Ol’ Nero Must Be Sawin’ On That Fiddle Like the Ragin’ Cajun

OK, so we are not in Rome, but, dang, California sure has become a virtual inferno in 2017. No sooner had the north settled down into recover and repair mode, the south decided to ignite and, as of this writing, still burns out of control. I will try to catch you up on our doings to now, as best I can without being too boring.

So we left Sonoma County and headed back to Paso Robles and the Vines Resort. We stayed there about 3 weeks whilst visiting granddaughter Hailey and her family. That included a return visit to the Paso Robles Children’s Museum (converted fire house), a few trips to local area parks, a little babysitting time, and a general good time visiting family. While here I also made a couple of command decisions related to health and lifestyle. I have begun the process of joining the Elks club in Atascadero. Second, and more importantly, I have had neck pain issues related to a herniated disc (C6-C7) for the past 5+ years. Back in 2012 & in 2013 I had epidural injections which provided immediate but short-lived relief, both done in Sonoma County. Since then I have lived with the “pain in the neck”. Within the past 2 months the pain recruited a new teammate – occasional numbness – so I decided it was time for medical attention. I returned to the “Bone Palace”, aka: Santa Rosa Orthopedics, and started THAT process. We did a road trip up to Santa Rosa for Doctor visit and X-Ray, which showed arthritis covering basically the entire C3-T1 section of my spine. Great. So Doc set me up for PT, an MRI, and a neurological conductivity test. Pain not withstanding, I was put into “stand-by to stand-by” mode.

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Hailey having fun on the swings at Atascadero Lake Park.

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The flamingos at the Charles Paddock Zoo next to Atascadero Lake Park

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Oma, Hailey, and Woody outside the flamingo pen at the zoo.

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Hailey playing at the Children’s Museum

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Oma and Hailey doing the teeter-totter.

With the Gladiator’s (Max, the 6 year old grandson) birthday and Thanksgiving both occurring very close in time, our daughter Jenn opted to host the family for both celebrations at her home in Santa Rosa. We relocated our house on wheels back to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park. Upon arrival we found the park dramatically changed. With the recent spate of disastrous fires, FEMA has purchased a fleet of travel trailers and was in process of setting them up here. What was once an RV park with single, pull-through sites, now had those pull-throughs chopped in 2 for a back-to-back doubling of the spaces. And although they allowed larger rigs like ours, our site caused our nose to hang out into the traffic lane quite a bit. Many others were situated likewise, so any navigation of the interior traffic lanes became a slalom course. Our entire stay we worried about someone hitting the front of our bus.

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Our home, at Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park.

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A look at the fairgrounds RV lot through the fog.

First order of business was Thanksgiving. The family elected to have a crab feast, so we made a run on Costco for some King Crab legs & Dungeness whole crabs. Chad, Crissie, and Hailey drove up for the weekend festivities and we stuffed our faces with crab. Hailey was not real sure of the little critters, but boy, howdy, they was TASTY!

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Hailey was not quite sure of that little critter…

Somebody’s 6th birthday was next on the itinerary. Max had a few friends over for his party and party they did. He is now into Nerf gun wars, and has no shortage of weapons. The living room became the battlefield. Cake & pizza to boot, not too shabby!

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Hailey would rather eat the Nerf darts…

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Max, getting loaded up for battle…

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Let the carnage begin!

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Nothing better than some cake after a hard fought Nerf battle…

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No, Hailey is not eating both those plates full…

The Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park was gracious enough to extend my stay beyond their 14-day limit so I could do my PT appointments while waiting for related appointments. As it happened, I got my MRI and conductivity tests moved up because of appointment cancellations, so I was able to crank those out on the same day.

After finishing my last Doc ordered PT, we moved the house on wheels back to Paso Robles and the Vines Resort for some early Christmas celebration with Hailey and her family. I also got sworn-in as one of the newest members of the Atascadero Lodge of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America. One of the perks being an Elk is it now opens the door to parking the bus at numerous lodges all over the country. We did our maiden voyage to the Atascadero lodge and stayed in their RV lot, full hook-ups, at a wallet-friendly $25 per night. I had to giggle at myself because I actually had to go out shopping for a sport jacket and slacks for my initiation ceremony, my full-time RV wardrobe mostly consisting of shorts and flip-flops. I found all the folks here at Lodge #2733 to be very friendly and welcoming and I encourage any of you RV-ing Elks out there, if traveling through this area, to consider a stop-by for brief respite and fellowship. This is a good location, within striking distance of San Luis Obispo, the coastal communities of Avila Beach, Morrow Bay, Pismo Beach, and Hearst Castle.

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Our home, at the Atascadero Elks Lodge RV lot.

While waiting for my eventual follow-up Doc’s appointment, I was able to access the report from my MRI. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but could have been worse. It basically looks like all my “C” discs have “minor” bulging, coupled with arthritic damage and the canals through the bone in which the nerves run are all congenitally abnormally small. So here I sit, hoping another appointment cancellation will move my Doc appointment up from January 15. You gotta love that “hurry up and wait” lifestyle!

Meanwhile, back in reality, we got to have an early Christmas celebration with Hailey, Chad, and Crissy. I got to re-live my young adult parent days and build a play kitchen set for Hailey. Glad to see nothing has changed, companies still make instruction manuals that would give a structural engineer a migraine! But failure was not an option, 2 hours later a kitchen was born. Whew…Chad cooked up a great platter of pork ribs and we feasted yet again, washing it down with a bit of Founder’s CBS Barrel Aged Stout. Nirvana…

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Soon to be a play kitchen…

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Jeanne was hard at work, making Christmas cookies in a real kitchen!

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Wow, sometimes I can make things that turn out the way they is supposed to…

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Now there’s some good eatin’ Christmas cookies!

Chad & Crissy then treated us to dinner and Christmas lights in Cambria. The Cambria Pines Lodge puts on a large light display. It was a nice time out, even if little Miss Hailey cried when she had the chance to sit with Santa.

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Chad, Hailey, and Crissy on the “Golden Gate Bridge” display at the Cambria Pines Lodge.

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Opa, Hailey, and Oma.

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Oma Jeanne, Hailey, Crissy, and Chad walking through the lights.

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Santa, Crissy, and an unsure Hailey.

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The Krampus, in lights…

Well, that about catches us up. We will spend a couple of days back in Coarsegold, CA, with Jeanne’s mom and Fred, then back to Sonoma County to wait out the medical issues. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Posted in Atascadero, California, Santa Rosa, CA | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Santa Rosa Fire of 2017

Well, our family “stuff” survived the Coffee Park Fire in the storage unit. For this post, I think I will forego my usual wordiness and let the photos speak for themselves. This will be a photo recap of our first go-round back in Sonoma County, CA, but not a lot of captions. Amidst all the saddening devastation we did manage to enjoy some family time with Max. We took him to the Pronzini Pumpkin Patch in Petaluma, Lagunitas Brewing Co. also in Petaluma, and the Fall Fun Fest put on by Redwood Covenant Church in Santa Rosa.

 

 

From Santa Rosa it was back to the central coast area of California, Atascadero to be exact, for some more Hailey time. Until next post…

Posted in California, Santa Rosa, CA | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Back in Jerry’s Inferno

Well, a couple of boondocking nights, a couple of nights back at the Grand Canyon RR RV Park, and back into California we go. We boondocked in a field across from the Silver Moon Cafe in “beautiful” downtown Santa Rosa, NM. It seems that truckers and RV’s are welcome to overnight in just about any open space in this poor ol’ rundown town. We dined at the cafe and were treated to a cool double rainbow in the sky immediately following a pretty heavy downpour. Our stop at the Grand Canyon RR RV Park in Williams, AZ, included a visit to the newly relocated Grand Canyon Brewing Co. just across the street. They actually had a couple of IPA’s that were palatable, me not being much of an IPA aficionado. Our other boondock night was a very wide shoulder of Hwy. 58 heading into the Tehachapi Pass. This is a busy boondocking area for truckers and RV’s as well, you just have to be able to sleep with traffic noise. We were treated to a nice sunrise to boot.

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Our home across the street from the Silver Moon Cafe in Santa Rosa, NM.

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Anybody in the mood for a double rainbow?!

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A little adult refreshment at the Grand Canyon Brewing Co.

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Inside the G.C. Brewing Co.

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Sunrise greets, along Hwy. 58 heading into the Tehachapi Pass.

Our first stop in CA was in Coarsegold to visit Jeanne’s mom and her partner Fred. Fred just happens to live across the street from his daughter’s vacation home/property and he was gracious enough to allow us to “mooch”-dock in her driveway. For those of you who are not in-the-know, moochdocking is mooching space on someone’s private property where you can dry camp for free. We had a nice visit with Yvonne and Fred, went out for chow to a pretty good Mexican restaurant called El Cid in Oakhurst, took a drive over to the Bass Lake area, and the highlight of our stay was to watch Yvonne feed the neighborhood “cats” on her back porch. The photo says it all…

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Moochdocking in Coarsegold, CA at Fred & Yvonne’s place.

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When you live out in the sticks, you can have the outdoor shower experience!

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And for the heated water for that outdoor shower, black coiled hose on the roof!

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Woodrow Wilson certainly had fun at Fred’s, chasing the quail and having a good time.

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The neighborhood “cat”…polecat, that is!

On moving day I woke up to the smell of propane on the outside of the rig. Great, I just love surprises. I popped the bay door for my propane tank and could hear a feint hissing and smelled the strong odor of propane. Being in the middle of nowhere and not willing to postpone our departure, I turned the gas off and we hit the road. From Coarsegold we popped over Hwy. 41 into Paso Robles for about a week’s stay to visit our son Chad, daughter-in-law Crissy, and our almost 2 year old granddaughter Hailey. The Vines RV Resort was our home while there, a very nice RV park we have stayed at many times and it just happens to participate in Passport America. Don’t ask me why but after set up, out of curiosity, I turned the gas back on to try and find the leak. No smell, no hiss. Wow, Murphy took a day off from his law-making duties and fate smiled down upon me. But that was soon to correct itself. After a couple of days, the odor outside was back. A little soapy water revealed my little pigtail hose from the regulator to the tank valve was the culprit. Tempting fate I decided to try the fix myself. These fixes are never simple for me, I carry very limited tools, unlike a lot of handy fix-it fellow RVers who carry multiple tool chests loaded with every tool known to man. So besides picking up the pigtail, I had to hunt down the right sized open end wrench. With the tools in hand, I swapped out the pigtail and, for some unknown reason, no more leak!

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The evil pigtail…

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It was pretty busy at the Vines RV Resort.

So we had a nice week with little miss Hailey. We took her to a children’s activity museum, a converted fire house in Paso Robles. She got in a day of playing in the pool at the RV park. And we took her and her daddy to the Barrel House Brewing Co. for dinner and a concert by a band called the Blimp Pilots. Taking a toddler to a brew house?!? Well, this place is very popular with the locals and they ALL take their kids, some even bring their dogs since there is ample outside seating. I got a kick out of watching Hailey “rock out”.

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Little Miss Hailey, Oma, Chad, and Crissy.

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All kids like Round Table pizza, but Hailey really liked the black olives and garbanzo beans!

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Hailey was ready for it all…a little recycling and a little dog poopy cleanup!

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Fun at the activity center in Paso Robles.

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You are never too young to learn to shop.

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Swimming with Dad and Oma.

After this initial visit with Hailey (there will be more, we are planning to float all over the “left” coast area for quite a while now) we headed into Santa Rosa, CA to visit with the Gladiator (Max, our almost 6 year old grandson). We were happy to see clear skies and no fires while on the central coast area. The past 2 years, as we have returned to the area, the central coast has had massive, devastating wildfires, but this time it was “clear sailing”. Our happiness was quickly doused as we neared the bay area (SF bay area that is) and encountered heavy smoke. Santa Rosa was suffering a devastating fire which was just one of a whole slew of nasty wildfires covering all of northern CA. Our former home of 25 years which we sold to start our full time RV lifestyle was reduced to ashes in the Coffee Park section of the fire. The last of all of our Earthly belongings are stored in a storage facility right in the middle of the firestorm and we are still waiting to get the OK to enter the partially burned business to check their welfare. Family pictures, heirlooms, kids schoolwork, etc. may or may not have been affected by the heat/smoke/flames…we will see.

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Morning skies over Santa Rosa, CA during the early days of the fire.

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This photo of the fires was floating around on FB.

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Our storage unit complex as seen from the air. Some burnt, some still standing.

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Our former family home is one of the below piles of ash.

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Kmart in Santa Rosa, post fire.

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This was a gun shop at the corner of Range Av. and Piner Rd. in Santa Rosa.

We usually try to stay at the Sonoma Co. Fairgrounds RV park when we come to Santa Rosa. However, being in the middle of this current, evolving disaster, with thousands of evacuees looking for shelter and particularly those with trailers/RV’s needing space, we chose to park on the street in front of our daughter Jenn’s house. She lives just close enough to some of the flames that we waited anxiously for the mandatory evacuation notice that, thankfully, she never got. The disastrous wildfires brought thousands of outside agency first responders, even firefighters from Australia, to the northern CA area. I had heard our Sonoma Co. Deputy Sheriff’s Assoc. was looking for volunteers to help prep and serve meals to the emergency personnel who were working 12 hour shifts, so I rounded up Jeanne, Jenn, and even Max and we spent 2 days at the DSA office serving the heroes. Max actually was the big hit, especially with his new friends from San Francisco P.D. He made out with a handful of badge decals and even one SFPD uniform patch!

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The Gladiator enjoying some good ol’ Round Table pizza.

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Our home in front of Jenn’s house during the fire crisis.

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Max helping out with serving the first responders meals.

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Max and Opa hanging’ with our POTUS at the DSA union hall.

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Feeding the heroes.

As the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter, we wait to learn the fate of our family pictures. Next post will tell the tale…

Posted in California | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Lower 48 Completed!

 

It took 5 years of full-timing, but we can finally say our wheels traveled through and came to a stop for at least one night’s stay in all of the lower 48 states of the union! And in all but 3 states we actually stayed in at least 1 RV campground/park. Kansas, Nebraska, and West Virginia were our park-less stops, but stops nonetheless with the help of some of the many options available for free, overnight stays. In these 5 years we have learned of several no-cost options for overnight stays during our travels, including but not limited to Walmart, Cracker Barrel, truck stops, some rest stops, Cabelas, Bass Pro, public lands such as BLM and National Forest lands, and occasional open field/private property that allows overnighters. Now, in that time and during these travels, we have seen a lot of beautiful sights nationwide, however we have only scratched the surface and there remains still much more to experience. How much more, on our part, remains to be seen, since we are starting to get the “settle down itch”. What that means – total “get off the road” to maybe becoming part-timers to remaining status quo, we just haven’t sorted the cards we have been dealt yet. But for now I’ll get back to current events.

Finished in Maine, it was time to head back west for some kids and grandkids time. It was not without some minor detours. When Jeanne’s sister Denise left us we told her we were gonna swing by on our way west to check on her in Branson, MO, (she recently lost her husband, Don.) So instead of a northern crossing we headed south. We did an overnighter at the Sturbridge, MA Walmart, then to an overnighter at a place called Aspen Family Campground in Candor, NY. Holy-Total-Pit Batman! This place was off a skinny road, with a skinny, back angled driveway which I BARELY made with the toad, then terrible rutted gravel uphill driveway. We were tired and did not feel like driving more, so we buckled and stayed here. The grass field we were put in was accessed through a tunnel of trees, then was not even close to level, and the sites were not delineated so you park any which way you like near the W/E post. The grass/mud was moist enough that when I tried to use my jacks, they just sunk into the grass/mud. So it was an unlevel, unrestful night’s sleep for us, never to return here again.

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The field at Aspen Family Campground.

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Our settled position, we were far from level.

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Jacks down, oops!

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Our tunnel of trees getting to our site.

Next stop was the Luray KOA in Virginia. While here we took a drive along the Skyline Dr. in Shenandoah National Park and used this stop to take care of some business, car insurance business that is. Texas is a terrible state to have to insure your vehicles through if you are a full time RVer with the Escapees RV Club mailing address in Livingston. Our Jeep insurer, Nationwide, just notified us that the Jeep was going up $1,000 more this year, no tickets, accidents, nothing. After clearing the smoke out of our motorhome from what billowed out of my ears, Jeanne set off on yet ANOTHER insurance search. We ended up at Hartford through AARP (sometimes it’s nice to be an old fart) and got a $100 discount by just taking an online AARP Driver’s Safety course. The hunt continues for a break in our motorhome insurance, currently costing us $4,000 per year (just let that one soak in for a second, don’t say a word!)

 

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Our home at Luray KOA

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Playground and ping pong at Luray KOA

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Pavillion area with smoker/BBQ at the KOA

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Pools at the Luray KOA

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Driving through a tunnel along the Skyline Dr. at Shenandoah Nat’l Park.

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The valley below Skyline Dr.

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Another shot of the valley

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Iron Mike stands in commemoration of the Civilian Conservation Corp whose sweat made the park possible.

Another Walmart overnighter in Hurricane, West Virginia, then it was on to Frankfort, KY and the Elkhorn Campground. While there Jeanne and I were able to finish out the Kentucky Brewgrass Trail (craft breweries in the area) and earned our official Brewgrass Trail T-shirts (sorry, no pic, they had to mail them to us and we haven’t gotten our mail yet.) We also made a visit to the Buffalo Trace Distillery this time around. It is not included in the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail or the Craft Distillery Trail, but it is on the trail. The distillery gives free tours and tastings and is quite picturesque. Also while here we started seeing these small painted rocks hidden around the park, we found 3. It seems there is a Facebook group called RVers Rock! who are the responsible culprits. The tops of the rocks are painted with anything the artist desires, then the backs have instructions printed to keep or rehide the rock, post pictures on the group’s FB feed, and frequently have the location/park of origin or state also included. This caught Jeanne’s curiosity/interest, so it looks like we will become artists now. Our 3 found rocks will also find new homes somewhere along our westward trail to California. You never know where you may find one, they can be anywhere. We will be sticking with hiding them in or around RV parks.

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The playground and a pavilion at Elkhorn Campground.

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Miniature golf, anyone? Elkhorn C.G.

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The pool at the campground.

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Some of the sites at Elkhorn C.G.

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Welcome to Lemons Mill Brewery

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So many choices, so little time…

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Let’s brew some beer!

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What’s on tap?

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Back on the hard stuff…

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Messin’ around with the buff…

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Here they use that high tech method of manual air conditioning to keep the aging barrels cool…

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Buffalo Trace gift shop

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He saw me coming. “Set ’em up!”

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Jeanne checking out Warehouse V, licensed to house (1), count ’em, (1) barrel of Buffalo Trace bourbon.

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And here’s the current barrel housed in Warehouse V

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RVers Rock! artwork.

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More RVers Rock! art.

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The backside of the art.

Gotta love the RV lifestyle. For the couple of weeks prior to our Elkhorn stop we have been having more issues with our water heater. Our water only heated to tepid at best. We were putting off looking for a service center until I just blew a gasket (metaphorically speaking). I called Precision Temp and one of their people in the know helped me troubleshoot the issue, discovering the propane regulator was bad. Gasket #2 just went (another one of them there  metaphors) since we had just replaced the piece of $h!t regulator last January. It seems somebody imported a buttload of bad regulators, probably from our friend China, this according to the Precision Temp guys. Anyways, on moving day our first stop was at Bluegrass RV in Lexington to get another regulator. The saving grace for the day was that on our way in for service we got treated to an nice sunrise, Kentucky style.

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A fine Kentucky sunrise…

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Oh, and by the way, if you should desire to drive your rig through downtown Lexington Kentucky, take a look at this photo before you choose to do so…

On the road with HOT water (!!!!Yippee!!!!), another Walmart, and into Branson, MO we rode. Denise hooked us up with a site at her camping club, Treasure Lake RV Resort, in downtown Branson. We had a nice stay visiting with Denise, Cedric, Savonna, Robert, Cooper, Brody, and Khloey (I probably mangled the spelling, sorry kid!). And we had HOT water the whole time!

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Jeanne, Cedric, and Magnum enjoying coffee and cinnamon rolls…

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While at Treasure Lake RV Resort a couple of locals decided to stroll through…

Oh the joys of the RV lifestyle, volume 2. We have been having nothing but problems with our satellite reception since we switched DISH receivers to the Wally version up in Maine. Trying to figure out the cable and over-the-air reception has also been a disaster for quite some time. With (4) massive TV’s scattered throughout the motorhome, they never acquire the same channels from one TV to the other at any given stop. And to make matters worse, the jumble of wiring jammed into the small cabinet area is a nightmare trying to decipher. To add insult to injury, Woodrow Wilson (our K9 travel companion) has had one too many accidents on our small piece of carpet in the rig. It was becoming stained from all the shampooing Jeanne has had to do to clean up Woody’s indiscretions. So since we was in Missouri, another detour seemed in order, back to the east to our very favorite and happiest place on Earth…Red Bay, Alabama! (Insert mega-sarcasm here!) Home of Tiffin Motorhomes and the world famous Tiffin Service Center.

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Which wire is it? That one, right there!

And the joys of the RV lifestyle are the gifts that keep on giving. So we are southbound out of Branson, heading for I-40 East. No sooner do we get out of town when my yellow check engine light starts going on and off, with the accompanying “ding, ding, ding” and the red “brake air” warning light flashing, the same time my gauges for the two air tanks go to zero. This goes on, intermittently, for about the next hour and a half. I have had issues with my warning lights and gauges since I got the motorhome 3 years ago. We have been to several Freightliner/Cummins shops, every time it occurs. It has gone unresolved from day one, but the audible alarms that go off drive me crazy. So this new occurrence was not surprising, but 90 minutes is a long time to worry if the bus would shut down at any time. The drivability during these episodes has never been affected. Add this problem to my Tiffin list, since Bay Diesel is just down the street.

We stayed at one of the off-campus campgrounds this time around (the service center was jam packed full). We got hooked up with Daniel Humphries, one of the “after-hours” techs who work on Tiffin products, to get new carpet (his specialty). While waiting we tried yet again to obtain full satellite reception. Our big gripe was we have never received high definition channels from the hi-def satellite, #129, since we switched to Wally. Still no hi-def, I did my usual call to DISH to try to resolve it. Gasket #3 went after another hour-long phone debate with the DISH techs and troubleshooting attempt. I hung up on DISH and we put a call into another after-hours tech for Tiffin products, Nick Brewer who specializes in the satellite/TV/electronics stuff. Nick took all of 1 minute and had me go into diagnostics, click one stinking button, and BOOM! I got satellite #129 and all the hi-def I could want. I guess the DISH techs were playing hooky the day they taught that in tech school.

While waiting/dealing with the cable/over-the-air issues, as well as a try to get in at Bay Diesel, we decided to poke our heads in and say howdy to Marion who is the tech in Bay #2, he has done work for us in the past. We also stopped in at the Tiffin parts store for a couple of things and Jeanne blurts out “Dave & Diane!” In the flesh, we see Dave and Diane (Dave writes his blog “Dave & Diane throwing caution to the wind”). Theirs was one of the first full timer blogs Jeanne started following way back in the beginning. And in the small world of RV traveling, we have run into them 3 times now; at the SKP park Jojoba Hills, CA, in the desert boondocking in Quartzsite, AZ, and now at the “real” happiest place on Earth in Red Bay. We chatted briefly and vowed to get together to swap stories, but regretfully we were not there long enough to make it happen.

Well, we got the carpet and hi-def issues resolved during this run to Red Bay. The diesel shop could not get us in for the dash light issue and Daniel tightened up some connections but it did not resolve the cable/air issues for TV. So it was back to the road, westward ho again. We had been watching weather and noticed the North and Northwest were starting to take on snow. That made the decision on routes easy, I-40 it was. A plus with this decision was there are numerous Freightliner shops along I-40 and I was intent on getting my dash light issue fixed once and for all. I settled on the Premier Truck Group Freightliner Service Center in Amarillo, TX. Last December I had been to the same company at their Dallas, TX shop for the same issue. The overall experience, especially this current one, has eroded any faith or trust in Freightliner as a company. Besides having to waste 3 full days, getting NO resolution, and having to pay out of my pocket for the issue which should have been fully covered under the original warranty, I got to listen to numerous truckers bad-mouth and complain about Freightliner’s terrible customer service practices. I was so full of piss and vinegar that I wrote a lengthy letter to Freightliner, with a copy to Bob Tiffin.

 

Anger set aside, breathing deeply, chanting in a meditative state, we continue our trek westbound, a couple of days out of California. And soon, well, take a look for yourself…

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Maximus, the Gladiator!

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Hailey Marie!

Until next post…

Posted in Alabama, Branson, Kentucky, Red Bay, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our Grand Finale Here on the Northeast Coast

We had a week’s stop in Palmyra, ME, staying at the Palmyra Golf & RV Resort. It is kinda out in the middle of nowhere, about 20-30 minutes from Bangor. There’s not a lot of sightseeing to do from there, but we did manage to get over to Rockland and check out the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. You have to walk along the breakwater for almost a mile to get to the lighthouse, but the scenery is enjoyable. Looking out on the water you can see the lobster trap buoys everywhere.

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Our house at Palmyra Golf & RV Resort. It looks very unlevel in this photo, but I swear we were level!

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Anybody up for a tee time?

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Entertainment for the kiddies at the RV park.

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The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse.

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It is a good almost mile walk down this breakwater to get to the lighthouse.

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A couple of lobster traps…well, at least the buoys for them…

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A closer view.

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And the sun sets on our time at Palmyra Golf & RV Resort…

The week was a little rough. We had a couple days of run-down, not feeling too well, so we just chilled at the bus. We burned a couple of days doing chores, particularly bathed Whole Lotta Rosie (the bus), and washed/waxed the Jeep. A couple more days of shopping for groceries & supplies and it was time to head over to Bar Harbor.

Home in the Bar Harbor area was Timberland Acres RV Park, actually in the town of Ellsworth just north of Bar Harbor. There we met up with our fellow Texan friends Bud & Meredith Bradley. Our first order of business was LOBSTAH!!! They have what they call “lobster pounds” all over the place. We went into the Down East Lobster Pound and picked out dinner. What they will do here is you pick your live lobster from the tank (that is jammed full of the little critters, both Bud and I chose a couple of 2 1/2 pounders), they set it aside and you can give them a time you will return to pick them up. They will cook it up and have it hot & ready for you. We picked ours up and returned to the park, Q’ed up some corn, and had a little cole slaw to top the meal off. WOW!

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Home, at Timberland Acres RV Park near Bar Harbor.

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They have MASSIVELY long pull-through sites!

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The clubhouse with arcade.

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The pool and playground. The weather was not real cooperative to allow for proper pool use.

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So many to choose from! Oh boy!

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The blues are kinda rare. This guy was trying to be inconspicuous, at least as much as he could be in a tank where everybody else is normal brown/orangish. He was too small, anyways…

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Bud was laughing at me. “That’s not how you’re supposed to eat them, Charlie!”

The next day we planned on driving the Schoodic Point Loop and visiting Bar Harbor. Before we left, I had an appointment with P.E. O’Halloran Mobile RV Repair to work on a small leak in my hydraulic system. The repairman arrived and got right to work. After showing him the area, he quickly found the culprit, a corroded tiny little O-ring. Swapped out a new one and bing-bam-boom we were on the road to Bar Harbor. The Schoodic Point Loop was a scenic drive and a bit busy, being this was Labor Day Weekend.

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Some of the scenery along the Schoodic Point Loop.

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The water here is crystal clear.

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More along Schoodic Point Loop.

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Oh, looky, another lighthouse! Here’s a long shot at what I think is the Winter Harbor Lighthouse (I’ve seen so many I lose track of names, but it looks like the one on the internet when you Google it).

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A closer view, thanks to the advent of “zoom”…

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The Three Amigos, aka: Jeanne, Meredith, and Bud taking a break while driving the Schoodic Point Loop.

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OK, let’s make up our minds. Is it short sleeve weather, or jacket weather?!?

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We watched this lobsterman tend his traps on the bay.

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More scenery along Schoodic Point Loop.

We wandered into Bar Harbor and got lucky to find parking. Town was busy with the holiday weekend, but to add further numbers to the masses this is a regular port stop for cruise ships and there happened to be one currently anchored off shore. There were all manner of boats out on the bay. We saw a massive yacht that actually had it’s own personal sailboat stored on deck! We walked around downtown and ended our stay with chow at the Thirsty Whale.

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Bar Harbor is a regular stop for cruise ships like the one in the background here. I thought Commodore Chuck would get a kick out of the sailboat in the forefront.

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The downtown shopping area in Bar Harbor.

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More of the downtown “flavor”. This being the alleyway entrance to the Route 66 Restaurant.

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We saw this yacht down in the bay. Notice they have a personal sailboat strapped on the deck. What other toys might be on board, hmmmmmm?!?!

Acadia National Park has a scenic loop drive that leads to many overlooks, geographical features, and hiking trails. We fought the masses and took the loop, much of it in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Thunder Hole is a cool little slot in the rocks where, on a “good” day (meaning waves & wind) it earns it’s name. Our luck holding true (our luck = bad luck), we couldn’t have picked a calmer day on the ocean. So for us, Thunder Hole was not  feeling so thunderous. We lucked out when we got to the top of Cadillac Mountain and found parking (still bumper-to-bumper traffic), then packed our picnic lunches out to dine on the rocks and ogle the ocean panoramic views. Something went seriously wrong with our luck streak, we did manage to have a bit of good luck and the weather was beautiful for this day of sightseeing. And to top off the day we returned to camp for a feast of local steamers (clams). Mmmmmmm!

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Views from the top of Cadillac Mountain are spectacular! At least they are on a clear day…

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More from the Acadia Park Loop/Cadillac Mountain.

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This shot picked up, who’d have guessed, another lighthouse. It is on the tiny little island in the lower, left corner.

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Lunch time on Cadillac Mountain.

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Thunder Hole is a popular tourist stop.

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It was not feeling very “thunderous” when we were there.

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Bud & I putting a dent in some steamers…

Cadillac Mountain boasts of having some magnificent sunrises, so we braved the alarm clock and went back at zero-dark-thirty on the Labor Day Sunday. Murphy laughed at us, yet again. Pea soup fog, frigid windy weather, and still bumper-to-bumper traffic to get up to the top was  our entertainment for the day. 0558 hrs. rolled around, the advertised official time of sunrise, and visibility was non-existent. We got to see dark gray morph into lighter gray, and we got to freeze our tails off for an extra added bonus! It was not until we drove down the mountain where we caught some mild rays under the fog ceiling. After a short catch-up nap we went shopping with Bud and Meredith at the L.L. Bean outlet, then just HAD to have a final lobster feast on our final night there.

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Getting ready for the big show…sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. Brrrrrrrrrr!

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Ta-Da! The sun rises at Cadillac Mountain. Sure glad we got up at 0300 hrs. for this…

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It’s nice to have company when you are feeling stupid…

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We did get to see some rays, under the fog ceiling.

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Just missed by a half hour or so…

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Lobstah!

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They have these hole-in-the-wall lobster pounds all over the place. This is the Down East Lobster Pound.

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I still haven’t figured out how to eat this things! OK, that’s not true, I have no issues ingesting them…

We said our “Happy Trails” and hit the road. A big thank you to Bud and Meredith for the tour guidance-ship, a good time was had by all. With Irma possibly working her way to Florida and maybe north up the coast, our timing to head west seemed to be perfect. That’s all for now, until next post…

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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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