Posts Tagged With: RV travel

Sweet Spot Alabama

Georgia has lifted many of the stay-at-home restrictions caused by the corona-virus, but we remain housebound most of the time, researching future adventures. Our deck and backyard serve as our outdoor escape, and what with all the critters, we could almost believe we are at the edge of some wildlife refuge.  (Is sleeping in the middle of the glass totems really the best spot?)

If you haven’t seen the videos of our backyard at night or the newborn fawn posing in front of the trail camera, you should take a moment to have a look now. 

Fawn’s First Days
What Happens at Night?
More of What Happens at Night



We were supposed to be on a big ship headed to Alaska this week, but as you know, all cruises out of Seattle, Canada and Alaska are cancelled. So we lamented our lost adventure to see Orca, humpback whales, eagles and more, but had our own sail-away party from the upper deck anyway. Gosh, you should grab a drink and join us for the celebration!

Alaska Sail Away

And since the motorhome sitting in the driveway was a strong reminder that we ought to be out camping somewhere, Jackie and her sister Judy got on the computer and searched out a spot that would be halfway between us (she is in Nashville) and a fun spot to meet up for a few days. The result was Lewis Smith Lake in Alabama, just 4 hours away and northwest of Birmingham. It is actually the Clear Creek Recreation Area in the William Bankhead National Forest. They reserved adjoining sites and we headed out for a mid-week get-together.

      

   

       

It was a great choice and the midweek arrival meant we had our half of the campground practically to ourselves. The weather was sunny and cool, the campsites wooded and nicely separated and the water in the clear lake was a perfect temperature. The only downside was that only one restroom/shower building was open and it was not in our loop. We were actually fine, but it did make it inconvenient for anyone who didn’t have onboard facilities.

     


We played it pretty low-key. We paddled around the lake with our kayak and paddleboards, bobbed in the water of the swimming area and rode bikes along a really nice bike path that followed the lake edge. If you want to get a sense of the lake and the bike path, watch this brief video, but be advised, the biking is a bit disorienting. 

Smith Lake Bike and Paddle video

   

Craig and I were delighted to learn that the nearest town of Jasper, maybe 20 miles off, had not one, but TWO breweries that were open. So of course we all had to trek into town and see what was on tap. Hands down the friendliest brewery was Twisted Barley, with most of the owner’s family helping out. We had flights of some really tasty beers – from IPAs to sours to pilsner and barrel-aged. Nice selection. We also ordered up some pizza and “pig wings” – little riblets that had a bit of a kick to them. Definitely worth a stop if you are in Jasper.

 

 

Maybe a block further down the street was the other brewery, Tallulah Brewing, with a really nice outdoor patio. We only stayed for a single beer, but it was a beautiful night out and the town was really quite cute, if a bit deserted.

 

As the weekend approached, more campers arrived and the boat traffic picked up, but we still had some nice paddles around in the lake. Soon it was time to pack up and head home, having spent a really nice couple of days in the woods.

  

It wasn’t without a few glitches, however, and this seems pretty typical when you are driving around in an older motorhome.

For some reason the electrical problem with the refrigerator (that I fixed back in the driveway) was back again. It meant that the fridge ran off of propane instead of electric, even when plugged in to shore power. The fix is to replace a 5 amp fuse on the control panel, which is difficult only because you can’t easily reach the screws that secure the cover on the back of the fridge. I replaced the fuse and all is well, so far, but I also replaced some screws with Velcro for easier removal of the panel cover the next time this happens (my knuckles thanked me).

The fridge fuse (on left) and control panel

And I have suspected a leak in the hydraulic system used to push the slides in and out and the leveling jacks down. I had to add a significant amount of fluid on our last trip and learned this trip that, yes indeed, we have a leak. While setting camp, we lowered the jacks to level up and began to move the slides out the sides until we lost pressure and things stopped. Since I was out of the transmission fluid used in the pump, a trip to town and the nearest NAPA dealer was in order. It was there that I also bought extra buss fuses to repair the fridge. Back in camp I added the extra fluid that allowed the slides to fully extend, but I was able to see the spot where we were leaking fluid while it was under pressure.

The area where the hydraulic fluid leaks

Of course I kept wondering if we would be able to fully retract the sides of the motorhome and get out of camp and back home. I discussed the problem with John, Craig and did some online research, but figured I had one shot at holding down the leak and getting back home to make repairs. And … that’s how it worked. I held pressure on the leak, Jackie flipped the switch to bring the slides in, fluid leaked but pressure on the spot kept it to a minimum and now I have to figure out how to make the repair. Not to worry, we won’t be headed out for at least 2 months.

 

So another adventure ends and a few more await us this fall.  Thanks for reading along and stay tuned to learn about our next trip to Florida (St. Andrews SP, Henderson Beach SP and Anastasia State Park) for nearly a month.

 

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Searching for Spring Sun

How about a little rain? How about a LOT? It has been quite a stretch of rainy, wet, cloudy weather so far this year in our part of Georgia and we need to find some warm sun! That means it is time to uncover the motorhome and make preparations to head south for a week or so.



Luckily, our winter months have had their share of fun adventures – we even had a day of snow. A new adventure in the kitchen, thanks to Alex, was to learn breadmaking in the Ken Forkish “Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast” method of artisan baking. So many delicious loaves of bread have now been baked and shared – plus homemade pizza dough. And that called for a gathering of the BrewCrew to celebrate a leap-year birthday and make personal pizzas. Such fun. And of course the brewery visits continue.

   

 

Once the cover was pulled off the motorhome this month, John helped me change the engine and generator oil and filters. The roof was cleaned and waxed with UV cleaner/protector, tires were inflated, rotated and brakes checked. Hydraulic fluid was added to the slide/jack system, the water tanks sanitized, rinsed and filled and minor repairs made. Bikes got the once-over (and one new seat), chairs and small tables wiped down and we started to fill the pantry and fridge and pack up clothes. Yep, it was going to be an early start to the camping season.

Roof cleaning 2020

All-important roof cleaning

This outing is to Grayton Beach State Park in Florida to camp with our family from Nashville. It is their spring break, so Craig, Judy, Rachel and Colin will be camping in the park with us – well, near us. Hopefully no “oops, left that beef stew in the microwave the last time out” mishaps will occur. You may recall reading the post about our trip to Big Lagoon State Park in Pensacola last year.

We decided to break up the trip to Florida by staying one night outside Eufaula, Alabama at Lakepoint State Park.  Then, on our way back from the panhandle, Jackie and I are going to spend a few days in FDR State Park in south Georgia, a visit that should be both hiking and history-filled. 

As we prepare to head out, we are learning more about the spread of the coronavirus and the active measures our local and state governments are taking to limit transmission of the virus.  All schools in the area are closed, all major sports and public events are cancelled – all of this you know.  Although we are well and are taking recommended precautions, we do feel just a bit odd at the start of this adventure. But  life in the motorhome will be rather contained anyway, so we press on.  Might affect our brewery visits, though.

So off we go to escape the cycle of rain and overcast skies and find the warm Florida sun.  The trip through Atlanta and south towards Columbus was smooth until Kodi let us know that there was a brewery nearby in LaGrange … well, actually we saw a billboard for the exit. 

 

We were in no hurry and it was lunchtime, so the brewmobile pulled into a really nice spot at Wild Leap Brewing. We had a beer each and some delicious smoked brisket from a food truck.  Kodi had a wonderful time meeting the patrons, being fed dog biscuits and generally just enjoying not being in the motorhome.

Lakepoint State Park

Not too much further along we were in Eufaula and pulled into our site at Lakepoint State Park for the night.  What a great spot along the lake! We had a pull-through spot and didn’t have to disconnect the car, so we were all set to leave quite easily the next morning.  This might be a regular stop on our future trips to the Florida panhandle.

 

Grayton Beach State Park

After a nice morning drive through some small Alabama towns and the Florida panhandle we arrived at Grayton Beach State Park.  Recent improvements to the park mean that the sites are certainly ample and all have electric, water and sewer. Our spot was an easy back-in and we soon were joined across the way with Judy, Craig, Rachel and Colin.  We arrived on Sunday and did a little biking around the campground and up to the beach to see how nice it was.

Monday morning was a sunny start to the week.  We spent time at the beach, working on our early sunburn and testing the chilly water.  The weather is great so far.

  

  

 

  

  

 

 

  

We all decided to ride bikes around the corner for dinner at the Grayton Beer Brewpub and had a delicious dinner.  A flight of beer each was accompanied by grouper sandwiches and pork nachos and then a ride back to the campground.

  

 

    

 

It was almost sunset, so Judy and I grabbed cameras and hustled to the beach to catch the spectacle, which was naturally not as bright as the night before (when we didn’t have cameras).

  

 

   

Enter COVID-19

Tuesday morning (St. Patrick’s Day) was another nice sunny start to the day.  We learned, however, that the coronavirus was going to have an effect on our trip.  Now this is not news to you, but we haven’t had access to TV and news, with only spotty information on our phones.  We know from our teaching friends and family that schools are cancelled for weeks. Slowly the news of cancellations trickles our way and we learn that our campground will close on Friday.  That’s not too bad, since we were heading out on Friday, but it does seem weird — like a hurricane evacuation.

  

I drove to a favorite brewery in the area, Idyll Hounds Brewing, before dinner and learned it was their last night serving from the taps.  Starting tomorrow all bars have been ordered closed and restaurants to operate at half capacity. Now I understand the need for social isolation and preventive measures to keep this virus from spreading quickly through the population, but it hit me weird that our camping would be so affected.  But by the time you read this on my post, things will certainly have changed again and of course you are all too familiar with the run on groceries, toilet paper, bottled water and the like. Strange times indeed, and we certainly are not as affected as so many others.

  

 

  

    

  

But back to our otherwise wonderful time in Florida.  We rode bikes around Western Lake today and into Watercolor and Seaside resorts.  Wow, that was like major spring break time. Loads of people, but nearly all under 30.  None of the “elderly” in sight. We have now realized that we fall into both the Senior Citizen and Elderly categories .. not yet at the “infirm” and frail designation.  Anyway, word is that the beaches will “close” on Saturday. How do you close a beach anyway?  

  

 

 

 

 

 

We keep hearing of playgrounds, parks and campgrounds closing, but the weather and water are perfect here.  We did indeed find the Florida sun — it is out, warm, no rain in sight and we even braved the water, which seems to have warmed from the 65 degrees or so.  Such a contrast from what we left at home (and we are wearing shorts! Bathing suits! T-shirts and bare feet!) The rest of the week will probably be beach time, biking, photography, crochet (both Judy and Jackie) and reading.  No paddleboards this time, since we figured it would be too cold and windy — heck, what do we know? And I need to find a bar or something that will be open for me to upload pics and this blog story. May have to wait a few days.

  

    

One last dinner out was delicious.  We all enjoyed our meal at Hurricane Oyster Bar, but I especially enjoyed the oysters on the half-shell.  These were monsters, nice and sweet. Yes! I got my seafood fill, and Jackie had some delicious smoked, spicy tuna, declaring it a wonderful meal out.

So I will close this story for now, with an update to follow that will finish the trip back home.  This trip was a success in our search for the sun in Florida, but it was weird in so many other ways around us.  Hoping all our friends and family stay safe and healthy.

The Adventure continues …

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Salem Harbor to Shenandoah Valley and Home

Another episode in our continuing adventure to see the fall colors in New England (and sample plenty of craft beer along the way).  Yes, our wonderful site on the Salem harbor waterfront was really windy last night, so much so that we pulled in the slides to keep from rocking around.  But not much rain and it was clear and chilly in the morning. Did the whole disconnect, hitch-up and head out routine on our way back through Salem and off to Rhode Island.  

We made it around Boston and then Providence to mid-state to connect with an old friend.  It took a little maneuvering to get the motorhome in and around the stone walls to the farm, but with some help we settled in next to the horse paddock at Laurie and Brian’s place.  Actually worked out great – a good long walk around the farm with the dogs, delicious dinner and conversation to catch up and back to our own place on a darn chilly night.

Woke to another sunny, chilly morning and it was time for a repeat of the hitch-up, head out routine.  This was going to be a pretty long haul to get us into Pennsylvania and close to another brewery on the list: Yuengling Brewing.  Lots of historic rivers and bridges to cross on this drive from Connecticut to New York and Pennsylvania: Connecticut River, Hudson River (impressive), Delaware River.  Quite a few hills and mountains and very scenic, but not much of the fall color yet. As we headed to Scranton, Jackie checked on her phone to confirm the details of Yuengling in Pottsville, just a little further on.  Well, it looks like we were gonna cut it close if we wanted to make it there by closing time at 5 – but then Jackie said it looked like winter hours meant it closed at 3. So we were out of luck and out of time for that brewery.  

I was impressed with the mountains around Scranton and how cool the landscape was as we drove through the Poconos and closer to Harrisburg.  We decided to stop for the night at a KOA – pull-through site with full hookups. Very nice spot that was only 2 miles from the AT, not that we were planning to hike it, but it must have been close to where our nephew Adam made it (so proud).


I have to take a moment to say that this, like all our adventures, is a true partnership.  Yes, I do the driving, but Jackie is busy navigating, checking ahead for the best gas prices, calling ahead to some of the breweries to ask about parking, and being an extra set of eyes when we get into tight situations (including the very tricky gas stations).  We each have our set-up and pack-up routines, which helps us remember everything and we aren’t afraid to double-check each other. Anyway, it does take two when you drive a rig like this. And then there is the whole hitch/unhitch the car routine.

So that brings us to another day on this series of travel days.  Not too many pictures to share, as it doesn’t work to shoot while moving along and besides, who wants to see an interstate highway?  It was a good start leaving the KOA, sunny and in the low 40’s. We did not stop in Hershey to see chocolate world (another time perhaps), nor did we stop at the Lindor chocolate factory that we saw at the last moment, but we did have a nice drive.  Southern Pennsylvania heading toward Harrisburg was filled with small farms, the barns and silos dotting the landscape. Green fields were sprinkled between brown cornfields, most in mid-harvest. As we slipped into Maryland and West Virginia, the traffic increased and the hills were a bit more rolling.  We crossed yet another important river: the Potomac.

Into Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley was just amazing.  Blue skies, green pastures, old homes and farms all with a dark green backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Very cool, but no hint of fall color here. Jackie got back on the navigation and located our next destination: Devil’s Backbone Basecamp and Meadows.  We first learned of the DB Vienna Lager while pouring at one of our beer festivals back home and knew we wanted to stop here. Plus, Adam stopped here on his AT hike and said it was great.  Up and over the ridge from Staunton, I think it was Rooster Gap, we found our country road and wound our way along. Wow, there is a winery, wait slow down, there is a cidery. A distillery, a brewery …. Gosh the choices.  But we kept on until we found basecamp and checked in.

This is a pretty new operation, the campground just opened this year.  But is has generous room for rigs, full hookups and dump station, and lots of tent sites for AT hikers and others.  The grounds have a bandshell, outdoor bar, lots of outdoor seating, a distillery, breakfast spot and of course their tap room and brewpub.  So we walked around with Kodi, who met lots of folks, had ourselves a beer and relaxed a bit in the sunshine. We both liked Gold Leaf Lager, I enjoyed the Cran Gose, a cranberry sour and we made plans to come back for dinner.  Dog back in camper, cat fed and we went back for a flight each and a delicious meal. I mean great!

The only moose we saw on this trip:

Jackie ordered nachos with smoked chicken, I ordered a smoked top round (shaved) on Cibatta au jus.  Both were amazingly flavorful. On the flights we sampled Trail Angel Weiss (was best with the nachos), UK Lager and Vienna Lager (good with the beef) and a Brut Lager that was very dry, light and crisp.  Saving it for last, we tried their Hibiscus Hard Lemonade (6.3%) which was really quite nice. A stop in the gift shop and then a welcome walk back to the camper in the dark. We really like where this spot is going.  Definitely worth a stop if you are driving nearby.  We learned that the next day the campground was booked with vintage VW Campers … now that would have been fun to see.

Merlin is getting anxious to be home — and we have one more stop before home, somewhere near Bristol, Tennessee.  Might not be blog-worthy, we shall see.

As we left the valley at the DB Basecamp it was one wild ride.  The hairpin turns and switchbacks on the road up the mountains, and then back down again were a thrill (Jackie disagrees).  Crossed under Skyline Drive on the Blue Ridge Mountains and the AT again. The mountains were green, the sky blue and just a bit of mist was rising from the James River as we followed along.  What a gorgeous day, but no hint of fall color here.

As we get closer to closing the loop on this trip approaching Knoxville, we end where we began, with a home Tennessee football game causing traffic and trouble.  No campsites between Bristol and almost Chattanooga were available. We didn’t make advance reservations for this last part of the trip, since we weren’t sure how far we would drive.  So, as we sat in some nasty traffic in Knoxville, we made the decision to push on to home. It made it an 11 hour driving day, but when we pulled in (at our non-moving house), it felt good.

So at the conclusion of this 28-day “Big Loop” to see fall colors, we will have driven through 16 states, two countries, a total of over 3,800 mile (not counting the car excursions) and sampled oodles of craft beer and ate great regional food.  It was definitely worth it – all the driving, all the gasoline, the cold nights and the rainy mornings. We caught up with old family friends, did a few hikes, had our share of pumpkins, apples, fall festivals and scary Halloween decorations, saw some new wildlife and definitely got to see all the beautiful colors of fall.  Phew! Now one week to do the laundry and pack swimwear, shorts and t-shirts for a cruise to the Bahamas with Dad and John. I guess we are just a bit crazy. Thanks for reading along.

Until the next adventure …

Oh yeah, there are just a few photos that didn’t make the blog the first time around that I thought I would share:

Walking and picture-taking in Acadia:

The rungs, iron rails and walkways of the treacherous Precipice Trail:

The vintage campers from Salisbury Beach State Park:

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FISHY AND WITCHY in coastal Massachusetts

We woke to a nice sunny day and met some of the rally campers. Nice group of 100 or so campers, with all sorts of teardrops and Shastas, most with some very unique decor. Loved it. Our mission was to drive to Gloucester Harbor (or as my brother said Glaa Stah Ha Bah) and find some good fried fish. Winding through towns like Ipswich and Essex we noticed the dates on the Federal, colonial and salt box houses – all from the 1600’s and 1700’s. Wow. Very cute towns. Gloucester was a mix of those and Victorian manors, and very much a working town with fish processors and ice houses along the harbor of boats. Gordon’s was the largest, of course, but there were also a lot of lobster boats, too. A loop drive in East Gloucester hugged the rocky Atlantic coastline, dotted with some pretty impressive homes and Inns. We made time to stop at the Fisherman’s Memorial – a very recognizable statute that faces the open harbor and lists all of those lost at sea. Keep thinking of the movie “Perfect Storm.”

At the main harbor, just down from City Hall and downtown we found Cape Ann Brewing and Pub along the waterfront. Well, that just called out to us for sure. An order of fish ‘n chips each and a flight of six pours and we were set! First of all, the beer battered haddock was melt in your mouth good. Fries and slaw just as tasty. Good beer selections were Honey Pils, a New England IPA, Oktoberfest and Rockporter. But we found the Pumpkin Stout and Scottish Ale to be the best. Kind of getting to like some of these ales, especially in the colder weather.

We were told that last night the late-nighters around the campfire watched skunks wandering through camp (a little livelier than the roadkill we keep seeing), so we might be out after dark watching for these critters.


Sunny morning, but rain is moving in quickly, so we dump, hitch up and roll to Salem. We walked about a little last night, but really didn’t do a good skunk hunt. Probably best. The drive to Salem was pretty quick, with a stop at Costco to gas up (good price and easy pull-thru). Our campsite is a bit unusual. The city of Salem owns a park on Winter Island at the mouth of Salem Harbor. It is the site of Fort Pickering, a boatyard and small marina. We face out to the harbor from this parking spot, which is a really cool view – plus we have water and electric. We are also maybe a mile away from downtown Salem.

With the car, we drove into town and tried to see as much of this town know for its witch trials but what was also once the 6th largest city in the world.

The spotty rain kept the mood pretty creepy as we visited the House of Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home and then roamed the cemetery where the accused witches were buried. The town is an odd mix, with lots of tightly packed colonial houses from the 1600’s near the water and downtown is filled with brick buildings from the 1700 and 1800’s.

Since it is October, the witches and their many shops of wands, hats and potions were quite busy.

After a few hours we were getting hungry and found a nice brewpub Salem Beer Works for grub.

Lots on tap, so we had a flight of Cookie Stout, Excellent Porter, BHZ Festbier, Octoberfest and Boston Red. The Festbier and Boston Red were winning flavors, in our view. Jackie had a Pig Pig Cheese Cheese sandwich (pulled pork and cream cheese), I had a fried haddock sandwich that was soooooo good. Oh my goodness, we have been eating much too well on this trip.

Back at our waterfront spot on the harbor it looks like a rainy windy night in store. We are ok with that and plan to load up and head out to meet with some very special old friends in Rhode Island. So far the fishy, witchy Massachusetts coast has been lots of fun.

Thanks for keeping up with our Northeastern Adventures!

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MAINE TO MASSACHUSETTS

It is now Day 5 in Acadia National Park and we roll out in the morning, heading to the upper coast of Massachusetts. If you haven’t been following along from the start of this trip, be sure to scan back to some of the first postings to see our travels from Atlanta north to Canada and across to Maine.

When we last left off, Jackie was washing some essential clothes in dishpans on the picnic table. Those got draped over a drying rack in the living room and two days later are still damp. Rain was expected yesterday and indeed it rained all night and the day started just as wet. That’s ok, we needed a break day to shop and do errands instead of exploring the coast. Sounded like a good day for hot oatmeal so with the generator running, all the phones now charging, microwave heating the oatmeal and electric water heater on, we put a Keuring in the coffee pot and …… nothing. Oops moment again. All electric down. “Captain, I’m givin’ her all I got.” Time to run a diagnostic.

Generator was running just fine, it just wasn’t sending current – and since we went past 30amps, something we know not to do, it was probably a circuit breaker. Flipped the breakers one at a time, no change. Turned everything off, then back on again. Nothing. Ok, read the manuals again and scan for the solution. Ahh, there is another flip switch on the side of the generator that needs checking. Yep, reset that and we are back in buisiness. Another reminder that you have to watch everything.

Still raining, and pretty hard, so we packed up the dirty laundry (except those on the “drying” rack) and went in search of a cell signal and laundromat. Still colorful and scenic along the coastline, but much rougher water and getting pretty socked in.

Just off the island (Acadia and Bar Harbor are on Mount Desert Island) we found a Walmart and laundry. Bought some fresh groceries, then filled a washer and dryer at the laundromat while checking online. I was able to post two blogs and check emails, Jackie downloaded another eBook and we learned about Hurricane Michael hitting the Florida panhandle. Yikes, not good.

Since it was still a nasty, cold, wet day, we headed for downtown Bah Ha Ba. Crowds were down and we heard that only one of 3 scheduled cruise ships actually decided to stop in port. But the bus tours were still moving around. I had lobster in mind, not knowing if it was in season or not. Plenty of shops advertised it, so we chose Side Street Cafe and loved it. Nice big lobster roll with the meat from two lobsters! Jackie had halibut tacos and we both sampled local beers. I tried Belfast Lobster Ale (seemed appropriate) and Jackie had the Real Ale from Atlantic Brewing. That was a nice brown ale we liked from around the corner. Their beer is so good that we walked around to buy some of their Thunder Hole nut brown ale to take back home. On the way, passed a large rafter of turkeys, again!

Rainy night back in camp, but we are pretty full, so just crackers and good Vermont cheese and apples and tucked in for the night.

That brings us back to Day 5 and what to do. The laundry that didn’t make it to the dryer is still damp, there is lots of condensation dripping down the windows and it is still wet outside. Water is running low onboard, so quick, simple showers will have to do. Clearing is forecast for the afternoon and we have decided to drive around to find the only lighthouse on the island. Let’s see how that goes. Probably more turkey sightings.

Cold morning to start off, overcast and spotty rain as we began our last full day in Acadia NP. We did drive west around Northeast Harbor and then down past Southwest Harbor to the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse. Almost unimpressive size-wise (we are used to these tall structures) but we did have a good look at it and the ocean.

Back around the island we stopped at a couple other ponds and searched for beaver and loons, but all we saw were turkeys once again.

We found a delightful little bakery “The Notch” and picked out a crusty french round and two blueberry tarts for later. At the campground we walked the trail to the waterfront with Kodi and took pictures and had a last look at the coast. No sunny afternoon, however, and temperatures were dropping. Good night for tomato soup and toasted cheese with that crusty bread and Vermont cheese with bacon! And blueberry tarts!

Morning again, but thankfully no rain overnight. It was 43 degrees out, so time to hitch up and start south. Tried to drive the coast road as much as possible to Augusta and Portland and passed through some really cute towns, several of which were having their fall festivals, and over some really cool bridges. And more turkeys along the roadside! They don’t even rate their own “crossing” road sign, but there they are. Unfortunately, the rain started up again and it was a wet drive to Portland.

We made a swing through Freeport with hopes of stopping at the L.L. Bean flagship store, but it was Saturday and the whole town seems like one big shopping mall – the expensive kind. One look at the tight streets and full parking lots and we decided to keep moving and shop online. I did see the big boot, though. But our goal of finding a brewery was rewarded with a small industrial park in Portland that had six breweries within walking distance.

We hit Allagash and Foundation breweries for some flights and met some great folks. Allagash had a raspberry chocolate beer (Ganache) that I liked, Jackie had an ale aged in oak barrels that was light in color and really good (Curieux). Haunted Manor was a Maine exclusive dark, hoppy porter that was tasty, too. At Foundation Brewing we thought the Helles Lager was very flavorful and I liked their Chai Swizzle Gose. Quite a crowd at all the breweries for a rainy Saturday afternoon.

An hour’s drive or so through New Hampshire’s small coast and into Massachusetts to find Salisbury State Park and our campsite. Front gate had a note to just go find your reserved campsite and we soon learned there was a Vintage Camper Rally going on. How nice that our site was adjacent to the main event tent. Yippee!

We took Kodi for a quick walk along the inlet and the beach, then back to the van where electric hookups means everything gets charged and we have heat. Good thing, too, since it is going down into the low 40’s tonight. We are here for two nights, with a day exploring around Gloucester Harbor tomorrow.

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OF PRECIPICES AND PORCUPINES

We have arrived at our big destination for this trip, Acadia National Park in Maine.  After our arrival day, driving through Bar Harbor and dodging the tour buses and cruise ship tourists, we set camp in Blackwoods Campground.  Nice wooded spot in the spruce woods, dry camping but we have a full tank of water and plenty of propane. Of course we had rain overnight, so the chairs and footstools we set out got wet once again, but they will dry.  Cold and dreary morning, but we set out anyway to explore.

Our first stop on the loop road, some of which is one-way only, was at Jordan Pond.  It has the only restaurant in the park and the pond (more the size of a lake) has two mountains as the backdrop known as the bubbles.  This morning it was pretty socked in, so we really couldn’t see much. Nice gift shop where we might end up buying some long-sleeved tee shirts.

As we drove further on and upward along the roadway to Cadillac Mountain’s summit, the air started to clear and by the time we reached the top it was clear blue skies east toward Bar Harbor, but still low clouds on the west side.  Wisps of mist and cloud would roll over the summit from time to time. We had a gorgeous view of the harbor, the cruise ship in port and the out islands. The pictures will tell you how awesome it was. We walked around the summit trail, down along the rocks for a better view of the harbor and back to the car.  We continued along the loop road to the visitor’s center, watched the short film and then continued on the loop road until we got back to the motorhome to eat lunch and let Kodi out.

Since it had turned out to be a much nicer, sunny afternoon, I thought we should try one of the hiking trails.  Our book listed the Precipice Trail as challenging but about 1.7 miles and I thought it sounded like fun. When we reached the start of the trail, Jackie was very cautious, in fact she really didn’t think we were up for it, but I was a bit stubborn about it and said we should try.  Well, I might have been wrong on this one. It was definitely a challenge, mostly because it was way longer than it should have been. I am certain it was closer to 3 miles before we were done.

 

So what was it like?  Well definitely more of a rock climb than a hike.  We climbed our way up a boulder field, over some big rock faces using iron rungs and grips, along other sheer rock slabs, under boulders, up stone steps and down stone steps … it really was a workout for us both.  We reached an intersection where the trail either continued further up the mountain (ohhh, no) or down to the roadway. But that trail back to the road still went up! It was a long way back. But we did have one cool moment that ALMOST made it worthwhile.  While chatting for a break with some other hikers headed the other way, we spotted a porcupine ambling along. Seriously. He seemed as curious as we were and we quickly snapped pictures. Further along we saw another porcupine, or perhaps the same one. He might have made faster progress than we did.

Ok, once back in the car and headed back to camp, I was told firmly to listen to the advice of my partner in these adventures and if it was a “no way” then that is what it should be.  But we both kind of admitted it was a huge personal challenge to have done it. We both took showers and hit the sack pretty early.


Day 3 in Acadia was a rare sunny day that got rather warm – upper 60’s.  We heard it was to be nice, so we packed a lunch and hit the loop road along the shoreline to see some of the rocky coast.  

Sand Beach was just that, a nice sandy cove. Thunder Hole was rather tame, but loaded with the tour bus crowd. It is a spot where the surf roars into a slot in the cliff and makes a big splash and a lot of noise.  But not if the water is calm like today.

 

The coast has lots of cool vistas and the rocky shore is very picturesque with the clear, dark water. We circled back to Jordan Pond and got to see just how scenic it is. But crowded, with parking spots at a premium.

One cool bit of architecture is the gatehouse beside the gated carriage roads put in by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  

We had lunch at the edge of the ocean in one of the coves, then drove around to the town of Bar Harbor to play tourists.  Just as crowded as the first day we drove through, but the harbor is a pretty sight. A different ship was in port today and if you were careful, you could spot many of the crew around town on shore leave (seemed like the hospitality and entertainment group).  After buying some long-sleeved t-shirts we found our way to a wifi spot that served beer. Yes, we found yet another brewery: Atlantic Brewing. Actually, their beer was darn good. We loved all their ales, but particularly the Weiss and Scottish Ales. Blueberry Amber Ale was a close second.  We met some folks from Michigan and had a chat about beer and some of the places we saw and that was fun.

Since we have yet to find a laundromat, Jackie washed some essentials back in camp and we hope they will dry by morning.  What started as shorts and t-shirt weather today has quickly turned to much colder air and we expect 50’s and rain for the next few days,  Who knows, maybe it will change. It was a good day all around.

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New Hampshire and Hiking

It is now Friday, Day 13 of our leaf peeping adventure and we finally have sun and blue skies!  That’s great, because we have a short drive east across the rest of Vermont, over the Connecticut River and into New Hampshire.  We are heading toward the White Mountains and Franconia Notch State Park. The colors of the leaves are pretty much near their peak, with oranges, yellows, and reds interspersed with dark green triangles of spruce and fir.  White trunks of paper birch pop out and in many spots there is a bright green carpet of pasture to set it off. With the blue sky and wispy white clouds, this is our best day yet for viewing.

 

 

A spot along the way, Beaver Pond, is just the perfect mix of water, sky and fall colors.  Actually, the AT crosses our path here and we took a moment to walk maybe 100 feet of it, just to tell our nephew Adam that we did it.

Further on, the town of Lincoln, New Hampshire also sits along the AT, with several hiker friendly trail stops, and a little bit of crazy with the Hobo Railroad and Clark’s Trading Post featuring bear shows.  

Just beyond that is the start of the state park and we pull off to hike the Flume Gorge. It is a pretty popular spot with the bus tour crowd, but once we got through the gift shop and started uphill it was fine.  I remember coming to this area with my family as a youngster and hiking up through the flume, a cool, damp hike up stairways and ramps. I was not disappointed with this return visit at all.

The gorge is a split in the granite outcropping through which the Pemigewasset River flows.  The entire hike is about 2 miles round trip, but the actual gorge is less than half a mile. I will let the pictures tell the story of the catwalk through the gorge (which is removed in winter and rebuilt each spring).

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It was a great hike up and back, not too strenuous at all, and we were soon on our way back to Vermont and camp at Ricker’s Pond.  Since it was such a nice night, we bought some firewood and sat outside around our first campfire (really?) until it got too darn cold.  Mid 40’s is winter for us Georgians!

It is now Day 14 and our last one in Vermont.  Dry camping in Vermont means we are being conservative with our water supply and careful with our propane for heat.  We fire up the generator a bit in the morning and evening to heat food, water and charge devices. We have both been hauling water in a gallon jug from the spigot down the hill to keep the tanks at two-thirds.  One reason is the shower house is metered (feed quarters) and we aren’t certain there is hot water. There certainly isn’t heat in the cement-floored building, so that isn’t an option. That means a very quick shower onboard.  This will be much the same situation in Maine for 5 days – and it’s not a problem, just a shift in how you do things.

 

 

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Ok, then, on with our day.  We opted to stay close today and take Kodi along for some hiking.  As you can see by the pictures, the colors are even more vivid. We walked the Cross Vermont trail a bit – an old railroad line that actually goes through our campground along Ricker’s Pond.  Then we hiked up a bit more hill to reach Owl’s Head overlook and were glad we did. What a spectacular view of the mountains to the east. Just breathtaking.

   

   

   

We made a loop drive that took us to Danville, where we stopped for lunch at the only place in town that was open: Bentley’s Bakery & Cafe.  Sandwiches were huge and delicious (pastrami panini and grilled chicken with cranberries and walnuts) on fresh made breads. Washed down with maple iced coffee and we were set.  

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Actually, we took half the meal back for dinner. The liquor shop next door had some Vermont beer from 14th State brewing that I just had to buy: “Maple Breakfast Stout” made with coffee and maple syrup.  The heck with breakfast, that was going to go great with dinner!

    

 

The route back took us up and over rolling hills and bright green pastures, dotted with barns and silos.  One of the cutest towns, and not a tourist stop at all, was Peacham, dating to 1776. Oh my goodness, the houses were charming and everything just looked postcard perfect.  We soon arrived in Groton (pronounced like “rotten”) just as their fall festival parade ended and the town was jammed with people and cars. Just yesterday it was empty. But since there was no traffic light in town, just the Constable directing traffic, it didn’t take too long to pass through and back to the campsite.

Kodi was pretty quiet back in the camper, falling asleep in the passenger seat while Jackie took a power nap and I tried to burn off the last of the firewood.  Tomorrow is going to be a hitch-up and get-outta-town day. Destination: Farmington, Maine (with full hook-ups!).

 

 

 

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Back in the USA

We left Quebec and the Montreal area after yet again another night of rain.  This makes only one night without rain so far. But at least it has been partly sunny most afternoons when we arrive at our destinations.  And the temperatures are upper 40’s at night and upper 50’s daytime. I keep wondering why I packed a swimsuit… what was I thinking?

Ok then, crossing through mostly farmland, once we peeled away from the outskirts of Montreal.  The road is good and drivers seem to keep to the right, except to pass and pretty much stick to the speed limit.  Imagine that. So it isn’t long before we reach the border crossing into New York. Just a few questions and concerns about fresh fruits, particularly citrus, and we are back in the US.  Not in New York long before we cross over Lake Champlain into Vermont. We stop at a welcome center for some local information and meander down the islands until we reach Grand Isle State Park.  Nice spot for two nights, but dry camping (no electric or water hook-ups).

  

Since it is just after noon, we head out to explore nearby Burlington.  A popular spot downtown is Church Street, converted to pedestrian only and lined with very trendy shops, outfitters, restaurants, coffee spots and bars.  There are four colleges in town, so the crowd was young and apparently better off than we were in college, judging from the pricey shops. We found our spot at the Vermont Pub and Brewery and, twist my arm, we ordered a flight.  Probably the Octoberfest was our fave and a raspberry wheat sour.

Further down the road was another spot on our list: Magic Hat Artifactory.  It was quite an eclectic brewery and tap room, with a sort of mardi gras meets carnival theme to it.  Sampling the beer we found the Circus Boy Hefeweisen and Fancy Grade Maple Doppelbok and Heart of Darkness Stout to be the tastiest.  We met another couple also doing the craft beer circuit and learned they were from Maine, so we learned a few tips about the Bar Harbor and Portland area.  Ordered a pizza and headed back to camp.

Next morning’s task was to gas up the motorhome at a station around the corner.  Everything in the motorhome is working just fine, but the generator won’t run if the gas in the tank is below ¼ – so we got maybe 5 minutes out of it last night before it quit.  We usually try to have a nearly full tank before stopping for the night, but we didn’t find a suitable station the day before.  After filling the tank and backing into the campsite again, we were set to head to Waterbury Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s, Smuggler’s Notch Distillery and Cabot Cheese.

Of course it had rained overnight, but this was our first day of rain all day.  Good thing we were just doing the tourist route, not searching for wildlife (no sightings so far).  The drive past Burlington and into Waterbury was nice, but still pretty green with only a few pops of color.  We found Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, along with the several busloads of others. We didn’t take the tour, but did have a hot fudge sundae in the chilly rain.  Next stop was a “made for the tour buses” spot with Cabot’s Cheese (lotta sampling) and SN Distillery (bourbon, vodka sampling). Not as good as the Kentucky Bourbon sampling, sorry.  But we did stop at a cider mill that had amazing cider donuts … yum.  That was also the spot where a winery had samples and the cider mill had hard cider samplings.  Yum.  I should note that most of these samplings come with a minor sampling fee, which is ok, since we are happy to support the local farmers.

 

Further along was the town of Stowe, you know the one — Christmas cards and puzzles are filled with pictures of this town. With all the gold-leaf on the signs, I knew it was probably the Jackson Hole of the East.  We hung a left and wound into the hills … is that music? Not exactly, but our destination was the von Trapp Family Bierhall, yes the one made famous by the family from “Sound of Music” and run by the family (Maria’s grandson).  It was a perfect spot to warm up with some beer cheese soup, bratwurst and apple sauerkraut. The beer was great with the meal – the Vienna Lager tasted crisp and fresh and the Dunkel was a smooth brown lager.

A final stop in Waterbury was a visit to the Green Mountain Coffee Cafe.  The darn “maps” directions dropped us at a very corporate style building with Keurig/Dr. Pepper on the doors and “Welcome” banners out front, so we walked in, went up a floor in the elevator and looked around.  Ummm, don’t think so. And we sure didn’t look the part. Back in the car we saw a cool railroad station across the parking lot and discovered THAT was the cafe. Guess we slipped into the headquarters by mistake.  Good coffee stop.

Now it was time to head back to camp, but we had one last stop at the Zero Gravity brewery, both for a beer and for wifi.  The beer was refreshing, but honestly it did not have the strong flavor profiles of some of our favorites. It was just OK, but the tap room was a really nice spot.  Back in camp, run the generator, fix a dinner salad and head to bed. Tomorrow is another big day.

Thanks for following along.  More New England adventures to come.

 

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Ottawa and Montreal

It was nice not to have to get up early, break camp and head out early in the morning.  We have two nights here in Ottawa, giving us a full day to explore the city.  It is a Saturday, so it is even better.  Of course we had rain overnight, but it wasn’t raining yet, even though the temperature was in the 40’s.  We quickly got to town, in fact we almost missed the exit, it was so close.  First task was to get free tickets for a tour of parliament, then we walked around parliament hill.  There is currently a 10-year restoration in progress for the main historic buildings, so you could see some of the restored changes and compare to the weathered look of some of the older buildings.

 

 

After taking some photos of the Peace Tower we walked to the riverfront and then to Rideau Canal to watch some boats go through the locks.  Further along was the Museum of Art and this wild spider sculpture (reminded me of one mentioned in Dan Brown’s Origin, but that one was in Bilbao, Spain.)  Not much farther along was the very cool Byward Market –  several blocks of restaurants, bars, shops and lots of farmer’s market stalls.  Since it was Saturday, it got increasingly busy.  We did manage to grab some delicious pastries and farther along opted for a sandwich and mocha at Starbucks.  It was still chilly and partly cloudy, so the coffee was good.