of nearby features; Emily’s Bridge (another covered bridge, also known as Gold Brook Covered Bridge) and then Moss Glen Falls. Emily’s Bridge comes with a couple of local stories, I liked the first one I read. Back around the time of 1849 a local farmer’s daughter, Emily, got jilted at the altar. She took her own life at the bridge, and now it is haunted by her spirit, particularly on moonlit nights, as she awaits the return of her betrothed. We were all over and around the bridge, albeit at noontime without any moonlight, but did not hear from Emily nor get to meet her. Hmmmmmmmm…Moss Glen Falls was a short (less than 1 mile) walk through the forest. It is popular with swimmers at the base of the falls. We were on full time “tick alert” during the whole hike, it seems that I am currently a perfect “bug magnet.” “Arrrgggggghhhh!”

 

We fought through more light rain and took the drive back up to Smuggler’s Notch from the opposite side of the mountain that we did before. It is a cool drive through the rocks and trees and we ended at Bingham Falls. A short half mile trek down the trail and we arrived at the falls, again a very beautiful scene. This one is also a popular place for folks to go swimming and we watched several kids jumping off rocks into a pool below some of the falls.

We got another day of no rain so we ventured out on bicycles to cover the 10 miles of the Stowe Recreation Trail. This is a very nicely built, popular trail for bikes, pedestrians, and joggers. We wound through the countryside and parts of the town. There were stops scattered along the trail for various businesses such as restaurants, a bicycle repair stop, and even a corn maze for family adventure. We took a break at the Idletyme Brewing Co. where we had a couple of their Bloody Mary’s. Jeanne was in awe as they used celery as garnish that they had just yanked up from their veggie garden. We finished up the stay here with visits to the Red Covered Bridge, Sterling Gorge, and Cady Falls, then prepared to hit the road.

Moving day took us to Twin Mountains Motor Court and RV Park in Carroll, New Hampshire. This was bare bones as far as RV parks go, but we were in an open field (satellite service) on a level, gravel site with FHU’s (30A) and they had a clean pool. The location is in the White Mountains area, an extremely popular area for all things outdoor; hiking, biking, ATV’s, fly fishing, and skiing in the winter.

Waterfalls and covered bridges. This place is loaded with them. During our week’s stay here we did quite a few miles driving around, gawking at that scenery. The folks here in this area take their outdoor activities seriously! Every trailhead, every state park, every accessible piece of river were jam packed with folks, even on the rain days we were here. But we battled the masses and got to see some very beautiful country.

One of our days we chose to drive the Mt. Washington Auto Road. It is a road straight up the mountain (8 miles worth, to an altitude of 6,288 ft.) with an average grade of 12%. The fee for both of us in the Jeep was $38. When we started, we were in no wind at about 67 degrees, high overcast, and plenty of visibility (no fog). By the time we got to the top we were in 46 degree temperatures with 70 MPH wind gusts and no visibility. Their are numerous hiking trails up, down, and around this mountain, including part of the Appalachian Trail. And there is the Crawford Trail, touted as the oldest hiking trail in the U.S., the trail having been “blazed” back in 1817. I was amazed at the number of serious, diehard hikers that were milling about at the top of the mountain in this nasty weather, then heading out into the blankness of visibility. I thought to myself, “I would not want to be a member of the Search & Rescue team for this area!”

Flume Gorge in the Franconia Notch State Park is another popular attraction for this area. The fee to walk the gorge was $16 per person and no dogs. So we left Woody in charge of the bus and ventured into the gorge. The trail is about a 2 mile easy loop, taking you by sights like Table Rock, the Flume Covered Bridge, Flume Gorge, Avalanche Falls, Liberty Gorge, Sentinel Pine Bridge and Pool, Wolf Den, and numerous glacial boulders. All in all it was an awesome spectacle of nature.

We are still being treated to some thunder/lightning/rain showers off and on, can’t seem to shake them. Our time about done, for now, here in New Hampshire, it is time to start heading back into Maine towards our last planned destination on the east coast, Bar Harbor. Jeanne has spoken many times about wishing to tempt the weather gods and to be able to be here during the fall colors show. In all our driving around here in NH, the trees are already starting to turn a bit. So it looks like she may get her wish when we start westward-ho in mid September. But, hey, that remains to be seen (definitely pun intended!)

Until next post… (Whew! this was a long one. Sorry…)

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The Rain Takes a Break

Our move took us to the Boston/Cape Cod KOA. It is located a bit far from Boston but is actually half way between Boston and Cape Cod, about a 40 mile drive to either. We were not thrilled with staying there, but as I have said before, besides KOA’s being notoriously overpriced, RV spots are hard to come by in these here parts at this time of year and this was the only place we found that had site space to fit our needs. It had all the typical kid’s activities for family camping, and definitely had lots of kids running and biking around. While we were here Jeanne’s sister Denise flew out from Branson, MO, to stay with us for a week and share the sights.

 

Our first outing was to run into Plymouth, about 12 miles away, to see “the rock”. Plymouth is a quaint little tourist town with maybe “just a little” history to it. We wandered the town on foot, taking in all the historical sites including the old Burial Hill.

 

Of course we had to make a couple of forays into Beantown USA (aka: Boston). Like EVERYWHERE in this part of the world, parking is a nightmare, as is the vehicular traffic. What street parking exists is controlled by meters and most are a 2 hour limit. It was just easier to find one of the parking garages and give in to the $39 parking fee. We then embarked on foot into downtown Boston. It is definitely a town of history, and the Freedom Trail is a well marked path through town, taking you by all kinds of sights. Beacon Hill, check. “Cheers” bar, check. Site of the Boston Massacre, check. Paul Revere’s house, his final resting place, and the Old North Church where his “one if by land, two if by sea” signal was made from, check. Those are just a fraction of the sights. And for those of you who are averse to walking, there are “hop on, hop off” trolleys that cruise town all day, one of which ran $39 per person.

 

 

And in keeping with our theme of trying to hit all the Presidential Libraries, John F. Kennedy’s is right here in Boston. We expected to see a lot of class and style because of First Lady Jackie, but unfortunately this was the biggest let-down of all the libraries we have seen yet. I was most disappointed in the little emphasis put on things like the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the over-emphasis on JFK’s interest in the Peace Corp. I’m glad we got to see it just because we were in the area. Otherwise, I personally would not plan a specific trip to come see it.

 

A trip into Hyannis Port in the Cape Cod area was not real exciting. We could not get close enough to get a clear view of the Kennedy family compound (you would get a great view from the water), but we walked the small town and beach areas anyway.

 

We wandered across the street from the KOA to Oliver Mills Park in search of any hiking trails. We failed in that endeavor (no trails), but Jeanne “the critter finder” did manage to stumble upon a whole bunch of her favorite critters – SNAKES! Northern Water Snakes are native to the area and they were plentiful along the creek that ran through this park. They had beautiful coloring…

 

From Boston we moved up into Maine. The way it worked out we had to make home for 2 days in York, Maine at Flagg’s RV Park. This was a dumpy park with no facilities, terrible sites for us transient customers (mostly seasonal/permanent residents) and horribly overpriced at $65 per night. And to cap it off my “neighbor” had a hissy fit because my sewer hose was laying on the ground on “his” side of my sewer hook-up. The ONLY plus for this RV park was location; it is a short walk to hit the beach.

 

We took a walkabout down to the beach to check it out. During our time here I noticed the extreme fluctuation in the size of the beach due to the varying tides. With high tide, there was very little beach and with the amount of folks trying to obtain their preferred levels of sun burn, it got a bit crowded. The beach also had more rocks than sand, but that does not dissuade the masses from seeking those tans. We continued along the beach, then entered a residential area on our way to the Nubble Light House. The lighthouse is on a small island, so we could only gaze at it from across the water. For dinner we were steered toward “Lobster in the Rough” by the campground owner. It was not a typical restaurant, more like a bar with snacks, live band, and a kid’s playground. Kinda weird atmosphere, and we had to sit at picnic tables outside. Fish tacos and a scallop roll were our choices for fare of the day. That’s another thing. Up here in the New England area I thought the fish was going to be outstanding. I feel I am back in the deep south, EVERYTHING is deep fried! Not a big fan…

 

 

Ogunquit had a sandier beach. We went into that town (extremely touristy resort town that leans heavily toward the “rainbow” crowd), walked the main drag (no pun, er, OK pun intended!), then finished off with burgers and Margaritas at Hamburger Harry’s. I am no stranger to the sights associated with a gay resort town (30 year career working in one), but I did happen to see a couple of really strange-looking humanoids here. Never a dull moment…

 

 

We drove into Portsmouth, NH, and walked the downtown area. It has some pretty cool older buildings and alleyways. We also walked across the Memorial Bridge (a modern draw bridge) and got to watch it in action as a tall masted sailboat passed under it.

 

After our 2 day stay at Flagg’s, we moved on all of about 15 miles to Sea-vu West RV Resort in Wells, ME. This was a real resort type of park, very nice grassy sites, FHU’s, pool, activities, the works.  It is a nice location to explore this area as well as Kennebunkport. The area has a trolley system that costs a whole dollar for any one-way ride you want. There are a couple of private trolley companies as well, they cost a couple of bucks more or less.

Our first order of business was a trolley ride. We stayed aboard and did the whole loop to get an overall idea of the area. Parking is again the issue of the day, especially if one wants to go to the beach. But the trolley drops off right on the beach (Wells Beach). Once done with the trolley, we decided to go on a lobstah (that’s how us old New England pros pronounce “lobster”) hunt. One of the locals who swore us to secrecy mentioned that “Fisherman’s Catch” was a local’s favorite for lobstah. (OK, it was our trolley driver. She is not allowed to make recommendations for local business establishments. We’ll call her “Deep State Abe”). We took Abe’s advice and headed to Fisherman’s Catch. Oh my. It was what I would call a gastronomical orgy! Words will not be sufficient, so just take a look at these pics.

Kennebunkport is the location of the Bush family compound, presumably their vacation home(s) in this area for when they want to escape the heat of Texas/Florida. We drove into the area and did another foot patrol of the downtown, then drove out to look at how the other half lives. The Bush property is beautiful and nearby the neighbors erected a nice little anchor monument in honor of “41” which overlooks the compound.

With the weather being so nice we gave ample attention to the pool at our park and to Drake’s Beach so we could send Denise home a few shades darker than when she arrived. Tomorrow is her travel day, and we will be back to “business as usual”, preparing to relocate once again.

Until next post…

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Rhode Island Adventures

So, close to the end of our last stop we picked up a pesky little mouse who wanted to use the paper towels in my wet bay to set up it’s nest somewhere in the rig. Of all the remedies/cures you will hear from RV folks, I still find good old fashioned mouse traps with a dab of peanut butter to be the best way to cure a rodent problem. After setting such traps in my wet bay I got to go 2 for 2 during 2 successive nights. No more meeses problems! But, just to pile on, as we  hooked up the toad to pull out I find I have no brake/turn lights on the Jeep. My 4-wire flat trailer end wiring unit looked like a couple of the wires were frayed. So now I get to test my total automotive mechanical ineptitudeness. Upon arrival at our next stop, I made a run into Napa Auto Parts and grabbed another 4-wire flat trailer end and will swap it out. You’ll have to wait until the next post to see if I am either a) a genius or b) truly mechanically inept.

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I hope PETA don’t see this! Number 2 of 2, I hope they did not get a chance to chew any of the miles of wiring this rig has…

Speaking of our next stop, that would be Melville Ponds Campground in Portsmouth, RI. It was a very nice campground; level, gravel sites, FHU’s, spacious between sites, clean showers/restrooms, and good location for seeing the sights. My only complaint is the heavy tree canopy did not allow for satellite reception and the $65 nightly rate is a bit outrageous.

As soon as we got set up and ate lunch we headed out to nearby Easton Beach and the Cliff Walk. Easton Beach is one of the main beaches on the island, not real large but very busy nonetheless. The water was warm enough for swimmers (without wetsuits) but there was a heavy concentration of a red algae along the surf line. The Cliff Walk is a 3.5 mile (one way) developed path along the cliffs (duh!) behind many of the historical mansions. We circled back through the mansion district, including the Belleview Av. section and returned to the beach. Close to 7 miles total walk, finally in the heat with no rain. We finished out the day at the Easton Point Pub with snacks of nachos and clams casino and a Fiery Mule to wash them down with.

The next day we drove back to the Belleview Plaza area and drove around staring at more of the mansions in the area. Then it became a lighthouse quest and we found 2 to drive to (there are a whole bunch of lighthouses around here, some the typical types where keepers used to live on premises, others just a bare bones beacon). The Castle Hill Lighthouse is just a bare bones beacon type; Beavertail Lighthouse was a full service type lighthouse. We had to hop a couple of islands to get to Beavertail, crossing another toll bridge. As we got across the bridge, we saw the EZ-Pass office conveniently sitting there, calling our names. We decided we are fed up with having to stop at all the toll booths and worrying about keeping enough cash handy to make their bail, I mean toll. After our visit to Beavertail, we returned and in a matter of a few minutes it was  bing bang boom we got us EZ-Pass.

Our last day here in Rhode Island we went into Wickford Village and walked around some more historical homes and buildings. So far it has been very cool seeing these 300-400 year old structures and particularly some of the churches. The churches back in these parts frequently also contain cemeteries in their yards, some of the headstones so old and worn you cannot read them any longer. We finished out the day with an uneventful drive down to the Narragansett area, then it was back to the bus to prepare for our departure tomorrow.

Massachusetts, here we come…

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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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