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 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.


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 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 , 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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Covered Bridges, Chocolate, Philly Cheese Steaks, Liberty, and (keep it clean kiddies) Intercourse.

While we were set at the Artillery Ridge Campground in Gettysburg, we took the opportunity to make a repair on our satellite system. We first had the issue about a year and a half ago where we lost our satellite signal. It turned out our Sewell HDMI 1×4 splitter got fried. The tech kids working at Red Bay (Tiffin) swapped out our splitter and put in a small fan in the electronics cabinet to help it stay cool and we were good to go. Well, it be doing it again. So here is another learning opportunity for those of you who can benefit from my misfortune. Since we do not stay put for too long a period at any given time, these 5 days at Gettysburg were perfect to have Tiffin ship us another splitter, which we did. $160 for the part and, BAM, 2 days later we got it. Swapped it out and, BAM, we got satellite reception. So there I was, fat, dumb, and happy. Until Jeanne informed me she found the exact same part on Amazon (not Prime, though) for $55. So, valuable lesson number 9,682, if you can wait the time out, always order any parts you need from Amazon versus Tiffin.


One lousy little part, $160 vs. $55. Always think Amazon first!

Old Mill Stream Campground at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA seemed to be a convenient next stop for the continuing sights and sounds of Pennsylvania. Another in a long list of overpriced RV parks ($51 per night, NO DISCOUNTS!), it was central to most of the sights we wanted to see. The sites at this park were gravel, not real level, but had FHU’s. Thick trees forced us to use their cable for TV news. The park is part of the Dutch Wonderland amusement park, situated on a small stream and looks out onto an Amish farm. An Amish “traveling salesman” (actually, the whole family) came through one morning selling baked and canned goods with their horse and cart.

I expected I would find some unique, to say the least, T-shirt designs in the town of Intercourse, PA. But alas, it was really not much to write home about. It was a small tourist town with not much draw except for it’s name. It was so uninspiring that I took two whole pictures. I got a kick out of the Amish version of a car wash, they were washing down the buggies in which they sell rides to us tourists, behind the local version of a strip mall. I think that would be the Amish version of “mass transit” or “bus service”…

It seems Pennsylvania is home to the second largest number of covered bridges in the states. So, “We’re off to see the bridges…” (sung to the tune of “The Wizard of Oz”). We only picked a few to drive to, in the south Amish country and the north Amish country areas. The bridges we saw all seemed to be made of the same design, but one was a double span. All but one were currently operational as well. The driving gave us a good perspective on the countryside landscapes. The state is very hilly and green, the back roads and even some town roads tend to be a little skinny, even in big cities like Philadelphia.

What visit to Pennsylvania would be complete without a trip into Hershey, hometown to the chocolate empire? The Hershey Museum was just OK as far as museums go, a little information on history and production, a lot of personal history of the Hershey family, and a few confusing, interactive, computerized activities that we could not quite figure out. The machines are definitely smarter than we be. But on the way out, a stop at the downstairs restaurant/cafe yielded a chocolate fix called the “Take 5 Brownie” that should be categorized as an overdose!

The weather has been pretty wet and cold since we’ve been in Pennsylvania and continued that way through this stop. Instead of sitting inside and staring at the walls, we loaded Woodrow Wilson (Woody) up and took a road trip into Philadelphia. We parked in a garage next to the Independence Visitor’s Center and ventured out about this area of old town on foot. We covered quite a bit of ground, Woody leading the way (except for the Liberty Bell viewing, no dogs allowed inside). The Liberty Bell was a lot smaller than I had imagined. It is a huge attraction even at this time of year. There were wall-to-wall school groups here at the same time we were, so it made a tour of Independence Hall out of the question for us. We settled for our own foot tour and wandered about some of the historical buildings and areas concentrated near Independence Hall. Washington Square is the final resting place for thousands of unknown soldiers of Washington’s army and there is a very nice memorial to those unknowns with an eternal flame. The Christ Church contains burial sites of various historical figures from the founding of our nation, including THE MAN himself, Benjamin Franklin. I was a bit disappointed with Franklin’s gravesite, it is currently undergoing massive repairs to the marker due to centuries of water damage. It now looks like a typical construction site. Another sterling example of “timing is everything”. Jeanne had heard of an area called Elfreth’s Alley, supposedly a must-see for the area. We hoofed it to Elfreth’s Alley and found a quaint, narrow alley between apartments built between 1720-1830’s. To top off our foot tour, it was time for chow. Geno’s Steaks was our destination for a classic Philly Cheese Steak with Cheese Fries. Even though Pat’s (across the street) is touted as the beginning of the Philly Cheese Steak, we picked his rival Geno’s due to their pro-law enforcement attitude. Jeanne is not much of a carnivore, so she was not impressed with her fare. But I thought it was pretty tasty, could have used some peppers thrown in with the onions though. And the cheese fries were some kind of typical artery-clogging tasty! You know the type – potatoes deep-fried in grease and smothered with molten Cheez Wiz! Mmm, mmm good!

Well, back to the bus to prep for our travel day. Costco run completed, research into our next stop done, I got the bulk of things packed up and ready to pull out tomorrow morning. I think we are headed south, no reservations, I’ll let you know where we land when we know where we will land…

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Pennsylvania with a touch of New York.

Erie was our first stopover for the state of Pennsylvania. Right on the shores of Lake Erie, we found Presque Isle Passage campground just outside of Presque Isle State Park for our short 2-day stay. The town of Erie did not appear real exciting, so we opted for the short stay. The campground was OK, but we were starting to notice a pattern. In this part of the country (northeast), a good many of the RV parks we are finding are lacking pavement and concrete. Lots of muddy, swampy, grassy, sites that aren’t exactly meticulously maintained. And their overall prices are pretty high to boot. Pulling into our site I nearly got the bus stuck in the swampy mud/grass. But hey, I survived. One interesting aspect of this campground was one of the rental “cabins” they offer. It was a trailered house boat. I guess that was for anyone who might be a retired sailor who wants to feel “at home”.

Presque Isle State Park was pretty scenic. Situated right on Lake Erie, there were walk/bike paths, fishing lakes, the Presque Isle Lighthouse, and lots of fishing on the big lake. Woody enjoyed his stroll along the paths. Unfortunately, the weather was not the greatest, interfering with our desire to break out the bikes for a ride around the Isle.

Time to move on, as we attempted to research our next Pennsylvania stop, we again ran into RV parks that were not going to be open for about another week. So we shifted focus and found a 3-day stop at the Top-a-Rise Campground in lovely Falconer, NY. I say that sarcastically because Falconer is kinda a dumpy little town outside of Jamestown, NY. The campground was secluded and quiet, but again not a lot of concrete and asphalt. We also found something we have never encountered before. The RV sites here were W/E only, with a dump station in the middle of the park. But a few sites, including ours, had about a 6” piece of PVC similar to a normal sewer drain for an RV site, sticking out of the ground and designated for gray water only. I later tried it out and dumped my gray into it. Several minutes after I finished, I watched “my” gray water flow across the gravel driveway across from my site. Somehow I was not surprised, and, just a guess mind you, I don’t think this type of setup would pass inspection in many states of the union.

We took a drive south, back into PA to the area of Warren in the hopes of taking the bikes for a spin in the area of Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River. But the weather gods were still frowning upon us so it ended up a drive to the dam in the rain. Upon our return to the Jamestown area we tracked down the Lakeview Cemetery. Jamestown is home town to Lucille Ball, and she is resting in eternity at the Lakeview Cemetery. Feeling nostalgic and a bit of a yearning for days long gone, we stopped by and paid our respects.

Next day, rain stopped, we decided to do a road trip. We started out driving up to Dunkirk, NY on Lake Erie. We wandered around the small boat harbor and the Dunkirk Lighthouse before heading east toward Buffalo.

I found one disturbing aspect about the great state of NY and their DOT folks. On some of the back roads we covered, we found several bridges that we had to go beneath where there was no vertical clearance posted nor warning signs posted and the clearance appeared to be suspect relative to the size of a motorhome. When we arrived in Buffalo, we found it to be a megalopolis with tons of mega-highways/interchanges converging and intersecting in a massive traffic nightmare. A couple of those intersections where we were driving under the overpasses, the great DOT of the state of NY decided they WOULD label the overpass support with the vertical clearance and one was 11+ feet and another was 12+ feet. No prior warnings, if I were in the MH we would have had issues. Good thing we were in our Jeep…

Since we made it to Buffalo, and survived, we decided to continue on to visit Niagara Falls. We stayed in the USA and let Woody lead us around the trails and vista points. Apparently we came at a good time of year, the crowds were non-existent and no, we did not see anyone proposing or getting married! Even though the Maid of the Mist did not appear to be at full capacity, we chose to forego the boat ride through the falls, at least for now…

Next on our plate was to pick up our mail. Several days prior I had ordered up our current mail to be sent general delivery to Shippenville, PA. So off to Shippenville we were. We stayed overnight at the Rustic Acres Campground, got our mail, then continued south toward Pittsburgh. Unable to locate a home in Pittsburgh (found NO parks in town, all were outskirts and beyond), we settled at the Mountain Top Bluegrass Festival and Campground. This was a half-hour drive outside of Pittsburgh in the town of Tarentum. The campground was pretty bare bones; W/E only at gravel sites with dump station a tricky proposition through the trees, no activities/trails/etc. on site, portable toilets only scattered around the park, and way overpriced at $45 per night. To top that off, they have a very deceptive website that I take issue with. The site shows pictures and describes a very nice club-like gym purportedly recently built on site. There is none. When I checked in with the owner and asked her about it, she said her website had been hacked and the bogus gym info included a link to redirect the users to the hacker(s) so they could steal her customers. She said there was nothing she could do to correct the situation. I did not feel like arguing the point or trying to solve her issue for her, but why she continues to use the website is beyond me. She could discontinue/erase the site and start over with a new one using accurate information. I suspect she is benefitting from the bogus information in that it may draw customers to her RV park and once it is discovered the gym is a figment, there are limited choices for alternative places for RV’s to park. Oh well, just my two cents…

Regardless, we stayed 2 nights so we could venture into and check out Pittsburgh. We loaded up Woody and drove into town. Jeanne had read something about the Duquesne Incline so we headed that way to check it out. It turned out to be a tram ride up the side of the mountain at $5/person round trip. The views may very well have been nice, but being the cheapskate I am I could not see giving them any money for a short ride up and down.

As luck would have it, as we were standing at the base of the incline looking across the river, lo & behold there was Heinz Field and PNC Park, homes to the Steelers and Pirates, respectively. We could also see Point Park with the famous fountain. We spent the better part of the afternoon wandering around in the on-and-off rain, ogling the sights. I was surprised we found parking, since, true to form, we just happened to be here on Fan Appreciation Day for the Steelers and there were Terrible Towel aficionados wall-to-wall. But we did find parking and enjoyed downtown.

On our way home, Jeanne wanted to check out the Allegheny Cemetery which supposedly has some outstanding buildings. Oh boy do they! We went through the Butler St. Gate and the entry buildings looked something out of medieval times. The cemetery is ginormous and there are some impressive tombs. We drove around in the rain, paying our respects to many bygone eras…

Gettysburg, PA was next on our itinerary. We found space at the Artillery Ridge Camping Resort and Gettysburg Horse Park. Driving through the skinny, historical streets to get there was interesting in a 40’ bus dragging a Jeep behind it, but we made it unscathed. And we were smack dab in the middle of all the battlefields, passing troop markers and monuments all the way. By the time we got to the RV park, I was already in awe at the historical significance and magnitude of the area.

We spent 3 days going through the museum, visitor center, battlefields, a local attraction that includes the Gettysburg Diorama and The Spirit of Gettysburg, and the Soldier’s National Cemetery. The diorama is touted as the world’s largest military diorama, depicting the entire 6,000 acre battlefield(s) with over 20,000 hand painted figures. The Soldier’s National Cemetery is where President Lincoln delivered his 2-minute Gettysburg Address. There are more than 3,500 Union soldiers that were killed in the battle of Gettysburg who are buried here. I learned quite a bit of history in just 3 days here; this I would consider a must-see, especially if you get the chance to bring your school-aged children.

Well, this history lesson for me completed, jacks up tomorrow and we’re off to see…

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