Saturday, August 27, 2016

Homeward Bound



It was cold last night. We started out with the blanket, and in the morning had to turn on the furnace. Back on the road, we were following Route 7, which parallels the interstate. We really enjoyed being off the freeway. On the side roads you get to see much more than just the scenery. We go through all the small towns and see how the people live. There are many interesting buildings to see.
The downtown of these little burgs is usually all on one street, sometimes just on one side of the street. And the old buildings are often fancy.

In Bainbridge, we spotted this colorful church. One could shoot a whole collection of small town churches, the architecture is so different and often unique.

Another thing is the local restaurants and cafes. Sometimes the food is pretty plain, but you can also find some delicious and different stuff. In Afton, NY, Gene had a steak and cheese sandwich that was very good.

Along the way, we spotted this amazing railroad bridge for the Lackawana RR. This is only part of it. To show the whole bridge would require a panorama.
Lackawana Railroad bridge

Traveling the country roads is relaxing (speed limit is usually 55). However, when they go into the larger cities it becomes difficult and stressful. We followed 11 into Scranton. We continued, looking for signs to help follow it through the city. Not seeing any, we kept going straight; we found ourselves in a residential district, then the road dead-ended in a park. The road engineers seem to think that if you are coming in on a secondary road you must have local knowledge and don’t need help.
It took us a long time, and some dubious help from a gas station attendant to find our way out. Wilkes-Barre threatened to turn in to the same situation, so we managed to bail out onto I-81until we saw an exit for 11. We still like to drive the back roads, but from now on, when we approach a large city we will jump onto the interstate until we get past it, then go back on it. We will see how that works.
After the debacle with the cities, when we got to our campground for the night, we decided we deserved Cuba Librés and a nap. Easy and convenient in a motorhome.

Wednesday:   This morning we decided to go down to the camp store for breakfast. They serve hot breakfast sandwiches but when we got there they only had one left. This at 9:00 in the morning. I knew we weren’t morning people but this was surprising. No problem, the owner quickly made a hot egg and ham on a bagel.
So we got underway by 9:45, early for us, but we knew we needed to stop early in order to do laundry. We followed our modified plan: stay on secondary roads (in this case US-11) most of the time, but jump onto the nearby interstate to get quickly around the larger towns. That way we would avoid the frustration of getting lost in poorly marked cities. We still drove through the smaller towns, because they are usually straight-forward. They also often have interesting old buildings.

Highway 11 follows right along the Susquehanna River for many miles. You don’t always see it very well most of the time because of trees and houses in the way. But every once in a while you get a good look.
Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna is a big river here in Pennsylvania. Occasionally it is also very wide, with islands scattered in the middle. This river, which has its source in upstate New York, eventually becomes Chesapeake Bay.
We slipped into the edge of Hagerstown, MD, and got a delicious lunch at Olive Garden, and then did some grocery shopping. There don’t seem to be many campgrounds in this area, but we managed to make contact with a KOA a short way out of Hagerstown. It is an older KOA, located on a creek in the back woods. We checked in about 4:30 and immediately set about doing laundry. This might seem a little odd, since we expect to be home in about two days, but we were pretty much completely out of clothes. This may be a vacation, but the chores go on


Thursday:   We woke to the sounds of birds through the open windows. There was an owl, a woodpecker of some kind (perhaps Pileated) and a couple of other birds we couldn’t identify making the woods ring. What a wonderful way to wake up!
We left the campground a little after 10:00 and continued our trip down US-11. A short way after we left the KOA we came to the C&O canal and a visitor center. We stopped and had a pleasant talk with one of the volunteers there. Then we went out and walked the tow-path the half mile to a lock. This short stretch of the canal is watered, there are even a couple of launches on it that the rangers use in their tours (which we didn’t take). The local wildlife includes several turtles. We couldn’t resist this one.

There was a lock house at the lock, but it wasn’t open.
C&O Canal lock and lock house
The other end of this stretch has a turning basin and had an aqueduct over a stream, but the aqueduct is mostly gone. It was a hot day and we hadn’t carried any water (so what’s new?) so we were sweaty and tired and glad to get back to the motorhome.
We got back on the interstate just before the Virginia border in order to stop at the Welcome Center and get a new Virginia map (we had none in the van). From there it was better to stay on the interstate for a few more miles to avoid Winchester and get on the road to Front Royal.
Today the National Park Service is celebrating it’s 100th birthday --- they had cupcakes and lemonade at the C&O welcome center. To us the good news was that the campgrounds on the Skyline Drive all had vacancies. We got on the Drive and proceeded the 58 miles to Big Meadows. There were overlooks along the way, with views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west.

We mostly didn’t stop, concentrating on getting to a campground, just enjoying the views along the way. We got to Big Meadows about 4:45 and found a level site in the woods. Time to relax and have a drink to celebrate the NPS birthday. Tomorrow we take the last leg home.

Friday:   No birds today; the campground is probably too crowded. We made a lazy morning of it. Excitement!--- when Jean went outside she spotted a monarch butterfly, only her second of the season. She worries when she doesn’t see them. We saw a couple more later in the day.

We decided to break camp and see if we could get some breakfast at the Lodge. By the time we found our way to the Lodge, they had stopped serving breakfast. So we got back on the Skyline Drive. At a shady overlook I set up a table in front of the sofa at the back of the van and we had a casual breakfast with a view toward the Shenandoah Valley.
Back on the road we spotted a pickup stopped in our lane ahead. There, two teenage girls ran across the road from the left and jumped in the truck. We looked in the direction they came from and spotted a black bear cub taking off through the woods. I managed to grab a shot of it.

So we saw bears on our first day and our last day of the trip, both in Shenandoah National Park.
After spending three-and-a-half, mostly comfortable, weeks in the north, we were heading back to the heat. At the James River, the lowest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the temperature was 93. At Peaks of Otter (not the highest point) the temperature was 81. And that is why we like to go up on the mountain in the summer time.
We got home a little after 5:00. Looking back, it was a very good trip. Other than the beginning, when we had to meet a schedule in Massachusetts, we were able to spend an absolute minimum of time on the interstate. Lots of interesting back roads. We did most of what we set out to do --- Alan convinced us to cut back on the time we had expected to spend in Canada.  That was probably good advice.
We were out for 24 days and covered 3,061 miles. Most days that we moved, we covered less than 200 miles, frequently far less. We saw a lot of interesting things, and did it in a relaxed manner. When can we head out again?

Monday, August 22, 2016

New York 2



Wednesday:   We spoke with the couple from the Roadtrek that parked next to us last night. They are traveling in company with family in a Class C. We spent some time at the office, Jean shopping and Gene getting directions to the road we wanted and where there was diesel. The diesel place they told us about only had big-boy nozzles, and since we still had three (of 10) bars on the fuel gauge, we pressed on.
There were five lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic at the border, so it took quite a while to get to the front. But once it was our turn it went quickly. The agent did look inside, but we think he was more interested in seeing our layout than looking for contraband.
The task now was to head for Saratoga Springs. We chose a route to bypass Niagara and Buffalo and their traffic. We spent the whole time on country roads. We ran into traffic near Buffalo even though we were quite a ways out.
We headed east on 20, a secondary road that parallels the interstate. Jean found a campground that has a laundry, since we were out of clean clothes. Thus we stopped earlier than we normally would have, which was quite nice. I spent a lot of time writing the blog entry for Canada and processing pictures while Jean tended to the laundry. Both tasks took more time than we would have preferred. I wasn’t able to upload the blog from our site. I decided to try from closer in in the morning.
Thursday:   After breakfast I took the computer down to the game room, where I was able to finish the blog and upload it. Jean spent quite a bit of time in the camp store (surprisingly long for such a small store), where she bought a couple of items.
The countryside in this area is pretty flat, which allows farmers to plant very large fields. At this time, it was mainly corn with some soybeans. We could see where there had been wheat fields earlier. After a while the land became rolling, then more and more hilly. We were definitely heading toward the Adirondacks (though they are still a good distance away).
Our route took us across the top of the finger lakes. We stopped briefly at Seneca Lake. 
Seneca Lake

There is a nice lakefront park there where we should have had lunch. We drove on without seeing any more water for quite a while. Finally, we took a chance on a side road and stopped for lunch in a park beside Owseco Lake.
Back on US 20, we finally saw water again at Skaneateles. We parked and walked back through the high-end shopping district to take some pictures of two old-looking lake boats.

Our All-stays app wasn’t working for some reason, but RV Parky was and we found a campground well off the beaten path. We parked (two degrees off level) in the woods next to a fast-running creek. We walked around the campground and found we were the only motorhome there. Everyone else had trailers. When we got back to the rig, the pump burped and then kept on running for a while. The water tank read two lights, low but not out. Still, I hooked up the hose and gear and put some more water into the tank (though I didn’t top it up). Then I dumped the holding tanks for good measure. That amounted to more work than I really wanted.
Friday:   We slept well though slightly downhill. On the way out, we drove up the hill to the bathrooms. There I found enough signal to call my doctor in Forest and reschedule my appointments which were for the following week. The next available time for a checkout was mid-October! We got back on 20 and headed east.
Shortly, we came to the tiny town of Bouckville. We saw a few tables set at the side of the road and thought, a community yard-sale, how clever. Wrong! We had wandered into what has to be the world’s biggest antique show. There were tables and booths and tents set up for over a mile on the highway; plus filling any empty lots, plus running down the side streets. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic and mobs of pedestrians. They were selling everything from rugs to antique toys. It totally blew us away.



Later on, Jean found us a campground about eight miles from Saratoga Springs. We almost gave up on the directions, but pressed on and finally found it. We checked in about 3:00 and also got advice about proceeding in Saratoga Springs. After checking out our site (also next to a creek), we drove in to town.
As advised, we parked at a big shopping center and walked downtown. We walked down a long hill and found the Visitor Center. Jean explained that she was starting to research material on her old friend, dancer Michael Steele. The city historian is out for several days, but they gave us her email address. They also gave us a map and marked several locations.
We walked downtown to see what they said was the building, now empty, where he had his first dance studio when he retired from the New York City Ballet. The studio was on the second floor (the first floor was a restaurant). We walked there and took a couple of pictures with the cell phone. After resting and consulting the map, we walked to the library to check out the parking (iffy).
Maple Street studio

It was getting late and we were getting tired, so we went back to the main drag and had some dinner (and a rest in the air conditioning). Finally, we had to face the long, uphill walk back the the Roadtrek. We (meaning Gene) rested for a while at the top of the hill, which allowed us to make it the rest of the way back to the van. Tomorrow we start at the library.

Saturday:   A quick breakfast and back to Saratoga. Our first goal was the library. There was no way we were going to park in the parking lot, but we had to look. We drove around to the various parking lots listed on the map, but by 11:00 they were all full. We finally found a small shopping center a couple of blocks from the main drag that had space, so we parked and walked down the hill to the library.
We were directed to the Saratoga Room, where we spent a fruitful couple of hours. There were some newspaper articles which we were able to have copied, and some other material. Jean took lots of notes and felt she had a good sense of the situation. We walked back to the van, and found a good-looking bus conversion parked nearby.

We had a good lunch at a Chinese restaurant, so we qualified as customers to make our parking legal. Then we went in to the CVS and Jean bought a notebook (the one she was using has lots of other material in it) and a file folder. We are getting serious.
Next we drove to the Saratoga Museum of Dance (ample parking). They were also having an art show there. The museum has some interesting displays, but there was no reception desk or any obvious way of connecting with museum staff. There is a Gift Shop, and Jean bought a book that included material on Michael that she had seen at the library. The clerk called someone in the museum to see if they had any material on Michael, but no one knew of anything, or even where to look. So we had to be content with buying the book. Then it turned out the clerk didn’t have change and we had to wait while someone brought her some. So the museum, on which we had pinned some hope, turned out to be a bust.
The last thing on our list was to drive by and look at his last studio. It is a large building, a two-story house in the front, a one-story extension, and a large studio at the back. It was empty and surrounded by trees and weeds. I took some pictures but they won’t show much. 

Third and last location
Studio

As we left, Jean noticed a neighbor down the block putting out his trash, and she went to talk to him. While she was talking, I noticed that there was a couple on their front porch across the street from the studio. I parked the rig and walked over to see if they might have known Michael. It turns out that they are long-term residents of the neighborhood and had quite a lot they could say about him. They invited us up onto the porch, and even brought in another neighbor. We stayed and talked for quite a while.
Michael had taken an old factory building and spent a lot of time and money fixing it up into a very nice place. There was a large space next to it that he (or more so his partner, Tommy) had made into a beautiful garden and courtyard. They had nothing but complimentary things to say about him. He was very popular and gave lots of parties. He was always cheerful and friendly --- except for the last year of his life which was sad and painful. They think he died of cancer.
We finally took our leave, very pleased with what Jean had accomplished that day. We had thoughts of ice cream on the way home but there was no place we could easily park and get some. We were back in the campground by 6:00, tired but happy. Time for Cuba Librés and a nap.

Sunday:   We didn’t expect anything to be open, so we slept in. After breakfast, Jean looked through her files and began to organize things. About mid-day her phone rang. It was a woman who was a friend of one of the contacts that the woman at the library had suggested. She heard that we were looking for information about Michael and said she would be glad to talk with us.
So an hour later we were sitting in Linda Bullock’s town house living room, talking about Michael Steele. She had been a friend of his and known him from when he first came to Saratoga Springs. She filled in many details beyond what the people had told us the day before. For some reason, the conversation seemed to center on his various problems and difficulties, rather than cheery tales about the good times (though some of that was included, too). It seems (according to her) that Michael had a harder life, especially in the latter years, than we had gathered yesterday.
We spent several pleasant hours with Linda. She told us where some of the houses he had lived in were located, and also where his second studio was, which was just a couple of blocks from her place. It was starting to sprinkle when we left her place, so we grabbed the umbrella and the camera and walked over there to take some pictures. His studio had been on the third floor of an interesting-looking building, which had since been converted to businesses with a very high-end apartment where the studio was. So now we had seen all three places where he had taught.

Second studio location
We drove downtown and located Hattie’s, a restaurant near his first studio, from which came one of the pictures of him in the book. Driving around, we found parking in a nearby city lot (only since it was Sunday). We hurried back because we thought they closed at 5:00, but it turns out they opened at five. We didn’t want to wait, so we looked around. We ended up at a nearby organic and vegan buffet where they charged by the pound. We tried it out, and the food was pretty good. In order to avoid being too healthy, we then went across the street and had hot fudge sundaes at Ben and Jerry’s.
Since it started raining, though lightly, we elected not to explore any more in Saratoga, and headed back to the campground. It rained harder the closer we got, and was coming down steadily when we got there. We waited for several minutes until it let up a bit, and I got out and plugged us in, etc. Of course, once everything was set up and I was dried out the rain stopped. Relaxed and read the rest of the night.

Monday:   We stayed over until Monday in order to go to the court house and get his death certificate and find out if he had been married. Gene hiked up the hill to the bath house, and then got into a conversation with the couple in a Sprinter by Airstream. When he got back down to our Sprinter, he hooked up the hose, etc. and filled the fresh water tank. Jean decided we should go into town for a hot breakfast. So, after driving back up the hill to dump the holding tanks, we headed back to town for the last time this trip. It took us a while to find a place in the downtown area that served breakfast, and then we had to wait for quite a while. We finally got a good breakfast about noon.
We stopped at the Visitor Center for directions to the court house. We got the directions but like everything else in town, they were a little confusing and in this case, not quite accurate. We finally found both parking and the City Hall. We also found that birth, death, and marriage records are not public; so that was a bust. It was time to leave town.
Jean found us a campground in late afternoon, but the directions we got from the woman there sent us the wrong way at first. Then the promised signs showing the way were either missing or almost unreadable. We missed another turn, and finally got good directions from a farmer. It seemed almost to be not worth it, since we were near a Walmart that we had stayed at (for free) a few years ago. However, when we finally found it, it turned out to be a pleasant and good-looking place, with operating wifi. I guess it was worth it.
So now we are on our way back home. We plan on avoiding the interstates as much as possible, so it will take us longer to get back. It looks like we will get home just as the hot weather hits again.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Canada



Monday:   Off to Canada. We were up early and on our way by 9:10. We took the first bridge into Canada, where we cleared quickly with no problems. The problems began later. Finding our way to Kitchener looked simple on the map but proved difficult on the ground. For one thing, our Garmin GPS was unreliable. When I updated the maps, it didn’t include Canada (because I hadn’t gotten them originally). I eventually just unplugged it. On the other hand, the Tom Tom (which came with the vehicle) worked just fine --- though it was hard to read. I eventually switched it to metric. I could read my speed in km/hr. (since the Mercedes speedometer only shows MPH).
For another thing, road markings in Canada are unfamiliar. Routes are marked well enough in the country, but not at all in towns. There it becomes real detective work. In one town we stopped and asked a flagger, who confirmed that we were on Route 8. Minutes later the road was blocked and we were sent on a detour right back the way we came. At least the detour was well marked.
Since our destination was the Roadtrek factory, we tried putting Roadtrek’s address in the Tom Tom and it did guide us there --- though the technique was very different from the Garmin’s and required some interpretation. We arrived at Roadtrek with plenty of time to spare before our scheduled factory tour. There was no one at the reception desk, so we went back to the van and had lunch. Besides being signed up for a factory tour,  I had hoped to get some tech help Unfortunately, there were no techs available at that time. We were approached by a salesman who was very friendly and helpful.  That was true of everyone we met there.
Just before our tour began, my heart rate went up to 175 --- probably a reaction to the two hours of stressful driving in heavy traffic on strange roads. I took a pill and went on the tour anyway, I just asked him to go slow. There was a third person on the tour, a man who was in the market and very interested in the construction details. The factory was very warm and humid, and half-way through the tour I went back to the air-conditioned customer lounge and took another pill.
After I had rested a while, Jim (possibly Hammil, the owner) and a tech, allegedly their best, came in and discussed my questions (Jim left soon). I had three concerns. The first was the clicking in the battery separator. He had no clue about that. I had noticed that it only started doing it after the solar panels were installed, but he confirmed that they were installed correctly.
Then we talked about the sink dropping down on one side (it is epoxied to the underside of the counter top). He showed me the epoxy they use. So I will look for some of that. Finally, there was the problem of no TV when operating on antenna. I was following all the proper steps. I did point out a broken F-plug on the back of the TV. He got a new end fitting and put it on --- though we didn’t try it. He also plugged in an audio cable that was hanging loose.
I laid down and rested until my heart rate returned to normal. Meanwhile, Daren, the salesman, printed out directions to the Niagara KOA where we had reservations.
Jean and Deren

 We left the factory about 4:00, following the directions. All went well until we turned to go onto the QEW (a major freeway). We ran into the worst traffic jam I ever saw. Five and six lanes wide and packed in as far as the eye could see. We concluded that it was caused by a major wreck, though two hours later when we got to where we had seen all the flashing lights, everything was all cleaned up and the traffic just started moving again.
One of the vehicles we saw in the mess was a large, Mercedes. The front half looked like a bus, though short. The back half was blank (on our side) and as high as a semi trailer. It had Alaska tags. When we saw the other side later, the high part had two rows of small windows with curtains, sort of like a Pullman car.
When we got near the end of Daren’s directions, the highway signs didn’t match his directions, so we pulled off and entered the address in the Tom Tom. This time we got a tiny street map with a line on it. It was very hard to read, and was not aligned with our direction of travel so it required quite a bit of interpretation. Who knows why the difference?
We found the KOA. After we got settled in and took a nap we went out to Boston Pizza for dinner. Tomorrow we will take public transportation down town to see the Falls from the Canadian side

Tuesday:   After breakfast we went to the office and bought two bus passes and a bottle of water with the Canadian money I got from Alan. The buses are very long and bend in the middle.
As soon as we got to the Falls there was a shower, so we scooted inside and put on our rain coats. There is a large, old building there that contains rest rooms and several businesses. It turned out that was all the rain we saw despite a forecast of 80% chance of thunderstorms.
The Canadian side has Horseshoe Falls (so named because it is curved) which are wider than the Falls on the American side, but seven feet shorter. You can see all of the Falls from Canada. 
Horseshoe Falls

You can get right up to the edge of Horseshoe Falls, literally. Standing at the rail you are just a couple of feet from several thousand gallons of green water rushing over the edge at about 25 knots (about 30 miles per hour).

We watched the boats approach the falls and stand still in the current (probably at almost full throttle) for several minutes while a deck full of passengers get soaked in the spray.
Hornblower boat

“Maid of the Mist” boats come from the American side; “Hornblower” boats come from the Canadian side. The later are catamarans, somewhat wider so they can carry more passengers.
The day was mostly overcast and grey --- though there were brief moments of sunshine, often producing rainbows in the mist.

After a while we went inside and had lunch at Tim Horton. This is basically a short-order sandwich place. Here, at least, there are no tables. You take your sack of lunch and find a bench someplace. After lunch, Jean shopped for a while in Canada’s Best. That is all we did besides the Falls. Both the American and Canadian sides are filled with “adventures” and tacky tourist traps. They make Virginia Beach look like an exercise in restraint and class.
We took the bus back and bought milk and juice (and a couple of post cards) from the camp store. Then the last, weary walk to the Roadtrek for Cuba Libres and naps --- the perfect end to an interesting day.
After dinner, I tried out the TV on antenna again. Still no luck. Someone told us we were trying to run a digital TV with an analog antenna. I’m not so sure, but it gives us another avenue of inquiry. Tomorrow, back to the States.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

New York 1


Thursday: We went in to the farm store after breakfast and got our syrup and a couple of other things. Then headed out about 11:40. We followed 2 all the way back toward Burlington --- avoiding the interstate, then 2A around Burlington, and back on 2 for the trip up the islands. We followed the route Alan had taken us in the convertible on Tuesday, even stopping for lunch in the same place. However, we ate it there, since we didn’t intend to take the side trip to St. Ann’s Shrine.
We crossed the bridge into New York, still following secondary roads through farm country. We saw one large collection of wind turbines, otherwise it was not a particularly interesting run. Jean found a campground and we were settled in by 5:00. It was a quiet spot in the pine woods --- with sites spaced well apart.
We watched The Last Wave on our new “entertainment center,” then settled in to bed. At 12:25 the power went out. I reset the fridge to gas and plugged the CPAP in to the 110V inverted outlet, just like when dry camping. I got up at 3:30 and the power was back on again, so I reset the fridge to AC. Just another camping adventure.

Friday:  It rained some during the night but it was okay in the morning, just cloudy. Jean saw an ad for the Bear’s Den Restaurant and suggested that we go out for breakfast. But first she wanted to go back into Malone to a store that advertised Tevas. So we pulled out and headed back to Malone. After some fiddling around, we found the outdoor clothing store and went in. It is huge! I bought some water shoes for kayaking, but she found nothing to tempt her.
So off we went in search of the Bear’s Den. Along the way we stopped at a Dollar General and got a new phone cord for the one that broke mysteriously. An hour after we left Malone, we spotted the Bear’s Den. But it turned out to be just a gas station. They told us the restaurant was another five miles. They had a good price for diesel, so I topped up --- full service by the way! I hadn’t seen that for years.
We finally found the right Bear’s Den and got there about noon. We could still get breakfast, so we had omelets, which were big enough so that we decided we didn’t need anything more until supper.
Pressing on, we took the roads that ran closest to the St. Lawrence and were occasionally rewarded with some good views.
We ran through some rain showers, then eventually a real frog-choker. That seemed to end it, for we soon were under blue skies and sunshine. With the sun, the temperature, which had been in the 70’s soon went back up to the 90’s. We stopped at a pull-out to get a picture of the motorhome near the river, and the sky was pitch black in the direction we had just come.

After some checking around, Jean found us a campground with water and electricity --- and space. We worry a little bit on Fridays and weekends because that is when the campgrounds usually fill up. Don’t know what it will be like tomorrow as we approach Niagara. We were checked in with the air conditioner running by 5:30. We talked briefly with a man working on his pontoon boat, took a walk to the bathroom, and settled in. Cuba Libré time!

Saturday:  Rain during the night, but just overcast when it was time to leave.  We were startled by loud sirens during the night. It turns out that the sirens were from across the river on the Canadian side. Apparently to call volunteer fire-fighters.
Overcast most of the day, with occasional rain --- one very heavy. We followed the road closest to the shore. It is marked as a Scenic Route, the the scenery rarely includes a view of the lake. We started into one state park, but they were charging fees, so we pressed on.
We did pay to go in to one park, New Haven Beach. 

New Haven Beach
Jean got her beach fix and collected a few shells and stones --- and a tiny piece of beach glass. I took a couple of pictures and a bottle of sand (my last bottle unless I empty a couple of the Florida ones).
After missing a turn (we think) and back-tracking a bit, we made it to Sodus Point Light, a now-discontinued stone lighthouse.   The grounds were set up for a wedding but no one was there yet We looked around and took some pictures in the threatening weather (with thunder). We got away just as the rain started.
Sodus Point Light

We stopped for lunch (late) in Pultneyville, at a place that called itself a deli and pub. The pub part wasn’t open yet, and the deli only served salads and baked desserts. Both were very good. We talked for a while with an interesting old guy who had done the whole Blue Ridge Parkway --- on a mule!
We followed the shore road through Rochester, hoping there would be less traffic. We don’t really know, of course, but there was more than enough traffic for us. We stopped for fuel and once again had full service.
We made it to the campground by 6:15. The site is large --- both deep and wide. We had room to squirrel around and find a level spot. When I hooked up we discovered that the pump was running continuously, even though all the taps were closed.  I went ahead and hooked up water. Then I discovered that we merely had air in the lines. That cleared, I shut off the pump and we will be on city water tonight. Tomorrow I will top up the tank and dump.
We tried the TV on the antenna --- nothing, but we are in the trees. Subsequently I found a broken wire to the TV. I don’t know if that is it. We needed the AC until after we went to bed.

Sunday:  What with some chores, it was after 11:00 before we got away. The woman in the office gave Jean directions to a good breakfast place, but we failed to find it and ended up farther away from Niagara. The only pace we spotted was a shacky-looking roadside café, but we went in. We got delicious Eggs Benedict. You just can’t tell by looking. Subsequently, we learned that Jean's brother Chillie was familiar with the place. He seems to have been everywhere.
On in to Niagara, which was just as crowded and tacky as we expected. At one point it took us at least 20 minutes to drive around the block. Still, we were able to park in a lot across the street from the Visitor Center, where we got a map and directions. We started out by turning the wrong way from the Visitor Center and getting a little lost. But we soon found the state park and headed toward the falls.
The approach to Prospect Point is along the rapids, which are a sight in themselves. I estimated the current at 20-30 knots as it tumbled over rocks and ledges. There was, of course, a crowd at the point, which is the classic view of the falls. We could hear half a dozen languages as we went. You could see the crowded boats, filled with people in red or blue ponchos down on the river 184 feet below us. The spray and mist rises at times higher than the falls.


After resting, we walked back to the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island. From there is another short bridge to Luna Island, which is in the middle of the American Falls. 
View from Luna Island

We had done a lot of walking. It was hot and humid. The overcast was not good for photography --- but it kept the temperature down some. Still we chose not to continue to Terrapin Point overlooking Horseshoe Falls. Instead we headed back to the Roadtrek.
Along the way we stopped and got Cokes and ice cream. When we got back there was a Class C parked next to us. He was running his generator, whose exhaust pipe was pointed at our open window. This was in order to run the air conditioner for the dog inside. Our vent fan was running, so there didn’t seem to be any fumes inside.
On the way back, we consulted the GPS for nearby grocery stores. The first place we went to was in what had been the old city market. Unfortunately, they were about to close. Oh well, it was a pretty sketchy neighborhood anyway. We tried again farther out and found a nice supermarket that was just off our route home. We picked up the necessary things and headed back to the campground.
Gene cleverly missed the turn to the campground and we went several miles out of our way. When we finally got to the almost deserted campground we found that the small cone we had left to mark where we wanted to park was gone. It was not quite hot enough to run the air conditioner, we just opened some windows and turned on the vent fan and took a nap for a couple of hours. Tomorrow we head in to Canada.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Burlington


Settled-in at Gene’s son Alan’s place in Burlington, where we will be for a few days. 
Parked at Alan's house 
 
Saturday Alan went off to work on a project in the morning while we relaxed on the deck and enjoyed the ever-changing view of the lake and the many boats on it. 
Not much wind, not many boats. But the view is still great
In the afternoon Alan took us down to the pedestrian mall at Church St. (downtown Burlington) where there were tents set up the whole way. It was a sidewalk sale for the merchants. Lots of action. We had lunch in a sidewalk café and watched the passing parade.
We were back at the house in time to greet Valerie who was just returning from a business trip. Alan and Valerie fixed a delicious dinner (they are both good cooks) which we ate on the deck and watched the sunset.
The next day (Sunday) Alan and Valerie took off to work on installing a shower (which took most of the day). Jean walked back down to Church St. and spent most of the afternoon shopping. Meanwhile, I did some sewing in the motorhome --- I refastened two curtain slides and sewed two pieces of Velcro onto the screen for the sliding door. Then I finished setting it up. Weather is spring-like (by Virginia standards) and we leave the rear double doors open, as well as the sliding door until it warms up enough to turn on the air conditioner
The first day we did not turn on the water heater. This was to test an idea I had read on the Cyberrally that changes in pressure in the water heater were the cause of the occasional “burp” from the water pump. In fact, we got no “burps” in the time the water heater was off, but they returned after we turned it on.
A new problem that has shown up is that when we are hooked in to shore power, the Battery Separator clicks about every 7-9 seconds (except occasionally when it doesn’t). I have no idea of if it affects anything else. I will try to find some information about that.
Another great dinner by Alan and Valerie. It was a little cooler; we need the blanket. A big difference from the month of heat we had back in Virginia.
Monday, Alan and Valerie were off on projects again. We relaxed in the morning, then walked down to the waterfront in the afternoon.
The old train station has some interesting sculptures

 We had lunch about 2:00, then walked down to see the canal schooner Lois McClure. Gene checks this boat out every time we come to Burlington. Jean was a little under the weather, so she rested in the shade for a while. The boat looked good this time. Last year it was closed off and looking pretty ragged. They apparently got some money for maintenance since then. It is open to the public Thursday through Sunday; we should have come down yesterday. But there was a woman on deck and we chatted briefly.

Went back and picked up Jean, and we had Creemees (a Vermont version of soft-serve). Jean was too tired to climb the hill back to Alan’s, so I called him and he picked us up. Then Jean and Valerie went off to the garden store and I kicked back. In the evening we all went out for Mexican food. Their favorite restaurant was closed on Mondays, so we went to another place on Church St.
Tuesday. Another beautiful day. We had breakfast on the deck. Everyone else went off to a fabric store. After they got back, Alan borrowed a convertible and we went for a drive on the islands. We went through the small towns of South Hero, Grand Isle, and North Hero.
The view from South Hero
 We bought some lunch in North Hero, then took it to a picnic area on another island. Across the road from the picnic spot is an outdoor church called St. Ann Shrine. The pews are outside, under shelter, and the altar area is in an open extension of what looks like a small church.
 
St. Ann Shrine

On the way back we got Creemees. Then we stopped at Costco briefly; and finally finished up at a liquor store to get some rum since we had used the last before we got to Burlington.
Out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Back at the ranch, we watched television --- bouncing back and forth between the Rio Olympics and the results as they came in of the Democratic primary that was held that day. It is a very political house.
Wednesday, departure day. After another pleasant breakfast on the deck, we got the Roadtrek ready for the road. Underway about 11:00, our first stop was back at North Beach Campground to dump the tanks. But first we had to wait for a city pickup truck to take on a tank of water.
Finally getting under way, our next stop was a large mall, where Jean needed to exchange a purchase. While she was doing that, I trudged all through the mall in search of a connecting cord so that I could upload the pictures from the camera. I always have to forget something, and this time it was the camera cord. Nothing in the mall, but I found out where there is a nearby camera shop.
Next stop was a Hannaford’s grocery next to the mall. We picked up enough food for a couple of days. Then we went and found the camera shop. They didn’t have an appropriate cord, so I bought a card reader (same price) and thus we have pictures.
Finally on our way to Montpelier, Jean’s favorite downtown. On arriving we immediately found a parking place! That never happened before. We walked four or five blocks to the Skinny Pancake for lunch. This restaurant serves many different kinds of crepes. One of our old bookstores was gone, as was the bumper-sticker store where we liked to browse. We went into another old bookstore and found a couple of books to read together. After a call from Jean’s brother we walked back to the motorhome which still had about 10 minutes on the meter.
By now it was getting on to rush hour, but thanks to a polite driver, we were able to break through the traffic and head for our evening’s destination. That being Bragg Farm, a maple sugar farm that is a member of Harvest Hosts, an organization of farmers and vineyards that allow RVs to park overnight for free. We have stayed there before, and even when we didn’t we stopped to pick up our year’s supply of maple syrup.
The day was still quite warm; and since we were dry camping (no hookups) we couldn’t run the air conditioner. So we opened everything that had bug screens (which includes the double back doors), turned on the exhaust fan, and went down to the farm store. We bought Creemees and sat in the rockers on the veranda. It doesn’t get much better than that. When things cooled down a little we went back up the hill to where the Roadtrek was parked, lowered the bed, and had a nap.
There was a beautiful sunset as Jean made sandwiches out of the tomatoes she had bought at the farm store. Then a quiet night and to bed. Tomorrow we head for New  York.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer 2016


It’s summer again and time for our annual trip to Vermont. At first Gene thought that he would be going to Plymouth, MA, to teach knots to the Mayflower crew, but that was put off. He still decided to go to MA to have the Roadtrek weighed on all four corners by a safety group that attends large rallies and does that. So that sort of set our schedule. Actually, we didn’t know if that would be possible until the day after we left.
Jean had a doctor’s appointment in late morning on Tuesday, 2 August, so we didn’t get away until 4:00pm. In order to avoid the interstate as long as possible, we decided to begin by going up the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. We got to Loft Mountain, the first campground on the Skyline, a little before sundown. We drove in and picked the first open camping space that looked level. After making out the envelope and putting in our money, Gene got out to walk it back to the entrance. At the same time a juvenile black bear walked out from behind the motorhome and ambled across the road and into the woods on the other side.
Gene checked his email and found that the chance to get the rig weighed would be Friday morning. We could make it if we hustled (not our preferred mode of travel), but we would need to backtrack off the Skyline Drive and run interstates the whole way. Next morning we left relatively early (for us), but it was heavy fog. We drove in fog and occasional rain the 25 miles back the way we came. When we got onto the freeway and into clear weather, Jean pointed out that we were now an hour and a half from home.
We went bombing up I-81, dodging trucks most of the day. Along the way, Jean studied the maps and worked out the fastest way to get to Agawam, MA. She also went online on the phone and found us campgrounds.
Long story short, we drove hard and long but made it on time. The campgrounds she found were quiet, woodsy, and pleasant. They also had no cell service --- usually a plus, though it meant finding places along the way to continue communications with the people were were supposed to meet. We made our appointment and got the information we were seeking; so all worked out well.
About 12:45, after weighing, we headed out for Burlington, VT. We decided to stay off the interstates, and so headed west on MA 57, which turned out to be slow and mostly rough. Also sometimes hard to find. I think the state thinks that these tertiary roads are only used by locals, with local knowledge, so they don’t waste much money on signs.
Eventually we made it to US 7, running up the western side of Massachusetts and Vermont. This was a smoother, faster road and was quite pleasant to drive. We basically drove most of the north-south width of both states. We arrived at Gene’s son, Alan’s, house about 7:15. That gave us plenty of time to sit on the deck with a glass of wine and talk while we contemplated the view of the lake and the New York shoreline. After a delicious dinner we moved indoors for more conversation until bed time.
More in a few days.
 
Morning coffee in our favorite place in Vermont

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Grayton Beach

St. George Lighthouse


Thursday, 25 February
We dump the tanks and say goodbye to St. George. Next stop is Grayton Beach State Park. The distance is only about 120 miles, so it is an easy day, with stops for lunch, fuel, and some groceries. We get to Grayton about 3:30.
I had made a reservation on Monday at Camping World in Panama City to have the rig winterized for the trip back to Virginia. Our reservation had us leaving the state park on Sunday. So when we checked in I inquired about extending our stay one more night. As luck would have it, the site was still available for another night, so I paid the difference (you have to pay for your campsite when you reserve it, eleven months in advance) and we were set. The site we have is tricky to get in to, with little maneuvering room. However, it is on the inside of the loop, and since the bathrooms are in the middle of the loop, we had a path through the tree from our site to the nearby bathroom. In this state park, the bathrooms also include a washer and dryer --- a dollar cheaper than the commercial Laundromat we used at St. George.
The sites are all cut into heavy woods, Maritime scrub oaks that have a lot of twists. They sort of look like Dr. Seuss trees.

We are now on Central time. I made chili for supper and we turned in early.
Friday
We drove down to the beach; in this park it is too far to walk. The beach here is very long and wide. The sand is the same white color as at St. George. Today there was almost no one on the beach, and only one passing pelican. We walked a ways and Jean picked up some very small shells, but there were only broken sand dollars. Except for some sand on the boardwalk, the beach is very firm. I read somewhere that this fine, white sand is quartz, washed down from the Blue Ridge. If so, it has come a long way.

The dunes behind the beach look like large, frozen versions of the waves and surf coming in to the beach.







 








After a snack and a short nap, we decided to drive in to Destin to beat the weekend crowds. I wanted to get some sand to top off my bottle at home. It was the first I collected and I only got about half a bottle. Perhaps the weekend had already started because we shortly ran into lots of traffic. When we got down to Destin’s beach road there was less traffic but wall-to-wall condos and hotels. Why Mike Wendland thought Destin was so great eludes us.
We found some beach parking and I got my sand (much like St. George and Grayton). We stopped just before we got back to the park and had a good dinner.
Backing in to the site is tricky any time, but more so after dark. I backed into the power pedestal and knocked a piece off the cover. Now I have another dent in my collection on the back of the Roadtrek. Sigh.

Saturday
Another sunny day. We drove to the beach and sat on a bench for a while. Still quite cool and windy. There were more birds today, and we saw a pelican flying low over the water get tangled in a fishing line. After some struggle, he freed himself while the fisherman was trying to bring him in to help.
When we had enough beach we drove to a Publix for some lunch (nothing to brag about) and a few groceries. After that we checked out a Mexican store, which turned out to sell mostly groceries. However, there were some wild baseball caps.


We stopped at some shops on the way back to the park, but nothing appealed to Jean. Back at the site (which we backed in to neatly --- as opposed to last night) I hooked up the water because we were low. That was frustrating to say the least. Hose connections don’t go together easily when you are in a stressed position. I finally managed to add a little water to the tank, keeping in mind that we will be winterizing on Monday.
Sunday
Spent the day quietly. Took a short walk around the campground, then Jean napped while I wrote up this blog. Tomorrow we go in to Panama City to get winterized. I can de-winterize easily in a campground on the way down, but winterizing requires dumping the water tanks which I can’t do in a site. Then we may do a little shopping and head for home. If we keep somewhat to the east we may be able to miss the worst of the next round of approaching storms. Here’s hoping.