Thursday, October 3, 2019

Second Trip in the Travato

It appears haven't posted in two years but I wanted a place to write about our recent and upcoming travels so I'm back.

We've been having a fun summer after purchasing a 2019 Winnebago Travato - 21 feet long; gas engine; decent mileage - average about 17 overall but we've been doing a lot of back roads.

We took off on September 17th with a plan of visiting a couple friends and then making Shenandoah National Park out terminus.  Planning to be gone 10 +/- days.  (Ended up being 13) And to avoid highways as much as possible.

So we left home on Wednesday, September 17th around 9 am.  We took back roads to Richard Marsh's house just outside of Northampton, MA in a little town called Haydenville.  Typically we take I95 and 495 and the Mass Pike.  It's about a 4 hour drive.  However, avoiding highways we went through Western Maine and into Concord and Keene NH and up into Vermont for a bit.  Lots of twists and turns and hills and valleys.  It took about 6 hours and we only got off track once or twice.

Arrived at Richard's and enjoyed some expensive whiskey, a delicious (though all agreed oversalted) dinner and visiting around a small bonfire in his yard listening to owls, coyotes, and enjoyed a beautiful star filled night.

We slept inside the house for our first two nights of the trip.  Took a little hike on Thursday and went out to dinner in Northampton and left Friday morning headed to Poughkeepsie, NY to visit Charlie James.  Again, went off highway and it was a pleasant drive with pretty easy access to the city. Took about 3 hours and we found parking fairly easily on a side street with just a short walk to Charlie's apartment.  We took him out to lunch at a restaurant next door to his apartment and then visited with him in his apartment for a while. He insisted on seeing our rig so we wove through some traffic to bring it over to his parking lot and he came out and climbed in with great determination (and some help).  It was probably 2:30 or 3:00 when we left his place and our next destination (Jim Thorpe, PA) was several hours away so we drove a while and Rick started searching on our apps for a campground to spend the night.  We found one just off our route in Cuddlebackville, NY on the Neversink River.  Interesting names - lol.  Friendly staff, a little back woods; road was pretty rough getting to our site but it was a great spot right beside the river with electric and water hookups.  It was dark by the time we were done making dinner of salad and steak strips on the Foreman grill, along with a nice bottle of red wine, and we were ready to read for a bit and crash for the night while listening to the music of the river flowing in the background.

Next morning I showered in the T and we were ready to leave by 10ish.  We refilled our fresh water and dumped on the way out and drove to Jim Thorpe on side roads.  Beautiful mountains and rivers on the drive into the town named after a famous Native American athlete.  We drove through town not finding anywhere to park and then on our way out found a large gravel lot with a sign that said $10 parking so we grabbed a spot.  Lots of room and a short 5 minute walk back into downtown.  We checked out the huge 15,000 pound chunk of anthracite, read some local coal history, strolled around town and found a really nice clothing shop where I bought a shirt and then walked up the hill to a restaurant recommended by the store owner.  We had perogies which were delicious and a couple beers brewed in house.  We strolled around a bit more, checked out some vintage stores and then walked back to the T and headed to Etters, PA for our first overnight at Walmart.  Rick had called earlier and was told it was fine to overnight there.  Up to this point I had done all the driving but Rick volunteered when we decided to go ahead and take the most direct route, which of course meant highways but only about a two hour drive.

We arrived about 7 pm and were approached for a tour of the T within ten minutes of arrival.  A nice guy who was very interested and his wife who was less thrilled with the idea of an RV and stayed in the car but was pleasant enough.

We then made a light dinner and as we had good reception on the IPad we streamed some Jessica Jones on Netflix and fell asleep before 10.  There was quite a bit of light but the shades blocked it well enough and the traffic noise wasn't a problem enough to keep us from sleeping.  Woke up and made coffee in the T and were on the road by 9ish, headed toward Harper's Ferry.  We had called the Harper's Ferry KOA the night before and was told there would be plenty of sites available so we made that our destination.

This is where the "off highway" Google Maps got really interesting.  It took us on the most winding, hilly back roads, some really just one lane, up and down mountains, along rivers.  It was really beautiful but a little ridiculous in some places.  Especially when one looks at the paper map (as Rick constantly did) and saw that a major state route (though not a highway!) could have taken us to the same destination.  It often took us on a major route, but it seemed like whenever there was a side road available, it would take us down that.  We mostly followed the Google Maps directions but a couple of times we stayed on a more major route and allowed GM to reroute us.

At one point somewhere in PA I think, I noticed a sign saying there was a 9.5 foot height ahead.  Luckily there was a turn around right by the sign so I pulled over and turned around.  We came across the same obstruction on the way home a week or so later and this time could see that it was a covered bridge.  It sure looked higher than the posted 9.5 feet but we didn't want to chance anything so did a short detour and GM got us back on track easily enough.

We pulled into HFKOA around 3 in the afternoon and had our pick of spots.  We choose one at the far end away from everyone and set up with water and electric.  A pull behind trailer came in later and set up a couple sites away but it was fine.  We made wraps for lunch, relaxed at the campsite, read, had a light dinner, streamed some more Jessica Jones on Netflix and fell asleep early.

The next day, Monday, was predicted to be showers and very hot so we elected to hang out at the campsite, walked down to the camp store to restock a few supplies, and later walked over to the camp laundromat and did a load of laundry.

Tuesday we battened down the hatches, leaving the mat and chairs set up at the campsite, and drove over to the HF Welcome Center and parked the T and took a shuttle into Harper's Ferry.  We walked up to Jefferson Rock, named after Thomas Jefferson who in 1783 declared the scene was "worth a voyage across the Atlantic."  The trees have since crowded out most of the view but one could see how magnificent it once was.

We then walked into town and I bought a nice necklace from a local artisan shop and took her up on her recommendation of the restaurant next door that had a nice view of the Potomac.  Once again we ordered perogies (these not nearly as good as those in Jim Thorpe) and a pulled pork barbecue sandwich which we shared along with some local beer. 

We walked down to the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac Rivers and read some of the historical plaques scattered around, strolled back up the only other street, browsing shops along the way.  We stopped at a tiny restaurant and chatted with the friendly young bartender while enjoying another local beer and splitting a chocolate dessert.  She said she was headed back home to Washington State in a few days but had been living in Harper's Ferry for the last couple of years. I guess the place goes pretty dead in the winter.

On our walk back to the shuttle pick up we stopped at some historic sites depicting the change in building construction over the centuries.

The next morning we showered (me in the T and Rick took a cold campground shower) and refilled our fresh water and dumped again on the way out.  Our fresh water kept siphoning out of the tank for some reason. I think we must have lost several gallons before it stopped.  We then headed off to Shenandoah National Park, avoiding highways again.  Once again GM took us on some pretty out of the way routes but it was a beautiful drive and we entered Skyline Drive in SNP at the north entrance in Front Royal, VA.  We stopped at the first visitors center and talked to a park ranger to get advice on hiking trails and campsites, etc.  We watched a 10 minute video about the park and then hopped back in the T and headed south on Skyline Drive.

Wow!  It was a very clear day and we had to stop at several of the first of 75 scenic pull outs.  Just beautiful views of mountains after mountains.  I was reading a novel while there based on historical accounts of the 30s and 40s when the state of Virginia and the federal government were taking land from mountain residents, most whom had lived there for generations, to create the park.  It was an interesting contrast of seeing the incredibly beautiful park that they created while feeling the pain and animosity caused by it's creation.

We spent the first night at Mathew's Arm Campground.  They just let us drive through the campground and choose a site and then come back and register.  We chose a small, fairly level site in a woodsy area out of view of others.  There were signs everywhere about bears and bear management.  It turned out there was a bear trap just down the camp road from us.  We didn't bother with the mat or chairs, but set up, made hamburgers in the frying pan, read and turned in early.  The night sounds of insects and frogs or whatever, were lovely.  Reminded me of our camp in West Gardiner in the spring when the peepers are out.

Woke up the next morning, made coffee, and then drove up to one of the next scenic pull offs and Rick set up the chairs outside while I made a frittata and we sat outside overlooking the mountains and enjoyed brunch and a beer.  We were alone most of the time.  People would pull off and stop briefly but most then drove along.  An hour or so later we packed back up and continued the drive, stopping at several more pull offs, and the Skyland Lodge.  We had planned to stay at Big Meadows Campground but found ourselves there early enough that we decided to skip it and continue on to Loft Mountain Campground where we set up in a more open area with an eastern view in hopes of seeing a nice mountain sunrise.  We met a couple from North Carolina who were in a Class C motor home - just a bit larger than ours.  We visited with them for an hour or so (Brenda and Mike; Mike is a retired biology teacher and had lots of stories about teaching and travel) and then made dinner, watched some more Jessica Jones and nodded off, waking to that great sunrise I'd hoped for.

We had reached our end point and it was time to head home so we made coffee and took our time packing up and after making a call to the Harrisburg, PA Cracker Barrel to confirm they allowed overnight parking, we headed to Rick's old stomping grounds, where he worked for several years. We decided to do highways.  I83 I believe it was and it was just what I expected - super busy, lots of trucks, and very stressful.  A few hours of that and I was done.

I had never been to a Cracker Barrel restaurant before but it was pretty much what I'd expected, other than the fact that they serve no alcohol.  I had been looking forward to sharing a bottle of wine with a nice meal and no worry about having to drive anyplace.  Well that didn't work out so well but the fried chicken was decent and very plentiful and we had leftovers for the next night.

We got up the next morning, got coffee from Cracker Barrel and headed back out on a non-highway route to our next stop at Walmart in Hudson, NY.  Another beautiful drive - not so many truly back roads, though a few - more like state roads through some beautiful small and medium size coal towns.  We stopped in East Stroudsburg, PA for lunch and arrived in Hudson, NY around 5ish.  Had leftover fried chicken from Cracker Barrel for dinner and streamed some more Jessica Jones.  We called around and found a campground in Wells, Maine that assured us they had sites with a sea view (Called Sea Vu Campground).  Today's route took us out of NY and into MA and then up through some mountains into Vermont and NH before arriving in Wells, Maine.  Great views,  The first real color we've seen so far this fall.  We pulled off for bathroom breaks, scenic views, and stretches a few times and arrived in Sea Vu around 3, just in time to watch the last quarter of the Patriots game which we only knew because other people in the park were watching outside.   We were fortunate to get 16 stations through the TV antenna, which for the first time included NBC and CBS where the game was being broadcast.

We took a walk around the campground and admired the nice view and went back to the T and grilled hamburgers on the Foreman grill.  It was the last night of our trip and we stayed up pretty late streaming more Jessica Jones on the IPad.  We woke to a fabulous sunrise over Wells Harbor (I highly recommend site I-3 for a sunrise view!) and took our time with coffee and breakfast and hit the road for the last leg of our journey.  We decided to do highways: I95 and 295 as it was a 1.5 hour drive vs. close to 3 hours back roads.  The southern part of I95 was so busy I decided to stay on I95 rather than take the busier 295 and was so glad I did.  Once 295 broke off, I95 had very little traffic.  We arrived home about 12:30, unpacked, did laundry, and then relaxed in front of the fireplace.  It was great to be home.

I'll try to add some photos later.

Monday, August 7, 2017

August 2017 - stuff and plans

I had such a wonderful conversation with Christopher tonight.  He called me out of the blue and we talked about the concert he went to Saturday night - Alabama Shakes.  I told him that several of my friends - some who are my age; some 10 years younger, and some 10 years older, as well as himself, posted on FB about going to this concert.  So I pulled them up on my Google Music tonight and listened to them for an hour or so and loved what I heard!  He said it was an excellent concert and he caught a taxi home 10 minutes before the downpour hit Portland.  He also told me he's about to move into a new place in Portland with a friend and his fiance both of whom he really likes who recently purchased a home.  Cheaper rent and first floor room.  I'm really happy for him. Sounds like a great arrangement.

I haven't posted much since I noticed all the photos I've posted in the past couple of years or so have disappeared from this blog.  Damn technology!  Maybe some winter day when I have nothing better to do I'll try to figure it all out but I'm not holding my breath.  In the meantime . . .

We're planning a trip to Europe for this September.  From the 4th through the 28th.  This will be my first trip to Europe so I'm pretty psyched.  My brother lives in Lyon and Servagette, France and I figured in 10 days of free lodging accommodations to the trip.  I think this may turn out to be my favorite part. My brother and I butt heads sometimes but I've always thought of him as the cool little brother.  There's a Lucinda Williams song that has a lyric that says, "my brother knows where all the best bars are."  That's totally Bill and I think of him whenever I hear that song.  But at the same time, he's a very strong personality and we're not always on the same page.  But I can usually chill and go along with whatever for 10 days and probably be the better for it, so again, I'm pretty psyched.
 When I travel (which hasn't been all that much) I really like to get a feel of a place which I don't feel like you get at the tourist attractions (which I still want to see!!!) but when you can observe every day life.  You know, find a local cafe or bar where you find part of your tribe.  That's kinda what I'm hoping to find in Lyon.  

So the plan is:  4 nights in Paris; take a train to Lyon; 10 days with Bill and Fre between Lyon and Servagette; then a flight from Lyon to Venice and 5 nights on the Grand Canal; next a flight from Venice to Naples and 4 nights in Amalfi before returning to Naples for our flight back to Boston.

I've been reading some Donna Leone, Guido Brunetti detective series books that take place in Venice to get a feel for the city.  They're really building some excitement for me.  I need to find something similar for Paris to read.

It's an ambitious trip and I hope this old body holds up for it all.  I don't love flying but I do want to experience foreign locations so I'm hoping 3+ weeks isn't too much.  I'm sure I'll be happy to get home and that's a good thing too!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Damn, I can't believe I haven't posted since last October and I think that post was one I'd written back in the summer.  Anyway, here I am at camp, solo for night #2, listening to some Sweet Melissa on my Ipod and loving the beautiful breeze coming off the Cobb and the various critters scurrying around, trying to get a last morsel of something before settling down for the night and allowing the nocturnal critters their domain.  Today's highlights:  watched as an eagle swooped down and snatched a nice fish from the Cobb out in front of camp.  That was pretty much it.  Didn't paddle today.  My arms are rather sore from two days of paddling in a row.  Tomorrow I'll be out there again and maybe do the whole trip down to the dam.

I should have driven to Augusta today and voted.  I didn't.  That's not like me.  But I have to say that I'm rather discouraged politically these days.  Fucking Trump.  Fucking LePage.  Fucking Maine Legislature.  They're trying to undo 2 referendums we passed last November: Ranked Choice Voting and a 3% tax on Mane's top earners to fund education to the 55% required in the Referendum we passed 10 years ago that they never achieved.  Fuckers.  Their response:  we're trying to get there.  Fuck you.  So if I'm pulled over for drunken driving can I respond:  Hey, I'm trying to get sober, I haven't had anything to drink for at least an hour?

I didn't sleep well last night.   I think it was that damn "death by chocolate" cake that Eddie had gotten for his birthday yesterday and insisted I take some home.  It called to me until I ate some and the caffeine in the chocolate kept me up until 4 am.

This is my third night at camp and I haven't managed to wake up to watch the sunrise yet.  I only see it reflected on the western shore of The Cobb but it's often pretty spectacular. Maybe I'll see it tomorrow morning.  A beer with dinner and a glass of wine and I'm expecting an early bedtime.

Betty is coming out tomorrow for a kayak paddle!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I came out to camp on Monday planning to spend a few nights solo as Rick is still working.  I had hoped to do a paddle on Monday but the winds were too strong and I didn't want to risk it.  But Tuesday the winds had died down and the temps were in the mid 60s so Betty came over and we did a little paddle.  Her shoulder had been bothering her so I left her soaking up some sun just beyond the bridge and got a little workout paddling down to where the stream narrows.  The last of the red winged blackbirds have left the northern marsh but there were several ducks still hanging around and I saw two or three heron flying and fishing along the shore.  I also saw one of the juvenile ospreys that hatched this year flying overhead a couple of times.  

October on the Cobb. Still a lot more color to come.

About half way back to camp we decided to give Eddie a call and invite him over to have dinner with us.  Betty had brought some sauteed venison from the deer she shot last year and we put it over some pasta and Eddie brought a nice bottle of wine to go with it all.

Tonight I met Rose down at The Depot in Gardiner for a drink and then Rick joined us for dinner at Pastaz.  Rose is here to drive her mom back to New Mexico to spend the winter with her.  She just got in this morning and will be leaving on Saturday so we won't get to spend much time together but I might try to catch up with her again tomorrow for a walk at Hobbit Land or later at The Depot again. I'd also like to get in another paddle tomorrow as it could be the last of the season for me.

Me, Rose, and Rick at Pastaz
The squirrels and birds have been very active at the feeders this week.  The flying squirrels have been coming at night but I haven't seen any skunks or raccoons.  Today I got what's probably my final propane delivery until spring.

I've been amazed at how many acorns there are this year!  I had to rake the lawn because it felt like walking on marbles everywhere.  We threw a couple in the camp fire we had last night and one kind of exploded, spreading sparks all around.  I was glad I hadn't thrown a lot of them in there given the drought conditions around much of the state.  I haven't had any problems with the well but we haven't spent lots of time out here either.  But so far, so good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

West Coast 2016

I've spent the last couple of days at camp solo.  I realize I haven't written much in my blog since my retirement which was one of the things I was sure I'd do once I had time.  hmmm . . ..

On my kayak paddle today (September 22, 2016) - the first day of autumn - I noticed the swallows that usually nest under the Hallowell-Litchfield Road bridge had already left for warmer climes.  However, I did see a few, though very sparse, population of red-winged black birds in the northern marsh.  Most, I suspect have also headed south.  

What I call the cormorant tree on Cobbosseecontee Stream in West Gardiner

The cormorants are still around and seem to be using the old cormorant tree again this year.  Heard some loons last night.  

I have to say that I'm extremely grateful that the family that owns the rooster lives far enough away so that I can only barely hear him crow from 4 to 7 am.  If I hadn't been awake reading my book, I wouldn't have heard him.  My closest neighbor upstream used to have chickens but thankfully they never had a rooster.  

My first 10 months of retirement have been everything I expected and wanted.  I still wake up in the morning with a sense of wonder that the day is mine, to do with as I wish.  If I want to spend the whole day reading a book, I can do that. If I feel like spending time in my pottery studio, that's what I do.  I have started a routine of going to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so on those days that obligation is in place which is often not welcome.  But I feel stronger and have much more stamina and getting in and out of my kayak is much easier than it has been in years so the work is paying off.  I've lost 15 pounds as well so I'm happy about that.  

 We spent a couple of weeks on the West Coast in July.  We started off with a week with Jason, Adri, and Hugh in Claremont, CA, spending lots of time in their pool and playing with Hugh.  He just recently turned two and he's clearly got a mind of his own but is almost always happy, engaged, and delightful. 

"Again!" yells Hugh, until Jason's arms are like jelly.  :-)  

Rick, Hugh, and Jason walking to the park

 However, after a week of that we were ready for some adult time and rented a car and drove up to Big Sur.  We stayed a couple of nights at the Big Sur River Inn, hiked down to the Pacific Ocean at Andrew Molera State Park, had dinner at Nepenthe, and just admired the amazing views the area has to offer.  Two days after we left the area experienced some significant wildfires so I feel so fortunate that we were able to explore before that happened.  

Walking down to the beach at Molera State Park

Dipping my toes into the Pacific Ocean - it was cold and windy as heck!

Having drinks at Nepenthe

Our room at the Big Sur River Inn

We left Big Sur and drove up Route 1 to San Francisco to meet Jerry Nicosia for lunch.  Spent a couple hours with him at a nice little coffee shop in Mill Valley and then headed north again, on our way to visit Annie and Woody Woods just outside of Portland, OR.  We went inland to save time and stopped to visit some redwood forests along the way in the Avenue of the Giants.  

A magnificent redwood tree

We had decided to wing it in finding a room for the night and ended up in Eureka, CA at a sweet little hotel overlooking the rather industrial bay area. 

Our rather industrial view in Eureka, CA

 We talked to a gentleman at the Applebee's we ate at and asked about recommendations if we had just an hour or two to see the sights and he recommended an absolutely magical beach on our way about a half hour north called Houda Point in Trinadad CA and Luffenholtz Point.  Wow!  It was foggy and drizzly which really seemed to add to the magic of the place. 

Luffenholtz Point - the old man in the sea?

Houda Point, Trinadad, CA

 I could have spent days there but we were scheduled to reach Tualatin by 5 that night so we tore ourselves away and drove north, taking the James River road that took us from CA to OR.  Such beautiful, hilly, rugged country!  I really hope to come back in a camper and spend time in northern California - both the wine/ranch country north of San Francisco and the more rugged areas around Eureka. 

We arrive in Tualatin and had a wonderful visit with Annie and Woody Woods.  
Rick, Annie, Woody, and myself.  I may have had a little of that herb that's legal in Oregon.

At McMenamins on the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington with our great friends Annie Courchesne Woods and Woody Woods.
The Columbia River Gorge - Oregon on the right and Washington on the left

At the Portland Saturday Market - great people watching

At McMinimans in Washington

Our last night in Oregon

Friday, January 1, 2016

Closing Down Camp 2015

Evidence camp was standing and in good shape when we closed it down in November 2015.  Just in case it burns down or floats away in a flood before we return in May.  

Holidays 2015

Ashley's first ever Christmas stocking

The aftermath

More aftermath
Rick's famous sausage and egg casserole and some monkey bread for Christmas breakfast
Christmas fireplace

Christmas morning - no snow - so much green!
It arrived a couple of days later though

The Bond boys (Jared, Chris, Justin, Tucker, Peter, and Jesse Bond) playing some Munchkins the night prior to the Bond family gathering at our house.

Pretty cardinal hanging out in the backyard on New Year's Day

Chilling with some Mimosas and having fun with one of my new Christmas gifts on New Year's Day 2016.